Monday, December 30, 2013

Autumn trees, repetition and picking up

Soon I will begin to run out of usable photographs of H's paintings. My aches and pains are getting better and I am looking forward to snapping again.

The media are full of repeat accounts if last year's news stories. As though there wasn't enough of it.  Helpful to historians? I wonder if the details change in the retelling.

A device for picking up things from the floor when you are afflicted with bending problems has turned up. My back is now better. But  I am still glad of the picker-upper. In an odd way its presence is beginning to make bending easier. It's like taking an umbrella with you to stop it raining. Such are the small preoccupations of an old fart.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Babes, inconvenience and afflictions

Another (alas) not perfect reproduction of a much loved painting.

We have been treading water since Christmas, waiting for funeral arrangements. Dying is inconvenient during national holidays. We have had time to think and talk. Tomorrow decisions will I hope be made and  a funeral date set.

I am thinking up  the briefest way of answering the question, how are you? Other people's  afflictions are invariably  of greater interest than my own.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Subversive, stress and exclamation

It is possible though not certain that smoking led to  Heidi's  final illness. But the series of smoking pictures which she produced three or four years ago have always been favourites. One hung in the bar of Langan's Brasserie in London for several months encouraged by the then owner Richard Shepherd as a protest against the anti-smoking laws being introduced at the time.Possibly this may upset some people but Heidi was as someone said the other day  nothing if not cheeky.    I know she was having a good laugh.  I don't think that she was setting out to encourage the habit. Nowhere more boldly does her humour shine though.

Although I have a pretty good knowledge of the French language, but clearly I can't speak it. The  other day I use the word atelier which means studio or work shop. I am talking to a French speaker. "What's that?" I pronounce the word a second time  stressing as we do in English the second syllable. "Ah you mean atelier", this time the stress as it should be on the third syllable. I blush.

Always a bit of groaner - groaning seems to give relief - I find myself removing tension or sadness or whatever with a curious expression to which I am not accustomed. "Oh dear me!" I say to myself. "Oh dear me!"


Friday, December 27, 2013

Dotty, full blast and Mammon

Dotty woman was my  suggested title for this painting. I think Heidi accepted it. More exuberance.

When I was at school a friend and I edited a literary magazine which drew not just on the skills of other boys, but of  parents and past pupils. We were fortunate at the time in a group of considerable accomplishment. They included the poet  Kathleen Raine, Charles Madge poet and co-founder of Mass Observation in the Thirties, Janet Adam Smith (Literary editor of the New Statesman), the poet and translator Michael Hamburger. It all comes back to me now as I read a recent biography of Kathleen Raine and familiar names  and scenes throng my memory. Life  for me was then at  full of blast.  I seem  now to be living at least for a few minuted in the past as much as in the present. Something I don't often do.

It is quiet around here. You can can almost hear the drizzle condensing in the dark afternoon. I haven't been out but I am told that the entire world is attending the sales, a festival of Mammon which is quickly taking over in popularity and acclaim from Christmas and New Year.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dancing, meticulousness and interest

Another inadequate photograph of one of Heidi's most exuberant pictures.  Though she gave immense thought and care to it, she liked neither to talk about her work when it was completed nor to name her pictures. Names and promotion didn't seem to matter.

In the supermarket I watch a woman with an open Moleskin notebook.  It is the large rather than the pocket  version  which I have used for years partly as source for this blog.  I have the impression that it contains her shopping list. I imagine one of these volumes  devoted entirely to routine shopping. You would have  have a record of all your  ventures between its elegant pages, a historical record. But over egging the pudding a little? I wonder. I like  meticulousness.

 The retired  politician and diarist, Tony Benn, observes in his latest book, "I've been  obsessed with myself all the time, but I'm just not interesting." It strikes me that in order to be interesting you have to be interested in others, which I think on the whole Ton Benn is, despite his self-deprecation

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sunshine and humour, difference and understanding

Heidi's pictures, full of sunshine and humour keep our house happy. This "green hound" is one which we all love. It hangs over the fireplace. It is one of my beautiful thing for today, although it is rather a poor photograph and doesits intensity of colour no justice. Other  paintings will follow while I am still depending on  the archives

To everyone, my thanks for your  kind and sympathy comments here. It makes a difference.

For years the default station on my radio has been Radio 4. Today at 5 AM I switch to Radio 3. And there I think I will stay. Words have weighed the balance in the past. Now music takes over. This morning my  ears resonate with carols. I try to comprehend all the joy in the world and all the utter  misery and cruelty. Music helps. How it helps!

And a Happy Christmas

Monday, December 23, 2013

One beautuful thing

Heidi  Rudloff Bush, 28 June 1938 - 22 December 2013.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Contrast, silence, peace and hugging

 On a day when it has not stopped raining once from an unremittingly dark sky,  comes another contrast. Summer meadow drawn from an archive back in June.

Peace and silence. The difference is one of quality. Silence is relative. Peace is profound and enduring.  The biblical phrase " the peace which passeth all understanding"  possesses an innate tranquillity of its own. It transcends silence and rests in the mind untrammelled and unchallengeable.

Hugging is in fashion and I am glad of it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Humming bird, all right and Rioja

This time the unfolding bud from the 2013 Spring archive resembles a humming bird, one of nature's odd associations.

People of different races and colours in Woolwich, scene of the cruel murder last Spring in broad daylight of  a  British soldier by two fanatics,  are greeting one another with the words "all right, mate!". This follows the  trial and conviction of the murderers. Any  hope that the crime should create racial tension  among local people is defeated. If you want to sum up the kindness, and  fundamental goodness of English people you could find it in those simple words spoken by passing strangers, "all right, mate!" All  right?

It must be 20 years since as a journalist  I wrote anything about wine. And almost as long since I drank a glass of Rioja.  I  often visited the  region in Northern Spain to savour its red and white wines, its roast lamb and its asparagus. I would never want to, but  I am not allowed to forget it. For I  am, as this morning's greeting testifies, still on  the Rioja Wine Producers Christmas card list. So Merry Christmas Rioja and thank you for many memorable bottles.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Unfolding, endangered and dining

The bud packed and wrapped and ready to unfold. The miracle of Spring remembered at the year's midnight.

I have only recently come to the on-line newspaper called The Huffington Post,  From October 25, comes the following sad story. Of the 7,000 languages spoken in the world, 2,400 are considered endangered. One of those  at risk of dying out is  Ayapaneco, spoken in Mexico. The  two remaining speakers, apparently, refuse to talk to one another.

Deipnosophist is a new word for me. It describes something close to my heart.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary it means  master of the art of dining. An interesting distinction: Chambers Dictionary defines it as  a master of the art of dinner table conversation. Can you separate the food from the talk? I suspect that the ancient Greeks paid little attention to the grub. Nowadays ...?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blossom, creation and lamentation

Here we are again. Blossom remembered.

On the BBC World Service this morning I hear Desmond Morris author of The Naked Ape talking about his new book The Creative Ape. Apart from his distinction as a zoologist, Morris has now earned fame as a painter. The need to make and display objects is something I wholly understand. It is a far as I am concerned fundamental to existence. I could not be happy unless I had something to show for my  thoughts and labours. Morris seems to be saying the same thing and I settle down into a pleasant sleep with this in my head.

Babel. I wake with the sounds of the human race washing over me. Something terrible and yet if it is possible to separate oneself from it, it can be almost soothing.  Lamentations and jubilation. Layers and layers of voices. Words without end.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Antithesis, closing in and party memories

I suppose it may be the subconscious at work but looking through the archives for today's picture, I find that I am picking the antithesis of what seems appropriate to day's bleak weather.

I always forget that St Lucy's Day no longer coincides with the shortest day of the year. The focus of our lives closes in not only because the Winter Solstice is approaching but because we find ourselves confronted with a closed prospect. It is one which  we accept if not with cheerfulness with the sort of pride required by the inevitable. We have love all round  us and lots of kindness, invaluable Christmas gifts.

A present from Pippa for Heidi is a Blurb book of photographs commemorating our party in Sitges last summer where both our families were reunited.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Garlic, escape, thermometer

The opposite time of year.  Wild garlic in The Grove. A happy discovery last Spring. From the archive.

Heidi is home but she would still be waiting to be discharged if it were not for the energy of my wonderful daughter. There was H waiting and ready to go but no medicine and no documentation. She was threatened with a depressing waiting room. Daughter goes to the rescue. Brings her home and helps her into the house. She is to go back to the hospital and collect the medicine and documents. But as yet neither is ready. So H would still be languishing in the waiting room rather than resting after a long day.

We have long needed a thermometer. The wonders of technology now provides us with a device which you switch on, press against the patient's forehead and read off the temperature on a screen. No more quick silver bulbs under the tongue or worse one which in Germany they stick up your bum. (Or used to.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Necks and feather, straw and art

The swan photograph from the archives which I tried but failed to post a couple of days ago.

Some time ago I spent hours  trying to find a story (I took it to be one of Aesop's Fables) about a camel owner who overworked and over loaded his camel until with the ultimate burden  placed  on it the  unfortunate animal keeled over and died. It was then that I realised that the expression, "the last straw that broke the camel's back" which I took to be the motto at the end of a story in fact amounts  to the short story in its own right. The action is confined to five words, but action there is. And of course detail to be supplied. That camel's breath!

A whinging article in the paper about "millions" being spent by the NHS on art to decorate its premises, makes me shudder.  Sculpture and paintings are part of the atmosphere in which patients get well. Bleak walls will help cure no one. The eyes of patients should  be allowed to settle on harmonious images even if they do not consciously take them in.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Worms, healing and interest

Luncheon from the archives.

After a sound sleep, I switch on The BBC World Service in the early hours. A Dutch scientist is talking about self-healing materials. The materials are charged with micro capsules which when stressed spread and self-  repair. Asphalt, paint, concrete can all be treated in this way. Fully awake I begin to take notes on the post-it pad by my bed. Even now 12 hours later, I can decipher the gist of the story.

An old friend  with an ever lively mind tells me on the telephone that she "cutting on the things to be interested in".


Friday, December 13, 2013

For some reason the photograph of swans which I have just picked from the archive comes up as a small red cross. Please therefore imagine  the elegant necks and white feathers  resting and mingled beside the water.

An advertisement reads "Quails an elegant alternative to turkey".

A couple more days of hospital food for H. Having been to school in England,  I nod with approval as she reads out, Macaroni Cheese.. .Shepherds Pie... Steak and Kidney pie. "Not for me!" says she. I am pricked by a moment of  nostalgia not so much for the dishes themselves but for the economic style of cooking.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pond, grunts and reslience

 Study in green.

A contented grunting from the printer as it pushes out  this year's simple Christmas card. Another instance of a machine sounding almost human.

It looks as though H will be home next week. Resilient and humorous as ever.  Relief all round as as she  can look forward to seeing herself settled among familiar things and people. And lots of love.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

flitting, Christmas card and stories

Parakeets flitting between the palm trees opposite the sea in Sitges last Summer.

It had not been my intention, as I usually do, to design and print a Christmas card this year, what with one thing an another. But  Heidi is  gaining strength after her jaundice which is cured and expected home soon, we are looking forward to a tranquil celebration. So this morning I put the simple card which I had been planning together. I am not sure how happy I am with it, but I am happy to have done it.

Putting myself to sleep at night I drum up stories. It is an echo of the childhood request "tell me a story" which echoes through the years. The stories which I tell myself I often forget  but as I fall asleep last night, I find myself thinking of the endless network of stories which people have told each other,  tell each other and  will always tell as long as  imagination and intelligence survive in the human race 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On the air, sorry and kindness


On the telephone somebody says, "we feel so sorry for you." Ugh.  I don't.  Even if there were a need I wouldn't feel sorry for myself.   There is much else to feel sorry for. Onward Christian soldiers!

I chuck something in the rubbish bin in The Grove, and miss.  Noticing that I still have difficulty in bending, a  young woman turns back to pick it up. Kindness.

Monday, December 09, 2013

tomorrow, John Milton and immortal souls

Sun and cloud.  As you see I'm still using the archive for the first of  my three daily observations. But to day as we emerge from the hospital,  impressed by the larch trees profiled by the light of the declining sun and smudged clouds, I say to my friend Milo, " do you mind if I take a photograph.?" Out comes my
camera. But it is something like six weeks since I last used it.  Pity I have a spare battery and should have thought of changing it. Still it's a start. "Never mind, " says Milo, "they'll be there tomorrow."

Today, I hear on the Radio is the 395th anniversary of John Milton's birth. At this time of the year  lines from his sonnet To Mr Lawrence often come to mind;
Now the fields are dank, the ways are mire,
Where shall we sometimes meet and by the fire,
Help waste a sullen day...
It to my friend Anna who pointed them out to me years ago that I  owe their recall today. Such sentiments  easily become multi-layered.

A cruel joke is quoted in an article on Internet spying by Jamie Bartlett in this week's Spectatorr. The author is warning about the terms and conditions of contracts to which people thoughtlessly put their names when acquiring apps and the like on line. How many read let alone attempt to understand this particular variety of small print? Apparently a British firm  included a clause which asked for permission to "claim now and for evermore your immortal soul." No fewer than 7000 were harvested in one day.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Oak, edges and commerce


What is a deckle edge? The term is new to me. But I quickly learn to  today that it is the uncut or feathered edge of a page in a book. Such page edges used to be unavoidable. But now when dealing with old books they have become something of a status symbol.

The language of coffee and commerce explodes off a poster  showing a kind of sandwich in the Costa cafe in the hospital. "Unwrap a tasty tummy filler," it  commands.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Safety, saying no and keeping it cool

Safely grazing.

Oh the satisfaction of saying "No"!  At the hospital pharmacy I hand over the prescription which the GP gave me this morning. I am passing and it saves me a visit to the High Street. "That's a green one," says a woman with a face carved from concrete. "We don't do green ones here. You'll have to take it to your usual chemist. "  No regrets, no sympathy. One chore fewer for the server.

People with chilly natures, their temperaments matched, often make contented couples.  Speaking of one such couple someone says today: "When you find the two of them together, it is as though the air-conditioning has just  been switched on."

Friday, December 06, 2013

Reflections, Mandela and a soporific

Reflections in the lake at Groombridge Place.

As often happens if I can't sleep I switch on the BBC World Service. Sometimes it acts as a soporific. Not so last night. The entire programme is  devoted to Nelson Mandela, and  rightly so. It is easy to be carried away by the passing of a great man. But few have and will achieve what he did. When I visited South Africa at the time of Apartheid even the most enlightened were convinced that a bloodbath would  evnetually ensue.  That it didn't was certainly because of his intelligence, his personality,  his understanding of human nature and the amazing vision of an oppressed majority living side by side with those who had brutally oppressed it. His refusal to negotiate with the Government of the time without  the restrictions  which they sought to impose on him, remind us of the firmness and determination which lay beneath his message of reconcilliation.

Eventually I send myself to sleep with a fantasy about a country where enemies forgive one another, politicians sit down with their opponents to discuss optimum solutions, bankers give up usary and the only  competiton  that exists in society  is to be kinder to your neighbout than your neighbour is to you.  Jealousy, hatred  and greed no longer exist.  Sad to say I fall asleep before this extraordinary malaise has taken root. And do you blame me?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Stepping out, smallness and patience

I was rather pleased with this heron last summer. Here he comes (is it a he?) to cheer us  this December.

Small things loom large when your are small. In a cafe a little boy is proud of drinking milk foamed by the cappuccino machine from a grown-up coffee cup.  A wee  moustache fringes  his lips. His mother has to move on and has his drink transferred to a take-way mug, so that he can have it in his push chair.  The end of the world.  What  a comedown! The promise of having the milk transferred a to a proper cup when they get home is small consolation. Somehow I know how he feels.

I pick up my camera and put it back on my desk. I am longing  to start again snapping my way through the small world in which I move. But I want to feel comfortable when I do. My doctor who is being so helpful at the moment assures me that the steroids which he is prescribing for my polymyalgia rheumatica  (hope I have it right this time) are on course to restore me to normality within a the next few weeks. So I will be patient.


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Some progress, reality and wandering

Slow progress on the H front.At least there is progress. Slightly more rapid on mine. But I still have not ventured out with my camera. Instead more summer textures from the archives to distract from bleak if not immediately cheeful prospects.

Back to the question of what music to listen to in touch times Last week I  am looking   at random for tranquillity and  to be deeply stirred. But sweetness, which I do not want,  with its heart-jerking chords, seems to intrude. Until that is I come to Beethoven's Late Quartets and in particular  Die Grosse Fuge, Opus 133. As I have said before it was RR who introduced me to this piece of music about 40 years ago. It has become more important since and has never been as important as it is now. Nothing  there  tugs crudely the emotions. Instead there is triumphant joy in its persistent rhythm. A voice which seems to say: "here is the world and the universe and what ever else there is that husks us in),  as it is, always has been and aways will be. It is harsh and cruelly beautiful. Listening  to it  I fancy I catch something fundamentally and unalterably true about existence. It cheers without consoling.

In The National Geographic Magazine I  read of Paul Salopek who sets out on a 7 year, 21 000 mile  walk to trace the dispersal of the human race from it birthplace  60,000 years ago in the  Great Rift Valley in Africa, across Asia and the land bridge to North America to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America.  The brief  time it took for homo sapiens to to take over the Earth is astonishing.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Passing clouds, repairs and concentration

Three clouds from the archive.

Repairing equipment of any kind is usually beyond me. The pocket reading glasses known I think as quick readers come apart in my hands as I take them from their case. One of the wings has come off. A tiny screw is missing which is all I need to restore the wing when it is slotted into place. But a miniature Phillips screwdriver is needed to secure it. I tip the case over a table and there is is the screw. But if I possess the necessary tool, I don't know where it is.  Come on, improvise. The tip of a nail-file engages withe head of the screw, and to my surprise the screw tightens. A rare victory over the contrariness of objects.

The pressure of events can concentrate the mind.  In the present circumstances between hospital visits, I find myself reading magazine articles from beginning to end, which I would normally no more than skim. I open a book of Zen stories beautifully written in Spanish. With a tranquillity worthy of the subject I read  and slowly absorb one of the stories. A great calm descends.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Textures, acorn feast and sport

Ladybird from the archives. A contrast of textures.

The BBC's farming programme which I listen to when I wake early tells me all sorts of fascinating things, Pigs, I learn, are being let loose in the New Forest, just now to eat the glut of acorns which cover the forest floor this year. It is not merely a question of nourishing the pigs, but of getting rid of the acorns before the  wild New Forest ponies can eat them. The acorns are poisonous to  the ponies, and several  have died this autumn from ingesting too many. Bringing on the pigs for this purpose is traditional and has a local name - pannage.

What has happened to sport?   Australian and English test cricketers insult one another as they pass on the field.  It's called "sledging". And is often quite vicious.  Meanwhile parents of small children pick fights with each other on the touch line of football matches, and have been know to attack referees. Play up, play up and play the game.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Grazing, cheering up and light

Sunflower grazing. Still looking back to summer archives.

Our friends Peter and Pammie  take me to visit H in hospital. It is Sunday so everything is quiet. Peter and I go for a coffee and Pammie stays to cheer up  H, who  bored and neglected, which she does wonderfully. Peter (could it be a tactful diversion to take my mind off things?) asks me about my journalistic career. Nostalgia seldom bothers me. Being boring does. I try to entertain. When we return to H she is much more cheerful and so am I. All being well next week she should be home.

Music is a problem. So much to choose from, but an illogical reluctance to engage to closely with the familiar, stops me for a while from listening to anything. Just now inhibitions vanish. Bach's Double Concerto for two violins in D Minor sooths and draws backs back  bleak veils. I think of the evening sky a few minutes ago, back-lit in pale gold and smudged with bold islands of cloud. A transient  archipelago.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Swallow, weapon and focus

Swallow from the summer archive.

Watches are beautiful and fascinating things. But the cost of building the best is often astonishing. My Swatch wrist watch which retails at around £50 has served me well for several years and rarely if ever seems to need adjusting. Today I read of an atomic watch designed by Richard Hoptroff at a cost of £50,000. Cheap for a  luxury watch apparently. But the things that catches me eye is that the atomic component, not manufactured by the designer, is also a miniaturised  component of a  military drone. Only 12 of the atomic watches are to be made. But I read that buyers are expected to sign an undertaking not to use  the watches as weapons. Puts me off a bit.

Focus is the thing.  H is recovering from the jaundice which is the immediate problem to be tackled. She remains in hospital for a few more days after which she should be home. We are looking forward to a taste of the normal. She remains cheerful in spite of boredom. Every now in then she remembers as I do how fortunate she is to be in a NHS hospital with private rooms, modern equipment and doctors and nurses who are kind an caring.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Balance, pace and youth


A hoist among the fishing boats on Hastings beach. From the archive.

I'm still hobbling but improving. To my surprise I have to stop myself from asking daughter Pippa why she is walking so slowly when she is of course slowing down to accommodate my laggardly place.

A young doctor breezes in  to Heidi's room to talking to us about her progress (good so far). He is a good communicator and we agree on the quality of his bedside manner. But Pippa  to say nothing of Heidi and me, are struck by his youth. They say that policeman are getting younger, but this doctor seems just out school.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Contrast, doubled barrelled and recognition

On a bleak damp day something else from the  summer archive.

The screens in the reception area at the hospital flash the names of patients as their appointments become due. "I must say, " says an elderly man in front of me to his neighbour, " I'm not too keen on doubled barrelled names."

A local taxi firm called Walkers Taxis has completely won me over. Not only do they know my name when I call from  my land line, but they know where I live when I call from my mobile. No more instances of having the taxi you have booked nicked from under your nose by a chancer.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Summer archive, waiting and soundbites

From the summer archive by way of contrast with yesterdays dry leaves.

Our new National Health Service hospital lies like a whale at the edge of the town. The  demand for its services exceed availability. So it  can be a waiting game. At home this weekend H is holding on for an endoscopy, which will we hope will relieve the pain of gallstones or or something else. Today at last she is admitted and the procedure takes place (procedure is a word which one must get accustomed to). The wait may have been long, but the kindness and gentleness of the nurses makes up for a lot. It will I think be a few days before we have specific results from the investigation . Meanwhile it is a relief to have made some progress.

Soundbites can sometimes lead to superficiality.  I know this from personal experience. My weakness for aphorisms and the like is  a  sort of laziness which can lead to the avoidance of sound argument and exposition. But the snappy phrase hangs in the memory and colours ones thoughts. And can contain the essence of something unconsidered. Startling images in a grey world. "Know thyself! If I knew myself," says Goethe, "I would run away".

Monday, November 25, 2013

Close up, gum and choice

Looking closely. Just now I am looking closely at most things, a study which often proves rewarding especially when the available field of focus is narrower than usual.

Until recently the streets of Tunbridge Wells and other towns I dare say all over the world were spotted with gobs of chewing gum. Squads of council workmen equipped with power hoses and scrapers  have cleared most of it from the pavements in this town. Funny stuff chewing gum. Though as a child I occasionally  used it until the peppermint flavour disappeared, I never became addicted. It did and still does amaze me  though that a substance can persist for so long regardless of being pounded by continuous chewing. These thoughts are prompted by a reference to chiceros,  people employed in the rain forests of South America to tap sapadilla trees. The chicle which they extract becomes the tasteless and harmless chewing gum. Sad to say substitute latex from other trees and artificial gums now sometimes replace the chicle. But I hope the connection remains.

In the supermarket, a mother calls "Strawberry, raspberry or gooseberry?" A small boy jumps up and down in the trolley, which serves him as a chariot, as well as a conveyance for spoils. "Strawberry," he repeats with every jump. "That's it then," says his mum

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pool cat, presents and shopping

Memories of summer. Cat by the pool.

Contemplating briefly sections of newspaper and magazines dedicated to Christmast present suggestion makes think. Advertisers are of course expected to flock to support such features, but there are so many of them that their value must cancel each other out. Why I wonder would readers be drawn to such arbitrary recommendations? What can a journalist assigned to such a task know of the real  needs and desires of the wives, husbands sweethearts, children and parents of readers? The articles are of course no more than random, recycled catalogues or the fruit of cursory window shopping. Presents meanwhile should not be neglected. Signs and tributes of love and admiration, their inspiration should spring from a knowledge and understanding of the recipient by the giver. Any less and they become the worthless parings of commerce and ritual. Forget them.

After a month more or less confined to the house shopping in the supermarket this morning might be  thought mundane  by some but for me  it is a reminder of freedom and independence. To choose a chicken. To pick the pineapple that appeals.  Even if all the products are bred and packed to look the same. How fortunate we are!


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gulls, sweetness and looking to be spry.

Gulls and vapour trail - a memory of summer.

Sweet flavours no longer attract me. Sometimes before settling down to a book aftera meal I would crave a sweety . For reasons which I cannot fathom the desire has dissappeared.  And I am glad of it. Sweetness is an ornament of  taste, but the harsher edges of reality, the complexity of saltiness, sour and bitter not to forget the compex glutamate inspired umami ( a Japanese word to describe a particular savoury quality found in spicey food) seem preferable.

As I get better I take a little walk in front to the house helped by a stick. "Morning constitutional?" says a brisk grey haired woman whom I don't think I have seen before. It makes me wonder whether I appear an infirm old man. I hope not. In fact I am beginning to regain a certain spryness. I am glad that I shaved off the beard that appeared a couple of weeks ago after the flu. And that today my hairdresser friend Chris popped in to clip the hair which had begun to form  ungainly mound on wither side of my head. A short back and sides makes me feel better.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Layers, noises, coastal waters


Layers of experience cover the surface of this door in Sitges, which has seen better times and will doubtless see them again.

Electronic noises  in an odd way copy  the grunts and hums of homo sapiens. I hear  with interest the noise which my mobile phone makes when I switch off the power. It resembles the note of contentment which tired  people tired often emit as they settle down in comfort on the point of sleeping.

Waking early I often listen to the shipping bulletin on the BBC. It deals with the sea areas surrounding the British Isles - Faeroe's, Fair Isle, Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire etc. The familiar labels  with the evocation of wind, fog and salt spray,  are comforting like a chant or incantation.
Equally I am addicted to the Met Office's report on coastal waters up to 12 miles off shore. Many are familiar from visits to the coast. They too have a ritual charm, a reminder of what it is to inhabit an island. The  names are followed by descriptions of weather, wind, visibility and the state of the sea. But the headings  with which sailors are familiar  are not given. So that you hear: "Cape Wrath to Rattray Head. Mainly north or northwest. Smooth or slight.  Showers. Good."  Language at its briefest, honed to its sharpest edge. But linked to  the places - North Foreland,  Great Ormes, Mull of Galloway- with their echoes of cliffs and seabirds and breaking waves,  lovely English words.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

wall, pessimism and nobility

From the archives still, a piece of wall in Sitges.  Watch this space for new inspiration as soon as I take my camera for a walk here in Tunbridge Wells.

Suspect optimism, respect pessimism. Interviewed  on the BBC 4 Programme Desert Island Disks the pianist Alfred Brendel observes last Sunday that he is a pessimist, but one who likes to be surprised.

Mis-hearing becomes quite common as I grow older. So far only the occasional oddity occurs. Switching on the radio a few minutes ago, I wonder at the potential of a "nobility scooter". A coat of arms, a fine brass hooter with a rubber bulb. Perhaps even a uniformed groom.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Giacometti, artifice and reason

No new photographs for a few days. A time for looking back. Giacometti on the beach.
When I see people being photographed I watch with special interest the how they arrange their faces for the camera. A good photographer sets out to anticipate and prevent such artifice.
Many of us believe that we make decisions and hold views based on reason. Whereas it is far more likely that its is feelings which dictate our actions. Blaise Pascal's much quoted "The heart has its reasons which reason does not know" puts it another way.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Persistence, bulletin 1 and bulletin 2

The tall fuchsia in the garden is still flowering mid-November. It is  my excuse for fishing this photo from the archives for today's post, the first after a long period of enforced absence. It is after all an image of persistence and survival.

When I began this blog back in 2005  my aim was to note  everyday three things of beauty and interest. Over the years the target broadened to allow for the curious, the ironic and the absurd. But it was always important as far as I was concerned to avoid  beefing and moaning. And for the most part I believe I have succeeded. Even when bad things happen there is usually a shine somewhere to be found like the gleam on the leather surface of a cricket ball which a bowler has produced by rubbing the ball on his trousers to make it swing through the air with ease when he releases it in the direction of the batsman.
How then to handle polimyalgia rheumatica, (PMR) which struck me down after a nasty bout of flu? To say not hing of the flu itself, if flu it was 10 days after a flu shot? The best I can do is to say that I have learnt how to spell the damn thing and to pronounce it. What is it? An inflammatory disease which afflicts the joints from the neck to the hips  making all movement extremely painful. Fortunately once diagnosed it is easily treatable with steroids. The proof of which is this post and a more mobile and flexible poster than has been manageable for the last few weeks.
 Everybody, thank you so much for your comments and concern which have proved the best of all tonics. I'm specially grateful to the Canadians who took time off to write, despite problems with the lamentable mayor of Toronto. It seems that we are not alone in having one or two ghastly politicians

But the tale of woe doesn't end there. Heidi who doesn't like being mentioned here, after putting up with my illnesses, has gone down herself with jaundice and some nasty pains. She  is at present being investigated in hospital, so the shine is becoming harder to find. We are  waiting for news, consoled only by the fact that she is in our new Tunbridge Wells  National Health hospital (one patient per room) and looked after by a doctors whom she knows and respects. We are taking each step as it comes and she and I remain cheerful, helped by supportive family and neighbours.


Friday, November 01, 2013

Reflection, unhacked and Seamus Heaney

A pleasing subject from the archive to reflect on during recuperation.

No one to the best of my knowledge has hacked my voice mail or listened in to my telephone calls. Where have I gone wrong?

The  poems of Seamus Heaney which I have been reading with admiration and pleasure are resonant with the sounds of metal crashing into earth, the splash of cold water, the ring of stone struck and carved.  Wet and cold places, weathered human features, sinew, timber and steel.  Images which hold firm in familiar landscapes. They are enduring images of people and places which endure.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wings, soporific and stoicism

For want of a new photograph or two this pigeon from the archive must do.

In blank moments before sleeping a sure soporific I have found is to  to plan a formal address.  The first few clich├ęd words suffice, accompanied in my imagination by  a pompous and rather patronising tone of voice. Thus: 
                                    My friends ...
                                    My dear friends ....
                                    My lords, ladies and gentlemen ...
                                    Workers of the World, Oppressed multitudes, Downtrodden, Wretched of the Earth, join me now in one mighty roar of protest, one cry for freedom, fairness, f.....
Sleep invariably follows.

"Never complain. Never explain." has always seemed to me  to be a good piece of stoic advice, and one which I try to follow  daily as I grow older. However sometimes explanations press forward. Why for example are you  walking about the house stiff and upright as a pieceof  lead piping, with an  unsmiling expression not far removed from the rear end of a Chieftan tank ? And if you explain that every time you turn  your head, it feels as though someone has struck you with a hefty chunk of mountain, while at the same time playing one of The Rolling Stones' more exuberant pieces at full volume? Well, you have ignored one part  of the maxim in pursuit  of the other. Some stoic!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Storm, mulling and ready made slogans

From the archive. Just a leaf, a symbol of introspection. Although leaves have been flying past the windows all day, one at time, to use an expression of Auden's, "on urgent voluntary errands", the majority, held by still vital juices, have remained on the branches. It is a persistence reminiscent of  the great storm of1978, when, by supporting the force of the wind, like sails, the leaves contributed to general devastation. The forecasters missed that one. Determined not to repeat the mistake this time round, they  spare us no detail of impending disaster.

A time for mulling over favourite subjects. For example, how little we still know about physics, dark matter, dark energy, anti-matter, multi-universes, that sort of thing!  I read reports of scientists studying particle behaviour in The Hadron Collider, and imagine for a moment, a breakthrough moment when in a gap in the fabric of this universe we glimpse for a moment, some one rather like you or me looking back at us, laughing.

Time also for the odd beef. Current one: ready made jokes and slogans. Worst of the lot the current fashion for variations of the wartime poster, "Keep Calm". What mindless creatures are we reduced to!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Flu, arse over? and Neck

A week ago struck down by a jab-defying bout of flu, I have refrained from blogging, for fear of communicating the virus to the computer. A week's growth of beard stands as testimony to an impact which kept me from the news desk.  Ensuing hallucinations  were, interestingly,  computer related. When I closed my eyes a screen invariably appeared laden with drab icons. Clicking them resulted in little little action mostly lethargic. Until I realized that the screen was on the inside of my eyelids I began to think that the device needed an engineer. One lasting image: a girl is swimming across a stretch of blue sea. She turns and raises an arm in greeting.

Arse over .... Thanks for your observations. My feeling is that the expression is flexible. Several variations come to mind. I did not invent "arse over elbow". I cannot remember who used it in my presence. But it appeals because of its graphic potential, suggesting a chaotic tangle of limbs.

Although I do not as a rule make a habit of discussing complaints, I should now add that the stiff neck which has features here and elsewhere, returned with a vengeance as I began to recover from the flue. The result: a human lamppost. Rigid neck muscles are now gently relieved by pain killers and anti-inflamatories, add a new and painful dimension to the sick room. Enough.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Spider, viola and arse over elbow

A stray viola seeds itself in a crack in the pub wall. I take the photograph nearly a month ago. Today it is still there and has been joined by another in the angle where the wall meets the paving.

Against the greenhouse door a spider is hard a work weaving its web. Though a lifelong  arachnophobe I have recently taken every opportunity to photograph the creature. As a result I am little less worried by the sight of the them. I take several shots wondering if the spider, which stops and starts as I proceed, is aware of a  hovering a eye a few centimetres from its domain.

This post is as they say arse over  elbow. I posted  it yesterday on my other my other blog One Fine Day by mistake   On One Fine Day meanwhile  I clicked "publish" half way through a story when I meant to click "save". So be patient and understanding when you read this. I will tell you when the story on One Fine Day is complete.

Beach, roots and age

Saturday 21 September.  Playa de San Sebastian. Holiday memories, assisted by photographs hang on. But don't think we have a beach holdiday. We have the beach but not the pain. We visit the beach to swim and leave it when we are briefly sunned and dried. But today I return to take a photograph. It is noticeable how people rather than  lie flat out and sizzle on the sand like sausages on a barbecue, stand around in small groups in their half naked state and talk.

This morning at home for two weeks, I begin to tackle the  vegetable beds. Bindweed has encroached from the building site next door. I take pleasure in the slow work of loosening soil and picking out the insidious roots. The thickness and intense white of the bindweed roots make the job easier. Earlier the bell-shaped white flowers have usurped the stakes originally intended for sweet peas.

For various reasons people nowadays enquire about my age. I respond with the modest admission of someone who has run up a reasonable score in a cricket match. I think I must have been six when my age first became a topic of interest to me and it seems to others. Six was a bench mark to leave behind, I remember;  seven one much to be desired. How old are you? Six and a quarter. I would say...six and a half...six and three quarters. Nowadays the sense of achievement in entering an age group is revived, but longing for the next birthday is rather less intense.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Persicaria, debonair and falling leaves

Persicaria at Groombridge Place
A trilby on his head, a cigar between his lips and his head held high, a blind man is led by his dog on the pavement Mount Pleasant.

In The Grove I stand beneath the big oak on the corner as leaves weighed down by the water and encouraged by heavy drops of rain fall vertically around me. They fall at regular intervals as though prescribed by a mechanism.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Disobedience , optimism and Alice Monro

"And I said to the waves, don't dare come up any further. And just look..."

As I pick end-of-season, swollen bean pods I notice one brave and hopeful bean flower among the drooping leaves and drying stems.

At a time when it appears to be out of fashion it is a boost for the short story to know that Alice Monro who has written nothing else but short stories has been awarded The Nobel Prize for Literature. The few of her stories which I have read strike me, because some tend to be on the long side, to make it a little harder,  for anyone who wants to,  to define  what precisely is a short story. She has been described as the Canadian Chekhov and seems to be almost as prolific as the Russian.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Me, seven and time

Finding that I can take a photograph of myself drinking a cup of tea in front of the computer by using the computer's web cam I do so. Why not?

A child holds by a string a floating balloon in the shape of the number seven. A troop of children follow. From this I deduce that a birthday party  is about to take place probably at the pizzeria down the road.

Some people I know have no time for time. They take pride in not wearing a watch and in not knowing what time it is. Maybe there is something wrong with me, but I am lost without a watch and plan and mark my actions to a large extent by the time of day. It matters to me that my watch is accurate and keeps that way.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shadow of a dove, danger and harvest

Shadow of a collared dove.

In the doctor's waiting room, a mother addresses her two year old by his full name - almost a literary device: "Carter Jarret, you can't do that." Surely the name of a character in a novel, perhaps the very novel which I am trying but not succeeding in reading. " Listen to Mummy. No. It says Danger. Don't play with the fire extinguisher."

In the Farmers Market I note with awe and a little guilt the price of vegetables and that chard, butternut squash and chillis  are still waiting to be harvested in my garden.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sunset, note and hole in pocket

Sitges. Sunset over the town.

Back home.  These words in a child's handwriting on a piece of  stained, ornamented notepaper lying face upward exposed to the weather for anyone to read.
 Dear Uncle Lardy
 Your my hope
 My uncle
 My friend
And I love you
 Sentiment straight from the heart and impossible to invent. A true story in 15 words.

A hole in the right hand pocket of my much used (though not for fishing) fishing jacket betrays that it is where my notebook plus Parker ball pen and Pental retracting pencil with eraser, normally reside. This garment, virtually a set of linked pockets held together by a zip is important to me. In it I  can accommodate apart from the equipment already mentioned: glasses, camera, telephone, catapult, Ordinance survey map, Swiss army knife, telescope, magnifying glass,  laser gun, folding invisibility cloak, and a worn copy of Scouting for Boys. The last mentioned items are imaginary but not the hole which is currently being repaired by the mending service called Retoucherie de Manuela in The London Road.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Early moon, swallows and bronchial peace

Greeted by a full moon above the road into Sitges it is tempting to take advantage of the photo opportunity.

Swallows gather at this time of year preparing for their return to Africa. In front of the balcony the air is full of the  agile little birds swooping and gliding. Over the sea they skim the waves finding insects even there. In previous years I have watched while in the sea at wave level  while they flew round me. This year I see  them face to face.

No one wants a cough on holiday. The pharmacist next door to the hotel provides a medicine called Pazbronquial, bronchial peace, a perfect description of what I need. The head cold disappears in the sun and the cough barely intrudes.