Thursday, February 28, 2013

winter voices service

Ice on a wall.

Soundscape is a word relatively new to me, but one which I appreciate. I stand still in the vegetable garden and listen. The noises from the building site are intermittant but easy enough to exclude. Not so the din of children's voices from the primary school half a mile away. The morning break announces itself, a chorus of energy and excitement as the world begins again. Another feature of the soundscape occurs every time I approach The Grove from Belvue. It is the holly tree spilling sparrows and noisy as a party in full swing on a Saturday night.

A cup of tea at the cafe opposite the station reminds me that there are few such places where you don't have to wait to be served at the counter and are expected to pay right away. Here they say," take a seat and we'll bring it to you". And you pay before you leave. It may seem a small thing but a mark of civilisation nevertheless.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

tweeting weeds minimalism

Birds are on my mind today. I tweeted this too.

All sorts of building components are lying about the once deserted garden next door to my vegetables. To discourage the weeds - specifically ground-elder, buttercups, nettles and bindweed, which they shelter rather than discourage -  I today  pile layers of leaf-mold against the fence to smother the roots as they attempt to invade.

The monotony of the minimalist composers of the the 20th century has long appealed to my uneducated ear. And I suppose to my tolerance of repetition.  Last night the BBC 4 programme on Twentieth Century music, The Sound and the Fury, reminded me of what for many may seem an odd preference. I am not sure how long I could sit in a concert hall and listen to  one of the works of John Cage unless it happens to be 4' 33''. Not too long to remain silent in the absence of sound.  But my taste for for the likes of Philip Glass and Steve Reich is strengthening. This morning with the the sound track of the programme  still in my head, I play my Philip Glass album which includes pieces from Einstein on the Beach and something rather lovely and soothing called Etude No 2 for Solo Piano. Hey, music lovers I'm not boasting or even recommending, merely reporting with a hint of apology to  Tone Deaf which would know better how to deal with my crush.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

orange 2 magpies not for eating

Another attempt at an orange with painted with the  Brushes app.

No children in the playground this damp and cold morning where ice particles seem to form in the cold mist. Two magpies, their long black tails pointed up  in the air  have taken over the territory. They hop and flutter  between the swings and the seesaw.

A printed note attached to the  bunches of daffodils sold at Sainsbury's warns, "Do not eat!" Sound advice.It brings to mind a chef I used to know who put a starter of daffodils on his menu to celebrate St David's Day. I don't think he was a Welshman but he seemed to believe that the daffodil as distinct from or in addition to the leek was the national symbol of Wales. I don't know if he was right. But by and large I think Sainsbury's is right to advise against eating the plant. The dish was imaginative but had little else to recommend it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

drawing choice begging the question

Challenge or encounter? Composed with Brushes.

In a novel by Philippe Djian called Erogenous Zone the narrator says,"Stupidity alone does not explain why I sit like this glued to a chair. What drives me to write  all day and a good part of the night  is that  something far more terrible is not to to be writing."  Reading this made me think of my friend RR , who has written three novels including the recently published Gorgon Times in the last two or is three  years, with the same sort of single-mindedness. While I cannot match such dedication, skill  or energy, I completely understand the need to be creating something, even something tentative and unsure of itself on a daily basis. Hence I suppose this blog.

When I was at school I remember distinctly finding it difficult to understand the expression "to beg the question" which used to mean, to answer another question while ignoring the one you are supposed to be answering. Though when I did eventually grasp its purpose,  I took pleasure in using it because it was an apt description of a common behavioural lapse.  In my lifetime and quite recently  the expression has come to mean (judging by its wide use or abuse, to pose or ask a question - a clumsy and above all unnecessary phrase far removed from its original intent. A sad decline in language it seems to me.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

orange order rulers

The essence of  an orange.

Flaubert's advice to writers hangs about in my mind as  try to keep my desk  tidy.  "Be regular and orderly in your life that you may violent and original in your work."

"They think they rule the world," says her mother apologetically as her little girl all rosy cheeked in the cold charges under our feet. Ah but they do.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

cave-art snow snowdrops

Twenty-First Century cave art on window glass.

A fine snow blows this morning and seems to settle eventually  only because it has nowhere else to go. For the most part it swarms in the cold wind like pale insects.

The stall holders shiver at The Farmers' Market, at least those who have turned up.  But  one of the garden plant stalls is there. "Not a good day for business", I say to the stall holder who is shrouded in woolies. "Except for the snowdrops," she says. They are for sale still in bud in little plastic pots. "They're topical!"

Friday, February 22, 2013

early silent bounce


Small plants on top of a wall anticipate the Spring.

Through a window  this morning I watch  the head and shoulders of a young man nod and sway to music which he but not I can hear.

In the compost heap a new,  furry,  green tennis ball at least one which was new when by some strange stroke of fate it arrived there. Today following its rescue it has dried out. But sad to say, as I test it on the paving, it betrays - a condition  with which I  must sympathise - a  marked loss of its original bounce.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

chard china-shop soup

Last year's chard is in leaf again though with little enthusiasm.

"I know what I wanted to tell you," says Peter as we pass in the street. "You know a bull in in a china-shop. The French have an elephant."

One chicken. Three meals. We finish with a broth from the stock  with small cubes of meat to which leeks and pearl barley are added. Almost   cock-a-leekie. I should have garnished it with some chopped prunes to complete the picture.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

climbing wormwood models


Meditation  on the yearly cycle of climbing plants. As I remove and stack away last years beanpoles I think about the beans I will grow this year.

Among the plants pushing up their shoots  in the herb garden  at the moment is wormwood, a handsome and vigorous herb for which I have little use other than the pleasure of its company. It has of course some interesting associations as its botanical name Artemis Absinthium attests. For it is the basis of the notorious absinthe which had so dramatic affect on the lives of  poets artists in France at the turn of the century who became adicted to the drink. But it does have benign applications. The Greeks infused their wine with it to make it less intoxicating and  it is remedy for weak digestion. Hippocrates believed that it stimulated the brain and could restore disorders there. It was dedicated to the goddess Diana.

Two models lurk somewhere at the back of my mind as I write this daily blog. One of them is the great Montaigne who invariably and on his own admission wrote about himself. But he wrote with an analytical  detachment, honest and amused, which removed his essays far from the egoistical. Rather they are rich accounts seen through  the spectrum of his own personality, of human nature in general. My other model is  the naturalist Gilbert White whose Natural History of Selborne describes with  vivid precision the wild life which surrounds the village of Selborne in Hampshire where he was curate to wards the end of the Eighteenth Century.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

crows spices building site

I look up from the vegetable garden to  see a tree full of crows, at least I think they are crows.

In The Pantiles an overwhelming smell of spices floats out of a shop. It is the a shop called Pollyfield and sells masses of pot-pourris and the like, dried flowers woven into curious bouquets and emblems., packed into bags and cachets.  Cinnamon, cloves dominate but there must be every spice in the orient lurking among the petals and hanging in the air.

Last year and the year before I referred to the deserted garden next to the plot where I grow my vegetables, and posted photographs of the old house gradually falling to pieces. The melancholy charm of those days has this year been replaced by the brutal activity of a building site. A five bedroom house with an underground car park built into the basement is under construction. But it disturbs me   less than I might have expected. Preparing the beds for peas and salad, beans and sweet corn creates its own peace.

Monday, February 18, 2013

order random innocence

No choice?

Whereas when I read a book in English it is invariably the result of a recommendation or a connection with something else I have read, I keep finding  contemporary books in French about which, because I don't regularly read French newspapers or follow the French media, I know nothing. I simply find them on the shelves of the Oxfam bookshop in Chapel Place which, unlike Hall's down the road, seems to have good source of books in foreign languages. This random approach to reading appeals to me and reminds me of the time when I first discovered libraries and searched the shelves for anything that "felt" good with an opening sentence that made me want to read on.

The guilty but enjoyable sensation of watching, walking past in the street,  someone you know who doesn't suspect  that she is under observation. Is she behaving differently? Almost certainly.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

meditation proof friends

On the edge of thought.

At the newsagent and tobacco counter in Sainsbury's  a sign insists that you must be over 25 when buying restricted products. The two women assistants refuse to sell cagarettes to a young man who appears to be nowhere near 25. He argues with the them in a good humoured way. " How old do you think I am specifically?" he says.

All over the town there are stains on walls, squares of peeling paint and  plaster, posts and pillars, boles and trunks which I recognise as old friends because I have photographed them in search of an image. Today I pass a bollard with a gaping hole in its spherical finial and resist the temptation to photograph it again.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

brush strokes sharpening technology

The app which I found the other day is called Paper and I have been learning to draw with it. But I was aware of another app better suited to painting, which has famously been used to good effect  by David Hockney. It is called Brushes. Its palette is remarkable and easy to use once you have the knack. More difficult to master is the range of brushes or perhaps I should  say brush strokes available. I am learning these fairly quickly but they  will  take time to master. One facility which I particularly like is being able to saturate a page with colour to provide a base. The app has something in common with Photoshop but is I think rather easier to use, more intuitive. This  an early attempt to  use of the app. I am thinking of the sun coming round again.

Few things are more tedious than blunt knives, scissors or garden tools. Today I sharpen the scissors I use for cutting out photos from newspapers and magazines for my scrapbook. For some reason I have neglected the neat carborundum stone, coarse on one side, smooth on the other which has a slept along time in the drawer of my desk. It is  satisfying to fine the cutting edge and to feel it bite into the paper as  with a rejuvenated pair of scissor I negotiate the image of a pelican.

"It's easy when your panicking" says a man to a woman whom I pass in the street as he returns his mobile phone to his pocket. "I just pressed the red button instead of the green."  With such mistakes wars begin and worlds explode.

Friday, February 15, 2013

robin growing bean sticks

Today's robin urges me on as I clear the herb bed and collect compost from the heap. For him I mean worms.

With today's sunshine the stems of daffodils with buds pushing up have grown by two inches, If you watch  carefully you can almost see them grow.

The hard jobs are digging and spreading compost. The easy one is collecting last years bean poles from the bed and  stacking them neatly ready for use this summer.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

greetings bouquets identity

Love being in the air here's my contribution to the seasonal  effusion.

While sitting outside the pub we count the separate men walking up the hill from the High Street bearing bouquets.

At the dry cleaners they ask for your telephone number before consulting their  coumputer and telling you who you are.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

close up seagulls Valentine

A leaf examined.

A small flock - no more than ten or 12 - of seagulls keeps returning to one corner of The Grove. This morning I can see why. Someone has left some pieces of bread and other goodies on the grass. They must be the same birds I guess which have learnt about a regular act of charity. What is interesting is that the gulls don't settle to eat the food as land birds would, but rather swoop and pick it up on the wing, as they might fish at surface level on the sea. I know that seagulls do settle on ploughed fields where a tractor has just turned over the soil and on rubbish tips, but here they seem reluctant to land. May be it is the sheltered, intimate nature of The Grove which makes them shy.

One reason for posting this blog virtually on a daily basis is being unable to lose the deadline habit which was part of my former life as the editor of a weekly magazine. In September of last year I launched another blog less rigid in its self-imposed deadlines, but still not entirely free of them. It is devoted to short stories intended to amuse if not not enlighten.  A week or so ago, I thought that St Valentine's Day might be a reason for another post (no 21 in fact) in One Fine Day. The deadline in preparation for February 14 was today. Hence a new story, Making it Up, about a couple at a restaurant where the conversation over a lavish Valentine's Day menu is to say the least awkward.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

colour saving collision avoided

More colour and light to make up for the winter gloom. Tulips in a vase in the morning light.

We meet a neighbour outside Morrison's. She has a carton of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Her husband, a retired  doctor, forbids her to smoke at home. "I have just a eaten a croissant from the station cafe", she says. "So that I won't be hungry when I am shopping. If I'm hungry I usually buy more than I need".

In The Grove a woman careers towards me. She has her fingers on the keyboard of her mobile phone and her eye on the screen. A carrier bag swings noisily from her arm. As she looks up in time to avoid a collision she looks up at me with an expression which seems to say, look where you're going, as though I was not myself being forced to steer hard to starboard.

Monday, February 11, 2013

surprise piemientos fitting

Grass and moss growing on top of a wall above the railway station.

It must be at least 20 years ago that I first tasted pimientos de Padron in a tapas bar in Galicia in north west Spain. They are about the size of an average chilli and could be mistaken for one if it were not for the fact that they do not have the heat of chillies. Grilled and served with salt they taste as you owuld imagine chillies would if they weren't hot. A delightful experience. You are warned though as you eat them that every now and then you might find a hot one, but it is never embarrassingly sharp. You very rarely find them in England but here is a packet of them in Sainsbury's vegetable department. Grilled with Maldon salt served with a slice of ham they are for lunch.

Above a men's outfitter framed in the window is a man in his shirt sleaves being outfitted.  In a split second as you look up he raises his arm and you see the outfitter lift  a measure to it and to the spread of his shoulders.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

thrush book exercise

Yes, Lucy, it was a thrush. And here it is caught by the powerful zoom of my compact camera about 30 metres away. You suppose a mistal thrush.  It has been singing on most days since the day in January when I supposed it (quite wrongly) to be a fieldfare. A couple of years ago  I saw a small flock  of fieldfares spread across the grass of The Grove, and I can see the difference. Apart from that they are not solitary birds at this time of year and a fieldfare would as you say not behave in this solitary manner, certainly not day after day.

This afternoon I read Neil MacGregor's Shakespeare's Restless World taken from his Radio 4 Series and based on objects surviving from the Poet's time. It is  a richly detailed account of the way people lived and thought as for example how they feared witches and assassination plots much as we fear terrorists today. But this afternoon's experience as I hold the book in my hand is that it is a solid beautiful object, made of sheets of paper cut and  bound together, encased in board and with a wrap-round cover. I love its smell. And much as I appreciate the convenience of my Kindle, it strikes me that nothing, but nothing can replace the solid feel of this book. The texture of the paper, the quality of the print, and the illustrations which fall in just the right place so not  to dominate the text as they might in a coffee table book but support it and come into view just at the right time. Long may there be books, real books.

Some people swim, some jog. My exercise is gardening. There is something to show for the expense of energy  as there is the other day when I shift barrow loads of compost to the beds which I have dug ready for sowing. Thanks to the rain I am behind with the vegetable plot and not as fit as I will be when all the beds are dug and the compost spread. Now to think about seeds.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

purple-sprouting pies shadow

Cut these this  morning, steamed them for lunch. Served them with anchovy butter (butter mashed up with a tin of anchovies and a little lemon juice). Sublime.

At the Farmers Market this morning round meat filled pies are labelled Sussex Belles.  Something new to me but they sound like a revived tradition.  I ask the stall holder about them . "They've been around for about 2 months", she says, "I come from Cornwall where I used to make Cornish pasties, and I thought of starting something similar round here."

Under a hedgerow
A cat  glides and vanishes
A living shadow

Friday, February 08, 2013

daffodils snap balance

Gloomy dank winter resulted in a number of gloomy dank photographs in this spot over the past few months, or so it seems to me. Here, to make up for it are the first daffodils. They are in a vase it is true. The bunches from the flower stall were just buds a few days ago, but today they are fully open and release an amazing aroma in the process.

"Trying to capture a snap," says Olive who spots my camera as she passes me in The Grove.

"If you agree with me  on nine  out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with on 12 out of 12 issues, see a psychiatrist. " Ed Koch , three times mayor of New York who died recently.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

singer three worst

Today's robin.

Further thoughts about the number three. More than three is too much; less than three is not enough.

The worst novel that I have ever read through to the end is  called Sauve Moi, "Save me". It is by Guillaume Musso. I finish it for two reasons. First because it is in French and set in the present day in New York and widens my vocabulary. Second because  it is so gripping that I can't put it down. Here's the plot in all its  triumphant absurdity.  A young French woman having failed to become a successful actress in America, falls for an American doctor who has  nearly run her over in his 4 x 4. She has booked her flight back to France but in her last two days in New York has a whirlwind romance with the doctor. He sees her to the airport and they part reluctantly. The plane crashes  into the sea and he gives her up for dead. But  it seems that she couldn't  bear to stay on the plane and it is revealed that she has left it just before take-off. No explanation of how she is allowed to leave especially in the years following 9/11. The doctor does  not know that she has survived and is sitting in Central Park moping when a female cop brings him a cup of coffee. It transpires  that the cop was shot 10 years earlier in the course of duty. She is a ghost.  She has been sent from the other side to collect the girl who wasn't meant to survive. Enough.... It goes on and on,  and  the plot becomes more and more complicated. Drugs and gangsters are involved. Oh, and it is the Doctor who shot the cop believing that she was a drug-dealer.  Disbelief suspended  long ago, as it becomes more and more ridiculous,  I can't stop reading it to find out what happens in the end. I won't tell you. Why should I?  I have had to suffer to find out.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

portrait song three

Portrait of the artist on a cold day.

Song for the day is Woodstock by Joni Mitchell
  "We are stardust. We are golden
  And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden."
Back to the garden that's where I've got to get back to.

Three is a good number, as in Three Beautiful Things and my brother Ken's new blog in which he posts three photographs at a time. It is called  Three is good because it is less tidy than two or four. More generous than two and less extravagant than four. Look at his blog and you get an essay on taking photographs of stangers in the street and attendent problems. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

best thinking hat

A sense of anticipation. Ruddles Best in the glass though the glass bears the logo of something less attractive.

Up in the holly tree sits a pigeon
Does it think it's a pigeon or a holly tree
With a pigeon in? Does it think?
Do I think? What do I think? It's a pigeon in a holly tree,"
I think.

In The Grove I meet Peter. The wind is whistling round his head. "I'm going to buy a woolly hat," says he.

Monday, February 04, 2013

sky rushing watch

Reflection in a puddle under a pub table. The sheet of water is lying on a cement circle where they used to make carriage wheels when the pub was a carriage works.

From behind me a greeting voice, "good morning". I look up to see the back of a scurrying figure. It is Olive. "I'm rushing for a meeting," she says as she rushes on down Sutherland Road.

My watch-battery packs up after two and a half years. It is a Swatch and keeps perfect time, until it stops. So trusting in its accuracy am I that this morning I attempt to stop the bracket clock in the hall which appears to be a quarter of an hour fast in order to reset it. The clock is innocent and I am forced to apologise, as one does to innocent mechanisms.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

dance fieldfare tears

Dancing trunks.

The thrush which I heard singing last month and which I discussed with another bird watcher in The Grove was I now realise a fieldfare, still a variety of thrush but I am now convinced a fieldfare. I have seen these handsome birds before in The Grove. They usually flock in fields adjoining woodland where they breed.  A  song thrush would not be singing on a frosty January day, more likely a fieldfare. They visit Britain  from central and eastern Europe in the Winter.

"We laughed a little, cried a little", is a tongue-in-cheek, self-mocking cliché that comes to me out of the past. After a bibulous dinner we explain Utube to some people who haven't yet encountered it. Frank Sinatra was their choice of nostalgia . "Do you remember that?" says Dave to Julie.  Dave is a man not given to showing his feelings but as the familiar tune erupts, feelings begin to show. "They were playing that when I asked you to marry me, " he chokes. We laugh a little, cry a little. 

Saturday, February 02, 2013

ice jam time-saver

A lip of ice on top of a wall.

At the Brasserie des Sources in The Pantiles which opened in November they seek as the name suggests  to create a  cross-Channel impression. The croissants are  light and taste of butter but are small in comparison to what you expect and they are served with jam. Maybe things have changed in France, but jam with croissants is new to me. My preference would be for croissants of a respectable size and no jam.

Some articles in magazines and newspapers, particularly political articles, are becoming increasingly predictable. I find that it saves times having read the title to content myelf with the last paragraph.

He is on the up-escalator, she on the down. It is the evening rush hour on the London Underground. They recognise one another almost at the same moment despite the 10 years since they lost touch. The twentieth post in One Fine Day tells their story.

Friday, February 01, 2013

aerial love reverse

Chimney and aerial and with magpie.

In a shop window they are promoting Valentine's Day. "It must be love" proclaims one big poster. attached to it is another  poster showing a box of chocolates and the words "Half Price when you buy any Valentines Card". To set a price on true love.

While I am  proudly showing my daughter my scrap book it occurs to me that I am reversing a procedure in which 50 years ago she might have been showing me hers.