Tuesday 29 December 2009

A different kind of dog.

The Hothouse compound is guarded by our two Italian greyhounds.
People stop transfixed by the runtyness of the tiny one. The sheer audacity of his presence is impressive; the way he draws himself up to the size of say, a frozen chicken, and hurls forth abuse in his tiny rapid-fire barks.
These are house dogs, bred for human contact. Their mission is to snuggle with their owners as much as possible, preferably amongst velvet and pure wool.
Actually they are great walkers and racers too, but primarily weedy, snuggling warmth-leeches unlike the dogs of these collars.
These are macho earth-caked hairy dogs with huge yelpy voices and blood in mind. Dogs of 'la chasse' (hunting).
We have quite a few that turn up in the garden with jingly collar bells, somehow way off the scent, or perhaps in secret search of a soft sofa . . . 
When we first arrived in France, 'la chasse' seemed a strange, gruesome idea, but over the years I have come to view in a different way. It's so much of the way of life for many people here, as much as the 'potager' (veg patch) is for providing food and satisfaction in a certain expected order of the turning year.
Spring: preparing ground, sowing, gathering wild asparagus etc. Summer: lettuce, tomatoes, cherries, strawberries, apricots, watering. Autumn: harvest, mushroom-picking, cutting back, bonfires. Winter: 'la chasse'.
I have never participated (except for a couple of times of nearly being shot) but can imagine the fresh, crisp air, the thrill of the chase, dividing of the beast(s) amongst friends, wine consumed, all to be . . . enjoyable. I think.
Anyway, if we are prepared to eat meat, we should also perhaps be aware of the reality of the animal's demise. We are all too accustomed to the safe, cling-film packets of pink and red stuff on the supermarket shelves: de-skinned, de-boned, de-feathered, oven ready.

Friday 25 December 2009

And goodwill to all men

Even to Ezra who woke us up crashing about at 5.00 am — still, I'm sure we all did the same at eleven years old.
Excellent Christmas day. Brilliant presents all round, lunch in the sun, walk above Limoux, far too much chocolate and a viewing of an awful 'Carry On' film from   Ezra's stocking.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Only 2 shopping days to Christmas

Festive lunacy is upon us.
Yesterday, the local supermarket was full of people staggering under the weight of enlarged duck livers in jars, 'buche de Noel' and daft gold/red china.
It's scary to think that all over France, Spain, the UK and generally a lot of the planet, people are engaged in this PANIC to buy stuff for one day . . . the celebration of the birth of one small human a very long time ago.
Do most people actually remember what the event is? Has the possibility that Marks and Spencer might have run out of their platinum label Christmas puds become more important.
Don't know what I believe, but I'm going to go and do a church crawl on Christmas eve, starting in Pieusse, where Mark is playing their new church harmonium, and then possibly to a freezing abby out in the sticks for midnight mass.
Sorry for Scrooge-like sentiments, but . . . really! I think it was working in advertising for too many years — 'Boot's' Christmas press shows in July complete with log fires, carol singers etc.

Here is a lovely sunrise to evoke peace, reflection and serenity as we head out once more to the shops to cross another vital thing of the Chistmastide list.
Bonnes Fêtes.

Monday 21 December 2009

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.

Mark did an excellent sound installation in Garth's 'cuve' (wine vat) for our art bazarre. A weird and slightly drunken mix of different versions of the above song. Bing, Fred, Elvis, Vera Lynn, etc, confetti snow, soft lighting and a glokonspiel (no idea of the spelling) for people to play along to the tune as it slid in and out of various keys. Unfortunately I forgot the camera so couldn't film it . . . so here is our road looking very festive.
Thanks Garth for hosting the event — lovely food, wine, and brilliant art by all concerned.
Thanks Emma for giving us prunes covered in dark chocolate . . . could be the most delicious things in the world.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Art bazarre chez Garth.

Roll up, roll up folks! Experience all that is cozy and Christmasy in contemporary art things/brocante/jam /music/Bing Crosby and much more . . .

23 Grand Rue, Roquetaillade, 20 Decembre.

Back south

Arrived back yesterday. Noted the different types of cold.
There: (Liverpool) was 'claggy' grey and dark grey/green cold. Everything, including people, covered in moss. Here: sharp, silver cold, dusting of sugar on the hills and parched-looking striped fields.
I was glad to be back; Christmas preparation here is just a gentle folly. In the UK it was a seething madness of plastic sparkly stuff. Call me an old git, but I do prefer it all a little more 'home made, holly, badly shaped mince pies', etc.
Anyway, it was interesting to see what the planners had done in Liverpool.
Liverpool 1 is a gleaming new shopping cathedral. An architect's dream of glass, well behaved trees and cheeky fountains. Actually all very impressive, if a little sterile.
Enjoyed a visit to the Tate, which I had all to myself — I could have made off with quite a few works such was the lack of of staff presence.
Great Rothko room. Huge reverberating deep maroon and red paintings that he made for a fashionable resto in N.Y, and then decided he didn't want to mix food appreciation with his art (they were never hung there). Apparently he wanted the paintings to give the viewer the feeling they were trapped in a room with all windows and doors bricked up, and all the person could do was to bang their head on the wall for evermore . . .  think he should have got out into the garden a bit more.
Excellent other expos on sculpture, and baked beans on toast in cafe next door.
Here's a few sketches from the trip, and a festive runt-sized wreath, more of which will be on sale at 'bazarre' art sale chez Garth on Sunday . . . will post an invite next.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Christmas lunacy

Off to UK for brief visit up North.
Will visit more cafés, eat chips/curry, dodge Christmas mayhem and report back.

Monday 7 December 2009

Last bit of London trip.

134 bus to Muswell Hill.
Relieved to see the fabulous old coffee and tea store was still there (Martyns). Then on to Seymour Court, Colney Hatch Lane for a bit of nostalgia.
'Yer tis, where I lived from a wee baby to 13 years — left hand  ground floor flat.
Nice shared garden, Mrs Catchpole upstairs, mad woman opposite who collected milk bottles, and the first time I saw a nude man - I went to feed Mrs can't-recall-her-name's cat, and her boyfriend walked out of the bathroom dressed in . . . nothing.
Other memories: cockroaches in the kitchen, local shops, pet mice, purple irises, communal bins, Victoria plum tree, Hillman Minx, scrag end of lamb and radio 4.
I was going to follow the route I used to walk to my scary school (Bounds Green comprehensive), but will have to do it next time as it was time to move on to Waterloo and the train to Poole.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Night train window.

Painting from a two minute sketch during a journey from Poole to waterloo. In fact a very tedious journey that involved a bus in the middle, and standing in the drizzle with lots of sheep-like people (including me) saying: "Where are we? Is this the right bus? I need a sandwich."

o.k enough going on about cafes.

Here's a bit of what I was doing on the creative side —
two minute sketch on a train journey from Waterloo to Alton. I did many similar drawings and received interested/apprehensive glances from fellow passengers. One man asked if I was an architect.
I said: "Can you imagine a building constructed of one of these drawings?"(not really) I smiled and said I was an artist.
He smiled knowingly and went back to fiddling with his phone.
Actually I think there were quite a lot of buildings constructed in the 80's that were made from drawings like these.

Friday 27 November 2009

Great British food

I don't think you can get such a thing here (France).
2 slices, beans and a pint mug of creosote.
An example example. Flabby buttery toast, beans nicely aged for that extra sweet flavour, and neon ketchup.
This was in the Sorento cafe in West Norwood where I had the misfortune to live for several years after college. (Sorry Chris and Emma if you read this). I house-shared with another ex-student who never washed himself or anything, a photographer, my film maker partner at the time and Boz . . . 
It was a horrible house: dry rot, a loo that froze in winter and a overgrown garden in which we discovered four bin liners of orange pills which the police removed before anyone had had the chance to try any of them.
Our landlord was the wheezing, Mr Bellamy, who must have been the model for the Leonard Rossiter character in 'rising damp'.
I went back on this sketching trip to see if the area had changed much. Our local pub had become a Tesco's, and the other greasy spoon café had changed hands to a chinese take away. Otherwise the same houses, some familiar shops, the evangelical church still asking 'why are we here' and 'what happens next' on lurid posters.
What happened next was I went 'up west', saw a play starring John Simm, and ate liver and onions in one of the 'Stockpot' cheap and cheerful restos that are dotted around central London.


Is that not a wonderful name . . . dead lake. I only know this bit of London because my book agent lives there — recent London memories of catching the train to Mortlake and staggering over to see her with various chunks of book and illustrations.
On my way to visit her this time I saw this excellent house with it black windows and sign.
I might go back and ask what sort of rubber they deal in . . . and what sort of work might be done with horse and van.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Pilgrimage to South kensington

In these times of mass, same-name coffee shop invasion, it was greatly comforting to know that the 'Daquise' still inhabits this corner of London (just near the tube exit) — Polish restaurant awash with possible philosophers, writers and wonderful old birds with clanky jewellery.
It features a soothing and cosy interior with the original paintwork (possibly refreshed since my last visit) and cheery blonde waitresses.
I had the soup of the day rather than the usual beetroot‚ which was startling and delicious - sour vegetable with cream and egg.
Had a chat with one of the afore-mentioned older ladies about life in Paris and South Ken and then caught the next train to Kew.

Monday 23 November 2009

Notes from a dribbly London bus

First leg of my London meanderings. Bus from Archway to London bridge.
Excellent overheard phone chat from fellow passengers.
No 1: Man in nasty suit talking loudly into Blackberry type apparatus: "Mm, yes you might hear some noise, I'm in a car" (err . . . you mean bus) going over London Bridge. "Yes, I think we need to bring the product to their attention, the insurance industry has been waiting for something like this" . . . blah blah, etc.
No 2: Well-dressed woman with Prada bag size of Tasmania. "Yes, you could have said it was brunch with a Mexican twist."
In fact, bus was so slow, got off and walked.

Sunday 22 November 2009

London wanderings

Back from a couple of days in London. Nostalgic meanderings taking in formica cafes (mercifully saved from becoming Starbucks) train lines, and pavements that I trod over for many a year.
Here is a small film of a kipper smoking house in Clapham junction.

Thursday 29 October 2009

R.A.F ear

Full alert chaps — there's news coming in of a possible opening of the food cupboard.
Reinforcements of a shopping bag nature detected earlier today, could result in the uncovering of crunchies, and some recently abandoned food supplies by Captain Cat, aka Ginger.
Over and out.

Monday 26 October 2009

Being on the planet.

I read a fascinating blog yesterday called The Hermitage - talented art/music couple roaming the British roads in a wheely wooden caravan/truck.
It got me wondering and wandering a bit about being stationary (most of the time) on the earth. I suddenly had an urge to purge...to throw away all collected detritus, buy a donkey or two and stumble off into the unknown. Not realistic with boy at school, piano, 20,000 books, thing I am writing on etc, etc.
After a moment's reflection I remembered that I would not be happy without our base, somewhere to put plants in the ground, somewhere to be able to watch Star Trek DVDs whenever one felt like it.
So, what is it that makes us attached to one place, or, are most of us attached to several places. I certainly have a few bits of the world that I feel an affinity with, the coast around Cerbère, Areas of London and Dorset. Although I lived in Brum for many years and Derbyshire before that, I don't hold any real nostalgic memories about those places, except a few little lanes in Wirksworth, our back garden in Birmingham and the nearby 'reservoir cafe'.
Sometimes it's small details that make me feel connected with where I am. This road outside our house, the trees as they change with the seasons, the cherries and the walnuts, the hills and shadows.
On seeing a fragment of floor tile on the way back from a dog walk, I suddenly remembered an exhibition I had seen in London when I was very young. It must have made a well-embedded memory as I have recalled it often in the past.
It featured several works by the Boyle family - the series where they pinpointed, through a series of stages, a tiny fragment of the Earth's surface, and then copied its minute detail through resin and paint. The one I recall most strongly was a rectangle of pathway from somewhere in London. The cracked surface of black and cream tile, the earth and weeds: the very essence of so many of the city's front gardens.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Ear of fear

This is an ear position of angst. Cold morning, talk of 'walkies', possible huge dogs of death, security of snuggling-zone temporarily lost.
According to a book I was reading about brains in general, the dog's brain cannot project forward (no great surprise) therefore dog is in a state of perpetual 'presentness'. When the pack go out, leaving the lone dog, they think (or as far as we know) — that's it . . . I've been left for ever. That's why they are so pleased to see you on your return, not because you are the best thing since marrow bone.
More ear soon.

Monday 19 October 2009


It's the new 'rock on'
The onset of winter. The fetid jumper cupboard must be re-investigated. The kitchen will once again be drenched in condensation. Washing will never quite get dry, and mould will appear in the most unexpected places. ENJOY!

Photo of lovely boat in Port La Nouvelle yesterday.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Mr Rothko's holiday home

Didn't know he had one near Limoux, did you?

I love these paint try-outs. I keep seeing them on grey crepie (French artex-like substance) walls. Sometimes they stay as testers for years — an idea people must have had, for when they get round to it, bit like our shutters.
I think this a particularly good example. A slight difference between the acid drop yellow and the wine stain red . . . Maybe it was each member of the family putting forward their own idea, or whatever was left in the garage.
If I could remember where it was, I would go back and see what they had decided. I think the deep ochre would be the least offensive?

Sunday 11 October 2009


is good for you.
Well it certainly is for me. Preferably somewhere beautiful, and if possible with some personal attachment to the place.
This is one of my favourite walks, above Limoux, into the 'woolly' hills that the rise above the town.
There are circling ravens, curving stripes of vine fields and a very friendly old man who inhabits the 'hameau' (hamlet) with his son and wife.
The last time I visited, we traded jam ideas and he told me that where he lives is the real paradise and that he has no wish to see the other one . . .
If I arrive here in a confused mood, I am always 'unravelled' by the time we arrive back at the car. If Ezra has whinged about the prospect, afterwards he is always refreshed and carrying spoils of the outing; today, part of an abandoned wasps nest with its intricate paper thin layers.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Ear hat head

I offer apologies to those who don't like dogs, but most people would probably agree this is worth at least . . . a laugh.
As the start of my book, or possibly PhD on the ear positions of the Italian greyhound this is a good'n - the parasol position adopted by Satie in full sunshine, (ear hat head). Possibly used to cool the brain, shade the eyes, or it could be the full alert ear position, the length of ear in this particular runty dog causing a 'flopping' characteristic.
I can't remember if he adopts the same method in the rain — more umbrella rather than parasol, it's so long since we saw any of the afore-mentioned wet substance — would actually be rather good to have a good downpour . . . 

Monday 5 October 2009

the last notes from the hothouse art day.

Good day. Much cake made and eaten, tea drunk, work bought, and music made. This is the last few minutes, Patrick on Guitar, Stan on cello, Claire on small wooden scratchy frog instrument, Mark on ? and Debs singing the blues.
Could be the start of many more music/art events here. Watch this space . . .

Tuesday 29 September 2009

I woke up this mornin' . . .

Actually this was about two months ago, but the same things apply. Blank canvas and the blues. I don't know what it is about blues songs: Blind Willie Johnson, Frankie Half-Pint Jaxon, Memphis jug band, Pine Top Smith, great names, great songs. Can't remember which one it is, but how's this for lyrics: 'she's got ways like a mowin' machine.' wow!
The one on this film starts with words about blood-spattered walls . . . REAL blue, but somehow I find it cheering?
Is it the familiar format of the tune? The true heart of the words? Dunno, but if I'm ever challenged with the start of a painting or massive overload of housework . . . on go the blues.
This film features my studio (corner of sitting room at the moment), two very hot summer dogs and procrastination cookery (start of apple sauce).

Saturday 26 September 2009

Cloud appreciation

I love clouds.
I tried to join the cloud appreciation society recently. Its costs a mere five quid or so, and you get a badge and info about cloud phenomena. The computer, however, decided not to allow the transaction — will try again soon.
Here's a good one. Seen on the coast near Narbonne, a wonderful area of etangs, scrubby landscape and leggy flamingos.
I think it looks like Maggie Thatcher, or a vast furry anvil.
The best cloud description I ever heard was from Ezra when he was about five: That one looks like Daddy eating a piece of cake.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

No 3

In the series, 'fenêtre du train' which I am told should be 'vitre' not fenêtre, now I have printed some cards of them — however I'm sure its very quaint.
My favorite mis-translation of French created by myself was years ago when I worked in a French restaurant in Farnham. The rotund clog-wearing French chef had an incredible temper. When he really worked himself up into a state - like the time I tipped over a vat of white chocolate and brandy sauce behind the two ton freezer - he would hop from one clogged foot to the other and shriek 'au bord de la mer'. Or at least that's what it sounded like to me at the time. I felt sorry for him, he obviously worked far too hard and needed a holiday at the seaside . . .
(bordel de merde = shitty whore house, or near enough).

Monday 21 September 2009


Greetings dog lovers and dog non lovers.
Just thought everyone should marvel at the shape of our tiny dog.
This is Satie, an exceptionally small (runty) Italian greyhound. Think I'll start a book about his ear positions soon; there are over 50 including, ears of fear, alertness, dinnertime, walkies, cats, birds, relaxing in sun, worry about the future etc etc.
Satie was actually named: 'Donatello des tendre calins' (Donatello of the tender cuddles) but as calling that over the garden would be daft to say the least, we changed it to the name of a favorite composer. Incidentally, Satie used to only wear grey velvet suits — he had twelve of them; this little dog looked like a scrap of dark grey velvet when 'new', hence his title.
If anyone needs to re-home a huge black greyhound, we might consider it to go along with the titch and the medium sized one.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Vide greniers and fruit gathering

Actually its Sunday, but I liked this image.
Good day today. Not productive in personal work fashion, or even cleaning house/garden fashion. Just a nice Sunday with family and friends.
Mark and I did both wake at the puritan hour of 6.00 am, and were watering trees on our piece of land by 7.30, but after that it was just a day hellbent on pleasure . . . well, a vide grenier (car boot sale) at Cepie, and a relaxed lunch; not exactly mooring the sleek white boat at St Tropez and nipping off for a spot of lunch with various Hollywood mates.
Would we want that? No!
The V.G was fun, full of unused fondu sets, exercise bikes and spa foot baths. Mark bought a boxed set of Edit Piaf albums; Ezra a non-functioning but attractive watch, and myself, a beautiful solitaire set with huge semi-precious stone marbles, which everyone has fiddled with a lot all day.
Friends bought a massive tray of quiche and other lovely stuff for lunch, then later we picked figs and plums up the road for one of the last jam experiences of the year.
Mark now has guilt for having enjoyed himself in so relaxed a manner all day, and is hard at work on a music program, mixing sounds of himself walking up a mountain in the Lake district combined with eerie sounds of a distant church service. He has also made at least 10 pots of fig jam, and I consider this to be a fair achievement for a Sunday afternoon . . . will go and ply him with fizzing wine in a minute.

Thursday 10 September 2009


Ooo long gap. Have been very involved with 'La rentrée, and all that entails in France. College rather than school for boy person, new school of music pupils for the tall one and endless lists of things that have not been achieved after everything went a bit 'baggy' over the long holidays.
All house appliances decided to give up in celebration of the tax fonciere bill, and much time has been spent trying to fix things in Cuban style with some success . . . never throw out your 18 year old cooker as it attempts to shuffle off this mortal thingamy, take it to Parchemin (excellent recycling place in Limoux for those not familiar to it) where they will probably manage to repair it.
Anyway, history, yes.
Everything is history, is it not — the sentence I am writing will be history as I put in this full stop.
Not quite the falling of the Berlin wall, but some sort of history.
The painting here is the second in the 'train window' series — based on a sketch I did from a train in 2006 from London to Poole. The forms seemed to suggest mainly the greys of travel through London outskirts and industrial areas around Poole. When I had nearly finished the painting I found the 2006 diary and looked at the day. Oddly it been a 'greys' day, in weather and the fact that I was going on a quickly arranged journey to see my mother who had suddenly become seriously ill.
Historically it was an important day for me. My mother is normally of a strong constitution, and the uncertainty of what awaited me was a new and worrying feeling. Although the sketch was created by hazard - my hand trying to capture lines of passing buildings and structures, the anxiety seems to be captured in the turbulence and spikes of the image.

Saturday 22 August 2009

21st August 'tapas'

A celebration of summer on the terrace yesterday evening, for no great reason other than these long hot days are numbered.

Of course there are some recompenses for the end of summer, mainly in the form of free jam-making possibilities.
Our friend Dorothy just up the road has a marvelous old orchard stuffed with 'mirabelle' plum and apple trees. Mark has made vast quantities of plum jam now, his giraffe stature enabling him 'graze' the trees at a high level without aid of a ladder.
During the last forage we brought back a pannier full of little stripy apples. Cooked with some market apricots and cloves they were a perfect pudding element of the evening's spread.
I seem to have got into a 'tapas' groove at the moment and am a bit stuck there, partly due to lack of seating space around the terrace table. When I say tapas I mean . . . 'I wonder what is in the fridge or in the garden, and what can we make with it'. Last nights offering was fried courgettes and our one aubergine, lots of tasty tomatoes, patatas pobres (poor man's potatoes), Mark's bread, Claires salad of found figs, goats cheese and black olives, and the most pathetically small (but beautiful) carrots. I never have any luck with growing these elusive vegetables.
I will try harder with our 'potager' (veg patch) next year. Despite putting a tip-up truck's worth of manure into it in the autumn it still only seems to grow tomatoes, potatoes and chilies. THE melon will be ready to eat in about a week, perhaps we'll have another fete to celebrate its maturity . . . 

Thursday 20 August 2009


Mark and I went on our annual one day and night holiday this week.
Left the dogs, boy and watering to dear friends and set off to Cérét on an extra wiggly route past the man-made lake at Agly. It's the busiest holiday period and only two families were enjoying the lakeside. As a contrast at St Marie on the coast more than 50 million people there, and Mark was the tallest whitest thing on the beach. Incidentally, Mark had said that this particular holiday resort was pleasant - sort of Cuban with a few whitewashed shacks selling grilled fish. He had been there the year before while doing a band tour which involved setting up in 45 degrees, playing for 8 hours, eating vile campsite food, and sleep deprivation, so I suppose he may have remembered it slightly differently.
The swim was worth it.
Lunch was a baguette at the back of poxy?proxy/poxi? supermarket as it was the only place where there was any shade; then we drove hurriedly away from the heat haze coast and inland to Cérét - one of our favorite haunts.
It's an elegant old town with tall thin buildings and even taller shade-giving plane trees. We ate naughty ice creams with 'nappage' of port-like liquid, visited the excellent gallery and waited for the hotel to open so we could siesta.
Hotel Vidal is what all hotels should be: one star, friendly, full of artefacts and very little modern changes. And, therefore, cheap: yes!
Lovely meal in a shady square, took hundreds of photos, and slept to the sound of the 'Blue goose' jazz band in the street outside.
Here are a few photos from Cérét and a corner of my studio (the sitting room) with painting of 'chicken who likes to walk in the garden like a small dog', see few posts back.

Monday 17 August 2009


Incredible heat today. It was reading 40 degrees in the shade on the terrace; the wisteria has roasted leaves and the dogs shut down between 8.00 am and 7.00 pm.
I was trying to remember what it feels like to be cold. The cupboard of rather nasty looking jumpers are still there, and the tangle of woolly scarves, but it all seems like another lifetime.
Here is a small film of a bizarre winter tree hung with shoes on the outskirts of Buxton for no great reason except I do remember feeling so cold when I took the film that I couldn't imagine what it would be like to feel hot.

Tuesday 11 August 2009


It's an odd thing the brain, is it not.
How are visual memories stored? Let alone complex musical ones. It's incredible that I can listen to Ravel's La valse as I was doing this morning in my own head with all the string section, horns etc. Or maybe I hear it differently to other people . . . anyway it's all totally extraordinary.
Back to visual re-visitings. Along with all the other odd scraps of imagery in the drawers labelled strange and interesting but unimportant in my brain, I filed a new one on Monday when we went for a walk in one of our favorite 1970's parts of Limoux.
It's a unremarkable estate, but oddly fascinating with its neat gardens and twiddly wrought iron white fences.
We happened upon (Jane Austin moment) a house with a massive rusty iron garage door in front of which stood an old man gazing fondly or possibly hungrily( I couldn't tell for sure) at a small white chicken. We all looked at each other and smiled (not the chicken). The man said: 'he likes to walk like a small dog in the garden'
That was it: unimportant, yet beautifully strange and forever embedded in my memories: rust, white feathers, toothy smile, a walk on a warm day in summer 2009.
I have no photo of it. I might make a painting. Here are some more images from Cerbere, also important memory pictures.

Saturday 25 July 2009

Importance of feathered friends

Yawn, hello . . .
Late night last night, BBQ and following mountain of washing up, started watching 'life on Mars' at 12.30am, then to be woken by passing 'alarm cal'l train at 6.30am.
The first thought I had when looking out of the bedroom window this morning was about birds. There was one passing; there always is. A solitary small black shape against the rushing clouds.
Someone asked me at an exhibition recently why I usually include birds in paintings. I couldn't say for sure. Now I can. They are part of our every moment whether it be a manky pigeon in a London square, or a wheeling swift on a summer breeze.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Mother of all argarves

Amongst forms of procrastination gardening is one of the best.
Our garden is large, and if we (I mostly) gardened in a Southern French style, i.e with attention to the smallest weed, I would have been taken away by persons in white coats some time ago.
Recently, a man came to check the possibly of installing a well in the garden. He looked at the rampaging slope behind the house, with its collection of wild trees engaged in trying to swamp each other and knitted his brows in perplexity and fear.  "Sacré bonhomme, quel travaille . . . merde alors!" He uttered. (Jesus — how much work to do. Shit!)
Yep, no lines of begonias and well behaved fruit trees here, just nature doing its thing with me trying to coax it all into some sort of shape.

These are 'Argarve' cactus, guardians of the house. The mother of them is to the left and was brought back from Portugal by Jean-Paul, one of the previous house owners. She (the cactus) has produced many offspring which have been planted along the drive. Yesterday I started a baby cactus re-location program, which should see the hillside covered with their stripyness in the near future.

Gardening is time consuming but I think for me, like many others, totally essential as part of life. Sometimes I think I would get a lot more done if there was no garden-distraction, but then I would soon be out trawling bits of waste ground to find out who owned them, and planting tomatoes on roundabouts. We used to live in the centre of the town. Above is a photo of our balcony which was in danger of collapse due to weight of plant life . . . it was time to move on.  

Thursday 16 July 2009

Occasionally, its good to be alone.

These are the folks I live with.
I love them . . . and sometimes it's good to have a day on your own: no wet towels on the floor, eat snack lunch at 3.30 in the afternoon, listen to crap records over and over again…
In fact the main reason to have the odd quiet day is to find out where one was in the 'art process'.
It was a useful day, and I think I've worked out where I am heading.

The painting I'm working on currently. The start of a series about train travel, and corresponding to the sketch shown in the previous post.  

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Everyman is a cormorant, sometimes.

I was trying to find an image of the cover of my book, and uploaded this by mistake.
As it's from the inside of the book I'll leave it here.
Its title is above, and the subject concerns those times when we feel that it's all just a bit too much.
When Mark (husband and over-doer) is challenged thus, he reminds me of a cormorant drying its wings — a gesture of hopelessness, a shrugging of the shoulders; not that birds generally have shoulders, and probably not feelings about the impossibility of everything.
Time to stop. Need to watch DVD episode of Life on Mars. We are addicted to it at the moment.

train sketch

Good evening.
Excellent day today: walking, swimming, fruit collecting (small red plums) jam making;
poker playing, and art ideas moving forward.
This is a very bad photo of one of my sketch books. I always carry one, and draw whenever I'm not required to do anything else, usually in places where I'm just waiting — tyre changing garages, doctor's surgery, tax office etc. Train journeys are especially good.
I'm in the middle of a painting currently based on this drawing. A two minute 'moving' sketch of everything passing by the window, somewhere between Toulouse and Carcassonne