Saturday 30 January 2016

Art in unexpected places

On a walk through an industrial estate this morning




Thursday 28 January 2016

Hidden memories

As I have no doubt gone about many a time on this blog - memory is an extraordinary thing, in particular, why and how certain moments in life are preserved.

Mark recently borrowed the entire works of Pink Floyd (box set the size of . . . well, a small shoe box) from the music library. I am not au fait with the earlier works apart from a rather super-ly titled song, 'Careful with that Axe Eugene' that featured on an album Mum acquired at some point called Relics. But of course I am very familiar with all the later stuff that was so commercially successful - Animals, Wish You were Here, and of course Dark Side of the Moon.
It was a joy to hear this re-mastered version: somewhat different to my old creaky, ash-stained vinyl edition.
Going back to the memory thing . . . On hearing this part of the album, I suddenly had a vivid recollection of sitting with Mum (think I would have been about twelve) in some velvet-clad basement in the centre of London listening to this track as it zoomed in and out of four speakers, and a be-suited man leapt about telling her about the benefits of Quadrophonic Sound. Something, that Mark pointed out when I told him of this recollection, in fact lasted for a squintesimal amount of time once people realised you had to sit stock still in the middle of the room rather than doing the washing up.
The really odd thing is why we were there. Mum was poverty struck enough that buying a pot of marmite was a very serious consideration.
Anyway, I was left with a desire to go and buy the album and play it to death on our very old and crap record player - which I/we did.
Well worth a re-listen if you haven't heard it for years, especially for all the marvellously morose lines such as 'Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way' or 'ten years have got behind you; no-one told you when to run'.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

visual tricks

These happen to me often, probably to everyone else too but maybe most people don't remark on it - dragons in clouds, animal shapes on patches of damp wall, rabbit-toast, smily pancakes . . .
This was a good one this morning, after a weird night's interrupted sleep (dogs barking many times at, probably, a passing hedgehog, outside).
A minuscule leaf-sculpture of a Lion-monkey? No a dried tomato top that has missed the compost bin.


And another one spotted by Ezra on a recent trip to Rodez  - a black cat reposing by a wall, or a drain hole.


Monday 25 January 2016

Catalonia wanderings and no internet

Needing a bit of think-time and excuse to do no house/garden work - strained groin thing, I went down to Cerbère, our favourite thinking/wandering spot, for a couple of days.
At first when I arrived in the flat I felt bereft - no internet, no checking emails, no glancing at the weather/Facebook/Ebay, no 'ooh, I wonder if', nothing. No procrastination.
After about an hour, I'd forgotten its (internet's) existence. I wrote, read, walked, looked, and thought - without the usual distractions.
The next day I went up into the hills behind the town and followed the tracks of shale through the vine fields. These are unlike most other vine fields in France - set into steep hillsides of rock and with very little soil. Everything: clipping, picking and maintaining has to be done by hand as tractors could not scale the hillsides.

  First rock rose 

On the hill terraces, plumes of smoke drifted from small vine clipping fires; the almost complete silence interrupted only by the clink of hand tools working the ground.
I watched a man digging around the base of an antiquated-looking vine, and risked a question. He came over and we chatted for some time about the wine industry of the region and the care of his own seven hectares.

                 New vines      Old vines - maybe fifty years

I decided against trying to find out, once again, what 'Las Ocas' is (black bull-shaped sign saying two kilometres) - next time, and headed of into Spain.
First stop was Castelló d'Empúries, a medieval town in the province of Girona. All was quiet, being Sunday but the attractive little central square's eateries were open.
I chose 'Les Altos' as it looked warm inside and was greeted by an incredibly friendly waitress/owner? who seemed un-perplexed by my odd choice of tapas and tea.
I waited, sketched the terrace and tried to ignore the babbling flat screen, which would have been babbling except the sound was turned down and salsa was playing - why not just have the music and no TV on? I am an old git about this - almost as much as about 'patio heaters.' Grr.
Anyway, the tapas arrived: fantastic local ham, bread and a mound of potatoes the size of a small cat. I tried but only managed about a third of them. Then I went to pay, and discovered I'd left my wallet in the car.
I approached the till expecting grumpiness and raised eyebrows, possibly hostage taking in the form of my driving licence. Nope. The owner waved his arms about in a general display of 'don't worry, life is too short' sort of thing. I said I would be five minutes. 'Really, it's not a problem.'
I returned. He looked at me, then at the potatoes, then back to me: 'I can really not charge you for this - you have hardly eaten any.' I said that surely that was my problem for being a glutton, or something to that effect. But he insisted I pay for just the ham.
Glowing from this benevolence I left and drove on to Figueres, via a terrifyingly depressing sort of car boot sale on the outskirts - I bought NOTHING! must be a first.


  Rather amazing painting on the side of Figueres church and fleet of planters heading down the high street 

Figeras was also very quiet but I enjoyed loping through the empty streets admiring the buildings until stumbling on the Dali gift shops. I wondered what he might of thought of his paintings transformed into makeup bags, watches, mugs, tools, ties, earrings . . . perhaps he would have enjoyed the irony.

Statue near the Dali museum

And so back the flat, and no internet. Tea, book, writing, late walk and bed. A little self de-connection from the internet every now and then . . . not a bad thing.

Cerbère cats on an evening walk (me, not the cats)


Tuesday 19 January 2016

Monday 18 January 2016

Eighteen years

It's just a day - a birthday, but somehow this one really does seem so much more than just a day.


As our lovely cousin, Nick's email this morning reminded our son - he can get married, drink, drive, vote, become an MP, rent a house, join the Foreign Legion, get tattoos, serve on a jury, apply for a pilot's licence, etc etc . . .
Well, maybe later . . . today, just an average school day, a posh meal out this evening and some time spent bashing away on his birthday present drum kit.
As music seems at the forefront of our son's mind on his eighteenth year, I thought I would mark it with one of his absolute favourite tracks. I quizzed him in the car this morning on the way to lycée - "Oh, so difficult, err . . . "
We narrowed some of the band choices to: Alt J, Radiohead, Django Django, RX Bandits, Tame Impala, The Smiths, Grizzly Bear, and of course, just about anything, anything by Everything Everything.
We've just about melted our CDs of this band through constant playing, and the track he favoured the most - Undrowned, probably my one of choice too, and here it is.

Happy Birthday to our wonderful son, Ezra!

Thursday 14 January 2016

Sad January

Another incredible talent lost . . .

One of my favourite actors - ever.



Orange days

How wonderful that nature has decided to bring forth oranges in the crappiest, coldest part of the year.
Compared to the long-travelled out of season specimens found in the supermarkets during the rest of the year, the 'down the road' ones from Spain are an explosion of taste and colour at this time.
For a couple of weeks in January, a local grocer in our town stocks Seville marmalade fruits, and since we never seem to make the pilgrimage into Southern Spain to collect a car load (one year . . .) a walk into town with a carrier bag has to suffice.


This year's batch, made by Mark, is without question, the best ever - tangy, and with well-cooked small shreds of rind.
His method, for any jam fans out there:

Cut the oranges (around a kilo) in half and squeeze the juice, keep all the pips in a separate bowl. Cut the halves in half and then slice finely adding them to the juice. Add water and cook gently for an hour or so. Do the same with all the pips in a separate pan. Add sugar - bag and a half - to the oranges and boil until setting point is reached - about half an hour. Add the pectin-y liquid from the other pan at some point during this process. Let it rest in the pan awhile then ladle into clean jam jars and seal when cool.


Wednesday 13 January 2016

Building No 54

I think a stationary caravan that has been totally stationary for at least fourteen years (seen on many a dog walk in nearby village) could be called a building.
This type of mobile home always appeals to me: tiny, rounded, and just enough space to boil a kettle, make tea and sit listening to the rain clacking on the roof.
There is a house nearby - I assume the owners of the caravan live there. Perhaps this separate dwelling unit was an overflow for parties/kids den or just a separate pod for someone wishing to escape the main household for a while.

Monday 11 January 2016



I can't quite believe he's gone.

So many of his songs meant so much to me at different stages of life.

Probably the most memorable - my student den while working on an art project listening to Heroes.

Sunday 10 January 2016


When I did A level geography, the subject I found particularly fascinating was the development of town/village names from the population of people that had gathered there and why they had - rivers, good grazing, Ikea, and so on, and how personal names had developed from the association with place/trade, etc.
Unfortunately, a large part of the rest of the course zoomed over my head (stream sections and other mathematical stuff) and I did subsequently only just scape through with an E. but, usefully, I was left with afore-mentioned curiosity into place/people's names, and an urge to visit, and ponder on, how and why towns appeared where they did.
This morning I found a very useful site which listed just about every surname one could imagine, (I was re-naming someone in my current book). A lot of names, as I imagined, were associated with hollows/copse/woods/bridges/hills - person who lived in or near one.
 I liked this one:
Acker - person who lived near a field. Surely it would have difficult not to live near a field in 1783 or whenever. Why wasn't everyone called Acker, except those who lived perhaps near water - Attwater, or Attaway - someone who lived close to the road.
My favourite name must have been, Bagley: someone who lived in a field, populated by badgers (old English - bagga 'bag-shaped animal') combined with leah (woodland clearing).
I have lost touch with my friend from school called Gill Bagley. I wonder if she was aware that her forebears lived with bag-shaped animals in a clearing.

                                                                    A bag-shaped animal

A few other whizzo examples:

Barrett: derived from middle English, meaning dispute, originally given to a quarrelsome person.

Bush: given to a person who lived in or next to bushes.

Courtney: A person with a short nose (from old French - court nes)

Deadman - grave digger (obviously)

Ely - person coming from Ely in Eastern England, meaning 'eel district'

Garnett - occupational name given to person who made hinges, or sold pomegranates. Seeds like garnets, I suppose - rather beautiful.

Hardy (yey - me) from old French meaning, bold, daring - should have seen me on the garage roof this morning unblocking the gutters!)

Hopper - referred to someone who hopped . . . mmm?

Kellog: from the middle ages - butcher - 'killer of hogs' not squasher of corn into crispy flakes, then.

Mutton: shepherd, or someone who in some way resembled a sheep.


Wednesday 6 January 2016


Odd, is it not, how memories are formed and how they 'ignite' on/at the sight/smell or taste of something.
While putting the Christmas tree decorations away yesterday I found the little Father Christmas 'starfish' that has always been on any tree from my childhood onwards.
I thought back over the years: the flat in Muswell Hill, the house in Dorset, our various establishments where the decs have moved with us, Mum having stayed with us each year and happy to let her own tree-decorating end.
Before I wrapped Father C in paper I took a moment to really look at the materials he is made of, consider how many trees he might have been hung on, and actually, what age he must be.
My mother said she didn't really remember where the decoration had come from but was certain it had belonged in her grandmother's house, or possibly had come from some wealthy establishment where she had been 'in service'. Old then! for sure, and the most important part of the Christmas preparations.
The box of tinsel, lights, baubles etc is closed now, F.C carefully placed inside; back into the attic.
Goodbye till next year, then.


Tuesday 5 January 2016

A new perspective


Mist, dew and perspective lines that Uccello would have got excited about, in the Aude Valley.

At the age of about five, sitting in a Muswell Hill Café, I was given a lesson in Perspective (visual). The man sitting next to us had obviously observed some wobbly building I was drawing and had offered to help with the aid of a biro and a napkin. I wish I had kept his drawing, but I can still see it in my mind - train tracks, trees, buildings; receding to an infinity point.
Fast forwarding to sixth form A level art, I became a bit fixated by perspective and did a lot of bad paintings inspired by Afore-mentioned renaissance artist.
I particularly love this one with all the hounds and horses being sucked into some vortex at the edge of the forest.


As usual I've got distracted by google images and have just found a restaurant called Uccello in Sydney, where at this very moment someone could be explaining perspective with the aid of a napkin and a biro.

Friday 1 January 2016

                                              HAPPY NEW YEAR !       

Wayhayyyy! 2016.
Onwards and forwards: projects, writing, art, music, cooking, gardening, walking, travelling, New Year's resolutions - already failed with: no tea first thing in the morning, very small amounts of sugar, and no swearing.
Good walking however, with dogs and husband, house cleared up; New Year's greetings sent, chocolate avoided and tricky re-write to now attack . . .