Saturday 29 October 2016

Next stop Mars?

It could be the next planet ready to be covered in a layer of plastic once we've done with this one . . .

Making my way back home, I stopped in Liverpool Street station to buy a bottle of water, having forgotten my own one to refill (tut-tut). Of course, if you listen to all the stuff telling you that you should be drinking your own body weight (actually, possibly a litre, I forget) in pure, clear, fresh water each day, by the time you have spent three hours on a train and have only consumed a creosote-like paper cup of tea, the alarm bells start ringing . . . quick find water.
Delice de France, Pret a manger, etc, only had large bottles and I just wanted a glug as I wished to avoid fighting my way past the aircraft drinks trolley to the loo. Boots had bottles of all sizes including this tiny one (below) containing water from a famous source situated in a French mountain range. Why is this? - I mean, why am I buying water from under a hill in central France when Buxton or Malvern are considerably nearer, and actually all I wanted was a slurp of tap water - something we are lucky enough to have!


This bottle holds 33cl. Including its very thick 'danger, do not drink' style flip-cap I would think it is constructed of enough plastic to make about, I don't know, twenty syringes? or a vital part of a solar panel? - anyway, something else plastic is actually vital for.
I'm looking around at this one train carriage. The guy opposite me has a bottle - bigger and from some unsuspecting mountain in Scotland (better); the woman next to him is sipping every now and again from a green bottle - that one from Italy with a beautiful name - in fact that's a statement in itself, I suppose: my choice of water.
So . . . why can't we have THIS (bearing in mind I know nothing of economics, market strategies or how this might be realised) - Water fountains - just tap water, like in the olden days before water became fashionable.
And if you need to buy mineral water, commercial fountains, along the lines of those giant upside down office bottles. The companies providing the fountains and Boots or whoever could still rake in their profits, we could have paper cups and then throw them into recycling bins. Fifty pence for a small cup? True we wouldn't have that 'mouth-to-breast' sort of continual comfort sipping but I think we could all cope.
I read the other day the US alone gets through something like 50 million plastic water bottles every day - gets through - and NOT recycled.
So, why can't we stop this? Too much money to be made from H2O; too much mania about 'fresh' pure and straight from the source; too much advertising revenue and not enough willpower or foresight from governments, I imagine.
No more plastic bottles except where really needed - a relatively small thing to implement, compared to mass invasion of another country or space exploration?

Thursday 27 October 2016

More London wanderings

I only had a day to explore this time so planned meticulously what I would do, to then not do it as like any respectable 'flaneur' or 'flaneuse'? (not flannel, thank you spell check), I got distracted by the lure of previously-unknown alleys, buildings and signs, one of the most memorable being 'The Horse Hospital' somewhere in WC1.

Starting point: outside St Athan's Hotel in Bloomsbury


Bloomsbury at 5. 30 am

So, I wandered around the borders of Camden and Holborn with exploratitive (not a word?) zest and part nostalgia, as ever, seeking the perfect Formica, fuggy café of my London years - sadly mostly gone, certainly from the hyper-center; Nero's, Starbucks, et all, now sitting smugly on nearly all streets.
The art gallery part of my plan now becoming less likely, time-wise, I headed towards Clapton Pond and Lea Bridge Rd to do a bit of shadowing of my main characters' footsteps in my current tome.
Smithi and Jarvis walk (in 2073) from Sureditch (Shoreditch) to the Hackney Marshes, to a pub called the Princess of Wales, and then back again, avoiding certain dangers but encountering others unforeseen. I wanted to see how long the walk would actually take (not allowing for the total fog-out and swamp of which I have placed in the book).


as decreed by Jesus?


re-postisioned gravestones in the beautiful St Georges garden/ancient burial ground, WC1


          A habitation of extreme pointiness in Lloyds Square.

Time restricted after meanderings in WC1, I took a bus to Clapton pond and was amazed to find . . . a pond! For some reason I had imagined this to be not so, the water just a memory, now filled in, the ghost of it trapped under a chain-coffee shop.

Clapton pond

the pub and below, part of the filter beds area

group of sulking pigeons - man pictured had just walked over, stood near them and told them over and over 'don't you move'.

I walked up Lea Bridge Road and found the pub lurking betwixt the river, the bridge and large grassy zones bordered by vast plane trees. The pub was shut so I couldn't investigate the inside and imagine where 'Jarvis' was going to play the violin standing on a piano with antlers strapped to his homburg, so I traced their journey back to Shoreditch, following the river before turning westwards.
The joy of discovering completely unknown (to me) areas of London. I had never imagined there to be a tract of such wild land enclosed within the city - the filter beds of the river Lea. I could have been standing in the Fens, such was the quietness, just waving bog grasses and birds flitting.
I continued to 'The Marshes', enormous, flat expanses of cropped grass as green as, well, grass . . . But the space! interrupted only by the white, skeletal poles of football goal posts and the occasional dog-walker.

Time-restricted now I ceased wandering, tuned right over a bridge and strode onwards to Chatsworth Road where I had a tea break in the intriguingly-named, and atmospheric, 'Cooper and wolf' café where a friendly person drew me a map of how to get to St Leonard's church, my return point.


A pink house                                              a blue house

I followed the criss-cross of roads and eventually arrived on Kingsland Road, got my hair cut (much needed) in a barbers, ate an iced bun and found the church where I was happy to enter its cool interior and spend a little time thinking about my characters' existences within the building.
A train to catch, I walked on, retrieved my case from the hotel and caught the tube to Waterloo pleased with the day and already thinking ahead to the next opportunity to discover/re-discover more of my home city.

The biggest fig tree in London town? Somewhere near Farringdon Road

Thursday 20 October 2016

Building 59

I've passed this house many times and wondered about the exterior 'decoration'. This time I stopped the car ready to knock at their door and see if they wanted to have a little discussion on the pros and cons of hunting . . . but then . . . decided not to.            

Wednesday 19 October 2016

The south of France

It's not all lavender, pastis, strings of onions and sun-faded ochre houses . . .


Me and the lad went out for an afternoon of photo-reportage to smallish town that shall remain nameless in case someone recognises their drying underpants.


As with many towns where industry has mostly ceased, an air of tristesse invades the streets, abandoned shops and overgrown gardens. There were highlights of melancholic beauty and some surprisingly artistic graffiti although I'm not sure about the 'smiley Hitler' and the hastily scrawled 'Le Pen' et FN that covered a lot of walls in an abandoned housing estate.


Pausing our street-wandering we found a newly-started up café-bar and enjoyed a cup of citrus-flavoured (odd but nice) earl grey tea and admired the Dali-inspired artworks.
This town, along with others, and actually including our own, need places like this - art cafés, places to show work, music bars, etc, and to re-invent themselves if they are to survive economic downturn, and the general 'crise financier' that we are in and will remain in as far as I can see.

Refreshed, we continued dallying and photoing, climbing over barricades into semi-demolished housing estates, visiting the main church and exploring a little further into the outskirts of the town where there seems to have been a phase of corrugated iron dwelling-cladding.




Monday 17 October 2016


Love the lyrics, music, especially the Bontempi piano, or whatever it is at the beginning, the video styling and, well, everything really. Great band and great 'up-cyclers' apparently they made their last album (Sick Octave) for around 12,000 using eBay finds and learning to weld bits together to make instruments.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Ezra (our son) had always said he would never be an artist or a musician - both his parents being these things. A scientist perhaps . . . but as time has slid along, as it does, it's become evident that he is both a talented musician and artist and really not scientist material - ha!
All those years of hot-glue guns, fiddling about with electronics, pouring over maps, origami, board-game-making, endless music listening and table tapping slowly developed into banjo, drum kit, and paper cuts, self portraits . . . and now an art foundation in preparation for entry into 'beaux arts' or perhaps music study, or both.


Imaginary half- submerged and broken space vessels. A study in cardboard, paint and tin foil by Ezra on his foundation course.

Thursday 13 October 2016

In praise of lentils

I was trying to find the clip of when the cooker explodes and Neil scrapes up the remaining lentils - "Still be able to get some portions together, man," or similar wonderful script.
Anyway, this extract is great too.
But seriously folks, lentils are just the best thing on the planet  . . . man. Incredibly cheap, full of vitamins, protein, folic acid, and great fibre. I've no idea of the figures but if everyone would deign to eat more of these and far less meat . . . well, less land destruction, cow-gas, health issues, etc, etc.
Recently I discovered you don't even have to soak them, just boil them up, add them to other veg, a scrap of bacon or fish, or even on their own with a dollop of butter and garlic.
They were a staple of the French diet (as in many other countries) once, and I have seen them re-appearing increasingly on menus that embrace vegetables and beans as an alternative to meat. Right, off to try making lentil and tomato pâté.

Friday 7 October 2016

ten years have got behind you

no one told you when to run . . . a great and poignant lyric from Time - Pink Floyd.
It's true, time does just melt away - hours, minutes, days, months and years. How to remember all the things that did happen, all the greats, goods and downright miserables - photographs, films, blogs, etc, and diaries.
I used to keep a little diary of the days back around the time of Dark Side of the Moon. I found one when clearing out some stuff the other day - tragically boring with mention of platform shoes, Mud and other groups, and occasionally, a reference to some mild groping that might have been going on in my fledgling love life.
Then the habit stopped when I went off to art foundation and never really got taken up again until our son was born on a fouly (if that's a word) dank day in January 1998. Something so utterly monumental (and painful) had to be recorded, along with all the following baby's days, weeks and months of life. And so it continued; the diary habit stuck and a day doesn't pass when I don't dutifully fill in a page, pen sliding across paper sometimes as I head towards sleep.


The first journals were a mix of exercise books, funky handmade things and extra special tomes like the silk-covered one in the photo above, bought at my request when Ezra was born.
In the last few years I have discovered the page-a-week type diary, which although are uniformly dull in appearance, make sense when trying to store all these capturings of the past.
So, what are they like my diaries? Probably like most other people's diaries - a list of daily happenings with occasional excited scrawls at the top of the page: Ezra got a 19 in music, short story accepted for publication, finally understand how to make pastry, been bloody raining for four days non-stop, etc.
In fact the weather thing becomes an important element in later diaries (little sketch of sun/cloud/hail, whatever) along with information: when the first fire of the year was lit or when it was first possible to swim without a limb falling off; when pomegranates were ready for jam-making or when the broad beans were sowed.
However pedestrian the descriptions of each day the fascinating thing is I can open any page of any year and suddenly that day comes back to you, wholly or partially, depending how mind-numbingly boring or incredibly exciting those hours had been.
I'm going upstairs now to unearth one from the attic . . . back in a mo.

Here we are: Saturday 24th March 2012: picture of the sun with estimated temperature of 12 in the morning to 25 in the afternoon. 'Ate on terrace, no fire and the start of the one euro train from Limoux to Carcassonne (an event worth noting!)
'Woke horribly early, went downstairs and tried to sleep with the dogs but Satie (runty dog) snored. Dozed till 6.30, tea, writing, exercises, brek. Loads of jobs, Mark to work, Kim and Chris (friends staying) up at 9.00. Lot of morning chatting which was nice. They left at 2.00 ish, Mark and Ezra went to Carcassonne on new 1 euro train, I did writing, jobs, emptied water butts, weeded, cleaned back of house, phoned Mum. Boys back at 6.30. Writing, bath, Ezra bed, two episodes of Queer as Folk, USA version - brilliant, bed 11.00.'
So, not incredible, but I can remember that day quite clearly and doubt if I ever would have recalled our friends staying in March of that year if I hadn't written about it.
Of course our son will eventually have to decide what to do with all theses millions of badly written pages, but until then, I'll keep a diary, every day.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Belvedere de Rayon Verte

Following on from last post - not really fair to show just the loo of this magnificent building . . .

We were in Cerbère this weekend for the art film festival and took a few minutes before the first film (an excellent study on the 'Flaneur') to wander about (flan, in effect) and admire the faded beauty of the rooms created for wealthy travellers of La Belle Epoque.

                                              Tables laid for the film festival lunch

The Belvedere de Rayon Verte was built during the early twenties as a stopover point when people had to wait, sometimes several days, before crossing into Spain from France.
Aimed at a moneyed clientele, the hotel had a large dining room with sea views, a cinema and tennis courts on the roof. During and after the war the building fell into neglect for many years but now, slowly, the hotel is being reinstated by the owner - the great grandson of the original propriétaire, to become a venue for concerts and theatre as well as a fascinating place to stay.


                                                            detail of the dining room                  


                                                    photograph by David Samblanet  - link to the excellent film festival in October.

Dear John No 2

Following on from my sub-blog some posts back, another memorable lav.


A truly David Lynchian small room - part of the divine, decaying, but slowly being-put-back-together-again, Belvedere de Rayon Verte; a very favourite building situated like a faded pleasure cruiser overlooking the little seaside town of Cerbère.
I particularly liked the nod to modern air-freshening - one of those splays of scented sticks in a bottle - quite incongruous against the flaking paint, naked light bulb and municipal tiling.