24 March 2017

Tube steps

tfl (Transport for London) has lots of info about walking on its website - and now has come up with a tube "map"* giving the number of steps between Underground (and Overground) stations - 100 steps a minute is a comfortable pace, they reckon (your mileage may vary).

London has a river running through it, and the tube runs under the river. It doesn't take long to spot some numbers floating in the river -
Wapping to Rotherhithe, 4900 steps; Island Gardens to Cutty Sark, 1200 steps
There's a pedestrian tunnel to Greenwich, but how do you get from Wapping to Rotherhithe on foot? Ah, via Tower Bridge - 46 minutes, 2.3 miles. "It's quicker by tube", as the old saying goes. (When is the Overground really the Underground?)

Another little quibble is that some of the linked stations could do with having step counts for the transfers between lines. Has anyone counted the number of steps at Green Park to get from Jubilee Line to Victoria Line - or at Waterloo to get from Jubilee Line to Bakerloo Line?

*It's not really a map, it's not to scale - it's a diagram.

23 March 2017

Poetry Thursday - Of their peculiar light, by Emily Dickinson

Something interesting from instagram
I went to the internet to find the rest of the poem - and was shocked that this is all there is -

Of their peculiar lightI keep one ray
To clarify the Sight
To seek them by—

It needs "more" - not just because any Emily Dickinson poem that I've encountered seems to have consisted of two stanzas. However a little research dispells that illusion - she wrote at many lengths in her 1775 poems, some dozens of lines long - see for yourself here. (This one in number 1362.)

The poem seems to "need more" to clarify "their" and "them" - are these referring to the same thing? It's a puzzling poem ... well, so many of hers are ... but then, shouldn't a poem leave behind something to think about?

Dickinson's punctuation has long puzzled scholars - to the extent that it was ignored for many years. I like the way Jen Bervin has used the punctuation, transposing it to textiles, and wrote about it a few years back.

22 March 2017

In the counting-house

"The King was in the counting-house
Counting out his money,
The Queen was in the parlour
Eating bread and honey"
This morning my "one bag at a time" sortie into The Storeroom was an encounter with a heavy bag that turned out to contain a tin of old coins. I sorted them into little bags, which was fun (so many foreign coins, Brasil and Argentina and Russia and pre-EU countries) and was just thinking of where their "place" might be, when the thought arrived of some other places other coins could be lurking.

"A job worth doing ..." (you know the rest of that old saying) ... so my bowlful of coins came out of the drawer, but must wait, I need to go out for the rest of the day. So much for the good, finished job...

The sorted coins can join the bowl, back in the desk drawer. Tomorrow is Desk Day (it's on the calendar, two hours scheduled for Thursday mornings for the next few weeks, to get on top of the paperwork) and might well start with sorting that catch-all drawer. Though you might well call that ploy by its real name: procrastination.

What a lot of little things need keeping on top of. The King had it easy, in his counting house, gloating over his coins while his stewards did all the work!

21 March 2017

Drawing Tuesday - Brunei Gallery

So much to choose from in the Embroidered Tales exhibition! Drawn by the "story" of this piece - that the leaves of the tree of life represent prayers - I sat down and got to work.
Mirrored script at the base of the panel

The leaves are mirrored too, and contain representations of fish and turtles

I drew only half of each "leaf"

Then coloured in the central sections
Mags found the shapes came easily in her warm-up drawings,
but less so when drawing the details

Sue carefully represented the stitches of embroidery

Judith's page shows both detail and possibility
 "How do you sharpen a coloured pencil" was the question - why do they so often break during sharpening, is it the lead or is it the fault of the sharpener? We got out pencil sharpeners and also some other useful portable tools, tiny tape dispenser and folding scissors -
 My crayons, gift of dear friend Rita in the 1990s, will last another few decades -
 Mags told how a very useful book fortuitously came her way via a charity shop -

20 March 2017

Art surveillance

"Hope you enjoyed Hockney" said the email from Tate, sent 24 hours after I visited the exhibition. And that alienated me, to the point of wanting to cancel my new membership - which is probably over-reaction.

Of course the gallery is keeping track of visitors when it scans the barcode on the card as you show it to enter the exhibition. So why shouldn't it "add value" and/or "niche market" by telling individual visitors that they can find further info about the exhibition/artist on p44 of their magazine?

Because some of us still want to think - or I do, however mistakenly - that barcode-scanning surveillance is about getting attendance statistics, rather than getting data on individuals. Anyone under 35 will tell you that this is foolish misconception, "no point in worrying about it". But I wonder who will eventually see such individualised data, and to what purpose.

We've had a precedent for this in the matter of library books, way back when. Librarians refused to reveal who had borrowed certain books, and good for them. Machines won't have such scruples, and I'd rather that the people who program those machines and collect the data observe the same principles.

Is contacting me about my actions infringing my privacy or civil liberties? I don't know ... but it feels like the thin, sharp, end of the wedge.

19 March 2017

Week in review




It's been a week of (over)indulgence in tulips - 


Sunday finds three vasesful, in various stages of aging, dotted around the room. And in the garden, these little joys -
Now a change of scale - in the back garden, view from my window of the tree in full fig -

With the CQ newsletter sent to the printer, I've had time to go to see some things -
Beautiful pulkharis and other embroideries
18th century architecture at 63 New Cavendish Street, and temptation at Asia House Fair
Popping in to the October Gallery and finding work by Brion Gysin

... and Tian Wei


At the Estorick Collection, Sydney Carline's drawings and paintings as a WWI war artist
(drawn in the cockpit of his Sopwith Camel, finished once back on the ground)
and modern work by Keith Roberts, here, "Caporetto" - a punishing and brutal battle in which the
Italian army suffered tremendous losses; a word which is still used
to mean an utter disaster
Roberts' cardboard "replica" WWI plane


A concert - with photography - in the tunnel shaft at the Brunel Museum
And quite a lot of Tate-ing about ...
Thursday: over the footbridge to Tate Modern on an errand,
without enough energy to indulge in some art

Sunday: to Tate Britain for an early-morning viewing of the Hockney exhibition;
in the main hall, some big but airy sculpture is being installed
In-gallery and augmented-at-home versions of "Man running towards a bit of blue", 1963

I spent as much time having coffee, and then in the bookshop, as in the exhibition.
Came home empty-handed but with a headful of colours and words

Now (Sunday afternoon) I'm preparing more "pots" for Monday evening's ceramics session - three quite large ones are ready to dip, and there are 24 hours to make more - I'm aiming for six more -
After three sessions, a total of only five pots have gone into the kiln. 
No metal on the left (straight into kiln); with metal on the right (goes into sagar first)
My timing for doing this course isn't right; still too much else going on! 

And then there was the Incident of the Beer Forgotten in the Freezer. Ever wonder what happens if you leave it too long? Freezing expands the foamy liquid, and pushes the cap off. Thawing lets the trapped air expand and pushes the foam out, and out, and out, leaving a frozen core which gradually releases its brown liquid.
The result, as you will have guessed, is undrinkable. 

18 March 2017

The "pretty quilt"

It's not beautifully made and I'd never enter it in a quilt show, but making and using it gives me great pleasure. It's square and doesn't cover the pillows, and has lived on the bed for some years now; gives me joy when I smooth it down over the duvet every morning -
The back shows areas of uneven quilting, cobbled together from the patterns on the front, but I love to the see the contrast of "plain" back with the busy front as it gets put into place -
It started from the desire to make "something pretty" and some furnishing fabric samples, which were stretched out to quilt size with silks and linens from pre-worn garments. To stretch it further, I added some stripey yardage (possibly it contains some polyester) in and as borders and binding. And then the quilting fun began ... it's a skill I'm still learning, and this gave me quite a lot of practice -
What about that mixture of fabrics - heavyweight cotton, not-so-thick linens, and flimsy silk? We are definitely not advised to mix fabrics in bed quilts, oh no, those sorts of shenanigans are for wall quilts only. Yet our foremothers used what was to hand, as I did with this quilt - if, like many or most of their creations, it wears out within my lifetime, I have others to use instead. There's a heavy one made from corduroy trousers from Calgary thrift shops in - the date is on it - 1979. And the blue squares, used by my son and his friends as a picnic blanket, made in Cambridge in 1974, my second double-bed quilt - the first was sent to my parents after their house fire, and gave my mother work to add further borders as they had upsized to a much larger bed.

Nowadays I work small (if at all) - where are we supposed to keep all these huge things we make?

17 March 2017

Home on a plate

Nicole Aquillano trained as a civil engineer; now she's a potter and puts images into porcelain with a knife. Here is here "Home" table setting -
She's used the staircase on other items, such as this cleverly shaped serving dish -
Other work features buildings and bridges - very fitting. And a nice twist on that perennial favourite, blue and white.

Seeing this has got me thinking about why we decorate our tableware. Shouldn't the food "hold the stage" rather than compete with patterning? 

16 March 2017

Poetry Thursday - a song by William Shakespeare

'Fear no more the heat o' the sun'

(from CYMBELINE, Act IV, Scene 2)

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The scepter, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.


(There's another stanza; read it here.)

Seen on the Bakerloo Line - yet another wonderful Poetry on the Underground offering. Long may they continue.

15 March 2017

Little windows

Storm Doris was blowing on the day the movers came to take Clea's furniture up to Glasgow for storage. The front door was left open and the wind swirled through the house, catching the open window in the loo and slamming it shut. We heard a bang and the tinkle of breaking, falling glass, and rushed to the front door lest it be the lovely stained glass panels. Fortunately not ... but the glass in the little window was original to the house, about 115 years old -
Tom came along to fix it, installing a plain frosted pane -
 I have happy memories of the repainting of the loo. We were looking for the right shade of beige (again) and Tony, in jest, picked up a tin of a colour called Henna. "Perfect," sez I, "you are genius, that's just exactly the right colour!" He did look a little shocked as we proceeded to the checkout, and I could feel emanations of doubt as we drove home with the paint.

When it came to the repainting, a lot of reassurance was needed. "It's much too dark" - no, it's a bright warm colour; "It's too bright for a small space" - no, it's cosy and warm, perfect, and look how well it goes with the maps of old London that hang on the walls; "It's all wrong, this will never do" - let's try it, give it a few days and have a chance to get used to it. Of course he did get used to it - it was his choice, after all.

Another memorable small window is the stained glass panel that replaced the original wire screening in the pantry. The mesh allowed cool air to enter, keeping food in the larder fresh - the house was built before 1906, a time of few tinned foods, of daily trips to do the shopping. (Nor did it have a conservatory added on in those days.)
What's there now is a stained glass panel, made by Stewart, the local stained glass craftsman. He lives a few houses away and has a workshop near the railway station. As part of what he hoped would be a larger project of videos about local craftspeople, Tony made a video of Stewart making a little stained glass window, and he gave the little window to Tony.
The video - edited to 5 minutes from 15, no mean feat! - can be seen at https://vimeo.com/101200525

14 March 2017

Drawing Tuesday - Tunnel exhibition at Docklands Museum

A couple of rooms showing the archaeological discoveries made because of Crossrail construction. Artefacts and videos. Quite a few visitors! 
Tunnelled out soil is being removed to the coast of Essex to shape Wallasea nature reserve

Plenty of Victorian crocks

Leather shoes from way back - and medieval bone skates

Found in coffins, a treasured plate and baby's beads; plus a nailed coffin lid

The Walbrook skulls - a mystery solved

Flooring - walk all over South London!
 Our drawings -
Carol's Customs and Excise shed

Janet K's Roman horseshoes and lineup of glasses

Sue's rusty chain and collection of pots

Janet B's broken pots

My nailed sole and broken headstone (of a plague victim)

Najlaa#s colourful shards

Judith's collection of hooks
 Extracurricular activities -
Najlaa's textile explorations

Judith's wire knitting (the body is elsewhere)