22 September 2017

Sunny morning, Parkland Walk

The start

The view, revealed by a bit of tree-cutting near a bridge

The occasional jogger

Leaving the Parkland Walk

Descent to Crouch End

The destination

The coffee shop has some books available for perusal - I picked up Life on Earth by David Attenborough, published in 1979 and quickly reprinted 10 times that year. Amazing photos, in a pre-digital era, including this lacewing in flight
and the sort of fantasy island that you might find as a map on the endpapers of escapist reading for 10-year-olds -
 Back home (6000 steps before 9am), this surprise in the garden - one of the neriums planted some years back has decided to revive -

21 September 2017

Poetry Thursday - Flowers by Wendy Cope


Some men never think of it.
You did. You’d come along
And say you’d nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts —
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

Published in "Serious Concerns" (Faber, 1992), this poem is one of a series looking wryly at lost love(s). Here's another -


The day he moved out was terrible -
That evening she went through hell.
His absence wasn't a problem
But the corkscrew had gone as well.

"Many of her poems have a tragic twist at the end,"says an interview torn form an unknown, undated magazine that I found tucked into my copy of the book, "but as with all good comedy, tragedy is at its core."

She says here poems are deeply felt "and just because they've got jokes in the, it seems to me, they shouldn't be dismissed as light verse." The volume addresses a range of concerns, from death and pain to poets and games. 

Her poems can help you to confront and laugh at problems, and especially relationships. Sometimes a person needs that sort of thing...

20 September 2017

Upcoming exhibition, 28/9 to 1/10, central London

I have a little piece in the "A Letter in Mind" show, a fundraiser for neurology research. The show is on for only three days at the Oxo Gallery, and some people whose names you'll recognise (see below) have also contributed.
Work from previous years is shown in the galleries on the website, and the 2017 works will join them - with the artists' names revealed once the work is sold.

A Letter In Mind 2017 exhibition opens end of September
We have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of arty envelopes that have been sent in to us this year for A Letter in Mind: A Sense of Place. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to get creative and support the charity - we have a record-breaking 350 pieces up for sale!
A host of well-known artists have donated new works, including: Grayson Perry, Bob and Roberta Smith, Jessica Voorsanger, Frank Kiely, Natasha Kidd, Gill Rocca and Harry Pye; illustrator Chris Haughton; actors Kevin Eldon, James Fleet, Phyllida Law and Sophie Thompson; comedians Jo Brand and Jenny Eclair; architects Laurie Chetwood and Amin Taha.

"I'm delighted by the wealth of artwork we've seen this year. It will be our biggest show by far - with lots of choice to buy and support the charity" Eva Tait, curator, A Letter In Mind

All we need now is for you to come along and buy an original piece of art for just £85. Each artwork is exhibited anonymously and the artist’s name and biography will only be revealed online when sold. All proceeds will go back to Queen Square to support advances in neurological care and treatment.
When and where?
Thursday 28 September- Sunday 1 October 2017
gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House St, London SE1 9GY


19 September 2017

Drawing Tuesday - V&A

The current exhibition of contemporary Korean ceramics (till 11 Feb 2018) includes some strangely luminous jars, in "ancient Chinese" shapes. Turns out they are made of soap, by Meekyoung Shin, hence the tranparency-
In getting out her drawing materials, Mags found she had plastic water bottles in toning shades, hence the addition to the photo...

I fixed on these 3D printed pots in the onggi tradition

and was surprised to discover the tall dark one has seven sides. My renditions, in various media, lacked shape and veered between observation and impatience -
Mags got luminous results -
 Judith found an amazing snake pot, and did several dragons "quickly" -
Jo found a medieval kiln -
 Carol was in the fashion section -

 Extracurricularly, Carol filled many sketchbook pages during a quick trip to Lanzarote, including this "selfie" of a mermaid off the coast -

18 September 2017

Monday muddle

"No breakfast till you at least start looking for it."

Somewhere in the heaps of papers that have been ignored since I moved back to the flat in December is a vital bit of paper. Today I started looking for it in earnest - which means, first thing in the morning, in dressing gown and slippers and with only a cup of coffee as fuel - the breakfast (and its book) will have to wait.

So - set the timer for 15 minutes ... do you do that, when there's something unwelcome needing doing? I find it gets me going, helps me concentrate on the task at hand. 15 minutes isn't long, but you can get a lot done if you don't let yourself get distracted. And that's the problem - distraction.

First lot of distraction came along when I found some happy memories from the summer - a talk at the Royal Society, a concert at King's Place, a walk around Bloomsbury, a quick brush-lettering session at Kew Gardens (in the rain! "rain is beautiful") -
Take a photo, and release the objects.

More nostalgia, this time about my days in Manchester with Helen and Mike, the perfect hosts. Exhibitions and libraries - and a beer festival -
Same routine: remember and discard.

And then ... all these saved papers from months and years ago, spilling out of folders, and the stack of lovely little booklets from exhibitions -
I don't know what to do about all these, and the others that I know are elsewhere. I started collecting info about exhibitions during the foundation art course, 2009 - that's a lot of paper! Logic says "you'll never look at them again" and common sense says "go forward, not back", but they are fighting a deep-rooted desire to collect, to organise, to not waste ... whether that's a waste of experience or of information. In my childhood I did not dream of such riches as are now available, but made do with the occasional visit to the poorly-stocked library. Yet, writing that I see a loophole and a chink of illumination on the problem. It'll take some thinking through....

Meanwhile this delight resurfaced - I just love it -
 And here's a relevant passage from an old journal*, back in the "morning pages" days - 2003, ah yes that was a tricky time....
"Ah my little books. Ah my rich life! Remember M the aim is to have an INTERESTING life. Roses round the door - NO. Interesting life - YES. So it was once and is again. What one thing can I do today toward this -- blank -- oh dear! Read.... Clear away a few papers. Sort out that ... form. Declutter the workroom for 15 min. Contact a friend..."
And then there was this, from the very first CQ summer school I went to - a fun exercise in improvising with shapes and colours. I don't need it any more, and it's of no use to anyone else.
*The journal, on closer inspection, yielded a Portent -
which might need to be kept somewhere ... and the rest of the book can inked up interestingly (or therapeutically) in a spare moment - !

17 September 2017

Pick of the week

Sunday - under windy grey skies to the Thames Barrier, the excuse being its annual test closing. The park has some surprising planting and ways with hedges; the cafe was nothing to write home about but did offer shelter from the wind. 

Very few people there, but worth making the trip. When the sluices were (gradually) reopened, the wind whipped the rushing water into a froth. Seagulls abundant, and more birds on the mudflats as the tide came in.

This being, or having been, the industrial docklands, there are a few mills still existing among highrise "subtopia" -
Tate & Lyle sugar refining, still working

The "palatial" Millennium (flour) Mills, built 1905, partially destroyed in
the 1917 Silvertown explosion, rebuilt in Art Deco style in 1933,
 rebuilt after WW2, and currently under redevelopment
Just time to get to Stratford for a little shoe shopping -
Old Faithfuls - and new upstarts
Monday - a talk at the Royal Institution by Priyamvada Natarajan, about changing theories of the heavens, the stars, and all that - and how science comes to change its mind about theories. It seems a theory, especially if posited by a "quirky character", can be quiescent for 30-40 years, during which time independent lines of evidence can accrue, and then the theory is "rediscovered" and gains momentum.
 Tuesday, after drawing at the V&A I happened across photos by Frank Hurley of the Antarctic expedition, at the Royal Geographical Society -
and walked across the park to Bond Street, where the Fine Art Society had various exhibitions on every floor of its building ... including this view from the very top -
Wednesday, just as I left the house a few raindrops fell and by the time I got to the park they were coming down thick and fast - but didn't last long
 so it was a pleasant walk past the new apartments to historic Stoke Newington for a quick wander in Abney Park cemetery
 and a longer stop for coffee till it was time to walk through Clissold Park on the way home. These plane trees were imposing
 and I still haven't found out what this might be - metasequoia? mimosa?
 Thursday - a bit of shopping in Chelsea and a walk along the river to Tate Britain, past the back end of Victoria Station and a "gridded" view of spare trains -
 At Tate B we saw the Rachel Whiteread show (till 21 January 2018), which included "100 Chairs" in the central gallery -
 I would gladly have taken home this humble, unfolded cardboard box with its silver foiling and "true blue heart" -
 That evening, a talk at British Library on the Tree Charter, which gave common rights in the king's forest, and a new charter 800 years later, which seeks of save ancient woodlands -
 Friday evening I had double-booked myself again and chose the screening at LRB bookshop of Siobhan Davies and David Hinton's film All this can happen (trailer here). It's based on a novel published in 1917 by Robert Walser and the sotry is blended with images from films of the time, choreographed on a screen split into multiple parts, objective and subjective at the same time. "When has walking ever been interesting in a film? Here, definitely. A combination of formal ideas and emotional ideas, enhanced by the sound design - the silent films left a clean slate for the sound.But the main effort was finding "absolutely the right image" to be a genuine partner to the text.

Throughout the week, a bit of gardening - the dormant seeds are quick to sprout -
 and from behind the window boxes it looks like this now; the area near the house is still under excavation, sifting, and soil replacement -

The camera found some hazard-tape compositions in the Underground -

Open House weekend

What a wonderful thing is Open House. The book is full of places to visit that aren't usually open to the public - how to choose? 

The listing is by borough, so I looked only at Haringey (where I live), and Camden and Islington (nearby). Blue House Yard, in Wood Green, caught my eye - I'd seen it from the distance while out walking, so that was the first stop, artists' studios and shops for artisan products -
 Products including "Swedish candles" from the coppicing shop -
where I bought a box of straight-from-the-maker charcoal -

It's described as "A collection of new creative workspaces. Framed by a bright blue refurbished studio complex, nine tall, slender standalone worksheds and a double-decker bus cafe, the Yard will be a much-needed social space in Wood Green."
I had to hurry into town to be in time to see the Thames sailing barges pass under Tower Bridge, which was lifted for the occasion -
 They "sailed" upstream ...
and I got in the queue for City Hall ... 'cos I was there and it was there ... "Home of the Mayor of London and London Assembly, an environmentally-aware building with innovative spiral ramp and fine views across London" -
 and by the time the queue had moved to the entrance, the barges were sailing back again ...
 After airport-style security (London is on critical terrorist alert at the moment) the first thing you see is the giant map downstairs, along with the cafe -
 The lift takes you up to the 9th floor viewing gallery -
Looking downstream, towards Canary Wharf (the "new downtown")

Looking upstream, across to The City
 Then it's down the spiral staircase, with all its irresistible angles and reflections, to the council chamber, with purple carpet, on the 2nd floor -

 and beyond that to the map and cafe - everyone has to find where they live ....

On the way to Tom & Gemma's (for a little gardening and supper) I had a final few minutes in a private house "remodeled and extended on the ground floor, creating a lovely, open plan, light filled, family space, opening out onto the rear garden" -

With spaces like this, don't you find, it's all about being there in them, rather than seeing a photo. 

Sunday: another day, more viewing decisions. I was also getting in some of those 10,000 steps and took a diversion down Doughty Mews, a pleasant backwater near Gray's Inn Road -
The turquoise rectangle in the distance turned out to be an Open House sign - it turned out to be Adaptable House - " self-build conversion followed by 35 year occupation, from party house to office to family home for 6, and now home and studio".  I was entranced by the studio arrangements (6-8 people work on the ground floor) -
 and enchanted by the spaces upstairs, the collections of delightful things -
How did they get the Aga upstairs?
 the use of the spaces, eg the greenness of the little room behind the wisteria -
Reminds me of this Matisse painting (and note the "hot seat")
 how you climb up and up, beside a fig tree, to the roof garden -
 the many books, some cleverly tucked into the I-beams -
The doors are open during the daytime and closed at night -
How generous of the owners to let people wander through their home - and how inspiring for those of us who are not of a minimalist bent or who struggle with space restrictions.

Finally to Lamb's Conduit Street for Connock & Lockie - "Refurbishment and extension of a Grade II Listed property for a traditional tailor's shop. Bespoke design elements enable clinetele to experience every step of tailoring and become familiar with every member responsible for making it."
Paper patterns kept since the 1950s, and stairs to the lower rooms

Fabric samples and details

A fitting area folds out from the wall at the back of the ground floor

Panelling from the 1820s; the wallpapers are some decades later

A kitchen in what used to be a coal-hole!

A two-storey extension at the back of the property ...

... the top floor includes the required accessible toilet, behind folding doors

The specially-made exit signs had to pass inspection as suitable for a Listed building
I am overwhelmed by seeing just five of the many buildings open to the public on this special weekend. It was very much worth making the effort, despite the difficulty of "choosing".