22 June 2017

Poetry Thursday - "I loved my friend" by Langston Hughes

I loved my friend
He went away from me.
There is nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began -
I loved my friend.

       - Langston Hughes, Poem or To F.S. (1926)

Seen on the wall at Victoria Miro, Wharf Road, as part of the Isaac Julien "I Dream a World": Looking for Langston exhibition (till 29 July).

21 June 2017

Midsummer garden


My garden is tiny, so it looks best in closeup and from different angles.

It's also been a bit neglected lately, but manages to bloom profusely. This year's stars were the self-seeded foxgloves, which are all but over now, and the pink cranesbill geranium is getting bigger and bigger. The rosemary needs yet more trimming, but the big box hedge has been clipped. The remaining bit of privet has become a skeleton - until the plants either side grow a bit, it's functioning as a climbing frame for the survivors of the rampant periwinkle that covered what had been trying to be a lawn, before we redid everything.

Looking towards the road
The tree peony in the pot, and the window boxes on the ledge, as well as several plants hidden in the undergrowth and the enthusiastic "friendly daisy", came from Tony's and need special attention. And in this heat wave everything needs watering ... no rain in sight.

Ah, the lavender ... it's a good year for the lavender too!

20 June 2017

Drawing Tuesday - Science Museum

The suggested galleries were the Voyages exhibition or the revamped Mathematics gallery near it - both of which were advertised in "the tunnel" between the tube station and the museum -
I used my limited range of pencil crayons to try to replicate one of the ethereal photographs, of some sort of southeast Asian sampan ... but did the sail belong to it, or to another boat model that had been nearby? (all were models from the museum's collection in storage). And in the remaining time I investigated three other photos, including some tricky rigging lines -
For me, the session was about intense looking at 2D representations that gave you few solid clues - was the drawing meant to reconstruct the object, or was it an object in itself, at yet another remove?

Most if not all of the photos from the exhibition are in this interview with the artists.

We are a diverse group and it was edifying to see the different approaches.
Najlaa's renditions
 Jo added powerful white highlights

Janet K captured the heroic and mythic mood

Michelle's ship sails in a dream
From elsewhere...
 Carol's pumping machine, an experiment in monochrome

Sue's chemical model

 Janet B, too, was in another gallery

 Extracurricular activities
 After recent windstorms, Sue was fascinated by broken umbrellas left lying about

 Janet B had been in Glasgow the previous Tuesday, drawing at the Kelvingrove Museum
Michelle brought along her collection of samples from her Painting Techniques course

19 June 2017


Do you make pacts with yourself? Does that work - do you stick to it? And if not, what happens next?

At some point during the weekend at the CQ Summer School I sort of decided to start using my new computer for "everyday stuff" ... so, bright and early this morning, I started to try out this new resolution. 

It has Photoshop and Indesign, which I need for newsletter etc layout. But on the tiny screen of the Surface Pro, the writing on the menu bars is suitable only for ants! Spend half an hour trying to find if this can be fixed - first, figuring out what words to use to describe the situation - and discover that Adobe isn't going to fix it, ever ... then find this fix but it involves changing the registry, which I'm not brave enough to do, not before breakfast at any rate, despite the clear instructions and the enthusiastic testimonials from dozens of people. 

I pretend I'm an ant, and give Photoshop a try - what I want to do is change the huge dimensions (and large file size) of my photos to 600x480 pixels at 72dpi for using in blog posts. 

You need a mouse to do this, and my "cheap" one, says the Son, isn't Bluetooth ... so he brings his, and it says "it takes a minute to connect."

Son also tells me, somewhat impatiently, about why yesterday's photos (taken on phone) haven't appeared in Google Photos - I need to go to the phone to back them up. This takes quite some time; perhaps a hint not to take so many photos?

I lose patience with the phone, and with the new computer, and here I am back on the old one. Two screens, two keyboards, two mouses ...
... and a photo uploaded straight from the phone, unedited, to find out, via someone else's computer, if the file or the photo is huge. Though actually a bit of research shows this is no longer a problem - you get 15GB storage:

Blogger usually doesn't have any limit for the storage as the images the you upload will be stored in Google Photos of your Google account.
You can check your Google account's storage usage by using this link.

Son and I had a conversation that started "you don't need photoshop Mum, you can do all that with the photo software in the phone" - er, no: not correct keystoning, not doing Levels to get the contrast etc right. Editing is more than just cropping, especially editing photos that will be printed in newsletters etc.

But to a large extent he's right. I need to move with the times, and with the improved software.

So my next challenge is to find out how to use "the photo software on my phone" for ordinary purposes. One quick way to improve matters is to take a little more time when snapping the pix in the first place!

To end, the photo that's on the new screen - unedited -

and trying to get the light right (with a little cropping along the way) -
Nope, can't get the light ... it was much more sombre, despite the sunlight. These huge old conifers are in the beautiful, varied Licky Hill Country Park, near Longbridge (my Summer School experience included long walks before breakfast) - look hard on the left, there's a man with a dog to give you an idea of how big these trees are.  

As for that pact with myself, I'll give it another go later. Much as I love the familiary old computer, it gets so hot when it runs, can't be good. It needs a rest.

18 June 2017

Dad's day

He's sure to like one of these!

The bakery, Dunns in Crouch End, also does amazingly decorated cakes -
Is that a tasty version of Dad's sports shoe in the back?

17 June 2017

It only takes a minute

Coming back to the computer after a day of gallivanting in town, I found it had closed itself down, as it sometimes does, and had also changed the wallpaper on the desktop, as it should but sometimes doesn't. 

During the latest incident of "it's going so slow, I'd better back up immediately before it dies altogether" my son had helpfully got rid of all the things I don't need: "They slow it down and make it work harder, Mum, and when did you last use them?" All too true, but when do we ever make time for computer housekeeping?

But this is not about that - what sparked this little story is seeing the photo that happened to appear from the many possibilities in my files.

Lovely drawing, very striking - but as a photograph, it's dreadful. There are the reflections, which in situ you can't do much about ... what you can do something about is the "composition" - get that square thing squarely into the frame! It just takes a moment to tilt the camera or smartphone.

This is where "post-processing" is so useful. The editing in the camera or phone might not be able to straighten up that picture, but Photoshop and probably other editing programs can.

I've had to do this often, and use keystrokes. Control-A selects the entire photo - you see dotted lines around it. Control-T is "transform" and puts boxes (handles) at the corners and middles that you can drag out into the background till the lines of the picture frame are parallel with the edges of the photo. Click to accept, then use the Crop tool to get rid of the unwanted background.

Now that my screengrab of the photo was starting to look good, I wanted to get rid of the recycle-bin icon. With the Clone Stamp you select a "good" spot to use as a replacement, and overlay that onto the unwanted bit - it works like an eraser -

Getting your "wallpaper" from you photo files is rather frustrating. You have no clue about the picture - when or where was it taken, what does it show? Usually you do remember why you took it though - in this case, because I struggle with depicting rocks (among other things!) and wanted to look at how this artist (name lost, of course) did it.

Should have taken a moment to get the framing right ... saves a bit of work further down the line.

16 June 2017


What we're having for dessert at the moment, on sunny summer evenings. Yum!

15 June 2017

Poetry Thursday - Thule, the period of cosmography

Thule, the period of cosmographie,
Doth vaunt of Hecla whose sulphureous fire
Doth melt the frozen clime and thaw the sky;
Trinacrian Etna’s flames ascend not higher.
These things seem wondrous, yet more wondrous I,
Whose heart with fear doth freeze, with love doth fry.

The Andalusian merchant, that returns
Laden with cochineal and china dishes
Reports in Spain how strangely Fogo burns
Amidst an ocean full of flying fishes.
These things seem wondrous, yet more wondrous I,
Whose heart with fear doth freeze, with love doth fry.

(Anonymous; found in Poems of Science, which has been on my shelves since 1984, when I met one of the authors)

The words sound so wonderful, even without knowing what they mean (Trinacrian Etna??). Attempting to finally "understand" this poem, which I've sort of known about since taking an interest in madrigals back in the balmy 1970s, I found this succinct explanation on the Paris Review site:

This anonymous love lyric about the polar regions was set to a madrigal by the composer Thomas Weelkes in 1600. Four hundred years ago, poets had the luxury of looking at the horizon and marveling at what might lie beyond it. We’ve since lost that hopeful curiosity about the external world. The natural wonder of volcanic eruption is now classified as a natural disaster, and the once romantic Andalusian merchant is now seen as a capitalist pig. Having run out of physical space, exploration has turned inward. Thule is now the period of an interior cosmography. We go there not as heroes, but as a collection of anonymous users. 
The point of the poem—and I think it endures—is that the commonplace grime and dirt of our own feelings is still more powerful and exciting than the Thule of either cosmography.
But more useful was Ruth Padel's expose of the poem (here), which looks at its musical setting and explains some of the wording - why "period", for example ... it came to mean "farthest limit", and Thule came to mean anywhere in the frozen north.

In 1597 Hecla, a volcano in Iceland, erupted for more than six months. Fogo is another volcano, in the Cape Verde islands, off Senegal ... or might it be Tierra del Fuego?

Padel writes:
What this madrigal breathed was a right to the elsewhere, claimed by a culture where everyone was grabbing at places and artefacts that had been written about but not seen. An over-the-rainbow period (“period” in the temporal sense), of making the foreign your own imaginatively and commercially; when blue dishes and scarlet dye were suddenly chromatic in the visual sense; when fabulousness did not stay on the page, or far-off in Thule, but came alive in English words and music.
Many versions of the madrigal are on youtube; try this one, it has a comparatively good sound quality ... but even so the words are difficult to make out!

14 June 2017

Walking the Capital Ring - section 1

We started at Woolwich Foot Tunnel and made our way to Falconwood to get the train back home. (This is South London ... whereas North London is "home".) The 78-mile route has been divided into 15 section. This one has some uphill bits, and some panoramic views. And lots of lovely woods. And a castle. But it's short on the lunch and coffee stops - and crossing the main roads is - even with traffic lights, but without pedestrian indicators - not for the faint of heart or slow of foot!

Woolwich is downriver, and there's a little ferry 

Old signs

Into the parks - to find meadow flowers

And a red-bodied dragonfly
 Lots of information boards, in all the parks -

 Lunch on a bench in the shade ... so good to sit down! -
Finally we come to Severndroog Castle, one of London's hidden treasures -

At last, coffee and cake!!

 Built in 1748, it's a monument by a loyal wife to her husband, who fought and/or quelled piracy on the Malabar Coast. Apparently the view from the roof is great, but it was closed today.

From the path you got some idea of the vista -
 And in the woods you might find ... what ... art? mementos? wierdnesses? ... on the trees -
 and trees with interesting growth habits -
 "It never rains but it pours" - a short walk to another cafe ...
After which, through yet more lovely woods to the station and the end of Section 1.

13 June 2017

Drawing Tuesday - Wellcome Collection

Last Tuesday was a very rainy morning so I sat in the cafe for a while to dry off, and got out the pieces of fresh chalk I'd collected from the cliffs at Saltdean during my cat-sitting weekend. While wrapping them in tissue paper  so they wouldn't make a mess in people's bags, I started drawing some of them from various angles, using an indigo inktense pencil -
 and experimenting with using the chalk to smudge (and intensify) the colour ... which led to trying other types of pencil.
 Eventually I went into the Electricity exhibition and mussed about with this'n'that -
The film by Bill Morrison was great - an animation of the physical basis of electric current, and its distribution. See scenes from it here. "In a commissioned film, American artist and filmmaker Bill Morrison used material from the Electricity Council archive at MSI (the Museum of Science and Industry) in Manchester to create a visual journey that explores the production and distribution of electricity and its profound impact on our daily lives. "

Michelle had based one of her drawings on the film - and the other, the sprite, came from a vintage label -
 Jo was intrigued by this early electric motor, the Barlow's wheel (1822; read how it works here) -
 Mags found Edison's first lightbulb -
 Janet K put a lot of nails into this Nkisi figure -
The "round" fish on Najlaa's ancient plate is electric -
 Carol limited herself to using one colour -
 Judith was upstairs drawing the marvellous staircase -
 ... and here it is on its lower level (with an Antony Gormley sculpture nearby)
 Sue found a striking head -
 Extracurricular activities
Janet K has been drawing the nasturtiums on her patio

Carol has been examining and capturing irises

Great minds think alike...
And again, a visual coincidence 
... which gave us another chance to see Mags' "electric" sketchbook