Self-Winding · A Sort of Progression

Saturday, January 03, 2009

One of the pleasures of having my nephew over from Switzerland for Christmas was a pretty rare opportunity to see London from a special vantage point. As I've said here, I have been no great fan of the visually intrusive Gherkin, but I do admit its charisma. Its virtue, in this instance, was that of of being extremely tall - the old saw holding true that "It's better to be on the inside looking out etc.".

Mark obtained some passes through Swiss contacts and so the family met at 3 p.m. on a lovely January afternoon and was ushered through security, into high speed lifts to the very top of the building. There at our feet lay the whole vista of London, the river curling past, tops of erstwhile giant buildings dwarfed, huge cranes reduced to toys.

Walking the cirle of the viewing gallery gave a dizzying panorama; far below, strings of barges moved up river, tiny skaters whirled on a rink by the Tower of London, helicopters passed by in King Kong perspective. Gradually, a blurry red sun began its setting. The light effects were magic for mood, but tough on photography, what had been a clear day of sunshine had slipped into mist. I took about forty shots all less than sharp, but there were a few I liked - which you may care to see over at flickr. It was a fabulous experience that will replay in my head often and always when I see that distinctive outline - with slightly less hostility.
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I wish you a very happy Christmas

'Aren't we enlarged
by the scale of what we're able
to desire? Everything,
the choir insists,

might flame;
inside these wrappings
burns another, brighter life,
quickened, now,

by song: hear how
it cascades, in overlapping,
lapidary waves of praise? Still time.
Still time to change.'

(Mark Doty: Messiah)
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Friday, December 19, 2008

The last picture in this line-up is by Adriaen van Ostade, of a Dutch painter in his studio; it illustrates well the source of a persistently repeated feature of 17thC Dutch painting, the left-of-canvas window. It is probably giving on to the famous cool North light, but can one tell? I saw how often this occurs while looking up some Vermeer sources. Having checked through a few books and on the web, so far I have not come across specific reference to the habit. So many artists' ateliers must have had that special window. The pictures here represent only a few of dozens. There is much talk in the literature about Dutch light and I expect that somewhere someone has touched on this. I'll keep looking.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One of the best cartoons of the bunch

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In memoriam FWW

This is Angelina, she's small and plastic & held together with an old elastic band. I remember exactly the moment I bought her one freezing winter day in the late 1940's. We must have been a bit hard up then, I wanted a new dolly very much and I think Mum probably managed to divert a little cash from the housekeeping. In her winter coat and hat, she took me (in pixie hood and gloves on strings) down to a shop in Portobello Road, into bright lights and wide wooden counters just at my eye-level; on one was a display of boxed dolls and Angelina sat at the front as advertisement. I thought her beautiful and, in spite of the saleslady's protests, would accept no other, even though she had no box, it had to be her. I carried her home in my arms and loved her for years. She cost three shillings and threepence. The shop was Woolworths, a store that served us so well for many decades, but finally, and sadly, lost its way and now goes to the wall.
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reading series...

John Sumrow's photo "The Reading Lamp" is satisfyingly surreal. As my aunt used to say "Anna, you're straining your eyes with that book, you must have direct light when you're reading."
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Monday, November 24, 2008


Busy week. Loads of passengers to ferry around - everyone wants to go for flu jabs. I had one myself for the first time - a decision that made me feel generationally categorised. On one pick-up, as I approached the front door of a large, isolated house, I felt that I was being watched; glancing at a window, I saw sixteen blue eyes fixed on me. The house pets were 8 Siberian Huskies of stunning beauty. I have secured an invitation to take G to meet them next week - he will be bowled over, literally probably.

The last apples are down, we must have harvested several hundredweight. Back-breaking work to pick them all up. I have frozen apple sauce, made a load of jelly that walked off the table as people caught sight of it, so had to make some more. Tomorrow I start the chutney after buying some mustard seed. A friend went gleaning the onion harvest and brought me two big bags, so the main ingredients are free. It will be a tearful afternoon.

We had light snow today that vanished quickly, the kids were trying vainly to build a snowman which we christened 'the big drip'. Went out to lunch at a small, new local place; "Let's just have a couple of Ryvitas for breakfast," I said at 8 a.m. Seated at 1.30, our meal took 50 minutes to arrive at table, by which time we were rumbling loudly and grumbling. But it was the best roast lunch I've ever had at a restaurant - five veg' perfectly cooked, cheese sauce on the cauliflower, two tureens of winey gravy, crisp roasties, melting chicken. Sometimes it pays to rumble for a bit.

For G, subtitles are permanently switched on on the TV, a lot of the realtime captioning errors are hilarious - the West Norfolk weather forecast for Tuesday is 'Dahl and Chile'. Yum.

I've bought a laptop so as not to be doing what I'm doing now, sitting for hours at the PC with my legs down. I shall have an over-bed table and will be retiring early to recline, legs supported. From whence great writing shall emerge. More likely I'll doze off early watching the i-Player. Whch is not a bad thing. G says he'll never see me now, like the Second Life widowers. I had a look at that, by the way, finished up as a bald avatar called Elysia, with a tattoo and large bosom, I don't think it's me somehow..

Went to see "Quantum of Solace", I don't know what all the carping is about, it was a pretty good piece of Bondery, apart from the song. Loads of good action, plot-appropriate minimal love interest (sadly), terrific locations, frenetic cutting la Bourne, good craftsmanship from Craig who looked utterly mmmmm. What the critics lose sight of is that in his tenure he is playing out an evolving story that will develop over several films. This episode tidies up the loose ends of Casino Royale, gives Bond a bit of catharsis and moves him on to the threshold of the next. Where, no doubt, he will become less loutish and the lighter stuff of the franchise will reappear. I thoroughly enjoyed it and jumped out of my skin in the stupendous aeroplane chase.

Tonight watched a simply marvellous film "Venus", with Peter O'Toole and Leslie Phillips; acting of such high calibre that it takes your breath away, funny and moving by turns, a typically Hanif Kureishi screenplay full of insight and compassionate wit.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reading/Windows Series


Tavik Frantisek Simon (1877-1942) b. Czechoslovakia. Tavik, working in a variety of mediums, produced a huge body of work that demonstrated myriad styles....and competencies. When he's good he's very good, when he's bad he could work for Cadbury's. All in all, that makes for a bit of interesting browsing?
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Sunday, November 09, 2008

There is absolutely nothing original left to be written about Barack Obama, still it seems important to write something. A lifetime of observing the theatricals of world politics leaves me finally unable to suspend my disbelief in any new performance.

I want to allow myself the same surge of hope that I felt with the advent of Kennedy, Mitterand, Walesa, Gorbachev, Mandela, Blair; they brought, briefly, the expectation that a brave modern leader with ideas, integrity, intellect, humanity and common sense might have emerged and been allowed to break strangleholds of corruption, bureaucracy and cynicism. It didn't happen then; as ever the old ways and systems were entrenched or the individual proved too flawed to sustain his promise. Each one of these men made impressive initial impact and achieved change, but all finally compromised. Only one eventually stood tall in the integrity parade.

I clamp down on my joyful feelings at the success of Obama for they will inevitably lead to false expectations. There are no messiahs, the bringing down of good men is routine international practice. The most that I will allow myself is a surge of relief that power now falls to a thinker, and one, moreover, with an apparently well-developed moral sensibility. After what we have had in the last decade, those are qualities not to be sniffed at.
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From the local paper..

Priceless! How I wish I'd been invited, I do love a cream tea.
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