Saturday, April 30, 2011

scrap, refrain, video

Drawings taken at random .Two pages from my scrap book. (Click to see it all).

In the health food shop I hear the words "Fairy tale... beautiful... so much in love... you could tell when they looked at one another..." How many times must such sentiments  have been expressed today. A curious echo of yesterday's big event.

My brother "Lucas"  has made a video of himself reading a poem into a mirror. I play it over several times. You go to The Night Mirror wmv on Youtube. Some might call it mysterious, some a little sinister. But I find myself enjoying it.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 29, 2011

watchers, wedding, parties

While these people are watching a game of rugby I photograph their shadows which cross the touchline.

One of the surprises during today's Royal Wedding is the fly-past above the Mall when the newly augmented Royal Family appears on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, though it might have been predictable, is the fly-past of a Lancaster bomber flanked by a Spitfire and Hurricane. The sight of these aircraft always tugs at the heart.  So too, the cheerful crowds lining the streets and the familiar forms of the ceremony itself. The words of The Book of Common Prayer remain precise and resonant "... was ordained for the mutual society, help and comfort, the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity."  Though in the long run it is seldom achieved, the ideal of matrimony  are not expressed much better than that.

Street parties spring up here and there. In Sutherland Road,  there is a barbecue, trestle tables have been set up and pennants hang in front of some of the houses. The smell of burning sausages teases the appetite. In The Grove there is a tea party (not the  American variety). People chat and offer slices of cake to one another. Eleven years into the new one there is a sense that the old century is still alive, though without its horrors.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 28, 2011

close-up, holly, car

The wisteria beside the front door is beginning to fade. It is shedding its petals which Mrs Plutarch sweeps up like fag ends. A close-up makes you forget about the long, drooping panicles and remember the individual blooms.

Holly is not a tree which  you associate with spring, but such prominent berries are inevitably preceded by flowers.  And it is the clusters of white flowers on a holly tree that catch my attention in The Grove this afternoon. Holly flowers.

Some cars, particularly old, battered cars, rather like old dogs and old people develop distinctive personalities often associated with their decrepitude. Sometimes a car's registration plate helps the process. I remember a car called HEV very much on its last legs, rusty and mildewed and grey. I remember it rather better than the family that owned it; only that they habitually referred to it as Hev. Sometimes though, a new car arrives bursting with personality. The red Fiat 500 recently acquired by a neighbour is an example. It is red inside and out and feisty by nature and inclination. Everyone who sees it  and rides in it falls in love with it. It has the delightful name of WOB.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

empty, fox, faces

Shadow of an empty glass.

Last night a fox - I suspect a vixen because dog foxes are supposed to bark just once or twice - emits a series of raucous scream outside our window, -  a welcome reminder that something wild and out of our control  can exist  so close us.

An old woman, slightly bowed passes our table outside The Ragged Trousers. She wears a tweed suit, and walks with the aid of a stick.  Here face is long, her mouth wide and expressive. As I often do nowadays, as I get older myself, I find that I have a picture of the younger face buried in the older one.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

pennant, spam, gastronomy

The wind is invisible unless it has something to blow.

This morning, following recent observations about spam, (the luncheon meat not unwanted mail) it enters my head to buy a tin for lunch. We eat it with salad. "Too salty," says Mrs Plutarch, who vaguely remembers it from her younger days.

"I have eaten two humans - one was a man, the other a woman... They taste the same" . This month's National Geographic refers to a programme on its TV station in which Piers Gibbon explores the jungle of Papua New Guinea to find out if cannibals still exist. Apparently they do.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 25, 2011

The way through the pub. View of The Grove through a front entrance and the read entrance of The Compasses.

"Pour me a drink and I'll tell you some lies," says Danny as he joins us outside the pub. The words are those of the singer Neil Diamond. It makes me wish I had a better memory for songs; or perhaps that I paid more attention to them when they are in vogue. "That's me," says Danny, who weaves tall stories into the conversation with such elegance and sense of fun that you almost believe him; and sometimes do, because you can't be sure when he is joking.

All the leaves are out, and the horse chestnut candles are in full bloom. As I stand under the big oak on the corner of The Grove, I hear an unfamiliar sound. It is the wind in the leaves. At my feet the shadows of the leaves move on the brick path.

A few weeks ago Lucy Kempton replied  wittily, succinctly and honestly to my last question in our Compasses  shared blog (see link in side column), with a poem of six  rhyming stanzas in which the same rhyming pattern is repeated six times. Inspired by her example I have replied in like manner. I found, not altogether to my surprise, that the need to search  harder than usual for rhymes helped rather than hindered my pursuit of appropriate images. I am glad to say that my attempt has met with her approval because I am far too close to it at the moment to judge for myself.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

meeting, humming, healthy

Above the station. (Click for full picture)

 A robin hovers for a few seconds beside the hedge. Apart from its rapidly moving wings it is perfectly  still. I think of humming birds. Only this bird is interested in an insect rather than the nectar which attracts humming birds.  And its wings move rather slower.

A small boy says to his father: "I want a strawberry milk shake. Can I have a strawberry milk shake?" To endorse his case, he adds, having evidently been subjected to  grown-up propaganda: "It's healthy isn't it?"
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 23, 2011

lovage, organ, dry

Visitor on lovage  leaf. It is at this time of year that I usually plan and then don't get round to making soup from this herb which taste strongly celery.

Parked in Berkeley Road is a handsome blue van which declares that it belongs to Martin K Cross Church Organ Builders of Grays Essex. The thought of church organs inspires hope and pleasure.  As I pass the van I imagine their resonance. Mozart called the organ king of instruments. But all I can hear in my mind as I walk on J S Bach's No 1 hit, the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

 Despite the thunder in the distance, Mrs Plutarch is watering the potted plants and the newly sown patches of grass seed. There has been no rain for weeks. I think of Jean de Florette waiting for the rain on his remote Provencal farm where his carnation crop is about to collapse for want of water. The sky darkens. Thunder rolls.Jean (in the person of Gérard Dépardieu) and his family rush out to welcome the rain but the clouds pass overhead on their way to the next valley.  It is like that today, only not as desperate. Not nearly as desperate.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 22, 2011

going, fleeting, twittering

Before they give way to greater things a mass of lesser celandine.

The lime tree opposite our house is shedding fine tufted seeds which drift in the warm breeze. Because of their lightness they seem animated, moving  like tiny insects. One lands on a page of the magazine which I am reading. It casts the most delicate of shadows, but just for a moment before it flies off. I would like to have photographed it, and, camera on the ready this time, I wait for another to arrive. But  no such luck. I even try to catch one  and to settle  it  on a sheet of white paper But it proves  impossible. It  it is off again the moment I release it.  For half an hour I wait without success hoping that another will land for long enough to photograph.  But if one does come near, it is off immediately. Nature photographers need, above all,  patience which I have not got. Not this morning at least.

As I walk down Mount Sion this afternoon, the hedges on either side of road are alive with sparrows. You can hear them but not always see them. Meanwhile they say that all the sparrows, once so common in London, have left town.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

parrots,spindrift, music

Parrot tulips in different moods.

Tufted seeds float in the breeze in the same direction as though they are looking for something in this afternoon's sunshine.

As the day progresses the lazy sound of  music drifts  across the garden from an indeterminate source. It is so faint that it is difficult to identify it, but it could be a slow piano piece, suggesting idleness and melancholy.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

opening, post-its, idiom

Dandelion bud opening for business

My scrap book is growing and contains some odd items One of my favourites is a page on which I have pasted 12 post-it notes. Each has a  round stain left by a tea-cup . I have labelled it 12 cups of tea. It is I suppose a sort of installation.

The French word poireau, a leek, as I mentioned in a post some years ago, also signifies "a person who is waiting around, probably unwillingly.From it, is derived the verb poireauter and the expression "faire le poireau" . Today I come across another vegetable metaphor employed in French. In the novel La Malandre by Henri Troyat, the central character, Philippe, a middle aged lawyer, impatient with the new generation with whom he considers himself in conflict, refers to a  successful and arrogant young man, as a salsifis pretentieux, literally a "pretentious salsify". A salsify is a long finger like vegetable with a delicate flavour, better known perhaps in France than in England.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

shadows, spam, reverse

The shadow of railings.

Google Mail's automatic trawl for words to be linked to advertisements, as I have noted here before, extends even to its own mechanisms.  In the case of spam which it for the most part successfully separates from bona fide emails, it manages to allow the manufacturers of Spam luncheon meat to come up with the following  pop-up recipe headline: "Spam Swiss Pie: Bake 45 -55 minutes until eggs are set." It is in a separate window but that's what I call spam.

From the train I see from the window the network of playing fields where two weeks ago I watched my two grandsons play rugby and saw the occasional train pass against the skyline. I have always suffered from an irrational desire to be on a passing train when I see it from a field, and in the field when  I pass  it in a train. Today both wishes, though not simultaneously granted, at least edge closer together.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 18, 2011

suntrap, lunch, defeat

Taking the sun facing the sea in St Leonards.

At Sainsbury's deli counter, a young man, his back to a growing queue, with the help of a machine and a large piece of cooked meat of uncertain provenance, produces a skyscraper composed of thin slices of flesh. "Big order?" asks a customer with good humour. "Staff lunch," says the young man.

By the front door, the smell of wisteria, opening in the sun, is dispersed by a light breeze. Bluebells, meanwhile, clustered on the slope beside the steps, are in triumphant bloom. Triumphant, because ever since I have lived in this house, I have tried to eradicate them, as the garden has always seemed to me to be too small and neat for their vigorous habit. But in the last two years I have given up the fight, as they have taken hold in odd, shady corners. Today I concede that they have been right and I have been wrong.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 17, 2011

beware, crab, trolley

Warning in pond on the edge of Tunbridge Wells Common makes me think of Beowulf and Grendel's mother whom he pursued to the bottom of a lake.

 "Is that crab? I am just going to have a discrete look" says George outside the pub., as a plate of food is delivered to a neighbouring table. He is a man who cares about gastronomy. "Not crab, Yorkshire pudding!" he says despondently after a brief recce. How can a crab look like Yorkshire Pudding? Well, there's crab and there's Yorkshire pudding. And never the twain shall (or should) meet.

Between two trolleys in the supermarket there is a narrow gap just, but only just, wide enough for a third trolley. It reminds of the days when I used to drive to work - I was the worst and most vicious of road hogs, I, as an ex-driver, now admit. With great skill I negotiate Scylla and Charybdis, and neither of the trolley drivers so much as notices the centimetres between each of the trolleys and mine. The feeling of achievement, small an unnoticed as it was, still hasn't worn off.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 16, 2011

sea, bankers, parrots

Watching the sea and doubtless thinking about the fish in it.

People dislike bankers, I think to myself, because they know how to breed money and  how to make it breed more. Bankers are money farmers.  And blow bubbles out of money.  But the world needs to borrow money. And to blow bubbles. And so it need bankers, and bankers need to breed money and  to blow bubbles in order to remain bankers.

The tulip bulbs which I planted back in the autumn have turned out to be parrot tulips, multi-coloured  (the petals are bright red inside, but a grayish  green, brightening to yellow outside, fierce looking and tattered) and just now opening as though for battle. Florists tend to call them parrots for short. They sit in a pot on a table in the garden, clearly demonstrating, what when I planted them, I thought, despite what my head told me,  an unlikely outcome.

 Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 15, 2011

benchmark 6, hernia, fox

  Variations on a theme. Passing.

The surgeon sends me a copy of his letter to my GP which arrives today.  I like the precision  and spareness of his language even though many of the technical terms are new to me. "...I operated on your patient today attending to his right inguinal hernia under intravenous sedation and local anaesthetic. I found a moderate sized direct sac. There was no indirect sac. I have repaired the transversalis fascia with proline and carried out  a Lichtenstein tension free hernioplasty with light weight, open weave, Ultapro mesh between the conjoint tendon and inguinal ligament. There were no problems with the procedure..."

"There's a fox walking along the wall," calls Heidi from the upstairs window. I am too late to see it, as I was a few days ago in response to a similar alert.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spitfire, nest-building, oak

Above Groombridge Place, the other day I point the camera at a lone, vintage Spitfire. Other newer one must have flown in the same patch of sky a long time ago. This one seems  slow compared to those which I remember when I was  a nipper of seven or eight.

A pigeon busies itself in the wisteria on the wall of the house opposite. If last year is anything to go by, it is building a nest and will doubtless in due course do the same in the wisteria over our front door. The nest remains. Its outline can just be detected through the opening flowers. Last year pigeons commuted between the two wisterias.

The giant oak in the north west corner of The Grove is in leaf - a pale, yellowy green; and with the leaves, little catkins have appeared. Catkins strike me as inappropriate adornments for such  an oak. Too small and delicate.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

catkins, enjoyment, teaching

I was once met a girl called Catkin. That was more than 50 years ago. So I may be forgiven for forgetting what she looked like, but not  for remembering her name, which was Catkin  Hazel. Or do I imagine it? Perhaps it was Hazel Catkin? Or perhaps I invented all or part of  it. These are not hazel catkins I know, but they prompt the memory nevertheless.

"Did you enjoy it," says the surgeon of the operation which he has just performed on an inguinal hernia. It took place under local anaesthetic, and I didn't feel any discomfort let alone pain. My frame of mind was  however modified by a powerful tranquiliser, which may have disposed me to a certain lightness of heart. But enjoyment? Not quite. "It was interesting," I say. And indeed it was.

During the few hours I spend in hospital I read a memoir by the late Tony Judt,  the English born historian, professor of European studies at New York University. A passage, which  I now refer back to and note, touch on a familiar confrontation of youth, in which he acknowledges his debt as a student, to a tutor, John Dunn. "It was John who -  in the course of one extended conversation on the political thought of John Lock - broke through my well armoured adolescent Marxism and first introduced  me to the challenge of intellectual history.  He managed this by the the simple device of listening very intently to everything I said, taking it with extraordinary seriousness on its own terms, and then picking it gently and firmly apart in a way that I could both accept and respect. That is teaching" Judt  concludes, and I silently applaud.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 11, 2011

benchmark 5, ashes, guys

Bench occupied.

Dinner with some neighbours, who announce that they  have just buried the ashes of their respective mothers in a cemetery in Ashord.  The urns containing the ashes had remained on top of a wardrobe "gathering dust" for 10 and 12 years and they thought that it was time to say goodbye.

In the sun, a pint of Harvey's and a scotch egg at The Black Pig.  The egg is garnished with deep fried shredded onion. While we are eating, the pretty young waitress inquires: "How are you going, guys? Can we get you guys anything else?" Before we leave, she urges: "Have a nice day, guys". This form of address to men and woman alike, has apparently migrated from the USA. Our waitress has  no hint of an American accent.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

benchmarks 4, weekend, wee

The population changes in matters of minutes on the benches under scrutiny. The sea remain much the same.

He has taken my cash before. I know him by his greeting: "Had a good weekend, so far," he says. What appeals is the ambiguity. Does he attend to spoil it? Are good weekends so rare that it is too much to expect a weekend entirely good in itself?  So far so good.

In the Italian deli at the foot of Mount Sion, a woman orders a cappuccino at the counter. Is it possible to have a wee?" she asks the young woman who serves her. This is a deli, not a restaurant.  Such requests are apparently frequent and are actively discouraged. There are no facilities of the kind required available to the public.  It is not to even to be discussed. There is a moment's silence. "Then I cant' t have  the cappuccino," the woman says. The owner stands  by. He  superintends the silence., which grows leaden.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

benchmarks 3,socks, mesh

 The third bench. The photo might be worth clicking.

On a doorstep by the street sits a man in shorts and white socks enjoying the afternoon sun.

In a farmyard by  a bus stop there is a long low barn. A small window is enclosed by a torn wire mesh. Sticking to the mesh are chicken feathers. From inside the barn comes a gentle sound like clucking but a little more contented.

On Compasses Lucy Kempton replies with wit, rhyme and rhythm to my question: What promises have you to keep? Or give up on?

Friday, April 08, 2011

bench 2, wacky, tall

Same bench, different occupants.

A woman visitor speaks about mystic experiences. I want to take notes. She believes she is a healer. She talks  of detoxing and retreats."No alcohol long walks in the hills; yoga, and a glass of wine in the evenings are at the heart of her recollections. As we talk, a cat wriggles through the hedge to be healed.

In front of a house in South Grove, is a giant dandelion, the biggest I have ever seen, about the size of a dahlia. It sprouts from between two paving stones. There must be something about the soil beneath the stones because I remember a similar monster in the same place last year. The position is north facing and I reason that the flower, deprived of full sunshine, must be stretching up towards the light.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

bench, prey, twigs

Same bench, different people, different year. I find myself taking the the same photograph year after year, more and and more often. And the more I do it the more I like the idea of monitoring the way things and scenes, wear and modify, fade and evolve. The restaurant where we sit in St Leonards-on-Sea, looks across at several benches, which provide such benchmarks. More bench photographs will follow. Watch this space.

Outside a pub a man with a thin ferret face fixes his eyes in  his laptop screen as though it frames a living prey upon which he will shortly pounce.

In The Grove  a pair of magpies  hop about under the trees collecting in their beaks twigs for their nest.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

dandelion, slowness, chat

Early dandelion. I know  that they are a trouble on lawns. But when they pop up in odd corners, the complex structure of their flowers, star shaped buds and toothed leaves (dents de lion) are always welcome. Never more so than in a much longed-for spring.

Until today, which promises to be warm, leaf buds and flowers open slowly whereas in previous years the sudden appearance of the sun has produced an explosion of green leaves and  the white and yellow flowers of spring. Slow is good in an age of speed and urgency.

In the doctor's waiting room, a lady of my own generation and frame of mind comments on how waiting rooms often  present the only opportunity to read the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph. She must  guess by my appearance that I am not a regular reader of cconservatively inclined newspapers. I am little flattered and a little surprised. I realize that she likes to talk and comes from a background where good talk is natural. In the space of about 10 minutes I learn a lot about her. She is a school teacher, married, until she was widowed a few years ago - to another teacher. She says that she wants to move from the country to London, where she can visit the theatre and art galleries, but which means "down sizing". She says that she has too many possessions. She doesn't want to sell them, rather to give them  away to  people who will appreciate them  - a principle which I agree with.   It is a shame to abandon her mid-conversation in exchange for routine medical discussions with a doctor.

Monday, April 04, 2011

blossom, raving, cheerful

A pigeon in blossom.

Yesterday's rugby is still fresh in my mind. Apart from watching my gifted  grand children children, I enjoyed seeing hundreds of people - children as well as grown ups - involved  in a tough character-building sport in this age of nannies and milk-sops. Adults and children all looked remarkably fit and lean. Plump beer swillers, crisp-eaters and computer game addicts were not in evidence. Some parents, it is true, do get over excited, but they are kept in order by a poster with the headline Don't be an RTP. What is an RTP? A raving touchline parent.

On my way down Mount Sion, I meet the postman coming up. He greets me cheerfully as I greet him on his cheerful mission. A postman's job is surely a happy one. Even in the rain.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

watch, watching, chivalry

On watch for worms and foes alike.

Temporarily incapacitated for heavy work, I can enjoy watching my son, Toby, digging trenches  and planting row upon row of potatoes.

Chivalry has it seems not entirely disappeared from sport. But don't whisper it abroad.  At  the Kent Mini/Midi Rugby Festival in Tonbridge this morning, where I  am watching my two grandsons, in the under eight  and under 11 categories respectively,  playing a game at which they are both very good, I note a couple of hefty girls among the forwards in the under elevens. Girls didn't play rugby in  my time. Boys and girls aren't allowed to play together beyond 11, I am told. Even under 11, they don't like tackling girls, my daughter tells me: "I've heard Josh in the scrum say, 'oops I'm sorry."

Friday, April 01, 2011

ocean, surprise, pie

Ocean is the word which  first comes to mind.

Because they are so small and modest,violets when you spot them, as I do today, are always a surprise. Never more so you encounter them, as I do today, growing next to or near primroses.

The smell of shepherd pie drifts through the house. In its preparation, I make a brunoise of carrot, celery and onion. The smell is of the frying vegetables  and now gently braising minced lamb.  I use the word, brunoise but do I really  know what it means? I look up brunoise in an English dictionary to see if the French word has taken root.  No luck. Even Petit Larouse can't help. But Larousse Gastronomique,  confirms that it  consists of diced root vegetables. Juliennes, a term associated with it, are  long thin strips of meat fish or vegetables. I like these words which always seem to connect to the purposeful  atmosphere of the  professional kitchen.