Wednesday, November 30, 2011

crow beer alas

Today's crow.

My favourite joke at the moment. A girl goes into a pub with her boy friend. The boy friend says:
"I love you." The girl says: "That must be the beer talking." the boy friend says: "No, it's me talking to the beer."

Only one good thing comes out of Barrett Bonden's decision to abandon his thought-provoking and  thoughtful blog called Works Well. It was entertaining, witty and to the point even when its original focus on technology became blurred. The good thing that came out of its closure was an hour- long telephone conversation - good at least for me, rather than for others who have lost Works Well permanently.  Knowledge of Bonden's granite-like character inspires little hope of revival.  His reasons for closing it are mysterious, though we know that someone - another blogger - was wounded by a comment which he made, not on his own blog, but on the other blogger's blog. The whole business is disturbing. As from a face behind a veil two mysterious eyes stare out, benign, kindly, wise, accusing, suspicious, menacing? Who knows? At first my response to the news was such that I reacted to it without fully understanding why Works Well was to go. My comment on Works Well  ( comment number 21 of 21) was written in indignation as well as partial ignorance. However it earned me the epithet "gnomic" which gave BB the opportunity to use the word and me to learn its meaning. Gnomic I like. Now there is the topic Why do people blog to explore, the dangers of blogging and so on. From time time gnomic utterances will now transpire, a poor substitute for those of BB himself.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

entrance identity Kobe

Entrance to  the underworld.

When I was at school I edited with a friend a literary magazine to which both pupils and parents contributed. Among the senior  contributors was the poet Kathleen Raine whose collected poems I have in front of me. I remember one of her poems in particular. It was called Amo Ergo Sum. It began with the lines "Because I love,/ the sun pours out its rays of living gold/ pours out its gold and silver on the sea." I  it remember especially because it was my first of many encounters (anticipating my later employment as an editor which extended for some time into the era of hot metal) with a compositor, or type setter. Knowing nothing of type or magazine layout at the time, I remember feeling immense gratitude for his help. Only his unfamiliarity with Latin and Descartes caused surprise when he referred to the author of the poem as Ergo Sum. It is the wrong reason for remembering a beautiful poem, but such is the way events work on us.

Chris who cuts what remains of my hair is a gourmet. He tells me that he has just cooked and eaten some "Kobe-style" beef. Kobe beef is exceptionally tender, evenly marbled meat, which is  to be produced in the remote region for Japan form which it gets its name. Legend has it  that each animal is looked after by its own keeper and massaged daily with sake. The animals are said to be sustained on beer and corn. Some farmers in the UK and elsewhere in the world are now producing tender beef with similar care and attention (hence Kobe style), though I doubt  that  the detail matches the myth either in Japan or elsewhere. I ate some of the genuine stuff once in Japan and can vouch for its tenderness and flavour. Chris says that having cooked and tasted Kobe style beef he is now intent on trying the real thing. He has found a supplier who charges £160 per kilo. "It's cheaper than going to Japan,"  he says.

Monday, November 28, 2011

plaform factory cat

Waterloo East looking west.

A number of people whom I know have stopped sending Christmas cards. I like  the practise. As you get older it helps establish the fact that are still alive, presuming that you are.  When I don't hear from someone who usually sends cards I confess to worrying a little. I like making Christmas cards. Last year I entrusted the job to a company operating from a shop in Mount Pleasant to whom I supplied my photograph. Their work lacked what shall we say, the love that I try to apply to the job. This year modifying a photograph of a piece of graffiti, imposing a festive message, designing,  printing and folding the card is all my own work and though it may not be highly professional  it is performed with at  least a smidgen of, what shall we say, love.

A neighbours cat which has taken over out garden as a part time resident stops as it crosses the road to inspect me with a resentful stare. I realise that it is the colour of a fox. There are foxes which I have seen recently which I can distinguish from this cat because of their scruffy coats and confident gait. The cat ( is it Burmese of Siamese? It has the lean and hungry look of oriental felines ) is altogether sleeker, and when rebuked for scaring birds, scuttles off  (uncat-like when you think about it), without a shred of dignity.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

lace exageration skating

Posted by Picasa Lacey cobwebs cover  ivy after  frost.

The sun low in the sky this afternoon tends to go the head, so long are the shadows, and so dramatically lit are people's faces and the branches of trees. It is a time for  other sorts of exaggeration. Some young mothers are chatting on domestic matters beside the playground  "My store cupboard is a bit over stocked now. I find I've got 9,000 tins of sweetcorn..." says one.

A skating link has been installed in Calverley Ground. There are floodlights and fairy lights in the trees.  Unfortunately health and safety authorities must have insisted that it is encircled by a fence, so that it is less picturesque than it might otherwise have been,  and all you can see is a sequence of body-less heads  gliding above the parapet.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

chance coincidence bench

Posted by Picasa Sometimes a graffito merges with its background to produce something of interest. This one appears on a lamp post in The Grove. It strikes me that it would be satisfying as an abstract expressionist painting.. My only contribution has been to identify it and crop the resulting photograph.

This  morning I take out my mobile phone to call Mrs Plutarch.  I need to confer about purchases in the market and anticipated guests. The phone vibrates in my hand. I answer it.  It is Mrs Plutarch  calling me.

The other day I spotted in the distance a man sitting on a bench with a woolly dog beside him also on the bench. The dog's paw rested on the man's knee. A second dog sat on the ground under the bench. Today I see the same man and the same dogs. The dog on the bench occupies the same place beside the man, its paw on his knee. The other dog is under the bench.  This second siting with its precise resemblance to the first strikes me as a significant indication of habit and routine as well as of an unusual relationship.

Friday, November 25, 2011

outline time wear

The outline of the tree follows the outline of the leaf. I may be repeating this image or confusing it with one recent photograph which showed the shape of the tree in the veins of a leaf.

We, the gardener and I,  are discussing, in the context of the prolonged Autumn,  the imminence of Winter. "Every week that passes is one less," he says. I know what he means. But the words resonate with meanings beyond my comprehension.

As I walk down Mount Pleasant, I catch sight of an elderly man with a long expressive face caught in a beam of sunlight. I think to myself how much I like the wear and tear on old faces that tells of experience, and a mingling of pain and joy. I exclude my own face from this general preference. I see too much of it when shaving in the morning and know its history too well.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

leaf sermon less

At this time of year I often find myself snapping a leaf like this one, rain soaked and flattened into the pavement.  It is the same sort of photograph, but  of a different leaf faded eroded  to form  a different picture.

Almost by chance I find myself reading, in the King James version of the Bible, the Sermon on the Mount which begins in Chapter 5 of the Gospel according to St Matthew. I read it on my Kindle which makes it surprisingly more accessible than my old bible. So many of the verses are familiar from earlier reading, probably at school, perhaps later, but still a long time ago, that it seems that I am being prompted to recall what I already know by heart.  I find myself surprised,  though it is almost a platitude to say so,  how many of the phrases ( even more than I thought)  are now part of the English language. 
With the recent occupation of the area in front of St Paul's Cathedral in London by anti-capitalists confronting  the  bankers of the City of London, several clerics asked the question: which side would Jesus have been on?  The answer is in The Sermon on the Mount. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and dust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal".
This and what follows  must be among the most often quoted and, at the same time,  the most widely ignored  pieces of advice in any religious doctrine. That may also be said for the earlier demand: "For I say unto you , Love your enemies, bless them  curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you." Not much sign of that nowadays. Or ever.

A familiar sound on the brick pavements of Tunbridge Wells is the rattle of someone pulling  over them an item of wheeled luggage on his or her way to the railway station. Only a few years ago you saw people staggering under the weight of one or two overloaded suitcases, and a heavy puffing sound resulting from the exertion. One thing at least is better than it used to be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

starling working ponies

Bird tree fruited with starlings.

Two days ago our computers stopped receiving signals. And so did the television. Both sets of signals come via cable provided by Virgin. Today the problem is sorted out and so we are back on air and glad of it.

An unusual sight in Tunbridge Wells.  In Grosvenor Road, outside the convenience store are two ponies each harnessed to a one-seater tubular metal trap. Beside them are two lads snacking on packets of crisps. They tell me that they race them. "Where", I say. Anywhere we can,"  they say. A few minutes later, I am walking up Mount Pleasant. I hear the clop of hooves. There are the ponies with their owners trotting up the hill among  the traffic.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

branch opposites Routemaster

Branch inThe Grove.

Some of the buildings in Tunbridge Wells - the main line railway station for example - seem to be constructed in such a way that you imagine, because one side is more impressive than the other,  that what was intended to be the front is at the back and vice versa. Sometimes I have a similar impression with people. You see someone from behind to find when you have caught up with them that you have gained a completely false impression. You may say that one is misled by a false description.

In Piccadilly we board a Routemaster bus with a rear platform and a conductor.  It must be one of the very last in service. It is painted a cream colour rather than the traditional red. The  young conductor is too  deep in conversation  with a young passenger with a rucksack about uprisings in The Middle East, rebellions and freedom, to look at our bus passes.  They are in agreement about the wickedness of those in power, authority and force of arms. This is London. Where else? A sense of fete is in the air. Bliss to be alive. Who can dissent?

If anyone wonders why the text is centred, it is because I have a formatting problem with Blogger.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

wall staring shard

A  central heating vent, a hook and a rusty stain on the wall of the pub.

In the restaurant where we are having lunch there is a man of vast girth sitting at a table opposite ours.  Mrs Plutarch has her back to him and cannot see him. He and his party, the bill paid, rise and prepare to leave. I whisper and mouth to Mrs P,  a fellow people watcher who is  deprived of this particular  view, the word "enormous". Unfortunately one of the big man's party catches me in the act. With an understanding smile, however, he nods goodbye, making me feel a little less uncomfortable, but still uncomfortable. How lamentably far I have come from the time when as a child I was admonished not to stare. I stare all the time. "Curiosity killed the cat!" they used to say. But cats have nine lives.

Beside London Bridge Station the new glass and steel building known as The Shard because of its blade-like, tapering shape is nearing completion. A crane working, it seems non-stop, is hoisting glass panels and other components into position. The crane reaches into the clouds above the summit of the building's towering frame. An enclosed walkway or lift tracks the crane to the top. I think of the  driver and the  view of London he must enjoy, in his precipitous cab,  as he manages his controls.

Friday, November 18, 2011

message tap like

Posted by Picasa Before the pub the works - the imprint of a former occupation above The Compasses.

Item on my restaurant bill : " One jug of tap £00.00."

On the train going  home today there are - like- two school girls and they are - like - talking most of the time about - like - boys. And they have - like a lot to say about boys, and - like - show that  "like" is a useful word to indicate- like - how  to talk about whatever boy is- like - on your mind - like- at the moment.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

wild crisp bench

Posted by Picasa There is not much wild about our neighbourhood. Technically I suppose the  squirrels in The Grove are wild.  They subsist on  acorns and beechnuts provided by the trees, and depend  on the human population only in as much as it encourages the trees and preserves a relatively unfettered environment. On the whole people do not feed the squirrels and do not discourage their dogs from chasing  them. From time to time Tunbridge Wells Borough Council initiates a cull by leaving poison in boxes at the top of trees, which reduces their numbers. As a rule the squirrels do not allow you to come too close before they run off. This one is an exception, but there is still a hint of wildness in its eye, the shadow of suspicion and if you look closely the image of the photographer.

When I was a child there was a  breakfast cereal called Rice Krispies, a sort of popcorn using rice instead of corn. ( Through Google  I learn that Kellogg's still produces it). The slogan which encouraged its use played on the noise it made "crackle, crackle pop" when milk was added .This must have appealed to me as a four year old because I have not forgotten the noise or the sense of anticipation promised and satisfied. Today I remember it when I hear the last of the Autumn leaves going" crackle, crackle pop" in the breeze.

There is a bench in The Grove which carries a brass plaque indicating that it was donated by the Friends of the Grove to commemorate The Great Storm of 1987 when so many of the existing trees were felled by the wind. I remember going to bed shortly after 1 am, when the hurricane had not yet struck, and waking up five hours later to scenes of devastation. Because one's life is divided onto distinct periods of varying lengths, and  because the present period includes The Great Storm,  it still seems to me to be a relatively recent event. Yet 24 years is no minuscule parcel of time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

profiles warning bee

Posted by Picasa Profiles in an oak against the evening sky.

I hear a tinkling sound from the wilderness of the neglected garden next door. It is a cat stalking in some shrubs and long grass. The bell on its collar warns its prey. Cruel to the cat whose nature is crossed?  Or to the birds who are alerted?

A bumble bee, this morning, unaware that it is mid November, hovers round the spent flowers of a lace cap hydrangea,  while the last  dead leaves of the lime tree over the lawn flutter to earth.

Monday, November 14, 2011

balls lamb foxy

Posted by Picasa There are two games - cricket and tennis - which have  given me more pleasure than any other, and still do vicariously. In my study two reminders of these sports persist in the forms of the appropriate balls. Where precisely they came from I cannot remember, but they remain pleasing souvenirs. I like the way, in this picture which I have just taken,  the cricket ball seems to be floating a few centimeters above the table, no deliberate photographic trick, just chance.

At the Farmers' Market on Saturday a couple who are sheep farmers sell finely sliced, smoked, air dried lamb, which resembles Parma ham or the Spanish Serrano ham which is cured in a similar way. I offer some to our guests who find it succulent. And so do I.

At The Compasses they talk of Spud Taylor who once attached a dog lead to a fox fur stole which, to the  consternation of the staff, he "took for a walk" round Marks & Spencer, stopping from time to time to admonish the ersatz animal,  for failing to keep up with him.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

last fly agaric silence

Posted by Picasa  A late nasturtium,  lit and shaded by the the low sun of a November afternoon.

In the triangular shrubbery in Berkeley Road, known as The Village Green, several fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) are sprouting from among the dead leaves. The red mushrooms with white spots were used to stun or kill flies. You left chopped up pieces in a saucer of milk and flies drawn to the milk succumbed.  As far as human beings are concerned the fungus is a powerful hallucinogen. Laplanders noticed the effect that it had on reindeer which it made drowsy. The Lapps used to swallow it in a dried state. It  induced dizziness and a death like sleep which must have had some sort of mystical significance. Don't try it at home. It can kill.

At 11 o'clock this morning everything stops in Sainsbury's in order to observe the two minute silence for Rememberance Sunday. It is always a moving moment mercifully free of politics and one hopes of national preference. In the supermarket, where shoppers stuff their bags at the checkouts and  bar code readers emit  endless competitive pinging sounds, there is sudden halt to the flow of cash in and the  flow of goods out. The unaccustomed silence has a special significance. People's faces relax as the usually frantic shoppers stand in the shopping aisles as though stunned  by an enchanter.

Friday, November 11, 2011

somewhere shocked rudeness

Posted by Picasa Overhead  a plane full of people is going somewhere.

In an article in today's paper on food  preparation is this quote, picked out in bold type: "I was truly shocked at  how easy it was to make cheese." I feel unpersuaded to read on.

Rudeness has an appeal all of its own. It adds a harshness and sour flavour to shopping chores, which sharpen the appetite. In a cutlers shop today I ask about butter knives. I indicate a broad bladed knife with a large flat hook instead of a handle. The hook is almost the same size as the blade. "Is this a butter knife?" I ask. "Yes," says a surly attendant. "What is this for? " I ask indicating the hook/handle. "I don't know," he says."We're closing down. There's 40 per cent off." When asked he shows me a more conventional butter knife which I buy. There is 40 per cent off the price. But that isn't the point.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

window rescue 21

Posted by PicasaFeet and shoes.

There is a neighbour who loves other living creatures as St Francis must have done. I have seen here help trapped spiders.  She will rescue bird and door mice,  bees and  butterflies. The other day after heavy rain  a lot of earthworms come out to dry in the sun. Many have strayed on to the footpath. Without a moment's hesitation she begins meticulously to transfer the worms out of the way of thoughtless feet.

"I'd  like to be 21 again," says Bill at The Compasses, "and know then what I know now!"

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

apples turf framed

Posted by PicasaLast apples cling to an old tree.

In The Grove they  grub out with the help of a small mechanical digger and a mechanical shovel a  bank of untidy shrubs next to the playground. They  replace  the shrubs with turf.  The turf arrives in a van  in strips like rolled strips of green carpet. And the new grass ism settled into place as quickly as a carpet.

In a single moment a picture composes itself among fallen leaves and the trunks of trees. The two crows, so often present in The Grove, waddle across the frame while four squirrels scamper around them.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

art toneless glumes

Posted by Picasa Part art. Someone has left an adhesive graffito on a  rusting metal  casing. Erosion, if it has not improved it, has neatly modified.

There is an absence of tone in The Grove this afternoon. The ground strewn with leaves, the paths brown, the shrubs, black and ochre, the trees trunks slate-coloured, the branches  scratched against a grey sky. It is not raining but the still air is full of moisture and heavy drops  condense and fall from above with an occasional  plop. 

The Observers Book of Grasses, Sedges and Rushes sits on my desk. I enjoy reading about Glumacious  plants ( a lovely word  which  goes some way to explain my pleasure)  if only for the vocabulary which comes with them.  An example from the introduction: " The naturalist understands by "grass" such plants only as fall under the description given below of the Gramineae, a natural family of the larger order  Glumaceae which differ from most other flowering plants  in having their flowers enclosed in chaffy scales or  glumes known as spikelets."
It  is apparently common to confuse  the grass family with other members of the Glumaceous order belonging to the family of Cyperaceae or sedges. It is pleasing to be reminded that bamboos of which tall forests are found in Asia, are grasses. And sugar cane too.

Monday, November 07, 2011

mystery waiting apples

Posted by Picasa Mysterious window.

A menacing traffic warden seems to threaten us, car-less as we are, as we walk down Grosevenor Road. He fixes his eye on me from under his cruel hat. "You can't wait there, mate," he says. To my relief he is addressing not me but the driver of a car drawing up behind me. But you never know nowadays.

Alongside the garden where I grow vegetables,  the deserted garden  of an empty house is layered with blackened stalks, fading grass, and thistles which have flowered and flopped.  Everything this morning is sere and damp. But apples still hang  on to the branches an old tree that has lost its leaves.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

rose netsuke white beans

Posted by PicasaThe last rose of summer.

Nick the fishmonger who is a collector of netsuke, the little Japanese carvings, greets me in the supermarket. He produces from his pocket a small bag which he opens to reveal  a green dragon meticulously carved in wood. 

Coming home from a quick turn round The Grove we meet the two grown-up daughters of some friends. They have had  Sunday lunch with their parents and tell us about the neck of lamb caserole served with leeks and a  white bean and garlic purée, instead of mashed potatoes, which their parents cooked for them. The cold wind blows round our ears and makes us hungry.

My reply to Lucy Kempton's question: If you could would you go? has been posted with Lucy's approval and some of her suggested improvements on our Compasses blog.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

chair alright doubt

Posted by PicasaHoliday file still active. Chair for shadow.

 Is that a four letter word I hear? I am standing outside the small open space outside Hall's Bookshop where vehicles maneouvre and unload. Yes it is. "Fucking hell," shouts an angry man. A hired van has just failed to knock him flat. He is sturdy and agile and not above being coarse when coarseness is called for.  "I'm very sorry," says the driver of the van, who looks as though he is not used to the vans ways particularly in reverse. He leans out of the window.  "Are you alright?" "I'm always fucking alright." Tunbridge Wells is all the better for a little metal sometimes.

Bertrand Russell quoted in the The New York Times says: "The fundemental cause of trouble in the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt". That has always struck me as true. It explains why so many politicians appear  or feel that they ought to appear so sure of themselves.

Friday, November 04, 2011

balanced starlings found

Posted by PicasaPigeon posing in the Pantiles.

There are more starlings around this year I am glad to say. This morning there is a tree in The Grove laden with them. As I look up at them and listen  to their fluting chatter, a man stops and says: "Where are they going? They do have a chirrup don't they?"

On my way to the fishmonger I buy some milk at the convenience store with what I think is a "£20 00 note. At the fishmonger I find that I have only the change from a "£10.00 in my wallet. Did I get the wrong change from the milk purchase? Or was I mistaken about  the note. I call in at the store on my way home,. "No," says the young man, "you gave me a £10.00 note". I believe him because I am quite likely to have been wrong, my mind  being on other things. But it turns out that I was right all along.  When I get home, the young man at the store takes the trouble to ring me up and tell me that I must have dropped the £10.00 from my change on the floor. Apparently a customer had picked up.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

brand ageing chips

Posted by Picasa Some brands are beautiful regardless of the necessary commerce which gives birth to them.

As I pass the  friendly shoe mender's next to the station and catching a glimpse of him behind his counter, I realize that the mender is no longer the young man that I knew when I first lived in Tunbridge Wells. Other people show their years. And I must show them too, except that when I face a mirror I do not look for them.  What is more I seem to employ a natural filtration system to avoid them catching me unawares.

I knew that sooner or later the poem that I submitted to Qarrtsuluni in September  on the theme of Worship was going to be published, podcast and all. It is still a bit of a shock or rather a pleasant surprise when  today it comes up on the magazine's regular prompt announcing its posts. Dave Bonta who introduces the poem is kind enough to remind me and others that this is my sixth appearance on Qarrtsiluni. I always wondered what it would be like to be a published poet. Now  I feel that I am beginning to know.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

posing coach works creatures

Posted by Picasa Mr Crow poses for camera in The Grove. I agree with Martha, The Crow's comment here the other day about the "unintentional pomposity" of crows. They are self-important above all else. The way people can be self-important. Anthropomorphism is a weakness of mine, but crows seem to invite it.

This used to be a "coach works" says Bill referring to a former function of The Compasses pub outside which we are sitting. At our feet is a circular sheet of steel about two meters in diameter.  There is a space in the centre now filled with tarmac. The steel is painted black.  He explains that the wheel was placed over the steel; molten metal was poured into the central  hole for the hub; and strips of metal applied to the rim of the wheel. The metal tightened round the rim, and the spokes shrunk into position. "No glue, screws or rivets needed." How often have I seen and trodden on that circle of black steel and not given a thought to its purpose!

This morning I am early in The Grove. People dressed  for work are hurrying in the direction of the station. A woman with two energetic dogs, which are haring about among the trees,  remarks as I watch and photograph a squirrel  reaching  for a nut while balanced on  a branch : "I like watching squirrels. They run up  tree trunks and play hide and seek with the dogs. I like them: little, living creatures." As I walk on she says: "Have a nice day." The phrase seems to be catching on, on this side of the pond. But seems to have more meaning here than on the other side, perhaps because, there, it has been longer in use.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

fall warden riots

Posted by PicasaAutumn in The Grove or if you like Fall. Either way all the leaves are going to come off and soon.

Over the top of a car a military hat passes.  I look again to see if a guards officer or the like is walking past The |Compasses. But no it is a traffic warden.

On the BBC website there are photographs taken by Lewis Wheld of the riots in London last summer. Most people I know felt rather ashamed that they occurred regardless of why they did. It now seems that it was less a social protest or a instance of gang culture gone mad, rather than a spontaneous outburst of greed and lawlessness. Pictures of worried faces against a background of shops on fire and broken windows, firemen with hoses, policemen running with riot shields. A rioter in a mask and hood his arms outstretched  triumphantly above his head and  a solitary fireman  surrounded by billowing smoke stick in the mind. Not the place to censor or seek to explain, rather  to admire the photographs which show homo sapiens in chaos.