Tuesday, July 31, 2012

sea front salsa fossicker

St Leonards' sea front where oldies can watch the sea from sheltered benches.

Salsa tonight. Easy I think. But I always forget how long it takes to chop and mix together the ingredients in the right proportions. Avocado, tomato, onion, chili, coriander, lime (peeled and chopped, not just the juice).  I test it as I go along, adjusting the ingredients, until the taste coincides with the way I remember it. It must I imagine have varied and changed with the years.

The ginger, almost orange cat, which I see in the vegetable gardens sometimes, appears this morning on top of the wheelie bins opposite which have been left out for collection. One of the bins is full and gapes open. Its lid  is raised like a shark's upper jaw. The cat investigates with its paw but the contents have been neatly packed in plastic waste bags. They seem impregnable.  After a while it jumps off and disappears in pursuit of fresh fields and pastures new. An inveterate fossicker, I share it disappointment.

Monday, July 30, 2012

go lost seeds

You can walk now across the road now. Or the globe. I like the way the green man glitters with energy and good intentions.

The other day I lose my passport. Perhaps mislay is a better word. It is on my desk when last I remember communing with it. When I return a couple of hours later it has gone. It should have been put it away in a drawer. But it it isn't there either. All sorts of possibilities cross my mind.  I look in the drawer below. And the one below that. Still no passport.  Perhaps I misfiled it and taking the file with me dropped the passport at the bank. I enquire but nothing is found. I even ask at the police station. No luck. I go through every file I possess. I wake up at night thinking about where I could have put it. Then this morning go through the likely places again. One drawer I haven't checked is the bottom drawer of the four drawers in the desk. Not there. But why not take out the drawer just in case - most unlikely scenario -  it has  slipped behind? And there it is, right at the back. Moral. Follow the logic of where a lost object should be rather than waste energy on  distant, random possibilities.

This is the time of year when the seeds of the lime tree across the road turn yellow, and anticipating autumn, float down in the wind, their crisp bracts spinning. Usually when they begin to accumulate  in the gutter like this  we are enjoying long summer days and the hints of autumn which they bring are not unpleasing. But this year when there has barely been any summer, they seem early and presumptuous.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

stop swifts double

Don't walk. Stay put on the curb.

Before the jet stream changed course again, a couple of evenings ago on a warm evening  after a rare warm day, we are sitting in the garden beside the scaffolding. "Swifts," says Mrs P. and sure enough we hear, before we see them, their high pitched cries  as they slice the air in  pursuit of insects less agile then they. They are flying higher than usual, and despite estimations of their scarcity this year, more than I have seen  together round here for a long time, perhaps 20 or 30 of them high above the roof tops, constantly on the move.

"Double? " Danny recalls working in a bar when he was 17. A big bloke with a tattoo on his neck ask for a gin. "Double or single?  Silly question: "Does a bird fly on one wing?" was the response which 30 years later he hasn't forgotten.  Danny likes to quote songs "Nine o'clock on a Saturday night. There's an old man sitting next to me, making love to his tonic and gin."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

green memories cake

Essay in green.

In a road where I used to live 30 years ago, as though inspired  by Higgs bosons memories gather mass. In the front garden of the house which belonged to me I notetwo shrubs - a philadelphus (mock orange)  and a hypericum Hidcote. I  very well recall planting them in the position in which they are now apparently flourishing.

On the street on the other side of the hedge two mothers with push chairs are talking as they walk past: "I can't eat cake, " says one. "I can't stop eating it," says the other.

Friday, July 27, 2012

pink spry shampoo

Essay in pink.

Ahead of me in Mount Sion is a spry, very small, old lady.  Hers grey hair is cropped short. She is wearing shorts  and boots, and  carries on her back a large rucksack.  She has slightly bow legs with which she achieves a brisk pace.

As I leave the health food shop I catch sight of a bottle of shampoo. Apart from the word shampoo on the label and given equal prominence is the  word "Barefoot". Close inspection reveals that Barefoot is a brand. But for a moment I play with the idea of a shampoo for feet. If I remember correctly Hobbits have hairy feet. I suggest a connection to the health food lady, who smiles without humour.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

orange bull cockles

Essay in orange.

Seen from the train: in the middle of an otherwise empty field, a large black bull with fierce horns curving from his head.

I'm going down to the sea, says a loquacious plumber (it sounds from his earlier conversation that he is a plumber not currently working). He makes room for us to share the bench he is occupying on the platform. I'm going to the end of Hastings near the fishermens' huts. I going to drink a glass of beer with some cockles. And then I'll come home."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

white self-seeded freedom

Essay in white.

Most of my tomatoes have gone for compost such as been the cold weather with which the summer started. But amazing among the dahlias a tomato plant self-seeded from last year sprouts healthily. No sign of flowers yet let alone fruit. But perhaps with the warm weather of the last few days the plant which grew by chance will show the others up.

Always  tempted to identify  human attitudes, motives  and emotions with other creatures in  the animal kingdom, and for the most part rejecting the temptation,  I can't help thinking of the idea of freedom, when I watch a butterfly escape from the anti-pigeon netting stretched over the broccoli.  Uncharacteristically it flies off  almost in a straight line. . Phew. That was an narrow escape. Won't go back there again in a hurry.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

honeysuckle identity jokes

Opening time for honeysuckle.

An elderly neighbour whom  I don't know very well smiles at me as she passes. "Is it Mr Johnson from across the road?" she asks. I am at first not sure to whom she is referring and then I realise that she thinks  that I may be Mr Johnson. "I'm not Mr Johnson, " I say.  As she draws close she apologises screwing up her eyes. "The sun was in my eyes", she says.

Ready made jokes in crackers, in the rear windows of cars in the form of graffiti on lavatory walls on greetings cards are always suspect it seems to me, like ready meals or take-away pizzas. But they nevertheless have a culture of their own, which perhaps should be observed as an expression of a national humour. Behind the bar at The Crown in Groombridge a notice reads "Eat less, don't drink, die anyway."

Monday, July 23, 2012

blue jump money

Essay in blue.

Outside the post office in Sevenoaks a long pink  strip about 1.5meters wide had been painted on the pavement.  A plaque announces that in the 1996 Olympics Kenny Harrison of the USA jumped 18.09 meters in the triple jump, the length of the strip which is marked off in meters. I walk the length of it and wonder at the power and skill  required to achieve such a feat. In the London Olympics I shall watch the triple jump event with added interest

"Vulgar stuff, money!" says the decorator as he  pockets  an advance payment for the work on the house. "But useful," I say.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

sky wrapped chimes

Sometimes we forget to look up.

On the lid of a rubbish bin in The Grove two rolls of  flowered wall paper lie side by side still in their cellophane wrapping.

Chimes emerge from the frail body of an aged man sitting at the bus stop. For a long time he ignores it. You begin to doubt if the mobile telephone is his. He is not the sort of person who would possess one. But eventually he searches in this pocket for the offending hardware. With difficulty he switches it on and brings it up  to his ear. "I can't hear you," he says.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

attraction panic cobweb

At one end of the vegetable garden there seems to be a dearth of bees and butterflies in the Summer. So last Spring, across a flower bed I spread a muslin sheet impregnated, if that is the right word, with hundreds of seeds, of insect-attracting plants. The result exceeds expectation. And here is a bee, one of many which have arrived, and very welcome too.
 In the train, I hear  the voice of a woman  behind me say to her companion, like the owner of the voice, out of sight, "I don't know why I woke up this morning panicking. I had to get up..."  I think to myself that a door is left ajar revealing for a moment a glimpse of someone's entire life.

An early start this morning. The sun is low in the sky.  No one is in The Grove.  A freshly spun cobweb gleams behind one of the litter bins. Something you might expect in Autumn but not perhaps in July.

Friday, July 20, 2012

mallow torch fox

Mallow in its commoner forms has a tall untidy habit but its large, purple flowers are photogenic. The translucent petals  show off their fine veins and with the shadow of other petals behind them, a  range of tonal variation, which is not always  so evident in other flowers.

With the London  Olympics due to begin next week preparations are starting to intrude and the arrangements, security and otherwise, to irritate members of the public, but to be positive about the games, it seems that many people are genuinely excited about their proximity.  Hundreds of thousands of people have lined the streets to see the torch which has been carried through   UK towns and highroads and nothing should be allowed to take away their pleasure at the spectacle. Last week it was carried up Tunbridge Wells High Street. We asked our friendly waitress at The Tunbridge Wells Bar and Grill in The High Street whether she had seen it pass. "I held it," she said beaming at the memory. "The lady in charge of it gave it to me to hold."

The garden next door to the vegetable garden, as I said the other day, is now deliciously wild. Bushes have outgrown  their former gentility and their branches have mingled  freely with undergrowth and creeping and climbing plants. As I go to the fence to look into the patches of darkness which lurk in the middle of them, the grass parts and a large fox emerges.  I have noticed foxes when disturbed do not scamper away like other wild animals. This one is no exception. It walks off with quiet dignity as a human being might to find a more peaceful place to sleep.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

bud Shakespeare linguine

In the foreground a rosebud with  one visiting greenfly. In the back ground a section of the vegetable garden.
On the radio I hear someone talking about Robin Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. What I didn't realise was that he and his fellow detainees were forbidden reading matter - a terrible punishment. They managed however to smuggle into their cells a single copy of Shakespeare's plays which were read assiduously over the years.
This evening a seafood linguine made with scallops, prawns, clams and razor clams. The crustacea will be dressed in a cream sauce flavoured with dry Vermouth

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

boots frock mullein

Every now and then a blogger publishes a photograph of his or her boots. It is a subject I always enjoy. Boots can reveal a lot about a person. So rather than talk about myself I will confined myself to say that I have had these rather smart boots for about 25 years. Fairly recently I upgraded them for use in the garden, where they have developed a character of their own. You could say in a manner of speaking that we're mates, these boots and I.

In the supermarket a tall man hurries with  long strides on his way to the check out. He is wearing an anorak and,  reaching just beneath his knees, a frock with a flower pattern.

The garden next door to my vegetable garden has been deserted and left to grow wild for the last  two years.  There are tall nettles with straggling green beards,   the rusty flowers of docks, sow thistles and bindweed scrambling everywhere with its  white bell-shaped flowers. Blackberry and fuschia mingle. And the metal poles from which  gardener used to string his beans has collapsed to form a lopside pyramid. Standing high above the wilderness two stately mullein project their yellow inflorescences into the sky. The garden variety is known by the family name, verbascum. Pax verbascum, I can't help saying to myself.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

spit crowds admiration

Roasting at The Farmer's Market in Civic Way. Whether you want to hog roast hog or not, the smell sharpens the appetite.

The Olympic Torch is carried through Tunbridge Wells this morning. Crowds line the streets. They wave union jacks and long sausage-like balloons. Olympic flags are  nowhere in evidence. Sponsorship rules apparently prohibit their use except by sponsors at the Olympic site. A strange intrusion into commercial freedom. But I suppose the games have to be paid for. Away from the streets the parks are empty. A helicopter meanwhile hovers overhead. The horrendous din adds something sinister to what is on the whole a joyful occasion.

Grant and Mick, who are painting the house, cross the road to  look up and admire their handiwork. This time last year they were decorating the house two doors away. We asked them them do ours because we liked the pride they took in their work.

Monday, July 16, 2012

rock July haiku meaning

Much photographed at the highest point of The Common is a granite outcrop on which young and old have scrambled for generations. Examined closely the texture of the rock is not so easily identifiable as the familiar Tunbridge Wells outline. This would be a colour photograph if there were any colour other than black and white in the rock.

July haiku
In the summer rain
ripening rowen berries
have switched to amber

The  old lady, who curled her lip when I mentioned Shakespeare the other day, responds to my "good morning" in this morning's grey drizzle with a faint smile. "One day we'll be able to say good morning when we really mean it".  I think I could become fond of her.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

lavender Shakespeare morning glory

The colour of lavender. Pastel. Blue and purple and some white on display in Calverley Ground. Worth a diversion  in the direction of the former rose garden in the sunken area beneath what used to be the bowling green. So much better than the formal arrangement of bedding plants in so many public gardens.

"Is your television working now", I ask an elderly lady who had problems after the  recent nation-wide switch to digital. "Yes," she says and goes into detail about how helpful the young man was who came to adjust it. "But there's nothing much worth seeing" I mention Shakespeare - Henry lV  "part 2 was on last night at peak viewing time. She curls her lip and turns away. A good conversation stopper. I make a note to keep it in reserve for emergencies.

In the Spring Geoff gave me some morning glory seeds in an old tobacco carton. Every one of the seeds germinated. I set them out in a flower bed so that they could climb up some roses and other shrubs, but as I knew the scaffolders followed by decorators were coming, I transferred some to a large clay pot in case the others wouldn't survive. This precaution proved a wise one. The plants in the bed have been trampled into oblivion but those in the pot are flourishing. I make a pyramid with bamboo round which  the tendrils of the seedlings are already  winding with almost unseemly enthusiasm.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

seeds interesting lunch

A close look always repays attention.  How the seeds adhere to a dandelion clock. A pattern and texture to consider carefully.

People who work in service industries where they meet the public regularly seem to be trained to make small talk whenever a silence ensues. Some are better at it than others. I find myself collecting the formulaic questions which they put to you. One of my favourite is "Are you doing anything interesting this weekend?"  Today from a young woman in the building society.  I have noted it here before but confess to having  failed to arrive at  a suitable, formulaic reply.

Outside an Italian restaurant chain in Mount Pleasant a blackboard announces at the head of a list of menu items, "Lunch on the Run". A worrying idea. Bad for the digestion and for the state of calm that a good lunch should induce. I can't imagine such a proclamation making much impact in France where lunch is supposed to be a sacred institution. But perhaps no longer. Judging by descriptions of the feeding habits of contestants in the Tour de France this massive race must be an exception.

Friday, July 13, 2012

grass 2 names sounds

Grass again. This time in Calverley Park. Here are the names of  some grasses: Sweet vernal grass, Holy grass, Feather grass, Timothy grass,  Common bent, Loose silky-bent; Meadow fox tail; Yorkshire fog; Silvery hair grass; Hairy oat grass, Cock's foot, Sheep's fescue .... I don't know precisely the names of those in my picture but one day I promise myself I will learn to identify the different grasses which grow on heath and meadow, hill and verge.

I'm looking forward Henry IV Part 2 on BBC 2 on Saturday, having caught up with Part 1 on BBC I Player and the catch-up facility on our TV. Although I know these plays reasonably well, returning to  them and  Richard II, which precedes them,  via these remarkable productions, as ever when rereading Shakespeare, brings new dimensions and new aspects of the plays to wonder at.  Much of the genius of the history plays is to be found in the support provided for historical by invented characters.The  multi-layered creation of Falstaff apart ( if there were no other, surely a  mark of  the author's genius)  the names alone of  his companions Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet, Pistol and Poins are inspired. Dickens is good at inventing names, but too often they move from likely names into fantasy and caricature. Shakespeare's names  manage both to paint a picture and at the same time to make you believe that they are the  names of real people. No better instance than  the law officers Fang and Snare and country soldiers Ralph Mouldy,Peter Bullcalf, Francis Feeble and Thomas Wart In HIV2.

Devices to clap over your ears to listen to music or pod casts seem to proliferate. They are one aspect of  technology which I can reject without difficulty. Even when  there is a din as there as in the last few days with painters banging and scraping at the fabric of the house, I feel the need to hear the real world at work in the background to whatever else I may be listening. Someone the other day called it "soundscape" For similar reasons I shun sunglasses which modify the colours in my field of vision.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

grass forecast 2,500

No apologies for continuing to talk about long grass. In the interests of the environment it seems that stretches of grass which were previously cropped  in early summer are now allowed to grow long and wild. In Tunbridge Wells this is the case in The Grove,  on the wide verges of London Road and in Clearly Park opposite the Decimus Burton houses, and I dare say elsewhere.  If  this land management philosophy  saves money so much to the good, but its chief benefit is to attract butterflies and bees and  to ease the eye and please the other senses too. Even our hearing. Listen to the wind blowing through the seed heads.

It rains nearly every day now. Except Thursdays. Mrs Plutarch noticed that on her birthday three Thursdays ago, the sun shone for most of the day. Last Thursday it was the same story, and this Thursday, it has been fine all day until about an hour ago when it began to shower. Hats off to her, I say. Forecasters using science to make their predictions do not seem to do much better. We're planning a picnic for next Thursday.

It nearly escaped me but I see from Blogger's stats that a couple of days ago I wrote my 2,500th post. I have missed daily posting only very seldom. It has begun to feel like second nature, yet sometimes it seems that I only started blogging the other day. One thing is certain. I would at a loss to know what to do if my senses were not sharpened by the process of  recording the events which, at least for me,  give them meaning.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

hypericum sills sweet corn

Hypericum calcynum. I always found this shrub or sub shrub, as one of my books calls it, rather brassy, a little pushy you might say. And then I realised that what I didn't like about it  was its shiny leaves and its untidy habit.  In the wild it is known as Rose of Sharon or Aaron's beard. The flower itself, I have come to admire because it  looks like the sun.  It's the same with  other cultivated hypericums. Cut away the undergrowth and shape the shrub and the flowers seem a lot more attractive.
In the wild you have a number of hypericums more modest in their appearance under the banner of St John's wort. As a herb it has a lot of medical uses against among other complaints nervous disorders.
The name hypericum comes from the Greek and means "over an apparition", a reference to the belief that the herb is so obnoxious to evil spirits that a mere whiff of it causes them to fly off. Another reason for liking the plant.

The painters hack away at  some rotten sills under our windows.  " This should make good kindling," says Grant, "know anyone with an open fire?" We do. Our shredded window sills go into a big plastic bag and are delivered to a neighbour who welcomes them  into his shed.

In the vegetable garden the wet weather has brought on the sweet corn which is already sprouting embryonic ears. Whether the corn will ripen  without sunshine is another matter. But the tall plants with  their elegant plumes are decorative enough at the moment whatever becomes of them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

green Biffa terms

Now you can go.
 Verde que te quiero verde. "Green how much I love you green. Green wind, green boughs. The ship on the sea, the horse on the mountain. With the shadow at her waist she dreams on her balcony, green flesh, green hair, with eyes of cold silver. Green how much I want you green...." 
Fifty years ago I learnt Spanish so that I could read this and other poems by Federico Garcia Lorca, in the original language.

If you had to invent a name for a company in the business of emptying wheelie bins, hoisting and tipping them  with a hydraulic device at the rear of their lumbering vehicles, Biffa would do very well. But you don't have to invent it, I think to myself, as I watch a bin rising in the air and  being tipped through 100 deg as though it is tankard of beer being quaffed.   A google search reveals that Biffa was founded more than 80 years ago as a road haulage business. It has since diversified into "integrated waste management".  The hydraulics make a wild bellowing noise as they perform their task, almost a note of triumph.

The painter who preparing the front of the house before painting it,  is still scraping and scratching, banging and filling  and sanding. He gives me the terms for  the wooden structure between  the roof and the stucco wall. "That's a finial," he says. "That's the gable end, that the facia, and that's the soffit." I like to know what's what.

Monday, July 09, 2012

amber weather weights

The light that says: hang on a moment, further instructions to come. Some points to meditate on while waiting for the lights to change.  Amber is a courtesan in the eponymous  novel by Kathleen Winser set in the latter half of the Seventeenth Century, notorious when it was published in the 1940s. It was condemned  by the Catholic Church which helped sales considerably.  Amber is fossilised remains of  resin from extinct coniferous trees. It is used for ornaments and sometimes contains the embalmed bodies of insects. Hence "a fly in amber". It burns with an agreeable odour and when rubbed becomes charged with static electricity.  The word electric is derived from the Greek word for amber. Ambergris is a string smelling wax-like secretion from the intestine of the sperm whale found floating in tropical seas. It is used in perfumes. The word is derived from  the medieval French ambre gris, meaning grey amber.

People are becoming irritated with the weather I notice, pursing their lips and complaining. They seem to take the unremitting sequence of rainy days as a personal afront.

Among Nassim Nicholas Taleb's aphorisms included in his invaluable book The Bed of Procrustes, I read: "Upon arriving at the hotel in Dubai, the business man had a porter carry his luggage. I later saw him lifting free weights in the gym."

Sunday, July 08, 2012

red exchange postponed

I hadn't thought much about traffic lights until recently but the closer you look at them the less they seem to have to do only with controlling traffic.

Some  freshly cut lettuces delivered  to a neighbour produces an unexpected response. I am handed a freshly roasted potato,  hot and crisp and tasting of chicken fat.

Here am I looking forward to Henry IV Part 1 on the television, only to find that at 9pm when it is advertised to begin, it is postponed. And why? An English tennis player is one of a pair playing in the mens' doubles final at Wimbledon. And the match goes on and on. I like tennis and despite  Dr Johnson's  observation that patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel, patriotic too. But there's a limit. Shakespeare an hour late stretches tolerance to the limit. I wonder if the bard would have had something caustic to unloose.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

lights 2 scarlet pimpernel curtain

Light at one end and lights at the other end of the tunnel outside Tunbridge Wells Station.

Scarlet pimpernel is almost the first flower of which I learnt the name. I remember being told that if it closed its small, bright red petals it would rain.  In some parts of the country it is known as sheperds' weather glass.This year, with its creeping habit,  it is rampant among the potatoes in the vegetable garden. And it rains every day. I wonder that it opens at all, but it does.  It seems on the whole to be doing better than the potatoes which are already showing signs of blight.  In fact very little else seems to be intruding in the potato rows. If weeds are plants growing where they shouldn't, scarlet pimpernel is I suppose a weed, except that I refuse to designate as such. It was Baroness Orczy who adopted the flower as the cover name of her hero Sir Percy Blakeney in her historical romances describing his exploits rescuing of victims of The French Revolution from the guillotine. No weed.

In a room  seen through an open window a curtain sways and billows in  a dance without rhythm.

Friday, July 06, 2012

lights builder guard

My recent interest in the graphic possibilities of traffic lights has expanded to take in their photographic potential. More work needed in both departments.

In The Grove a squirrel with a long twig in one claw stands upright. I pull out my camera, but the little creature scarpers, before I have time to snap him looking like a squirrel warrior with a spear.

A security guard enters the bank. He is wearing a helmet with the visor raised. He is dressed mostly in black with some orange stripes and looks sinister enough. But worse, he is carrying a secure box on which the word Warning is printed in large letters. The problem is that the the last syllable of the word is obscured so that it reads War.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

honeysuckle days rarity

Honeysuckle time. This red one has a bit more style than most, a little forward you might say compared to its creamy cousins.
Thee days when our lives were ruled by a diary are no more. And I don't miss them. An old New Yorker cartoon  where a couple on  a European tour confirm which city they are passing through with the words "if it's Tuesday, it must be Lisbon," comes to mind. I remember this when I consider how I can often  I know what day it is because of a routine occurrence. Sam, who helps us with the house work, is here, so it must  be Thursday. Keith telephones so it must be Tuesday.  The postman is early, so it must be Saturday.

Butterflies are so scarce nowadays that when you see one you draw attention to it. Look a butterfly, you say, as in the Scottish Highlands , you would say, look a golden eagle. A sad decline.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

two pigeons confidence literature

Hard to resist. A nursery rhyme writes itself. "There were two pigeons sat on a roof..."

An elderly woman enjoying her Sauvignon Blanc in the pub says, "I have never known any man except my husband," and then apologises as though the world had been robbed of her favours.

A novel called HHhH about the events leading up to the assassination of Reinhardt Heydrich  by two Czech parachutists dropped over Prague during World War 2 1942, refers to the members of the Resistance who helped them.  "No reader would remember the list of names," writes the author, Laurent Binet,"so why provide it?"  In order for it to remain in the memory," he concludes, it is first necessary to transform it into literature." A  good reason for literature, I think to myself. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

woundwort spray beads

Hedge woundwort Stachis sylvatica is a common wild plant in Tunbridge Wells. It features in the refreshing "wild garden" outside the Town Hall, and this year it is turned up to my great pleasure in one of my flower beds. The leaves which contain a volatile oil are used for healing wounds. Mrs M Grieves monumental Modern Herbal quotes "an old authority" which  says that the distilled water of the flowers "is used to make the heart merry, to make a good colour in the face, and to make the vitall spirits more fresh and lively."

Walking in what Jane Austen calls a "mizzling rain" this morning more than compensates for the absence of the sun.  It is a little humid. The air is still and and warm and the spray of droplets is cool and refreshing on the skin with its gently prickles.

On clover leaves in the grass the raindrops collect and glitter like glass beads.

Monday, July 02, 2012

fumitory soapiness benches

This is the flower that I photographed on the roof of a building in The High Street beside a pigeon a few days ago.  It is yellow fumitory. My  book describes it as an "introduced perennial", a garden plant which is now naturalised. It seems to have taken a fancy to odd corners and footpaths in Tunbridge Wells. Sometimes, as it does here,  it looks as though it has been put there intentionally by an ebullient  gardener with a taste for random colour. Perhaps it is also common in other parts of the country.   It seems to be in particularly good fettle this year, a plant which likes wet, cold summers.

I wonder if other addicts of soap operas have noticed two current cliches. The first, is the response "What? " when one  character confronts another who remains silent but is supposed to be affronted. It is a form of dialogue, which I not think I have ever encountered in real life. Unless it is so common that I haven't noticed it. The other is the invitation, "come here" to express sympathy by means of a proferred embrace or cuddle. The first seems confined to TV soaps but the second is an everyday occurrence in East Enders (TV) as well as The Archers (Radio).  In real life this exchange is new to me too, but from time to time Mrs P and I adopt it in jest, as people sometimes use a phrase in a foreign language as a joke.

In Calverley Ground Mrs P and I look for a bench on which to sit where Mrs P can rest her new hip. To our surprise every bench seems to be soaking wet, though it hasn't rained for several hours. A park attendant in a van watches our vain attempt to find somewhere dry to sit, and eventually drives past us, stops and  lowers his window. "Sorry," he says. Only then do we notice a power hose on the back of his van. "I only do it it once a year." Clean benches are a blessing which we longer take for granted.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

worried longings Compasses

If  you could use human terms to describe animals I would say that this blackbird looks worried. But of course human concepts don't work here.  A more appropriate word would be predatory. On second thoughts both words might be used, which would sum up  the avian condition. And  the human condition too.

Enoch Powell, an austere Conservative politician with right wing leanings is remembered best for his  notorious 1968  "river of blood" speech in  the 1970s in which he expressed fears about the arrival of  immigrants  to the UK and  the problems of racial integration.  "As I look ahead," he said, I am filled with forboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood."He was a classical scholar and at one time an amateur musician of some distinction. But he gave up music for academia and never returned to it. On BBC Radio 4 yesterday his precise,  lugubrious voice with its hint of a Midlands accent came back to me, when someone quoted his answer to the question: "Why do you listen so little to music?" "I do not think it a good idea," he said, " to awaken longings that cannot be fulfilled". A little sad, I thought and a hint of the human side of a man, notorious for the harshness of his politics.
Years ago someone whom I met in Australia bet me a fiver that Powell was an Australian. He was wrong of course. Powell was born in Birmingham, but  it is true  that he was at one stage of his career, Professor of Greek at  Sydney University.

Despite the reluctance of the sun to emerge we sit outside the Compasses. Geoff and Ron are there and then come Brenda and George and Glyn. A party occurs and within a few minutes there is laughter and the World's problems, to say nothing of the usual ailments of the old and aging, are disposed of, if not entirely forgotten. Rain threatens. But who cares?  There is IPA and Guiness and Pinot Grigio. It is Sunday, and this after all this is Tunbridge Wells, and The River Tiber is not yet flowing with much blood.