Wednesday, October 31, 2012

leaf cat car

Today's leaf rests on the wet road waiting for the wind to turn it.

In The Grove a cat hides behind a tree hoping to catch a squirrel on the other side.  You can just see the cat's ears sticking out above a root at the bole of the tree. The squirrel is unaware of its pursuer The cat leaps over the root and confronts the squirrel, but reveals itself to be a scardey cat and backs away.The squirrel, not triumphalist retreats and runs up the tree.

The taxi waits in the High Street while a  driver backs a Fiat 500 into a space. The manoeuvre takes what the driver thinks is an unnecessary length of time. "I wonder how long he would take in a real car," he says. He's not the sort of man you would describe as a snob. But he is a snob about cars and  the way they are managed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween hyperbole agapanthis

A ghost army marches in the mist to in preparation for Halloween.

The Down Town Fish and Chip shop  has been a feature of this part of Tunbridge Wells for longer than I can remember. On cold days the scent from its extractor hangs in the air to sharpen appetites while the queue outside lengthens. The chippie  (I pictured it  here the other day) is opposite The Compasses and invariably in my viewfinder.  We fall into conversation this morning with the man  they call Ginger,  an enthusiastic customer.  He used to live round the corner and returns from time to time  for fish and chips or a pint at the pub or both. "It's the best fish and chip shop in the world," he says. "and I mean it. I've eaten fish and chips in Brighton, Newcastle, Liverpool, you name it, and I can tell you their fish and chips are the best in the world  the world!"

The agapanthus or South African Bluebell, which lives in a large pot in our garden has had its ups and downs. We know that it likes its  roots crowded and cramped.  No problem there because it  is rooted so tightly that we would have to break the pot if we wanted to remove it.  But it wasn't until we learnt that it needs feeding both in the Autumn after flowering and in the Spring that we saw it reach its peak, up to 20 gorgeous blooms. It is a tender plant and should normally be taken in doors in Winter but we have no suitable greenhouse or conservatory. So we envelope it in one of the big plastic bags which the dry cleaner provides for bulky blankets and coats. The bag just fits when the leaves are cut back. Today I tuck  the plant  up for the Winter. A little sadly because it seems a long time to wait for it to flower again.

Monday, October 29, 2012

squirreling cat pun

Two squirrels squirreling away among the leaves in The Grove.

The tall old lady whom I often used to  meet by the entrance to Calverley Grounds with her cat sporting around her, is today  standing by the open door of her house.  I am wondering about the cat   when I see a plastic dish containing a tempting portion of cat food, in her hand. I remember being struck by the way she liked to be take her cat for a walk, and the cat was amenable. Now it seems the cat has changed its routine.

A wine with a punning name in Sainsbury's. It is a Grenache Shiraz blend called Long Dog and it comes from the Languedoc in the South West of France. The joke is reinforced by a drawing of a dachshund on the label.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

chippie reading roasting

The chippie in Little Mount Sion.

I buy a book in  the Oxfam charity shop in Mount Pleasant. . Sitting behind the counter is a girl talking to the assistant. "Do you like reading?" asks the girl. "Yes," I say. "Do you?" I've only read one book," she says. "What is that?" "Fifty Shades of Grey". "Is that all?" "I read loads at school, but not any more."

The cold wind over Tunbridge Wells this morning carries the smell of roasting meat.

My new story just posted on One Fine Day is about how an acquaintance turned into a frog and I into a seagull.

Friday, October 26, 2012

tree conversation brief encounter

Hi diddledee dee I see two pigeons up in a tree.

Looking into the window of Hall's Bookshop an old man and a small boy are in conversation. In reply to the boy's questioning  the old man says" Someone asked him, what would you do if someone shot at you? And  he replied,  'I would open an umbrella.' Not every one would go into battle  nowadays with an umbrella, but he did." Who the old man is referring to I do not hear. But I like the story and find myself envying the small boy for having grandfather who tells him such things.

Half way across  the Frant Road pedestrian crossing between Chapel Place and The Pantiles, I pass a neighbour coming the other way with grandchildren.   The lights are changing. I am spared the need to stop and exchange pleasantries. A good place to meet.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

fledged friendly containers

On the wall. I suspect that this is a newly fledged blackbird making the acquaintance of a wall in The Grove.

People who look after the public - in banks and supermarkets and the like -  are it seems taught  to make conversation or at least to say something friendly whenever the opportunity arises. Hence in the bank today  the flow of:
"Have you had a nice day so far?"
Have a nice rest-of-the-day"
The important thing is to keep on the treadmill of having a nice time. The weekend hasn't yet begun but that I can confidently predict is bound to be nice.

I think it was Lucy Kempton who in a recent post expressed her liking for bowls. I know what she means. In my case it is more than bowls; I like almost anything intended to contain: boxes, bags, jars, jugs and bottles. I think just now of the still life paintings of Georgio Morandi where bottles, vases and jugs have a majestic simplicity.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

frieze wuthering Bassett

Leaves on top of a yew hedge form a convenient frieze to kick off today's post.

I  read in a French novel a reference to the passion to be found in Les Hauts de Hurlements and how difficult it is to write in such a manner to day. For a moment I am thrown. Then I guess that it is Wuthering Heights to which the author must be referring. Although I first read  W H  when I was still at school and have read it at least once since, I have never known the meaning of "wuthering". It sufficed as far as I was concerned to know that |Wuthering Heights was the house on the moors which was the home of the Earnshaw Family where Catherine and Heathcliffe were brought up. "Wuthering" barely needed a meaning as it is so close to onomatopoeia. Hurlements translates as a "sharp and prolonged screaming" which just about does. I could not find "wuthering" in the The Shorter Oxford Dictionary. But Chambers comes up with "blowing quickly with a roaring sound" from the verb to wuther.

Bassett hounds  with their long ears and low suspension were bred for hunting hares and rabbits. Apart from their short legs they have very long bodies. We pass one emerging from a house with a woman and two  children. Half and hour later we meet them again as they are about to re-enter their house. This basset in particular  has a melancholy expression like a bloodhound to which the breed is related, but they all look sad.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

shadows touch-screen batteries

Shadows still come up in this year's holiday photographs. This is the third year  in which I have amused myself by reversing the pictures to show shadows rather than substance as dominant features of a composition.The photographs  are  all taken every year from more or less the same vantage points.

My first encounter with typing with a touch screen instead of key board was pretty awful. I put my fingers in the wrong place and the wrong letters appeared; unwanted letters arrived when I merely brushed the screen; and the spell-correcting mechanism which anticipates the word you are typing (sometimes wrongly) before you have completed it was off-putting. A couple of months later after some dogged persistence, I prefer the touch screen and its spell check system and manage to type faster with it  than with a conventional keyboard. To anyone coming new to touch screen typing I say persist.

A technophobe of my acquaintance said deprecatingly of, I think, a Kindle: "Yes but you have to charge it. It needs batteries." Well yes. So many things  nowadays do need batteries, and electricity to charge the more enduring variety of batteries. Civilisation as we know it could of course break down completely. No batteries; No electricity. No gas. No petrol. No food. No drink.  No heat. And no time to read Kindles even if you had resort to a lifetime's supply of batteries.

Monday, October 22, 2012

fan mist certainty

If you look up from where you are sitting there are wonderful sights to  be seen like this fan palm on the sea front at Sitges. Another picture from the holiday album

This afternoon the morning's mist has survived. Trees like the cedars of Lebanon in Calverley Park have an added magnificence as they emerge  solitary and monster-like from softness.  So too Decimus Burton's houses which seem taller, their proportions at their elegant best. Even late blooming flowers have a painterly gentleness sharpened at the edges.

In my notes book are the words "Abandon certainty". I'm not sure if I am quoting someone, perhaps a scientist on television. But it seems a good enough slogan in these days when "the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of a passionate intensity".

Sunday, October 21, 2012

squirrel redundant entropy

Up the pole in Sutherland Road.

As I pay the cashier at Sainsbury's my old friend the fishmonger comes up to me. He has bad news. He has been made redundant. He begins to tell me all about it and I to question him sympathetically. But we are in the way of an elderly woman behind me, who needs to pack her shopping. "Excuse me," she says, "We women are usually accused of doing what you're doing."

I'm not sure why but I am a friend to entropy - the principle that things move in one direction -  from order to disorder, that disorder is the fate of everything. I find this reassuring in the same way that the vastness of the universe and its apparent continued expansion is reassuring. There is nothing more frightening than a sense of permanence and stability.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

wrougt holding on flu

This is the second time that I have photographed this wrought iron work, part of a railing outside a house in a street in Sitges.I  can't find my earlier photo but the angle will be different, and the wear and tear of a couple of years would show itself if the two pictures were subjected to close scrutiny.

As a child I remember learning to hang on to the cuff of my pullover to stop it riding up my arm when I struggled into a jacket. Sometimes  to my discomfort I forgot to hang on. Today as I get into a jacket I realise that sometimes I still forget.

Old people swarm at the doctor's surgery this morning.  In the past flu-jabs have been part of every day business at the surgery at this time of year.  This year they seem to have concentrated them into a single flu-jab day. An atmosphere of merriment informs the occasion. A flu-jab party.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tapies flash shed

Thinking of the Catalan painter Tapies I photograph these walls and the hoarding separating the building site from the road. Yes, I'm still on holiday in the photo archives at least.

Never entirely happy with the present way of describing the short, short stories in my new blog, One Fine Day, I am grateful to my friend Lucy Kempton who in an email yesterday called them "flash fiction". Sometimes a label can be an inspiration. The word fiction particularly appeals because they establish a link with the great Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges who called his stories (often very short and quite unlike anything else in the genre) Ficciones.

Now is the season of catalogues which come through the letter box instead of letters.  Do you remember letters? Emails have been with us for so long.  Many of the catalogues offer useless and bizarre objects  the oddness of which tickles the imagination. One of the books listed in Presents for Men  is 101 Things to Do in a Shed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

strelitzia Norah Roberts Ugg

Alberto Bigarre, the owner of our favourite restaurant in Sitges, grows exotic plants in his garden and makes arrangements of them in vases on the tables outside. This strelitzia, bird of paradise flower, looks dramatic photographed  one evening with the sea providing a velvety dark background.

"Have you heard of Norah Roberts?" they ask at the Oxfam bookshop. I haven't. She is, I discover, an American romantic novelist with more than 200 titles under her belt. They point to a large plastic refuse sack on the floor full of paperbacks by her. Somebody must have been a fan. "You should put this in your blog, to help us sell them on," they say. So here goes.

Ugg is or used to be an Australian producer of   boots and other footwear. I express surprise that Australia should have produced, in the Ugg boot, what has become an international fashion brand. Originally they tell me Ugg boots were made to be worn on the beach after surfing The lambs' wool lining was intended to absorb the water from wet feet and to keep you warm. That was before the rather clumsy looking boots spread, via the surfing community, to Southern California  and, as it caught on for more general use, via New York to Europe. Fashion often it seems has its roots in utility.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

orange friend oysters

From among the flower seeds which I scattered in the spring among other orange blooms, thismarigold (I think that's what it is ) glows in  the Autumn garden.

Passing Langan's Brasserie Mayfair  by chance, I think of  my old friend Richard Shepherd who used to  own the restaurant, and I  pop in to see if he is there. He is at a window table finishing lunch with a guest.  He tells me that he sold the business and now lives in the South of France. As its former chef, he inherited the brasserie from its founder Peter Langan - it must be 30 or 40 years ago - and made it flourish. For a moment the years contract as we talk about the past. Among other  shared memories: travelling about the country judging the Taste of England Cookery Competition at short-listed catering colleges.

Sometimes a little bit of luxury does you good. Today a treat consisting of half a dozen oysters and a glass of Champagne seems worth all the villas and yachts in Monte Carlo put together.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

fuschsia new London creeper

Last winter's cruel weather and this summer's rain attacked the fuchsia in our garden. So we cut back the lifeless branches to be rewarded this Autumn by a  more substantial than ever mass of dripping blossoms.

From the the train line at Hither Green on our way South a view of what you might call new London, the cluster of skyscrapers at Canary Wharf  spot lit by late afternoon sun shine.

Thanks Gerard Manley Hopkins for the adjective, the virginia creeper by the roadside  is firecoal-red.

Another story  is posted on One Fine Day. It is called The Lie. This new blog is becoming a sort of dialogue on the subject of short story writing which I welcome. Though its chief purpose remains to entertain.

Monday, October 15, 2012

window wild flowers amateur

One of the windows  in the centre of Sitges which I often pass,  but here photographed for the first time.

In the garden I cut some of the "wild" insect-attracting  flowers which have been in bloom since June. A poor year for vegetables  but I can't complain about the abundance of these.

On the shelf behind my desk is a book called Shooting Digital. It was a present a few years ago, which I have opened from time to time but never read. Today I  begin to read about studio photography. I reach the words "achieve a professional effect ..." and my eyes glaze over. I look at the illustrations in the book. All are I am sure of a professional standard.  If I were a photographer, which I am not, I recognise that I would be unequivocally an amateur. It is there that I raise my standard.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

door leaves sonnets

Door in Sitges.

At this time of year after rain and wind  the leaves - "yellow and black and pale and hectic red "- are pressed into the wet pavement like prints.

If there is anything to reaffirm my feeling that we are lucky to be alive in the age of  technology it is the ap of  Shakespeare's sonnets. You can read the text, listen to the poems read aloud and, at the press of a button see notes and commentaries. It is a masterpiece of publishing in a new medium.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Readers Goethe 100

Readers by the sea.

"It's been a bad year for vegetables," says the Belgian market gardener at the Farmers' Market this morning. "I've been reading 'Goet'," he says. "Have you heard of Goet?" I realise that he means Goethe, who doubtless had things to say about horticulture. "He makes me feel good," he says.

Pat  the retired  New Zealand dentist greets me outside his house. I ask after his health. "Not too bad," he says. And then as I move on adds "I'm 100 you know!" I do know, and I continue to be impressed whenever I see him whizzing past me on his mobility scooter. And now as he strides out of his front door to get some air I am even more impressed. As I said the other day as we get older we seem to attach importance to our age in the same way as small children do.

Friday, October 12, 2012

balling dancing sunning

At the edge of the sea. Playa DOE Saint Sebastian, Sitges.

As I come out of Oxfam in Mount Pleasant two women are talking, waiting for another woman. "Here she is." As I walk up the hill she comes down it towards me and her friends. She is dancing and smiling.

This time at the top of Mount Pleasant, while Heidi is looking for wool I wait outside the in the sun, leaning against a lamp post and watching the world go by. "Getting a sun tan?"  says an elderly woman as she passes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

watcher watching club

Sculpture watching the sea at Sitges.

Sitting outside the cafe opposite the station in Mount Pleasant, I watch people passing. It brings to mind the way old men used to sit in a row outside bars in Spain when I first went there, 50 years ago. They would lean on their sticks, their eyes following anything of interest. When a woman walked past,  they would often  turn their heads as well as move their eyes. The expression on their faces never changed.

Why is it that I seem nowadays to recognise complete strangers in my own age group?
Is it possible that I knew them when they and I were younger, and have forgotten their names? Or is it simply that we share the imprint of a generation?  It is as though we belonged to the same club.

I have posted a new story on One Fine Day. It is called Pretending. Comments are always welcome there as here.  If as some have found there are problems in commenting there please have your say here. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

waves dolphin grease rocket

Early morning in Sitges.  Sea sun and sand and not too many people.

In his TV programme last night  about the British tradition of  keeping a stiff upper lip Ian Hislop interviews a cross channel swimmer. They are talking about the first person to swim The English Channel, Captain  Matthew Webb. Apparently he coated his body with dolphin oil as a means of insulation. Said the modern day swimmer: " some people believe that dolphins kept him company during his  22-hour crossing". 

Rocket though it was little known in my childhood  is now fairly common as a salad. My attempts to grow it have never been very succesful. First it bolts and goes to seed before you have time to say salad dressing. Second in my vegetable garden its leaves are nibbled by a little insect called the flea beatle which spoils it appearance. This year I planted rocket  in  pots and cut the leaves as they come up. No bolting. No flea beatles. And a continuous supply of the narrow, bitter leaves.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

evening purple sprouting crow

Grass and the moon. Evening. Sitges.

Everything in the garden, normally well drained,  is dripping and the earth is sodden. I am  I an afraid a fair weather gardener and so postpone digging and clearing the beds until things have dried out. The best I can do is to stretch the netting more securely over the purple sprouting broccoli to preserve it from pigeons.

Sometimes I feel like a cowboy trained to be quick on the draw. Only in my case its a camera not a gun. As I walk up Sutherland Road I spot a crow with what what looks like half a sandwich in its beak. It settle on a roof above Grove Hill Road - a road  busy enough to spoil a quiet meal. As I aim my camera the bird takes off and returns whence it came in the direction of The Grove, the food still in its beak. By the time I reach The Grove, the crow has disappeared and doubtless found some privacy. I would make a poor paparazzo.

Monday, October 08, 2012

ringed stories notes

A ringed dove again. This time it is visiting a table outside the hotel.

I post another story on One Fine Day yesterday. It is called Still Counting. The stories come into my head for the most part early in the morning when I am half asleep. A correspondence with Lorenzo da Ponte whom I must get used to calling by his real name Roderick Robinson, on the nature of short stories, meanwhile serves to stimulate the story-telling nerve. This morning, a story which has been lurking in the shadows comes into the light. But another, which I recall effectively rounding off, has disappeared from my memory. Where has it gone?  Anyone seen it lying about? I am hoping desperately for it to return, for having drafted it in my mind,  I thought it good enough to go back rather smugly to sleep.

Geoff   at The Compasses says that when he used to sit outside the pub called The Bedford on the corner of The High Street and Vale Road, he once photocopied some £20 notes and glued them to the pavement. Entertainment followed as passers-by stooped to pick them up or poked at them with  the ferules of rolled umbrellas while looking over their shoulders first to see if anyone was watching.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

fence elderly rectification

Shadow walks on fence.
"Elderly," says a  woman in the Sainsbury car park. "I'm not elderly at 69. That's what I read in the paper: 'an elderly woman of 69. It makes me furious."
 Better than 'old' I think to myself. Elderly is a gentle words less harsh and definitive than 'old'. I use it myself to define people who are no longer middle-aged but do not deserve a more extreme label. Interesting, though, how our attitudes to age change. Children tend to care a great deal about being older than they, claiming to be six and a half and six and three quarters. After that it is usually a question of wishing you were younger. Until that is  true old age. when suddenly you hear old people declare there age with a note of pride, "I'm 91..." as though they have scored well in a cricket match?
"How do you spell "rectify ?" demands a young man of his friend while he taps into his smart phone.  Yet again the end of a story. Or the beginning.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

yucca story late

In the sheltered garden next to  the hotel swimming pool is is this fine yucca.

Through a basement window a hand and iron and an ironing board. The beginning of a story. Or the end of one.

Outside a pub in The Pantiles an elderly man is sitting on a bench a half pint of beer in front of him. He greets two men who pass him on their way in."Hello boys," he says "late on parade!" It is 11.20 on a Saturday morning.

Friday, October 05, 2012

dove wrong car marketing

One of the prolific  ringed doves in Sitges finds something of interest under  a table.

On the way home from the airport we stop the taxi at a convenience store on a garage forecourt to buy some milk. My purchase made I return to the car and open the rear door expecting  to see Heidi waiting inside, but it is the wrong car. The driver turns round in his seat as surprised as I am. "Hello," he says in a tone far more aggressive than is usually associated with the word and I retreat quickly. "Jet lag," I mutter, scarcely an appropriate  excuse after a two hour flight from Barcelona. But who's to know. Do I look like a car-jacker?

Next to a "log" of goat cheese at the Sainsbury's deli counter are the words "three for the price of two. "You pay for two portions and get a third free," says the assistant. I was going to have one portion but three are fine for me if the amount is the same. He measures out the length of cheese that I was going to buy anyway, then cuts it into three, and wraps each slice separately. "You've saved a pound," he says.


Thursday, October 04, 2012

cannon thanks ignorance

Cannon pointing out to sea below the church in Sitges. It was according to a plaque next to it used to defend the coast against British warships during the Napoleonic wars.

People with a limited knowledge of Spanish are quicker than usual to say thank you for services rendered and like to show off the one word that everyone knows, "grassy arse".

Back home I meet M a neighbour opposite the twitten, the path that gives access to the backs of houses in parallel roads. A van is parked there blocking his way in. We refer to a neighbour, Tony who died a few years ago. He believed he knew who owned the freehold of the twitten, and would have confirmed that the van owner was trespassing. "He knew everything." I say, adding that I seldom admit to knowing anything. "Like Socrates," he says and agrees: "At best I narrow the range of my ignorance." He begins to walk on: "I'm on my way to see my new baby", he says. I congratulate him remembering that his wife had been pregnant. But I forget to enquire whether the baby is a boy or a girl.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

silver goat age

Silver streaks the horizon as the sun rises this grey morning.

A salad described as "goat salad" turns out to be a goat cheese salad.  At least two restaurants offer  it on their menu. At our favourite restaurant the disk of goat cheese is very lightly glazed with a little caramelised sugar  and drizzled I think with sherry vinegar. If vinegar isn't involved it will be (I'll probably use balsamic vinegar) when I try to prepare a similar salad. In addition to the walnuts  which generally garnish a goat cheese salad there is a light scattering of raisins.

At passport control there must be an instruction to be friendly if not patronising to returning travellers.  "How old are you ?" asks the smiling woman. Somebody is smiling  at Border Control. Somebody set it to music. I'll write the lyrics.). I tell her. "Very good for your age," she says. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

sun-beds trainer. Momentum

The first sun-bather early one morning.

A young woman has trained her dog - a Labrador - to pull  the lead which she is holding while riding on a skateboard.

A man with an oval board like a small surf boards "skates" over the shallow water left by the outgoing waves. He throws the board ahead of him so that it lands flat on the water, then runs after it at full speed and leaps on to it. The momentum of his jump carries him forward a surprising distance.

Monday, October 01, 2012

dog's shadow surf-kite movie-maker

Last year (or was it the year before?) I began to turn photographs where shadows were involved upside down so that the shadow became more significant than the substance. The background provided by the closely laid bricks on the sea front combined with strong sunshine make it hard to resist repeating the exercise.

With the waves breaking in white horses a kite surfer arrives on the beach, the wind directly behind him. There are rocks to the left of him and no means of returning the way he came.  One the sand he folds the giant kite, the harness and control lines, packs them up and walks  dejectedly back along the sea front.

As the sun is setting a man is dancing at the edge of the sea. He holds a iPad above his head and using its video facility  appears to be making a movie of a woman in a red dress posing in front of the breaking waves.

The ninth and latest story in One Fine Day has just been posted. It is called The Electricity Dragon.