Monday, December 30, 2013

Autumn trees, repetition and picking up

Soon I will begin to run out of usable photographs of H's paintings. My aches and pains are getting better and I am looking forward to snapping again.

The media are full of repeat accounts if last year's news stories. As though there wasn't enough of it.  Helpful to historians? I wonder if the details change in the retelling.

A device for picking up things from the floor when you are afflicted with bending problems has turned up. My back is now better. But  I am still glad of the picker-upper. In an odd way its presence is beginning to make bending easier. It's like taking an umbrella with you to stop it raining. Such are the small preoccupations of an old fart.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Babes, inconvenience and afflictions

Another (alas) not perfect reproduction of a much loved painting.

We have been treading water since Christmas, waiting for funeral arrangements. Dying is inconvenient during national holidays. We have had time to think and talk. Tomorrow decisions will I hope be made and  a funeral date set.

I am thinking up  the briefest way of answering the question, how are you? Other people's  afflictions are invariably  of greater interest than my own.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Subversive, stress and exclamation

It is possible though not certain that smoking led to  Heidi's  final illness. But the series of smoking pictures which she produced three or four years ago have always been favourites. One hung in the bar of Langan's Brasserie in London for several months encouraged by the then owner Richard Shepherd as a protest against the anti-smoking laws being introduced at the time.Possibly this may upset some people but Heidi was as someone said the other day  nothing if not cheeky.    I know she was having a good laugh.  I don't think that she was setting out to encourage the habit. Nowhere more boldly does her humour shine though.

Although I have a pretty good knowledge of the French language, but clearly I can't speak it. The  other day I use the word atelier which means studio or work shop. I am talking to a French speaker. "What's that?" I pronounce the word a second time  stressing as we do in English the second syllable. "Ah you mean atelier", this time the stress as it should be on the third syllable. I blush.

Always a bit of groaner - groaning seems to give relief - I find myself removing tension or sadness or whatever with a curious expression to which I am not accustomed. "Oh dear me!" I say to myself. "Oh dear me!"


Friday, December 27, 2013

Dotty, full blast and Mammon

Dotty woman was my  suggested title for this painting. I think Heidi accepted it. More exuberance.

When I was at school a friend and I edited a literary magazine which drew not just on the skills of other boys, but of  parents and past pupils. We were fortunate at the time in a group of considerable accomplishment. They included the poet  Kathleen Raine, Charles Madge poet and co-founder of Mass Observation in the Thirties, Janet Adam Smith (Literary editor of the New Statesman), the poet and translator Michael Hamburger. It all comes back to me now as I read a recent biography of Kathleen Raine and familiar names  and scenes throng my memory. Life  for me was then at  full of blast.  I seem  now to be living at least for a few minuted in the past as much as in the present. Something I don't often do.

It is quiet around here. You can can almost hear the drizzle condensing in the dark afternoon. I haven't been out but I am told that the entire world is attending the sales, a festival of Mammon which is quickly taking over in popularity and acclaim from Christmas and New Year.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dancing, meticulousness and interest

Another inadequate photograph of one of Heidi's most exuberant pictures.  Though she gave immense thought and care to it, she liked neither to talk about her work when it was completed nor to name her pictures. Names and promotion didn't seem to matter.

In the supermarket I watch a woman with an open Moleskin notebook.  It is the large rather than the pocket  version  which I have used for years partly as source for this blog.  I have the impression that it contains her shopping list. I imagine one of these volumes  devoted entirely to routine shopping. You would have  have a record of all your  ventures between its elegant pages, a historical record. But over egging the pudding a little? I wonder. I like  meticulousness.

 The retired  politician and diarist, Tony Benn, observes in his latest book, "I've been  obsessed with myself all the time, but I'm just not interesting." It strikes me that in order to be interesting you have to be interested in others, which I think on the whole Ton Benn is, despite his self-deprecation

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sunshine and humour, difference and understanding

Heidi's pictures, full of sunshine and humour keep our house happy. This "green hound" is one which we all love. It hangs over the fireplace. It is one of my beautiful thing for today, although it is rather a poor photograph and doesits intensity of colour no justice. Other  paintings will follow while I am still depending on  the archives

To everyone, my thanks for your  kind and sympathy comments here. It makes a difference.

For years the default station on my radio has been Radio 4. Today at 5 AM I switch to Radio 3. And there I think I will stay. Words have weighed the balance in the past. Now music takes over. This morning my  ears resonate with carols. I try to comprehend all the joy in the world and all the utter  misery and cruelty. Music helps. How it helps!

And a Happy Christmas

Monday, December 23, 2013

One beautuful thing

Heidi  Rudloff Bush, 28 June 1938 - 22 December 2013.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Contrast, silence, peace and hugging

 On a day when it has not stopped raining once from an unremittingly dark sky,  comes another contrast. Summer meadow drawn from an archive back in June.

Peace and silence. The difference is one of quality. Silence is relative. Peace is profound and enduring.  The biblical phrase " the peace which passeth all understanding"  possesses an innate tranquillity of its own. It transcends silence and rests in the mind untrammelled and unchallengeable.

Hugging is in fashion and I am glad of it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Humming bird, all right and Rioja

This time the unfolding bud from the 2013 Spring archive resembles a humming bird, one of nature's odd associations.

People of different races and colours in Woolwich, scene of the cruel murder last Spring in broad daylight of  a  British soldier by two fanatics,  are greeting one another with the words "all right, mate!". This follows the  trial and conviction of the murderers. Any  hope that the crime should create racial tension  among local people is defeated. If you want to sum up the kindness, and  fundamental goodness of English people you could find it in those simple words spoken by passing strangers, "all right, mate!" All  right?

It must be 20 years since as a journalist  I wrote anything about wine. And almost as long since I drank a glass of Rioja.  I  often visited the  region in Northern Spain to savour its red and white wines, its roast lamb and its asparagus. I would never want to, but  I am not allowed to forget it. For I  am, as this morning's greeting testifies, still on  the Rioja Wine Producers Christmas card list. So Merry Christmas Rioja and thank you for many memorable bottles.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Unfolding, endangered and dining

The bud packed and wrapped and ready to unfold. The miracle of Spring remembered at the year's midnight.

I have only recently come to the on-line newspaper called The Huffington Post,  From October 25, comes the following sad story. Of the 7,000 languages spoken in the world, 2,400 are considered endangered. One of those  at risk of dying out is  Ayapaneco, spoken in Mexico. The  two remaining speakers, apparently, refuse to talk to one another.

Deipnosophist is a new word for me. It describes something close to my heart.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary it means  master of the art of dining. An interesting distinction: Chambers Dictionary defines it as  a master of the art of dinner table conversation. Can you separate the food from the talk? I suspect that the ancient Greeks paid little attention to the grub. Nowadays ...?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blossom, creation and lamentation

Here we are again. Blossom remembered.

On the BBC World Service this morning I hear Desmond Morris author of The Naked Ape talking about his new book The Creative Ape. Apart from his distinction as a zoologist, Morris has now earned fame as a painter. The need to make and display objects is something I wholly understand. It is a far as I am concerned fundamental to existence. I could not be happy unless I had something to show for my  thoughts and labours. Morris seems to be saying the same thing and I settle down into a pleasant sleep with this in my head.

Babel. I wake with the sounds of the human race washing over me. Something terrible and yet if it is possible to separate oneself from it, it can be almost soothing.  Lamentations and jubilation. Layers and layers of voices. Words without end.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Antithesis, closing in and party memories

I suppose it may be the subconscious at work but looking through the archives for today's picture, I find that I am picking the antithesis of what seems appropriate to day's bleak weather.

I always forget that St Lucy's Day no longer coincides with the shortest day of the year. The focus of our lives closes in not only because the Winter Solstice is approaching but because we find ourselves confronted with a closed prospect. It is one which  we accept if not with cheerfulness with the sort of pride required by the inevitable. We have love all round  us and lots of kindness, invaluable Christmas gifts.

A present from Pippa for Heidi is a Blurb book of photographs commemorating our party in Sitges last summer where both our families were reunited.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Garlic, escape, thermometer

The opposite time of year.  Wild garlic in The Grove. A happy discovery last Spring. From the archive.

Heidi is home but she would still be waiting to be discharged if it were not for the energy of my wonderful daughter. There was H waiting and ready to go but no medicine and no documentation. She was threatened with a depressing waiting room. Daughter goes to the rescue. Brings her home and helps her into the house. She is to go back to the hospital and collect the medicine and documents. But as yet neither is ready. So H would still be languishing in the waiting room rather than resting after a long day.

We have long needed a thermometer. The wonders of technology now provides us with a device which you switch on, press against the patient's forehead and read off the temperature on a screen. No more quick silver bulbs under the tongue or worse one which in Germany they stick up your bum. (Or used to.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Necks and feather, straw and art

The swan photograph from the archives which I tried but failed to post a couple of days ago.

Some time ago I spent hours  trying to find a story (I took it to be one of Aesop's Fables) about a camel owner who overworked and over loaded his camel until with the ultimate burden  placed  on it the  unfortunate animal keeled over and died. It was then that I realised that the expression, "the last straw that broke the camel's back" which I took to be the motto at the end of a story in fact amounts  to the short story in its own right. The action is confined to five words, but action there is. And of course detail to be supplied. That camel's breath!

A whinging article in the paper about "millions" being spent by the NHS on art to decorate its premises, makes me shudder.  Sculpture and paintings are part of the atmosphere in which patients get well. Bleak walls will help cure no one. The eyes of patients should  be allowed to settle on harmonious images even if they do not consciously take them in.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Worms, healing and interest

Luncheon from the archives.

After a sound sleep, I switch on The BBC World Service in the early hours. A Dutch scientist is talking about self-healing materials. The materials are charged with micro capsules which when stressed spread and self-  repair. Asphalt, paint, concrete can all be treated in this way. Fully awake I begin to take notes on the post-it pad by my bed. Even now 12 hours later, I can decipher the gist of the story.

An old friend  with an ever lively mind tells me on the telephone that she "cutting on the things to be interested in".


Friday, December 13, 2013

For some reason the photograph of swans which I have just picked from the archive comes up as a small red cross. Please therefore imagine  the elegant necks and white feathers  resting and mingled beside the water.

An advertisement reads "Quails an elegant alternative to turkey".

A couple more days of hospital food for H. Having been to school in England,  I nod with approval as she reads out, Macaroni Cheese.. .Shepherds Pie... Steak and Kidney pie. "Not for me!" says she. I am pricked by a moment of  nostalgia not so much for the dishes themselves but for the economic style of cooking.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pond, grunts and reslience

 Study in green.

A contented grunting from the printer as it pushes out  this year's simple Christmas card. Another instance of a machine sounding almost human.

It looks as though H will be home next week. Resilient and humorous as ever.  Relief all round as as she  can look forward to seeing herself settled among familiar things and people. And lots of love.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

flitting, Christmas card and stories

Parakeets flitting between the palm trees opposite the sea in Sitges last Summer.

It had not been my intention, as I usually do, to design and print a Christmas card this year, what with one thing an another. But  Heidi is  gaining strength after her jaundice which is cured and expected home soon, we are looking forward to a tranquil celebration. So this morning I put the simple card which I had been planning together. I am not sure how happy I am with it, but I am happy to have done it.

Putting myself to sleep at night I drum up stories. It is an echo of the childhood request "tell me a story" which echoes through the years. The stories which I tell myself I often forget  but as I fall asleep last night, I find myself thinking of the endless network of stories which people have told each other,  tell each other and  will always tell as long as  imagination and intelligence survive in the human race 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On the air, sorry and kindness


On the telephone somebody says, "we feel so sorry for you." Ugh.  I don't.  Even if there were a need I wouldn't feel sorry for myself.   There is much else to feel sorry for. Onward Christian soldiers!

I chuck something in the rubbish bin in The Grove, and miss.  Noticing that I still have difficulty in bending, a  young woman turns back to pick it up. Kindness.

Monday, December 09, 2013

tomorrow, John Milton and immortal souls

Sun and cloud.  As you see I'm still using the archive for the first of  my three daily observations. But to day as we emerge from the hospital,  impressed by the larch trees profiled by the light of the declining sun and smudged clouds, I say to my friend Milo, " do you mind if I take a photograph.?" Out comes my
camera. But it is something like six weeks since I last used it.  Pity I have a spare battery and should have thought of changing it. Still it's a start. "Never mind, " says Milo, "they'll be there tomorrow."

Today, I hear on the Radio is the 395th anniversary of John Milton's birth. At this time of the year  lines from his sonnet To Mr Lawrence often come to mind;
Now the fields are dank, the ways are mire,
Where shall we sometimes meet and by the fire,
Help waste a sullen day...
It to my friend Anna who pointed them out to me years ago that I  owe their recall today. Such sentiments  easily become multi-layered.

A cruel joke is quoted in an article on Internet spying by Jamie Bartlett in this week's Spectatorr. The author is warning about the terms and conditions of contracts to which people thoughtlessly put their names when acquiring apps and the like on line. How many read let alone attempt to understand this particular variety of small print? Apparently a British firm  included a clause which asked for permission to "claim now and for evermore your immortal soul." No fewer than 7000 were harvested in one day.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Oak, edges and commerce


What is a deckle edge? The term is new to me. But I quickly learn to  today that it is the uncut or feathered edge of a page in a book. Such page edges used to be unavoidable. But now when dealing with old books they have become something of a status symbol.

The language of coffee and commerce explodes off a poster  showing a kind of sandwich in the Costa cafe in the hospital. "Unwrap a tasty tummy filler," it  commands.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Safety, saying no and keeping it cool

Safely grazing.

Oh the satisfaction of saying "No"!  At the hospital pharmacy I hand over the prescription which the GP gave me this morning. I am passing and it saves me a visit to the High Street. "That's a green one," says a woman with a face carved from concrete. "We don't do green ones here. You'll have to take it to your usual chemist. "  No regrets, no sympathy. One chore fewer for the server.

People with chilly natures, their temperaments matched, often make contented couples.  Speaking of one such couple someone says today: "When you find the two of them together, it is as though the air-conditioning has just  been switched on."

Friday, December 06, 2013

Reflections, Mandela and a soporific

Reflections in the lake at Groombridge Place.

As often happens if I can't sleep I switch on the BBC World Service. Sometimes it acts as a soporific. Not so last night. The entire programme is  devoted to Nelson Mandela, and  rightly so. It is easy to be carried away by the passing of a great man. But few have and will achieve what he did. When I visited South Africa at the time of Apartheid even the most enlightened were convinced that a bloodbath would  evnetually ensue.  That it didn't was certainly because of his intelligence, his personality,  his understanding of human nature and the amazing vision of an oppressed majority living side by side with those who had brutally oppressed it. His refusal to negotiate with the Government of the time without  the restrictions  which they sought to impose on him, remind us of the firmness and determination which lay beneath his message of reconcilliation.

Eventually I send myself to sleep with a fantasy about a country where enemies forgive one another, politicians sit down with their opponents to discuss optimum solutions, bankers give up usary and the only  competiton  that exists in society  is to be kinder to your neighbout than your neighbour is to you.  Jealousy, hatred  and greed no longer exist.  Sad to say I fall asleep before this extraordinary malaise has taken root. And do you blame me?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Stepping out, smallness and patience

I was rather pleased with this heron last summer. Here he comes (is it a he?) to cheer us  this December.

Small things loom large when your are small. In a cafe a little boy is proud of drinking milk foamed by the cappuccino machine from a grown-up coffee cup.  A wee  moustache fringes  his lips. His mother has to move on and has his drink transferred to a take-way mug, so that he can have it in his push chair.  The end of the world.  What  a comedown! The promise of having the milk transferred a to a proper cup when they get home is small consolation. Somehow I know how he feels.

I pick up my camera and put it back on my desk. I am longing  to start again snapping my way through the small world in which I move. But I want to feel comfortable when I do. My doctor who is being so helpful at the moment assures me that the steroids which he is prescribing for my polymyalgia rheumatica  (hope I have it right this time) are on course to restore me to normality within a the next few weeks. So I will be patient.


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Some progress, reality and wandering

Slow progress on the H front.At least there is progress. Slightly more rapid on mine. But I still have not ventured out with my camera. Instead more summer textures from the archives to distract from bleak if not immediately cheeful prospects.

Back to the question of what music to listen to in touch times Last week I  am looking   at random for tranquillity and  to be deeply stirred. But sweetness, which I do not want,  with its heart-jerking chords, seems to intrude. Until that is I come to Beethoven's Late Quartets and in particular  Die Grosse Fuge, Opus 133. As I have said before it was RR who introduced me to this piece of music about 40 years ago. It has become more important since and has never been as important as it is now. Nothing  there  tugs crudely the emotions. Instead there is triumphant joy in its persistent rhythm. A voice which seems to say: "here is the world and the universe and what ever else there is that husks us in),  as it is, always has been and aways will be. It is harsh and cruelly beautiful. Listening  to it  I fancy I catch something fundamentally and unalterably true about existence. It cheers without consoling.

In The National Geographic Magazine I  read of Paul Salopek who sets out on a 7 year, 21 000 mile  walk to trace the dispersal of the human race from it birthplace  60,000 years ago in the  Great Rift Valley in Africa, across Asia and the land bridge to North America to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America.  The brief  time it took for homo sapiens to to take over the Earth is astonishing.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Passing clouds, repairs and concentration

Three clouds from the archive.

Repairing equipment of any kind is usually beyond me. The pocket reading glasses known I think as quick readers come apart in my hands as I take them from their case. One of the wings has come off. A tiny screw is missing which is all I need to restore the wing when it is slotted into place. But a miniature Phillips screwdriver is needed to secure it. I tip the case over a table and there is is the screw. But if I possess the necessary tool, I don't know where it is.  Come on, improvise. The tip of a nail-file engages withe head of the screw, and to my surprise the screw tightens. A rare victory over the contrariness of objects.

The pressure of events can concentrate the mind.  In the present circumstances between hospital visits, I find myself reading magazine articles from beginning to end, which I would normally no more than skim. I open a book of Zen stories beautifully written in Spanish. With a tranquillity worthy of the subject I read  and slowly absorb one of the stories. A great calm descends.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Textures, acorn feast and sport

Ladybird from the archives. A contrast of textures.

The BBC's farming programme which I listen to when I wake early tells me all sorts of fascinating things, Pigs, I learn, are being let loose in the New Forest, just now to eat the glut of acorns which cover the forest floor this year. It is not merely a question of nourishing the pigs, but of getting rid of the acorns before the  wild New Forest ponies can eat them. The acorns are poisonous to  the ponies, and several  have died this autumn from ingesting too many. Bringing on the pigs for this purpose is traditional and has a local name - pannage.

What has happened to sport?   Australian and English test cricketers insult one another as they pass on the field.  It's called "sledging". And is often quite vicious.  Meanwhile parents of small children pick fights with each other on the touch line of football matches, and have been know to attack referees. Play up, play up and play the game.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Grazing, cheering up and light

Sunflower grazing. Still looking back to summer archives.

Our friends Peter and Pammie  take me to visit H in hospital. It is Sunday so everything is quiet. Peter and I go for a coffee and Pammie stays to cheer up  H, who  bored and neglected, which she does wonderfully. Peter (could it be a tactful diversion to take my mind off things?) asks me about my journalistic career. Nostalgia seldom bothers me. Being boring does. I try to entertain. When we return to H she is much more cheerful and so am I. All being well next week she should be home.

Music is a problem. So much to choose from, but an illogical reluctance to engage to closely with the familiar, stops me for a while from listening to anything. Just now inhibitions vanish. Bach's Double Concerto for two violins in D Minor sooths and draws backs back  bleak veils. I think of the evening sky a few minutes ago, back-lit in pale gold and smudged with bold islands of cloud. A transient  archipelago.