‘A small but special Spring Plant Fair’ (the header on the flyer) this weekend at Great Dixter offered the opportunity for a gentle stroll around the garden as well as to view, buy, make notes about and order from exquisite plant nurseries. Wandering up the drive by foot and admiring the structure of the trees around the horse pond - an experience often missed if entering and exiting by car. A still and misty morning . . .
. . . some plants just need more observation now such as the chusquea in relief against the castellated yew hedging.
Simon’s stacks of timber await his decisions on their reinvention into a functional item. Organised groupings and practical arrangements show clearly in the early season before the masses of ornamental vegetation take over . . .
In the field below the nursery and the shop, many small, established nurseries showed their plants, seeds and products. Lohhof Stauden displayed many grasses and Wildside with Keith Wiley presented delicious, delicate looking but tough treasures.
Around the Lower Moat, gunnera fronds are on view – the unfurling is magnificent to behold – such stature – accompanied by new vertical growth on the iris – slim and neat in contrast.
From the orchard the house appears to retreat behind the flowering fruit at this time of year but in the Long Border the drama is centre stage. Confident planting with all companions appearing well orchestrated. Great knobbly stems of salix, naked and as yet unadorned, punctuate the composition . . .
. . . the beauty of emerging foliage and flower heads is quite breath taking.
The Exotic Garden looks tantalising but we are not allowed in quite yet, as everything is under wraps until the temperatures rise, so the Topiary Lawn claims our attention . . .
. . . large trumpets of lime green and piped stems of bamboo and the coppery skirts on Euphorbia x pasteuri delight my eye around the Blue Garden.
Pretty blossoms on Prunus tenella in the Sunk Garden – so feminine. And various compositions both detail at ground level and bulkier and more distant at eye level offer themselves up to those who can’t get enough . . .
. . . Fergus has a thing about euphorbias and he’s right! Marvellous with the clipped yew backdrops . .
and just to finish lines of early, fosteriana, double and late tulips. All one could wish for.
Preludes and dawns, those spare awakenings
Gone before listened to, how we miss such
Arrays of opportunities. As sun lifts up
Its wings and birds tune their large orchestra,
We are invited out of sleep, called to
Take part, share all such daily, sweet beginnings.
Dramas of dreams rise up, the haze of them
Dries in the sun and the awakened mind.
The spirit’s opportunities see flights
We seldom heed. Good moments of regret
Vanish in our wanton rummagings,
O bold designs, O short disparaged nights. Elizabeth Jennings Missed Chances
March 8, 2014
Runway organised an event today – Walk West – starting at Hastings Pier. It seemed best to join in as the group moved along the promenade on their way to Bexhill. Others were doing equally interesting activities . . . .
. . . gazing out across the sea first to the south – and then to the west noticing how the beach has encroached making a scalloped edge along the lower promenade. Then looking east, anticipating the arrival of the group, and noticing families inhabiting the beach on a sun filled morning post storms (here pre storms). . .
. . . . here they come, all 31, dressed in black as requested. We were to be photographed at points along the route in a linear composition. I don’t know why but that’s fine. We were asked to stand silently + engage ( there is a cross reference with Gormley’s figures here) . After initial chatting, we did manage this and found it therapeutic and absorbing.
Others were doing the normal Saturday morning stuff in Bulverhythe – spring cleaning huts and tidying the beach – while we meandered along the cycle route that nudges the rail track.
Glistening sea and shoreline and rugged interface of the granite boulders. Signs of wrecked gabions from ferocious storm damage make the path difficult for those on wheels.
On the return journey, I find this long view always enticing. The event - a great idea – contributing to a worthy cause ( the local refuge), group contribution to a creative concept and also good exercise.
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond any experience,your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which i cannot touch because they are too near your slightest look easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose or if your wish be to close me, i and my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly, as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending; nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility:whose texture compels me with the color of its countries, rendering death and forever with each breathing (i do not know what it is about you that closes and opens;only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands e e cumming
March 2, 2014
Still in an urban frame of mind as against more rural or natural landscape environments – not because I wish to be but it’s what is thrust centre stage at the moment. Another storm is whistling up tonight. If the summer ahead is long and very hot, then looking back on stormy evenings might be a good leveller. Gardens, plants, growth, softness and explosions of seasonal interest are still ‘parked’ . . . unfortunately. In George Street, Old Town Hastings, a few compositions were put on record . . . child’s carriage or maybe a dog’s carriage would be more applicable for this doggy town and details on an old screen reminded me of transfers and childhood stickers. . . .
. . . . George Street through the sea mist – colourful, a little shambolic in a charming manner, idiosyncratic and packed full of tea and coffee shops. Incurva Studios is in a side street connecting to West Street with an installation that changes seasonally. This quill may be a ‘Leigh Dyer’ . . .
. . . in the window of one of the many second hand bookshops, a bound thesis or dissertation by Jane Gallup titled ‘Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment’. I don’t know what to say.
And some vibrant wall art on the extinct Butlers Emporium with the continual change of use showing in the Old Town Butchers now housing eastern trinkets.
Great glossy seas this morning, churning and rolling and thundering in a wonderful fashion. Huge winds push some of us to find a little shelter in Norman Road. Windows offer excellent compositions with layers of depth and sub text . . .
. . . the Baker Mamonova Gallery and Lucy Bell’s show floral art . . .
. . Fleet Gallery and Wayward show large light fittings and haberdashery items.
Plan B and Sideshow Interiors have exotic mannequins . . . some pushed right into the window frame.
Some are busy on repairing their buildings and some like to express themselves in a scrabble format on other peoples walls. It’s a funny old place. I may have said this before.
At this particular time I have no one
Particular person to grieve for, though there must
Be many, many unknown ones going to dust
Slowly, not remembered for what they have done
Or left undone. For these, then, I will grieve
Being impartial, unable to deceive.
How they lived, or died, is quite unknown,
And, by that fact gives my grief purity–
An important person quite apart from me
Or one obscure who drifted down alone.
Both or all I remember, have a place.
For these I never encountered face to face.
Sentiment will creep in. I cast it out
Wishing to give these classical repose,
No epitaph, no poppy and no rose
From me, and certainly no wish to learn about
The way they lived or died. In earth or fire
They are gone. Simply because they were human, I admire.
Elizabeth Jennings In Memory of Someone Unknown to Me
February 23, 2014
The day starts – for the young – with pasta salad, crisps, Red Bull and bars of chocolate and it’s only 9.30am. Good for them. We rattle along, just, through Rye, Ashford, Folkestone and Dover, Deal, Sandwich and then Ramsgate, Broadstairs skirting the edge of the Isle of Thanet – looking at flooded land through one side and then the sea, sometimes, on the other – until we arrive at Margate.
Margate station was designed by Maxwell Fry – a name from the past – with spacious platforms and booking hall under high curved ceiling and a clock that looks decidedly older. Straight down the hill sits the town with the new Turner Contemporary seemingly looking out to sea – except it doesn’t – just appears to.
Droit House built 1812 marks the start of the pier or harbour arm. It has a formal presence next to an asymmetrical new build. You would have paid your harbour dues there years ago but now it’s the information point. Georgian architecture spans the promenade with later decorative additions added for the delight of holiday makers over the 150 year stretch before the advent of cheap flights and bucket holidays. Many buildings have a knapped flint façade and are petite in structure. Quite a few have the curved Dutch gable style to the roofline like the original town hall. The old town is compact with rather charming connecting squares and retains a sense of its history with new shops and facilities (lots of eateries) providing a fresh and energetic atmosphere. The Shell Grotto deserves a visit even if shells are not your bag. Winding underground passages – (about 3 metres below street level) – richly patterned with this very tactile surface cause much wonderment.
A terraced amphitheatre connects The Parade to the big sandy beach. The scale is good and it should be a useful facility . . .
. . on a day like today it could be Tangier.
Inside the new gallery, Conversation Piece by Muñoz, welcomes the visitor immediately. Whimsical and enigmatic, the bronze figures, slightly smaller than human scale, appear to roll and pivot, in the space, talking or gesturing to each other oblivious to the rest of us. A sort of topsy turvy feel.
Turner has been partnered with Frankenthaler for this temporary exhibition - 100 years and a few thousand miles apart but speaking the same language in terms of how the natural surroundings are expressed and shared in oil and water-colour.
Images from the web, I’m afraid, as no photos of the hung work allowed. Frankenthaler: ‘Overture’ (T), ‘Covent Garden Study for Final Maquette (L) + Hotel Cro-Magnon (R).
And the works of Turner – so very beautiful – so beyond boundaries, more abstract and filled with light. A lesson in distance, quiet atmosphere and composition. ‘Calais Sands at Low Water: Poissards Collecting Bait’ (L), ‘The Evening Star’ (R) + ‘The Falls of the Clyde’ (B). Tables held books and research information. I couldn’t have asked for a better subject to assist in front of the quote.
A potential Turner sky whipped in and then whipped out again. Great day.
The lost self changes,
Turning toward the sea,
A sea-shape turning around, –
An old man with his feet before the fire,
In robes of green, in garments of adieu.
A man faced with his own immensity
Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
The murmur of the absolute, the why
Of being born falls on his naked ears.
His spirit moves like monumental wind
That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
He is the end of things, the final man.
All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree :
The pure serene of memory in one man, –
A ripple widening from a single stone
Winding around the waters of the world. Theodore Roethke The Far Field
February 15, 2014
After yesterday’s big weather, slightly calmer this Saturday. Down at Rock- a- Nore (very delicious oyster, thank you, Sonny), the gulls are oblivious to the traffic problems of closed off car parks due to pot holes in the tarmac and the layers of pebbles washed over the interface of beach promenade as they sway overhead enjoying the rhythm of the bands of the westerlies – all elemental. Us humans just trudge around talking about it all.
Cones of strong sun landed on the fore shore within this episodic concerto . . .
. . the old pier stands its ground for one last storm before the renovations change its appearance and perhaps its use. How many storms has it witnessed? I find it more beautiful at each sighting and try to absorb the vision so that it’s not forgotten.
Back in St Leonards, the sky to the west grew thrillingly ominous making me rush in to listen to Martha Argerich (most marvellous and Argentinian to boot – the queen of pianists) playing Prokofiev. Oh, can I get to Aix and the Festival de Pacques to hear her live. No, sold out – stupid me as I saw the poster advertising it way back at the start of January. Imbécile. . . .
Now this big westerly’s
blown itself out,
let’s drive to the storm beach.
A few brave souls
will be there already,
eyeing the driftwood,
the heaps of frayed
blue polyprop rope,
cut loose, thrown back at us—
What a species—
still working the same
curved bay, all of us
hoping for the marvellous,
all hankering for a changed life. Kathleen Jamie The Beach
February 2, 2014
Not France but Eastbourne – mature holm oaks near the Towner Gallery – great gnarled trunks topped with stupendous heavy canopied foliage that reveals metallic undersides in the blustery weather. Plenty of these trees still line the streets in the old town and match in well with the vernacular pebble and flint of free standing walls and buildings. Up above town on Beachy Head, hawthorns just cling on but beautiful in their own tough, stringy habit. We were all doubled up struggling against the weather this afternoon . . .
. . and the clouds put on a vivid, visual and aural symphonic performance. All to be admired.
Even here on the chalky landscape, standing water slopped around our ankles.
Small, humble markers usually crosses are placed at significant points and a plaque with a telling verse from The Psalms erected by the Samaritans presumably (sorry for the quality of the shot). I thought about Plath immediately on arrival. Not from the obvious connection but I think that I see, read or absorb her work as environmental – related to the elements as against the emotions – so more meaningful in the big picture and less personal in the narrow view. It suits me like that I guess.
On the way back, the marshes around the Pevensey Levels, are a more than usual watery landscape . . . worse for others elsewhere, unfortunately for them.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow
Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,
Berries cast dark
Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Hauls me through air—
Flakes from my heels.
Godiva, I unpeel—
Dead hands, dead stringencies.
And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child’s cry
Melts in the wall.
Am the arrow,
The dew that flies
Suicidal, at one with the drive Sylvia Plath Ariel
January 8, 2014
Things other than landscapes have taken my eye recently. Day to day occurrences and visual flashes add to the experience of all I’ve come to value about life here in the Gard. The senses seem to be heightened – food, of course, looks as appetising as it can be even before the pleasure of the tasting . . . .
. . . Les Halles in Nîmes, the central covered market, offers not just stalls but also one of the best places to eat – Halles Auberge - busy, well priced and positioned where the ongoing life of the market can be viewed over a plate of coquillages. Pieds et paquets and Agrillade St.Gilloise are also on offer.
Just opposite les Halles is a marvel. A shop like shops used to be when I was young – a long time ago. Appetising from the outside and even more so once inside . . .
. . . all the pigments that anyone could wish for. Rich, appetising and electrifying colours can be seen in Claude Viallat’s work in the permanent exhibition at the Carré d’Art – Musée d’Art Contemporain – plus a powerful piece from Gerhard Richter which sucked me into the detail of the application of paint.
Near the Arènes, hoardings screen a building site that will eventually become the Musée de la Romanité, meanwhile this stencil on the hoarding seems to evokes the sadness of the bull fighter – the arena is the stage. The fear of the performance or the possible outcome or just Spanish melancholia – I know nothing of this. What I do know and like are the swatches of silk as shown the Musée du Vieux Nîmes where the history of denim ( yes, it came from those associated with Nîmes) is well explained. Swatches of colourful cottons caught my eye nearby on daily visits to the Bar des Beaux Arts in Place des Herbes for a noissette.
Maison Villaret has delightful window displays that entreat you to enter, admire and taste what’s on offer. The small pile of marzipan crocodiles shouldn’t be disturbed but maybe the tower of crystallised fruits can be. . . . .
. . and to finish off a couple of camion – swiftly disappearing from the roads now. I felt Gilbert, artisan peintre, would be totally trustworthy and execute his work with integrity – great marketing. And in Uzès, another more modest vehicle that sat well with the surroundings and colour wise reminded me of the vernacular.
‘Per solatz revelhar,
Que s’es trop enformitz,
E per pretz, qu’es faiditz
Acolhir e tornar,
Me cudei trebalhar’
‘To wake delight once more
That’s been too long asleep,
And worth that’s exiled deep
To gather and restore:
These thoughts I’ve laboured for’ Guiraut de Bornelh