December 16, 2014
The ochre path that extends along the Luberon foothills around Roussillon to Gargas is quite special – originally quarried and now conserved and returned, as much as it can be with many visitors, back to nature. Glimpses of the red earth hillsides are quite tantalising from the surroundings . . .
but once inside, the experience becomes a theatrical drama – like walking through a turmeric landscape with mature and fresh young pines – Pinus sylvestris, P. halepensis and Pinus pinaster (the maritime pine) – offering overhead foliage and a lime green ground cover texture. I’m still interested in the spatial areas where visitors can relax and get to grips with the environment, take it all in or just have a good chat. Here oak is used for the stepped circulation, seats and decks along with cor ten steel for the slim protecting elements like hand rails, bridge supports and gates . . .
. . . a slim juvenile pine just holding on in the landform. Another vertical tower of the red earth looks like a drunken pepper pot . . . . . . a visual experience and a good walk too. The rationale behind including the Beckett beside his visit here is that there has been discussion on what is boring – life in general – time away from work – lack of social contact – just preferring to be elsewhere – to me, he explains eruditely in the last 3 phrases exactly why I feel so much at home – here; in a convulsive space among the voices voiceless that throng my hiddenness and the whole poem: que ferais-je sans ce monde sans visage sans questions où être ne dure qu’un instant où chaque instant verse dans le vide dans l’oubli d’avoir été sans cette onde où à la fin corps et ombre ensemble s’engloutissent que ferais-je sans ce silence gouffre des murmures haletant furieux vers le secours vers l’amour sans ce ciel qui s’élève sur la poussieère de ses lests que ferais-je je ferais comme hier comme aujourd’hui regardant par mon hublot si je ne suis pas seul à errer et à virer loin de toute vie dans un espace pantin sans voix parmi les voix enfermées avec moi what would I do without this world faceless incurious where to be lasts but an instant where every instant spills in the void the ignorance of having been without this wave where in the end body and shadow together are engulfed what would I do without this silence where the murmurs die the pantings the frenzies towards succour towards love without this sky that soars above its ballast dust what would I do what I did yesterday and the day before peering out of my deadlight looking for another wandering like me eddying far from all the living in a convulsive space among the voices voiceless that throng my hiddenness Samuel Beckett que ferais-je sans ce monde (what would I do without this world)
November 6, 2014
Through the glass of YSP (Yorkshire Sculpture Park) visitor centre – a very decent building by Fielden Clegg Bradley – tree canopies abound. Elements of the original parkland estate remain.
Yorkshire is synonymous with dry stone walls. This level of craftsmanship doesn’t appear often enough in counties to the south. The only person I know of who can select, cut and place stone well is Mr Swatton. He’d enjoy these modest but well built retaining walls . . .
. . . the major exhibition is a survey of the work by Ursula von Rydingsvard – she works with wood – mostly Red Cedar – bronze, polyurethane resin and other more organic materials. Is she crafts person or an artist? Or both? If I could, I be there to listen to her.
In the Camellia House, her work sits well within the singular architecture.
A little history as provided by Pevsner The Buildings of England 1967: ‘Camellia House circa 1812 by Jeffrey Wyatt for Col. Thomas Richard and Diana Beaumont. Materials are ashlar stone and glass. A symmetrical composition of 7 x 1 bays plus a diagonal projecting bay at each corner. Square panelled piers to the front supporting the entablature . . . . full height glazing. Large round-arched windows . . . framed by engaged Tuscan columns. Hipped glass roofs, separate over the projecting bays . . . Interior: niche at left and right. Scrolled iron brackets support the iron gutter and similar arched braces to roof apex. Iron tie rods to 2 intermediated trusses clasped by pairs of slender ion columns‘. It is a little gem.
Traditional furnishings alongside a strong masculine head by Frink . . . .
. . and a Pye water feature.
The Cascade Bridge spans the Lower and Upper Lake and connects the gardenesque part of the estate with the pasture and woodland. A gentle and quite mesmerizing feature . . .
. . . lost in thought here too.
David Nash made the Seventy-one Steps – amongst other site-specific works in 2010 along the walking route to Longside Gallery. This path runs along by some modest estate workers cottages and the quarry and the old well below.
Another David Nash, Black Mound, in a lovely setting. And a piece of Goldsworthy called Outclosure.
Ai Weiwei has taken over the Chapel both inside and out. Ming + Qing dynasty chairs fill the interior and a rather ugly ‘tree’ sits outside.
Walk over recognition to all those who have contributed financially and with their time and effort – on leaving or arriving. Much appreciated, thank you.
A stranger here
Strange things doth meet, strange glories see;
Strange treasures lodged in this fair world appear,
Strange all and new to me;
But that they mine should be, who nothing was,
That strangest is of all, yet brought to pass. Thomas Traherne The Salutation
When I wake the rains falling
and I think, as always, its for the best.
I remember how much I love rain,
the weakest and strongest of us all;
as I listen to its yeses and nos,
I think how many men and women
would, if they could,
against all sense and nature,
tax the rain for its privileges;
make it pay for soaking our earth
and splashing all over our leaves;
pay for muddying our grass
and amusing itself with our roots.
Let rain be taxed, they say
for riding on our rivers
and drenching our sleeves;
for loitering in our lakes
and reservoirs. Make rain pay its way.
make it pay for lying full length
in the long straight sedate green waters
of our city canals
and for working its way through processes
of dreamy complexity
until this too- long untaxed rain comes indoors,
and touches our lips,
bringing assuagement- for rain comes
to slake all our thirsts, spurting
brusque and thrilling in hot needles,
showering on to anyone naked;
or blaming our skins in the shape of scented baths.
Yes, they are many whod like to tax the rain;
even now, they whisper, it can be done, it must be done. Penelope Shuttle Taxing the Rain
October 23, 2014
The dutchman‘s work doesn’t figure in the North Park of our new city park – the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – but I feel he might enjoy this area more than where his planting, in the South Park, is squeezed into something resembling a shopping mall. The river Lea makes its way flowing down from Hackney Marsh, in the north, bordered by sustainable planting that should encourage wildlife to enjoy the wetland habitats. Us mortals are also given habitats in the form of thousands of homes being built around the park.
School parties find space for active leisure on Alfred’s Meadow. Good idea to incorporate decent spaces flowing down to the heart of the park – the river – with seating on the higher level. A well proportioned mix of mown amenity grass to rougher wild flower areas and young woodland. There’s space here for cyclists going to + from the velodrome (Hopkins Architects) and casual visitors just strolling or those bent on getting to more physical activity in the Copper Box (Ken Shuttleworth). The bands of planting, especially the dark red Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’ looking very contrived. Good plant but wrong place. Something one might mark down on plan but then change . . . are they directional? The directional routes are clearly defined though. A mystery, but one that might resolve in due course . . . someone having to keep the ground surfaces tidy (blowing the loose white granite chippings off the bound gravel and tarmac strips) is poor design.
The soft informal areas are delightfully promising. Good work EDAW.
At Carpenters Lock, where the river splits into three channels, the levels are complex too. The reflecting bridge spanning the higher ground seems to be the belt that holds the two areas of the park together. An interesting feature. Some of my life at the moment is spent in a building designed by the same architects – not such pleasant experience. A brutal and rather clumsy building with the circulation issues of Tate Modern. The jury’s still out as the ‘snagging’ is ongoing. On the South Park, that surrounds the stadium, where the dutchman’s planting (jolly plan on left + 3D visuals of the Outdoor Rooms on right) has to work with all the clutter that developers think we need. His planting needs wider borders and it would be good if the seating faced the borders so that visitors can enjoy and appreciate his prowess. I could go on but I won’t . . .
. . . lights are strung across the main thoroughfare that links to the The World Gardens where plants collected from around the world now have a natural place within our UK planting palette.
The Southern Hemisphere garden based on plants seen in the Drakensberg Range in South Africa in February and March – kniphofia and red or kangaroo grass, Themeda triandra alongside the small Cape grass, Chonodropetalum tectorum, from the restio family. More Gladiolus ( leftovers planted by the Velodrome then) and touches of blue Agapanthus inapertus intermedius with galtonias. All educational.
To the south of the stadium, Nigel Dunett’s pictorial meadows are show stopping . . .
. . . with a view to Bow Quarter and an old home. Great exuberance and a marvellous finale.
The sort of girl I like to see
Smiles down from her great height at me.
She stands in strong, athletic pose
And wrinkles her retroussй nose.
Is it distaste that makes her frown,
So furious and freckled, down
On an unhealthy worm like me?
Or am I what she likes to see?
I do not know, though much I care,
xxxxxxxx…..would I were
(Forgive me, shade of Rupert Brooke)
An object fit to claim her look.
Oh! would I were her racket press’d
With hard excitement to her breast
And swished into the sunlit air
Arm-high above her tousled hair,
And banged against the bounding ball
“Oh! Plung!” my tauten’d strings would call,
“Oh! Plung! my darling, break my strings
For you I will do brilliant things.”
And when the match is over, I
Would flop beside you, hear you sigh;
And then with what supreme caress,
You’d tuck me up into my press.
Fair tigress of the tennis courts,
So short in sleeve and strong in shorts,
Little, alas, to you I mean,
For I am bald and old and green. John Betjeman The Olympic Girl
October 19, 2014
Last night was our bonfire night in Hastings. The Sussex towns take their turn with separate commemorations during the wind up to the grand finale in Lewes on November 5th. The bonfire societies travel to each venue filling the streets with light, noise and pagan atmosphere. Effigies were burnt in Lewes in 16C highlighting the burning of 17 protestant martyrs alongside Pius IX’s decision to restore the Catholic hierarchy in England . . . . . . great theatricality – I hope the images convey the drama. Health and safety go out of the window, thank goodness. As the drums roll, flaming torches are cast on the pavement, sparks catch alight and mothers, dressed up, with double buggies, dressed up, marching in the procession seemingly oblivious. The lighting of the bonfire complete – families throng the beach – and the fireworks start. An excellent show this year and one from another.
Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice. Robert Frost Fire and Ice
September 14, 2014
Attractive grouping on plot 30 of Cosmos and Gladilolus murielae (undoctored photo) which I will make a note of. One note is to sow seed of colourful cosmos as against the purist white form – beautiful but leggy, which some might think is a sign of elegance but leggy can also mean floppy – and plant in a block format as against popping in in 3’s into the perennial matrix. Always useful to absorb other viewpoints. The clump is backed by borage seen in the big view to East Hill. The last pic of this planting taken into the light from the west, so a tad bleached out but with pleasing upright strikes of couch grass (can it ever be a pleasure?) in the foreground . . .
. . . now. I’m focused on looking at detail of constructions – mostly pieces of timber that are ripe for reuse and, that over time, fall into disrepair and then disintegrate or get burnt. A constant cycle of hard material that matches with the production cycle. Texture to the fore then without the visual disturbance of strong colour – also shown in the seed heads and seasonal fruits now in late summer (oh, what a horrid phrase) . . .
. . . on plot 53, a self portrait taken looking into the old water tank. I admire the pendulous racemes of Sanguisorba tenuifolia ‘Alba’ (no scent) brought back from Piet Oudolf’s nursery (when he still had a nursery) and my favourite Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’ supplied by Peter Beales. No perfume either but enough gorgeousness anyway. Lovely afternoon.
I can’t turn a smell
into a single word;
you’ve no right
to ask. Warmth
coaxes rose fragrance
from the underside of petals.
The oils meet the air:
rhodinol is old rose;
gerianiol, like geranium;
nerol is my essence of magnolia; eugenol,
a touch of cloves. Jo Shapcott Rosa odorata
It was a perfect day
For sowing; just
As sweet and dry was the ground
I tasted deep the hour
Between the far
Owl’s chuckling first soft cry
And the first star.
A long stretched hour it was;
Remained; the early seeds
All safely sown.
And now, hark at the rain,
Windless and light,
Half a kiss, half a tear,
Saying good-night. Edward Thomas Sowing,
September 7, 2014
Wandering down the front to see a few Open Studios during the Coastal Currents Festival of events, exhibitions – sounds, sights + surprises – meeting passers-by, standing chatting and taking the opportunity to try to capture the limpid quality of the air.
In the Electro Studios compositions of architecture, form and light. The work displayed is thought provoking but my intention is to convey the prospect and refuge character of the engagement . . .
. . . another visitor.
To Seaside Road where the old bathing pool was sited. Cyclists and walkers use the path to access the beach huts at Bulverhythe and onwards to Bexhill.
Up East Ascent, a vision of perfect peppers and a rather pleasing door.
And from the Garage, Eamon is seen directing more painting of yet more pieces of modest furniture in tones of duck egg blue. All to sell. And he does quite easily.
Back at the beach, silhouettes flicker and drift.
Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because -
because – I don’t know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.
Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.
Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,
because in that moment you’ll have gone so far
I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying? Pablo Neruda Don’t Go Far Off
August 30, 2014
I need to do this more often; just wander through landscapes that have strong undercurrents. There’s no excuse as the Chanctonbury Ring is only about an hour away to the west along the coast road. In France I would have been much sharper on exploring similar landscapes. The uphill meander along the Holloway carved through ancient beech trees, middle-age ash and youthful sycamore has dog’s mercury carpeting the chalk and flint ground on either side. Sounds from the overhead swaying branches and foliage reminded me of a similar walk through Nothofagus woods on the other side of the world . . . . . .
. . . emerging into the light on the summit of the Downs with harvested fields to the south and banks of fruiting bramble encircling the woodland, the curve of the old beech ravaged by the westerlies is revealed standing firm – a living landmark on ancient fortifications.
The storms of 1987 have left some trees from the first planting in mid 1700’s. These grew into a cathedral grove visited by tourists in the early 20th C. arriving on specially scheduled trains from London; thousands enjoyed moonlight walks over the South Downs and stayed to see the sunrise from the Ring. Laurie Lee slept beneath the trees in 1934 and mentions meeting groups of unemployed trudging from coast to the city. Recently Robert Macfarlane, busy cataloguing his journey on foot across the island (The Old Ways), spent the night, somewhat uncomfortably in the ring, hearing screams and cries – human not avian – and voices conversing. Sussex folklore has many descriptions of the haunted areas of the downs – a portal to the otherworld.
‘Legend has it that the devil had a hand in the formation of Chanctonbury Ring. When he discovered that the inhabitants of Sussex were being converted from previous pagan religions to Christianity he decided to drown them’.
‘He began digging a trench down to the sea from Poynings, sending large quantities of earth in every direction, one of which became Chanctonbury. He was not to complete his work however. An old lady living nearby placed a sieve in front of a lighted candle on her window ledge. This disturbed a cockerel perched on a fence. The devil heard the cockerel and, looking over his shoulder, saw what he thought was the sun rising and so fled before completing his task’.
There are examples of the folklore involving interaction other than these:
Walk 7 times around the ring on a moonless night + the devil will give you nourishment.
Walk more times around naked or run backwards around at midnight on Midsummer Eve and you might see a druid, a lady on a white horse, a white bearded treasure seeker, a girl, Julius Caesar and his army ( the Romans were here too).
Sounds busy and a tad crowded. The young males seem oblivious, or are they?
Wild marjorum, Origanum vulgare, spreads vigorously around the south facing slopes; the flower heads more pungent than the foliage. The chalky meadow mix on the open slopes show skeletons of agrimony but scabious, harebells and red clover are still in flower in late August; a soft ground layer around the odd mature tree presumably remnants of the planted cathedral. Back through the lower woodland – the path – the journey for visitors is clearly defined – exposed roots of old specimen beech form beautiful and rather fitting sculptural elements. The seen and the unseen exist here.
The century of émigrés,
the book of homelessness–
gray century, black book.
This is what I ought to leave
written in the open book,
digging it out from the century,
tinting the pages with spilled blood.
I lived the abundance
of those lost in the jungle:
I counted the cutoff hands
and the mountains of ash
and the fragmented cries
and the without-eyes glasses
and the headless hair.
Then I searched the world
for those who lost their country,
their defeated flags,
their Stars of David,
their miserable photographs.
I too knew homelessness.
But as a seasoned wanderer,
I returned empty-handed
to this sea that knows me well.
But others remain
and are still at bay,
leaving behind their loved ones, their errors
but knowing never again
and this is how I ended up sobbing
the dusty sob
intoned by the homeless.
This is the way I ended celebrating
with my brothers (those who remain)
the victorious building,
the harvest of new bread. Pablo Neruda. The Saddest Century