July 17, 2014
We are having a ‘new’ pier and word has it that the bent + distorted constructions at the far end of the burnt out structure are being dismantled this week. So maybe the last chance to appreciate the old lady? or chap? Do piers have genders attached? Whatever, this one has become an old friend. This is what happened to three years ago.
Low tide offers an opportunity to view a close quarters – not only the old supports but also the new steel work. The bones are revealed in all their honest geometric beauty like open rooms . . .
. . . and the the forms that shape the underskirts around the straight legs . . .
. . . are continuously washed and refreshed and wrapped with living things as well as dead detritus.
Moving away across the slippery mud to note the activities of a few . . .
. . . and vacant items awaiting use. Even out of use this broken pier affects many folks here.
If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it if I try. Marianne Moore I may, I might, I must
July 4, 2014
Arching mounds of bramble, flowering spectacularly now, on the shingle beach landscape of Romney Marsh. Dipsacus too, form a different prickly statement – more upright but equally statuesque, around the lagoons of fresh and salt water. In July, echium erupts through the herb layer and Epilobium hirsutum shows off the small clear pink florescence on lanky stems in damp situations (at the water’s edge) but also seems at home in dry and inhospitable ground. Denge Marsh, a part of the whole, lies well sheltered behind the storm beaches of Dungeness Point and, houses man made and quite sculptural statements, sound mirrors, (click to find out more) not so visible from a distance . . .
A strange discovery on writing this post as 12 months ago to the day, I posted on Dungeness. No swimming on that day – weather looks a little hazy. But under clear skies on this visit, architectural forms stand out clearly. The coastguard look-out, covered in scaffolding, can be rented . . .
. . . and round the point a ‘bouillabaisse’ where gulls feed off the fish attracted by the outlet from Dungeness B – a motley collection of concrete forms without any architectural merit – totally brutal.
Winching cables make half hidden serpentine patterns by the east facing shoreline. Derelict boats and sheds are gently cast adrift over across the shingle . . .
. . . one vessel is anchored beside the black frame of Prospect Cottage. The seeded crambe makes a good composition . . .
. . . gorse is just green now and the cotton lavender a mass of yellow buttons.
Bye bye for this July 4th. Across the pond, a poem in celebration.
June 20, 2014
Occasionally, Great Dixter stays opens in the early evening when the garden is much less populated and so easier to absorb. The Front Garden is still in meadow mode with soft blue flowers of Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’ dancing through the grassy herb layer. Occasionally Fergus gives an informal talk – last Saturday he talked to the Friends of Great Dixter about successional planting, supported by his mind maps which are something to behold, and introduced this year’s group of students from Germany, US, Japan, UK and Turkey who gave short but delightful explanations about their horticultural life pre Dixter. We could wander around the garden before and after and soak it all in. June is the time of reflection and review of the past combined with the chance to develop and fine tune intuitive skills. This garden in June . . . mmm . . .
We heard about staking methods and the bedding out of plants that are grown on from seed annual and biennials in seasonal batches often 6 months apart. Cornflowers, tall and precise, are a case in point in The Solar Garden.
In The Wall Garden, great contrasts to the ‘soft meadow look’ appear with the container plants. An expansive composition of form, texture, habit + confident use of colour. The domed head of Geranium madarense in flower (below) echoes the arch – clever. Looking at this grouping, foliage is to the fore.
Looking down on detailed combinations such as Ladybird poppies filtering through the honesty seeds and the fading tones of Smyrnium perfoliatum and then looking up and capturing a gutsy long view beyond the verbascum torch to the clipped gateway and the walnut in the Front Garden – these aren’t haphazard planting combinations but are all clearly thought through.
The light is dropping away so contrasting colours take centre stage but touches of delicacy are half hidden and so offer surprise on investigation such as this delicate pea wrapping itself through the thick stemmed tree peony.
Wandering through the garden rooms, the contrasts and, therefore the changes in character and mood, invite reflection – from my point of view anyway. Lessons to be learnt at every visit – a joy.
This month the variegated portuguese laurel throws fragrant flowers over the narrow path leading to the Orchard and High Garden. A modest shrub but does the business when required. Again contrasts flood the view-point . . .
Seeing what’s going on in the Vegetable Garden is a must on any visit here but this time my eye was taken with the elliptical spread of acid green Euphorbia in the prairie. Brush against the Leptospermum lanigerum in the High Garden – powerfully scented white flowers disguising the silver foliage at this time of year – and then look . . .
. . . through vertical strands of Thalictrum and Miscanthus and Stipa gigantea arching nicely all around with full stops of the odd Ferula flower . . .
. . . blood red flowers on a rose in the Long Border taken with a long lens from The Orchard stop the eye whereas a pretty spread of dwarf campanula gently washes the base of Lutyens curved steps.
Then a quick foray into the Exotic Garden where the winter coats and shawls around the bananas have been cast aside. Mostly a green foliage room with the occasional rose in flower prior to the big visual explosion that will happen here from July onwards. What have I learnt? So much; marvellous.
This must be the month when Mercury started it,
tongue in cheek, stirring his sky-pot,
scattering the winged languages.
First, the pictograph with its chiselled petals,
then its linear equivalent, syllabic –
the exact whistlestop shape of the swallow.
Philology: How sound falls in love with the script.
What I have to put my mind to
is June’s own rain-noise,
the talk that drowns out the traffic.
Fricatives and plosives, tree-language
learned in the schoolroom of the wind.
Translations from the rose-garden,
the half million sweet nothings you can’t make out.
blown husks like ripped envelopes
rowan-flowers white as folded-open letters.
And that black man
under the branch stock still with his ear
to the air and its underwater wash of shadows.
Alison Fell June Lightyear
June 16, 2014
The Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve has over 267 hectares of ancient woodland, heathland and grassland together with 3 miles (5km) of cliffs and coastline. Set within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, most of the park has been designated a Special Area of Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is a designated Local Nature Reserve. All this sets the scene for the peaceful and also should go someway to explain the problem that is occuring and identified at the end of this post. I thought to walk from Fairlight Place, down Barley Lane where the verges are full now of a natural tapestry (the dog rose are especially glorious now – the oaks always) offering views through to the pasture only occasionally . . .
. . . which make them special.
Warm weather following months of rain mean wonderful growth on all plants. The interface of verge to stream to grasslands and meadows merge sublimely. Pieces of construction that are manmade are mainly of galvanised material . . .
. . . but sculptural elements that emanate from nature are there too.
Some organised by man and some where nature is in control.
Ivy exploring the oak, ash and sycamore make interesting organic compositions in Covehurst Woods and then the big view
opens across Lee Ness Ledge to Dungeness.
Turning up the track into Long Shaw and the meandering incline to Dripping Well, clumps of ferns are looking spectacular. The ancestors of these were dug up, potted up and taken by train to Covent Garden market in Victorian and Edwardian times. The sound is of gushing and falling water. and the visual is lush foliage, dappled shade, patches of sun and, on this occasion, a single fox with a light brown coat, just pausing unperturbed on the path to watch and gauge before disappearing elegantly into the
The westerly end of the Country Park at Ecclesbourne Glen is less peaceful recently. The owners of Rocklands (caravan park) have erected a ‘bunker’, removed trees (which may have caused a landslip and therefore the closure of paths) and increased the number of mobile homes directly interfacing the park landscape. This has been done illegally but the owners have applied for retrospective planning which they may well obtain. The ‘bunker’ has been constructed on the footprint of a single storey building and so obstructs the pleasing views that locals and visitors were able to enjoy. As the council are custodians of the Country Park, we feel aggrieved and have received little useful communication. A peaceful protest in the form of a Sunday picnic was organised and enjoyed by 200 folk who love the park and appreciate not only nature but also this particular and special coastal environment. No representatives, elected council or from the government joined us. The ‘bunker’ is shown below and then an image of festive picnic. And someone made a video of the proceedings and the story to date (thank you Bob + Peter). Click and listen – it’s worth it. Ah, little stone – how simple life should be.
How happy is the little Stone
That rambles in the Road alone,
And doesn’t care about Careers
And Exigencies never fears –
Whose Coat of elemental Brown
A passing Universe put on,
And independent as the Sun
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute Decree
In casual simplicity — Emily Dickinson
May 18, 2014
104 acres of a local nature reserve sit high above Hastings; the area is known as St Helen’s Woods. Some of these woods belonged to the estate of Ore Place – with the open land grazed by ponies in the past and still grazed by a few today. We wandered down through the oaks to Bill Vint Meadow – one large specimen has succumbed to disease but the texture of the bark is there for all to touch and caress . . .
. . out in the sunlight, the campion rises within the new bracken. We were here to see the first orchids and the bright light of a sunny afternoon meant glaring images.
Yellow rattle, red bartsia, buttercup and clovers are well established with the green winged orchid and spotted – all beneficial and attractive for woodland moths. The large oaks and ash spread pools of shade over the wildflower landscape where streams in the valley link to the 5 ponds.
Back at Ore Place, there is a dwarf landscape on the roof – very little top soil, so a dry environment, where linum, succulents, verbascums, dianthus, armeria, sisyrinchiums and thymes and origanums flourish 2nd year on . . .
. . and a dwarf lupin bouncing over the stone mix looked great with the Eschscholzia californica. Interesting contrasts. Today, we talked about Cuba, fishing, dogs, gardens, horses, yoga, counselling and a dog called Psyche from A Life of Bliss – but most readers/visitors and my companions are too young to know about this! Ah, the time has come when one is the oldest of the group. Neruda might have understoond, I feel.
Goodbye, goodbye, to one place or another,
to every mouth, to every sorrow,
to the insolent moon, to weeks
which wound in the days and disappeared,
goodbye to this voice and that one stained
with amaranth, and goodbye
to the usual bed and plate,
to the twilit setting of all goddbyes,
to the chair that is part of the same twilight,
to the way made by my shoes.
I spread myself, no question;
I turned over whole lives,
changed skin, lamps, and hates,
it was something I had to do,
not by law or whim,
more of a chain reaction;
each new journey enchained me;
I took pleasure in places, in all places.
And, newly arrived, I promptly said goodbye
with still newborn tenderness
as if the bread were to open and suddnenly
flee from the world of the table.
So I left behind all languages,
repeated goodbyes like an old door,
changed cinemas, reasons, and tombs,
left everywhere for somewhere else;
I went on being, and being always
half undone with joy,
a bridegroom among sadnesses,
never knowing how or when,
ready to return, never returning.
It’s well known that he who returns never left,
so I traced and retraced my life,
changing clothes and planets,
growing used to the company,
to the great whirl of exile,
to the great solitude of bells tolling.
Oh adioses a una tierra y otra tierra,
a cada boca y a cada tristeza,
a la luna insolente, a las semanas
que enrollaron los días y desaparecieron,
adiós a esta y aquella voz teñida
de amaranto, y adiós
a la cama y al plato de costumbre,
al sitio vesperal de los adioses,
a la silla casada con el mismo crepúsculo,
al camino que hicieron mis zapatos.
Me defundí, no hay duda,
me cambié de existencias,
cambié de piel, de lámpara, de odios,
tuve que hacerlo
no por ley ni capricho,
sino que por cadena,
me encadenó cada nueva camino,
le tomé gusto a tierra a toda tierra.
Y pronto dije adiós, ricién llegado,
con la ternura aún recién partida
como si el pan se abriera y de repente
huyera todo el mundo de la mesa.
Así me fui de todos los idiomas,
repetí los adioses como una puerta vieja,
cambié de cine de razón, de tumba,
me fui de todas partes a otra parte,
seguí siendo y siguiendo
medio desmantelado en la alegría,
nupcial en la tristeza,
ni saber nunca cómo ni cuándo
listo para volver, mas no se vuelve.
Se sabe que el que vuelve no se fue,
y así la vida anduve y desanduve
mudándome de traje y de planeta,
acostumbrándome a la compañía,
a la gran muchedumbre del destierro,
a la gran soledad de las campanas. Neruda Adioses.
May 6, 2014
‘Finally’ is used in the title as I feel bad that this post didn’t make it on the day – very poor from the this blogger’s perspective. The alexanders are in full flower now and best to search for the young shoots if they can be found. It’s an acquired taste but would surely have been foraged at many hundreds, maybe thousands of May Day festivals. Background information and for previous posts on this colourful extravaganza that dominates Hastings Old Town every year on May Bank Holiday. click here
The crowd was thick down at Rock-a-Nore waiting for Jack to exit the net huts and see the light of day again 12 months on. Headdresses are the first thing that catch the eye with the usual mix – lots of foliage, horns, feathers, tat and more thoughtful compositions – which merge together when folks get closer and closer straining to see when the procession might start . . .
. . . a few look nervous about the whistling, loud bangs and unidentifiable noises. Or is he just bored? Some intricate costumes need close inspection and some couples just look so dapper without much decoration . . .
. . lots of green and relief to see some red – but who is he, or she? Finally we get underway and Jack appears festooned with ribbons and his neat crown ribbons.
For me, the day would not be the same without this couple. They appear in all previous posts and in many guises but all exquisitely designed and crafted. Today, he (Bob) becomes the pope in the foreground and his female companion just hidden behind – well, she shouldn’t be there anyway. A pope with a partner?
Her hat is something to wonder at – equally the footwear . . .
. . his mitre held many sprigs of spider plant and a mackerel for good measure. And he had a furry tail.
So a good deal of banging sticks from The Sweeps and some with garlands and clogs from somewhere more refined than Hastings surely? A very neat group . . .
. . . and the fire eater, nicknamed ‘the baby’ goodness knows why as this year the ‘baby’ has developed adult chest hair. He received applause quite rightly from the imbibers at The Dolphin when doing his stuff.
As the procession moves up All Saints Street and then crosses The Bourne to descend The Old Town High Street, I meandered around looking at a property that wasn’t quite right but it was very green and then on to stare at a few shop windows with the usual bits and pieces displayed outside. Also enjoyed the reflections that were offered up . . .
. . . and find a place by Café Maroc to see it all again.
And I can see and admire it all for the third viewing when they reach the top of Croft Road (the home of the famous allotment) before the procession turns left and then just makes a short flat run to the castle where jollifications, eating and drinking and making merry can really start. The pope is already looking forward to the final events. It’s a steep hill, a hot day and many struggle under the weight of costume and heavy musical instruments. Bye-bye Jack, until next year – goodness knows where I’ll be then.
If you were to think of painting May
you would think of a locus of appearances –
the nature-goddess yanked from the soil
like a snake from a hole and shaping herself
as a tortoise or a sheaf of barley.
You would look with a clear eye
of Aphrodite Kyanopeis at her washing day
and see the starched iris, the hyacinth,
the sickle-blade of every stainless shadow,
and you would dream of a going-into-blue
like a stippled brushwork of wisteria
and the blue glaze of the sky where the bees meet,
then also of its exact golden opposite,
for honey is the colour of sun through eyelids
and above all the pure food of the Oracle,
transparent as the truth her handmaids the Melissae
etch on the air by their way-of-buzzing,
their way-of-flying. Alison Fell 6 May from Lightyear
May 3, 2014
At the de la warr, it’s difficult to ignore the views out and concentrate on the work within. For me, the world beyond the windows offers up good compositions especially if the views are uninhabited.
The strong grid of the light diffusing blinds makes an interesting additional layer. I snapped away, the gallery assistants looked doubtful but then pleased, when eventually I turned to absorb the compositions on the walls.
The current exhibition ‘I Cheer a Dead Man’s Sweetheart’ – the last verse of Housman’s ‘Is My Team Ploughing’ – shows work of artists in Britain today who refer to the past combined with a conceptual and contemporary journey in their method and practice. The poem is on the wall in the atrium and having read it, it seemed as though the building also enhanced the ethos of the exhibition.
At 135, All Saints Street in Hastings Old Town, it’s possible, on the odd occasion, to view a house built in 1500’s. Alistair Hendy has restored this house, especially the exterior, to something like it might have been. Guttering and down pipes are a nod to gentrification but windows, beams and the ‘jetty’ overhang are now revealed having been masked by the Georgians in their love of the flat façade.
A small group of us were welcomed into the parlour which could have been a shop in earlier times. There is electricity and other services all discreetly hidden but the house is lit with candles to give an ambience of the past. All the fires were working – wood smoke covered us in a pleasant manner – as we wandered around the ground floor being mindful of the low thresholds, changes in level and admiring the eclectic taste of the furnishings – things Alistair likes as and not necessarily truthful to ‘period’. It’s his home after all.
Looking down to the new kitchen which leads on to what supposedly was the town mortuary but is now the dining room.
Outside in the enclosed courtyard, giant hogweed, tree ferns and a huge gunnera fill the space . . .
. . . and on the first floor, a box bed with a view out to the street. May 5th is Jack-in-the-Green day and decorations are up. A post on this will follow as usual (last years is here).
The thunder box and the chair mounted on the wall took my eye as did windows with the original glass. Shutters, quite rustic, are a recent addition. The floor below the zinc bath required extra support – discretely done to the conservation officer’s satisfaction. Not a good idea to ask too much about the local conservation officials in this house . . . folks here know the brain ache that accompanies this relationship. . . .
. . a touch of Vermeer above and quite exquisite other touches to conclude. Lots of wonderment and looking in. It’s worth a visit.
Caught in a fragment of forgiven light
The past’s refracted and the present lies
Waiting to be caught. Now feeling dies
At the year’s edge, the dark-to-be of night
And then the migrants homing and the spring
New as always, meaning everything.
Day has its attitude of sovereign height,
Birds discourse, the long hours spread, we are
In the best moment of the travelling year.
Now the dark is light and sound is sight,
Winter written off, summer is then,
Spring is the season for begetting man. Elizabeth Jennings Caught.
April 21, 2014
I’ve been meaning to make Margot Henderson’s Turkish Coffee Cake for months having read it about in a post from The Grazer and Easter weekend seemed as good a time as any to just get on with it. Not Turkish coffee but espresso is the recommended caffeine ingredient but maybe the real stuff would add an extra hint of the Bosphorus. Anyway, it’s dead simple and tasty to boot – cinnamon, coriander and nutmeg mixed with 2 sorts of flour and soft brown sugar for the base and then chopped walnuts for texture with sour cream, coffee + beaten eggs mixed into 50% of the base ingredients for a luxurious filling.
Decided on Greek yogurt and then decided it needed more colour and a touch of acidity . .
. . and then thought it looked better the other way around.
The smoked haddock from Sonny also went through the Henderson experience. From Fergus Henderson’s book Nose to Tail Eating. I’m a bit soppy/wet/ uninterested about the offal and ‘neglected bits of animals we love to eat’ that the majority of the cookbook is based on but it’s a good read. St John B+W is one of my favourite restaurants. So I don’t do the ‘neglected bits’ but I do like this recipe from the Fish + Shellfish chapter mainly for the flavour (saffron heaven) and the visual impact and the sense of history . . .
Taken with the food mode on the camera – not so good. Then another shot taken with the portrait mode that is much better.
A little pile of spinach was added too but eaten too fast.
Spoil the child
Spare the rod,
Open the caviare
And say Thank God. Noel Coward quoted in ‘The Cynic’s Lexicon by Jonathon Green (1984)
Happy Birthday JG
‘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