on the 30th

December 31, 2010

On the 30th December  in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. A day of reflection and memories for one part of the family. I normally take myself off to a gallery or for along walk alone, or both, on my birthday. It isn’t my birthday but a death day and I decide to look at art and have a solitary walk anyway. This space is a good space and a good space for art. I enjoyed the Munoz here and the Louise Bourgeois pieces so, gazing down at the Sunflower Seeds, what are my thoughts? I appreciate that all the hundreds and thousands of seeds are individually made as a true crafts person would strive to fabricate but, as an installation, I couldn’t make the connection.  Art above craft or art alongside craft or whatever . . .  maybe the setting and the work were not best matched.  From above, I struggled to see it any differently than a piece of carpet laid out in a carpet showroom. Close to, it’s a magnificent production but, for me, bland. The Turbine Hall is certainly not bland and as daylight dims the interior lighting comes into its own.

Now to Gauguin, Maker of Myth, and a treat!  ‘Soyez mysterieuse’ and revel in composition, pattern, fabric, colour of course, and mood and titles. Lovely titles that pose a question . . . and underline the narrative so well. A coming together of the musical and the literary with the simplest of message following, I assume, a long and complex layered process. Below,  ‘The Bathers’   . . .

. . and above,  ‘Nevermore O Tahiti’

Following a sisterly chat, we part with one of us taking the wobbly bridge and the other a stroll to London Bridge. The birches look their best at night and St Paul’s and the City quite beautiful this evening too.

Rather Turneresque . . . no, more like Rembrandt, I’m told!

. . . and the Shard may be as strong a landmark as St Paul’s when it’s complete. Tonight it’s lost in the mist. The poem too is weaving in and out of my consciousness – relationships and missing the chance to say what is meaningful. Don’t be too mysterieuse before it’s too late!

I have shown myself to you

Only as drift and you have presumed

To deduce me from this.

 I routinely descend

Into abysmal depths,

am far from land, secretive,

 But where do you know of my breach,

how the lightless world

bursts off me –

how I can feed on this

for thousands of miles,

the routine weight of air crushing

the sea’s surface suddenly

gone, suddenly

an opening into which I pour.     Helen Parish     Mesoplodon Pacificus

on the 29th

December 29, 2010

Been meaning to photograph these amaryllis for some time and, of course, left it too late as now they are going over. This is the second bunch this winter – the first were tinged with red and with the most subtle red edge to the petals – very classy and self-possessed. These are equally beautiful in a purist way . . . . they are in a  florist’s galvanised tall bucket by the fire-place. The flower heads get too heavy for the stem when most of the flowers open. A good tip is to stick a slim piece of bamboo or stick up through the hollow stem.  In the fireplace are three wise men from Indonesia and that’s all I know about them. 

A Christmas tree in this house is a branch with stems left fairly bare. Some are covered with gold leaf and some have the usual baubles and chocolates in covered  foil hanging down. Strangely this year, the chocolates are still there! Some Chinese birds perch in the tree too  . . .

And some nestle in the ivy at the base. I think the doll is Indonesian too  and is supposed to keep bad spirits at bay. 

And from birds to bees. In the gloom of the misty day, someone has brought some sunshine to  the wall of Angie and Len’s house. She’d have appreciated that !

Who screams first,

knife man or me?

Enough, I’m gone,

 pushing at the windows,

ready to scatter

through the sky

 like a rainstorm

another paper cup

drifting over the motorway.

 But the white ghosts chase me,

lash me to the bed,

wash me down

 in sour milk and urine,

and scratch a cross

across my belly

 Far above this fancy dress corpse

a honey bee flies,

casting the shadows of trees and rivers

 humming me the hymns of flowers,

and calling me

back to the hive.  Angie Biltcliffe  Hospital Bee.

a walk on the 26th

December 27, 2010

A small field near Castle Farm at Winchelsea Beach. We came by here last July when a special event was held at Wind Rose. The path leads directly passed the pools made by gravel extraction . . .

 . . . the colonies of birds of all types are standing on the large island plate of ice in the middle of the water.  . . .

 . . and people and families are doing what they like doing on Boxing Day.

Beautiful light at 2pm, the sea is like an oyster shell . . .

Wading waist high

through the waves

I’m in with it

 In with the birds

Sky larking

The rabbits in love.

It is the hottest day

Of this summer

And I am the sun.

In this ocean

This spit of water

A honey bee drowns.

I watch her colours bleed

To be my grandma’s embroidery

For her boy Tom,

A life lived on the wing.

Honeybee screams

“I am afraid”

I reach in

Lift her finished body to my lips

And blow her away.

I am alive

I am alive

I am still alive. Angie Biltcliffe  Winnie Beach

At the Mary Stanford Lifeboat Building  , the wreathes add a festive touch to the very modest facade but the wreaths are for remembrance and respect – poppies from November 11th. 17 lives were lost when the lifeboat went to help a ship in distress about 80 years ago. No one returned and the building was left without disturbance for many, many years. The families of those drowned couldn’t deal with the experience of visiting and entering the building.It was left  just as the men left it, with their coats hanging on pegs and their boots and shoes below. 

The willows are gleaming today  . .

 . . and the seed heads of Old Man’s Beard have retained their puffy nature even after days of snow and frost . . .

 . . and back at Wind Rose, we take a look at Angie’s hive and see that others are grazing away too . .


 . . back across the stiles, over streams and through fields. 

a walk on the 25th

December 27, 2010

A perfect Christmas Day with some of those who are the most important to me and the weather as wonderful as it could be.

Wandering along the front passed the little weather station, we look at the climatic information that someone never fails to adjust on a daily basis – even today . . . . the figures, of course, reflect Hastings and history!

Others are out and about doing what they like . . . .

 . . . and the gulls, herring and black headed, and the turnstones are doing what they like too, all undisturbed . . .

 . . . and we turn to look at this view on our way up the East Cliff to the Country Park . . .

 . . hardly a soul around on the cliff top – frosty underfoot and glimpses of the buds opening on the gorse – ethereal and quite magical. Scrub oaks have seeded where the cliff slopes down to encompass the gills – streams and the damp loving vegetation that thrives in the sheltered valleys . . .

 . . and the view to the Firehills in the east. Wonderful hummocks of twiggy vegetation nestle like warm, brown pillows . . .

A thousand miles beyond this sun-steeped wall
Somewhere the waves creep cool along the sand,
The ebbing tide forsakes the listless land
With the old murmur, long and musical;
The windy waves mount up and curve and fall,
And round the rocks the foam blows up like snow,–
Tho’ I am inland far, I hear and know,
For I was born the sea’s eternal thrall.
I would that I were there and over me
The cold insistence of the tide would roll,
Quenching this burning thing men call the soul,–
Then with the ebbing I should drift and be
Less than the smallest shell along the shoal,
Less than the sea-gulls calling to the sea.  Sara Teasdale  Sea Longing

Snaking back to the Old Town via a steep descent through another gill depression formed by fast flowing stream, a glimpse of  the graveyard of All Saints is a strong visual element. Quiet now.

Down Tackleway and Swaines Passage into All Saints Street . . . this house is simply called Pub View and always puts on a good show for passers by. Such commitment!


winter solstice

December 21, 2010

There’s been a lunar eclipse in North America and a blood red moon seen in Scotland. 

I think about graphic black and white drawings, engravings, etchings or paintings at this time of year that reflect the cold rawness of the weather and the amount of light that mere mortals and the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom receive. Maybe I should put that list in a more ethical order . . . .mmmm . . with mere mortals coming third. Anyhow, many mortals will now look forward to longer daylight hours. I chose these images to explain my feeling today . . . and how we, as mere mortals, should continue to feel in awe and respect of the larger world we inhabit.

William Blake illustrations to ‘Thornton’s Virgil’

Samuel Palmer ‘A Shepherd and his Flock under Moon and Stars’ and below, also Palmer ‘Shepherds under a Full Moon’

Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,

now you are uncurled and cover our eyes

with the edge of winter sky

leaning over us in icy stars.

Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,

come with your seasons, your fullness, your end.

Annie Finch. Winter Solstice Chant from Calendars, published by Tupelo Press


December 19, 2010


Tyrrhenian purple anemones – the start of something festive and now always bought this week of the year since Christmases in Rome. The best flower stalls are in Rome. Now thinking about lights . . . on the little Dickens cupboard twinkling with some pure forms thrown by Ursula Mommens . . .

 . . . yes, camera shake but can’t be bothered with a tripod . . . .  light beaming through the stair rods gives a strong dynamic pattern.


Outside, pink tones at sunset die away so fast. 

Dark within a few minutes and even worse camera shake but it gives lovely wiggly light patterns so that’s OK. 

Lights across the road at Plenty – a fire-place with all accoutrements is the main feature in the front window . . .

 . . inside and the reflection in the rear window . . . like fluttering wings . . .

 . .  inside the Old Admiral Benbow, the lighting designer has found special things.

 And at Robert’s antique shop, traditional pretty mixed colours as you would expect.

And opposite at Skylon more 50’s, as you would expect . . .

 . . lights that gently move through the spectrum and provide an effect from the distance. Some window frontages in Norman Road invite close up inspection. At the Baker Mamonova Russian gallery, presents breaking out of the brown paper wrappers sit along the window ledge – it’s a good idea – less of the baubles and tinsel . . 

. . . and at Wayward, mystifying groupings with a real sense of atmosphere and also the stacks of ribbon, buttons and braid for sale. The unfocused quality seems to represent the step back in time feel of entering an Aladdin’s cave of haberdashery. Stuff that dreams are made of.

 and here, holograms wave around inside the space to add to the layered feeling of celebration. Above us, the single stone.

Not what the light will do but how he shapes it
And what particular colours it will bear.

And something of the climber’s concentration
Seeing the white peak, setting the right foot there.

Not how the sun was plausible at morning
Nor how it was distributed at noon,

And not how much the single stone could show
But rather how much brilliance it would shun;

Simply a paring down, a cleaving to
One object, as the star-gazer who sees

One single comet polished by its fall
Rather than countless, untouched galaxies. 

The Diamond Cutter  Elizabeth Jennings

Ah, the track for machinery gives the game away. Best not continue if you are faint hearted! Just revisit here in about 18 months time. The image is of the Centenary Border at the Hillier Gardens looking west down 220 yards of double borders planted in the early 1960’s by Sir Harold Hillier. The master plan for the revitalisation and rejuvenation of the borders is near completion. The detail planting will follow. The process was started about 2 years ago and now the chain saws have entered the site and mature trees have been taken down to ground level. This may seem a tad drastic but, originally, the borders were backed with many varieties of holly and other trees and large shrubs that have outgrown the situation. They were also preventing any decent growth below their canopies. The felling and clearance of almost all of the plant material in the Jermyns House end of the borders will take place this winter. Certain plants will be retained for their uniqueness – the tape on the branches indicate those that have been given a reprieve.

In a corner of my bedroom

grew a tree

a happy tree

my own tree

its leaves were soft

like flesh

and its birds sang poems for me

then without warning

two men with understanding smiles

and axes made out of forged excuses

came and chopped it down

either yesterday or the day before

i think it was the day before

Dreampoem   Roger McGough

It’s a big decision and, in a sense, brutal but plants that are deemed special will be propagated and bought on to be planted again in a better situation where they can flourish to their true potential.

Below is the view of the borders in 2007, when the project was ignited. We found the area over grown, gloomy in the greenness and pretty uninviting. Many of those working in the gardens though, had a fondness for the borders and disliked our proposal that involved massive clearance, widening of the central path and the borders themselves. The most important aspect of the new design was the introduction of angled paths that cut across the long planted areas to provide a secondary path network linking the woodland areas beyond. The concept was based on Purcell’s ‘Fairy Queen’ in which the spirits interplay with humans. We felt a real sense of how wild life and ‘spirits’ might emerge out of the woodland and inhabit this area at dusk and dark when the clod hopping humans have departed.


The small plan above shows the long central path. Traditionally this was the single route for promenading between the two planted borders. The secondary paths are seen cutting through the borders at angles giving access through the planting at close quarters. Sharp lines of yew hedging replace the original hollies and will be kept sleek and angular to compliment the exuberant planting within.  Geometric forms, circle, ellipse and squares anchor the new scheme firmly into the ‘natural’ and informal woodland that has grown to maturity on each side. Below is the view to the west showing the wide main path, and the tertiary routes that run between the back of the borders and the woodland.

And below, a view of the circular area at Jermyns House end housing a specimen Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck’.

There are more F.s.’Dawycks’ in the centre but these will go as deemed not sufficiently good specimens for an arboretum.

One half of the Jermyns House end is almost cleared . . . .

. . .  but the half at the Pavilion entrance end is awaiting its fate. Below shows the slim path that separates the back of the borders and the woodland of Ten Acres East and West. The evocative feel of dappled shade and pools of light made a significant impact on the design. We knew we should make a strong link using paths to offer an opportunity to explore these rather lovely ‘fringe’ areas as well as the main and obvious central route between the borders. So, the angled paths were born . . .

The woodland looks inviting . . .

. . . and we hope that visitors will walk through, touch, smell, and enjoy the planting as they stroll from side to side – from woodland through decorative planting across the central avenue and through more decorative planting until they reach the woodland on the other side.

Driving out of Appledore in the late afternoon along the narrow road that follows the line of The Royal Military Canal, I was taken with the sky. It was quite something. The sheep, of course, are just glad to get stuck into the newly washed grass that’s been hidden under thick snow for at least a week.   The canal follows the line of the old cliffs when this land was connected to the sea. Now it forms part of Romney Marsh. 28 miles in length and 5 years to construct with the main purpose of keeping Napoleon at bay but also to control smuggling in the area.

My grandmother used to sing this to me a long time ago and her great-grandmother probably sung it to her. She also banged Bobby Shafto out on the upright piano. Now I realise they are both sea shantys. I’ll stop now as slightly drifting off the point!

Bobby Shafto’s gone to sea,
Silver buckles at his knee;
He’ll come back and marry me,
Bonny Bobby Shafto!
Bobby Shafto’s bright and fair,
Panning out his yellow hair;
He’s my love for evermore,
Bonny Bobby Shafto![1

Late for work on Monday having dealt with the fog and freezing conditions but just had to pause and photograph these trees within the campus.

This is part of a park land, in Eltham South London, surrounding a Victorian mansion built by Colonel North who made his fortune from Chilean nitrates.

The cold air just hung above the ground. Little sign of the dog walkers who congregate in the park and so,all in all, a moment of stillness and beauty in a suburb not renowned for such.  

The Winter Garden or Hot House at Avery Hill is fairly decrepit now but must have been quite wonderful at the turn of the century.I hope to take some shots soon.

The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.
On their blotter of fog the trees
Seem a botanical drawing.
Memories growing, ring on ring,
A series of weddings.

Knowing neither abortions nor bitchery,
Truer than women,
They seed so effortlessly!
Tasting the winds, that are footless,
Waist-deep in history.

Full of wings, otherworldliness.
In this, they are Ledas.
O mother of leaves and sweetness
Who are these pietas?
The shadows of ringdoves chanting, but easing nothing. 

Winter Trees    Sylvia Plath.

Compared with this view taken yesterday (pic 3 on this post), more life with folks out walking in the sunshine.

Plenty of tracks in the snow . . .

 . . . and climbing up East Ascent, I notice these railings that prove useful to grab hold of as the gradient is fairly sharp and also as they’re modest but reasonably authentic. The view from where East Ascent hits Mercatoria is brilliant in light quality today . . .

 . . slipping and sliding around the corner to Norman Road someone has had fun on this car bonnet  . . .

 . . and a festive window. Well done! 

The light is magical in the mid afternoon but what does tomorrow hold?

Love, the sun lies warm along the wall.

The wide windows and the smell of the road

Do not say ‘Winter’. Ladybirds are crawling

Out on ledges. Midday full on the land

Slows down the progress of the afternoon

Promising evening like a Summer Sunday.


But look where the sun is. Never high in the sky

It crept around the horizon. Ask anyone,

Look at the trees and the calendar – all declare

It should be Winter. Within two hours

The Winter night will come with the fog.

Since you have gone and gone in the dreaded season

And left so much in the sunlight, I cannot think

Of now as a dead time, only gentle,

With nothing to be feared, if this is Winter. 

The unlooked-for season. Jenny Joseph.

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