27th November – afternoon

November 27, 2011

At 3.30 this afternoon, Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’ on west hill . . . .

. . . at 4pm, the seafront at St Leonards.  Bliss.

Rich chrysanthemums that drip
Among the rusty palings. Brown
Burnished sheaf the frost must nip.
Frost’s a beggar to this town.

Sky that’s as an eggshell green
Merely glimmeringly known,
Since too lustrous to be seen
Hidden like a jewel-stone.

Air as faint and pure as silk
Lovelily and strangely freaked
All with mulberries in milk
Stained and with fine orange streaked.

Bells the disembodied breath
Of our fear and our belief,
Flying, flying after death,
Dying with the sapless leaf.

Voices fading on the peace,
Children’s voices hoarse with zest,
A moon cut out of candle grease
Waxing in the sunset’s breast. Fredegond Shove   Twilight in November

People in space is a term I’m always banging on about to students – an understanding of ergonomics is crucial in designing public and private outside areas. So yesterday, the evacuation of the galleries of Tate Modern was not only an unusual event but a concrete example people milling in space without a physical rationale but with an emotional  common goal – itching to get back inside and re establish the experience.

At least I’d managed to get to the final room of the Richter before the alarm went off – some poor folks may have only just entered the first room. Nightmare! We were ushered down the fire staircase – all bright yellow – and  catapulted out into the cold afternoon.  There was a general unwillingness to move too far away – all hugger mugger as close to the entrances as permitted – the staff didn’t like that one bit.

We stood around and either looked at each other without really looking at each other or faffed about with phones.

Upset and resentful at being dragged away from a delicious experience only to sit and wait on benches right next to rubbish bins!

Disconsolate people gave up and wandered away. What a contrast to the focus of the Richter work.  The final whistle had been blown before we’d drunk it all in. The lovely trees reminded me that it was time to go off and teach young people about plants.

Walking by the waters

down where an honest river

shakes hands with the sea,

a woman passed round me

in a slow watchful circle,

as if I were a superstition;


or the worst dregs of her imagination,

so when she finally spoke

 her words spliced into bars

 of an old wheel.

 A segment of air. Where do you come from?

 ‘Here’ I said, ‘Here. These parts’.   Jackie Kay  In My Country

bits on the beach

November 17, 2011

Today I found a jacket to match my shoes and a fish picked clean by the gulls . . .

. . bright colours accentuated by the light from a threatening storm and motley shapes and a lot of plastic . . . and a rubber glove in the foreground. Came across three more all left hands.

Since the fishing boats are launched by a caterpillar machine and beached by winch, items are ordered in lines to allow for this movement up and down, but there’s also a higgledy-piggledy look too that matches the tumbling character  of the Old Town buildings . . .

. . . a collection of useful objects that look like detritus . .  and the inhabitants.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster,


Lose something every day.

accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.


Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.


I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.


I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.


— Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster  Elizabeth Bishop  One Art

on being put to bed

November 16, 2011

On being put to bed relates, of course, to things horticultural at this time of the year but this phrase also relates to the youngest member of the family.  And, since he’s been in this house a good bit lately, my mind is focused on his needs as against preparing the allotment for the winter sleep. He needs, so his parents say, a firm routine of supper, bath, quiet time and then bed. Supper and bath are easy and fun. Quiet time consists of flopping around and crooning nursery rhymes like:

Bye Baby Bunting,

Daddy’s gone a hunting,

Gone to get a rabbit skin,

To wrap his baby bunting in.


Hush-a-by baby on the tree top,

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,

And down will fall baby cradle and all.

The narrative is quite gruesome really and thank goodness, it’s all about rhythm and intonation to him and not about his Daddy going off killing and also being hurtled to the ground in the wind! So after this quiet time we do ‘bed’ which is not seen by him in the same light as putting things to bed horticulturally at all. The little one sees it as missing out on what the rest of the family do – he wants to party on. His Uncle Beard had a similar character and expected to party 24/7 but years on he’s the one who falls asleep before the overture or prologue is half way through! So horticulturally, we tidy, mulch, wrap and generally do our best to ensure plants are warm and safe  – Baby listen to me, you know it it makes sense – to get our plants through ‘the night’ of winter so they can thrust up, leaf up, blossom and fruit for spring. Little one, of course, will do that for his next 365 mornings and on and on, even though he makes a fuss.

Tidying up, covering up . . . .

. . . digging over and adding all good stuff and mulching pots of bulbs.

November smells of rue, bitter and musky

Of mould, and fungus, and fog at the blue dusk.

The Church repents, and the trees, scattering their riches,

Stand up in bare bones.

But already the green buds sharpen for the first spring day,

Red embers glow on the twigs of the pyrus japonica,

And clematis awns, those burnished curly wigs,

Feather for the seeds’ flight.

Stark advent songs, the busy fungus of decay –

They are works of darkness that prepare the light,

And soon the candid frost lays bare all secrets. Anne Ridler Winter Poem

What’s the story behind this pair left on the terrace this morning? Too uncomfortable and so kicked off and rejected or is it an art installation?

A dream lies dead here. May you softly go
Before this place, and turn away your eyes,
Nor seek to know the look of that which dies
Importuning Life for life. Walk not in woe,
But, for a little, let your step be slow.
And, of your mercy, be not sweetly wise
With words of hope and Spring and tenderer skies.
A dream lies dead; and this all mourners know:

Whenever one drifted petal leaves the tree
Though white of bloom as it had been before
And proudly waitful of fecundity-
One little loveliness can be no more;
And so must Beauty bow her imperfect head
Because a dream has joined the wistful dead! Dorothy Parker A Dream  Lies Dead

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