Meeting up in the coldest place in the city, we shuffled about stamping feet, banging our arms across our bodies and trying to be brave. We’d forgotten how to deal with the cold and needed time to rehearse. Hay’s Galleria can be the most inhospitable meeting point, not only because it’s a wind tunnel but also because the clear circulation and desire lines are destroyed by the loathsome sculpture plonked in the main concourse – my opinion of course.

Across the river, the panorama of ‘new’ London at this point looks like a dog’s dinner – an architectural mess of geometric shapes, materials and lumpen forms. Sad and I’m still cold and grumpy! At More London, the intention is clear but the choice of the only living organism planted here within the urban mix is poor. Poor red oaks need taking off to a nursing home for recuperation or perhaps kinder to axe them now. The trees are slowly dying – planting is too close, little water can percolate to the rootball and underground services are seen to be more important than the trees but . . .

. . . beautiful colours today – bright sun, blue skies and the warmth of the autumn leaves helped mind over matter. Need to look at the positive issues. We have a beautiful city. Groups of tourists and visitors and inhabitants bustle around involved in their many languages . . . .

. . . fine details can be experienced as well as ‘in yer face’ items. We were here last year.

Plenty of delicate textures too, relieve the impact of the deadening effect of the corporate built environment . . .

. . . hurrah for the urban designers and plants people who make a difference and warm our souls and hope here for these red oaks in a better position by Potters Field.

Here I hang. I cut myself

apart for you with knowing

tenderness. Shoulders,

legs, spare ribs and spleen.

Liver gleaming in a dish,

Set out neatly for the crowd.

Look at my last gift to you.

Blood and sweetbread.

Nothing new. Pam Hughes  Ecce Home

at the local

October 22, 2012

At the local, we are very lucky to be able to see a wonderful exhibition. The gallery has become an important ‘facility’, a horrible descriptive noun, so maybe better to say that the gallery has a local identity now. Yes, I know that I shouldn’t photograph art in this context but I want to show how a piece is hung and works in relation to the line of the roof. The staff tell me that Gillian Ayres was also interested in how her work would be hung and so, appreciated to the maximum. She was also interested in the staff too. Hurrah!

Cwm Bran (1959) below – vibrant – and I read something of the landscape but also having a feeling about figures and movement.  Ayres (take a little time out to watch this video) might have another opinion and she’s quite forthright on the needlessness of figures in her work. She seems to leave it all to the viewer . . . I like that. Colour, area, marks and colour again that touch the soul.  Paint, as liquid,  put on the canvas with the hand as well as the brush as well as pouring out of the can!  Gillian Ayres is very popular in this house – but don’t get overly excited as it’s only a print.

Visiting Tate Modern and The Tanks, spatially much larger than our small gallery, lighting bounced off the polished concrete floors and contrasted pleasingly with the rough texture on the old walls – splats of colour within the geometry and the shafts of light made a composition.

The groups, a school group below who have to wear a uniform of a different sort . . .  and a very large number of people, maybe 50,  who acted out a performance. Fairly bizarre as there was no knowing who was performing and who was just passing through – succesful and inspiring! Lots of the rest of us wanted to join up! Those who know tell me that Tino Sehgal’s work operates on unexpected encounters, hence the little information available in the gallery. ‘The people you witnessed in the Turbine Hall were part of the current Unilever Series by artist Tino Sehgal, titled ‘These associations’: 

Colour and tone  – this could be an abstract landscape  . . .

. . and below a pic taken on the phone – I really like this – waiting to meet someone who I last saw many, many years ago.

But back to our local and the view out which is a requirement here – we all look to the sea – full of liquidity. It seems to have been all about liquidity and the thin vein of life.

Caught — the bubble in the spirit level,
a creature divided;
and the compass needle
wobbling and wavering,
Freed — the broken
thermometer’s mercury
running away;
and the rainbow-bird
from the narrow bevel
of the empty mirror,
flying wherever
it feels like, gay! Elizabeth Bishop Sonnet

writers in the woodland

October 17, 2012

One side of the path in the sunlight with soft, buttery grasses in late summer contrasts with the other side – slightly shadier and consequently with a greenish layer on the floor plain of ferns. This point is the start of the walk  IGN Map 2543 (St Gervais), and by the fitness trail, for those who enjoy a randonée . . . .

. . . a randonée through La Forêt deas Ecrivans Combattants, in memory of writers who died in combat in both wars – allées and paths are named after them, so, for example, Rond-point Maurice Bourder, Belvedere P Chanlaine and Allée de Lt – Col. De Malléray are to be seen.  It’s an evocative place and pleasingly organised – thoughtful in concept and implementation. Also to be seen now are the sweet chestnuts gorgeously fruiting on the lower slopes. Such abundance!

The monuments resemble tomb stones although made of concrete. I realised that my knowledge of French literature was dire and in need of much research. Good to be pulled up!

Small bee orchids were seen shyly appearing through the burnt out grassy sward . . . .

. . . and pine woods spread over the higher, more exposed land above the Gorges de Madale.

A couple of months ago  this view would be a sea of mauve when the calluna flowers profusely. A sheep fold, unused for many years, is a rather beautiful building at a distance and also close to . . . .

. . .  now it houses an equally beautiful decrepit chestnut.

Just a sheep fold but great craftsmanship from whoever constructed the stone walls. Winding paths through chestnut and oak woodland lead back to Combes almost alpine in feel. If the auberge is a destination, it’s lunchtime opening is short. Hélas, too short in my case.

In a house which becomes a home,
one hands down and another takes up
the heritage of mind and heart,
laughter and tears, musings and deeds.
Love, like a carefully loaded ship,
crosses the gulf between the generations.
Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies
of our passage: when we wed, when we die,
and when we are blessed with a child;
When we depart and when we return;
When we plant and when we harvest.
Let us bring up our children. It is not
the place of some official to hand to them
their heritage.
If others impart to our children our knowledge
and ideals, they will lose all of us that is
wordless and full of wonder.
Let us build memories in our children,
lest they drag out joyless lives,
lest they allow treasures to be lost because
they have not been given the keys.
We live, not by things, but by the meanings
of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
from generation to generation.   Antoine de Saint-Exupery  Generation to Generation

I love surprises especially those in the landscape. This feature wouldn’t have been a surprise if I’d read the guide book before visiting Oppidum d’Ensérune. Of course, Oppidum is a remarkable site on a hill  with 360 degree views;  so a smart strategic choice for seeing those  down on the plain who might have threatening ideas. An ancient settlement occupied the hill from  the 6th century BC to  1st century AD. The Romans ran the Via Domitia alongside connecting the Alps to the Pyrenees and below the hill sits this landscape -Étang du Montady – a large circular expanse of drained land which is now wedge shaped fields separated by irrigation ditches that converge in the centre. Monks in the 13thC drained the freshwater wetland following orders from the Bishop of Narbonne! I found it amazing as a piece of land art which is also functional. So, the ditches allowed water to flow in radial lines to the centre of the circular depression, from which it was conveyed through underground pipes below the Malpas hill  several kilometres to the south. (I think I prefer the image above in contrast to the photoshopped one below) . . . .

. . .  the fact that the drain for Montady went through Malpas encouraged Riquet, the designer of the Canal du  Midi, to build a tunnel through the same hill for his canal. The image below is from the Malpas tunnel excavated and constructed in 17C  to accomodate the passage of the Canal du Midi – Europe’s first navigable canal. In the nineteenth century, a third tunnel was excavated, passing through the Hill d’Ensérune beneath the Malpas tunnel to house the railway freom Beziers to Narbonne.  The hill had been riddled with holes.

‘History is just one f . . . thing after another’ (expletives removed). Alan Bennett  The History Boys

The mist sits in the Tarn Valley and floats under the viaduct designed by Norman Foster. He wanted it to seem that ‘it has the delicacy of a butterfly’. Well achieved  and it works as the highest road bridge in the world with the central pillar taller than the Eiffel Tower.  Beautiful to look at as a landmark and a beautiful experience when crossing.

Simple immoveable benches in the spacious area around the vistor centre – an old farm building – that offers the best vantage point for viewing. The Fench are good at space and very rarely clutter it up.

Between the viaduct and the Étang du Montady, rests the remains of the Abbaye de Fontcaude – hot spring in Occitan – on the pilgrim route to St. Jacques de Compostela. Many events caused destruction to the building – burnt to the ground during the wars of religion – sold by auction during the French Revolution – fell into disrepair and became farm building in the 19C – before the start of restoration only 40 years ago. It looked over restored to me.

So over restored that it lacked any sense of the past. Hanging baskets and horrid planting filled the cloister area. The only images I’ve posted are those that have a glimmer of history and the ancient construction. I did like the carved figures of St. Jacques on the capitals with the slochy hat, capacious outer garment and the loose bag over the shoulder. Back to craftsmanship then  . . . .  but hats off to more recent engineering !

Between now and now,
between I am and you are,
the word bridge.

Entering it
you enter yourself:
the world connects
and closes like a ring.

From one bank to another,
there is always
a body stretched:
a rainbow.
I’ll sleep beneath its arches.  Octavio Paz  The Bridge

My six-year-old mechanic, you are up half the night

inventing a pipe made from jars, a ski-ing car

for flat icy roads and a timer-catapult

involving a palm tree, candles and rope.

You could barely stand when I once found you,

having loosened the bars from the cot

and stepped out so simply you shocked yourself.

Today I am tearful, infatuated with bad ideas,

the same song, over and over. You take charge,

up-end chairs, pull cushions under the table,

lay in chewing-gum and juice

rip newspaper into snow on the roof.  Lavinia Greenlaw Invention

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