town and country

January 4, 2017

uzes

The Wednesday morning market in Place aux Herbes in Uzès displays many produits du terroirs, regional products and specialties. It’s a more compact affair, so easier to negotiate and altogether a more satisfying experience than the Saurday jamboree. Now, in winter, the architecture lining the narrow emptier streets is also easier to appreciate – stand back, look up and admire.

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ferula

Look across, breathe in and admire here too, south of the town, in the Gorges du Gardon. Ferula stems of last year’s plants still stand tall although brittle and with a feeling of just about hanging on . . .

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. . . the Gard flowing from the west into a horse shoe curve and then bending out again to the east and on under Pont du Gard until it slips into the Rhone, I’ve posted about about this much loved walk previously .  . . .

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elder

. . . the winter sun highlights details like the dried fruits on the elder and the new growth of ferula . . .

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From this panorama point le point de vue des castellas, a man made cave is visible used by the rock climbers who hang disjointedly like Looby Loo all along the south facing aspect.

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cave

The interior of the cave required a figure for purposes of scale but the view from this point was safer sans figure.

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Neraby at the Galerie Marina, glimpses of the countryside still in skeletal mode  . . .

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. . . and inside with Robert Lobet and inspirational work.

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You do not seem to realize that beauty is a liability rather
than
an asset – that in view of the fact that spirit creates form
we are justified in supposing
that you must have brains. For you, a symbol of the
unit, stiff and sharp,
conscious of surpassing by dint of native superiority and
liking for everything
self-dependent, anything an

ambitious civilization might produce: for you, unaided, to
attempt through sheer
reserve, to confuse presumptions resulting from
observation, is idle. You cannot make us
think you a delightful happen-so. But rose, if you are
brilliant, it
is not because your petals are the without-which-nothing
of pre-eminence. Would you not, minus
thorns, be a what-is-this, a mere
perculiarity? They are not proof against a worm, the
elements, or mildew;
but what about the predatory hand? What is brilliance
without co-ordination? Guarding the
infinitesimal pieces of your mind, compelling audience to
the remark that it is better to be forgotten than to be re-
membered too violently,
your thorns are the best part of you. Marianne Moore Roses Only

 

 

to esplanade

In Nimes, it’s feria – a great big party based around the bulls . . . bull fighting . . . bull running . . . and other bull events. These are not for me but I do like a festive occasion.  On the way up the esplanade through the stalls of food and of clothing, I came across young girls perfectly turned out but hanging around in informal queues  . . .

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. . . waiting to take the stage and perform with their instructor, or was she a judge? Whatever she was big personality . . .

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. . . we were all transfixed by her charisma.

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esplanade fountain

Around the fountain, horse men and woman, from Uzès perfomed with impressive skill . . .

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horse skills

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. . . and another formidable horse woman was also centre stage.

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Crowds overflowed into the street around the bodegas . . .

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. . . full of bonhomie. Beer and sangria flowing but no one seemed to show after effects . . .

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. . . and musicians started impromptu concerts . . .

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. . . full of fun and some performers showing superb skills.

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arene

It opens, the gate to the garden

with the docility of a page

that frequent devotion questions

and inside, my gaze

has no need to fix on objects

that already exist, exact, in memory.

I know the customs and souls

and that dialect of allusions

that every human gathering goes weaving.

I’ve no need to speak

nor claim false privilege;

they know me well who surround me here,

know well my afflictions and weakness.

This is to reach the highest thing,

that Heaven perhaps will grant us:

not admiration or victory

but simply to be accepted

as part of an undeniable Reality,

like stones and trees. Jorge Luis Borges

 

year end

December 31, 2014

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In San Remy de Provence (specifically Glanum) for the year end. Can’t think of a better place to be . . .

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san remy

 

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. . . much to admire and much to reflect on.

glanum arch detail

How like a winter hath my absence been

From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!

What old December’s bareness everywhere!

And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time,

The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,

Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,

Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:

Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me

But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;

For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,

And thou away, the very birds are mute;

Or if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

Sonnet 97 william shakespeare

the dutchman in town

October 23, 2014

alfred's meadow

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.

north play

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.

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velo park

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north park

The soft informal areas are delightfully promising. Good work EDAW.

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carpenters lock

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 . . .

olympic park imagesCH7WA8RW   outdoor rooms

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outdoor rooms

. . . 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.

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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.

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To the south of the stadium, Nigel Dunett’s pictorial meadows are show stopping . . .

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stadium

bow quarter

. . . with a view to Bow Quarter and an old home. Great exuberance and a marvellous finale.

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pic meadows1

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Looking down to the new kitchen which leads on to what supposedly was the town mortuary but is now the dining room.

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Outside in the enclosed courtyard, giant hogweed, tree ferns and a huge gunnera fill the space . . .

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. . .  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).

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all saints

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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.  . . .

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. . a touch of Vermeer above and quite exquisite other touches to conclude. Lots of wonderment and looking in.  It’s worth a visit.

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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.

 

out + about

March 2, 2014

Still in an urban frame of mind as against more rural or natural landscape environments – not because I wish to be but it’s what is thrust centre stage at the moment. Another storm is whistling up tonight. If the summer ahead is long and very hot, then looking back on stormy evenings might be a good leveller. Gardens, plants, growth, softness and explosions of seasonal interest are still ‘parked’ . . . unfortunately. In George Street, Old Town Hastings, a few compositions were put on record . . .  child’s carriage or maybe a dog’s carriage would be more applicable for this doggy town and details on an old screen reminded me of transfers and childhood stickers. . . .

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. . . .  George Street through the sea mist – colourful, a little shambolic in a charming manner, idiosyncratic and packed full of tea and coffee shops. Incurva Studios is in a side street connecting to West Street with an installation that changes seasonally. This quill may be a ‘Leigh Dyer’ . . .

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. . . in the window of one of the many second hand bookshops, a bound thesis or  dissertation by Jane  Gallup titled ‘Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment’. I don’t know what to say.

And some vibrant wall art on the extinct Butlers Emporium with the continual change of use showing  in the Old Town Butchers now housing eastern trinkets.

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Great glossy seas this morning, churning and rolling and thundering in a wonderful fashion. Huge winds push some of us to find a little shelter in Norman Road. Windows offer excellent compositions with layers of depth and sub text . . .

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. . .  the Baker Mamonova Gallery and Lucy Bell’s show floral art . . .

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. .  Fleet Gallery and Wayward show large light fittings and haberdashery items.

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Plan B and Sideshow Interiors have exotic mannequins . . . some pushed right into the window frame.

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Some are busy on repairing their buildings and some like to express themselves in a scrabble format on  other peoples walls. It’s a funny old place. I may have said this before.

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At this particular time I have no one
Particular person to grieve for, though there must
Be many, many unknown ones going to dust
Slowly, not remembered for what they have done
Or left undone. For these, then, I will grieve
Being impartial, unable to deceive.

How they lived, or died, is quite unknown,
And, by that fact gives my grief purity–
An important person quite apart from me
Or one obscure who drifted down alone.
Both or all I remember, have a place.
For these I never encountered face to face.

Sentiment will creep in. I cast it out
Wishing to give these classical repose,
No epitaph, no poppy and no rose
From me, and certainly no wish to learn about
The way they lived or died. In earth or fire
They are gone. Simply because they were human, I admire.

Elizabeth Jennings In Memory of Someone Unknown to Me

dimanche après-midi

December 29, 2013

maison carre

Eyes up within the portico of the Maison Carrée  in Nimes – the stepped entrance, fluted columns and the compact nature of the portico – encourage the upward gesture. At this festive time however, action and noise compete to steer the glance across to the ice rink installed as a gay, colourful and interactive lower platform between the old and the new –  in an architectural sense. The new is the Carrée d’Art de Foster which becomes a fitting background to the leisure requirements of the Nimoise today .. . . . .

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carre d'art

. . wandering around to the Boulevard Victor Hugo, late afternoon sun arrives on the  facade and the light pushes the foreground elements – branches and street decorations  – into strong definition.

boulevard victor hugo

quai de la fontaine

Turning left to wander along the Quai de la Fontaine on the way to the Jardins, the beauty of the plane trees  arching discreetly to their opposite partner frames the sedate but apposite water feature .. .

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. .  the usual activities are happening on the ground. And the usual effects are happening on the vertical elements . . .

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. . . in the park, families engage in their own festive enjoyment and the permanent inhabitants oversee all.

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The Jardins de la Fontaine were the first public gardens constructed in France,  50 years after Versailles built by the King for himself. The town is justly proud of this great garden and it is well used by all generations. As so often the case in France, the scale remains superb – the pattern and the form still have an integrity – with proportions that many designers nowadays can only dream about.

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Wandering back by the Arènes, starlings provide the performance skywards. A murmuration  – exquisite formations    – float with exact organisation forwards and backwards across the sky gathering before coming home to roost . . . .

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. .  at the junction of Rue de l’Ecluse (home/roost) and Avenue Carnot stands a palm. Phillippe Starck has created an installation  – Abribus –  inspired by an ancient Roman symbol which is found on both the coin and on the shield of the city, and features the two symbols of the city, the crocodile and palm tree. The marble design is a small line of solid cubes that reach the tree and are the tail and neck, and a large bucket, supported by its four vertices showing the animal’s body. As the light falls and decorative lighting comes to the fore. A strange and succesful installation  that typifies ‘ the seen and the unseen’. That typifies The Little Prince.

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“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…

They don’t find it,” I answered.

And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint Exupery  The Little Prince 

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