day trip to Margate

February 23, 2014


The day starts  – for the young – with pasta salad, crisps, Red Bull and bars of chocolate and it’s only 9.30am. Good for them. We rattle along, just, through Rye, Ashford, Folkestone and Dover, Deal, Sandwich and then Ramsgate, Broadstairs skirting the edge of the Isle of Thanet – looking at flooded land through one side and then the sea, sometimes, on the other –  until we arrive at Margate.



station clock

Margate station was designed by Maxwell Fry – a name from the past – with spacious platforms and booking hall under high curved ceiling and a clock that looks decidedly older. Straight down the hill sits the town with the new Turner Contemporary seemingly looking out to sea – except it doesn’t – just appears to.

first view

beach huts

Droit House built 1812 marks the start of the pier or harbour arm. It has a formal presence next to an asymmetrical new build. You would have paid your harbour dues there years ago but now it’s the information point. Georgian architecture spans the promenade with later decorative additions added for the delight of holiday makers over the 150 year stretch before the advent of cheap flights and bucket holidays. Many buildings have a knapped flint façade and are petite in structure. Quite a few have the curved Dutch gable style to the roofline like the original town hall. The old town is compact with rather charming connecting squares and retains a sense of its history with new shops and facilities (lots of eateries) providing a fresh and energetic atmosphere. The Shell Grotto deserves a visit even if shells are not your bag. Winding underground passages – (about 3 metres below street level) – richly patterned with this very tactile surface cause much wonderment.


town hall

shell grotto

shell grotto 4

shell grotto 2

A terraced amphitheatre connects The Parade to the big sandy beach. The scale is good and it should be a useful facility . . .

closer view

over amphitheatre

harbour's arm 2

. .  on a day like today it could be Tangier.

beach + sea

munoz 1

Inside the new gallery, Conversation Piece by Muñoz, welcomes the visitor immediately. Whimsical and enigmatic, the bronze figures, slightly smaller than human scale, appear to roll and pivot, in the space, talking or gesturing to each other oblivious to the rest of us. A sort of topsy turvy feel.

munoz 5


Turner has been partnered with Frankenthaler for this temporary exhibition – 100 years and a few thousand miles apart but speaking the same language in terms of how the natural surroundings are expressed and shared in oil and water-colour.

frankenthaler 2


Images from the web, I’m afraid, as no photos of the hung work allowed. Frankenthaler: ‘Overture’ (T), ‘Covent Garden Study for Final Maquette (L) + Hotel Cro-Magnon (R).

making painting

covent garden study      final maquette fro Third Movement

1st floor

1st floor 2

And the works of Turner – so very beautiful – so beyond boundaries, more abstract and filled with light.  A lesson in distance, quiet atmosphere and composition. ‘Calais Sands at Low Water: Poissards Collecting Bait’ (L), ‘The Evening Star’ (R) + ‘The Falls of the Clyde’ (B). Tables held books and research information. I couldn’t have asked for a better subject to assist in front of the quote.

calais sands      evening star

falls of the clyde


A potential Turner sky whipped in and then whipped out again. Great day.

turner sky

last pm

The lost self changes,
Turning toward the sea,
A sea-shape turning around, —
An old man with his feet before the fire,
In robes of green, in garments of adieu.
A man faced with his own immensity
Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
The murmur of the absolute, the why
Of being born falls on his naked ears.
His spirit moves like monumental wind
That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
He is the end of things, the final man.

All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree :
The pure serene of memory in one man, —
A ripple widening from a single stone
Winding around the waters of the world.  Theodore Roethke  The Far Field

november and the sun is warm

November 10, 2013


We woke up to warm sun this Sunday and it was most welcome following torrential rain and a storm ten days ago. Standing in the attic window, I spied a swimmer doing a fast crawl towards the pier – wondered if the sea was warm too – and was a little relieved to see him exit the water about 30 minutes later.


The storm threw the pebbles over the lower promenade disguising the division between beach and tarmac  . . .


the burnt out pier

. .  . strong shadows on the soft, sandy, lower stretch . . .


. . .  all the crunch is now higher up mixed with seaweed drying out and crisping up.



Taking this shot, I start to notice the cracks and fissures in the concrete oversail . . .


. . and conscious of Cornelia Parker, having watched and been influenced by her episode in What Do Artists Do All Day, started to take more detailed shots .  . . .


cracks 2

. . and then I started to think what I was going to do with the photographs – time will tell.


cracks + view

Down in Hastings, the Herring Fair should have drawn in many visitors to compensate for the washout of yesterday. Sonny had some fine kippers – a pair are in the fridge. Yum.


Wild nights – Wild nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –

To a Heart in port –

Done with the Compass –

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –

Ah – the Sea!

Might I but moor – tonight –

In thee! Emily Dickinson  Wild Nights

hastings old town1

The country park is also a nature reserve that spreads itself over the cliffs to the east of Hastings and further along the coast to Fairlight and Pett. It’s good to escape the town in the early morning and explore and stroll freely before the dog walkers arrive. This environment combines heath, grass and woodland in well balanced amounts, all battered by strong, salt laden winds, mostly westerlies. I liked both images of the town nestling between the two cliffs and really couldn’t choose one or the other  . . .

hastings old town 2

. . .  seats are placed to take in views of all aspects. This very grainy image into bright 9 o’clock sun taken from the favourite bench offers a glimpse of leisure craft and fishing boats and containers mingling together – they’ve all been out for hours!.

view from country park

The footpaths are disappearing now under the rampant  growth that happens with a sunny summer with spasms of  useful rain. Brambles are just fruiting up nicely and in fact I picked a blackberry this afternoon.



Water flows through the glynes down to the sea. At this point, the way down to the beach is via a rope  – about 4m long – well secured to the sandstone rock.

view from edge of cliffs cliff edge meadow

Ecclesbourne Meadow is part of a restoration project to prevent the encroaching growth of scrub and bramble but, also, the detrimental effects of modern intensive farming techniques.  Areas of insect friendly wild flower planting is marked off with mown paths offering close engagement for walkers – these areas are also carefully managed by grazing.

meadow 2 oaks

Ecclesbourne Glen is the home of ash and scrub oak – with contorted sculptural branches –  bracken and now, epilobium. Pools of shadow envelop the wooded landscape that spills down directly to the town.

epilobium 2 oak branches

The beach belongs

to me. A dark tide

stretching the moon.

Waves splutter

“The beach is ours.

It saves us when

our waters break.”

Pebbles shriek

“We are the beach.

You pound on us

with energy rude

and swell subdued.”

God coughs politely.

“I think you’ll find

the beach is mine.

I share the sea, the sea

with one whose mind

was breached.”  Pam Hughes  The Beach (for Iris Murdoch)

1to beach

Under grey skies on Romney Marsh. This view is from the road that runs through the shingle to  the cluster of buildings erected around the old lighthouse. All now dwarfed by the power station. I am particularly fond of this view of this barren landscape – only to be found on this side of the road.

2 to beach landscape

Directly opposite on the other side of the road sits Prospect Cottage, home of Derek Jarman until mid 1990’s. Each year this humble shack receives a new finish. In the grainy light, the poem by John Donne, on the exterior facade is only just visible. A few folks had set up their stools and were busy capturing the composition of house within garden and, within setting, in water colour. There are no boundaries to land in this environment and you can move restfully around the ‘garden’ of the cottage to view, admire and breathe it all in. Most of the planted species are indigenous and native material will also pop up from wind blown or bird dropped seed.

3 prospect

4 prospect 2

The impact of the surroundings completes the picture – in an informative way and also strangely in an enigmatic visual sense. This was a unique ‘garden’, now much copied and mostly badly.

5 garden at prospect dungeness

6 garden at prospect dungeness

7 garden at prospect dungeness

In the 28 years since the initial visit, I have witnessed considerable changes to the habitations along the road. Over the last 5 years, almost complete gentrification has happened. Expensive vehicles are parked outside the neat refurbished houses. Fluffy garden areas are now established – all looking totally false in contrast to the original at Prospect Cottage.

8 garden at prospect dungeness

9 shed at prospect dungeness

The native planting where man doesn’t interfere still retains a quite specific feel and I fell in love with it all over again.

10 to beach landscape prospect dungeness

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late schoolboys and sour ‘prentices,
Go tell court huntsmen that the King will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shoulds’t thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th’Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me?
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, ‘All here in one bed lay.’

She’s all states, and all princes, I;
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here, to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere. John Donne The Sunne Rising

9 stairwell

At the De la Warr Pavilion to watch live opera on film. An opera within an opera (and in this case, Jesse Norman would have made all the difference). Wandering around this building in its setting is always a pleasure . . .

3 window

4 window

. . the bandstand, known as the bus shelter,  without the usual skateboarders . . .

1 window

. .  I glimpse a figure pulling red shopping trolley. I have seen this lady before,  in St Leonards maybe . . .

6 bag

7 bag

11 bag

. .  and watch her inhabit the space, stare out to sea and eventually exit stage right.

14 bag

13 sea portrait


Some folks take the opera tradition seriously and sip their champagne looking out to sea . . . while other younger inhabitants stand with the correct paraphernalia and look out to sea too as the roof area is shut this evening.  Shaun Gladwell has provided installations to use and to view that conflict with cultural practices and traditions.

17 onlookers

16 scooter

This is ‘Triumph Daytona 675 Intersection’ and on the roof he’s provided ‘Ride + Skate – mini ramp intersections’. You must book a time slot for BMX riding and skating depending on weather.

2 gladwell

18 ride + skate on the roof

In the school room by the installation . . .

19 school room

. . useful and relevent tools are laid out for creativity.

20 school room detail

Scampering back down the staircase to catch the rest of the opera, I thought, goodness only why, of Betjeman. What would he have made of Ariadne? He’d have liked the saucy bits but would have missed the lack of poetry and sensitivity I feel. Oje, das ist traurig

21 stairwell


Hark, I hear the bells of Westgate,
I will tell you what they sigh,
Where those minarets and steeples
Prick the open Thanet sky.

Happy bells of eighteen-ninety,
Bursting from your freestone tower!
Recalling laurel, shrubs and privet,
Red geraniums in flower.

Feet that scamper on the asphalt
Through the Borough Council grass,
Till they hide inside the shelter
Bright with ironwork and glass,

Striving chains of ordered children
Purple by the sea-breeze made,
Striving on to prunes and suet
Past the shops on the Parade.

Some with wire around their glasses,
Some with wire across their teeth,
Writhing frames for running noses
And the drooping lip beneath.

Church of England bells of Westgate!
On this balcony I stand,
White the woodwork wriggles round me,
Clocktowers rise on either hand.

For me in my timber arbour
You have one more message yet,
“Plimsolls, plimsolls in the summer,
Oh galoshes in the wet!”  John Betjeman  Westgate-on- Sea

Just to record today January 20 2013. And also to take a breath of air, so across to the front and look east . . . .


. . and to the west.


And to look down at the turnstones rushing around on the beach – little dark smudges, poor things.

turn stones

And herring and black headed gulls . . .


. . being spied on by a penguin! and a friend.

pengiun + cat

market alley

Trudge back along the alley and admire the Euphorbia mellifera doing the best it can opposite the front door. Go inside and read some poems in the warm.

euphorbia mellifera

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice. Robert Frost  Fire and Ice

January gives me a dark eye

and a light.

one patched like a pirate,

obliged to look in,

the other squinting out at the park

like a spring animal.

What my dark eye knows

Is the blind underbelly

of the turf.

the brown dog

in the dream that defies gravity.

and, in the premature dusk,

Concorde swooping down from a storm-cloud,

not silver for once

but tar-black, lucid

as a galleon in the hieratic spread

of its sails.   Alison Fell  6 January  Lightyear

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

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