early december landscape

December 7, 2013

horizon1

horizon 3

This morning, the horizon shimmered with a low misty layer. The sea appeared to be exhaling in long slow sensuous breaths into the huge sky above. The contrast of this light show (orchestrated by the universe) to the raw, stubbly  texture of the newly ‘cut’ hedges (massacred by man) was quite powerful. . . . .

horizon 2

. . . . although the colours of the landscape here in the  Country Park, now are mostly earthy and restful, flashes of brilliance appear on the top of the gorse and from the berries of the stinking Gladwyn iris – poor plant to have to bear this detrimental tag . . .

ulex

iris foetidus

. . . but holding its own against the encompassing mass of bracken fronds looking now like shredded brown paper bags. Attractive in appearance, the bracken masks its true nature  –  pernicious, invasive and opportunistic.coast 2

oak + horizon

 

birds

Scrub oaks and small sweet chestnut are more prominent visually on this sloping coastal terrain. A flock of birds showing as black specks add to the graphic quality of the composition. I feel a stranger in my surroundings. When I look to the horizon from this rather gentrified landscape, I want to know what is happening beyond and elsewhere in the world. I should feel lucky  in comparison with those caught up in violent conflict as the poem intimates.

The seasons are sharp and divide the look and feel of the landscape. It becomes very different worlds when the seasons change. Elements are exposed; then covered, hidden and secret. I think again and again of Ravel’s  sentence:  Music is the silence hidden between the notes.

scrub oak leaning

Was it widthways or lengthways,

a quarrel with the equator?

Did the rawness of the inside sparkle?

Only this is true:

there was an arm on one side

and a hand on the other,

a thought on one side

and a hush on the other.

And a luminous tear

carried on the back of a beetle

went backwards and forwards

from one side to the other.  Monica Alvi  How the World Split in Two

november and the sun is warm

November 10, 2013

swimmer

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.

groynes

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

beach

the burnt out pier

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

shadows

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

balustrade

seaweed

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

pier

. . 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

cracks 2

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

paint

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.

kippers

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

fist view

First glimpse of the harbour arm this morning down at The Stade and once passed the fishing boats the rainbow colours are left behind . . .

over the harbour arm 1

over the harbour arm 2

over the harrbour arm 3

. .  if I’d chosen B+W these images couldn’t be more graphic. Great turbulent sea.

detail

Even the puddles have a marine quality  – this one looks like a large turbot. Nipping into Sonny’s at Rock – a – Nore  turbot wasn’t on offer but no matter as his display looked mouth watering as always.

fish

rock a nore

Battling up the shallow incline of The Old Town High Street to see Drawings Inspired by Great Dixter Gardens which had some resonance with the bare bones of the stormy weather. Large charcoal compositions that ignore one of the attributes that Dixter is famous for – the variety of colour within the planting palette. So, a brave decision, but one that many are appreciative of.

34 old town high street

echo

Artist and gallery owner in deep conversation and an idea of the scale of ‘Echo’, the largest piece. Listen carefully and you might hear nightingales . . . .

paradise revisited

. . I rather like these shots where other pieces are reflected to form layered compositions. I also rather like it when our garden clients come along and make a purchase. Very good choice, James.

dixter

a thousand ways

It’s been a weekend devoted to gardens. And devoted to gardens with yew hedges that provide a still and calming presence. Yesterday was spent at Sissinghurst when we talked a lot about control. How to convey sense of place and mood when writing about gardens. How to describe the character of plants successfully. How to dig deeper and also how to edit. Today, there is no control and hence the choice of poem, but it was a close run thing with Robert Frost.

last

The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain’s side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  The Sound of the Sea

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.

track

stream

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)

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A misty start to Green Man Day this year. We wandered down the front  . . . 2

. . . and passed the pier shrouded in sea fog. But then the mass of metal hit us as the roar of exhausts filled the air . . 3

. . and on to Rock a Nore where the crowds milled around innocently, made up of small groupings catching up on the local gossip as well as meeting and greeting 12 months on. (Click on the bold to see the previous 3 years posted here + more info on the why, what and the wherefore of this event). here + here + here4 wigs 4 6 7

Jack is set free from the net hut and Mad Jack’s Woman dance around him before the procession starts with Mad Jack’s Morris waving hankies, slapping each others buttocks in a manner that brings to the fore many other British eccentricities . . . 8 9 10

. . the Gay Bogies, Hannah’s Cat, The Lovely Ladies and Green Participants enter into the spirit of the occasion . . . 11

. .  many costumes  are to be admired . . .

12 figures

. .  Giant figures enter into the procession at significant stages – but don’t ask me when or why. I like the ‘shy lady’ though with her coy glance . . .

13 figures

. . the Sweeps arrive looking dark, dusty and threatening . . . . 14 sweeps 15 sweeps 17

. .  the decoration of their top hats needs a closer examination – bits of everything cobbled together. 16 sweep headress

More hats and head dresses . . . easy to see above the mellay. headress 1 headress 2 headress 3 headress4 headress 5 headress6 headress 7

After the group of dark sweeps, more colourful costumes pass by including dogs suitably attired . . . 18 colour 19 colour

. .  there’s a good deal of drumming and banging of staves and some sort of dancing – quite a lot is about thrusting at opposing partner!

20 colour 21

My favourite well dressed participant (above) – different costume every year but always recognisable. Well done again, Sir. 22

It becomes difficult to differentiate between the ‘live’ and the model . 23 courthouse 24 courthouse

In the Old Town High Street, doors and windows have been adorned . . . . 25 door 26 window

. .  it’s a tight, narrow street, so the sound wells up and the excitement created by the enthusiasm of those in the procession and the onlookers blends into a fantastic festive eruption of movement and colour. 27 28 29

The costumes can be better appreciated from the rear. 30

Some in the procession appear resolute and determined . . . . . and others want to remain incognito. 31

Some appear swashbuckling and cavalier . . .

32

. . and some want a rest now and then.

33

The sea front fills up with more metal, leather, sweat and  . . . . the sense of anorak. 34

It’s a strange occasion! The so-called modern world of the machine meets the world of myths. 35 36

It is not growing like a tree in bulk, doth make Man better be; or standing long an oak three hundred year, to fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere; A lily of a day is fairer in May, although it fall and die that night- It was the plant and flower of Light. In small proportions we just beauties see: and in short measures life may perfect be, Ben Johnson The Noble Nature

shades of grey today

March 9, 2013

P1050435

Just a glance at something left from yesterday . . .  she’s not amused . . .  and onto the pier

bf157ab2b61a5fb31aca67dab533270f

. . . always looks beautiful in its decrepit state and many locals will miss it once dismantled and replaced with this:

1302336_drmm_hastings_canopy_view

Down at the stade, the low cloud hangs around the old and the new . . .

fish hut

jerwood 2

. . . some reflections from the sculpture on Winkle Island . . .

winkle

. .  conceived and constructed by Leigh Dyer. The main material – stainless steel – gleams out today below the snapshot view of  West Hill.

winkle 3

west hill

puddles

bells

Hurrying down George Street passed Bells Bicycles, I look up and then down . .

george st

stew

. . .  and then, once inside,  think how these might be cooked.

mussels 1

Decide too bring some colour to the end of a grey day  – cooked with coriander, cumin and turmeric – onward and upward.

mussels

Think of the storm roaming the sky uneasily
like a dog looking for a place to sleep in,
listen to it growling.

Think how they must look now, the mangrove keys
lying out there unresponsive to the lightning
in dark, coarse-fibred families,

where occasionally a heron may undo his head,
shake up his feathers, make an uncertain comment
when the surrounding water shines.

Think of the boulevard and the little palm trees
all stuck in rows, suddenly revealed
as fistfuls of limp fish-skeletons.

It is raining there. The boulevard
and its broken sidewalks with weeds in every crack,
are relieved to be wet, the sea to be freshened.

Now the storm goes away again in a series
of small, badly lit battle-scenes,
each in “Another part of the field.”

Think of someone sleeping in the bottom of a row-boat
tied to a mangrove root or the pile of a bridge;
think of him as uninjured, barely disturbed.  Elizabeth Bishop  Little Exercise

on a mild day

February 17, 2013

view

February 17 marks the first meaningful trip to the allotment partially to enjoy the morning sun but also to make some sort of vague plan for what to do following the wet winter. So what to grow when and where. Some folks have maintained tidy plots – congratulations to whoever manages this plot (pic below) well sheltered within the hedges and light woodland of the West Hill. Feel ashamed when seeing the contrast with mine above (great borrowed view though) – what have I been doing this winter . . .

well kept 2

. . .  peeping through the opening of the plot opposite mine shows some well dug ground . . . . . .

growth 1l k

. .  and further along the site in the large open area, neat rows of leeks and signs of activity. Just noticed the road sign!

growing

Even before this visit,  the plan was to give up one of the allotments, 53A, and try to make full use of the remaining plot. So 53A, with the higgledy piggledy character, as below, may find a new more attentive owner even ‘as tidy as a bachelor’ with ref. to the poem.

53A

Before things sprout in late spring, the timber constructions take centre stage . . .

constructions 1

constructions 2

. . but the Hebe parviflora hedge retains a green presence.

hebe hedge

sedum

Ghostly qualities remain of seed heads just clinging to their final days.

artichoke 2012

artichoke 2013

And a hint of what might be. New arching foliage of artichokes and graceful young flowering heads of euphorbia. And some fun from U.A Fanthorpe. Still with us with zany wit.

euphorbia

As mute as monks, tidy as bachelors,
They manicure their little plots of earth.
Pop music from the council house estate
Counterpoints with the Sunday-morning bells,
But neither siren voice has power for these
Drab solitary men who spend their time
Kneeling, or fetching water, soberly,
Or walking softly down a row of beans.

Like drill-sergeants, they measure their recruits.
The infant sprig receives the proper space
The manly fullgrown cauliflower will need.
And all must toe the line here; stern and leaf,
As well as root, obey the rule of string.
Domesticated tilth aligns itself
In sweet conformity; but head in air
Soars the unruly loveliness of beans.

They visit hidden places of the earth
When tenderly with fork and hand they grope
To lift potatoes, and the round, flushed globes
Tumble like pearls out of the moving soil.
They share strange intuitions, know how much
Patience and energy and sense of poise
It takes to be an onion; and they share
The subtle benediction of the beans.

They see the casual holiness that spreads
Along obedient furrows. Cabbages
Unfurl their veined and rounded fans in joy,
And buds of sprouts rejoice along their stalks.
The ferny tops of carrots, stout red stems
Of beetroot, zany sunflowers with blond hair
And bloodshot faces, shine like seraphim
Under the long flat fingers of the beans. U A  Fanthorpe Men on Allotments

out in the sun

January 27, 2013

2

Warmer today, with just a hint of some springlike in the air – but we won’t hold our breath quite yet. Folks sitting out, doing a spot of sketching by  Marine Court  . . . . but further along  not a sign of tables and chairs set up outside  The Post Office Tea Room   . . .

3

4

5

. . . the terrace of The Azur is too exposed for taking a drink out there but below, hardy sailors think it’s time to do a bit of refurb to their dingies. It’s much more sheltered down on the path directly at beach level and thanks to Sidney Little and his interest in reinforced concrete structures, we can enjoy recessed seating alcoves, below the promenade, facing due south.

7

10

A couple of dog walkers – dogs can be on certain parts of the beach in winter – and the more usual inhabitants.

9

6

Still a ‘big’ sea, noisy, frothy and turbulent. A selfish post for me to look back on – one day – and I know it’s the heart of winter as against the second line Neruda’s verse, but the birds are pairing up which signifies the start of a new season.

1

The morning is full of storm
in the heart of summer.

The clouds travel like white handkerchiefs of goodbye,
the wind, traveling, waving them in its hands.

The numberless heart of the wind
beating above our loving silence.

Orchestral and divine, resounding among the trees
like a language full of wars and songs.

Wind that bears off the dead leaves with a quick raid
and deflects the pulsing arrows of the birds.

Wind that topples her in a wave without spray
and substance without weight, and leaning fires.

Her mass of kisses breaks and sinks,
assailed in the door of the summer’s wind. Pablo Neruda   The Morning Is Full

evening lights

December 22, 2012

old town highstreet

A ‘ dark’ post  but appropriate for the time of the year.  Early evening in the Old Town High Street shows glistening puddles – it’s drizzling yet again, so very few folks out and about . . .  but quintessentially British.

pub

At Schmizu, the window and the shop inside, look stylish – as always – beautiful display and the shop’s still open . . .

schmizu

bells bicycles

. . .  equally creative are the windows of Bells. Many buildings – houses and shops –  have discreet festive lighting  – just visible. Curtains are left open at Christmas time, to allow the outer world to enjoy what is happening within . . .

discreet 1

discreet 2

discreet 3

. .  some shop windows are all about window shopping – dresses – yes, possibly . . .

dress

dress 2

hendys 1

. . .  and such fragile memories from childhood show in the double frontage display of Hendy’s Home Store.

hendys 2

Pretty swags across George Street . . .

george st2

and smaller swags in the windows of Skylon in Norman Road

skylon

In the windows of Wayward, it’s a complete composition with intriguing details of ribbons and of carefully selected ornament . . .

windward

windward 2

windward 3

. .   this lighting on the Marina building, however, stays with me night after night. Am very fond of this facade. Other posts on festive are here and here.

marina

The poems take exception to the rain.

They complain of their ankle-joints,

their elbows.

They reserve the right

not to be relied upon.

They put on weight.

They hoard their sleep

like currency –

not a crumb or a word

let slip, not a coin

in the collecting-plate.

Under the Christmas tree they lie

Immobile, with their travellers’ eyes.

When the day drowns them out

they look to the merciful night.

Night that takes the form of a train

crossing a forest.

shaking snow-pillows

from the silent branches. Jo Shapcott  December 4

silver of the sea

November 25, 2012

Strange light this morning bouncing off the moving silvery mass of the unknown. It’s a big sea again, and has been for a week, buffeting winds bringing the weather from the west so it’s a good idea not to be deceived by the sun.

This week-end a new festival was born. Following on from the seafood festival in September, this is an entirely local event focused on the Hastings fishing fleet.  I remembered that the first post on this blog was centred on the fishing activity here too. The weather, in fact,  set the scene well . . .

A fresh catch – an army, glean or shoal – on display and also methods of preserving or curing.

The blessing of the nets and the singing of shanties by those with beards!

Hands on cooking and also appetising displays of smoked herring, bloaters, mackeral and salmon. This is Sonny’s forte. Tonight, I’m attempting Herrings in Oatmeal with Bacon  – a Rick Stein recipe –  in celebration and to support the locals.

Clouds doing funny things out in the open – looking through the marquees to East Hill  . . . .

. . . and back to West Hill. The sky and the sea  – a fast-moving landscape. The poem, just the beginning of The Moose, to fit the theme but consider reading it all – a perfect piece of verse

From narrow provinces
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,

where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;

where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats’
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;  Elizabeth Bishop  The Moose

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