Life, photos but not the universe

But is it Art?

When I was at art college, I was told by a tutor one day, “your paintings are too classical, don’t use white”.

Obediently I struggled to paint without any white and discovered a quite new style involving a lot of black.  One day the same tutor wandered past, stopped and said “your paintings are too classical.  Don’t use black”.

Another time a whole group of us went to Healey Dell, a local beauty spot just outside Rochdale.  I spent a happy afternoon drawing white limestone rocks with perfect swirls and pockets carved out of them by the river.  When I got back, I wanted to incorporate these patterns into a picture, together with my current obsession with red haired women, waterfalls, stairs and oil pastels on expanded polystyrene.  There was only one piece of polystyrene available (scavenged from leavings in the sculpture studio) and what I had in mind didn’t quite fit so I ended up, more or less accidentally, with an Escher like arrangement where some stone steps led down to the top of the waterfall which fell to the top of the steps*.  The waterfall fell over some very nice curly rocks and there was a red haired woman crouching at the top/bottom of the steps.  It wasn’t a very satisfying composition, having a waterfall falling up/down one side and the steps going down/up the other but it was quite fun.

As I was finishing this off and wondering how I was going to preserve it for posterity** and the end of term show, a number of tutors wandered past (they did a lot of that) and looked.  One or two wandered past again and even came in pairs and muttered a bit.  Eventually one of them said “That’s interesting.” and then, with a note of incredulity,  “Do you know what you’ve done?”  Up to then, I had attracted little attention as a potential artist so I was slightly flummoxed both by the question (well of course I knew what I’d done –  a pastel drawing with some curly bits and a waterfall and some steps and a bit of accidental but quite acceptable spatial impossibility – wasn’t it obvious?  What had I missed?) and by the unaccustomed attention.  So I muttered something inarticulate and sulked a bit that it had taken an accident to make anyone realise what a gifted, interesting, clever, good student I really was.  What really annoyed me was that I never quite managed to reproduce the effect but at the next assignment session when everyone was told what they should be working on next, I was told to do anything at all as long as it involved Healey Dell.  Baffling!  But very nice since this meant I could catch the bus up to Healey and wander around in the dell for a week or two and consider it work.

A few years ago, I went there again.  It really is a pretty place though on that visit it was too wet and dark to go looking for the limestone bit.  Took a couple of photos though.

I’ve forgotten why I started this post but I’ll be away for a while soon and there’s an awful lot of packing to do so I’m afraid you’ll have to guess.  If you can be bothered : ).  The canals beckon and who knows, we may be icebreaking again – it’s exactly a year since we went on our first trip on our boat.  Ah well, goodbye to sunshine for a while.

Looks as if somebody left their dinner half finished on the post.


I hope you have a good time while I’m away and that good things happen to you.

*Or maybe the steps went up to the bottom of the water fall which fell to the bottom of the steps?  I’m not sure.

**Polystyrene! Honestly, what an idiotic material to use!  All those little white balls dropping off everywhere!  But it did bring up the colours lovely and bright.

January 28, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

From strangers to swamps.

The other night as I  sat here, probably typing a post or peering at the weather forecast I heard the cat flap clattering and then the sort of noise that usually means Tosca is blowing her own trumpet and will soon give me a mouse (condition – live or dead – to be determined after delivery).  I was a bit surprised; there presumably aren’t many around at the moment and anyway, she’s getting arthritic and dignified in her old age.  I looked up, preparatory to leaping into action with a dustpan and brush to see, not Tosca but a complete stranger, poised in the doorway looking for all the world as though he/she thought they lived here and was surprised to see some other stranger in their dining room.  Tosca is daintily black and white and this person was solidly black and fluffy.  After giving me a slightly embarrassed look the stranger turned and nipped back out through the flap and vanished into the night.  Can’t help wondering if recent, apparent appetite variations may be due to somebody else helping out when Tosca’s had enough.

I don’t know what to do about it really.  Short of shutting Tosca in, there’s no obvious way to keep the stranger out.  Oh well. Perhaps this kind of thing hasn’t been happening regularly.  Tosca herself watched the whole event with a faintly bemused and disapproving expression from her bed above the washing machine.

Last night we went to a quiz.  We came fifth out of seven teams.  Not very good really and now I’m wondering why Perseus is always shown with wings on his helmet when all it did was make him invisible.

Anyway, before I have to deal with late night trespassers again, I’m going to roll away to bed.  Tomorrow our new bed is going to arrive!  Yay!  I have no idea how we are going to organise the switching of beds but at least I’ll be able to stroke the boxes lovingly and lean on the mattress.  I wonder if I should strip the old bed tomorrow or wait till Barney isn’t going out to a stamp evening?  Probably I’d better wait.  I wonder if we can do it before we go away on the boat?  Goodness!  It’s so exciting.  I’ve been dreaming about that bed but truly, I’d rather sleep in it.

Found a swamp

and a pigeon

yesterday, both next to the canal at Aldermaston Wharf.  Grey day, water drizzling out of the sky whenever it could be bothered.  Quite appropriate really.

I’m quite looking forward to visiting this spot in Spring.

January 26, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

It’s all go here.  Apart from the funeral and preparations therefor, there’s been the dentist, the doctor and the Grandbabyminding as well as trying very hard to think about dressing up for a pantomime themed party.  Well not very hard but a bit.  How cold will it be tomorrow?  Can I really wear leggings and a summer cardigan – and over what?  Buttons, I was thinking since the cardigan has lots of them.  No no, I mean dressing up as Buttons not wearing nothing but buttons under the cardigan.  That would just be wrong.

Also Barney has put together some shelves for me and I’ve been moving clothes around.  Very tiring and time consuming.

On the way into town the other day I noticed that though the temperature, as recorded by the car, was 1 degree at home, it was 2 degrees at the bottom of the hill in the village and 3 degrees as I entered Newbury.  When I parked it was 4 degrees.

I rejected the idea that this was to do with hills and valleys and people being warm and breathing a lot in large numbers and decided it was actually a local effect caused by my approach to the dreaded appointment with the hygienist.  Actually this wasn’t too bad and by the time I got home again, everything had cooled down again.  Sadly, the heating thermostat indoors didn’t agree and I couldn’t persuade the heating to start up.

In a week or two we’re off on the boat again.  Some time soon I must try and remember how few clothes I can manage with and which ones will be warm enough.  And I have to do eccentric excercises for tennis elbow.  Curious name that for something which I’m sure was caused by heavy camera work or heavy locking.  No tennis.  Several bored looking people on You Tube have kindly demonstrated these excercises to me and they assure me that after six to eight weeks the elbow should be cured.  Or much better anyway.  I must say I can’t see anything eccentric about them but even without the entertainment I was hoping for, it’s probably worth doing.  For one thing, my left elbow is beginning to complain about being made to do stuff that it never used to have to do.  I need to fix the damaged one before I have to start on the other.

Right!  The cardigan with lots of buttons has vanished so I’m going as Aladdin.  Barney offered to be my genie but I don’t think we have a big enough lamp to put him in when I don’t need him.  Oh! – Or even any lamp at all.  Better go and look for a lamp.  Aha!  Lamp!

I will be a contemporary Aladdin.  (Apart from Barney’s turkish hat and my velvet shoes which are very very old and what a relief that I didn’t take them to Oxfam after all)


I shall just mention, in passing that Blogger has taken rejection of wordpress a stage further than previously.  Until yesterday if Open ID was required I just had to repeat the username bit three or four times to get a comment accepted.  Now however it’s refusing to accept the word ver.  I’m fairly sure I’m not getting them wrong – I mean how difficult are wv’s like funted and sameling and intumer to type.  They’re almost like words.  Anyway I’ve temporarily reverted to using my google account which links to my old blog.  It’s still me.

And here’s something heartwarming I found when I went to check the old blog still works.


January 24, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Death, where is thy sting*

We went to a funeral today.  A close friend  whose death from cancer was not unexpected but still stung for it’s prematureness, and a very touching service.  He was a jaguar enthusiast and 12 jaguars led the way from the crematorium after a service in which six people spoke about the times of his life when they knew him.  He was fifty-eight when he died and over two hundred people came to the funeral.  When the body was committed, there was a recording of a BRM V16 lapping Goodwood (I think this means a racing car being driven round the circuit?)  It was, in this context, quite unexpectedly moving.

Anyway, we all went and had a good celebration of his life which was all very nice and now that it’s finished, could we have him back please?

Barney was one of the speakers and said he was sure Robert would have wanted us to smile and not be sad on this occasion.  Um.  I want it on record that when I die, I have no objection to people being sad.  I mean I don’t want any wailing or wallowing or tearing of hair but I’d quite like people to miss me and I have no objection to the odd sniffle and relaxed upper lip!  After that, I’d like them all to go and have a good wake.  It seems to me that positive thoughts and celebration of a lovely person’s life and a jolly good do at the pub after, are all excellent things and very welcome but surely the world wouldn’t come to an end if we were all allowed a good communal howl of sorrow and loss at the end when it comes home to us that we have lost a friend, father, husband, person, for ever.  And then we can all have a drink and a good time remembering  afterwards.  Why not grieve together?

Anyway, today, I was grateful to the BRM – it was moving, noisy and appropriate and it gave a number of people cover for a few sobs and sniffles and very appropriate expressions of sorrow.


Here he is, a few months before he died, being driven round the MIRA test track in the fabulous** XJ13.  His driver, a famous test driver from years ago, known in jaguar circles as ‘The Old Man’ was ninety-one and as they rounded a particular bend at 110 mph, said to Robert “that was where I came off in ’71”.

We’ll miss Robert so much.  A kind, clever thoughtful man with a sweet smile, a ready laugh and an endless supply of lovely, warm hugs.  Jaguars were the love of his life (after wife and family of course) but he had boundless enthusiasm for all kinds of other things and the energy and commitment to make exciting things happen and the charm and charisma to bring other people along with him.

*I’m not sure if this is an appropriate quote.  Never mind,  it works well enough out of context.

**I know nothing of racing and sports cars but apparently this was a very special car.  I know there was only the one of it and that it was never raced but only comes out on special occasions.  Like this one : )

:  Sorry, I forgot to say, this is not my photo – it was taken on the day and I don’t know who took it.

January 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Where did all the time go.

I spent couple of days last week listening to the patter of tiny feet – as opposed to the thunder of tiny hands and knees.

Gorgeous Babe has a gait somewhat reminiscent of a small Frankenstein (from the black and white films).  It’s purposeful and involves a lot of lurching and sudden (but well controlled) descents and wobbles but she’s definitely a toddler now.  Rather to my surprise, even in the tight confines of the flat, she still finds lots to do and really doesn’t need such close supervision – on one afternoon I read my kindle (the new Neal Stephenson) while she emptied boxes of bricks and bags of balls and then pottered about, cleaning things with a baby-wipe and studying books (Maisy’s bedtime, Ispy animals, Mr Stickman and suchlike).  Which was good as she doesn’t really want an afternoon sleep any more.  She’s not so keen on replacing forty balls in their bag as she is on replacing six bricks in their, er, thingie, so when I got bored I collected balls for her to disperse again.  Occasionally she would lurch past me trailing a blanket and a handful of assorted food, book or toy and give me a swift knowing grin.  Now and then we paused in our activities for lengthy conversations during which my understanding and her vocabulary were limited but which we both found satisfying and entertaining.

And we went to the library and the park and she pattered around the library, hauling small chairs with her and practiced her unusual technique for arranging herself at a low table with book and (approximately) on chair.  At the park we did fast staggering (hand held – I think so much open space is a bit daunting), slow swinging and climbing up the slide the wrong way.  All good stuff.

The new Neal Stephenson.  Hmm.  I always become completely immersed in his books and enjoy them a lot but I must say, this one read rather like watching a computer game live.  At first, the fact that a computer game was part of the plot distracted attention from that but the enormous amount of carefully calculated gun play with detailed descriptions of guns and non-magical artefacts and players characters’ abilities eventually tipped me off.  Although the characters were, as usual, well realised and interesting they were essentially well realised and interesting pawns in the game.  Shades of Robert Heinlen too.  Still, it was a good read.  I’ve never played online computer games (having neither the reflexes nor the necessary dedication) but it was quite interesting reading one!

It’s been a bit hectic since then.  Our friend died soon after the New Year and we’ve been somewhat involved in helping to organise the funeral details and meanwhile the weather has been wonderfully sunny and frosty.  So I’ve been out astonishingly early with the camera and up quite late with the computer.

I’ve discovered a huge park with a big pond in the middle and a local lime quarry, both of which may provide interesting camera outings.  I rather wish the quarry had a pond too but I suppose you can’t have everything.  Not in one place anyway.  Ponds, churches and woods are always worth a visit with the camera and while churches can usually be found easily enough, by the pointy bits, ponds are generally less obvious.  When looking at the google map of the place where we used to live, just the other side of town, I was astonished at the number of ponds there which I had no idea existed at all.  So, though this morning I was too knackered and behind with everything to go out at dawn, I might just tag a pond search onto the end of the shopping at around sunset.

January 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments


I’ve just filled in a tax return.  I hate them even though the accountant does all the difficult bits, unless you count the difficulty of finding information strewn around the house and internet hidden by forgotten passwords and boxes and folders!  Yes, I think the accountant’s bit is easier especially as most of my entries are £0.00 or -£something very small.  And a few interests  ranging from £0.23p to £1.78p.  So it seems a bit over the top to be able to lay claim to a ten figure ID number followed by a thirty one digit reference number.  In bold.  I suppose that’s so you don’t overlook it assuming that the IR computer had an attack of digital diarrhoea and threw up a lot of random numbers and letters.  (There’s a lot of it about.)

Then I went to Ikea and bounced up and down on mattresses and perched on the edges of beds*.  Came home with a chest of drawers, a shelf, a mini chest of drawers, yet another sharp kitchen knife and six glasses – oh and a chair.  This was really only a reconnaisance trip before taking Barney and the pick-up to buy the bed which I have chosen but which he will be permitted to discuss.  There’s no danger of him changing our** mind as by the time we’ve reached the bed he’ll only be fit for mumbling obscenities, and a bit of heavy lifting.  All he will be thinking about is how quickly he might escape.

And now we’re going to have a band practice.  As I’ve barely seen my fiddle since before Christmas this will use up what little there is left in my head and tomorrow I shall be ready for a quiet day minding the grandbaby.  When we saw her at Christmas, she was really getting the hang of toddling.  So probably I won’t have to spend much time jumping up and down tomorrow?  I mean she’ll be able to fetch things for herself won’t she?  I can just sit and admire.  Hmm.

I wonder if I’ll have time for a little, peaceful flat-un-packing tomorrow morning.  Or do I mean un-flat-packing?

I wanted to post more family photos but I can’t find them anywhere.  They must be lurking in a very safe place.  So here’s a couple more from the valley full of weather.


*Well, no I didn’t actually bounce much but I did lie down on one and it was so nice I could have stayed there for the rest of the day quite happily.

**That’s the royal ‘our’.


January 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Looking over my shoulder

So I was searching for a certificate to prove that I am who I am – as it’s quite cold at the moment and I’d like the winter fuel department to send me some cash.  I came across a certificate which gave me pause, my Mother’s registration as a UK citizen.  There has been some blogging about families recently and it made me think about how complicated my own family was.  The certificate was one of the least complicated things in it!

I started writing about them and then realised that they deserve more than a single short post (not that my posts are ever short)  So if you’re interested, there will shortly be a new page somewhere or other on the blog – I’ve never quite mastered the art of making WordPress pages appear where they ought to be.  This may be followed by more family stuff.

But meanwhile, here’s the English side – Mum and Dad back left* .

and here’s the Dutch side.

I don’t have a photo of the Dutch family of the corresponding generation to the English one.  This is a very old photo of a family feast in the Edwardian (?) style.  I think my Grandmother is fifth from the right, leaning against that curtained pillar-ey thing.  Possibly my Grandfather standing at her shoulder.  If so, the three little girls peering across the table could have been my mother and her sisters.  However, I thought this was a much older photo in which case it would be my Great Grandmother – the resemblance is very strong.

The styles of the two photos say a great deal.  The plain, upright looking English family with tight, polite little smiles (except Mum who never did tight little anythings) and the huge, sprawling ostentation of the Dutch crowd, clearly pissed out of their many heads** after an excess of indulgence which they probably couldn’t afford.  Earlier, there would have been music of a very high standard (My Grandmother for one was trained at the Dutch Royal Conservatoire and once sang for Queen Wilhelmina, though my Grandfather forbade any public performances after they were married) and there was a 12 course menu of which I have a copy somewhere.

I do wish sometimes that I were a novelist.  I’m sure a gripping tale could be made out of the story of how these two families became linked.

*Oh and I notice that I am in this photo too.  I remember seeing other photos of that maternity dress.

**If not pissed, then obviously completely mad!   But my Grandmother was very sane so I’m going for the drink.

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I’ve been out!

It’s lovely having all the family here and all the friends and eating the feasts and having a sort of tidy house and all that.  However, some glorious days of fleeting sunshine and rainwashed sunsets and dawns fled past while I shopped and cleaned and enjoyed the company.    Every now and then I glanced wistfully out of the window at the weather.  Not that I’d swop.

But they’re all gone now and the sun came out twice and I was off like a shot.

Unfortunately, when I tried to upload all my pretty pictures the computer informed me that there wasn’t enough room on the hard disc.  Urg!  Is it really that time already?  One day, I plan to delete all the photos that aren’t any good from each batch as I finish working on them.  But I haven’t done it yet.  So there were  a few thousand photos to be backed up and blow me if the back up disc wasn’t full as well.  Urg!

Two new discs and several hours later, I discovered that when I replaced the My Docs back up disc, I didn’t actually back up  to it.  Um.  And did I really only take two folders of photos during the whole of December or have they vanished somewhere during the backing up?  It was a very wet and gloomy December and I was quite busy so maybe that’s all there were.

Anyway, while stuff chuntered from one disc to another, I was moved to sort out the huge wadge of paper which I optimistically shove in the shelf referred to as ‘to be filed’.  I haven’t actually filed any of it but I have uncovered enough NHS paperwork to make a couple of new forests and successfully postponed an appointment I’d forgotten about, since the relevant blood tests haven’t all been done yet and anyway I’ll be Grandbaby-minding on that day.  And I’ve test drunken my new little thermos, tiny and completely satisfactory.  Also in this pile was another small forest concerning various pension and benefit applications, shelved, somewhat randomly, during the frantic Christmas tidy up.  Amongst it, there should have been my birth certificate, returned, unused,  by the winter fuel benefit  department because my name isn’t the same any more.  Eventually I found this in another hastily tidied stack.  Phew.  But now I can’t find my marriage certificate which is somewhere in Barney’s office.  This is organised and filed at least as efficiently as mine is though possibly a little less tidily. *

Some time during the early afternoon, I suddenly thought ‘goodness, I’m hungry’ .  At about the same time, the cat gave me a shove with her head and squawked stridently at me.  It occurred to me that neither of us had eaten yet.  So we did that.  And now the files have all moved and maybe it’s time for another excursion, though it’s absolutely freezing out there.

There’s a view I’ve glimpsed sometimes on my way to Oxford along the A34.

After many glimpses, I’ve worked out how I might be able to get to it off the main road.  It was interesting looking from the world towards the A34 for a change too.

And worth noting at the time, that the weather might be about to change.

Which it did, quite dramatically

and several times

I  had to take shelter under an ivy clad tree at one point (It’s good stuff that ivy for a winter photographer caught out in a rainstorm).

I do love a bit of weather.  On the other hand, I’m not so pleased when it causes the water supply to stop.  I may have said before that we get our water from a borehole (near Boarshole farm as it happens.  I’ve been told that the name is a coincidence ) and we sometimes get cut off if there’s a bit of weather – trees falling on the pump, cattle breaking the pipes, that sort of thing.  So today, as I opened a water bill from the estate which owns the borehole, I was absently turning the tap, hoping for a cup of coffee** but getting only a splutter and a thin and diminishing dribble.  Do you know, I just haven’t had time to ring the Estate and pay the bill.  Tomorrow perhaps.  When the water is back.  If it is?***

*My office is in various cupboards and shelves in the dining room whereas his is in a tiny room upstairs.  Naturally we don’t expect guests to need anything from his office so basically, it never gets tidied or sorted out at all.  Possibly Barney remembers where he has put things.  Or possibly not.

**Oh alright, hoping for water with which to make coffee.  It’s ok anyway, we have a couple of big bottles full just for this kind of moment.

***It is.

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Old things

Our house is stuffed with old things to some of which, one or other of us is deeply attached.  We have quite a big house really but it seems to me to be shrinking.  (What with trophies and such).

So, as I do every year, I’m thinking of getting rid of some of them. (No, not the trophies)

For instance the piano.  Although I still feel that a house without a piano is a sad thing, ours*,  has reached the stage which it seems some pianos do, when although it can be tuned, (but only to a kind of sharpish B), it shrugs off the influence of the piano tuner’s hard work within a few minutes of him finishing the job.  He hasn’t been able to tune it to concert pitch for several years anyway so it’s really losing all pretensions to being anything other than a big, dark, jangly eyesore in the corner.   If it was as flat as its pitch it wouldn’t matter so much but it’s quite bulky.

So we had plans to pass it on to Youngest** when they have built their extension but this seems to be taking a long time – they haven’t started yet – and finally I’ve decided that it must go willy nilly.  So I looked up piano removal and came across a site which does piano removal and re-homing/recycling.  They charge £129 for the removal and this seems pretty reasonable to me – if they’re also going to deal with it kindly?  Surely the keys are worth preserving and perhaps the strings?.

My next plan then, is to add a bookcase or cupboard to my Ikea shopping list.  Or both!  Oh and I suppose to spend a day trailing a black sack or three round the house and hurling old stuff into it very quickly so I don’t have time to wonder how any of it might come in handy one day.

When I was about ten, I had piano lessons for a while, with a Miss Harley.  I thought that the piano involved the simultaneous use of too many hands, eyes and lines of music for any normal person to manage.  She thought I didn’t practice enough.  I think we were both right.  Anyway, if I was very good (well behaved – not often musically good) she would let me look at a fabulous old book of Russian Fairy tales, leather bound, gold-leaved and sumptuously illustrated, while waiting for a parent to collect me.  Recently, English Inukshuk showed us a link to a lovely old illustration and in following the link, I discovered one of the pictures from that old book which was my only reason for not actively hating my piano lessons.  It’s a Dulac painting but he never illustrated a whole book of Russian Fairytales.  I spent quite a while searching old prints and  eventually concluded that Miss Harley’s book must have included works from several artists.  And this being the internet age, I found myself searching for Miss Harley herself.  There are quite a few of them in Croydon but no sign of her.  Well I suppose she would have to be about ninety now.

And here’s an old bog near Bagnor, at the end of the day.

And now I’m going to lay my old back down and read for a while.  Somehow, there hasn’t been much time for that in the last week or two!

*Given to me by my half-sister who had five.  She now has only three.

**She does know what it sounds like – I’m wasn’t trying to sellgive her a pup, honest.  In fact I’m encountering a little resistance from her on the subject of getting rid of it.

January 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

2011 goes up in flames

NYE party (It’s ok though, we had lots of food and drink indoors first – it wasn’t all about fire)

There’s something atavistic about fire at the turn of the year though isn’t there.  Light in the dark, warmth in the cold, wishes in the sparks and promises glowing in the embers.

Especially when you’re stuffed with curry and slow cooked lamb and two kinds of rice and salad and potatoes and most of a bottle (really? Oh dear!) of wine.  It was lucky no one discovered the secret ingredient in the lamb till I was freezing away the left-overs this morning.  A beautifully tender wooden spoon nestled among the veg.

January 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments