I expected a morning of birdsong and sunshine today. We are overlooking a valley not too far from home, with a very poor signal and no wifi. Somewhere, in this blanket of fog, there is the Fowey River.
Fog is funny stuff, often depicted as malevolent it alters the way we think. During the pandemic ‘brain fog’ was one of the long term negative symptoms that people described. We all understood that feeling, even if we had never experienced it. Fog is universally a weather phenomenon that no one has a good word for. No positive spin exists for fog.
Photographers only love it as it is leaving the area. So far, today, we are not yet at the point of fog appreciation.
Yesterday my early morning dog walk sent me down a Google rabbit hole. The picture above is from one of the emergency on -call rooms at St Bartholomews Hospital in London. St Pauls Cathedral and St Bartholomews Hospital have always been a big part of my life. I realised, yesterday, that there is another St Pauls in my life now.
This St Pauls is the early morning sniffing zone of Hugo and Lola. At the very least they must sniff across the forecourt once or twice a day. Yesterday the trail around the church was very enticing for them, and having nothing better to do I allowed them to make the most of the good sniffs. It occured to me that I have no idea how Churches or any other religious institutions get their names. St Pauls is remarkably common.
So while the dogs sniffed round rusty pipes, I googled. It seems that as this is a subject of faith rather than science the whole naming thing can be quite arbitrary. Arbitrary suits me very well in fact.
Am I drawn to know more about St Paul, no not particularly, I’m sure he was a worthy and wonderful chap since so many places, both great and small are named after him, but my nature is always to search out the less populist things in life . The saints in the shadows perhaps, the ones at the bottom of the class or on the reserve list. To return briefly to the City of London there are two churches, St Bartholomew The Great and St Bartholomew the less. Surely the lesser Bart, as he would have been known to his chums, would have been the more interesting.
Pondering such things can bite you on the bum though. While I was pondering the lives of the saints and the places named after them, the dogs found their own interesting topic. Urban fox poo. Jerked out of my unusual ponderings I was alert enough to save myself from a morning of dog bathing. I wondered, briefly, which Saint I should thank for that.
A quick skim of some of the photographs of this week suggests a little bit of an accidental theme. I often re edit old photographs so my weeks output is not always chronological. This old picture of the rope bridge at the Eden Project is in this weeks archive because my daughter bought a print by another artist, which made me wonder what I could do with my own image. So on a theme of interesting journeys not to far from home I can bring you stairs at the museum I work at.
Two accidental early morning walks on the Barbican gave some more whimsical journey images.
The image above camouflages the image below. They all suggest time travel or indeed travel to a different time.
All four of these images have a lot of steps involved even if they are not seen. My final image is the fuel for travel.
Cardamom Cakes, a gustatory journey to unusual flavours, fuel for all the steps on an unplanned walk.
Blue, blue, electric blue. The words that stick in my head from David Bowie singing Sound and Vision.
After nearly a year of living very close to the sea, I have a huge colour palate in my head that is the colour of the sea, I also have a lot of sounds and visions. I’m in the early stages of a commission that will reflect how the sea changes. I am taking a mixed media approach to the early work.
The Atlantic in my little patch of Devon can be many different colours, not always blue and sometimes quite grotty.
The sounds also change depending on the tides and the weather and the shapes in my bigger abstract try to show the sounds by shape and the interfaces between two different colours.
This is a big old piece of paper for a water colour. I have no idea quite how this project is going to play out, but for now, just charting blue/ greens is very relaxing.
Restringing two washing lines felt like a victory yesterday. I should have immediately washed all our pillow cases and hung them up like oversized bunting to celebrate. They are both now completely usable. One needs one more piece of refurbishment but I must admit the height that the previous generations thought appropriate to dry their washing is beyond my reach. We don’t have a ladder that can get me up high enough to get one of the lines onto its wall-fixed pulley.
Jobs like this have an almost holiday-like pleasure built in. Within walking distance of our new home is an old fashioned hardware store.
If this store were in a small greek town or a Honk Kong back street I would be in seventh heaven or maybe cloud nine. Somewhere, certainly, that would suggest a state of bliss. Hardware shops were a place of imagination and intrigue when I was a small person, I am still that small person. Only age and the fear of looking daft stops me from running my fingers through boxes of nobbly nuts, or shiny washers to feel hard metal behave like fluid. My dad would take me in to shops like this and then usually forget that he had a daughter while he rummaged through small boxes on the dusty shelves of the hardware stores of North East Essex. I realise now he was also freed of pester power, no small child would ever find anything in a hardware store that they would nag on about until they either got the item or, more likely, a lesson in those who want, don’t get. He would disappear to the back and have ernest conversations about grommets and other exotically named items with other adult men who gathered in small groups.
Delightfully yesterday there was a small group of men at the far end of the store nattering about such things as I entered.
Such is the language of these stores I mostly go in and immediately admit that I don’t know what I want but either describe it or explain the job it needs to do.
” What you need is essooks” was the reply when I described something metal shaped as a figure of 8.
” Oh, yes essooks” I replied with the certainty of someone who has only briefly forgotten the name of the item required. ” Two essooks please”
And so, for 75 pence, I am the proud owner of two ‘S’ hooks, and two refurbished washing lines.
Early morning blogging, with birdsong. The sun is blindingly up and after a hard working weekend I have somewhere cute to sit and drink the first cup of tea of the morning.
Thanks to Google and the advice on how to neutralise the smell of dog wee,the concrete no longer smells like the leather making area of Marrakesh and more like nothing. Just the sweet smell of nothing!
This yard grows things extraordinarily well that our previously rural garden did not. Irises and Alliums are a big surprise this spring.
I might even move into this space to do a bit of painting, but todays task is more challenging. I am going to restring two old washing lines. That is going to be interesting…
#209 theoldmortuary ponders promised the revelation of the weekends grand plan. Two long paragraphs were lost by inatentive fingers and no amount of searching in the nooks and crannies of my WordPress history or archive files revealed the missing links. I couldn’t quickly rewrite them and the grand plan itself required attention. The illustration above hints at the reliability of hard copy versus electronic.
The plan for the weekend was only decided on a whim on Friday. I’m not even sure I even thought about it before pronouncing. “I think I am going to remove all the fake grass this weekend” The job had been started 6 weeks ago when the first strip of fake grass was removed to give us a two metre flower bed. Then last week another four metre ‘L’ shaped flower bed was revealed. My pronouncement actually only involved a raised patio area but unlike the others we had covered it in container grown plants. What I had suggested was a monumental task with added unsavoury undertones.
The previous owners two pug dogs had used the fake grass as their toilet. The fake grass over flower beds had drained into soil, the patio area was a big old slab of concrete. When we moved in we were only renting the house so had to leave things as they were. We cleaned as well as we could and vowed to remove it as soon as we had bought the house. The house sale rambled on, delayed by the death of the descendent of Robert the Bastard who was given our tiny portion of land in 1066! Winter arrived and we did not have the appetite for a yucky job in the cold.
We are no strangers to yucky jobs. When we were rebuilding and repurposing the building that was the old mortuary next to our Cornish cottage we chose to clear out the undertakers workshop and Chapel of Repose ourselves, before the builders moved in to turn it into part of our home. 50 years of that sort of business, long before health and safety regulations and 50 years of neglect after it was closed because of health and safety, was a heady mix of bodily excrescences and vermin excretions. So we have some unusual expertise.
Obviously our dogs had taken to using the informal, low effort toileting area too. Saturday was spent moving full and heavy plant containers down to the far end of the yard, this meant that our energy levels were pretty depleted by the time we had to roll up and bag up the fake grass. It was every bit as grim as you might imagine and the urine soaked concrete slab was a pretty stinky thing. It has been scrubbed and hosed many times now. The plan was to allow it to dry off and paint it, but as it has dried off a curious thing has happened. The urine has discoloured the concrete and brought out the colours of the sands that were used in its manufacture. We may well be left with a slab of concrete that resembles a warm pinkish/orange marble or rock.
So yucky job done, there was a ridiculous number of plants to be either repotted or planted in the soil of the revealed flower beds. The job was just about completed by the time of the Sunday evening swim. Since then we have had heavy showers of rain. There has been no chance of taking a series of work complete photographs. This yucky job may well stretch to another blog!
To finish up, a picture of our neighbours chicken checking out the sweet new leaves of a Silver Birch that has moved closer to her strutting zone.
Pull up a chair for a classic meandering ponder. Yesterday there was a plan and neither fate nor serendipity stepped in to change it. Today we need to pull up a chair because our leg muscles in particular know that we achieved our set target of the day.
Before we get to ‘the plan’ there were the side tasks. Luck in the shape of an unknown sailor gave me this pretty image to start the blog.
A red rowing boat exactly in line with a red delivery van on the other side of the Hamoaze was a lucky moment during the dog walk. Our morning was spent doing unblogworthy tasks but we had a lunchtime date to visit friends at their allotment.
I must admit to having a preconception about allotments. Dusty rectangles of land in unlovely locations requiring hard work and a lot of heavy lifting. We were due to be met at the gate by a friend. These particular allotments are quite secure. My fanciful head has images of Narnia , my real life head thought high fences and clanging metal gates. It turns out that Fanciful and I(n) R(eal) L(ife) had met and produced a love child that is Peverell Paradise or Aspirational Allotment World. The gate turned out to be a portal into another world.
We stepped into an area of wooden buildings just off a main road, the ground was carpeted with dense and aromatic woodchip. There was a composting toilet, a small sales area and other sheds that no doubt held magical creatures brewing acorn gin and baking nettle pastries. The whole area was under a canopy of trees that created the sort of dappled shade beloved of film makers with a soundscape of birdsong. Just as in an adventure we were led on an undulating path to the actual allotment of our destination. But not before we passed the allotment of an ‘Influencer’. An Influencer!! We did not expect that.
the_young_grower is his Instagram name.
Our minds were blown, which just shows how unimaginative, or closeted, minds can be when thinking about allotments. Warning to anyone checking out his Insta account, there is some male nudity… I know, there is another preconception about allotment life, blown out of the water , or maybe more appropriately, plot lost completely.
Our lunchtime date was completed with the purchase of freshly laid eggs. There is a little bit of colour serendipity in the next shot.
Eggs live in a heart shaped basket in our kitchen. In the bottom of the basket is a really old Polaroid photograph of my dad, so old that it has been faded to that odd shade of fading that over exposure to UV often causes. The polaroid is adorned with a star of the same colour that was sent to us by our thousands of miles away grandaughter. Getting to the bottom of our egg store always gives a little frisson of pleasure when I see the two people connected in a way they will never be in real life. A sort of egg basket Magic Realism I suppose. Imagine how thrilled my inner colour nerd was to find a turquoise egg in our egg box!
Now here is the thing, real time blogging failure. I had written a lovely paragraph about the actual planned task, which in truth we are only half way through. My fingers deleted it and no amount of digging around in my WordPress history can locate it. In the interest of actually publishing a blog today I am going to abandon writing about the actual planned task and give it a blog of its own when we finish it later today. Until tomorrow…
Some mornings the only cure for a busy, overwhelmed head is a cup of black coffee and some fresh air. Yesterday was such a day. I didn’t get out of the wrong side of the bed exactly, two very entitled dogs make that an impossibility, but my head was unproductively busy. Later in the day a friend described such thoughts as ” Like a murmuration of Starlings or a shoal of fish turning in the sea.”
As I had predicted the coffee, some conversations with neighbours and a small pastry set me right.
An in- person meeting with a colleague provided more mind nurturing in the form of freshly picked mint tea and a take away bunch of mint to grow my own.
And actually who wouldn’t be smoothed out by such a gorgeous napkin!
Things were all falling into place quite nicely. Hugo had even taken on the role of P A for a while to keep me on schedule.
Although there were times when he was definitely blocking productivity.
With or, probably without, Hugo’s assistance all the jobs got done and some order returned to my mind. But I am left with the lovely images of thoughts being like murmurations of Starlings.
Or shoals of fish.
Two lovely videos to start a chilled out Saturday with.
Our only outside space is a bright white stone yard. We have only just recovered the two patches of actual soil from the clutches of artificial grass. The one below was planted up two months ago and has established itself very quickly.
But we are only in May and the yard may get too hot once the summer arrives. These pink alliums are the best we have ever grown.
The other bigger patch of actual soil has only just been reclaimed and will be used for summer vegetables. Wild garlic will be not so wild and will be contained in a pot.
So far so good but we have a new revelation in the yard. Our neighbours have gained some chickens, gorgeous fluffy bummed creatures who make clucking noises that could charm the birds from the trees. Unfortunately the birds that are actually charmed from the trees are magpies. Who even knew that Magpies have diligent digestive systems, in their urge to be closer to the chickens they empty the contents of their bowels on our yard and plants. I am not such a fan of magpies. This development may, however ultimately be of benefit to us. Our neighbours also have an inappropriately placed trampoline that looms large over our yard wall and is a constant eyesore. The magpies shit on it and will surely make it unusable and then hopefully it will be removed. Or of course, which is more likely, we will have a black and white eyesore. In which case we are going to need to be very creative with our future yardscaping.