Pandemic Pondering #203

Todays word for the Art Group is Skyscraper. I’m going to be perverse today and talk about the absence of Skyscrapers.

I was 17 when I first became intimately acquainted with St Pauls Cathedral. I calmed my nerves before a career interview at St Bartholomew’s Hospital by wandering the Crypt and Whispering in the eponymous Gallery.

Training in the City with its associated highs and lows gave me ample chance to explore the nooks and crannies of this amazing Cathedral and to develop a humanistic love of the Evensong Service. There is something lovely about doing something that humans have been doing in the same location since 604. Not all history in this area bears repetitions quite so comfortably.

The lack of Skyscrapers around St Pauls is no accident. This is the view from Nunhead Cemetery in South London.

It has a protected view.

You can read more about protected views in this link. https://www.citymetric.com/fabric/protecting-view-how-st-pauls-cathedral-has-been-shaping-rest-london-centuries-2577

This is a painting a little way from St Bartholomew’s Hospital , showing the scale of permitted development closely around St Paul’s. The picture below shows a more distant view from Tate Modern.

Skyscrapers define modern cities but the absence of them near St Paul’s opens up the sky and gives the City a different visual experience.

Pandemic Pondering #141

Cityscapes, a word ripe with possibilities.

I describe myself as an abstract landscape artist but in truth many of them are urban inspired, Cityscapes might be the word.

The pandemic has slightly changed the way I work but in essence I consider a landscape/cityscape to include close observations of just a tiny fragment of the viewed surroundings as well as massive milewide vistas. I love the juxtaposition of manmade materials and nature. The way plants find a crack and grow in it with tenaciousness and vitality, nature will always win.

It’s not just my work that has been altered by the Pandemic. This delightful view of London owes its clarity to the lowering of pollution during Lockdown. A Massive Cityscape in every sense of the word.

A Cityscape is more accessible by foot than the equivalent rural landscape and in many ways more interesting and unique.

This butterfly has settled on Church Road , Crystal Palace. Just outside 66a.

66a was once the home of a stand-up comedian, Daniel Kitson, who has painted a whole comedy cityscape based on this address.
http://www.chortle.co.uk/review/2008/01/01/35862/sixty-six_a_church_road:_a_lament,_made_of_memories_and_kept_in_suitcases,_by_daniel_kitson

My cityscape of this small portion of South London is informed by my own observations of Crystal Palace and the observations of a comedian who loves it, regardless of its imperfect, slightly grimy urbanity. Close by there is some spectacular street art.

Street art and street furniture is integral to Cityscapes.

This watercolour is a formal landscape representing my working life in the City.

But in truth it was the little details on my walks to and from work that created my personal Cityscape. This one beautiful sign is a fine way to live life.

Street furniture and graffiti on daily walks.

One more cityscape for this blog.

The walk to De Bouvoir Town, Cityscapes not always what you might expect.

Pandemic Pondering #109

Restrictions being lifted on travel and overnight stays could not have come at a better time for @theoldmortuary.

A scumbag fly tipped outside our flat in London this week

Imagine our happiness when we discovered our neighbours/friends had tidied it up.

London , like many big cities, has a reputation for being an unfriendly place but from the moment we moved here we were surrounded by neighbours who quickly became friends.

Shit happens everywhere and our neighbour/ friendships were forged over another adverse event. Three days after moving in we were burgled, traumatic enough in itself, but the day after, our flat and by extension ourselves were subjected to a frightening police raid.

Our lovely new neighbours swooped in and picked up the pieces just as they did this weekend.

Socially distant Pandemic Pondering in the garden with our neighbours.

Pandemic Pondering #94

Northern hemisphere Summer Solstice 2020 and in Britain Stonehenge is all closed up and guarded by security.

Gathering in numbers is still illegal, although on our evening walk there were larger gatherings,than permitted, out and about but pretty nasty rain would have dispersed them. So the longest day will still pass without being marked in a communal way.

Trawling the archive seemed the right way to mark a solstice like no other.

For interest sake I researched the days either side of the solstice.

Without too much trouble it was easy to see some themes and maybe a little bit of Midsummer Madness.

1. People

Today @theoldmortuary spent time with our daughter and granddaughter.

In past years we’ve spent time with Brenda our mother-in-law. Who in this picture was captured by a sunbeam. We will also see her again today, who knows if she will bring the sunbeam again.

Breakfast in Southampton with Uncle Mohammed and Aunty Margaret who live in Canada but were passing through.

2. My fascination with street signs.

3. A fascination with stairs.

4. Flowers

5. Aberdeen , Hong Kong

6. Cups

7. Dogs , ending with a sunset on the longest day.

Pandemic Pondering #84

This is quite the ponder. Yesterday I cleared out the studio for three reasons.

1. It was in a mighty pickle.

2 I needed to find the blackboard.

3 We needed a garden gathering space for inclement weather.

None of these inspired a blog but like all good things, the accidental find is the most interesting. This is the story of my life. My working life would not exist without X-rays, one of histories great accidental finds. The link below explains radiography alongside 9 other valuable accidents. But I digress.

https://www.mnn.com/leaderboard/stories/10-accidental-inventions-that-changed-the-world

My accidental find in the studio was a Disco glitter ball. It’s big and used to live in a cupboard for eleven months of the year and then hang disco style from the decorative finial thingy that hung down from the bottom of a newel post on my landing.

It came into my family life by accident . We walked past Next one Christmas Eve as the shop was closing. Window dressers were stripping the festive window and prepping for the sales. We were gifted this ball straight out of the window.

Since acquiring a studio the glitter ball has given year round pleasure. Twinkling in the sunshine.

I felt like dropping into the Google rabbit hole chasing glitterballs for information for the blog.

A mirror ball hanging over the Louisiana Five in 1919.

The first mention, in literature, of a glitter ball was in Boston in 1897. The first patent was issued to Louis Bernard Woeste. He patented it as the Myriad Reflector , his trade name for it, he did not patent it as the inventor. It was reproduced by his company, and sold to ballrooms, jazz clubs and dance halls. His promotional material claimed.

The newest novelty is one that will change a hall into a brilliant fairyland of flashing, changing, living colors – a place of a million-colored sparks, darting and dancing, chasing one another into every nook and corner – filling the hall with dancing fireflies of a thousand hues.”

Mirror balls became hugely popular in dancehalls in the 1920’s . I met them in the 70’s starting with the School Disco at Margaret Tabor Secondary Modern School in Braitree, Essex. Then The Viking nightclub in Castle Headingham and then finally the bright lights and dark nights of living and working in London and Brighton. Here in the 21st century the Strictly Come Dancing global franchise brings glitterballs into countless homes worldwide that have no notion of nightclubs.

Glitterball imagery is iconic in the music industry. The Grateful Dead, Yes, Madonna, Pink Floyd have used it extensively.

The Bee Gees soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever crosses the glitterball path between music and film. Film has a similarly iconic love affair with twinkly balls. Velvet Goldmine, Casablanca in 1942, Dirty Dancing all love a twinkly ball.

In the U.S there is one manufacturer who supplies 90% of glitterballs in the US, according to Google.
http://www.omeganationalproducts.com/

But it would seem pretty strange if China hasn’t taken a big part of the market. I don’t know where my glitterball was created I know where it is now. The mortuary part of our house has slightly odd proportions for a domestic property. All the ceilings are very high. We bought a light fitting a few years ago that was sold for large-proportion bars or cafes. with just a little modification to this lightfitting the glitterball has a new home.

Pandemic Pondering #52

It’s Sunday so there is cake.Merlin Jobst- Best Boldest Coffee Cake- For Jamie Oliver.In true Sunday style half the cake has gone off on its travels. Tomorrow another quarter will go on its way.This Sunday the cake accompanies books.I’ve been invited to share 7 books I enjoy on Facebook. No explanations, no reviews. Then I invite 7 friends to do the same.It just seems a bit sad not to share my reasons so I’m doing it here and I can pop a link on Facebook.In no particular order.This is a recent read , all the action takes place on one New Year’s Eve. But the narrative covers almost 60 years of New York History and the personal story of Lilian Boxfish. It was a page turner yet the subject matter was poetry, advertising and the life of a business woman. Hardly normal page turning material.I love words. I’ve owned this book since 1972, it’s preferable to on line thesaurus searching.Like the Thesaurus this book is never far from my bedside. 5 minutes or 5 hours can be lost between it’s covers. My favourite diarist in this brilliant book is Alan Bennett.New York by Edward Rutherford. The same city as Lilian Boxfish but this time the history is counted in centuries. As a reader I was kept on the edge of my seat/bed/sunlounger by the way history turned and altered not by planning or intention but by coincidence, missed encounters or wicked intent.Colour theory and the history of colour are some of my favourite subjects to read about when I might get interrupted. This book always accompanied my on- call nights in a London Hospital . It didn’t always get a lot of attention.Blood and Sugar , a story of Deptford that taught me so much and explained why the historical architecture of Deptford is so outrageously and shamefully grand. I use the word outrageous and shame deliberately but this is a great piece of historical fiction.

Another tale of London set in part just 50 yards from the London Hospital where the Colour Book accompanied me in my On- calls. A great read about a prostitute and her ‘ protector’ and the characters around them, it has a curious end which is tidied up by a subsequent collection of short stories

Pandemic Pondering#50

Another significant number in Lockdown and a significant day. The 75th anniversary of VE day.

In lockdown this anniversary will be something that we have more time to reflect upon than usual.

There will be no street parties, civil events, sombre church services or riotous family gatherings around our own familial heroes.

Flags and bunting are popping up in our local town, but not in the amount that would have happened had life been normal.

Britain does not wear its national flag on its sleeve or in its gardens or even up its flagpoles quite as much as many other countries. Days like today are the exception. Although our own riverside town has quite a flamboyant exception to this statement.

The Union Inn, on the Cornish side of ‘ The Great Divide’ , the River Tamar, boundary between Cornwall and the rest of the world, is an almost daily fix of the Union Jack.

As I write this I can look out on our local church at a flag that would have fluttered on actual VE day

In the past my daily commute took me up Regent Street, a street that was never shy about getting its flags out.

Pandemic Pondering #50. A significant number and for world history the anniversary of a truly significant day.

Worthy of two blogs I think. This is the Early Edition.

Pandemic Ponderings #17

April sweeps in with more promise than March. These two months share the joint responsibility of bringing in Spring and hosting the Easter holidays. This April of course will be unique and this Easter, unusual, because whatever way we traditionally spend the four day weekend. This year will not be the same, in any way, for humans.

The natural world and built environment knows nothing of our 2020 restrictions. Away from our homes all these things are happening. Aprils past have provided these images.

The only one I’ve actually seen in 2020 is the first, 500 yards from @theoldmortuary.

The others are out there, but not for this year.

Wild Garlic brings vibrancy to rural lanes, and fragrance to the kitchen.

Sunshine illuminates beaches effortlessly.

While wild grasses hold the dunes in place.

Old cars twinkle in London Streets.

While bossy notices fail to realise Bill Stickers is currently Socially isolating, untroubled by threats of prosecution.

Closer to home a city beach and sea water pool look crisp but chilly.

Even closer to home the bridges between the rest of the World and Cornwall look super sharp in the evening light.

For now we are at the far end of these bridges and nowhere else.

Random(eyes)

For reasons that are unknown to me my smartphone selected a group of photos of eyes this afternoon. I assume I had inadvertantly selected a voice control search when discussing someone with shifty eyes. I suppose it could have been worse.

Not one of the following eye pictures, apart from perhaps the first, is remotely shifty.

I’m going to share them in the order they appeared and try to remember the location and event they represent.

Above is me on a New Years Eve looking shifty.

The next is Hugo and Hannah with almost perfectly matched profiles.

A dragon at Chinese New Year in Hong Kong.

Graffiti near Waterloo Bridge London.

Lola in February 2016.

Che Guevara, graffiti just outside Havana.

Three cows at the Royal Cornwall Show 2012.

A judge at The Royal Cornwall Show 2012.

Two more cows , as above.

Two @theoldmortuary paintings.

And finally a barely-there eye from the Lambeth Country Fair at Brockwell Park.

Now none of these seem to me to be remotely shifty but since I had inadvertantly confused my phone I thought I would look up ‘ Shifty eyes’

shifty-eyed in British English (ˌʃɪftɪˈaɪd) adjective. informal. having the appearance of being dishonest, esp as signified by a lack of eye contact. He seemed evasive, shifty-eyed and vague.

Apart from words it seems the internet is not too clear on exactly what a shifty eye looks like. Beyond cartoons shifty eye seems to be intangible so maybe my phone can be forgiven for giving me pretty normal eyes. However I never did ask it to search for eyes of any sort so that action still remains a mystery.

Leap Year

What to do with the extra day in 2020.

©Hong Kong Ballet

Obviously after just one Barré lesson we are fizzing to leap around on Leap Day, but this young man does it so much better .

February always needs more red.

Leap Year attracts flimsiness and fun, see my efforts above, or read Guardian flimsiness.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/feb/29/leap-year-day-how-you-could-and-should-celebrate-29-february

But it exists to keep us all ticking along nicely in time. Introduced by Julius Caesar over 2000 years ago.

Leap day recalibrates and corrects time keeping because every year is actually 365 days and 6 hours long (one complete earth orbit of the sun) so once every four years those extra 6 hours are gathered together to make an extra day.

29 pictures in red to fill your extra day.

Red car Plymouth Hoe
Miss VV
Tywardreath rail crossing
Crystal Palace Rail Station
VV and Mum talk Rothko
Posters Devonport Playhouse
Redcurrants Butler’s Cottage
Red vase @theoldmortuary
Poppies @theoldmortuary
Jewel Salad @theoldmortuary
100 Homes Project, Plymouth
Chinese New Year , Hong Kong
Bowls South Korea
Hugo and Lola hit the Red Carpet
Gipsy Hill Brewery at The Lord High Admiral , Plymouth
Nasturtiums
Detail of painting
Street Art Haggerston
Chilli lights and cook books
Welsh Guards
Autumn Leaf Dulwich Picture Gallery
Beach plastic, Portwrinkle
Croxted Road, Dulwich
Detail from painting
Street Art, New York
Dodging the spray, Niagara Falls, Canada
Post Box, Barnes
Brixton Market
Hoi An