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Friday, 19 August 2016

Post early for Christmas.

So the children are being bought new pencil cases and fresh school shoes.The supermarket shout sheets talks of Halloween and Bonfire night.The fashion pages explain how to be chic this autumn.

Get organised if you will or must.Think of the treats and consolations of other seasons.Be my guest.

Can I point out it is August.
The momentum of the year will,inevitably, roll on but I'm going to live in the moment.

The novelist Colette said "we have only the present but it is the greatest gift we have".

I've complained about the humidity and wilted in the midday heat but that's not the whole story.

The silent bookish shade.
The delicious breeze that sweeps your bare shoulders.
The smell of summer rain through an open window as you lie in the dark.
An ice cold drink that takes your breath away.
The nights when the Mambo gives you the energy to defy the heat and dance till you drop.
The mornings when there's Mozart on the radio  and a pot of tea rouses you in the sleepy heat.
Diving into shivery water.
A really good ice cream cone.
Brown sails billowing on the sailing barges.

There is nobody who cannot take a minute, an hour or a day to simply be.
To savour a simple pleasure.
I am not going to get to winter empty handed.I will need these things in February.My shoes seem always to have a residue of sand in them.Its still a book in a rucksack not a compact in a handbag.

I will not leave the party early. I'm going to drain the bottle.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Boats and Bustan.

Down among the boats again today.
The countryside intensely green as we twisted down towards the estuary.
Sat with a basket of things I'd baked looking out over a sea like a vast sheet of silk that seemed to ripple like the fabric.A pale metallic blue.

Made me think of the exhibition (see previous post).

The explanatory notes said that owners and artists of the manuscripts (the bulk  925-1490) were sensitive to aspects of the art that we aren't.
We tend to focus on the intricacy , the age and the religious content.They ,on the other hand , we are told , valued luminosity/brilliance and intensity/saturation of colour.
The very best were where the artist had built layer on thin layer of precisely placed colour.Vibrant blues ,reds and deep greens.Especially the French and Persian ones.

It's a huge exhibition.I'll go again around Christmas.So this visit was a general look and then homing in a couple of favourites.

Two had the saturation of colour but other particular treats.

One , French , (1376 - 1379) had stark black text.The odd letter jutting out into the margin.
Each jutting letter made a perch.
On one sat a finch , on another a cuckoo and on a third a magpie had come to roost.
The birds were explicit in detail. I'm a bird watcher but not an expert.I knew them instantly.
Explicit and exquisite.

The second one was by Sa'Di Bustan and was Persian. ( Bustan means orchard apparently ). So in 1257 the artist ,Orchard, painted hares , deer , oxen and a swooping bird.
The oxen had the huge round horns you'd expect . He was a corker.
I stood grinning from ear to ear as tourists whirred round me. They were glancing at everything and looking at nothing.

Time and specifics that's what gets you there. Honing in on things and giving yourself time for them to become meaningful.
Whether that's green countryside , serene seascapes or something else.

Those eyes looking out from the medieval manuscripts have been at it a lot longer than me. But , there we all are. Gazing out . Thoughtful . The magpie , the oxen and me.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Nodding to the peacock.

Yesterday to the old fortress town and the secondhand bookshop.Several like minded souls browsing and leafing through books.
It is my custom, in the depths of winter,to read a couple of childhood classics.
Last Christmas was punctuated by volume after volume of the Swallows and Amazons series.
This time I come away with a couple of possibles wrapped neatly in a brown paper bag tucked under my arm.
Today over to the secret gallery.
Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden ; some old favourites and a couple of surprises. Lovely.
 Then in the fine drizzle to wander down the tunnel,along the gravel path and through the hidden gate of the sequestered garden. Strolling round the maze in the rain. Sitting silent and contented by the summer house.Nodding to the stone peacock as I head off for a pot of tea.
Smiling as I remember I've half a batch of coconut flapjack left to go with it.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Pitfalls and distractions.

These last two days the weather has,mostly, hovered around ninety, dropping to the low eighties at night.In  other places and at other times it's certain it has been more testing.
I find this scant consolation.
I have poor circulation.I complain and the concerned or irritated touch my forehead or hand.The general response is "good lord".This is neither here nor there really.Its all relative and if you feel hot you feel (expletive) hot.

What to do then?
Well,not much judging by the quietude that's hit round here.Streets and roads are largely silent. To see a solitary figure somewhere in the distance feels like coming across a stranger in the desert.

It's as silent here as if we have been snowed in.

That's probably as well as it takes so much effort to stay civil in this weather.
The Saxophonist and I are convivial and kind with one another because,well,because we just are.Outside of that I seethe inside. The heat makes me critical,illogically so.
Its not dehydration as I'm drinking tea by the pint and what feels like water by the bucketful. No,its the long list of things you want to eat, wear and do which would be disappointing and / or miserable if you tried them now.Frustration, I suppose. I ridicule people in my head.Oh dear...

Last night I sat down with a pile of cookery books. The idea was to rough out  weeks worth of light and tempting food.Not too much involving the oven and perhaps a picnic or two.
What I actually did was leaf through the illustrations of about a book and a half in a dilatory fashion.I scribbled down a couple of lacklustre ideas and then has to stop.
Every thing seemed to be "warming,"hearty",rich,sickly or sometimes all four. I snapped the books shut before I felt any more bilious than I already did.

Distractions. Aah distractions:

I am reading some Jonathan Raban at the moment.Another of his watery volumes. He speaks of "smashing your own reflection".He means diving into that reflection.
I sat there quite sometime ,flinging myself from the side of the boat,savouring the shock of the cool water and soaking off the sweat in the waves.

Yesterday I got given a promotional balloon.A bit embarrassing  as it bobbed along beside me like an excitable puppy.Once in the car park I simply let go of its string.I thought it would just end up under somebody's car.Instead it went straight up.Caught a thermal and gained momentum.Up and up until it was a tiny yellow dot and then nothing.Gone higher than I could see.There was a release and a relief in that.Illogically,a clarity that felt cold.

I thought, today,what would I tell a child about managing this temporary time of sweat and thirst.I decided I'd tell it about angels.
About how,if its deep snow,you can lay down in an unblemished field or a car park.Lay flat on your back and scissor your arms up and down along the snow.
When you get up the image is left of a full skirted figure with wings.

Sunday, 10 July 2016


Sometimes crowds and queues make you listless.You ache for space and silence.Or at least I do.

So I looked at the map,turned what was in the fridge into an old fashioned picnic and we struck out into the landscape.

Where water is concerned a map can be ambiguous .Here is Blackwater estuary but what of the routes to the water?The little pathways and tracks that take you from countryside to where the masts show in the distance.
Oh lucky day.It was one of those where you turn the corner and there's a dagger of water in sight.Hurry to its hilt and a whole vista emerges.Lagoons,bobbing boats and a vast vista of shining water.

Water that breaks into shards in the sunlight.Shattered mirrors and broken diamonds.The smell of salt and seaweed is intoxicating.Lingering like a child that does not want Christmas to end.
Then a further thought.

There's a remote Saxon chapel built by St Cedd.The plague got him in 664 AD so its been there a while.

We park and start to walk.Its half a mile along a track loud with bird song.The wind is strong but warm.The air sweeps your body and seeps into your spirit for that whole half mile.
The chapel itself is swept by the continuous wind.Once inside you hear nothing but the wind.The only light is from windows very high up.There is space and silence.

I thought of people down the centuries sprinting in and slamming the huge wooden door against pelting rain or icy blasts.

Sanctuary,succour and consolation.It had been that way long before the first king of all England took the throne in 802 AD.

It is that now.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

It's hot.

Slick,sleek,black,oiled.Two young cormorants perch a pole a piece.Side by side.There is the air of leather jackets and I wonder if one will pull out a comb and slick back the thick oily plumage on his head.

An Egret floats across the lake like a table cloth on the wind.Listless in the heat.

My sweaty elbow slips off the shelf in the hide,the binoculars slip.And into view slides a lapwing.He picks his way along the edge of the lake.Halts to preen,halts to think,halts for halting's sake.Its hot.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Seaside Sunday.

At certain times of the year the tides and currents move and a causeway opens up .It goes far out into the sea.
You can walk out over purple and vivid green strands of seaweed a long,long way.So far you can see round into the next bay.
Boats and yachts are yards away.
You can stand next to a man with a huge hand net catching his tea.
Solitary walkers are lost in their own thoughts like me but as we pass we nod or smile.Its greeting and mutual appreciation for the place
I breath ozone and salt into both nose and mouth.It clears my head and fills me up like a good dinner.
The slap and jump of waves.The wind ebbs and flows.
Your hair is blown about and there's the clink of a few shells in your pocket.
I think you get it too.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Tin clouds.

An estuary afternoon.Lead skies,tin clouds,grey water and mud.I have bought my new binoculars to tune them up,tweak the dials and get my eye in.
Something white in the water.As good an object as any to fix on.Cover first one lens and then the other focusing as you go.
The object becomes a broken umbrella and suddenly with a final quarter turn, full focus comes and there's an egret.An egret ponderous and high stepping.He has an aristocratic air.Have his pince-nez fallen off and plopped in the water?
He turns into a fold in the air and slowly flaps away.
A small satisfaction to have the binoculars fit for purpose and to have christened them with the egrets help.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Thoughtful about fruit.

Summer, and my jacket pocket is half full of sea glass.
I have two punnets of strawberries from the small holder on the coast road.If you put your nose in the bag,and I have,the ravishing smell.The scent of summer.
Perspective comes from odd sources.I imagined a medieval merchant,an Edwardian governess each popping a berry into their mouths.First him then her,now me.
It puts the current sporting and political turmoil into,as I say,perspective.
A continuity of simple pleasures .