Thursday, 27 May 2010

...making choices...

I need to spend time
in the world behind my window.

I will be back
before you have even noticed
that I have gone.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Edna Clarke Hall (1879 - 1979)

Edna Clarke Hall (née Waugh)
entered the Slade School of Fine Art
as a precociously talented 14 year old.
She was a contemporary of Gwen and Augustus John.

She married the eminent lawyer, William Clarke Hall, in 1898
and they had two sons, Justin and Denis.
In the summer the Clarke Halls would move to Cornwall
and these idyllic holidays are recorded in numerous paintings.

Edna chose watercolour because 'it captured the moment'
and I am attracted to her work because it evokes
my own childhood on the cliffs and beaches of Cornwall.

Edna had a period of mental breakdown
as she tried to reconcile the conflict
between her world as wife and mother
and her inner creative life.
Reading about this has started a train of thought
that I know other people struggle with.

How do you find the space for creative expression in a family
- and in my case, working full time -
especially if your creative work
is not going to clothe or feed your family?

Gwen John painted portraits of haunting intensity,
but lived alone after the end of her relationship with Rodin;
it must have required immense self control by Edna Clarke Hall
not to compare her work to that of the single minded Gwen John
and regret her own limited opportunity to fulfill her early promise.

How do you understand the value of your own creative work?
Edna had a distinctive, fluid, sketchy style
which was quite different to anything that her peers were creating
- where did she find the self-belief to keep painting in this style?

I don't know the answers to these questions.

I wish I did.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Trouble at t'mill

The Examinations Officer looks shocked
and the Deputy Examinations Officer looks anxious.

The evidence is indisputable.

The Examinations Officer walks back to his office,
composing a steely email in his head
that he *might send to all academic staff.

Dear All,
This morning, it was discovered that the Examiners' biscuits had been taken without their consent. I am disappointed to report that the situation is even more serious than would appear at first sight because the chocolate biscuits have been taken from the second layer before the boring biscuits on the first layer have been finished. This is a very serious breach of discipline. It is unacceptable and must not be repeated.

While I have had no objection – so far – to colleagues using the Examiners' room, it is vital that you understand that the biscuits have been purchased for the sole use of the Examinations Officer and his Deputy.

I trust I will not have to write again about this matter.
The Examinations Officer

(*but, of course, he didn't send it...
Examinations are serious matters...
there must be no accusations of levity...
or the remotest suspicion of frivolity.)

MrsM hurries out to the shops and buys more chocolate biscuits .

Monday, 24 May 2010

On the first day of summer...

the greens are more green:

the yellows are more yellow:

the reds are more red:

and the blues are more blue:

29°C and melting.

It was hot out there.

Friday, 21 May 2010

MissM dresses up

I went to a great party on Saturday night...
The theme was ‘Childhood Heroes’.

That sounds like fun!
Who did you choose?

I immediately thought of Xena, the Warrior Princess...

Oh yes!
That would be great!
What was your costume like?

Well, I must admit it was quite tricky.
I couldn’t find a leather bra.

I can see that would be a problem

So I went as Dumbo instead.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

walking with my mother

Look at this patch of violets!
You absolutely must take a picture.

Aren’t the milkmaids lovely this year?
I think that you call them something else...
but I always call them milkmaids.
There is a drift of them on the other side of the river.

A whole clump of buttercups!
What a shame that the light is so poor.

This is bugloss...
I am going to take some for my friend Rosalie
who is in that she can paint them
It is so difficult to get the exact shade of blue.

I always call this Ragged Robin
but their name is really Herb Robert.
Ragged Robin is really quite different...
I will show you in the book.

This is Archangel
which is like Germander
but isn't the same.

Isn't the wild garlic spectacular this year...
do people really eat it now?
How interesting...

Just a moment, I think I can see an orchid
and I want to check if it is flowering.


I thought that it would be easy to capture
the sound of my mother talking
but I was wrong.
I will have to listen harder next time.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

MrsM meets dgr

Sit up straight, everyone.
NO slouching.
If you are reading this first thing in the morning
please make sure that you have brushed your hair
because today we are meeting the dovegreyreader.
I know! I know! You are reeling in shock…
dgr writes about books
(which I don’t, much)
What could we possibly have in common?

Listen up, you unbelievers…
I know someone who works in a bookshop,
And someone who has featured in a literary festival,
And a librarian, I know a librarian!
Oh yes! I can mingle confidently with the literati
without betraying the depth of my ignorance.
You should have more faith in me.

There are five things that I wish to share
from my audience with dgr…

dgr does not expect you to genuflect...
imagine...all that practising wasted!!
dgr does not expect an in-depth analysis of the Booker long list
as an entry requirement to meaningful conversation...phew!!
dgr reads five books do I!!
(although, in my case, one of them is about maps)
dgr reads my blog before breakfast...
the pressure!! the pressure!!
dgr makes me laugh a lot
so that two hours pass in a flash.

Thank you, Lynne, for a most entertaining morning.

Oh...and just to prove that I am not making this up
Here is my autographed bookmark...

NOW tell me you are not impressed...

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Skylarks at Minions

I can drive to Minions in my dreams.

You go through Rilla Mill and Upton Cross
and on upwards to the edge of the moor
where the wind is clean,
blowing hard from cold seas and empty moorland.

Leaving the car, you follow sheep tracks and small paths,
clambering over randomly strewn granite chunks.

Here is the great quarry face at the edge of the hill
and beyond, to the furthest horizon,
the landscape of Cornwall.

From a distance the stone tiers seem precarious
but it is a misleading impression,
at close quarters their permanence is unmistakable.

I have walked these paths all my life:
as a child,
with my children
and now without my children.

At the top of the hill,
where the view is unchanging,
I felt that it could be any or none of those times.

On the way back we lay in the tussocky grass
and, turning our faces to the sky,
let the molten sound of the skylarks pour over us.

In all the times that I have been to Minions
I have never stopped to listen to the skylarks.

There are always new things to discover.
I know that now.

Monday, 17 May 2010

The naming of guinea pigs...

Here is Tweedledum having his/her first photocall.
Or perhaps it is Tweedledee...

They are only a day old
and the names are not formally agreed
because their personalities have not fully developed.
I am sure that you will agree
that it would be cruel to call it Tweedledum
if it was more Tweedledeeish.

My mother said thoughtfully...
"I will let the grandchildren decide on the names...
but I haven't decided yet
what names I will let them choose."

They are very lucky baby guinea pigs
because they will live a life of luxury
eating only the best organic dandlelions
and squeaky fresh leaves of purple sprouting broccoli
and frolicking in the green orchard grass.


I have been in Cornwall visiting my parents.
There is so much to write about
but I must go and find something to wear to work.
Back tomorrow.

Friday, 14 May 2010

the world comes to me

The young academic who often visits China
has just returned from a trip to Iceland
when he drove to within 4km of Eyjafjallajokull.

He tells me of the extraordinary crackling sound
of the volcano exploding; twisters of volcanic dust;
a smell of sulphur that clings to everything;
the gigantic plume of smoke that fills half of the sky
and leaves the other half clear and blue.

He thinks that it is unlikely that
he will ever see anything as exciting again in his lifetime.
I make him promise to show me a photograph
and when he sounds surprised
I insist that I would really, truly love to see a photo.

"Well..." he says "if you are really, really sure
I will send you a photo whenever I go somewhere interesting."

"I'd like that a lot." I said.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Chicken, Bacon and Avocado

Ali made me wonder why I love to photograph food.

Sometimes I do it to celebrate beautiful ingredients,
and sometimes to capture the memory of a meal
or as an appreciation of the artistry of a chef.

There are also times when I find it difficult
to be enthusiastic about food at all.
If I take the time to create something
attractive enough to photograph
I am more likely to eat it.

So, now you know.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A New Dawn

Milkmaid's Family
Le Nain Brothers

There is no milk.

MrM and MrsM agree that this is the result of the disastrous mismanagement of the previous administration. Substantive negotiations are undertaken with the ultimate objective of a fundamental realignment of domestic politics.

MrM and MrsM accept that the difficult environment mean that little resentments must be put aside for the greater good.

MrM and MrsM accept collective responsibility and a genuine progressive coalition is formed to much acclamation.

MrsM switches on the kettle and MrM goes to the garage in his new role as Deputy Prime Minister.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Colour Saturation

The Azalea Bowl in the Valley Gardens is at its peak.

An extravagant, flamboyant flowering.

Great slicks of vibrant acrylic colour.

Fiery corridors of carmine and salmon.

Vivid cascades of fuschia and lilac.

New leaves of dazzling emerald green.

It is an intense experience...

(not suitable for the faint hearted)

and at some point you realise that...

your favourite colour is white.

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Other Side of the World

The academic who turned 40 last year is in Kyoto.

Bridge over the Kamo River, Kyoto

I cannot use this an excuse to show
pictures of cherry blossom, geisha and shrines
because it is a working visit.

Elephant Head Mountain in Sanuki Province

We are talking conference speeches
and field trips to mountainous areas
so pictures of Japanese mountains must set the scene.

Tateyama in Etchu Province

He has cunning plans to persuade Japanese universities
to enter into lucrative collaborations...

Mt. Yuga in Bizen Province

I am ashamed to admit that
I hope that he is not too successful...

Dragon Mountain in Harima Province

because I am not confident that
Yen/Sterling business management
is one of my strong points.

All pictures by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)