Monday, September 29, 2008

a procession of curious birds ...

In the noisy car park of a supermarket besides Gatwick Airport, where I am taking a rest from driving. My new truck has a CD player and I am listening to Alan Bennett’s History Boys, which has many little ironies that I enjoy, and the sweet sonorities of two fine actors, Frances de la Tour and Richard Griffiths.

Just in front of the truck, a busy magpie with a few scraggy grey feathers around its neck and wing-tips arrives and perches in a small tree, but ignores the tumult of bright berries and hurriedly swoops to the ground to investigate something that I can’t see, and then flies off.

Moments later, a jackdaw with a silvery head and an icy stare, flies in, and also investigates the same patch of ground, possibly double-checking, having seen the first visitor from afar.

And when he flies off, a larger crow takes a turn, even though he’s already carrying something in his beak, white and circular, rather like a communion wafer, which he makes no effort to eat. He too, finding nothing, departs.

In itself, this little trinity of treasure seekers seems almost to be an esoteric allegory which narrative I am unqualified to interpret, but then ten seconds later comes a fourth visitor, and one I hardly expect to see so close to crowds of people; a gaudy jay who only stays for a second or two but delights me most of all with his fine feathers and the eloquent way that he almost mimes his curiosity.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

books do furnish a room

stop press: insomniac rearranges deck chairs on titanic ...

life processes visualized

when you find the slideshow by clicking on the link below, click on frame 16 for an astonishing animation on the subject of protein synthesis, neuronal firing, cell development, etc

Friday, September 26, 2008

for the last 36 years, the 26th september has been an important day for me ... this morning i woke twice ... from a dream within a dream

Yesterday I had been thinking about those fish sellers in John Aubrey’s time, who regularly drove a cart from Poole to Oxford, stopping at Shaftesbury and Devizes, and probably one or two more towns, before arriving with the less-than-fresh brain food of the colleges.

In my dream I was in an old town on a steep hill, full of interesting buildings and shops. It was not unlike Shaftesbury, or possibly Faringdon, of which I only have vague recollections. I may have been thinking about our recent stay in Chartres, too, because I went in to a “charcuterie” which was carrying on its trade in what might once have been an old chapel; there were high leaded windows and pillars of alabaster, and even the walls were slightly translucent, although much of the finer carving had been damaged by the butchers’ carelessness with their knives and cleavers over the centuries.

In the dream, someone explained to me that many of the small specialist traders in the town had only survived so long because of the patronage of the great and noble estates on the fringe of the town who made anachronistic demands for old-fashioned goods and services.

In search of further delights, I left that shop in bright sunshine and began to descend a steep cobbled street ... and here the dream made an unexpected transition ... I was now at the wheel of a car, driving through a tunnel … with no lights.

Now this had happened to me once when the lights blew as I switched them on whilst we entered a tunnel in a car that I was driving on a spectacular mountain motorway in northern Spain, and that tunnel wasn’t straight, and so there was no light at the end of it.

But in my dream this tunnel went more rapidly downhill, and became very much steeper, and so I clung to the wheel as though I was trying to haul the car back as its descent became a fall.

Then I was woken from my agitation by someone gently taking my wrists and lifting me up from the pillow of sleep, as if it were from the theatre of the dream … and the person doing the lifting and making the reassuring noises was not my mother, or my father, but my grown-up daughter Ellen … whose birthday happens to be today !

And then I really did wake up from that dream, too, because the alarm was calling me to work !

On the short walk to the bus stop, in the cool breathless night, an owl two-whitted close by in the wood, and then a rarther plump and fluffy fox paused to look at me with sympathetic curiosity outside the door of The Green Man.

I arrived for work feeling as though I had already had a long day.

Editors Note: the extra "r" in rarther is out of deference to Miss Daisy Ashford ...

the loved one brings a book home which she "wonders" if i might be interested in ... very, as it happens !

and then a short search discovers this 1991 In Memoriam Terence Kilmartin by Clive James

sales talk

i had spotted these good old boys as i drove in to reigate, and was pleased to find a parking space for the truck close by

i hesitated to read the labels on all of the jars and the feller on the left decided to try his best shop-assistant's technique with the time-worn question, "can i help you, sir ?"

my mind wasn't really in focus, and it seems hard to make decisions when you are at the end of a week of very early mornings, so i sheepishly replied, "i think i need a brain transplant"

"ah !" sez he, with a jolly smirk, "i'm sure our honey would be the ideal medium in which to condition and re-invigorate the donor's newly-extracted brain before attachment to the recipient !"

tony charles

tony left the company today after twelve years

i asked if he had any parting message for his "viewers"

his answer was, "peace and love, everyone !"

you can't say fairer than that

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

three beautiful things

i wave one hand at a portugese colleague across the yard and place the finger tips of the other hand behind my ear whilst rolling my eyes towards the nearby railway viaduct ... a faraway steam train can be heard labouring up the slope towards wandsworth road from the yards besides the grosvenor bridge near battersea power station ... and then the billowing white plume of steam appears on high like a volcano in motion, followed by a momentary glimpse of the locomotive and some pullman carriages which instantly vanish again behind high warehouses

curtains of windswept drizzle sweeping across a luscious clearing in a wood whilst the sycamore leaves are fringed with raindrops

a brief text from the loved one at dawn which lists the appetizing menu for this evening's meal

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

all the world's a shallow grave ... or why education can never be as expensive as ignorance

slurp !!! .... any excuse to include a bit of art in pedants' corner

amateur pedants, genuine lovers of ecclesiastical buildings, and over-educated art historians may have already noted the outline of a familiar building in the background of william hogarth's action-packed vignette of eighteenth century social problems ... do feel free to click on the link ...

these pictures are somewhat gratuitously displayed in celebration of the government's vaguely realistic and constructive attempt to further and to inform the national debate on alcoholism ... if you can stay in focus, do click on the link below before re-filling your glasses. cheers !

Saturday, September 13, 2008

two for joy

chartres clocks


in chartres, we met a tough australian who had just walked a huge chunk of the pilgrim's way from the french border to santiago

it was the first time i'd seen all the stamps which the pilgrims collect at each hostel on the route

now she'd come to chartres to study the labyrinth ... and she explained the difference between a medieval church's labyrinth and a maze ... the medieval church labyrinths have a spiritual or symbolic purpose possibly connected to the pilgrimage to jerusalem and they don't have dead ends

unfortunately the origins of their meaning were forgotten by the clergy and many were destroyed

here's an uncredited image downloaded from wikipedia's article on the cathedral at chartres

chartres ... the old post office