Saturday 13 July 2024

The Summer Exhibition

Some years ago Dunk and I watched a programme, probably on Sky Arts, about the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. The notion that anybody can submit a work of art for this exhibition is enchanting. Some 30,000 people do every year. The 'List of Works' tells me there are 1710 works in the exhibition. Of course many are works by members of the Royal Academy, but they are mixed up on the walls and you can't tell professional from amateur until you consult the listing in the book (the price is usually a clue). I was so pleased that it wasn't at all crowded, plenty of room to stand around looking at the art and not feel like you were in anyone's way. Some rooms were more sparse but many were like this, pictures all the way up, somewhat above a good height to see them well, which must be disappointing for people with their work up the top. A huge range of styles and subject matter and formats. In the end my eyes felt tired ... just from looking so much.

Following are a few of the ones I particularly noticed. No sense of scale here, some were quite small, others huge. I forgot to note down the numbers when I photographed so cant necessarily tell you who they are.
This lovely dandelion. 'The great survivor' Kaye Maahs
Back gardens (no artist name):
'Orlando' by Georgia Green, a friend of Monkey's, one of two that she has in the exhibition.
'Homebase' Jock McFadyen, one of my favourites, but out of my price range.
In the first room, but not sure, possibly (because that's what it looks like) 'Spinney with startled birds' by Anthony Wishaw
'Across the River' Christopher Thompson
Have tea-towel ... make art. 
My favourite, already sold or this would have been the one. 'Strutting' Lisa Badau
And one of multiple cat paintings that I sent to the girls while I was looking around. Monkey said she loved it the best, and so did lots of other people judging by the dots (indicating print purchases)
We got lost on the way, but next time we'll know it's quicker to just take the tube to Green Park. The cake was a bit overpriced but the cafe wasn't crowded either. All round a most enjoyable visit. Next year beckons.
Stay safe. Be kind. See some art.

Friday 5 July 2024

The Magic of Democracy


After the terrifying judgement by the United States Supreme Court last week the election results that arrived overnight bring a welcome feeling of relief. I was struck by the brief acceptance speech by Jeremy Hunt when he reflected on the peaceful transfer of power that has happened here compared to elsewhere in the world where violence can sometimes be a more common method. I feel proud to live in a country where we mark our crosses and accept the decision of the majority, and nobody cries foul. I can only hope that the same will be true in November when the Americans go to vote.

Stay safe. Be kind. Celebrate the wins.

Wednesday 3 July 2024

30 Days Wild


I signed up for 30 Days Wild, and they emailed me every day, but did pretty much nothing wild the entire of June. I constantly wish I spent more time out of doors but then slump at home after work. Yesterday bought me some wild delight however when I came across this Swallow-tailed moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria) sitting by the postboxes at 17 Mauldeth Road. It was still there today, which was nice because I had forgotten all about it. Moths are a much under-appreciated species as they are often not a beautiful as butterflies but they are just as important as pollinators. 
Stay safe. Be kind. Appreciate the moths.

Tuesday 2 July 2024

Ministry of Time

There's been a bit of buzz around 'The Ministry of Time' by Kaliane Bradley (who strangely doesn't have a website), and as soon as I searched I find that the BBC has already commissioned a drama. It will make excellent telly I'm sure. I like books that emerge from clever ideas, but sometimes come to feel that the clever idea becomes its defining feature, characters and style becoming secondary. Not true of this book as the people are all wonderfully drawn and the relationships between them strong and believable.

A secret government project has acquired a time door, through which they have bought several people from the past into the 21st century. It is never clear why these particular people have been chosen, nor what they are supposed to do now there are here. The current world is a disaster, falling into a climate change driven chaos. The focus of the story is Graham Gore, a member of an arctic expedition from 1847 and his unnamed 'bridge' (who tells the story), whose job is to help him acclimatise to the modern world. He is a real person from history (as opposed to an invented character) and the story is interspersed with extracts about the progress of the expedition, which consists of two trapped ships struggling to survive the winter, starving and freezing, and hoping for warmer weather to free them from the ice. 

This first quote from 1847; Gore has shot an Esquimaux, mistaking the shape of the person stooping in the snow for a seal when out hunting for food, and the tribe and his widow, come to the ship:
"'I'm sorry,' he says, in English, because he forgot to ask Crozier how to say it in her language. She looks at him.
He should get to his knees. Offer his throat to the edge of her palm. Or maybe he should offer her his hand, to replace the hands of her husband. Brief wildness beats at his skull. Perhaps, after a manhood with no final home, fixing makeshift families in multiple wardrooms, killing and pinning land to maps, God has cast him on the shore by this woman. Years of his finger on the trigger  to make sense of her expression.
'I'm sorry,' he repeats. She looks at him. After the group leave, taking their gifts, the stare will linger on his body. When he washes up in his cabin that night, he feels it slip under his shirt, growing into his skin." (p.185)

Of course an extended period of close companionship forges their relationship into something more intense; 
"I blinked at him, and then I looked up. It was true. Away from the grubby muslin of London's light pollution, in the fresh March night, the sky was full of stars. I turned back to him. As I adjusted to the dark, I could see he was staring upwards.
'I can't manage it exactly without a sextant,' he said. 'But I want to be able to orientate myself.'
'So that, in the event of London flooding when the ice caps melt, you can sail to safer waters?'
'So that I will know where I was when I met you.'
I has always thought of joy as a shouting, flamboyant thing, that tossed breath into the sky like a ball. Instead it robbed me of my speech and my air. I was pinned in place by joy and I didn't know what to do.
'Come here,' he said softly, and pulled me into his arms.
I pressed my face against his neck. My body sparked and I couldn't move it, except to lean into him. I was filled with happiness, so enormous and terrifying it was as if I'd committed a crime to get it. No one had given me permission to feel this way, and I thought I might not be allowed it. He combed his fingers through my hair and I was frightened with happiness, harrowed by it. There was no way anyone could feel this much without also knowing they were going to lose it." (p.258-9)

People arrive from the future, with a weapon, and the refugees from the past are forced to flee for their lives. And things just got more complicated from there, and I'm still not sure what was going on. Will definitely be watching the series when it materialises.

Stay safe. Be kind. Be wary of that job that seem too good to be true.

Tuesday 25 June 2024

Painting and Painting

Since we arrived in Moss Side five years ago the inside of the house has been well decorated. I have had my eye on the tatty entrance porch for quite some time and a week off with some sunshine was the perfect moment. The front door and front window have been re-caulked and the step painted brick red.
I used the blue that I bought for the yard to do the porch walls, and I am delighted by how the colour brightens the entrance, and dare I say it, the whole street. Several neighbours stopped by as I was working and commented how lovely it is.
Of course as soon as I painted the surrounding brickwork I realised I would have to do the whole front of the house as it showed up how faded the old paint was. Fortunately it had only been previously painted to the top of the downstairs window and so I could reach it all from the stepladder. 
Saturday I took myself to a Japanese Painting Workshop with Floating Art , spent an enjoyable couple of hours that flew by and was surprisingly satisfied with the results.
Stay safe. Be kind. Try something new.

Here is the Beehive

I have no idea why this book is called this; 'Here is the Beehive' by Sarah Crossan. This is a very intense little book, about a woman, Ana, conducting a somewhat obsessive affair, only to have the object of her affection die. Connor is dead, and she is grieving, and she can't tell anyone. Gradually she reveals stuff about their relationship and their separate lives. The reader watches her struggle with her loss, trying to maintain some pretence of normal life for her family, all the time thinking of her lover. I sympathised deeply with her, even when she makes bad, ridiculous choices. I sympathised with her husband as he watches his wife unfathomably crumble. It is laid out like poems on the page, short lines and broken paragraphs, very effective for getting across the nature of her thought patterns. They had met initially when he becomes a client at her firm, but then as the solicitor responsible for overseeing Connor's will Ana finds herself inadvertently befriending his wife Rebecca. Initially she is trying to sneak a closer look inside his life, but it becomes something other than that. It is a story about love, and secrets, and obsession, and learning how to get over someone who was never yours. 

"I'd seen a photo on your phone so already knew
Rebecca owned a pair of
royal blue
leather gloves.
I hated her for it - 
discovering she had
the nerve for such a statement,
an extravagance.

It was hard to know
whether or not a brown pair, unlined,
could compare,
but I bought them in the January sale
from Selfridges
and hid them in a drawer,
to wear with you
when it was cold.

I never found the courage.

And I never found out whether or not
the way to win you was
to be different to Rebecca,
to be better than her
or simply    
        to be her completely." (p.115-6)

Saturday 22 June 2024

Japan and Elsewhere

So I mentioned ages ago that I was reading 'The Long Earth' by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. When my brother Bart spotted it he said it was much more Stephen Baxter than it was Terry and I think I would concur, as the Pratchett humour was there but it did not feel anything like the discworld books. Apparently he collaborated a great deal in the latter years of his life as he had trouble holding stories together as his mind declined. It is testament to his amazing creativity that he never stopped writing. In the book a scientists creates a device that allows people to 'step' sideways into parallel earths, each one having taken a slightly different evolutionary path, but all empty of human beings. It follows Joshua who was coincidentally born in another world and can 'step' without the device, and an epic journey across the earths in a stepping airship. I enjoyed this book. It was very clever and I relished the story and the concept, it was hugely imaginative (though in some ways depressing at the thought of human beings fucking up multiple earths) but that was about it. 

'Abroad in Japan' by Chris Broad is about a guy doing JET like Monkey Sensei and basically acts as a kind of introduction to living in Japan with chapters about food and onsen and Mount Fuji and shrines and so on. So was just like chatting to Monkey about how she's getting on and what she's been up to. It's just life, that is kind of the same, but kind of completely different, but it does get across the peculiarities of learning to live in another country. I kind of enjoyed it because I am already interested in Japan and its culture but in truth I'd rather spend the afternoon video chatting with Monkey while she cooks her gyoza for dinner. 

"Breast and Eggs" by Mieko Kawami came from Monkey's bookshelf and follows two sisters and a niece as they wrangle with the nature of being in a female body. It starts as the older sister is visiting the younger with the intention of getting breast implants, pursuing a lost youth somewhat. Then in the second part, a decade later the younger sister is contemplating the process of having a child via sperm donation, something not available to single women in the somewhat socially conservative Japan. She encounters a support group for children of anonymous donors and spends a lot of time debating the ethics of the choice she feels bound to make. It was a lovely book of relationships between the three women, bound together by only having each other. I liked Natsuko because she seemed so vulnerable, sometimes still this child who had to fend for herself as her mother and then grandmother had died and left the two girls as teenagers. It was all very much inside her life, day to day stuff like coping with the heat and worrying about her life, and big existential stuff contemplating sharing her life with another person. 
In between reading and working and stuff my lovely Ady had her third birthday. I searched for an hour on the interweb for a freebie pattern to make her a dress and then gave up and went to the library and found this fab book, Wild Things by Kirsty Hartley. It is full of lovely simple designs and contained patterns to trace (and adapt, I did some dungarees and turned them onto a dress instead). I bought the monster fabric down in Leons last year some time. She had a 'pretty dress' ready for the party so she didn't put it on for a photo but whatever. I am pleased as punch with it.
Stay safe. Be kind. More catch-up posts coming ....