Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

There was once a music shop“.  So opens Rachel Joyce‘s novel The music shop (Doubleday, 2017), and that’s where the trouble starts – I don’t believe you.  It may be 1988 with NF graffiti on the walls, but here we are really living in the land of fable.  That the shop is situated on Unity Street gives the game away, I’d say.  At The music shop‘s core is a drawn-out, convoluted operatic love story; if it were an old film you can practically hear the violins on the page (not in a good way).  And at the end, 21 years later, there’s a grand song and dance finale that cries out for the musical stage or a big screen.  Not a great novel, then.

We could debate how clever or cute it is that the book’s structure follows that of a vinyl double album (Side A through to Side D, with a Hidden track at the end) and that a lot of chapter headings are song titles.  I’m not convinced.  The test of a book with music to the fore is how much it makes you want to hear what’s being cited, and, yes, The music shop did make me want to revisit some of the classical works discussed (The fours seasons, even).  Here’s the biographical context of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata:

It’s so intimate, what he’s doing, he’s practically having sex with her.’
‘Sex?’ Her face stretched wide. ‘Beethoven?’
‘Or at least good foreplay.’
Sex? Foreplay? Horrified, he heard the words that had come from his mouth.

So I’m not saying it doesn’t have its moments, nor that it doesn’t have decent musical taste (I almost cheered aloud when The new favourites of Brinsley Schwartz made an appearance in a list, though that’s another story), just that the rock stuff doesn’t sing off the page in the same way, or get much context.  Blues hardly figure at all, even though all the characters have got ’em, one way or another.

Most of the best bits of The music shop come out of the owner of the shop’s – Frank’s – back story, his life and broad early musical education at the hands of an eccentric bohemian single mum who died young.  He’d rather have had a normal childhood, but she left him with his special talent, of which more later.  His mum is really interesting; that’s a novel I’d rather have read.  Her stuff appears in italics.  She’s a card: ‘Bach was a genius,’ she said … ‘He was jazz in fucking Baroque fucking Germany.’  On Perotin and the birth of harmony: ‘In those days music was mostly plainsong. It was a bit – how could she put this? Fucking plain.’ Frank hardly swears at all.  And the game changer (not that we hear much about Mile Davies):

When Peg played Kind of Blue, Frank had no idea what hit him. It was 1959. The album had just come out, and he was 11.
As he listened, it was like doors opening …
‘This is the record that will change history,’ said Peg. […]

Frank’s special talent is that he can tell what people need to listen to.  Right at the start he persuades a man who professes to ‘only liked Chopin’ to take home an Aretha Franklin album and … Eureka!  He saves his bank manager’s marriage (and secures an overdraft extension to keep the shop going for himself) by pressing a Shalomar album on him.  Many people benefit over the years from his guru-like gift.  Looking for some sort of scoop, or at least a touch of the authentic, I asked a friend of mine who is an avid reader and a qualified music therapist what he thought of The music shop; bastard hadn’t read it (no offence).

So this is no ordinary record shop.  We’ll pass over its realistic financial viability; he’s holding out religiously against CDs, and this is twenty years before the advent of the vinyl revival.  Interesting concept, and you can see what he means but … (and anticipating Amazon’s tricks):

I see you don’t have any sections.?’
‘I put records where I think they should go. I am more interested in what it’s like when you – when you, uh, you know … […]
‘What?’ she asked.
‘When you –
listen. So if a customer asks for Rubber Soul, they usually find something else they would like as well.’

So Frank attempted to explain that Vivaldi was telling a story in the Four Seasons. It was why he kept it with his concept albums, like Ziggy Stardust, At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash, ABC’s The lexicon of love and John Coltrane’s A love supreme. Concept albums told a story over a number of tracks.

This Frank is a man with “a kind of empathy for everyone.”  As one of his fellow shopkeepers (a tattoo artist no less) says, he has “no room to accommodate the fact that someone might turn round one day and love him back“.  On the one hand inspirational, on the other, really bloody annoying (but the back story …):

So what was Frank going to do about [the event that sets the narrative off]? Frank was going to do what he always did when life got confusing, and that was absolutely nothing. If that didn’t work, he would do the next thing he always did when life was confusing, and hide.

And what of Unity Street, a half abandoned side street parade, away from the main shopping drag in a failing provincial town, suffering from planning blight, falling masonry, and a voracious developer trying to buy the stubborn survivors out.  A little community, then: “All life is here”, even after the baker had sold up – a funeral parlour, a religious gifts store, a music shop and a tattoo parlour.  Father Anthony, a retired priest (no, drink, not that) was saved by Frank introducing turning him on to jazz, calls his shop ‘Articles of Faith’.

Side D takes us 21 years on, after a catastrophe involving a sub-McGuffin of a shrink-wrap machine (for second hand vinyl?).  As I say, The music shop the stuff of musicals.  A lot of people have been heartened by the happy ending (oops).

Music, Maestro please …

Meanwhile, back in the real world, a couple of Saturdays ago (May 9) we were worshipping in the Church of the Bullfrogs at York House .  Shall I say ‘local legends’?  Why not!  Their special 25th birthday gig, no less – 1994 at the Fox and Hounds and all that.  Great evening, kicked off with a blast of hard-driving blues-powered rock from original members of the Beneficial Blues Band, out of whom which the Bullfrogs were spawned.  And when they hit the stage the canvas was broadened more than a wee bit with big colourful strokes of Southern Rock, Tex-Mex, and self-proclaimed ‘original Outlaw Country’.  A waltz even … and even if it was Green grow the rushes / Viva Mexico, there were waltzers.

Over the course of the evening we saw two drummers, three guitarists, three fiddlers from over the Bullfrog years and just the one redoubtable Ian Anderson, on bass, vocals and boundless energy. Pete Cripps deserves a special nod too for being on stage all night.  Highlights?  I’ve never heard a fiddle contributing to a Bo Diddley beat before but I have now.  The inevitable but consummate Sweet home Alabama … complete with guitar/fiddle duel.  Ian as Preacher Man, on a mission to rid the world of alcohol (there was a punch-line), never mind Everybody needs to believe in something … I believe I’ll have another beer“.  Copperhead Road got its full due (never short-changed) from band and crowd.  Towards the end there all three fiddlers triumphantly strutted the stage for another Steve Earle’s song – When Johnny come marching home – delivered at increasingly lunatic speed.  And then came The devil came to Georgia.

People pay obscene amounts of money and travel miles to see matchstick musicians (or rather their projected images) perform.  This was a great night full of energy, passion and skill.  You could see the whites of their eyes (and they ours) and the beer was £3.50 a pint.  As I walked home a fine half-moon looking for all the world like a sugared lemon jelly fruit slice shone down on me.

Scribal & Vaultage

At May’s Scribal performance poet Kezzabelle, ‘Mistress of Mischief’ and Fairy of life (apologising for not showering us with glitter since she found out it was not sustainable or biodegradable), was fun, serious (long saving-the-planet piece), and back again with her Retro-Afro-Muff.   From the floor Inappropriate Graham from Rugby, fitted 3-piece suit and all, was suitably inappropriate, while the Bendy Witch’s secularist anthem God and cheese got a worthy reprise.  This year Scribal has been quirkily graced with  … what shall we call them? …  short short stories? long epigrams? gnomic vignettes? … from the mind of graphic artist Paul Rainey (pen name P.Brainey).  This month’s piece about the anti-Earth always opposite Earth in its orbit round the Sun threw up all sorts of unlikely delights, including the ex-JD and radio personality TLD’s response to allegations made against him.

Vaultages coming and going so fast … Woolford Scott a singer-songwriter I’d not mind seeing more of (“You can be my Julie Andrews / I’ll be your Dick van Dyke”); Corinne Lucy solo a singer and writer of exquisite power.  It can be touch and go in the Vaults some nights with a general pub hub-bub from the bar, but Corinne had ’em listening.  Blues from the Ouse and it’s that man again – the aforementioned Ian Anderson and talented young guitarist James Ives playing da blues; Ives had also shone earlier in his other duo.  Sandy Clarke braved a Status Quo trilogy one week … on ukulele.  Last week there were two ukes at the same time.

Milton Keynes Gallery 

And lo, Milton Keynes Gallery did re-open bigger and better a couple of months ago.  Yay MK!  Could only manage a swift dash through in the opening week and was suitably impressed (there’ll be plenty of time…), and finally managed a more relaxed stroll through of opening show The lie of the land a couple of days before it closed.  There was text on the wall in the first get-a-flavour gallery that I wish I’d copied one way or another, referencing the many layered meanings of that word ‘lie’ not forgetting fabrication.  I feel the need to cite Neil Young’s After the Goldrush and “I was thinking about what a friend had said / I was hoping it was a …[sorry for the earworm] ).  Anyway, the Press Release gives a pretty good idea of the depth and variety of it all:

Through a playful and provocative display The Lie of the Land charts how British landscape was radically transformed by changes in free time and leisure activities since hunting and shooting, the recreations of the aristocracy, were enjoyed on the rolling hills of their private estates. In part, tracing a line between Capability Brown’s aristocratic gardens at Stowe and the social, urban experiment at neighbouring Milton Keynes, the exhibition teases out the aspirations that underpin our built environments.

The Lie of the Land examines the modernisation of leisure propelled by industrialisation, a theme developed from Canaletto’s painting of the fashionable public entertainment venue, Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The Victorian era, with its social reforms aiming to improve urban living conditions, is represented by the Parks Movement. Alongside works by early science fiction writer Jane Loudon and the founder of the Garden City Movement Ebenezer Howard, the exhibition also includes the first-ever lawnmower, John Ruskin’s rock collection and influential horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll’s gardening boots …

There’s more at www.mkgallery.org/whats-on/the-lie-of-the-land/ (it’ll still be there somewhere after the event) including a list of the many artists displayed.  The new era has got off to a good start.

The long wall in the Wolfson Gallery was a stunner, a fascinating collection of conventional paintings hung on a backdrop of William Morris Strawberry thief design wallpaper.

On the other side of the gallery a series of photos documenting goalposts painted on a variety of walls and locations in northern industrial towns caught my interest.  And there was much more, contextualised in The lie of the land by the company they were keeping.

Couple of favourites: to the right of the long one on the wall (Carel Weights’ The Dogs, 1956 – hello Dad), Mabel Frances Layng’s post-Great War Mars and Venus (c1918); and John Walker Tucker’s optimistic Hiking (1936) before the next one:







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Anna Berry‘s installation The constantly moving happiness machine filled the exhibition space in Milton Keynes Central Library for all of September.  It was  a construction of great intricacy and beauty.  My photo doesn’t really do justice to the scale, but walking with care inside the beast on this particular evening, as we were encouraged to do, served further to up the Wow! factor to Alice in Wonderland levels.  Beast, you say?  Indeed.  The constantly moving happiness machine only moved with the power of active public participation, and thereby hangs a tale.

But first, let’s take a closer look at some of the fine detail of a couple of the suspended paper structures.  Pages ripped from books.  Hours of folding and fixing.  Particular books, as revealed in the handout reproduced below (and, one hastens to add, not library books).

Photo (c) Kathy Navin

Photo (c) Kathy Navin

So, yes, it was static until people took up the invitation to keep it in motion.  For here we have an elegant metaphor.  I’ll let Anna explain:

Ayn Rand is a novelist – The fountainhead, Atlas shrugged – who espoused the philosophy of self-interest, or as normal mortals might express it, selfishness.  Hugely popular with the alt-right and apparently much stolen, if not surprisingly, from bookshops, and indeed, as I can report from my time as a librarian, libraries.  If Trump ever read a book, it was probably one of hers.

Th constantly moving happiness machine was also the springboard for a stimulating discussion in the Library, conducted in the view of the mounted fossil skeleton of the extinct ichthyosaur, dinosaur bones unearthed in the early excavations for the fledgling city of Milton Keynes:
Anna kicked off with what it says on the poster: An anthropological, artistic, and personal perspective on capitalist economics.  Hard to give credence to her unaccustomed-as-I-am-to-public-speaking opener.  A passionate exposition ensued – intelligent, witty, committed – all delivered in an attractive Scots lilt (sorry, but I feel the need to give some flavour).  The neo-con capitalist notion that ‘the market’ must rule, like gravity for economic reality, that there is no escape from its demands, was challenged: it’s a human construction.  But all these shiny things are (like her installation) so attractive …   The solution?  Not old orthodoxies, nor newer identity-driven narratives.

When it comes to socialism, clearly most people who espouse it are well-meaning – they genuinely feel the weight of the inequality and the sorrows of the world, and want to help people and make things better.  And of course there’s then this schism between that intention and the reality of what happened historically in so-called socialist states like the former Soviet bloc and China.

I was much taken by that phrase “the sorrows of the world“.  Not your usual political rhetoric, more like something Doctor Who would say (and yes, I’m encouraged by Jodie Whittaker).  I actually mis-remembered it as “the world’s pain” and ended up buying Michael Moorcock’s The War Hound and the World’s Pain (1981) on Abe, a writer who has known what’s what for a long time.

Anna’s reasonable conclusion:

I hope it’s not facile to suggest that the collective endeavor of building a better world means we need to stop obsessing about GDP, and strive for happiness, health, and dignity for humans and animals.

Jason Hickel, an academic and activist with an impressive CV.  He spoke strongly to the notion of ‘de-growth’.  “By arguing that our addiction to economic growth is killing us Hickel disrupts sacred economic orthodoxies”, is what the press release said, and he certainly did that, backing it up with some frightening charts and projections.  The problem with most left party policies, he argued, is that they too still rely on the same relentless pursuit of economic growth as drives capitalism.  Is it all hopeless?  To simplify, he still has faith in people power, in democracy.

This was a stimulating and thought-provoking evening with a difference.  Entertaining too.  The sell-out crowd left buzzing with radical ideas.

Added later: there is now a video of the speeches available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2KOsM8ZE_g

For more from Anna and Jason you can go to:

Mad Men

As it happens, here at the Lillabullero mansion we have been belatedly working our way through Mad Men, the series about a Madison Avenue advertising agency starting in the early 1960s, on Netflix.  First episode of the first series, Don Draper, subpoenaed as witness for the prosecution:

“Oh, you mean love. You mean the big lightning bolt to the heart where you can’t eat and you can’t work and you just run off and get married and make babies. The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.” 

Brain cells whirling …

Brain cells still whirling from the discussion, remembrance of a more (utopian) past, I dug out my old copy of Jim HaynesWorkers of the world, unite and stop working: a response to Marxism, (Dandelion, 1978).  He leans heavily on the work of R.Buckminster Fuller – he of geodesic domes, author of Operating manual for Spaceship Earth (1968) and a bit of a futurist counter-cultural guru in his time.  It is a quote from him on the back cover:

The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

We really can’t go on like this, can we?



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Charmed by the welcoming staff into renewing our RSPB membership at Minsmere.  Nesting sand martins make for an enticing start.  The Coast Trail – all two miles of it – seemed like a long walk in that sun when we were not being blown about, but the pools and reedbeds are rewarding.

Finally got to see an avocet.  Not the greatest photo, I’ll be the first to admit, better one of a snipe, but avocets a big deal for me (long story touching on a bungled quiz question and a meditative Bert Jansch instrumental album).

Coast Trail also takes in remnants of the World War 2 coastal defences. Prompting thoughts embedded deep in the annals of social psychology: There’s always one …


And so, second attempt, we make it to Southwold.  Charmed, once out of the car park, sited strategically to one side of the celebrated Pier, where it does not impinge on the attractiveness of the town.  Traditional seaside with a minimum of tat.  On the pier the eccentric and imaginative slot machine arcade out of the mind of Tim Hunkin – called The Under the Pier Show, which is, of course on the Pier – provided entertaining shelter from the buffeting winds, which never gave Hunkin’s water clock a chance.

Walked up and down the High Street – not unpleasant in itself, though the pavements a bit crowded – but failing to find what the guide book had called the “ultimate chippie”.  This failure being entirely due to your humble scribe’s inability to distinguish one small Suffolk seaside resort from another, despite there being 20+ pages dividing them in said guide book; next time for Aldeburgh, then.

Nevertheless, we did have an excellent plate of fish and chips – well crispy batter – from the Beach Café, watched over by George Orwell, who spent time in Southwold – official mural by PureEvilx.

We did manage to find the right church, St Edmund’s, a four star-er in England’s thousand best churches, noted for its ‘flint flushwork exterior’.  A sign by the gate quotes from Psalm 66, though “All the earth worships Thee / they sing praises to Thee / sing praises to Thy Name“, not as obvious in meaning as it once was, sounds like a recipe for trouble in these days of instant celebrity.

Inside they were setting up for a concert, wires and equipment all over the place, but the lighting gave something to the organ loft.  Photo fails with the scary choir stall arm rests and the angels, and the impressive roof angels.

We take to the water

Saturday, last full day in Suffolk, and we take the Waveney River Tours morning hour and a half tipping your toe in the Broads trip.  In truth some of our motivation for this was down to TripAdvisor and some interesting reviews.  How to resist the likes of : “There is not much to see apart from reeds“;  “It’s a waste of money most of the people were sleeping as they were bored” (sic);  “I can see why some people would find it a bit boring“; “See some nice houses along the river and some wild life … Wouldn’t recommend to be honest”?

But it was cool, the strong breeze off the water, and while the most interesting thing in the water was a bit of a monster barge being pulled by a rubber dinghy, we did get to see a marsh harrier more than fleetingly, which counts for something.  The commentary was thankfully inobtrusive, but he knew his stuff.  A while ago, in telling us about their whole week boating on the Broads, a relative had used that ‘boring’ word.  This short trip had the value of ensuring that’s another option we can safely rule out.

East Anglia Transport Museum

For shame, there is no mention of the East Anglia Transport Museum, situated in Carlton Colville, a suburb of Lowestoft, in our esteemed guide book.  We had a great time there, riding on the old trams – overhead wires, tram tracks, the whole authentic experience – and wandering around the fine collection of buses, trolley buses and more trams, taking in the various displays and refuelling with some splendid egg sandwiches.  To take up a theme mentioned earlier in our Suffolk travels, here truly is the best of British: crazy (in the best sense of the word) enthusiasts and volunteers, who run the whole show; I couldn’t stop one talking.  Back in 1962 all that was here was, according to the guidebook, “just a large, disused meadow with a dilapidated wooden shed in one corner” … and enthusiasm; it now covers 5 acres.

On the left, Blackpool, in the middle a futuristic looking Sheffield, and a Belfast trolley bus.  You can ride as much as you want – a short journey, there and back to a woodland ‘terminus’ and picnic spot – but the ritual of the punching of the ticket must be adhered to.  We had two conductors – a sprightly older man, and a young teenager (an enthusiast’s grandson caught early?) – both delighting in the calling of “All aboard”, “Hold on tight, please” and ringing the bell.  At the end of each trip they took pride in reversing the seats – flipping the seat backs in their groove – so travellers were always front-facing.

Would have loved to have got a decent photo of this historic ‘streamlined’ Blackpool front gem, but it was having some work done, and there was a Land Rover (a classic itself) parked in front, so here’s the best looking overhead wire contact.

They don’t make bus shelters like this art deco beauty anymore.

What else?  A kitted out Anderson shelter from WW2.  A roadmender’s hut with all its old mod cons –  they lived in them while the job was ongoing – you can sit in that one; indeed, Tar, sweat and steam, is a permanent display about historic road building including a good-looking Armstrong Whitworth steam roller.  A Mini same model and colour as I once had, a Trabant and a Sinclair C5, taxis through the ages, a fully fitted fifties caravan (so tiny), many other vehicles.  A fascinating wall full of loads of old road signs.  Some decent rose bushes.

We had a grand afternoon there, might have stayed longer were it not for the heat.  Here’s their website: http://www.eatransportmuseum.co.uk/We even bought a peg bag because our old one disintegrated.  It performs very well:



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Wednesday and we’re flashing the nash again at Sutton Hoo, famed boat burial ground of Anglo-Saxon royalty.  The National Trust have done a great job in telling the tale in the Exhibition Hall with its narrative boards and displays of original artefacts and – especially – the high quality replicas large and small.  It was good to hear a recording of the story of how the 1939 excavation started in the rich East Anglian burr of the local man who recognised what a big deal it all was.

As a librarian, i just thought: Yes!

King Raedwald’s fully kitted out burial chamber in the hull of a ship is an experience, while the spectacular polished replica of the iconic helmet – Rick Kirby’s giant working of it hangs over the entrance to the Hall – is a wondrous piece of art to behold, doubly so when one of the NT volunteers explains what’s going on with the symbols and decorations in all their intricacy.  The original – made with iron, bronze, tin, gold and silver – is in the British Museum.

Note the tactical placing of the fur to prevent plucking of the harp. Damn.

I was much taken by the Warrior Bards section of the exhibit, recognising their importance in the creation and maintenance of a shared identity among a population.  “They sang of ancestors and the fates of men, of dragon-slayers and family feuds, of wars and adventures … The stories of these people, not written down, were told by kings and minstrels to the music of the harp.”  Not for the first time, guilt at not having read Beowulf (the Seamus Heaney translation came in the post this morning; so far so good with the good intentions – whether it gets read is another matter).

At school they told us these were the Dark Ages.
We walked the parched lands of the burial grounds under the sun, and took some respite in the trees.

And so to Dunwich Heath and Beach.  Failed to negotiate the new National Trust parking procedures involving sticking your card in a machine; were assured by helpful volunteers we were not the first and would not be the last.  Such a welcome big breeze off the sea, but in spots of such severity as to require the donning and shedding of items of clothing.  Fascinating to see the battle for ground cover, the incursions of ferns among the heather (or vice versa? is it perpetual?)

Blown away on the beach too, but context is all.  The sea may have been brown, but it was still the sea.  And we live in Milton Keynes; it may be just another crap photo of the sea to you, but).  For a while we were the only souls in sight.  With Sizewell as distant backdrop lending a science fiction end of the world edge.

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Here at Lillabullero we are encountering something of a gridlock with at least five books and counting awaiting, plus four days touristing in Suffolk lining up just for starters.  It’s beginning to feel like how the roads around Dover and Immingham are gonna be with lorries next year when Brexit for real gets going.  Brevity and/or small chunks, then.

Bathroom curtains

Tuesday of the last week in June, already well into the heatwave, we head for the Suffolk coast.  Planned a while ago, it turns out to be a lucky; there will be breezes.  We break the journey, flashing the nash – using our under-utilised National Trust membership cards – at Anglesey Abbey, a country house, near Cambridge, and nothing to do with Wales at all.  Lifestyles of the idle rich, second quarter of the twentieth century – American money, British Baronetcy.

A gentleman’s wardrobe: jacket porn

But Baron Fairhaven restored the house, and, being an avid collector, filled it and the gardens with stuff picked up on regular bouts of travel abroad or just pursuing particular manias – some of them more interesting than the room full of mediocre landscapes of Windsor Castle.  Having said that it must be admitted the large Renaissance mosaic, constructed from thousands and thousand of tiny pieces of glass -you would never have guessed – displayed flat in a case and apparently weighing a ton, was a wonder to behold, and more than just as a feat of patience, when it was proudly pointed out to us by an NT volunteer; volunteers became something of a theme over the days.

In the kitchens – classic 1950s – one of the cooks in costume asked us what was the best thing we’d seen: sorry, but a kingfisher – always special – in the Quarry Pool!  But there was plenty of interest in the house; we were not sorry to have spent the time there.

And the Baron had had the grounds done up nicely.  The trees and bushes in the Winter Garden walk, practically an arboretum in its own right, boasted a rich variety of shades of green, while the stars of the Herbaceous Garden (well, borders, but big ones) were the delphiniums, in blocks of blues.  The sundial at the centre of the herbaceous garden’s parched lawn bore the legend, “Fear God, Obey the King” but made interesting shadows.

We were too early for the Dahlia Garden, but there was a phalanx of NT gardeners working on them.  Andrea jokingly, ‘Maybe they could give us some advice’ – we have our first two this year, an experiment on the allotment – but they overheard and were only to happy to help: chicken manure, they said, and, when they start to flower, Tomorite, which, ‘pretty much works for anything’.

As far as the extensive grounds went, we barely scratched the surface.  Not sure what’s going on with these statues which stood either side of the path into, if memory serves, the Dahlia Garden. Poking an eye out?  Swatting a fly, girding his lion?










And so to Oulton Broad, pretty much where the Broads begin (depending on where you’re coming from).  Shame the sun goes down in the wrong place for a more spectacular sunset.




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But first, Clapham Junction – Gateway to the South for us lazy souls choosing not to change at Euston et al, travelling from landlocked MK.  Not Balham, as Peter Sellers once suggested.  [Click on the photos for the bigger picture].

Ah, the Isle of Wight, where the preserved IOW Steam Railway is in better shape than the Island Line run by South Western Railway (yes, that is an old London Underground train).  And the ride considerably smoother:

No, early April and it was not the greatest of weather.  I’m surprised to see those shadows on that Ryde Harbour photo.

Quirky find by the roadside on the walk to Bonchurch:

And down in Bonchurch – you know those road signs that promise you deer or badgers only to disappoint: Result!

One afternoon we actually got to see the shape of the sun struggling unsuccessfully to get out from behind the cloud, but Hey: the sea, the sea!

At Compton Bay, once a Geography A-level student, always a Geography A-level student.  And I know of someone who might have made pots out of that clay:

Colourful, and in the car park – which I wish we’d realised was a National Trust car park before putting the money into the machine – a bit of street furniture (I know, I know) that’s not as old as it looks.  Yes, it was warm enough for an ice cream (and for surfing):

Ventnor strolls: a face in the cliff, an immaculate sign:

‘Enjoy your visit’ says the sign.  At the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, it would seem, it is compulsory to have a good time. Fortunately we did.  Recommended.  At the end of the line the loco goes back to the front of the train, none of this push-and-pull nonsense.

The Discovery Centre was well worth discovering as well.  And here’s one for the railway buffs: a disembodied saddle tank.

Our normal trick – or rather the trick normally played on us – is for the sun to come out on the day of departure.  When we left the Island was covered in fog, so that’s not a problem with the camera’s exposure; rickety-rackety it may be, but on the Island Line they do take pride in their stations.

Thanks to Dave and Jill and Zappa for everything.  And the introduction to the word-game Snatch It!  Haven’t laughed so much in a long time – ‘mayhem’ indeed.

All photos ©DRQ

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At least the sea was calm on the day trip over to St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly.  Drizzle, shall-we-shan’t-we open the umbrella?

Entertaining minibus tour of the island with commentary, our native guide’s scorn for the Brexit vote given full if free of expletives vent.  Pointed out as he drove around what EU development funds had meant for the island, and Cornwall, yet The Isles of Scilly the only voting district in the county opting for Remain.  Other highlights:

  • pointed out Harold Wilson’s modest bungalow, the man still highly regarded in these parts; his wife Mary still lives there, an active centurion
  • the desolation of the islands in winter, when there’s no ferry
  • speaking of which, the local RNLI lifeboat’s engines are more powerful than that of the ferry, the Scillonian III
  • the famed Tresco Abbey Gardens are being overrun by cruise ship tourism
  • which is ironic given there were no native flowers on the islands until those brought in by mariners of old alien species, then.  Speaking of which:

Caught the obligatory crab sandwich in The Mermaid, the nearest pub to the port, rather than the tarted up establishments further in; decent little local, music jam night and all.

Barbara Hepworth

Back on the mainland, ‘A beautiful oasis of calm’ was how the tourist brochure describes the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, and so it was, as the rainwater dripped down from the leaves on the trees in the drizzle.  Not expansive grounds, but the winding paths around the large structures and the gradient compensated – around each corner new combinations.  It must be glorious under a blue sky, but the wet added a dimension to the sculptures, I’m sure.  I’m not her biggest fan (at least for the works themselves) but in better weather I would have gone round at least one more time.  Here’s what I think I’ll call ‘the shot’ – I wasn’t the only one going for it – and a more general view:

Interesting to look in on the studio from the garden – Hepworth died in a fire in the house, but the studio has been left pretty much untouched – and a neat telling of her story in cabinets and on wall mounted boards downstairs.  You’ve got to love those old newspaper clippings, here one from 1950 (in the Ham & High?) about an early joint exhibition with her first husband (and folksinging partner).  Click on the photo to enlarge:


Last thoughts …

… only 6 weeks after all this occurred.  This pub sign was the only sun we saw for four whole days.  But there at St Mawes the water was so clear that when we watched a cormorant moving in the water we could see its whole body – a fine sight.  So now know not to confuse those weird-looking heads seen from afar with some odd kind of duck.

I have an urge to use this photo, of a bridge over the track of the St Ives branch line, and can’t help but admire the  local Methodists reaching out to surfer dudes for trying:

And finally … banging a drum in a downpour in Truro (where the cathedral is only not long over a century old though you wouldn’t know it) the day before we went home, and the inevitable weather on the morning of our departure:

The drummer aka An Tabourer – Tim Shaw

Outset of our journey home







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