Monday, August 24, 2009

more thistles

These pictures were taken on Brean Down yesterday. It was mainly overcast but thistles always produce nice photos. (When it was sunny, I was getting my hair cut down by the fort at the end. This is the second time I've had my hair cut on Brean Down, and I assure you there's no pleasanter spot for what Laura, however, described as a "stupid chore". Then she shot off up the gradients leaving me trailing, an infected tooth - or, more likely, de-toxing the painkillers - seeming to have cut my lung capacity in half.)

Above and below, marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre), very common in woods and wet places, also here on the north face of the down among bracken. This face gets comparatively little sun and attracts woodland plants though there are no trees - none taller than the marsh thistles themselves, anyhow. More often than not, quite a lot of the plants have white flowers, but not here.

A few hundred yards away you can find diminutive specialists of thin dry soil and full sun, such as this:

(Above and below) Carline thistle (Carlina vulgaris), attracting plenty of insect interest despite its uncolourful appearance.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Pre-season is quite hard. The coach is also a PTI for the Marines (for £104.33 Ballantynes of Walkerburn ship him in bronze, but I am sick of hyperlinks!). First we had sprints round the pitch. Jogging is one kind of exercise, sprints are a different kind. Then tackle-bags, continuous - 2m sprint, tackle, go to ground, jump up, sprint - . Then fireman's-lift runs the length of the pitch, flip 3 tractor tyres and then fireman's-lift run back to the start.

My mate is going for Ironman. That is a 3.5km swim, then 180km bike ride finally run a full marathon, you have got to finish in 17hrs.

I know an old guy called Frank, he's retired, and he is an artist, he has exhibitions and he paints the whole time. It is mostly or all abstract paintings.
Well as the years go by old Frank builds up a stock of old paintings and unsold promotional postcards of these old paintings, and this undistributed stock depresses him and he wants some more space in the studio. Well if Frank had died it would all be perfectly simple, it would all just go to the charity shop and join the public community of objects at the appropriate level. However since Frank is alive and he is an artist who values art, especially his own, he has different ideas. He thinks it would be ungenerous to just box up things that members of his family might well appreciate. They might not appreciate the painting so very much for itself, though they say they do, but Frank knows if only from this polite over-enthusiasm that they love him and therefore an object that he has worked on would quite likely prove an acceptable and graceful gift. The relatives do not know how to refuse. An artist's art is a religious person's religion, you do not insult it. Therefore the paintings find their way into homes and (being abstracts) usually a suitable place on the wall can be found. "Blue Engagement" usurps a space that might otherwise have been taken by a 2009 calendar.

As for the postcards, well here I must admit that it isn't exactly Frank's fault. He really would bin them, the postcards have gone a bit curved and the backs are a bit yellowed. But just as he has stacked them up someone happens to stroll in and says (to Frank's surprise and mournful pleasure) that they would be quite keen to take away a block of 150 x "Rainstorm - Pwllheli", if Frank is just slinging them. Frank's pleasure is muted because by now he is not particularly keen on this or any of the other paintings from that era, he is aware of how he used to paint and who he used to be and the provincial enthusiasms that then had such an undue influence on his work. But still, he reflects that it's by no means unusual for artists to be harder on themselves than posterity is. It might well be that the period represented by "Rainstorm - Pwllheli" will come to impress others by a certain freshness and lyricism...

What Frank does not appreciate is that, from the relative's point of view, a stack of unused postcards is quite useful. It has nothing to do with what's on the front; they would be just as acceptable if they portrayed a white kitten looking winsomely out of a sewing-basket rather than "Encircling Light, III", Acrylic on canvas 75cm x 50cm. And if you take the stack of postcards now, it might make it easier later to express your reasons for regretfully NOT taking a trilogy of the dusty splay-legged clay sculptures that Frank experimented with back in the nineties.

Zero, however, is an insidious price. The recipient, attracted by the thought of getting a free stack of stationery and of cheering up old Frank at the same time, is subtly condemned by their own action to years of visual deprivation. Every note or scribble or phone number, every hasty communication or impromptu congratulation is accompanied by the same small account of an olive wash with its white arc. And these were people, were it not for Frank, who might have enjoyed the White Rock gardens, Mullion Cove, Rosa 'Ena Harkness', glass-blowing, Ciampino Airport - Rome, Exmoor ponies....

I am glad there is no undistributed stock on the internet, nothing left over, nothing that takes up space and becomes an encumbrance. We walk up from the changing-room with our sports bags and slicked hair, completely unburdened by the weightless mass of all the billion websites we never visit. Creative people can now proudly join the rest of us who have nothing, literally nothing, to PASS ON to their families.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I've never really noticed this before, but Messagelabs has a very capricious tendency to block images. For example, in the entry below Messagelabs took exception to the first, fifth and sixth. I suppose it must have been the undertone of sensual abandon.

August is also a good time to check out Hairy Brome (Bromopsis ramosa), another woodland grass, or perhaps rather semi-woodland, as it seems to especially like marginal areas with a bit of direct sun. A casual glance at the flowerhead always used to remind me of drips moulded in plastic - e.g. a model waterfall. An almost equally casual glance might recall Barren Brome but each spikelet of BB has a dedicated pedicel, there's no sub-branches. And besides, BB was at its peak in June.

I am reading Leevi Lehto, sort of (more about that in IS, eventually...). I WAS reading Dickens Uncommercial Traveller (not for the first time, or the second), when I realized that my remaindered copy of the Slater and Drew Collected Journalism Vol 4 is missing pages 61-92 (they've accidentally duplicated the next gathering instead), so I was left high and dry in the theatre at Hoxton and then I felt so disappointed that I gave up.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

meadow and wood

An outbreak of Woolly Thistle (Cirsium eriophorum), a common plant in the bit of England I live in and one of the highlights of every August. [But - 31st May 2011 - just seen two small plants in bloom on the Chippenham by-pass - I suppose an effect of plant damage due to mowing.]

Homing in. The flowers were as usual attended by numerous besotted insects who were very patient subjects.

Fairy flax (Linum catharticum), now in a diminutively dessicated phase of its existence, buried among taller growth. Blurry ultra-closeup below.

Broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius), an unfairly neglected contributor to August colour.

Then I walked into the wood and tried to photograph the grasses, but I was mainly defeated by the chequered backgrounds, so I haven't troubled you e.g with any of my worthless studies of Poa nemoralis, a plant that disappears when photographed. I begin to understand why there are not many good photos of grasses on the internet...

Giant Fescue (Festuca gigantea) with close-up showing blade, auricles and node.

False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) with closeups of blade/ligule and node. After taking these I went back into the meadow and got on with studying XenApp 5.0.

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