Monday, 20 April 2015

A Year in Pictures – 20 April 2015 – Magnolia

It has been a difficult day: if I just record here the name Microsoft Word, no doubt we can leave it at that. To counteract some of the churning emotions of the daylight hours I wandered out into the churchyard at St Olave's with my camera and took some shots of the magnolia trees—now in spring bloom—that stand atop the old plague pit (I kid you not) in the centre of this historic ground. The dear things did not disappoint.


The genus Magnolia is named after the great French botanist, Pierre Magnol, whose dates (1638-1715) make him pretty exactly contemporary with the most famous of St Olave's parishioners, Samuel Pepys. In addition to lending his name to a large and popular genus of beautiful trees, Magnol was the author of the snappily titled Prodromus historiae generalis plantarum, in quo familiae plantarum per tabulas disponuntur. (Montpellier 1689) ["Precursor to a general history of plants, in which the families of plants are arranged in tables"], and perhaps his greatest and most enduring contribution to plant science is in the concept of plant families: the working out of relations between plants based on shared combinations of morphological characteristics. There you have it.

As far as I can tell, this is an example of Magnolia liliifera, otherwise known as Japanese magnolia since, although native to China, it was first introduced to English-speaking countries from cultivated Japanese origins.
The blooms are now going off and the large, luxurious petals strew the lawn beneath the trees, their pure white concave inner surfaces making them resemble—as the Corporation of London's plant expert described them to me a few days ago—porcelain cups. He did not add the word 'exquisite', but it would not have been out of place if he had.


A Year in Pictures – 17, 18 and 19 April 2015 – Tall Tales

Spring is here, but the air does not feel spring-like yet, as the skies often have a moody and squally aspect and the temperature is surprisingly chilly. The leaves are emerging on the trees with fresh, vibrant green, but each species at its own pace— a work in progress. Here are three different views taken over the weekend just gone.

Whitton Road, Twickenham – 17 April.
On this road, that leads from the centre of town towards the A316 and, beyond that, to England's rugby stadium, there stand two of my favourite trees – ash, so far as I can tell. As afternoon was moving towards early evening, the delicate leaves of these elegant trees were complemented by the limpid sunlight just breaking through the heavy cloud.

Harpenden, Hertfordshire – 18 April.
The bright afternoon sun lights the trees lining the route of a disused railway line that for many years has been used as a public path. One of the old platforms is visible join the right.

Twickenham – 19 April.
Two contrasting trees seen from my front garden against the moody sky.

Friday, 17 April 2015

A Year in Pictures – 16 April – Reredos

I spent the afternoon with colleagues at a symposium about opening church buildings up more to their surrounding communities (think "church is for life, not just on Sunday"). We were in the mid-19th-century church of St John Hyde Park. Most of its interior stonework—lofty gothic arches reaching up to a plainly rib-vaulted ceiling—is painted cool white, but there are areas of rich colour, notably in the reredos, part of which you see here.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A Year in Pictures – 15 April 2015 – Another Monstrous Carbuncle (11)


Tha Martian fighting machine that is 20 Fenchurch Street ("The Walkie-Talkie") warms up its heat ray by harnessing the force of the evening sunlight blazing through the City streets.

This building is infuriating. I keep trying to capture its beastliness, but end up flattering it. One day, one day I will nail it! 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A Year in Pictures – 14 April 2015 – The Joy of Commuting (Reprise)

Today's subjects chose themselves. I wondered whether this was performance art and what on earth the young woman and her dog were going to be doing in the City of London. I wanted to ask her (in a nice way) but at Bank she headed for Monument Station, while I had to trudge up the travelator to Exit 6 and Lombard Street.

For once "Joy" in the heading of the post is not used ironically!


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A Year in Pictures – 4 April to 13 April 2015 – Time Away and The Return

I went to Brittany for a short week away with my wife and daughter in our family cottage in Brittany. It was blissful and there was just a 3G internet connection, so plenty of snapping away with the camera, but no posting of images online. This is the catch-up (should be doing a but less gadding about after the last four weekends away from home and a number of midweek evening meetings).


The cottage in Brittany used to be the base for the Anglican congregation of expats that now meets 8km up the road. This site cross hanging just outside the back door is the remaining physical evidence of the building's one-time role.

The weather, dull on our arrival, turned into six days of glorious spring sunshine. This is the back of the cottage and the shadow is from one of two cherry trees just coming into bud. The trees give the house its name: Les Cérisiers.

A short drive away from the cottage is this palaeolithic remnant, an allée couverte, once probably part of a larger structure. A drive of something over an hour will take you to the great stone alignments at Carnac near the south coast of Brittany.

A man takes in the sunshine by the waterside in the southern coastal town of Vannes.

Fine bourgeois house in Josselin, one of several towns designated Petit Cité de Caractère.

A 35-minute cycle ride along the Nantes-Brest Canal from our nearby village of Roc St André takes you to Malestroit, another Petit Cité de Caractère, where this elegant shop sign lends a bit of further charm to the town centre.

Hats on sale in the Friday market at Ploërmel.

On 11 April the sun took its hat off. This is the field next to the cottage looking moody in the early morning light.

The voyage home on 12 April. Part of the carpet pattern at my feet in the café on board MV Bretagne, the flagship of the Brittany Ferries fleet, as it made its way from St Malo to Portsmouth.

The Joy of Commuting.
Twickenham Station on Monday 13 April.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

A Year in Pictures – 25 March to 3 April 2015 – Big Catch-Up


Two weddings and many evening engagements make for a lot of fun, but delay in blogging, so let's get right up to date, before we go out of date all over again...


25 March
Walking home over Richmond Bridge

26 March
The Joy of Commuting: Travelator at Bank Station

27 March
A short detour into Marble Hill Park to take in the spring air on my walk home from French conversation class

28 March
Attended the wonderful wedding of our godson in deepest Cornwall.
The band were very fine and are called, appropriately, All Good Things.

29 March
Lytes Cary Manor, a National Trust property in East Somerset, just north of the A303 near Castle Cary.
The older parts are a medieval manor house, the home in the 16th century of Henry Lyte, who translated into English a herbal originally written in Dutch and then translated into French. Late added his own material to his translation and there is a copy of the book, dating from 1578, on display in the house.
The garden shows the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Dig that topiary!

30 March
The Joy of Commuting—the improvement works at Twickenham Station are taking an age.

31 March
Herbs comemorating William Turner (c.1508–1568) are plated in the churchyard of St Olave Hart Street in the City of London.
Turner was Dean of Wells. Did he and Henry Lyte know each other?

1 April
The wonderfully bonkers Gothic-Revival-on-steroids fantasia that is 31 Eastcheap defies the bullying of the Walkie Talkie (aka 20 Fenchurch Street or, in these pages, Another Monstrous Carbuncle) that looms oppressively behind it.

2 April
Concert-goers ascend the stairs at The Royal Festival Hall, on their way, like my wife and I, to hear a wonderful performance of Bach's  St Matthew Passion by The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, which was sublime in spite of the efforts of some audience members to ruin the experience by leaving their wretched phones on. 

3 April – Good Friday
Easter display inside the porch at St Paul's Hounslow West.
"There is a green hill far away..."


Until next time...