Monday, 21 September 2015

A Year in Pictures – 15 August to 1 September 2015 – Summer Hols (Part 2)

This next set of pictures show some of the things and scenes that presented themselves (or were pushed) before my lens is the second half of my summer holiday after my wife and I returned to England from France.

15 August
Whenever we get back from France I try to imagine I am still there by consuming drinks and foodstuffs we bring back with us. This is a bottle of beer from our local brewery in Brittany, a region where much is made of Celtic and Arthurian legend. The Lancelot brewery produces a range of beers of varying strengths – this one is strong on flavour but not especially potent in alcohol terms. It's good stuff.

17 August
In the evening I meet a friend for an Indian vegetarian meal in Hounslow West. On the way to the restaurant we dip into a grocery store where the several aisles have a meticulously arranged display of spices, seeds, nuts, grains, pulses, pickles, sauces and snacks. There is also a dazzling array of fresh produce. I need to by some fresh nutmeg.

18 August
(Not the first time the bowl has appeared in this blog – it is my favourite)

19 August
The spire of St Paul's Church, Hounslow West, where I go to sign some papers relating to an important building project.

20 August
In the course of a clearout at home my wife comes across the miniature of the Good Work Cup
I was awarded at school in 1968. Being rubbish at sport and athletics, this was the only cup I was ever awarded at my prep school. I wonder what happened ti the cup itself, which I had to surrender back to the school the following year. The headmaster died, the school is no more and the building now houses a Montessori nursery – don't suppose they have much time for tarnishing awards like this.

21 August
A beautiful sunny day and my wife and I go for a walk by the Thames at Twickenham. Looking downstream you can see Eel Pie Island on the other side and the pedestrian bridge that the island's residents maintain.

22 August
Frozen blackberries taken from the freezer and thawing out before being finding their way into a delicious crumble that my wife made.

23 August
Actually it was quite a small spider that appeared by our front door, but I have grunged up the image to accord with all the negative publicity that arachnids generally receive. Shameful really.

24 August
Small paperweight.

25 August
Boring photograph of a boring building going up opposite Twickenham Station—squeezed through various processes in a doomed attempt to make it look interesting.

26 August
I visit my mother in Portsmouth and stop in Gunwharf Quays to take a picture of this stout fellow looking out to sea.
Shame on Portsmouth Council for not having an information panel to tell us who he might be (though the effigy is, I think, a concrete replica, rather than an original wooden figurehead from a centuries-old man-of-war).

27 August
A mysterious angel emerges from the structure of a building at the corner of
Moorgate and King's Arms Yard in the City of London.

29 August
The Severn Estuary at Newnham.
31 August
Spent the whole day bullying these chaps to do my will. It was tedious and at times frustrating, but I managed to move my photo collection from one hard drive to a new, bigger, one and back it up (it should have been a wireless process, bt in the end I resorted to an Ethernet cable connection).

1 September
Detail of a plant in the herb beds at St Olave Hart Street that commemorate
William Turner, 'father of English botany' (c.1508–1568).

Thursday, 17 September 2015

A Year in Pictures – 29 July to 14 August 2015 – Summer Hols (Part 1)

First of all, it must now be confessed that this is no longer a 365-day photo project, as backlog has got the better of me and here I am finally posting photographs taken several weeks ago, while at the same time not having taken a single photograph since 11 September. I have in fact already taken over 365 photos this year, but not all for this blog and not every day. So the original project is dead, but long live the project, because I still intend that these posts should reflect my photographic choices over the period of a year and show some evidence of *clears throat* development of vision and technique.

Now we have cleared the air with that little reality check, here is the first of two posts showing images from my summer holidays. The following photos, apart from the last one, were all taken in France. 

29 July
We have a little family house in Brittany. Being a holiday home, it is unoccupied for parts of the year, so that when we arrive there for a stay, there are invariably eight-legged residents that we are not over keen to share space with, as well as old cobwebs that make the place look unloved (which it is definitely not). I find the faithful feather duster the gentlest way of showing the arachnids the door or (in this case) the Velux window.

30 July
Being further west than our home in Greater London, Brittany gives us really long evenings in August and the "golden hour" before the sun disappears over the horizon feels more extended and generous. My wife and I like to take a stroll around the hamlet to see what changes have been made since we were last there as well as marvel at how long our shadows become as the sun sinks lower in the sky.

31 July
Just up the road is the very pleasant town of Ploërmel, where there is a large lake—le Lac au Duc—on the east side of which is a sizeable hydrangea walk. It takes about an hour to get round the whole thing at a gentle pace and the number and diversity of plants is spectacular. I used not to like hydrangeas that much, as their flowers looked, well, a bit 'leafy'. Now I love them.
1 August
The house is near the Nantes-Brest Canal and we often take cycle rides along the towpath, which in turn links up with the French national network of cycleways, les Voies Vertes. On this day we made the 13km ride to Josselin, where we had lunch. I took this shot of a working flour mill on the return journey. Sorry about the blown highlights on the brightest wall of the mill, but don't you love the way the French arrange their trees?

2 August
Back to Josselin, this time by car, for an organ recital in the main church, le Basilique Notre-Dame du Roncier. Here is a detail from the richly wrought metal pulpit staircase.

3 August
Part of the dresser at our house. As you see, we only like our visitors to write happy things about their stay under our roof. Cheese and wine are of course tremendous aids to happiness.

4 August
Another day, another cycle ride by the canal, this time to another historic town: Malestroit. The lock keepers along the route compete for a prize for the best floral display.

5 August
Every year the town of La Gacilly hosts a photographic exhibition over several months, much of which is in the open air. We always try and see this, although there is far more than one can absorb in one day. The town, which is on the River Aff, is the base of the ecologically conscious cosmetics and toiletries manufacturer, Yves Rocher—one of the main sponsors of the exhibition, whose themes are generally around issues of ecology, the lives of indigenous peoples (particularly if their situation is vulnerable), landscape and wildlife. This is part of the display of wonderful work by the French photographer, Vincent Munier.

6 August
We have now left Brittany and are en route south and east towards the volcanic landscape of the Auvergne. We make an overnight stop (arranged through Airbnb) in a 16th-century house south of Saumur. This is part of the kitchen fireplace.

7 August
We have arranged a six-night stay in le Mont-Dore in the Auvergne. This is part of the view out over the town from the very well appointed apartment we have hired (also through Airbnb).

8 August
Prior to our arrival in le Mont-Dore, France had been experiencing a heatwave from which only Brittany appeared to have been spared (certainly our weather in the west had been very pleasant and not too hot at all). This day it rained heavily for much of the time but we managed to get out and explore the town a bit. Here is an iPhone shot of one of the bridges over the Dordogne, whose source (formed from the rivers Dore and Dogne) is close to le Mont-Dore. The river flows right through the middle of the town at the base of a beautiful valley and is a cooling presence  when the weather heats up

9 August
We visit caves excavated by the Romans to create thermal baths for the treatment of their wounded soldiers after the Battle of Gergovia in 52 BC, at which the Gauls led by Vercingetorix defeated Julius Caesar's army. Only two of the tens of wooden tubs they placed in the caves survive, preserved by mineral encrustations accumulated over many centuries. The rest of the tubs and much of the surrounding caves were destroyed by an earthquake some centuries ago, but these precious survivals and the remnants of the cave structures give a vivid impression of what the Romans created.

9 August
The road back to le Mont-Dore took us past this dramatic example of the volcanic landscape that is the distinctive feature of the Auvergne. The weather was still quite rainy, making for some spectacular skies and low cloud.

10 August
We climb the mountain known as le Capucin, so called because its round shape resembles the cowl of a Capuchin monk. Here is part of the the view from the top (over 1,400m).

10 August
In the evening we walk up from the centre of le Mont-Dore to see la Grande Cascade, the waterfall that tumbles over the edge of the sheer face of one of the mountains that dominate the town. The walk takes us through lush forest, where the abundant shade and the nearby river help to keep us cool as we climb.

11 August
We take the cable car to the summit of le Puy de Sancy, at 1,886m the tallest peak in the Auvergne, from whose slopes spring the rivers Dore and Dogne. Down in the valley you can see here lies le Mont-Dore, though it is hidden from view inn this shot by the rocks just right of centre. We walk down, which takes about two hours and the path is quite treacherous, having many quite extensive areas of small loose stones. Nothing however detracts from the glories of this landscape.

12 August
A sinister face emerges from the woodwork in the Romanesque church of St Anne in Besse. This is the hottest day of our holiday but it is cool in the church, so we linger for a while to drink in the ancient wonders of the architecture.

14 August
There is no photo for 13 August as were slogging up the motorway from the Auvergne to reach our last overnight stop (also arranged through Airbnb), just south of Rouen, where our kind and very friendly hosts offered us refreshment and conversation before we retired for the night. After breakfast with them and more, very interesting, conversation we made our way to Dieppe and the ferry to Newhaven, where this was the charming view on offer.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A Year in Pictures – 11 September 2015 – Richmond Parish Church

I had lunch with a friend in Richmond today and, before walking back to Twickenham, took a short detour into St Mary Magdelene Church.

Sorry about the charmless table – could probably do something whizzy with Photoshop to remove it from sight.
The origins of the church seem to lie in a 13th-century chapel, but the main structure is from the 17th century. There were alterations in the 18th and 19th centuries, including the replacement of the plaster ceiling of the nave with timber in 1866—a move which Pevsner described as 'inappropriate'—and the chancel was later changed to a Gothic style.  The building is Grade II* listed, which means that it is  "particularly important" and "of more than special interest" for architectural or historical reasons.

Although he is buried elsewhere, the actor Edmund Kean (1787–1833) has a memorial here as he spent the last years of his extremely colourful life managing the local theatre.

The decorative scheme which you see is by my late uncle, who was an architect, but this is to be replaced as part of a major reordering of the church interior currently being planned—that explains why the organ is currently veiled by polythene sheeting, since organs are very vulnerable to dust and building dust is particularly harmful.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

A Year in Pictures – 10 September 2015 – Losing Face (concluded…or is it…?)

The last two posts have shown shop window mannequins in different stages of transformation into more fully human figures—deeply sinister, you will surely agree.

A friend has suggested that these figures are none other than autons, that is to say humanoid automatons animated by an extra-terrestrial gestalt intelligence. I had thought these things were the stuff of science fiction (Dr Who, to be precise), but clearly the reality is much more disturbing.

The figures shown in this image are further along in their development than those on view in the previous posts (although paradoxically they are in the form of children). There is clearly some sort of infestation taking place in the clothing retailers of the City, as this latest group are in a different shop, Next. That Next's display is in Fenchurch Street and near to the Walkie-Talkie fills me with a nameless dread, as I feel sure that building holds the key to these mysterious manifestations…

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A Year in Pictures – 9 September 2015 – Losing Face (continued)

Something strange is definitely going on at New Look in Lombard Street.

My previous post showed completely faceless male (we assume from their clothing) mannequins. However in the next window the female mannequins are allowed noses and mouths, albeit rudimentary.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

A Year in Pictures – 8 September 2015 – Losing face

The post for yesterday showed a face on a building in Lombard Street. Going east along the same street, until the corner with Gracechurch Street, you come to the clothes shop New Look, where the mannequins have…no faces! What on earth is going on?

A Year in Pictures – 7 September 2015 – Shadow Play

A face glimpsed above the crowd in Lombard Street in the City of London, at the corner with Clement's Lane. I liked the way the low sun of early evening sculpted the face and the architectural details.

Monday, 7 September 2015

A Year in Pictures – 6 September 2015 – The Golden Hour

My wife and I had tea on this beautiful Sunday with friends who live on Eel Pie Island, which stands in the middle of the Thames at Twickenham. It is a place like no other and many artists live and work here and there are a number of business related to boating. It is eclectic, funky and utterly wonderful. It was on this island that that many great British bands had their first forays—too many to mention but this was where musical revolution occurred.

The island's hotel, where these performances took place, is no more and on its site a group of houses stand, but you get the feeling as you walk around the island that this is the soil out of which amazing flowers can still bloom.

As the nights are drawing in as summer draws to an end, what photographers refer to as "the golden hour"—when the sun is low in the sky and the temperature of light turns to warmer frequencies, more blue and less yellow—comes ever earlier in the day, so I was able to get this quick snap on my phone of a tree near our friends' house before my wife and I headed home across the slender pedestrian bridge that connects the island to Twickenham town.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

A Year in Pictures – 5 September 2015 – Pembroke College Oxford

The colleges of Oxford University invite their alumni every few years to a dinner. The invitations are issued to those who joined the College in a particular year and a number of year groups are invited at once. The dinner is called a "gaudy", for the Latin gaudere, meaning 'to rejoice'.

This year it was the turn at my alma mater, Pembroke, for those matriculating in years 1974 to 1976 to get merry and have a chance to sleep it all off in College accommodation, which has seen considerable improvements in comfort since the 1970s (although the music was better back then, of course). It was indeed merry and I greatly enjoyed catching up with some of my closest friends as well as the challenge of recognising less familiar faces beneath the accumulating patina of age. The last such dinner for my year was in 2009, so by the time the next invitation comes round (and God preserve) the challenge will have become more demanding.

Here are some shots of Pembroke, taken before I caught the train back to Twickenham, where the rugby crowds were swarming past my door to watch England defeat Ireland.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

A Year In Pictures – 2 September 2015 – Another Monstrous Carbuncle (Final, er, maybe...)

It's been a few weeks since my last post and I have a shedload of photos to work through from my holidays, but I really could not let this day go unmarked.

The reason? 20 Fenchurch Street in the City of London (aka 'the Walkie-Talkie') has received an award. It has been declared the worst building in the UK of 2015 by the magazine Building Design and is thus this year's recipient of the Carbuncle Cup.

Here is a shot of it taken this morning as I walked to work along Lombard Street. It certainly looks a bit blue doesn't it, dear readers?