Monday, 29 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 22 to 28 June 2015 – Cornwall, London and Twickenham

Here's a collection of photos from the last few days to bring everything up to date (but not for long!)

22 June – The pleasure of pitch and putt in Padstow.

23 June – Time to return to London, but not before a stop in Padstow and a last look at the harbour.

24 June – Back to work and this is the view from my office.

25 June – The Walkie-Talkie is still trying to convince me that it is a really beautiful building.

26 June – a stroll by the River Thames at Twickenham.

27 June – London W1A 1AA

28 June – a little vase we have at home. Refined pottery it isn't, but I love the colours.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 21 June 2015 – Dinas Head

On Sunday, 21 June my friends and I ventured westwards on a long walk from the house where we were staying in North Cornwall to Trevose Head. We followed the line of the coast, dipping down from the cliffs to walk on the sands at Harlyn Bay and Mother Ivey's Bay. The weather was bright and sunny but there was a fresh chilly breeze to keep us cool as we kept up a steady pace for several miles.

We finally sat down when we reached the grassy slope just below the lighthouse at Trevose Head, where we had some sandwiches and looked westwards across a short stretch of sea to Dinas Head.

We made our way home by a slightly shorter route that took us more inland at points and through the campsite above Mother Ivey's Bay. There I bought a small packet of clotted cream fudge (produce of the Chough Bakery in Padstow). After nearly a week there are still a couple of cubes of this voluptuous confection left.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 20 June 2015 – A Modest Experiment

On the evening of 19 June, my wife and I left for a long weekend in Cornwall. On 20 June we went for the particular walk along the cliffs that always forms part of our stay at our friends' house on the north coast.

In some idle moments after we had returned to the house and before we went out for dinner (where I had one of the best fish pies I have ever tasted), I experimented a bit with some close-up photography. Here is part of a curtain cord. I have turned the image black and white and then tinted the highlights and shadows in different colours to produce what is called "split toning". I am very drawn to this approach with some images and I hope you like it.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 14 and 15 June 2015 – Memory Lane and Seething Lane

Two leafy scenes for you.

For the first nine years of my life, my family lived in Ealing. My paternal grandparents lived just up the road from us in the house where my father had spent most of his own childhood. I found myself in the area on Sunday 14 June, as the jazz band I play in occasionally took part in a fund-raising event for a church in another part of Ealing. When we had finished playing and I had loaded my percussion instruments back in the car, I decided to take a short detour to our old road before driving the few miles home.

I walked the length of it, from the shops at one end, past my grandparents' house and on to the house which my parents had rented at the far end. Walking past our old house  followed the bend of the road round into the lane that ran behind our old place. It was on the stretch of the lane that you see here that my father taught me to ride a bicycle; here that I and my early friends played in relative safety from cars when we craved a bit more space than our modest gardens allowed.

Meanwhile, in the churchyard of St Olave Hart Street, the new plants introduced some months ago are taking hold nicely, as you can see from this photograph taken in the early evening of Monday, 15 June before I left work to catch the train home.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 13 June 2015 – A Rose In Our Garden

When the rose is faded,
     Memory may still dwell on
Her beauty shadowed
     And the sweet smell gone.

That vanishing loveliness,
     That burdening breath
No breath of life hate then,
     Nor grief of death.

'Tis the immortal thought
     Whose passion still
Makes of the changing
     The unchangeable.

Oh, thus thy beauty,
     Loveliest on earth to me,
Dark with no sorrow, shines
     And burns, with thee.

Walter de la Mare (1834–1956)

Saturday, 13 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 12 June 2015 – Memento Mori

There it was, directly in my path as I walked in the warmth of this summer morning along the streets of Twickenham, making my way to French conversation class: a young fox, recently dead, its bushy tail trailing across the pavement and just into the roadway. It was impossible to ignore and also beyond the reach of my will not to stop and contemplate this sad little sight. There was no mark or injury that I could see, no trail of blood or twisted, broken limb to give a clue as to how it had come to be lying there, immobile, its life just gone.

There was even a shine in the eye, but no spark of life, and not for the first time I was faced with the closed door of death and driven to spend some moments of thought on the subject of my eventual end. A few years ago, in September 2010, I received the shocking news of my own serious illness and found myself very soon falling into a black despair as I saw my cherished hopes, dreams and plans not merely receding but rather being snuffed out in an instant. It was the loss of a sense of meaning, mercifully brief, that overwhelmed me and was the most crushing sensation at the time.

The following days were spent in a daze of readjustment as the process of treatment, while taking a strong physical and mental toll and taxing my resilience, also brought its own sense of purpose: the project to restore my health. Now, nearly five years later and currently treatment free, I have picked up the pieces of life, recovered health and found a well of strength in renewed relationships with family and friends and in the pursuit of photography, which has rather taken over from music as a passion and which I see increasingly as an activity with deep spiritual potential—not for nothing can we think so readily of the divine in terms of light.

One day though my number will come up and my body will be as this fox: a husk, a shell, a mere likeness of a living creature. What will endure from my time on this plane of life? What too will lie beyond the door?

Friday, 12 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 11 June 2015 – We Will Remember Them

As you will know from my post for 26 and 27 May, the Lancastria Window in St Katharine Cree Church has recently been completed by the installation of bottom panels in place of plain glass. The remains of the commandeered troopship the HMT Lancastria lie beneath the waves off St Nazaire in Brittany. British troops and French and Belgian civilian refugees fleeing the German invasion of France in 1940 perished when the vessel was sunk.

Today the new window panels were dedicated at the annual Lancastria Memorial Service. We also gave thanks for the gift of a model of the ship, made by the son of a survivor, which has been placed beneath the window, where it is bathed in the richly coloured light that now floods into the church. The deep blues and reds in the new sections of the window come from glassworks in the Loire region of France, which has a tradition of stained glass manufacture going back to the 12th century.

The service closes with the singing of both the Marseillaise and the National Anthem. At the previous week's Thursday Eucharist, our worship was enriched by the singing of a visiting Roman Catholic choir from Cologne, and there was an opportunity on that occasion not only to acknowledge the pain of the past but also to affirm the restored bonds of friendship and reconciliation that exist between the United Kingdom and Germany.

The new panels feature a sea lion holding in its claws a roundel showing the date of the Lancastria's sinking, news of which was hidden from the British people so as not to depress morale within weeks of Dunkirk.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 10 June 2015 – Street Food

In recent weeks, street food stalls have become a more frequent and regular feature in the square outside Fenchurch Street Station. Today I could have plumped for (and grown plump on) Venezuelan, Vietnamese or Mexican food (or indeed some very wholesome looking bread). However Indian food is my default option and this stall was selling excellent stuff – a helping of karahi chicken, rice and dhal (plus a complimentary onion bhaji) set me up for an excellent afternoon.

I have taken better photographs, it must be said, but I hope this gives you a flavour of things.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 8 and 9 June 2015 – Looking Up, Looking Down

8 June. Looking up to the roiling, moiling sky above 70 Mark Lane and Fenchurch Place in the City of London…

9 June. Back down to earth with this shot through the railings of St Mary Woolnoth. Hawksmoor meets Ducati, the 18th century cheek by jowl with the 21st. Ducati is owned by Lamborghini, which is owned by Audi, which is part of the Volkswagen Group. Hawksmoor was very much his own man.

Monday, 8 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 6 and 7 June 2015 – A Tale of Two Birthdays and Lives Now Past

On Saturday 6 June we took my mother out to lunch in Portsmouth to celebrate a milestone birthday. My brother and his wife were there with one of my nieces, and my wife and I drove down with our son and his wife and our daughter. We sat in a cool spacious room in a lovely pub overlooking the busy harbour entrance and had a leisurely meal (fish and chips for me, with a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc). The sun shone brilliantly and it resembled Flaming June in all respects apart from the presence of a very chilly breeze. We al had a great time and repaired to Mum's house for tea and cake and a family photograph – on the walk from the pub some of us climbed the steps on to the old wall overlooking the harbour and gazed out towards Gosport and the Isle of Wight. In this shot you can see in the distance the tower in Gosport used for submarine escape training – it is filled with water and the trainee submariners rise up this claustrophobic column to break the surface in the tank right at the top.

Sunday 7 June was my wife's birthday and she, our daughter and I took the day at a gentle pace. It was warmer than the previous day and we went for a cycle ride along the Thames towpath between the centre of Twickenham and Richmond Lock (seen here), where we stopped for an in ice cream before taking to the back streets for the journey back home. The lock (which also includes a weir and a double footbridge) was built in between 1891 and 1894 to designs by an engineer named Storey and is listed Grade II. Just above the bridge can be seen one of the many jet airliners that fly into Heathrow each day—a form of transport undreamed of in the last decade of the 19th century (which was also the first decade of my grandparents' lives).

Sunday, 7 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 2, 3, 4 and 5 June 2015 – Cars, People and Trees

The evening commuter crowd in Lombard Street on Tuesday, 2 June. A man runs to avoid an incoming taxi under the gaze of Gresham's grasshopper (at upper right).

The legend in the Gresham family (who were from Norfolk) was that the founder of the family was abandoned as a baby in long grass and that it was a grasshopper that alerted a kind woman to his presence. Whatever the truth (or probably otherwise) of the story, the grasshopper was adopted as the crest on the family arms. Sir Thomas Gresham (c.1519–1579), the most illustrious of the family, was a merchant and financier who served Edward VI and the boy king's two half-sisters, Mary I and Elizabeth I. His portraits show him to have a confident bearing, a sharp taste in clothes and a gimlet eye. He founded Gresham College and the Royal Exchange, whose present building on Cornhill has an elegant golden weathervane is in the form of a grasshopper.

The Sainsbury's on the left of the shot is on the site of what was (from 1691) the second incarnation of Lloyd's Coffee House, a meeting place for sailors, merchants and ship owners, to whom William Lloyd, the proprietor, provided reliable shipping news. It was in this social setting that Lloyd's of London, which remains an insurance market, had its origins. In the late 18th century, some decades after Lloyd's death, the market relocated to the Royal Exchange.

By late evening on Wednesday, 3 June I had not managed to bag the daily photograph and so I took my camera into the street outside my house and fired off several shots at a sycamore that a week or so previously had been drastically pruned by council operatives wielding chainsaws. I have run the photograph you see through a number of digital processes dreamed up by people far cleverer than me.

Dunster Court was, on Thursday, 4 June, the site of a private vintage car event. The courtyard, my normal short cut between Mark Lane and Mincing Lane, was closed to the public from 2pm and so I took this shot through one of the gateways. The car is a Riley and I had been able to get close to it on my walk though the courtyard in the morning—at the time it was the only car there and being watched over by the security man you see in the photograph. As the day went on, more cars arrived and the champagne duly flowed.

On Friday 5 June I wandered into Richmond around lunchtime to do some shopping. It was a very warm day, actually distinctly muggy, but the shade of the trees surrounding Richmond Green was a pleasant spot to park myself for a while, have a sandwich lunch and watch people taking the air in what felt like the first warm day of the year.

Friday, 5 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 31 May and 1 June 2015 – The Going Down of the Sun

Two churches and two monuments…

A collection of military memorials lines the walls of St Paul Hounslow West as the church—built in the 1870s when the British Empire was moving towards the high point of its reach, power and influence—is close to Hounslow Barracks. Some of the stained-glass windows show saints from the first thousand years (or so) of the Common Era, such as St George or St Olave, styled as moustachioed Victorian gentlemen costumed as if for some pageant or tableau vivant.

The most colourful of these memorials, part of which is seen here, records the death of one individual whereas all the others, commemorating military actions in various places of the Empire, are resolutely drab in colour, although though some are embellished with relief carvings of regimental badges or weapons and, in one case, a military drum. The individual memorialised, a senior army officer, died in Jubbulpore, one of the four British  administrative divisions of the Central Provinces of India (hence that 'C.P.' visible in the inscription), which is now part of the modern Indian province of Madhya Pradesh.

Death arrived, not apparently in military action, but "suddenly" and in the relative peace of 1910. The monument was provided by his grieving comrades.

Within four years the world was visited by a catastrophe of mass slaughter beyond the most deranged imagination. In 1914 World War I, the Great War, erupted from the tangled web of national alliances in Europe set against one another following the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. The conflict churned on for four weary years and involved the grandparents of my generation, all of whom have now finally passed into history.

What you see below is the newest monument in St Olave Hart Street in the City of London.  It was commissioned in 2014, the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, by The Worshipful Company of Clothworkers to commemorate their dead in the two world wars of the 20th century and names in particular their liverymen who did not survive the conflicts.

The 1914–18 War catalysed huge changes in British society and 21 years after the guns fell silent the nations of the world were once again at each other's throats, with refinements in killing technologies allied to bad science leading to particular atrocities in Europe and the war in the Far East finally ending with the unleashing of nuclear weapons. By 1945 the seeds of dissolution of the British Empire had not only germinated but were taking firm root, so that it was only a matter of time before the sun set on political and economic arrangements that must, at least back in 1910, have seemed unassailably secure.

The tablet is of Welsh slate and will shortly be fitted with a stained oak frame.
The lettering and coat of arms are by Lucy Haugh,
while the installation is by Colin Bowles Ltd.
The photograph was taken on 1 June 2015 and the tablet still shows the marks left by the installers' hands as they manoeuvred it into position. I have left the handprints in the image
as evidence of the physical effort of installation.

A Year in Pictures – 30 May 2015 – Garden Interlude

The photograph I posted for 25 April was of the rosemary plant in our back garden, colourful of bloom and green of spiny leaf. Not any more: it has been apparent for a while that the plant is ailing and in the early light of evening on Saturday, 30 May we found out why. There had been an invasion of little iridescent beetles—all glittering and dandified in their red, gold and green waistcoats—helping themselves to the succulent foliage.

Here is one, before it was picked off the bush by my wife and, er, dealt with. This is the best way of controlling an infestation of Rosemary Beetle, along with culling the larvae when they first appear. Pesticides are not advisable on what is, after all, a herb destined for the table.

We will have to be on the look out for further appearances of Chrysolina americana—not in fact an American insect, but native to Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean sub-region— as it is partial to sage and lavender as well as to our unfortunate rosemary.

Monday, 1 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 28 and 29 May 2015 – Visions of Empire 1: Cutlasses and Lightsabers

The annual service for Trinitytide has just ended at St Olave Hart Street in the City of London. The Master, Elder Brethren, Younger Brethren, pensioners and staff of The Trinity House have left the church and processed to their lunch. The silver is being cleared away and once again the church is quiet. One of the two displays of flowers that stand to either side of the altar has as its background part of the monument to the Bayning brothers, Andrew and Paul, kneeling in their niches, clad in the scarlet robes of Aldermen, their hands held palm to palm in prayer to their MakerAndrew (died 1610) faces south, while Paul (died 1616) faces east and is the one seen here. They were from an Essex family and representative of the mercantile classes that flourished increasingly and rose to prominence in the reign of Elizabeth I. The Baynings themselves were active in the Levant trade and in the genesis of the East India Company, running privateer vessels and "opening up" the East. They were close contemporaries of the Queen's mysterious one-time resident sage and adviser, John Dee, who is sometimes said to have coined the expression "The British Empire"—whether or not he did, he was certainly, like the Baynings, an advocate of English expansion and therefore in at the beginning of the enterprise that developed eventually into the great imperial project.

On Friday, 29 May my steps took me past the shops and restaurants on the north side of Twickenham Green, where I was confronted by this representative of another Empire. George Lucas may have introduced us (and entertainingly so) to an empire that existed "a long, long time ago in a galaxy far away", but he, or at least his business enterprise, certainly had their feet very firmly planted on the soil of Planet Earth when they took the proprietor of the shop in which this Stormtrooper stands to court for breach of their intellectual property rights. Andrew Ainsworth had for a number of years been producing Star Wars costumes and full-size replicas of R2D2 from original moulds he had fashioned to give life to the designs that Lucas had approved for the 1977 movie that eventually became known as "Star Wars IV: A New Hope". I went into the shop to ask permission to photograph the items  on display, which was duly granted, and Mr Ainsworth and I had a most interesting conversation, in which he explained to me that Lucasfilm had lost the case because the crafting of the original moulds had been industrial design and not an artwork. I have since read that his friend, Nick Pemberton, a scenic artist, had made the clay model of the trooper's helmet from which Andrew worked and that the work was done speculatively and without payment. The moulds had remained—as they still do—Andrew's property and he was not therefore engaged in "passing off" Lucas's intellectual property as his own. The Far East is an important market for his Star Wars replica costumes and props, he told me, and I wish him well in anticipation of the forthcoming Star Wars VII.

To be continued...