On potting


One from the book rummage:  published in 1976, and transcribing recorded interviews with studio potters of that time.


The potters’ comments range from the bluntly practical, through poetic, to posy.  Favourites:-

Sven Bayer describes what it is like to look into his wood-fired climbing kiln during a firing: “Then, when it is really burning well and getting enough oxygen, the temperature rises and suddenly the whole thing clears up with very ghostly whisps of turquoise, blue and white.”

Alan Caiger-Smith on the problem of customer commissions:  “… people may ask for painted plates, when we know very well that certain kinds of painting are likely to get confused with sausages, gravy or bacon, and people might try to get their forks into the brush strokes.”

Ian Godfrey on his working life:  “Apart from the fact that it is complete agony some of the time, the making of pots is a wonderful way of being employed.”

Bryan Newman on failing to realise his dreams:  “… the thing I feel missing from my life is a tile panel a hundred feet high …”

Peter Starkey on fulfilment:  “As a child, I was always in trouble for lighting fires; now I can indulge myself entirely.”

Yeap Po Chap on finding a vocation:  “I … was a useless human being until I discovered clay about fourteen years ago.”

I was also very taken with Elizabeth Fritsch’s description of using decoration to create work in two-and-a-half dimensions.

But some sort of prize has to go to Alan Barrett-Danes commenting on his ceramic cabbages with faces:  “When I made eyes that were bleeding, it all became too obvious. … What I am going to do now I have no idea.  I have said all I can say through the cabbage-heads …”

(It might be the booby prize though.)

Guilty excess


Waking early, there was a wonderful sky, the gibbous moon well out of the way and Venus and Jupiter doing their stuff, with Arcturus, Spica, Mars and Regulus for company.  I ventured out into the icy dark with a new toy.  Going shopping for binoculars a few weeks ago sapped my moral fibre, and I bought yet another pair, which is excess indeed.

1 guilt

These do look odd.  This is because they are Pentax close focus binos – the ability to focus at 50cm giving them a slightly cross-eyed look.  The objectives are about 20mm I think, magnification 6.5.  I was sold on the description of them as a kind of field microscope to look at insects without getting close enough to frighten them away, or paintings and architectural features which as a tourist one can’t see properly.  Of course I was going to try them out on astronomy, for which they are definitely not intended.  Their images were feeble compared with the 7x50s, which I don’t hold against them, but both pairs seemed to be generating internal reflections when Venus and Jupiter were in the field of view – disappointing.  It was less of an issue with stars.

I retired to the electric blanket (providently turned on when I got up) still wearing all my clothes, including hat, and shivering, while I finished Stuff Matters.  The speed with which I got through this one indicates rather slight content, definitely at the popular end of popular science.  I would have liked more about the exotic materials with which I am unfamiliar, such as aerogel.  The chapter on why chocolate is so entirely addictive was good, and Miodownik gave a nice sense of the way the substance of clay changes when it is fired.

2 light weight

Yesterday I ignored some seductive sunshine as there was a fairly brutal north wind to go with it.  Today was calmer, and I took the Pentax to the beach for testing.  Hardly butterfly weather, and the birds had all decamped inland, so I practised on the rocks and shells at my feet, which came up in startling detail.  Must remember not to look at any spiders with the binos; I might have hysterics.  They worked well as a compact binocular for cliffs and surfers too, with a smooth focus wheel to move easily between near and far.  And light – very easy to use one-handed or for long observations.  Roll on those butterflies.

Blue sea and sky, with the sun shining through the incoming waves

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revealing the sand sucked up into their tummies as they approached the beach

4 sand

and lighting them up to the palest and most elegant jade green

5 green waved

with the orderly serries coming on behind them.

6 serries

Soon the light was going:  a very satisfactory sky and sea scape.

7 scape

Now I am going to eat rocket and lemon risotto.

In the gloom


Another dark and heavy day.  (Click for the gallery.)

Things to do when you can’t sleep: lvi


lvi : Tackle your drafts

Namely, the hesitant scribbles, notes, odd lines roughed out in the notebook.  This does not promote sleep  – quite the contrary – but you may at least get the odd verse out of it.  In this case: on bookmarks, on weather, on looking in the mirror.

Now at least try to go to bed, stupid.

Peopled out


Back from the writing weekend.  Not sure that I enjoyed it as much as the contemplation through photography session back in the summer, but the tutor was well organised and also kept her half-trained and wholly miscellaneous team quite well in hand – at least, they certainly never bolted with her.  And the commitment to attend made me pick up a pencil and drop into poetry with a vengeance, which was after all the main point of the exercise.

There wasn’t much time to get about in Salisbury and the weather was mis, but the cathedral came in handy.

Home; and for the first time this winter lit a fire, which burned awkwardly as if it was out of practice, and then roared up the chimney.

(Click a thumbnail for the gallery)




So here we are: twelve women and two men, wildly various, signed up to spend the weekend “in search of a feminist theological poetics”. I am watching the tutor with a fascinated eye as she undertakes this project. And I have brought my knitting in case I really want to stir things up a bit.



Vanished Kingdoms has been my bedtime book for a very long time, and I am slightly overdone with it, not through any fault of its own but because it is a text too dense and rich to be read a couple of pages at a time in a tired state.  Especially as it is making me realise how very unfamiliar I am with many aspects of European history – which is, after all, the point. Alt Clud, anyone?  Seven kingdoms of Burgundy?  Litva?

1 lost

The stories of these identities are unsettling; it seems so easy to lose a country and a culture.  Davies simplifies, unthreads, reconnects.  In an obscurely moving brief chapter, he declines to attempt the history of Byzantion:  “…summarizing Europe’s greatest ‘vanished kingdom’ is almost too much to contemplate…”

It’s a mummy of a book – 740 pages plus notes – so I am having a break between Borussia and Sabaudia.

2 Sabaudia

The break was to be filled by a work on the science of memory:

3 mind's construction

Current research, literary models and personal experimentation all have their place within the covers.  The main drift of the argument is that memory is dynamic, creative and fallible, and as much about the future as the past.  You can’t help joining in with the personal experiments as you read.  I awarded myself some serious reading time, gobbled it up in one, and doddled about for the next few hours in that slightly disorientated state which follows almost complete absorption.

Thus it is peculiarly apposite that this wanderer chose today to return, having been on long leave since 1975, and I’ve probably not read it since about 1965.  The inscription in the front gave me a bit of a turn.

4 wanderer

And did I remember it?  Oh yes.

Literary exercise


We have been getting our heads in order for our writing course next weekend.  Full of lunch, we walked a lane, soggett with the downpours of the last few days.

We liked the wayside egg sale, especially the carefully engineered drainpipe to funnel cash through the hedge into the owner’s garden.

a drainpipeLegging it briskly below the drippy trees, we paused at convenient points to swap items from our repertoires, slightly to the surprise of other walkers (we did have to censor one when a few sticky-beaks came by.)  Friend was amused that I had a contents list of recent items; sadly, that is entirely in character.  Our pieces are now mâchéd from the mizzle.

a listHome through the returning rain, to ferment a lot of yeast and settle in for some spinning.

a lot of yeastAnd writing, obviously.



Met up at our rendezvous and looked over M33: not a Messier number this time, but a Monitor from the Gallipoli campaign, just reaching her century.  (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)