Monthly Archives: May 2015

Swords out at Sarum


The cathedral was full of candles as darkness fell, and the nobility of France and England lied, swore, manoeuvred, ranted, threatened and chased one another up and down with swords. Death came by violence, misadventure, and treachery, and perhaps by mere excess of spleen.

It was the Globe’s travelling production of King John, part of Salisbury’s arts festival. We managed to arrive early and had seats right at the nexus of the action, so that it was difficult not to duck as the swords clashed and swished overhead. The music was intriguing and all the roles were singing parts. Amazing evening.

(I hope to add a photo or two, probably almost completely black, when I get home later this week.)

3rd June:  a daylight visit to the cathedral, to the excellent Salisbury museum, and night in the cathedral.



Dirty, rude and not as clever as it thinks


– our glorious Metropolis.  I may feel less critical when I have hacked up its toxic residue from the bases of my lungs.

London 1

I make a point of pausing on Waterloo Bridge to look up and down river – unfailingly spectacular, and I can pretend to like London.  Today  some modern mudlarks were on the foreshore; I thought for a moment of joining them, but avoiding the Waterloo station mass exodus was the winning option.

London 2


Contemplation the fourth


For the final practical last weekend I thought I would try to move away from the usual repertoire, and photograph something human.  In the circumstances this meant using myself as a subject, and I chose to photograph my left (non-dominant) hand.  I had some problems with getting my hand into natural shapes when it knew it was being watched, and also manipulating the camera with only my right hand, which may be in charge, but needs help for a lot of things.

So this was trying to catch my hand doing the things it does when not under observation:

Left displaying

Left displaying

Left supporting

Left supporting

Left nurturing

Left nurturing

Left investigating

Left investigating

Left getting on with it

Left getting on with it



I like the exhibitions in this small museum, but I really go just to enjoy the physical space, which makes me feel as if I had dropped through the rabbit hole without noticing on the way down.  To the strange spaces and perspectives, add a floor which goes up or down odd steps, tilts into ramps for no apparent reason, and heaves itself into gentle hummocks and valleys; meantime creaking furtively and giving way with every step, as if one might arrive abruptly in the cellar (or somewhere even stranger).

whatisit 1 whatisit 2 whatisit 3

Contemplation the third


Contemplation the second


The second strand of Saturday’s ‘practical’ was happening concurrently in space and time with the first, so they commented upon one another in curious ways.  This is the simplified version: on liminality.

A secret garden is sandwiched between the wall of the cathedral grounds and the wall along the road. I don’t know if the gates are locked.

It’s tantalising to see the very tops of the secret plantings, but the owners have made a narrow public garden along the foot of their private wall.

The grass verge along the road was suddenly stoppered by a wattled fence; but perhaps only to stop bicycles riding straight into ….

this very beautiful small garden, gifting its white lilac and lavender to any passer-by, the stones laid at intervals next to the pavement saying, Look, but don’t touch.

A gap only just wide enough for one led into a green space.

A gap only just wide enough for one led into a green space.

Continuous hedging suggested privacy, but the local young knew  better and were picnicking, lolling, footballing and turning cartwheels.

Continuous hedging suggested privacy, but the local young knew better and were picnicking, lolling, footballing and turning cartwheels.

The boundary is purely imaginary until someone comes to play cricket, but those of us passing through walked outside it, and the cartwheels and picnic and lolling were happening at the edge.

The fence round the wicket was barely visible, yet was scrupulously respected by the footballers.

As a public space it was so private that it was difficult to find the way out. Pushchairs or wheelchairs would not have got in at either of the openings I used. Perhaps there is a larger one on the far side of the field; but that is a secret too.

There shall be no more pretty pictures …


… I said, as I’ve been failing to note down the books I have been reading.

four books

First The Steel Bonnets, a cheerfully-written if appalling chronicle of violence, double-crossing, theft and impudence which is the history of the Scotland/England border from the middle ages to the 17th century.  I guess that Susan Price’s Sterkarm Handshake drew heavily on this material, and dimly remember seeing some of the television series The Borderers, but no fiction could live up to the history contained in these records.

Then there’s Doctoring the Mind, Richard Bentall’s sequel to Madness Explained.  In this volume he explores the drawbacks and uses of psychiatric drugs, alternative forms of treatment, and relates some shocking events in psychiatry, both past and present.

Running the Roman Home: an enjoyable foray through some of the more recognisable Roman daily activities, occasionally varied with small surprises:  apparently buckets and jugs were part of a property and could not be removed when the house/apartment was sold, any more than taps and water pipes should be taken away by departing home owners today (though there are some who would…)

Tales of Pirx the Pilot is a completely different kettle of fish, a series of linked though independent stories which achieve the usual quirks, turns and creepiness of good SF short stories, plus a more unusual quality – a genuine and slightly unsettling development of a single character through time.  I wish I had been given this one earlier (or found it for myself) and will definitely be returning.

It’s no good: I have to post them.

sea sea2

The sea was a like a liquefied semi-precious stone, inlaid into the bay.  In many visits I don’t think I’ve ever seen it like this before.  Just looking at the colour cleaned out the dusty corners of the mind.



We wandered into the garden to look at a two-day-old moon, and somehow there were gradually cameras, zoom lenses, telescope, eyepieces, focuser adaptor, cables, battery and tripod all over the garden.

The large crater with a prominent central peak is Petavius

The large crater with a prominent central peak is Petavius

Our photo session was not long, as the moon was sinking fast.  We turned our attention briefly to Jupiter but cloud was wisping across and the seeing was not good.  Finally, we pointed the 5″ at what we hoped was Saturn. The rings are opening out and we saw it with ‘ears’, almost as Galileo first recorded it, to his own great puzzlement.

By then we were well chilled.  May nights are far from cosy.

Sharing a little treat


treat 1

This is not, as it happens, a meringue.

Somewhere in the middle is the brush, which the lump ate as it was pulled from the pot.

treat 2

Words can barely convey the repulsiveness of the texture:  springy and elastic, squidgy and yielding, the smooth surface feeling wet though it was in fact dry, and in places looking dry though it was in fact still wet.  And Copydex reeks.  All the way up the stairs.

treat 3

Poking at it was like being back in Form I, doing the dares.