Monthly Archives: November 2016



I took the opportunity to stock up on colour.  (Click an image for the gallery)

When in doubt, make owls


Christmas, they tell me, is coming, and I felt like fooling around with home-made paper clay, so I whapped up a small batch of stoneware clay and toilet paper, and another of grey beach clay and more toilet paper.  (No, I do not know what I am doing.)

1-toilet-paperI used the paper clay to make some rustic ornaments for the tree.  The first set looks more like sea life than stars of wonder, but I’m ok with that.

2-starfishThen I had a go at angels, but unfortunately figurative art is entirely beyond me, and as my advisor helpfully pointed out, the results were somewhat scary and appeared to be angels of death.  So I converted the shapes into owls; still a bit scary?


Now they are firing and strange stinks and fumes are wafting from the kiln.  I have the garage door wide open and the burning off will finish soon.  I wait with interest for the results.

Especially for the one angel I retained.  I am also ok with having the Angel of Death on the Christmas tree.

Shades of greening


This one is a proper challenge to sort out.  When does green shade into gold, grey, blue, brown?  There are always some pieces which you would vow had no location at all in this puzzle, and always gaps which you are convinced could never be filled from the remaining contents of the box.  In the middle, an actual adult conversation is taking place.

1-greenThen there was an indulgence in mud pies with this odd-smelling green grey local clay.  Experiment time.

2-greyAnd a dash to the scenery which turned out to be a stayer as we watched the showers march by.  The sea was red and green.

3-green-red-lavender-apricotWe watched the two kite surfers race in and out through the surf.  One of them is tucked into the photo.




Knew I was ailing by the way the blobs were outnumbering the things with holes in the top

1-throwSo I had lunch with these

2-owlyand other birdyness.

3-birdnessIt’s tricky to do simultaneous handles and sneezing, even for these pusillanimous pots

4-handledSo with hail storms thundering down outside I settled for puzzling.  I was repelled by these emasculated unicorns and etiolated females and their very questionable symbolism (a gift – sorry, giver) but was too obstinate not to finish.

5-unicornCash from the charity shop was ok and had all its pieces, which was a surprise,

6-cashand it was interesting to review the Ladybirds, making me remember the comics of childhood, conspicuously post-war even twenty years on.  Also a complete puzzle; good source, if I could remember which shop it was.

7-armedSo I burrowed in the cupboard and found an old favourite, top notch all round, which I do every five years or so, holding my breath to see if any of the pieces have leaked out and been lost.

8-suspenseWill find out soon.  And outside the weather is building.  Hail, I think, again, out there in the buffeting blackness.

Cuckooing in D flat


Two good ones, full of I-didn’t-know-thats.

cuckooNever mind the Poe, the Dickens, the Conan-Doyle; the real treasures are the ‘lost’ writers most of us have not heard of.   My top pick to follow up is ‘W.W.’, otherwise Mary Fortune.  She is a very early, possibly the first, female writer of detective stories, who wrote and set her stories in the Australian outback of the 1860s and 70s (and seems to have lived a very curious story of her own).

And after page four of Cuckoo I don’t think I knew any of it at all.  Honour the man who can creep about Wicken Fen for thirty years, not only watching cuckoos but pretending to be one.  A few choice tidbits:  ‘pishing’ is the noise you make to bring shy reed warblers straight to you; in some species, individual birds lay eggs with markings unique to that female alone, like fingerprints; birds don’t have XY chromosomes but WZ, and sex of offspring is determined by the female not the male; and male birds cuckooing in C or D or D flat may be one way of distinguishing sub-species or races of cuckoos without having to get at their DNA.

If, of course, we still have any cuckoos left.

Revelling in the cold


The revelling won’t last, though I daresay the cold will.  So I nipped out with the 10″ to take a quick look at the Moon, as everything else was wiped out by it.

I always like the waxing gibbous phase, which conveniently brings some of my favourite features to the terminator.  I took a lot of snaps through the eyepiece; always frustrating to find that while one segment is pretty good, other areas come out blurred.  And the Moon image in the eyepiece was surprisingly zizzy considering it isn’t warm, which won’t have helped to get a sharp image.  I’ve turned the pictures upside down to make them right way up, and now they look peculiar to me.

1-waxing-gibbous-10-nov-2016There’s something very satisfying about Clavius, with its arc of smaller craters diminishing gradually in size like Russian dolls.  The camera managed to pick up the central peak in Rutherfurd (on the southern rim) and the smaller craters D C N and J (running away from Rutherfurd in an arc).  The unevenness of the crater walls is obvious, and I see there is a tiny hint of the rather mashed down central peaks (inboard of C, as it were) and hints of some of the other minor craters in the interior.  I haven’t attempted to identify all the surrounding craters – this part of the surface is a bit busy.

2-clavius-10-nov-2016And I have a fondness for Gassendi.  I think it was one of the first craters I learned by name, with its very distinctive shape where Gassendi A breaks the main crater wall.  This image caught some of the detail – the long ridge leading away to the east just catching the sun, the slump or depression in eastern wall, the break in the wall to the south, and just a hint of the concentric ridge which lies within the south wall.  Also a hint of the raised material inside the northern rim where Gassendi A intrudes. It would be too much to expect to image any of the rimae with my feeble equipment.


Five go to an island


In the hot grey morning, the boat was our best idea of the day. Puttering sedately over an almost motionless blue, we coasted past porous limestone, were inserted into one of the caves to admire its knobbly depths, and pottered on to land briefly on the island.

On the ridge of this small eminence a little air moved, and we looked up the coast past small sandless beaches and bays.  A few bugs and butterflies moved through the beige rock, dusty brown skims of soil, dry stalks and stems, and surprisingly rich green and juicy-looking tufts of new leaves, rather like hyacinth (alas, failure to botanise properly).

It was too soon to leave but time was up, and we motored away under the arms of the saint.

13th November:  the gallery





The afternoon was three hours of my life I will never get back again. If I wanted Brighton in the high season, I would go to Brighton in the high season.

So let’s only remember the morning.

The canopied stones gave us room to breathe and rest, to try to unpick the patterns of wall and passage way. Purists might boggle at the reconstructions, but these did allow us to see the design, and the fragile original carvings would soon have wasted and dwindled away without shelter. Even with the concrete intrusions, the ruin felt free of our time:  impassive.

Then the cave, undulant of ceiling, with stout stalagmites and a beautiful section preserved. (I turned the camera off auto and personally adjusted the shutter speed. See how I am coming along.) In the coolth one could value the troglodyte life, when in Britain cave dwellings seem merely an exaggeration of the climate’s dank dark misery.

And lastly the windy platform where scattered slabs and columns and paving spoke of three great cultures – only we have not yet learned the words.

We crushed a thousand tufts of wild rocket underfoot, and their scent rose pungently into the sunny air.

11th November – the gallery