Thursday, 14 November 2013
This is the time of the year I go rummaging in the woods. Seeing if a shaft of early morning sunlight will search through the lessening canopy of leaves to show me something I still find extraordinary. Flowerless Plants, as my fungi book designates them, are amongst the most fantastical living things. All that huge web of mycelium threading its way underground, to suddenly erupt in science fiction fruit that can look deceptively benign or downright evil. Not that I go in search of them to casually toss into a frying pan, unless it's slices of a big fresh puffball. My neighbour says "You've got to get up early to get those round here", meaning up before him. No, I just love photographing them, even though for the most part I'm doubtful as to what I'm looking at. I know Fly Agarics and Death Caps (fortunately), but the advice must always be rigorously followed- When collecting fungi to eat, only take those which you can identify with certainty. My Glamorous Assistant said these were Field Mushrooms. So what were they doing deep in a Kent wood, I pondered. Or did she have an ulterior motive? (Cue plaintive oboe music).
Thursday, 24 October 2013
So, there we were bowling down the A303 on the way to Cornwall, more of which later. Suddenly we came to a screeching halt at the end of a queue for roadworks traffic lights, on that stretch leading down to Honiton that is more like a trunk road from the 1930s, after those gloriously sweeping dual carriageways across the Wiltshire downs. We called this The Blind House, and after taking a quick snap through a break in the incessant traffic we carried on. On our return in the gloom and rain of a late afternoon, we looked more carefully out for it. All I know is that it's after Honiton but before a crossroads I think was Eagle Cross. So can any of you out there remember what the pub was really called? Indeed, have you partaken of drink in there, or pulled out in front of someone from the car park?
Tuesday, 8 October 2013
On Sunday afternoon the skies above Bedfordshire were awash with vapour trails and echoing with the evocative engine noises accompanying the last flying day of the year at the Shuttleworth Collection. I get very excited by flying machines and the magnificent men who fly them so well, but you can probably guess by now what it was that had me running about pointing with childish enthusiasm. This is a 1913 McCurd, a 5 ton box van that is very likely the only survivor of its kind. Look at that stunning script flowing over the top of the radiator, marvel at the beautifully drawn packs of sugar and the Afternoon Tea box. It is, quite simply, one of the the best signwritten vans I've ever seen, and apparently it still belongs to Tate & Lyle. Imagine it, rumbling on its solid tyres out over the cobbles at the Silvertown Refinery in the East End of London. Very sweet.
Thursday, 3 October 2013
The good news today is that the Crystal Palace may be built again on Sydenham Hill in South London. Almost the only thing left of the original is a pair of stone sphinxes that once crouched inscrutably next to one of the entrance staircases. The rest of it burnt down in 1936, the inflagration watched by my girlfriend's mother looking out of a bathroom window in Peckham. I remember asking her if she had to stand on the toilet seat and she gave me a funny look and said "Probably." Although smaller in plan, the building had as its core the original Great Exhibition building built in 1851 by Joseph Paxton, erected in Hyde Park and visited between May and October of that year by over five million people.
But what will the new one look like? Some bloke on the wireless this lunchtime said he expected there'd be some glass and iron in it somewhere, as if acres of glass wasn't a prerequisite. Ten years ago I remember seeing a design by Chris Wilkinson of Wilkinson Eyre at an RA Summer Show, and it would certainly suit me. A real new Crystal Palace for our own age, something we should've insisted on for the Millennium instead of that bloody awful tent in Greenwich stuffed full of tat. I couldn't find a decent photograph of the Wilkinson proposal to show you, but here's another BBC report from 2003 with a murky image attached. The brilliant thing about this Dan Dare spaceship is that it doesn't take up any parkland space, being mostly suspended in thin air as it were. Dust off those plans Chris please.
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
Sunday saw us wandering around Carshalton in South London, popping into the Honeywood Museum of local life and climbing an early eighteenth century water tower, both taking part in the extraordinary Open London scheme where you can often see things not normally open. Carshalton came as a welcome relief after the day before when an insulation savant in Belsize Park got twelve of us shut into his small bathroom to tell us about condensing boilers.
My mate, (who was brought up around here), suddenly said "I wonder if the holes are still in the wall by the Ponds bus stop?". Indeed they were, as you can see. Every brick in the wall immediately behind the stop had holes in them of roughly the same diameter and depth. They tailed off in each direction. What can they be? Giant masonry bees? The only explanation we could come up with was that for decades schoolchildren had bored them out with their bus fare pennies. They're about the right size for an old penny, and presumably the brick is soft enough. And if the bus was late you'd soon have made a serious indent. But we're not at all sure. So come on Old Carshaltonians, have you ever joined in this communal making of brick Emmental? Or is there another even more unlikely answer?
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
So. What I want to know is, when the Royal Mail gets privatised, will it still be the Royal Mail? Presumably not. I can't find a news item or discussion that even mentions it in passing, but don't we think it's important? You know what will happen. It'll be called something crass like Post For Yoo-Hoo; after all, look at the high level of thinking behind the moronic and quickly dispensed with 'Consignia'. And not being the Royal Mail means we won't see the reigning monarch's cipher cast into the iron. I think I'm right in saying that there's a dictat ( probably stuffed behind a radiator at Mount Pleasant Sorting Office) that they will always be painted red, like London buses. But you never know what mindlessness can beset those responsible for looking after our visual environment. The pillar box above is in Letchworth, the first garden city. Looking around, the colour that predominates in the leafy streets, apart from the cream renders and burnt orange tile hanging, is green. Green leaves, green trees, green lawns and the original Letchworth green doors, drainpipes and garden gates. So what colour did the council, unencumbered with any thought concerning their fabulous heritage, order the wheelie bins in? Of course. A mind-numbing shade of purple.
Tuesday, 20 August 2013
I've enjoyed the variety of weather this year as much as any I can remember. I'm not one for excessive heat, retiring as I tend to do under awnings and standing about with a Panama pulled down over my ears. So a hot day that ends in a spectacular thunderstorm watched from a local pub window holds a particular appeal. And then to traverse my stretch of countryside as the clouds clear and the last of the sun spotlights the fields brings me dancing about on the wet grass verges. The only sound the odd bleat from the fields and my village church sounding the hour. It doesn't get much better than this.