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Sunday, 29 December 2013

London Monopoly (20): Regent Street

Continuing my journey around the London version of the Monopoly board with Regent Street, the first property in the Green Set.
The beautiful curve of Regent Street seen as you enter from Piccadilly Circus, London
Every one of the buildings in Regent Street is at least Grade II listed. This means that for Historical or Architectural interest no building can be altered or demolished without permission - which is usually not obtainable. Sometimes only the façade is protected and internal alterations can be made.
The street is one of the first examples of Town Planning as it cuts a swathe through the otherwise straight streets of the West One (W1) postcode. After the Great Fire of London, in 1666, there was a move to plan the reconstruction of the medieval city but it took one hundred and fifty years before this first attempt took place!
Named after the Prince Regent (later George IV) it was laid out by the great architect John Nash and completed in 1825. Now it is a high prestige shopping and business street in one of the most expensive parts of London.
Hamley's Toy Shop, Regent Street, London
Hamley's,who style themselves
as "the world's most famous toy shop", have been in Regent Street since 1881 but were established in High Holborn, London in 1760 and there is a large Apple Store there too.
Regent Street is halfway through a 20 year £1 billion investment scheme and is continuously being improved and upgraded. 
With 2 km of shop-fronts it rivals Fifth Avenue and the Champs Elysée for high prestige shopping.
Just as in the game of Monopoly, the rents in Regent Street are incredibly high.
The Apple Store, Regent Street, London
Wishing everyone who visits this site(about 100 unique visitors per day) a peaceful and preposterous (sic) 2014.


Saturday, 14 December 2013

Painting of the Month (40) Dec 2013: Grayson Perry

OK, so it's not a painting exactly but.....
JANE AUSTEN IN E17, GRAYSON PERRY(2009), MANCHESTER ART GALLERY 
This is a decorated vase made by the British artist Grayson Perry who, regrettably, is more well-known for his cross-dressing than for his art. It is titled 'Jane Austen in E17'. E17 is the first part of the unfashionable north-east London postcode of the artist's studio.

Perry will often juxtapose discordant themes and ideas and this example is typical. Obviously it is beautiful and appealing to the eye with it's depiction of genteel and elegant late eighteenth-century ladies carved into a Chinese style vase. However, a closer inspection will reveal the use of photo-printed images behind the ladies depicting contemporary violence in the local area of his studio.
DETAIL FROM THE ABOVE WORK
The artist himself is a very interesting character. He is a married family man from the English county of Essex (same as me!) who has created an alter ego personality named Clare who is sometimes depicted in his artwork and provides a way for him to express certain facets of his life and personal history. Perry says that his female identity matches his low self-esteem because women are often seen as 'second-class' and so are potters, his chosen medium as an artist. Born in 1960, he came to public awareness after winning the important Turner prize in 2003 and this year (2013) he delivered the prestigious BBC Reith lecture series which was hugely enjoyable; he is a very open, honest and funny man. Definitely 'first class'!

GRAYSON PERRY

GRAYSON'S ALTER EGO 'CLARE'

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Sweet Thing

Another re-post from exactly three years ago. The years have not dimmed my love of this music......

Van Morrison: Sweet Thing

http://www.last.fm/
Sweet Thing
(Click on the above to listen. Open another window if you want to listen and follow the lyrics!))
And I will stroll the merry way
And jump the hedges first
And I will drink the clear
Clean water for to quench my thirst
And I shall watch the ferry-boats
And they'll get high
On a bluer ocean
Against tomorrow's sky
And I will never grow so old again
And I will walk and talk
In gardens all wet with rain 
Oh sweet thing, sweet thing
My, my, my, my, my sweet thing

And I shall drive my chariot
Down your streets and cry
'Hey, it's me, I'm dynamite
And I don't know why'
And you shall take me strongly
In your arms again
And I will not remember
That I ever felt the pain.
We shall walk and talk
In gardens all misty and wet with rain
And I will never, never, never
Grow so old again. 
Oh sweet thing, sweet thing
My, my, my, my, my sweet thing

And I will raise my hand up
Into the night time sky
And count the stars
That's shining in your eye
Just to dig it all an' not to wonder
That's just fine
And I'll be satisfied
Not to read in between the lines
And we will walk and talk
In gardens all wet with rain
And I will never, ever, ever, ever
Grow so old again.
Oh sweet thing, sweet thing
Sugar-baby with your champagne eyes
And your saint-like smile....

Lyrics like poetry.......
"And you shall take me strongly
In your arms again
And I will not remember
That I ever felt the pain"


Van Morrison has a reputation as a grumpy old curmudgeon but with a body of work like he has nobody could seriously doubt his commitment to his art. Ever the contrary one, he say's 'it's just a job'! If you still doubt my word listen to 'Into The Mystic'.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Royal Parks of London (1) St James Park

A magical view  across the lake in St James Park, London
St James Park is the second smallest of London's eight Royal parks at 57 acres. These parks were originally owned by the Crown and used for sport, mainly deer hunting. In 1532 Henry VIII purchased some marshland owned by Eton College in an area that had formerly consisted of a female leper colony and pig farms and he enclosed it to create a hunting park on his door-step. Successive monarchs improved the park until Charles II, upon the restoration of the monarchy after the English Civil War, had the park laid out in the way he had seen in France during his exile. Today the park is pretty much as improved by the architect and landscape designer John Nash in 1827. It's full of the most charming range of trees, shrubs, flowers and wildlife.
In 1664 the Russian Ambassador presented a pelican to the Court of St James (any Ambassador or High Commissioner to the United Kingdom is officially "Ambassador to the Court of  St James") this began a tradition of presenting pelicans as gifts and today there is an island of rocks in the lake, especially for them. There are also Egyptian geese, Greylags, Wood Ducks and many other beautiful birds. At one end of the park is Horse Guards Parade famous for the ceremony of Trooping the Colour and at the other end the best view of Buckingham Palace is to be seen.





Thursday, 7 November 2013

London Monopoly (19) Picadilly

I am resuming my journey around the London Monopoly board with Piccadilly - last of the properties in the Yellow set.

Piccadilly, looking towards Hyde Park Corner
Piccadilly runs east to west from Piccadilly Circus to Hyde Park Corner and is one of London's widest and straightest thoroughfares. It was once full of great mansions and houses and was formerly known as Portugal Street. A wealthy merchant named Robert Baker had a business there from the late 1500s making the lace collars called Piccadills which were fashionable at that time. It is reasonable to suppose that is the origin of the name it acquired in the 17th century although there are several competing theories.
At one time Piccadilly was known as "the most famous street in the world". It is now mostly famous for being the location of the Ritz Hotel and Fortnum & Mason the very posh grocery store and restaurant complex.
Piccadilly Circus with the statue of Eros
Situated at the epicentre of London's West End, Piccadilly Circus was always regarded as being at the very centre of the British Empire. As well as being a major crossroad it is also the metaphorical crossover point of the arts and of popular culture. It is surrounded by theatres and high-end architecture. It is an area that is always packed with tourists and students from around the world.
The statue of Eros is also known as the Shaftesbury Memorial as it was erected in 1893 in memory of the philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury. The base is made of cast bronze but, somewhat surprisingly, the statue itself is made of aluminium - a rare and precious metal at that time.

Next in this series: Regent Street. 
I will not be going to Jail. Probably.

Friday, 18 October 2013

E. Annie Proulx

Here's another repost from October 2006:

Annie Proulx (pronounced 'Proo') is a writer of wonderful fiction. Her densely written, observational style is packed with lots of detail and a very strong sense of place, such as the unfashionable parts of Newfoundland, Wyoming and Texas. Her descriptive writing always reminds me of John Steinbeck's work due to her obvious affection for the places and kinds of people who are not usually the heroes of modern fiction. She has a Dickensian knack of naming her characters in an outlandish way that very soon seems to be perfectly natural.
For example “That Old Ace in The Hole” (2002) features, among others, Jerky Baum, Pecan Flagg, Blowy Cluck, Coolbroth Fronk, and Waldo Beautyrooms. It’s the story of Bob Dollar, hired by Global Pork Rind to buy up small farms, in the Texas panhandle town of Woolybucket, so that they can be turned into hog farms under the guise of buying land for luxury housing. The book touches on the larger issue of pollution and depletion of the water table as a background. The story is fairly thin on plot but rich in character and anecdote.
“Accordion Crimes” (1996) lovingly tells the story of a succession of owners of an accordion. Annie Proulx is a dispassionate observer of life but she does not shy away from unpleasant scenes and can be brutally honest in her depiction of those who are the losers in life’s lottery.
“The Shipping News” (1993) is a magnificent novel that demands a lot from the reader, whose attentiveness will be richly rewarded. At the start of each chapter a picture of a different type of knot is shown and this turns out to have a metaphorical reference to the content of that chapter. It was turned into a successful movie with Kevin Spacey in 2001. In a similar way “Postcards”(1992) showed a drawing of a postcard at the start of each chapter with a message that was sometimes directly relevant to the story and sometimes just added background colour. In 1997 she wrote a short story which was published in a collection of her work called "Close Range: Wyoming Stories" (1999) which was filmed in 2005. That was the very successful "Brokeback Mountain", in which she typically tackled a subject that had hitherto been taboo in mainstream literature.
October 2013 update: As far as I can determine she has only published 'Fine Just The Way It Is' (2008) since my original post.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

High Flight

As I have not posted for a while due to time restraint I have decided to work my way back to Blogging by reposting some of my favourite previous posts. This one is from my former Blog in 2006.

High Flight

John Magee was born in Shanghai, China where his English mother and American father were missionaries. He was educated in England, became a US citizen and learned to fly in Ontario, Canada. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and was sent to England before the USA had entered the war. He became a Spitfire pilot and his love of flying is abundantly obvious in this poem which makes me feel as though I were flying when I read it. It was written on the 3rd of September 1941.
High Flight by John Gillespie Magee Jr.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of Go
d.

The poem is allegedly derivative of several earlier works by other writers but nevertheless stands up as a masterpiece of a description of flying. Three months after writing this poem, in December 1941, he was killed in his Supermarine Spitfire in an accident over Lincolnshire, England. Incredibly, he was nineteen years old.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Spotlight on a Website (7): Urban Sketchers

This is  the seventh post in a (very) occasional series based on some of my favourite Websites.
Urban Sketchers is a Blog where Sketchers from all around the world show their own drawings and paintings of the places they live. It's an absorbing diversion and a source of great pleasure scrolling through the latest contributions. I usually visit about once a month and there is always plenty of new stuff to admire. I have shown here some recent examples that caught my eye. 
Myeongdong Theater , South Korea by Yong Hwan Lee

Brad Catron, Guitarist by Thomas Thorspeken, Florida, USA
Dominican Republic by Stephen Gardner


Burgundy by René Fijten, France
I will off to the Algarve in sunny Portugal for a couple of weeks in a few days time so, from Tuesday, there will be a delay in my replies to all of your lovely comments. Thanks for visiting!
(Click here to go to the Urban Sketchers site) 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

London Monopoly (18): Coventry Street

This is the second property in the 'Yellow' set on my tour of the London Monopoly board.
The Prince of Wales Theatre, Coventry Street, London
Coventry Street is situated in the heart of London's West End connecting Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly Circus.  The street is fairly unremarkable but, as is often the case, there is something interesting to say about it. Currently it is where the Prince of Wales Theatre is situated and that's where the hottest ticket in town will get you in to see The Book of Mormon, "God's favourite musical".
It is also the location of the famous Café de Paris which since the twenties was the home of stars and royalty. Cole Porter was a regular and would often try out his new songs there. It was also a favoured haunt of Frank Sinatra,  Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly and many others. In March 1941 a huge German bomb came through four floors of heavy masonry and killed over thirty people. Perhaps the best-known victim of the Café de Paris bombing was the musician, Ken 'Snake-hips' Johnson. His parents had sent him from the then colony of British Guiana in 1929 because they had hopes of him becoming a doctor and they wanted him to have a British education. Somehow, I find individual stories more moving than that of mass killings. 
These days it is renowned for the various flamboyant night-club evenings where the 'ladies' seem to have some grey stubble and rather deep voices.

Two views of the luxurious Café de Paris interior as it is today

In the 1890s a French bookseller called Charles Hirsch had a shop there which became infamous as a source of homosexual pornography, (the word 'gay' had a different meaning then). Apparently Oscar Wilde was regular customer. Goodness what a portrait of London I am painting! I suppose that will be appealing or appalling according to your bent.....I say live and let live.





Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Painting of the Month (39) May 2013: Dong Kingman

I am marking my resumption of this Blog with a series of watercolours by Dong Kingman, 1911-2000, one of my favourite watercolour artists. He was a Chinese-American painter in the style of the California School ("The California Style of watercolor painting which flourished from the mid-1920's to the mid-1950's gave the traditional watercolor medium a bold new look.This new representational art, defined by a large format, free broad brush strokes, and strong rich colors, documented scenes and activities of everyday life on the Pacific Coast. California's cities and industrial sites, its beaches and harbors, and its vast open landscapes were interpreted by hundreds of artists using innovative new approaches to watercolor painting". www.calart.com)
You can double-click the pictures for a better view
442 Combat Team at Leghorn 1976.
I like the use of leaving parts of the paper white to convey bright sunlight.
I can't find any information about this picture but I really like the use of vivid colour and the simplicity of the design.
Rickshaws Under a Tree
There is a strong Chinese influence (apart from the obvious subject matter) visible here.
South Street Bridge 1955
Kingman worked in the film industry and many of his images appear to be on film-set locations. Sometimes cine equipment can be seen in the paintings. I'm not sure if that applies here but it definitely can be seen in the final picture below.
Four Men on a Bicycle 
For me, these paintings convey the pure joy of simply looking at them!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

I'm Taking a Short Break from Blogging........

An English country garden. Something nice to remember this Blog by!

......but I enjoy it too much to stay away for long!  I have been a bit busy lately (in a positive way) and have been a bit pressed for time. I'll be back soon - watch this space.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Painting of the Month (38) March 2013: Cezanne

Paul Cezanne: Still Life with Plate of Cherries, 1885-1887
I like this painting very much but it is not a great painting. I think it is very interesting because it says something important about the place of Paul Cezanne in modern art.
The first thing you may have noticed is that the two plates appear to be sitting on different planes. That is to say that the plate of cherries looks as though it has been tipped-up and we are viewing it from a slightly different angle than the plate of peaches and the vase behind them.
A generation earlier this would have been unthinkable and would have seemed to be incompetence but Cezanne knew exactly what he was doing. From a modern perspective he can be seen as a link between the Impressionists (he is generally labelled as a Post-Impressionist) and the Cubists. He was interested in binocular vision, wherein a separate image from each eye is combined to make one vision but, as we all know, if one closes alternate eyes two different views will be seen. He was also interested in seeing everything in nature as cones, spheres and cylinders. He later began to break the picture surface up into shapes. See, for example the picture below, completed in 1906, where he is experimenting with shape. 
Picasso and Braque further developed these ideas and, between them, founded the Cubist movement with multiple view-points being a distinguishing feature. Picasso and Matisse acknowledged that Cezanne "is the father of us all".
                                                                                    Pablo Picasso, 1909

I think the influence that Cezanne had on Matisse was as a colourist. Colour was always an important feature of Cezanne's output and Picasso himself acknowledged Matisse's superiority in that departrment.

Friday, 22 February 2013

John Prine and other favourite lyrics.

John Prine in 2012 (www.eventfinda.com)
I have written on previous occasions about the difference between lyrics and poetry. The primary difference, I suppose, is that lyrics are written to be sung and are often hung on to a melody and therefore become a part of some other entity whereas poetry usually stands alone.
But I do think that certain song lyrics raise themselves above the norm and can work as poetic verse alone. The obvious candidates are Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen but sometimes a song's lyrics can be deceptively simple. All this pre-amble is leading to this, the opening verse and chorus of Jon Prine's Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness:
You come home late and you come home early.
You come on big when you're feeling small.
You come home straight and you come home curly.
Sometimes you don't come home at all.

So what in the world's come over you?
What in heaven's name have you done?
You've broken the speed of the sound of loneliness.
You're out there running just to be on the run.
Perhaps read the words a few times then listen here.
I especially like the internal rhyming that matches the first and third lines. Simple lyrics that work like these are very hard to write.

Consider these lyrics too:
Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

That's from Dylan's Mr Tambourine Man of course.

These are from Cole Porter's Every Time You Say Goodbye:
Every time we say goodbye, I die a little,
Every time we say goodbye, I wonder why a little,
Why the Gods above me, who must be in the know.
Think so little of me, they allow you to go.
When you're near, there's such an air of spring about it,
I can hear a lark somewhere, begin to sing about it,
There's no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to minor,
Every time we say goodbye.


I could go on and on and maybe there will be a part two of this post but I'd love to hear about your favourite song lyrics if you feel that they can stand alone.....

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Flowers by Wendy Cope

This post is especially for All Consuming. But of course anyone is very welcome to comment!
Wendy Cope. Born England 1945.(www.goodreads.com)
Flowers

Some men never think of it.
You did. You’d come along
And say you’d nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts —
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

From Serious Concerns, Faber & Faber, 1992

Wendy Cope is the kind of poet whom it is easy to dismiss as lightweight or superficial but I would like to make the case that she is neither of those things. Although clothed in humour and wit, her words carry the weight of gravitas and of more serious matters. She cleverly uses the easy appeal to make a point, often about men: Men are like bloody buses-/ You wait for about a year/ And as soon as one approaches your stop/ Two or three others appear.
The poem centres around the themes of remembrance and intentions that were never carried out and there is a deep underlying sadness present. I think it is saying that the thought counts as much, or more, than the deed. The last stanza is heart-breakingly poignant.
You can watch Wendy reading this poem here

Saturday, 9 February 2013

London Monopoly (17): Leicester Square

Continuing my journey around the London Monopoly board with Leicester Square, the first property of the 'Yellow' set.
Early twentieth century view of Leicester Square
Photo used by permission. See www.arthurlloyd.co.uk 
These days Leicester Square is famous as the location of the best and biggest cinemas in London. Many Premiers are held there including James Bond and Harry Potter films. It is always packed with tourists and has a 'buzz' about it. However, you can gather from the photo above that it formerly had an elegance which has long gone.
Monet: Leicester Square at night, 1901 
The four corners of the park in the centre of the square have statues of Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Joshua Reynolds, John Hunter and William Hogarth. William Shakespeare stands at the centre surrounded by dolphins! The newest statue is that of Charlie Chaplin.
The square has long been a centre of entertainment and looked quite lively in the painting by Claude Monet, above, completed in 1901. I think it was painted just before an appointment with his Optician.
A useless fact: the distance between Leicester Square and Covent Garden underground stations is the shortest in the whole network at 300 metres.
Leicester Square after recent renovations, 2012

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Painting of the Month (37): Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer, Lilith, 1990. Oil, emulsion, shellac, charcoal and ash on canvas, with clay, women’s hair, strips of lead and poppy seeds, 12 feet by 18 feet, Hans Grothe, Bremen.
The vision depicted in this painting was inspired by a visit to Sao Paolo, Brazil. Kiefer was shocked by the urban sprawl and decay he saw there. He has always been fascinated by aerial views and this picture certainly looks like it was based on a photo taken from an aircraft. In fact he saw the view from a skyscraper.
The painting is definitely not pretty but the story behind it is fascinating and well worth knowing.
Firstly, I would like to say something about Lilith, whose name provides the title of this painting. According to stories of Jewish mysticism found in the Kabbalah, Lilith was a she-devil who was the first partner of Adam before Eve and was created out of the earth like Adam and not from his ribs. Her name can be made out scrawled across the top of the picture. I think the implication is that this nightmare vision is under her influence; she seems to bring devastation upon the Modernist architecture of Sao Paulo.
Now, sometimes accessing works of art is difficult, but I think that the more one has to work to understand or interpret the artist the greater the final appreciation will be. I hope you will read on and gain some insight and hopefully be interested in my ideas.
Some background to the artist Anselm Kiefer: He was born in Germany five weeks before the death of Adolf Hitler and grew up in the turbulent post-war years in a divided country. Like many Germans of his generation he has tried to come to terms with German history and guilt.
The picture itself depicts a kind of apolcalyptic haze which was created by the artist throwing dust and ash across it's surface. (Ashes to ashes, dust to dust?) He also uses tangled copper-wire stuck to the surface and has actually burned some of the surface area. The painting is huge and fills most of a wall in the Tate Gallery in London. To stand in front of it is an awe-inspiring and emotional experience. The scale is so large that it almost seems life-sized and can make you feel almost giddy.
Dresden, 1945
So, what is a very powerful image for a young German who is fascinated by aerial pictures? - Maybe it's the city of Dresden that was controversially destroyed by 800 Royal Air Force bomber aircraft followed, the next day, by 311 US bombers just to make sure. The city was pretty much undefended. This happened in February 1945 when the allies were about to win the war. I can find no reference to this connection anywhere, although it looks like a rather rather powerful linkage to me. Interestingly the Brazilian architect of Sao Paolo, Oscar Niemeyer (who died last December just before his 105th birthday) was of German descent and the Nazis were renowned for their love of modern imperial architecture - not unlike what Niemeyer created in Sao Paolo. Just saying, that's all.
Kiefer has used real woman's hair stuck to the surface of the picture. This possibly refers to a passage from Goethe's Faust. Here's a quote:
  Adam's wife, his first. Beware of her. 
  Her beauty's one boast is her dangerous hair.
  When Lilith winds it tight around young men
  She doesn't soon let go of them again.
  (1992 Greenberg translation, lines 4206-4211)
Finally, it's interesting to know where Anselm Kiefer lives now. It's in the old traditional Jewish quarter in Paris.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy is my favourite Leonard Cohen song - and there are plenty of others competing with it. Listen to it here
A notorious perfectionist: Leonard Cohen Photo: Clara Molden
I think the test of a good song is when virtually any cover version of it has some (and sometimes much) merit.
Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt recorded it here
Although I couldn't find it on You Tube there is great version by Dion if you happen to have Spotify. There is, of course, a great difference between lyrics and poetry but Leonard Cohen's lyrics can often be read as poetry:
Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone. 
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on. 
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song. 
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long. 
Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control. 
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul. 
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned: 
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned. 

Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them. 
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem. 
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn 
they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem. 

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon. 
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon. 
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night: 
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right, 
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.


The story, according to Leonard Cohen, is that he let a couple of girl hitch-hikers use his double-bed in a motel on a cold winter's night in Canada and, while they slept, he wrote the song in one go. He said that was the only time he wrote in that way.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Gun Deaths

Photo: Fall River Outfitters
Gun deaths in US 2011: 12,996

Gun deaths in UK 2011: 58

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Painting of the Month (36) Jan '13: Masque Blanc from Gabon


White Mask from Gabon, Africa
African art is extremely diverse and can hardly be described in a few sentences but this white mask made in Gabon (date uncertain, probably 19th century) is something specific to that country. There is a strong ritualistic tradition of mask-making there where they are used for many ceremonial occasions such as births, deaths and marriages.
This white mask is typical of those made by the Punu people of southern Gabon. It is made of wood (although they are often made of 'precious' metals such as copper). It is covered in pigment derived from white clay and the face, especially the half-closed eyes, is meant to evoke a meditative female serenity. The mask, however, would generally be worn by a male dancer in a ceremony. 
The influence of African art on major European art is often overlooked but look at this detail from a painting by Pablo Picasso!
Nude by Pablo Picasso 1907

Saturday, 5 January 2013

London Monopoly (16): Fenchurch Street Station

My journey around the board of the London version of Monopoly has reached Fenchurch Street Station.
Photo by 'Buildings Fan' on Flickr
With only four platforms on two levels Fenchurch Street railway station is probably the smallest of London's many rail termini. The current building dates from 1854 and was constructed on the site of the original station, the first to be built in the City of London.
It is really only a commuter station serving the southern part of the county of Essex to the east of London and north of the Thames which divides London in half. The façade which is original is quite elegant and is 'listed'. Inside the station is quite modern and bears no resemblance to the original structure. 
Fenchurch Street in 1905.
Photo Copyright: The John Alsop Collection
It is thought that there was originally a Roman fort on this site which was built to protect London following the revolt led by the female warrior Boudicca in AD 60. Many Roman artefacts have been found in the area including gold coins and mosaics. In 2008 a cellar was discovered dating from that time! Sometimes it seems to me that even the most unlikely places have an interesting history if ones digs down a bit, both literally and metaphorically.
Roman Mosaic found beneath Fenchurch Street while it was being built
The first Railway Book Stall was opened in Fenchurch Street station
Next in this series: Leicester Square