Monday, December 10, 2018

The Tate's slugs

I love these slugs!  I went to the Tate to see the Burne Jones exhibition (which was amazing, and brought home what a wonderful designer he was - someone visually preoccupied with what to do with a flat blank space of canvas to fill; someone concerned with pattern and texture; someone for whom the mythological or literary theme was really just an excuse).  But the slugs were the real treat ...

They're by Monster Chetwynd (Monster knows about transformation: she was christened Alalia Chetwynd which is, admittedly, a name one might wish to change, and has subsequently been known as Spartacus Chetwynd and Marvin Gaye Chetwynd).  These giant leopard slugs, adorned with energy efficient LED lights, are ranged in front of thin strands of lights draped over the Tate's facade like slug slime trails.  I think I'd better quote the artist/curator's statement: "Leopard slugs emit a blue glow when they mate" [the statement doesn't tell you that they're hermaphrodites, but I believe that to be the case[, "usually at night time.  This ritual reminds us that the darkness of winter can be a time of renewal and rebirth.  Alternative energy interests Chetwynd, and she is excited by the idea that light-emitting organisms may one day power street lights.  She wants the slugs to be fun and to spark discussion about where we source our energy."

Of course, draped outside of the Tate, late C19th iconic repository of a century of national art, this is too perfect an introduction to my current work to be true ... Mind you, a first quick search for C19th interest in slugs is, inevitably, about how to get rid of them - a discussion invariably conducted in bellicose terms about attacking this persistent enemy.  But an article in Fraser's Magazine for 1863 does a lot better, even distinguishing the wonderful property of the leopard slug - it spins its slimy trails.  And, of course, as light producers, they lead into the fireflies chapter - luminous beauty and potential utility lurking in what looks, in daylight, very brown and ordinary.

Sunday, December 9, 2018


One more Tube view, with December skies over Putney - and then, when I'd caught a 93 up to Wimbledon Village, everything was in full swing for a Village Christmas Fair,  Or, maybe, Fayre.  I'd missed Santa Claus arriving on horseback, but there was a large brass band playing Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and a funfair clearly (and successfully) aimed at the smallest people.  And families galore, with balloons.  It's a strange experience to be navigating The Festive Season whilst also firming up on funeral arrangements - I feel curiously detached, which is hardly a surprise, but also powerfully nostalgic for Christmases Past.  That's no surprise either - I think it was, by far, my mother's favorite holiday, and she always made a big thing of it - tree, cards, paper chains (that was a long time back), wreath on the door, Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, red candles, polishing the silver and brass.  That is, I was set to work polishing silver candlesticks and the brass coal scuttle.  I know that if such a thing as Wimbledon High Street turning Christmassy in this way, I'd have been taken along when I was seven, and I'd have loved every minute of it.  

Saturday, December 8, 2018

traveling by tube

This stretch of the tube, between Wimbledon and Earl's Court, is one that I've known for - quick count - probably about 53 years.  Quite a bit has changed, but not these particular views, nor the weather ,,,

Friday, December 7, 2018

suburban shops

A perfect example of inter-war mock Tudor, on Coombe Lane, heading towards Kingston.  I was taking in copy (or at least the digital files) of the order of service for my mother's funeral to be printed opposite these shops, and looked up and saw this wonderful winter's sunset.  It's a row of shops that for some reason always used to fascinate me when I was small: I'm sure I knew that they weren't real Tudor, weren't really old - but they were very different.  What I didn't know, I'm sure, was the area's history - from the medieval Cumbe, through to the gallows that was just up the hill, and the fact that the novelist John Galsworthy was born in the road that now bears his name - where Kingston Hospital is.  The real gems, however, are the domestic architectural examples from c. 1895 through to - well, these shops, which, from the mid 30s, probably grew up to serve the large brick houses.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

December rose

Luminous in the darkness of a December afternoon in London, a few stray roses are still battling onwards in a determined fashion.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

lingering autumn

A damp trudge around Wimbledon Village this lunchtime - but some lingering autumnal leaves on the wall outside the Dog & Fox suddenly provided some wonderful color.  Provide your own metaphorical reading.  In other photographic news, I was thrilled when my father (looking at the contents of yet another drawer) asked what he should do with his old camera, and accepted my suggestion that he might give it to me.  It's a Zeiss Contina from the late 50s, in a beautiful leather case, which I coveted for years and years and years as an exotic piece of technology that I was barely allowed to touch (although, indeed, I took my first photograph with it, of my father and grandmother gardening).  It produced, or produces, wonderful images.  Of course, I now find that it's disarmingly cheap to buy one on eBay - but so what.  This, for me, has always been the Ur Camera.  And indeed, it's possibly the reason why, with the little point and shoot that I carry everywhere - and with which I took the picture above - I still fetishize its Zeiss lens.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Happy 95th!

Happy birthday to my father today! - with one candle on his birthday cake, aka a nutella cheesecake brownie.  I couldn't fit the other 94 candles on ...