Thursday, December 31, 2015

watching the old year fading away

I've come, as a matter of course, to photograph the last sunset of the year, the fading away, this time, of 2015.  And, below, there's the ritualistic image of the sun going down.  But I couldn't help notice that LucyFur was observing me, with a not uncritical expression on her pretty tabby face.  Sometimes I think that that cat is my critical alter-ego, keeping me in line - but why the cynicism over the sunset photo, I don't know.  A distrust of photographic cliche?   

Happy 2016, everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

drawing with light

The New Mexico History Museum's exhibition of (largely) contemporary pinhole photography is still on for another ten days or so: a large roomful of people, things, places captured with a sense of their miraculous fragility in time.  But this show also feeds my passion for the Camera Obscura: there's one little room with a pinhole in it - and there, projected onto its wall, is the Plaza, upside down.  As with the big Camera Obscura that I visited in Havana in May, in some ways the most striking thing is seeing things moving - in this case, flags blowing in the wintry wind.  Staying there for a quarter of an hour, or so, what was even more extraordinary, in the end, was seeing the changing sky - and the moment in which the pinhole captured the rare moment of sun, burning bright.  All these images - and there are more where these came from - are different, showing the play of light on branches.  I was transfixed.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

fighting crows and a winter tree

The crows outside were very loudly disagreeing this morning - hard to tell what about, since neither seems to have bread or rabbit entrail in its beak.

The trees were thick with hoar frost this morning - startlingly beautiful, and peaceful enough to help us recover from that night in DFW ...

Monday, December 28, 2015

Forty hours ...

... that's forty hours, door to door.  If in doubt, start drawing your fellow waiting passengers.  Three cancelled flights, and today we were held up by freezing fog in Albuquerque.  But there are many far worse off than us.  We were initially told - as we rebooked, and re-re-booked - that we wouldn't be able to escape DFW until Wednesday at the earliest, and it was only the status that I've accrued through far too much air travel this last year that paid our ransom, as it were.

But it was very beautiful when we finally got here ...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Flyover House

Much, much earlier today - around twenty hours ago (and I'm still at DFW, waiting on a delayed flight - a flight that we were lucky to get seats on after our earlier flight was cancelled) I grabbed this picture from the Hammersmith Flyover, of the office block where my father spent thirty years or so of his working life.  It seems to be be being refurbished, though nothing can really improve the view of the M40 on one side and a cemetery on the other.  I'm amazed that it hasn't received the same tear-down fate as most buildings around here.  It must have been the most soulless place to work - I don't recollect my father ever complaining, but there again, I don't suppose he had a great deal of choice in the matter.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


Bear is, I reckon, sixty, or more probably sixty-one years old this Christmas, and, well, looks his age. Somehow he epitomizes the bitter-sweetness of going back to my parents' over Christmas ... - very familiar, very poignant.   But it was a good Boxing Day evening - who would have thought that the highlights would have been playing a YouTube video of the Trojan Marching Band playing the USC Fight Song (complete with the Song Girls), and my mother unearthing a roneo-ed undergraduate magazine from Oxford in 1943, complete with poems by Philip Larkin and Roy Porter.

Oh, and if Bear's fur looks a bit ragged, that's because when I was about three, and had some nail scissors to hand, I was convinced that if I cut the fur, it'd grow again.  I excelled in magical thinking, even then.

Friday, December 25, 2015

a festive day

That heading needs a gloss.  My father has taken vehemently against the word "festive" - as in "festive season," as opposed to "Happy Christmas" (and one sees his point, when one encounters, say, a notice on the Tube station saying "Festive Train Times").  So, with irony, everything becomes "festive."  Here's our Festive Christmas Dinner Table.

Here are my parents, engaged in their annual festive challenge of working out what the pictures on my calendar might be.

Here's my mother, giving Simba a festive stroke.

Here's my father, putting on a new festive tie (from Sheffield's Design Museum!).

Here's my father again, taking a festive picture of me taking a festive picture of him (no, the camera was not a present - but it was good to see him using it).

Here's my mother, wondering festively what books she's going to be reading.

And here's Alice, trying her very, very, very most valiant festive best.  Today would have been tough going without her - truly, I owe her, a millionfold for her festive wonderfulness.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

the wimbledon farolitos (and a Ridgway view ...)

So ... if we can't be in New Mexico, we can bring New Mexico to moonlit Wimbledon ... here are the farolitos, the little nightlights lit inside paper bags (weighted down with cat litter) lighting the way to the front door.  Or, as a neighbor who saw me doing this said - what a good idea - those steps are so dark - she's always afraid she'll fall down them ...  I'm now thinking ... next Christmas: maybe there's the potential to start a farolito firm illuminating South West London.

We were lucky with the weather for the lights: it was a rough and windy day in the morning - and wild in the afternoon, too, when I was walking along the Ridgway to my parents' house ...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

familiar forms (something for everyone)

Some ivy, on a lichened fence on Wimbledon Hill - one of my ways to and from school until I was 11, and representing an archetype of suburban vegetative growth;

a fore hoof of the white ram - one of the Dacre Beasts - in the V&A - that originally belonged (heraldicarily speaking) to Margaret de Multon, wife of Ranulph de Dacres, who built Naworth Castle (in Cumberland) in 1335, and that used to stand in the Great Hall on one side of our front door when we rented the Morpeth Tower between 1957-1961 (so I passed it every day for four years).  I always go and greet the Beasts (given to the V&A - estate duty) every time I go there (and we were there today to visit the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition);

and, at a family gathering this evening, Alice and my mother, both looking very pensive.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

o tannenbaum

Here's our little hotel-portable Christmas tree ... admittedly not the picture I thought I'd be posting (found I was shooting onto back-up card in camera and I don't have a downloading device for it with me ...) but actually, it's very evocative.  Indeed, it would have made a better Christmas card than the ones we sent ...

Monday, December 21, 2015

a visitor in London

It's always so strange coming back - and very familiar landscapes change ... Not that I make a practice of walking down Oxford Street at this season - but I was looking for a Post Office - and as an overheard French visitor put it, c'est tout trous.  Holes, everywhere, but at least here, they're keeping some facade, albeit strangely juxtaposed with some Christmas Lights.  At least, they're lit at night ... shades of the 1960s, when like so many small children, I suspect, I was taken up to London to See The Lights and the decorated windows (Liberty's were almost always my favorites ...).

OK, you want the tourist stuff?  Here it is!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

curating the cafe, curating antiquities

Two nights in a central London hotel is a special pre-Christmas treat.  Waiting for our room to be ready, we went round the corner for a coffee and to observe that this shade really should be known as old-London-cafe-green.  And then into the British Museum, where I hadn't previously seen their version of resuscitation of The Enlightenment Gallery - designed by Robert Smirke, completed 1828, to house the library of George III - and now full not just of G3 books, but of Enlightenment-style displays, especially about the Natural World, ancient archaeology, global cultures, religion, trade, discovery ...

So there were large shells (and reflections of the windows);

a large bust of the botanist Sir Joseph Banks;

and lots of miscellaneous things in cases.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


back to England, leaving behind icicles, blue sky, and plenty for the birds to eat.  Something tells me that it isn't going to be so bright and clear and picture-perfect-festive over the other side of the Atlantic ...

Friday, December 18, 2015

boiling a (perfect) egg

These will, of course, once turned into negatives, go into the waiting line of egg pictures waiting to be turned into albumen prints ... (negative, and fake albumen version, below ...).

... but that wasn't the original intention: the original intention was to boil an egg, having received an email from Alice to say that she was on her way back from town, and could I ...?   I don't have a lot of confidence at egg boiling (not something I'm that keen on), so looked up a recipe for how to make a perfect hard-boiled egg.

Put egg in saucepan.
Cover with cold water.
Bring to a rolling boil.
Take off heat, cover, and leave for 10 minutes.

This worked perfectly!  But whilst waiting for it to boil, its beauty was unmissable, both before and after the lens steamed up ...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Twister (and flash)

A triumphant eBay purchase arrived today: a box containing 9 Sylvania M3 Blue Dot flashbulbs (the original packet held 12).  After I'd bought them, the seller was so mystified as to why anyone should want these that he emailed me to inquire ... I explained that it wasn't the bulbs I wanted so much as the packaging, which wonderfully fits my argument about the association of flash - and flash bulbs - with modernity.  For here, on the packet, are four adults playing Twister - a game that was a prelude to goodness knows what.  I suspect that this dates the packaging to around 1966 ... I quote Wikipedia ... "Twister was submitted for patent by Charles F. Foley and Neil Rabens in 1966, and became a success when Eva Gabor played it with Johnny Carson on television's The Tonight Show on May 3, 1966.  However, in its success, Twister was also controversial. The company that produced the game, Milton Bradley, was accused by its competitors of selling "sex in a box". That accusation was probably because Twister was the first popular American game to use human bodies as playing pieces."

Well, yes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

back in the 'hood

It's so wonderful to be back in NM, even if only for a couple of nights.  Winter is emphatically my favorite season here (something I always say, emphatically, until the next season ... but I love the freezing air, and the smell of pinon logs, and the fact that out here in Eldorado, people are very good at lighting up their trees and cactus bushes.)  This display, just up the road, must have taken a great deal of time to string together ...

... and just for the record, here's the view from our front door earlier this evening

How could one not be happy to be back?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

back at la posada

I'm always happy turning up at La Posada when driving between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, but never more so than when driving out at Christmas time: there's a moment when we hit Winslow, and it's chilly outside, and Winslow is full of its Christmas lights, when I start to feel festive ... (though the Republican debate, made decidedly more palatable by a margarita, is doing its best to dissipate this sensation)

Monday, December 14, 2015

things people do at the beach

We had to drop Walter Gomez off at the vets today so that he can board there whilst we're out of town (long story - basically he has, in his adult cathood, turned into a monster bully towards one of the other cats - a nightmare scenario.  Yes, we do seem to have a dysfunctional cat family) and so followed this - to cheer up our dismal selves - with cupcakes (from Vanilla Bakery - and we ordered some for the vet's staff, too) and a walk on Santa Monica beach where - as well as many waves and seagulls - there was a Latino band making a very cheerful amateur video of themselves.

airport scene ...

Yes, this is what Manchester airport looks like at 4 a.m. - admittedly, not because I had a plane to catch, but because I was watching USC's lamentable volleyball performance against Kansas  (and when I did catch one, later, it was delayed by two hours, which meant I missed my connection to LA in Chicago, etc etc, but I'm now back home 28.5 hours after this photo was taken.  Phew).  And my only comment about the journey is that it was even wetter in Chicago than it was in Sheffield and Manchester yesterday.  I wouldn't have thought that possible ...