Saturday, March 31, 2018

garden shopping

To several locations this fine, but hazy Saturday morning: Potted, in Atwater Village, a really lovely pot and indoor plant and general garden-ish goodies store, where I took this, and we bought three medium sized blue pots and a rather fine sphere; and then to Bellefontaine Nursery in Pasadena - also much recommended - for many new herbs, and a Can-Can fern (how could I resist that name?) and some roses - they sell David Austin roses, and that was always my go-to supplier in England - including one called Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and another called The Poet's Wife.  Obviously I was not going to resist either of these, either.  It's feeling like spring.

an arrangement of animals

Our housekeeper, Maria, has many talents - and always enjoys creating surprises for us.  She's an arranger: the shampoo and conditioning bottles in the shower end up arrayed in a neat pyramidical shape.  A wooden cat hanging from a cupboard door suddenly can be found facing inwards, not outwards.  And any stuffed animals that happen to be around - well, they end up in an array of affectionate postures.  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

a sorrowful farewell to a cushion. Maybe.

In the grand scheme of things, this is not a major loss.  But I've had this cushion a long, long time - I bought it in the late 80s, when Liberty's briefly had a store on the High in Oxford - where Hobbs is now - and it was far more than I could afford at the time - I think £28.  Today, I realized that it's been seriously mothed.  I've inspected it from time to time for signs of moth, and it's always been very resilient, which has surprised me - we had such a bad infestation of them in Oxford, and they continue to surface from time to time.  Clearly, a bunch of them had been partying in this cushion.  Sure, I may yet put it in the freezer for 48 hours, and wash it, and and and - looking at this image, it's hard to believe that I won't at least give it a try.  And yes, I know it's just a kilim cushion, but it's been around a long time, and I'm very fond of it, holes and all.

And yes, I know we have a very lovely cat called Moth, but that's different.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

the strelitzia

It's a strelitzia reginae on campus - or a bird of paradise flower, or a crane lily, if you prefer.  It's native to South Africa, but also happens to be the City Flower of Los Angeles.  Who knew the city had an official flower? (but there again, I only learned from NPR this morning that the State of California's official vegetable is the artichoke).  It's called strelitzia in honor of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), who was married to George III (which can't have been a whole lot of fun): she was an amateur botanist who helped to expand Kew Gardens - where this flower was brought in 1773.  There's an C18th thatched cottage in the gardens which is named for her, and which - back then - used to have a little menagerie round it, with  a pair of black swans, buffaloes, a quagga (now extinct - a bit like a zebra, and one of those words that one dreams of being able to put down in Scrabble) and the first kangaroos to arrive in England.  There's a whole history of late C18th colonialism and natural history, right there.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

flower vases

At the end of a long, long day, it's great to come back to flowers on the kitchen butcher block.  Given that it was a day in which I seemed to have spent a lot of time discussing science and the natural world, in one format or another, it seems utterly appropriate that these calla lilies are sitting in an assemblage of test tube vases.

morning clouds

From one of the living room balconies, and then, about half an hour later, on the way to work.  Among other things, we're discussing Lorraine Daston's piece on Cloud Physiognomies in class tomorrow: these formations truly defy any easy attempt to name them - floating bits of cumulus mist.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Moth welcomes us back!

Someone is very glad to see us back in Los Angeles!  Probably LucyFur is, too, but she's not so demonstrative about it.  I've missed them, too ...

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March For Our Lives, Santa Fe

I was so pleased that we were in Santa Fe for today's march - it had such a great sense of community and energy.  The student speakers - from all the local schools - were terrific: for those of us not in high school, and not teachers in them, it was sobering, to hear the least, about the lockdown drills, about turning over tables to practice barricading oneself in the classroom; to have testimony to a daily sense of apprehension.  I'm sure that I'm not alone among the people there - how could I be - in saying that nothing like this ever crossed my mind when I was at school (albeit in a different country).  When I was the age of the students on the platform, it was protests in Hyde Park at the Greater London Council's plan to remove free bus passes (which was scandalous enough at the time, but not exactly deadly.

That was probably too of the women in the image below ... "grannies for gun control" (the sign in New Mexican colors, indeed).  I was very struck by the fact that the average age was not, shall we say, as young as that of the speakers.  But that didn't stop them being right there, emotionally and politically, with them.  And it wasn't just the speakers: Aaron Tenorio, a 16 year old from Santo Domingo Pueblo, performed an amazing self-penned rap song, "Seventh Generation."  I'm not sure if this video link will work - it's taken from someone else's FB feed - but if does, listen. 

And many, many thanks to all who helped to organize this.  I'm looking at you, Susan Miera ...

Friday, March 23, 2018

strangely folded clouds

This morning's walk: clouds folded above the Sangre de Cristos like layers of deep grey cotton wool.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

passion fruit

I find it hard to resist buying passion fruit when I see them (think: breakfast), even if they are wildly expensive.  Probably I should work out how to grow them.  They are seductively beautiful as well as tasting great ...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

prayer flags

We bought these in the summer, intending to string them across windows to dissuade birds (mostly towhees, who aren't very smart, and the occasional finch) from flying into them, but that somehow hasn't happened.  Rather, we pull down blinds to half-mast.  But I surprised these flags this morning, clustered together in the bowl, looking radiant in the one brief shaft of early morning sun that hit them.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

an inspired lunch

well, maybe not that inspired, but it was particularly good.  And pretty.  And in itself inspired by a recipe in Jessica Koslow's Everything I Want to Eat, the Sqirl cookbook (from down the road in Los Angeles).  So - tear up a couple of handfuls of dinosaur kale, some dill and parsley and cilantro, add a tablespoon of olive oil and three garlic cloves and whirr it up in the blender.  Then make a basic two egg omelette base, add to a smidgeon of olive oil in the saute pan, put the kale and herb mixture on top of that, a sprinkle of grated parmesan, and when it's bubbling, fold it over.  Add salt and pepper as you want.  Quick; simple; delicious.

Monday, March 19, 2018

inspecting the compost

Not a whole lot has happened inside the New Mexican compost maker since New Year's Day.  Although I left it damp and tumbled, as one might expect, it's hardly been the right kind of temperatures for it to steam and ferment inside there.  But I always like unscrewing the lid and seeing quite how far the decomposition is going - even if those red onion skins look as though they plan an act of defiant, stubborn endurance that'll continue for some time.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

leaving and arriving

On the one hand, my parents' street, at 5.20 a.m. - I was grateful and relieved that the roads were better after that.  On the other - the (windy) descent into Albuquerque this evening.  Not quite the end of the road - I had another 75 miles to drive (for some reason, the rental car manager decided to let me drive away in a Mercedes SUV, so they were a very smooth 75 miles, or would have been, if it hadn't been so windy).  I am inestimably glad to be back in Santa Fe at the end of all of that ...

Saturday, March 17, 2018

two versions of Wimbledon spring

First, let's go for the idealised one: the spring flowers (ok, the silk version of spring flowers), hanging in a shop window in Wimbledon Village.  It's a radiator-and-expensive-fittings shop, but the flowers/foliage, in predominantly white, green and purple, with a flickering of pre-Easter narcissus-yellow, are in the colors of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Association, so they're pointing forward to early July.

And this?  This is the reality.  My parents' garden this morning - I think it's probably snowier now: it's been coming down this evening.  For someone who has to get up sometime before the crack of dawn to make her way to LHR, it's not an encouraging sight.

Friday, March 16, 2018

back in an old stomping ground

In the summer of 1974, just after my first year at Oxford, I managed to snag a really excellent temp job for a couple of months, on the home news desk of The Times - just the kind of thing that people fight after now as interns, but I had a weekly pay packet.  In those days, The Times was on the Grays Inn Road, and I used to pass this Driving School almost every day.  It used to cause me a good deal of mirth - an Italian Driving School?  My experience of Italian drivers, the previous summer, meant that I treated whatever skills it might look to pass on with extreme scepticism.

And it's still there!  I was walking, today, from a hotel in Clerkenwell to a meeting just off Chancery Lane.  But lots of the old shops were no more - in their place, lots of enticing cafes and cake shops (you can tell that Easter is approaching) - I don't know where, these days, I would buy the apricot yogurts that were all that I lived on that summer.  

It was a terrific summer.  I was given masses of responsibility - which in those pre-Internet days, largely meant making phone calls and asking questions.  I had to call Buckingham Palace every morning and check the details that should appear in the Court Circular, and then type it up.  There was a great deal of running around the building with envelopes for people.  But there were many less routine moments.  It was a summer of IRA bombs, and one lunchtime I was left in charge of the news desk whilst all the reporters went off to the pub.  Suddenly the ticker-tape machine sprang into life: a bomb had gone off at the Tower of London ... no newsmen in sight, so I found the phone number for the pub, and sent the message that they'd better leave their pints and sandwiches and get moving ... Of course, it being The Times, we had endless bomb threats ourselves, and kept having to evacuate the building - all apart from Bernard Levin, their most famous columnist at the time, who flat-out refused.  He was dating Ariana Huffington at the time, and she occasionally drifted through, which lent an air of glamor.  It was, however, an almost all-male atmosphere - looking back, though, no one harassed me, no one hit on me, unlike so many other temp jobs before and after that one.  I suspect the news was too engrossing, in any case - not just the bombings, but this was the summer that Watergate broke and Nixon resigned - I can remember us all crowding around the news desk's one small TV to watch this ...

(and I guess the view from my old bedroom window counts as my old stomping ground, too)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

one last seaside morning

... meant that there was time for one last walk on the beach, during which time I met a number of new canine friends who thought that it would be great  fun if I could throw their soggy tennis balls for them, and I also got to celebrate that particularly English mode of The Bathing Hut.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

the English seaside

was, today, very wet.  My main aim, however - to go to Tate St Ives, to see the show "inspired by the writings" of Virginia Woolf was successfully fulfilled.  It's a strange show - some obvious material (as in pictures by Vanessa Bell, or Judy Chicago's design for Woolf's Dinner Table place setting; some wonderful paintings by women artists from the inter-war period that are rarely seen; some much more tendentiously relevant stuff (views from inside rooms; indeed, rooms (inevitably Of One's Own); some stuff that seemed further off yet, dealing with women's unconscious; and some excellent Land Art materials - though again, only linked to VW, really, by loose association.

It was great, though, to see Tate St Ives - with the grey-green sea behind it (I saw a seal or two swimming past, too, which were rather fine) - and I could have easily spent much longer there - I'll be back (maybe when the rain isn't blowing sideways in a 40 mph gale).  The view from my room isn't quite so idyllic today - but it's still pretty good.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

falling asleep to the sound of the waves

but, I am sure, there will be no going to the Lighthouse tomorrow.  Not, of course, that I was personally planning on going in a small boat in choppy seas to visit it, but Yes, that, out to the right of the top picture, is supposedly the lighthouse that Woolf had in mind in To the Lighthouse - the lighthouse that (for all the novel's set in the Hebrides, vaguely) Woolf would have seen from Talland House, here in St Ives.  The bottom view is the one from my bedroom window: tomorrow, I think, it'll be obscured by driving rain and gales, so I'm glad to have seen it like this ...

Monday, March 12, 2018

a final blast from NYC

A handsome bird, and other street art;

a wall of faces, appearing behind scaffolding at the top of a building;

a window full of shockingly overpriced, distressed, Western-themed ultra-too-ultra-trendy kids' clothes that will be outgrown in six weeks;

and a living wall that seems to have come off life support.

And now, the dubious joys of Newark Airport.  It would be a wonderful thing if the next time that I'm back in NYC it isn't freezing cold - much though I love the city, three chilly trips in as many months has been, well, chilly.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

new york forms

A few NYC views: yarn bombing on Christopher Street;

a view from the High Line;

some photo manuals piled high - an installation in the Zoe Leonard show at the Whitney (with the Hudson beyond);

and an installation on the High Line by Hooper Schneider, Section of Intertidal Landscape (Hair Metastasis) - a simulated tide pool with a reef of - no, not seaweed, but synthetic hair.  It managed to be beautiful and disturbing all at the same time: rockpool beauty and rot and decay and marine detritus washed together.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

NYC walls and doors

I so love being back in NYC! and have all the energy back that first electrified me back in 1979, on my first visit (when I was sharing a room with three Australian nurses and three million cockroaches).  The walls and doors are busier, I think, than they were then, even if some landmarks remain the same ... Also (and since this is my third visit in as many months, and the temperature is bearable outside), I'll make the obvious point that, within reason, the warmer it is, the better it is, and this may play a considerable factor in my recharging ...

Below - the view from our hotel room window.

Friday, March 9, 2018

an unexpected view (and a genuine homage to American Airlines)

This is from the air, somewhere near Las Vegas.  I'd not been expecting to land in Las Vegas en route to NYC - but there was an On Board Medical Emergency, in the row almost opposite mine.  Unresponsive woman.  Very unresponsive woman - a young woman, about five months pregnant.  Code Red.  The flight attendants sprung into action; luckily there was a very efficient and practical gynecologist on board and she gave directions; oxygen, defibrillator, the works.  The passenger was on her own, so no immediate support (or, I thought, no one immediate who was with her to be hysterical and panicky, since she wasn't in a place where support would have been any use, other than the medical attention she was getting).  The pilot turned the whole large plane around; we landed in Vegas; paramedics slid the woman down the aisle on a super-slidey flat raft - something I'd never seen before - she was taken off - I so hope that she'll make it.  We refuelled; took off; gave the doctor a big round of applause.  I was very, very impressed that all the AA staff knew exactly what to do; stayed calm; followed procedures, and were totally great throughout.  As the captain said, turning around isn't something any of us want to do, but it's better than losing a life.  By far.

And Alice, because she is wonderful (and was on another - United - flight) - managed to stall and stall and stall at our dinner reservation, so even though I was very late indeed, and she'd eaten, and all the Friday night bouillabaisse had gone, I still made our table at Balthazar ...

Thursday, March 8, 2018


Stuck in traffic on the way home - I don't know what they might have offered to soothe my weary body and spirit inside here, but believe me, if I could have jumped out of the car and stocked up on some supplies, I would have done.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

on not being able to photograph smell

For such a resolutely visual person as I am, it's hard to be confronted with a demand on another sense.  In the middle (and, yes, either end) of a busy day it was hard trying to find Something to photograph today - or, rather, to remember to do so.  When I came home, though, I was so overwhelmed by the strong scent of a pot of jasmine in our front yard that, just for once, it superimposed itself over everything else.  So (and, of course, without flash), here's a tribute to the strong smell of jasmine in the dark.

(and, also, why is it that jasmine scent, however expensive, never manages to smell quite as wonderful as jasmine itself??)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Today has been Recruitment Day in Art History: that's meant seven prospective students coming to my grad class this morning (on Victorian Color); their tour of the Fisher Art Museum on campus and then their visit to the Getty, and then dinner at a colleague's house, where - admittedly with the aid of patio heaters - we could all admire the view and the Southern Californian climate.  We're hoping the latter is a particularly seductive recruitment tool, given the weather forecast and travel turmoil on the east coast ...

... and I want them all to come!  Then they can all become proud Trojans; learn to say Fight On! with just the appropriate degree of irony, and add cardinal and gold items of apparel to their wardrobe.  Or simply wear a pin ... This was the array I found myself staring at in the University Bookstore today (that should be "Bookstore"), when I'd gone in to buy a phone charging cable ...

Monday, March 5, 2018

abstract street art

In my occasional but ongoing project of documenting junction boxes within LA and beyond - this is in South Pasadena, en route to the Huntington, which technically qualifies as Beyond, I suppose - let me present to you this pair of decorated electrical-wire containers.  So may boxes are painted figuratively: this are careful abstracts, that seem to go well with these modest period bungalows.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

breakfast in san francisco

Did I order this because I knew it would make a spectacular image?  Well, just maybe.  But then, so would the avocado toast have done (complete with pale dusky pink pickled shallots, and a soft boiled egg).  And then there was the Nutella filled brioche - but I ostentatiously looked the other way. The pink comes from dragonfruit: there's pineapple and banana and coconut milk blended in, and then all these seeds and goji berries and dried mulberries etc on top ...  Let me recommend Jane on Fillmore, should you be unlucky enough not to know it already.

And here's the view from my balcony this morning.  It was tough leaving ...

Saturday, March 3, 2018

conference and other art

The Hotel Whitcomb, where the conference I'm attending is taking place, has definitely seen better days.  It started existence just after the 1906 earthquake/fire, as part of the rebuilding, and since it was going up very close to where City Hall was being reconstructed, it actually served as the city hall until that building was finished.  In its time, it must have been extremely grand - panelling, and marble, and mirrors, and Tiffany glass.  Only half the glass in the ballroom (where Catherine Gallagher gave a plenary talk today, and where I was on a plenary panel yesterday, and where we had a Banquet Lunch - an occasion at which I was very glad to have read and chosen the offerings carefully in advance, since salmon is, well, salmon, and some people were very nonplussed to be served a toasted chicken salad sandwich) - only half the glass was illuminated, but I confess I rather liked its Arthur Rackham like mysterious gloom.

The conference seminar rooms were mirrored and early C20th opulent, so that speakers and audiences could disappear into an infinite set of recessive mirrors.

Hats off to the conference organizers, not just for running a great show, but for all the details that have made it memorable - like the conference aluminum water bottles (are these the new Bags? if so, I like it), and perhaps above all, the fortune cookies, made with mottoes from authors who celebrate some kind of centenary this year.  I was super-pleased when Marx popped out of mine.

But I spent the afternoon in SFMoMA - today they had the first US showing of British/Ghanaian artist John Akomfrah's Vertigo Sea (it's on till September: go).  45 minutes; 3 simultaneous screens; much beauty; much horror of human cruelty (slavery, migration, animal slaughter, whaling); some slightly surreal people in Victorian dress with abandoned furniture and weirdly positioned clocks and a stuffed golliwog, in wild Scottish (maybe Irish) landscapes.  I'm not sure those bits came off.  And indeed, the migrating birds and butterflies; the swirls of sea and seaweed (yes, seaweed!) were at times rather over National Geographic.  But the effect was accumulative and mesmeric, and left me torn between wonder and despair.  Mostly despair, really.

Many other good things (this was my first time there since their complete renovation - the interior architecture is fabulous): a new Rebecca Horn piece in which a mechanical butterfly periodically flaps its wings inside a glass case; David Brenner's The Living Wall with Peter Fischli and David Weiss's Snowman in front of it; and lots of Louise Bourgeois spiders.  They are so photogenic - the bottom ones are as if Epstein's Rock Drill had slimmed down and taken up line dancing.