Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Monday, 1 March 2010
Moore's the merrier
My 14 year old son likes him; his 9-year-old brother tugged me round the exhibition, saying they are all the same. He's got a point, I suppose.
Friday, 26 February 2010
I realise that my last picture was so gloomy that I should efface the effect with something more cheerful. Well not much more cheerful but here is a photo of a giant chimney in a car park of Lidl at Swalwell, Co.Durham. There it is, splendid, marooned. Swalwell scrabbles up the hill to keep out of the way of Gateshead which threatens to eat it up (though it could find it indigestible.) Somebody grew a giant cabbage at Swalwell in the 19th century. Life's full of variety, you have to admit.
Monday, 1 February 2010
It's my birthday soon and if anyone is wondering what to get me, can I drop a hint? I did like the Van Gogh doll which I noticed in the National Gallery yesterday; one of the ears is attached by Velco and so can be taken off if the little mannequin is suffering a fit of paranoid rage. But wow, £ 18 -- that would buy a lot of sunflowers.
Sunday, 31 January 2010
Have just been washing the mud of Cumbria off the car, though it is perhaps unfair to categorise it as just Cumbrian; I've also been to Oxfordshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire, on an epic tour of villages, undertaken at a cracking pace. I've been doing quite a lot of these tours recently for a book I've been writing for Bloomsbury. I've set myself the task of visting all the ones I mention and there are 500 of them. It's pleasurable but brisk.
Cumbria is one of the most beautiful of counties because it doesn't have much industry beyond farming. But like so much of the countryside, it used to. I ended my odyssey at Nent Head, established by lead-mining Quakers in the 17th century. It still seems a lonely sort of place, heaps of frozen snow still on the ground, smoke from a few chimneys being the only visible sign of life, except for a woman walking a dog. She said that people can still remember the days when it would be cut off from the nearest little town, and people would have to dig through ten foot snowdrifts to get bread. A tough place.
Troutbeck in the bright morning light was a contrast: all National Trust loveliness. Here's a picture of it. I blush for the inadequacy of the photo, Troubeck being a muched photographed place. I can least say that I have captured a unique moment. There was nobody else about when I was there, except for a lad on a quadbike and he didn't seem to have a camera.
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
So this is utopia?
I've been reading William Morris... you know, the tousle-headed socialist who was big on the crafts. News from Nowhere, published in 1890, was pretty hopeless at imagining life in the 21st century. Of course, Morris was being utopian: he didn't think of it as a prediction. So he dreams up a world without money, where men and women work for the love of it, making beautiful garments and tobacco pouches which they are pleased to give away, and working co-operatively at building and haymaking for the fun of it. Food is dispensed in communal halls, and all for free. TheHouses of Parliament have become redundant, because decisions are taken locally, by working people, and serve as a dung store.
Quite a lot of things have not gone right, according to Morris's prescription, since his day. He would have gone mental to see the way suburbia has sprawled around London. But actually, some aspects of modern life are just as Morris would have liked. He imagined everyone looking much younger than in the Victorian period -- and they do. The Thames is clean. Westminster Abbey used to be black with smoke: not now. Morris once said he thought electricity would be a good option to replace steam trains -- and look there are electric cars plugged into their charge points on West End streets. If that isn't a smidgeon of utopia, what is?