On A Misty Morning

2013-05-06 11.28.30

This is the pier in Hastings.  The day before had been warm and sunny, and something about the cooling over night caused the length of the coast in East Sussex to be covered in this morning mist on Bank Holiday Monday.  It was considered significant enough an event for the mist air over Brighton to be featured on the local television news (which might say more about the quality of the news, and our love of discussing the weather, especially over Bank Holiday Weekends, than it does about the rarity of the meteorological event).

The pier has been through a few trials and tribulations in the recent past.  Over the ten years I have known Hastings it has grown more and more shabby and less and less of it has been open for access, and then, a fire nearly destroyed it a couple of years ago.   I believe there is now a plan, and some money, to restore it.  I hope so, as seeing it, even in its sadly bolted and barred, dilapidated state, on a morning like this, adds so much to the appreciation of the landscape and the sea.  The waves lap against the shingle beach, but we want to see more, to reach out; we want to walk out over the sea and hear and feel the water lapping under our feet.  There is something about the idea of a pier as a place of entertainment and promenade that feels integral to our seaside heritage.

With thanks to Ailsa for suggesting beaches as a theme for this week.

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Technology Eating Time

IMG_2979As a late adopter of most technology, when I do finally take the plunge it usually means a massive leap in sophistication which then involves me in a massive amount of learning and time wasting.

I’m currently in the middle of one of those phases, where time disappears into the jaws of feeling utterly incompetent, watching online instructions and the locating of long forgotten passwords, trying to get a new bit of kit to work.  It’s shiny, with a swishy swipy screen and I expect I’ll be able to use it fairly soon, fat fingers notwithstanding.

So, in the meantime here’s a photo of Hungerford Bridge by night(!)

Mountains – Photo

IMG_0098There’s never a wrong time for a photograph of mountains, is there?  And my photo archive and stacks of albums contain many images of jagged edges, snow topped peaks and red faced walkers pausing half way up to either put their jumpers on, or to take them off.

This is my favourite of them all, I think, because when I look at it, I remember exactly where I was, and how up until the moment the clouds cleared, how weary and resigned I had been feeling.

It was in Nepal, and it had been a long haul of a day, by the end of which I was wondering why I was putting myself through all the slog of climbing ever higher, and anticipating, with no great enthusiasm, another cold night in a tent.  We were sitting inside a tea-house having a hot drink and playing travel Scrabble.  The word game was compulsory as the group leader used it to monitor our cognitive function at high altitude, which at that stage wasn’t that impressive as evidenced by the fact that none of the words on the board were longer than four letters.

The day had been overcast, and consequently dusk seemed to be falling more quickly than usual.  And then we looked out of the window and saw the clouds part and the mountain appeared.  With more energy than I had felt since we’d set off from Lukla, I leapt up, and ran outside with everyone else to catch a better view.  It was fleeting; within a minute or so, the peak had disappeared again, and I began to doubt that it had ever been there.  Maybe it never happened at all.

Shadow – A Photo

IMG_2918I love it when a random photograph taken simply because the camera was at hand, and a pattern or a shape has caught my eye, gets an outing.  I would never have taken a shot like this before the age of digital photography; or I might have done, but it would have been a mistake when I was replacing the film, or accidentally pressed the shutter button storing it away.  But these days I take all sorts of insignificant things, if the light intrigues me, or I want to remember the colour of something, or, just because.

In my drawing classes I have discovered that not everyone is drawn to pattern in the same way as I am; and in my writing I know that the telling detail is what can define a character or a situation.  Some day soon, knowing the colour of freshly fallen snow on a Parisian balcony under the street lamps, and remarking how the flakes can collect in the curves and corners of the balustrade, are going to be important, I’m certain of it.  It always a good thing to be a noticing sort of person……

And thanks to Ailsa for giving me just another excuse.

Glass

IMG_2223This is a window in the Fishermen’s Museum in Hastings, a deconsecrated church by the beach.  It’s a tiny museum, but still has an old fishing boat as its centrepiece.

Hastings has been a fishing town for centuries, but what makes it unusual is that it has no natural harbour, so the boats are dragged out of the sea on chains to moor them safely.  When they are returning from fishing, the skippers have to race the boats towards the beach so that the momentum will carry them high enough onto land to catch on the shingles and not be floated back out on the tide.  The boats are so small it’s hard to believe that they can be ocean going, but they are.

Some of the fishing yards have been preserved and the tall black multi-storey fishermen’s huts, like the ones depicted behind the man at the bottom of the window, still stand on the beach.

Inevitably, as in any such community, there are tales of tragic losses, when boats disappeared with their crews, as well as of astounding rescues.  So even though the building is no longer a church, it feels entirely appropriate that it should be decorated with a stained glass window, with all of its associations of memory, memorial, contemplation and celebration.

Fans

IMG_0936I was reminded this week of what a poor shopper I am.  I frequently feel over faced by the racks of merchandise that faces me when go into shops, and the idea of ‘retail therapy’ as a relaxation is a complete mystery to me.  I ventured out into the January sales as gingerly as ever and entirely failed to buy anything, even though I had a budget and a list.  Maybe it was having the list that was the problem; I’m a much better impulse purchaser, when things simply jump out at me and demand to be bought.

There’s much more pleasure in looking at things which I know are far too expensive to afford: there’s no pressure to buy or to make a choice, instead I can just admire them.  Sometimes seeing one beautiful thing is enough, other times, seeing a multiplicity of them is better, especially when they are carefully arranged.

I saw these fans in a workshop in Kyoto in Japan.  We’d had the opportunity to see how the fans were made, in a small business, by hand, by elderly women sitting around a table in concentrated work, folding and working the paper, and blowing between the layers to create the space into which the wooden batons could be inserted.  Lovely to look at, no need to buy, and the photo to remember it by.

A Little Bit of Festive

IMG_0016I thought you might like to see a slightly festive shot from the archive.   It’s in Iquitos in Peru, a town accessible at the time of my visit, by only either air or on the river.

I have no idea why there is a dolphin on top of the fountain, or indeed if it is a dolphin.  The Santa hat and scarf might be because it was November, but the idea of wearing a hat in such a hot humid place in the middle of a rainforest is a bit odd.

The ubiquity of the paraphernalia of northern cold climate Christmas iconography is very puzzling, isn’t it?  Why do you think that is?

On a Circular Roll

IMG_2911Not obviously photogenic circular things have been attracting my attention over the last couple of days.

This weekend, a friend brought a box of tea cakes to our writing group, and immediately we were thrown back on memories of childhood.  For those of you not familiar with a Tunnock’s Tea Cake, they are a biscuit topped with s sort of soft white marshmallow all covered in a thing layer of chocolate.  They are manufactured in a factory on the outskirts of Glasgow somewhere, and they are an intrinsic part of nostalgic memories for many Scots.

There is absolutely nothing nutritious about them, and they disappear in your mouth as soon as you take the first bite.  But there is something delicious about the first taste, while at the same time a box of six might be just a bit too much to eat alone.  The fact that they are wrapped in silver paper is important too; the unwrapping is a vital part of the ritual.  It wouldn’t be the same if someone else had unwrapped them first.

 I suspect they will last forever, so I’ve put them to the top of the cupboard in the hope that I won’t be tempted to eat them all at once.

It’s All Material

IMG00665-20121019-0948Ailsa suggested circles as a theme for this week, and I thought of this photo I took a month or so ago.  It’s probably a little bit odd to take a photograph of other people’s detritus in the first place, and then to post it and relate it to the rather lovely shots of fountains, flowers and architecture published by other people, is even odder.  Maybe it’s because Costa is in the news this week, largely on the basis that’s not Starbucks which is currently the subject of attention because of its tax affairs. (I can feel my fingers itching to write something on that topic whenever I read one of the more confused and under informed articles that are everywhere at the moment, but I’m not sure you’d be as interested in that as I am.)  But for whatever reason, that’s the way it is this week.

The cup of coffee’s mine, but the empty sugar sachets and cigarette butts were already there when I got to the table.  It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed, since the introduction of the ban on smoking inside any public building: the area outside, and any tables there, are dominated and occupied by people smoking.  I understand why, but it’s a topsy turvy kind of thing that the atmosphere can smell cleaner inside a coffee shop than outside.

But I suppose I was more interested in what the little pile of rubbish could tell me about the characters who left it there.  It’s one of the things that story tellers have in common, probably, that they look at things, ordinary as well as peculiar, and wonder what narrative led there, and what manner of people have left their traces behind.

So, who takes that much sugar in their coffee?  Did they try to arrange the empty packets in a pile which has been disturbed by the wind? Or were they untidy and left the paper where it fell?  Were they the types who shake the sugar sachets vigorously before tearing the ends off and then stir their coffee for longer than is really necessary?  Or were they simply slapdash?  How many people were there?One with a bad cold, perhaps, who tried to leave everything tidy, but who was foiled by his companions?

Was the smoker one of those who stubs out their cigarettes with little stabbing actions, or a deliberate twisting and pressing grinding into the ashtray?  Stub ends always look like they’ve been subjected to violence, but then, without the smoking, the techniques they tried to teach him at the anger management course are even more useless and ineffective.

Or maybe the table should have been cleared hours ago, but the shop was just a bit short staffed because a member of staff hasn’t arrived yet because of the black eye he sustained when he walked into a door by accident last night.  Or at least he’s going to tell them it was an accident.

Mystical?

Ailsa has suggested ‘mystical’ as a prompt for a travel photograph this week.  It is a word that sent me to the dictionary, as I had a feeling that it is one for which the meaning has subtly changed in recent years.  My Concise Oxford dates from 1976, when I received it for Christmas, so I knew would give me a base definition against which to test my supposition.

For mystical, its definition is ‘of mystics or mysticism; having direct spiritual significance’.

As an adjective it denotes spiritually allegorical or symbolic; occult, esoteric, or of hidden meaning.  A mystic, is one who seeks by contemplation and self surrender to obtain union with or absorption into the Deity, or who believes in spiritual apprehension of truths beyond the understanding.  Hence mysticism (often derogatory).

For some reason, I like that ‘often derogatory’.

There is little mention of the mysterious or atmospheric with which we might associate the word today, although the allegorical, occult or the idea of hidden meaning, gives a hint of the trend in usage.

Focusing on the idea of spirituality, here is a head in St Margaret’s church in the grounds of Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk.  I don’t know who it is or why it’s on the wall in the church, but there is something satisfying about the simple lines and the smooth shapes, even if his flat head might only be for resting a candle on.

Rereading ‘one who believes in spiritual apprehension of truths beyond understanding‘ has a certain unexpected synchronicity in the wake of the discriminatory decision by the Church of England yesterday not to allow women to become bishops.  Mysticism in action?

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