Thursday, 29 September 2016

Runfold Palace and the Towers of Jocasta


This title was inspired by The Forests of Was, as imagined by a fellow blogger's spelling correction  - or lack of. It puts me in mind of Doctor Who and the Thyme Lawns. Old-timers here will remember that it is actually a misreading of some house signs spotted by me from a passing bus near Farnham, almost 50 years ago.

The signs actually read, 'Runfold Place', 'The Towers', and 'Jocasta', but we did not know this until an expedition party had been sent out to explore the exotic location.

I had been in a dream when flying past on the bus, and this was an everyday occurrence when I was young. Sometimes I would in such a deep one, that I would watch the bus pull up, other people get on, then watch it pull away again before realising that I should have got on it as well.

If you look at my avatar here (it is a cropped photo of me when I was five years old) you will actually see the propensity to dream in my eyes. I was a dreamy kid.

These days I do most of my dreaming at home. It's safer. Our home does not have a name which will give you an idea of what we aspire to dream about. It is a number against a street name.

How many 'Dunroamin's are there in the leafy suburbs of G.B.? How many 'Lindisfarne's? How many 'Shangi-La's?

I thought that 'Jocasta' was a game played with a rubber ball which is tethered to a wooden block - in fact I know it is. I stopped myself from buying an old set for sentimental reasons the other day.

So I sit here at home, dreaming, whilst I wait for a delivery of specialised adhesive to arrive from Germany which will send me back out into the harsh, real world again.

You have to remember that cooking has become a chore for me, so I find no escape in recipes. I must try to change my attitude - take pleasure in the small, day to day things. I must grow older if I find the time.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

All alone in a dark wood


Here is where I went yesterday. Alfred's Tower on the edge of the Stourhead estate. 196 feet high, built from 1.2 million bricks in 1772 (I think) to commemorate a battle between King Alfred the Great and the marauding Danes on this spot, sometime in the Dark Ages. Alfred won.

There is a scar in the brickwork on the left-hand side from when an American plane flew into it one foggy night around 1942. The tower survived but sadly the crew did not.

Stourhead House itself was built for the Hoare family, who were - and still are - bankers, in the 18th century. Their reputation has now surpassed Cootes for longevity and exclusivity. Some of my clients have Hoare accounts. I wish I could say, "My mother was a Hoare!"

I used to know these woods intimately, but now I find they have grown out of all recognition. I could not find my preferred entrance into them, and toward the end of my walk I actually got lost and had to tramp through brambles to find the path back. If it were not for the fact that I knew I should being going uphill, it would have taken me until dusk to find the tower again, by which time it would have been as invisible as it was to that WW2 flying crew.

It is strange to be suddenly thrown back into childhood by a brief moment of panic, alone in a dense wood. You talk to yourself in the same way that you would advise a child too, using logic to dispel fear.

I didn't find any edible mushrooms, but this is the beginning of Autumn.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A walk in the woods


The end of the Indian Summer has put the lid on the Tupperware box which is G.B. out of season, and watching the documentary filmed in Alleppo last night left us exhausted with impotent grief.

John also threatened to mothball Going Gently, and made this threat/announcement here on my blog. Unthinkable.

So today, I am going to spend a few hours in a forest in energetic meditation by going on my first mushroom hunt of the season. I haven't told H.I. this yet, partly because I feel guilty enough about taking the day off as it is, and partly because mushroom forays are just not meditative if you are not on your own. It would be like fishing at a garden party if you attempted it with more than one other.

Every year, the commercial pickers at The New Forest make life more difficult for amateurs than the last. It is almost war there now, I am told, and the situation hasn't improved with the arrival of all the Eastern Europeans who have been brought up to hunt for the family since they were kids.

It has got so bad in these big forests, that most of them have imposed a blanket ban on picking of any kind, but the lure of hard cash from restaurants means that the commercial lot ignore it completely. There is a fungal war about to break out in the woods.

The forest management have tried to make up for it by having official identification outings, but what is the point of trooping through the trees with twenty others, only to be shown mushrooms which are the best edible varieties, then told that you are not allowed to pick, let alone eat them?

If I return with just two good mushrooms, then I will do what I always do and have them as the centrepiece for tonight's dinner. Sliced Penny Buns (or Ceps, or Porcini)  or Hedgehog mushrooms browned in butter with maybe some scrambled egg on the side is a seasonal bonus which caps off a walk in the Autumnal woods wonderfully, but to go home empty-handed and exhausted is also satisfying to the soul.

Tomorrow, most of the specialist materials I bought yesterday (including a biocide...) for work are due to arrive. Tomorrow can wait.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Never mind the bollocks

Think of Allepo. Sadly, only Brits will be able to view this:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07xnzwp/panorama-aleppo-life-under-siege

State of emergency?


I am worried that the village of Trelawnyd may have been taken over by aliens.

John Gray's latest post of last night only has 4 comments - and 3 of them are from me! Maybe that is why The Prof took to his bed...

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Poor boy



It's hard being a man. It's even harder being a boy.

I used to think that women and girls had it easy, if you disounted childbirth. From the male perspective - where else? - it always seemed to me that boys were challenged to prove themselves at every turn and in every situation, until they ceased to be a threat to their peers or were no longer a viable proposition to girls. I think I will have to blame my mother and father for this, and move on.

There is an old Sikh warrior in Rudyard Kilpling's 'Kim', who just cannot move on. He constantly harks back to the days when he was young, strong and very handy with the sword he still keeps by his side at all times, occasionally unsheathing it and slicing through ghosts as if they were air.

Given the choice between eternal life and eternal youth, most men would opt for the youth elixir, and women would like both bottles so that their children remain at their cutest forever. This is where the problem lies - well, more of a conundrum really.

I had a very melancholy dream last night about an old girlfriend from forty years ago.

In my dream, she was the same age as when I lived with her, but I was as I am now, so she refused me. It took a while, but she got her own back for the mild disrespect I had unwittingly shown her at the time.

As Bonzo Dog once said, 'If I could do it all over again, I'd do it all over you.' A double-edged compliment?

Saturday, 24 September 2016

The Lazy Dog


I have spent the last couple of days organising the publicity for H.I.'s forthcoming exhibition. Three years spent as a layout artist for a printing company in the early 1970s should have put me in good stead, but - instead - I have got the weakest of grips on the technology used in modern layout and graphics, so all of my artwork harks back to the days when cut and paste meant exactly that.

I used dark rooms and bromide prints, golfball IBM typesetters, razor blades and Letraset - remember Letraset?! You were always left with a load of letters on the sheet, forcing you to buy a load more expensive new sheets so you could actually spell out the name of the company advertising. You would also be left with many little pictorial, architectural scenes featuring stick-people wandering around newly built shopping centres amongst stick trees. They were the equivalent of emoticons, I think, and even lazy architects didn't use them.

Black lines of varying thicknesses were made using Rotring pens. A complete set of Rotring cost a lot of money - about a week's wages - and they were extremely high maintenance. If you didn't take them completely apart and wash them at the end of the day, they were unusable by the following day. These days, you choose a line from your computer's selection, decide on a start and end point, click a button and there it is.

I have 40-something year-old friends who are graphic artists, and I could never compete with the razzle that they produce. Consequently, my artwork has an old-world charm which they sneer at, but elderly people think is quite competent.

I designed and built H.I.'s website some years ago (it desperately needs updating, but I have almost forgotten how to do it) and, at the time, I was pretty pleased with it. Her grandson looks at it and thinks it is hopelessly out of fashion now, but I think it has an air of calm and tranquility which I would be loathe to ruin with flashing images and self-scrolling slide-shows - just because I can.

Some things, however, never change. There was one typeface which I favoured above the others so much, that I overused it horribly, and bought about 5 times more Letraset sheets than my predecessor so I could. It is called 'Optima'.

I am still overusing it to this day, forty years later, and it is the typeface which is H.I.'s hallmark. It forms both our letterheads, is used in all publicity - it is even used on our doorbell. Old dogs, new tricks, eh?