Sunday, 31 July 2011

Going For a Walk

Yesterday is a beautiful, hot, sunny day.
And we go walking up the hill behind the village. Heather, gorse, butterflies, a view that goes on for miles.

Down on this bony tip of England, the land is so narrow that you get up this high and you can see both coasts at once.

This is Tregonning Hill. Where William Cookworthy first found china clay. Before everybody got excited by St. Austell for clay.

Get home hot and tired and drink china tea.


That's the "village" of Balwest behind there.

So small it's just a few houses and small farms and a chapel.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

And Now I'm Listenin' To...

A goldfinch singing, bees buzzing, crickets and grasshoppers rattling.
It's a hot day in late July.

Anybody ever see Jonathan Miller's "Alice in Wonderland"?
I loved it when I saw it on the telly way back then in the 60s.

I remember the opening as a vivid sound portrait of a summer day. Listen to and watch this clip on YouTube.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Family Life

It gives one a great joy to see the little ones take flight. Off into the wide world. One is of course anxious for their safety and prosperity. But also, it has to be admitted, relieved that one is not left with a small, timorous, stay-at-home.

I can't really compare notes with other parents and grandparents. I am merely a Grey Doll. But I am satisfied that, this year alone, The Old Man and I successfully "rear" at least three broods of Sparrows and two broods of Great Tits in our humble (not in the Murdochian sense) ... yard.

The Great Tits (two separate families) fledge successfully from Hammill's Villas. These are lovingly crafted nooks and holes in our rebuilt granite yard wall. Great Tits nested in this wall in previous years, before it showed signs of imminent collapse. Our friendly re-builders provided integral nesting holes as requested when the wall was rebuilt. (These have been very successful, boys.)

The House Sparrows choose their regular "under the eaves slot" and opt for at least two of the compartments in the sparrow house. We put up the sparrow box in order to lure the sparrows away from the eaves, a ruse which - naturally - has not worked.

Several years ago a traumatic fledging occurred when the youngsters jumped the wrong way and ended up inside the tiny roof space above the bathroom. This did cause a few fraught days - with the bathroom's window and its loft hatch left open. Creeping into the room in order to perform the necessities - always meant an initial moment of relief at the quiet above - soon dashed by the patter of tiny feet across the ceiling.

Surprisingly, helped by Dad Sparrow's persistent calling outside the nest, these arrangements worked. The fledglings took the long route to freedom. I know. Because occasionally I would enter the bathroom, there would be a blur of movement... and Dad would be seen feeding a quivering fledgling ball in a nearby hedge - three times.

So it is that - as I peer out of of my kitchen porch window this morning - I see the naked branches of our drought-struck, yard tree festooned (as if for Christmas) with small round fluffy chick-balls. Bewildered and wing fluttering, they stand in the branches blinking in the daylight: an assortment of baby House Sparrows and Blue Tits.

Hang on. Blue Tits? Where d'they come from?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Old Man's Words - Again

A week ago or so.... The Old Man did another heart-stopping health trick.

In the kitchen, he starts to tell me that there is another bottle of...

"v....blop.... er.... va....kupfick.... er.... in the fridge... another kind of... va... vo....."

I tell him to shut up and sit down. And we both stare at each other for a while, wondering if this is another stroke thingy.

When it is safe to speak he tells me he knows he is frightening me. I think we both be a bit shook up.

Maybe the first time this happened was before I wuz bloggin. It was way back before the heart operation last year. Then... we were sitting opposite each other at the supper table and suddenly The Old Man starts to speak more rubbish than usual.

That time I also tell him to shut up.
This is my knee-jerk reaction. If he doesn't speak at all - it won't be happening. Eventually he'll manage a straight sentence.

On this occasion he is diagnosed as having had a mini- stroke, no lasting damage, one of the problems associated with dodgy heart valves, dodgy heart rhythmns.... The Old Man is put on Warfarin to thin the blood... And for The Old Man it is part of the decision taken to have the heart-valve operation.

So - back to the other day. When we stare at each other and wonder... why he is doing it again?

When we calm down we discuss it. The Old Man says the two incidents are different. Before - he thought he was saying the right word. This time - he knows the word he wants to say but can't find it.

We decide it is a combination of summer heat, baking bread with hot oven, tiredness, and of course.... THE DRUGS.

But it's the kind of thing that shakes up the both of us. Just when you think you might be getting over it all.....

Friday, 15 July 2011

Graphic Passions: The First Graphic Novels

A few weeks ago, examining wares in a "second-hand" shop in St Just with The Big Sis.... a framed panel of prints catches my eye.

Because I'm sure that I know that work... bold, black and white woodcuts - stark, expressionist ...

I peer closer and see that the "prints" are in fact pages from a book, glued onto a backing board: 1920s street scenes, nightclub scenes. In the corner of each page are the initials FM. And I'm sure I know whose work it is, Belgian woodcut artist Frans Masereel .

I'm interested in his work because, in a way, he became the father of the graphic novel - from the 1920s onwards he published his woodcuts in book form as "novels without words".

I agonise over the framed pages which I now guess to be from a book called "The City" or rather "Die Stadt". But I decide to do a little research. Maybe the books are still available to buy? And they are. That wonderful reprint publisher, Dover, has several titles available.

But my researching eye is also caught by an anthology put together by Canadian woodcut artist George A Walker. Because it was George A Walker's own very excellent printmaking book: "The Woodcut Artist's Handbook" that introduced me to Masereel's work. Walker has compiled an anthology of the work of four printmakers who made "novels without words": Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri, and Laurence Hyde. This anthology is called "Graphic Witness", published by Firefly Books. And I think I might just have to get myself a copy.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

It's Bastille Day

Let the fortress fall.

Laissez la chute forteresse.
Laissez tomber Murdoch!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Viewing "The Killing"

OK. OK. Alright already.
I am indeed following the U.S. version of "The Killing" - as pontificated upon in my 4th July Post (how appropriate!) "Viewed in Translation".

It's a little odd knowing the plot line and characters beforehand. But if I stand back from my fondness for the Danish original, then I guess that we've got a grungier, grittier, American crime serial than usual.

And make no mistake I can be a fan of U.S. crime telly... My heart belongs to the original "CSI" in particular... (don't even mention "CSI Miami")... with maybe a bit of "Law and Order" on the side.

However, the U.S. makers of "The Killing" have made a good attempt at Northern Climes in the Rain by substituting Seattle for Copenhagen; the female characters are splendidly devoid of lip gloss; and the men are equally wonderfully... un-buff. Though I find the mayoral candidate a bit glam and prefer the craggy gloom of Lars Mikkelsen, the Danish original.

Theme/character substitutions in the U.S. version so far?
Black teacher, "Bennet Ahmed" for the more obviously Muslim character, "Rahman Al Kemal", of the Danish version. And I think I spot a hint of the Seattle mayoral candidate's concern for Seattle's impoverished (including its war widows) - over the troubled immigrant communities favoured by the Danish mayoral candidate.

I shall watch more.

But I remain on tenterhooks for the the return of the Danish original... which should be Series 2 coming to BBC4 in the autumn. Yeah! get out that nicotine gum and Faroese sweater, Sarah. You're on.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Crow Talk: Chill Out

Out walking the cliffs at Rinsey on a breezy day.

Down in the cove - a couple of young surfers wait for a wave.

In the sky above the cove - two crows hang glide - completely stationary in the face of the oncoming wind - now and then repositioning to enjoy the ride.

Crow chill out.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Congratulations to Wheal Jane Solar Park

So one local development has squeezed through the Government's subsidy cut deadline for large solar installations.

This is Wheal Jane, near Truro. And not only is it local but currently it is the largest yet built in the UK. (See: UK's biggest solar farm connected to the grid )

I remember reading a column by one local Tory MP - pointing out that solar installation subsidies should be curtailed for large-scale developments.

Shortly afterwards the new Con-Dem government did indeed announce their decision to cut such subsidies. (Read a bit more from the Guardian here.)

I find this attitude bizarre coming from the Tories - who so favour the interests of business and industry usually.

(Aah. But NOT at the expense of the tax-payer, they piously intone.)

Heavens, but Cornwall - and whole of the South West in fact - desperately needs support in establishing local industries other than the great god Tourism.... and supermarkets.
I do believe that the benefit payments liable, as more and more lose their jobs in the closing industries of the South West, would also be "at the expense of the tax-payer"?

(Aah but we have plans for benefits payments too. Ever hear of The Big Society?)

Anyway, I find it totally appropriate that this ex-tin mine site be converted as part of a potential new Cornish industry - renewable energy. For those of you that don't realise it... Those charismatic, Cornish landscapes - with their ruined engine houses, and mine shafts? Yes they are beautiful. And the surrounding stretches of heather, gorse and bare soil? These are themselves the product of the toxic waste derived from the mining process. This is not a green field site. It is post-Industrial.

(Aah..just the spot for some social housing...)

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Crow Talk: the Scapegoat Magpie

The other day I am looking out of my window and watch a pair of magpies searching for food on the driveway verge.

I know that magpies are unpopular. In particular, the notion of their "robbing" nests I think gives them much bad press.

Truth is - plenty of creatures rob nests... weasels, rats, owls, crows, squirrels, small boys. It's a survival thing. Well maybe not, in the case of small boys.

But I find the crow family fascinating. And that includes the eccentric magpie. Remember I posted one time about watching a magpie creep up and pull a fox's tail?

And on the subject of bad behaviour... Those who watch nature documentaries are shocked by watching wholesale nestling massacre performed "en famille" by the new "father". He intends that all successful offspring shall be his alone.

And then there's that herald of spring... the cuckoo. Now that's one nasty childhood trait. Heave the native nestlings out the nest and take up all the resources for yourself.

I suspect that crows are unpopular precisely for their intelligence and opportunism. Bit like humans.

I come to this conclusion as I watch the two magpies hunt. Both birds adopt a quick and successful method. They jump into the grass and watch where the leaping grasshoppers fly. If it's the wrong way - onto the concrete drive .... Hopla! Lunch.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Viewed in Translation

"That'll be awful." says The Old Man.

He's caught me reading the blurb for the U.S. TV crime serial "The Killing" going out on Channel 4 later this week.

It's a remake of the Danish serial "The Killing" ("Forbrydelsen"), which we became hooked on when it was shown on BBC4 earlier this year - as did many others.

"I thought you could record it for me?... and I could try it out... like when you are washing up and stuff?"

(Mental image of "Disdainful Old Man Look" that substitutes for a reply.)

What is it about America constantly remaking European films and TV?

The other night we start watching a DVD set of Lars von Trier's 1994 Danish serial "The Kingdom": a dark satire, combined with spooky thing, which is set in a huge modern hospital built upon the site of a marsh. (Click here for a trailer.)

I'm watching... and it seems familiar to me but not quite...
So I check it up. And find that I have watched the 2004 U.S. version, which was set in an East Coast hospital built on the site of a civil war sweatshop. (Click here for a taster of that one.) This is always described as Stephen King's "Kingdom Hospital". And I had no idea that it was based on von Trier's original.

I mean, it feels now as if European films or TV series are only just released before the U.S. producers are remaking whatever it is: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", "Let the Right One In"... the aforesaid "The Killing"....

Don't believe me? I found a Reuters article from February this year entitled "U.S. studios scour Europe for movie remakes".

Perhaps it is considered "un-American" to read subtitles?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A Walk in the Woods Too Much

It being another hot day yesterday - we decide to walk in the woods again. But sometimes these ideas become a "bridge too far" - or shall I say a woodland path too far.

Today the dragonflies are golden-ringed dragonflies; pretty big fellas again. We leave the river, which seems even more sluggish today, and move into the trees away from the heat.

We slither up and down the steep, dusty little paths. The presence of flies builds up. I feel a sharp pain in my finger and look down to see a big fly settling in. Horsefly? Dunno.

"Yow... giddoff".

I jump up and down shaking my hand, and at the same time I hear a harsh sound close to me. It's a large golden-ringed dragonfly passing directly over my head, his wings rattling in flight.

"Shall we take the main path back to the road?" say The Old Man.

"Yes." say I, wrapping my jumper sleeves around my hands for protection.

Friday, 1 July 2011

An Elephant in the Hand

So yesterday afternoon I get Mrs Doonuthin to cut the grass. It being sunny and dry and The Old Man agrees that it needs cuttin... as he himself sets out to go shoppin.

And...well... anything to kick Mrs Doonuthin out of her wine-sodden torpor really; mooning about makin' puppets that never quite get into animations....

Well I certainly don't get into any animations.

Fortunately, Mrs Doonuthin is more sober than usual, and be wearin' her spectacles, so that she spots this huge thing and rescues it out the grass... and I take its photo.

So. Yes. That aged hand is indeed the hand of Mrs Doonuthin, in case you wonder.

And that huge flying thing be an Elephant Hawk-Moth.

It have strange, large, opaque-looking green eyes.
And I reckon it have been around quite a while judging from its almost transparent wings and rather faded colours.

Bit like Mrs Doonuthin herself really.

I mean, when you consider that the moth does in fact have a few holes in its wings and a splodge of snail trail.... I reckon they make a good pair - the Moth and Mrs Doonuthin.