Walk to Keymer for lunch and nearby art

Sunday saw me on a bus at 9.40am heading for Patcham and a 4 mile walk over the Downs for lunch.  Walked away from hundreds of children playing football at Patcham Recreation Ground at 10am climbing the slippery track between the gardens of houses and the roar of the bypass.  The noise peaked as I took the footbridge across four lanes of traffic to find a fairly newly designated piece of Access Land, complete with interpretation board and map beside a new gate.  So new that the grass showed no signs of wear on the direct routes between gates – I felt I was pioneering a new trail, an odd feeling in such well used countryside.


After three fields I approached the rifle range.  Its marked on the OS map as that, but I have never previously seen it (and heard it ) in use.  This day the crack crack crackle of rifle shots and the red warning flags made it very clear it was in use.  At the top of this field I left open access land and had to follow the public rights of way.  Not easy when the only obvious route turned out to be a cul-de-sac leading to pheasant rearing pens.  So a barbed wire fence had to be climbed.  Turns out this was the right of way – according to my map, but it simply stopped at a fence.  But the start of that section was rewarded with a misty view into the sun, across to the Ditchling Road:



Soon I reached the South Downs Way, looking left and right, then right again I waited for a gap in the streams of walkers, runners and cyclists until it was safe to cross this busy highway and make my way down the unnamed ridge which doubles as an RSPB reserve.  A mile further and I was in Keymer early enough to pop into the Greyhound for a pint of Longman Brewery Long Blonde ale before heading for our vegetarian lunchtime venue Mama Ganoush.


Mine had sprouted mung beans, cauliflower, squash, pomegranate and rocket served with beetroot, carrot and spinach salad.  It was tasty, as were the two large glasses of Rioja and the black coffee.  All six of us headed for Ditchling Museum and Art Gallery afterwards where I was keen to see the notebooks of the illustrator John Lord.


The chap on the museum till was apologetic that a public catalogue was getting tatty, and then he refused my offer of payment to enter the museum, saying that he felt it would be unreasonable to take money from me.  This odd behaviour became clear when he said I was John Lord.  At that point I remembered being mistaken for him a few times way back in the 1980s when we both worked in the Art College part of Brighton Polytechnic.  The drawings are great – the one above is from one of his ’90s notebooks, when The Hitchhikers Guide was so popular.

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Toilet fixed

A couple of posts ago I put up  a picture of the hole in our upstairs toilet floor.  Eventually fixed it by cutting a sheet of plywood to fit the whole room, reinforcing the side where there is no joist handy by screwing a 2″ by 2″ timber to the plywood on the underside  of the remaining chipboard flooring.


Still not looking great, I hear you think.  Have patience.  At this stage I got Kevin back to install a new loo.  Two days ago I was up at 6am to see Jackie off on a trip to Cambridge.  Decided to finish the loo.  First had to stain-block some rusty patches on the back wall, then paint it nicely.  Then staple down underlay.  Must thank Marian for that and the carpet off-cuts from her new carpeting job.


Note the little step to protect the new carpet edge in the doorway.  Then the tricky part.  Three hours to carpet a small loo – no threat to professionals.  But pleasing to me.  By 1pm the task was completed.  Be careful how you pee!


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Undercliff walk

Last week Steve and I met up to walk along the concrete path at the foot of the cliffs east of Brighton.  After so many days of wet weather the idea of concrete seemed better than footpaths on the Downs.  Plus it would be low tide, so plenty of stuff to see and talk about.


The foreshore immediately east of the marina shows a weed covered wave cut platform, with hardly any flint shingle at all.  We decided that this is because of the marina, built in the 70s, it stopped the eastward drift of shingle which would have maintained the beach.  There is evidence that a shingle beach once existed – small pieces of groynes still stand – like the bit centre left of the above photograph.


A real bonus was the warmth!  The sun shone some of the time and it was not windy.   mile or so further east and the protective effect of the marina is lost and shingle is once again available.  perhaps it does move past the marine, but the immediate eastern coast is in a sort of shingle-shadow zone.  Like a rain-shadow zone in physical geography.


Even when it got cloudy the sun came through in places.  Here it marks the distant sea horizon with a thin bright line of light.


The undercliff walk is part of the protection to reduce cliff erosion, so there is very little material added to the beach from local erosion.  Here you can see the chalk showing through, right below the undercliff walk, carved into glorious undulating and convoluted curves by the sea and battering of pebbles.  Such pleasing patterns and colours – I feel a painting coming on!

It was good to get out for a walk, talk and some inspiration.

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There goes the neighbourhood.

Two of the last three mature elms lost on the Upper Lewes Road.  OK, so Dutch Elm disease was spotted last year, but the Council’s tree surgeons simply cut off all the boughs leaving the trunk.  The plan was it would attract the elm bark beetle – the wee beast that carries the fungal disease.  They would lay eggs into the crevices of the bark, and the next generation would be carried off to the flames of arboricultural hygiene when the tree was subsequently felled and destroyed.


Saw the results of the second stage last week when I went out too late to watch the process, note that the stump is stripped of bark to ensure no beetle larvae remain.  The trunk is rotting at the core – I remember being told that the life of this variety of elm (Wheatley elm) is only around 100 years, so maybe it only had a while left anyway.


They had to remove the big burr from the trunk, to get a better vee-notch.


Kept a look-out for the tree team and rushed out to capture the process.  First they tied a rope high up on the trunk and fixed the other end to their truck.  Then cut a vee-notch out of the side they planned to fell the tree.  The truck took the strain as a second cut was made on the back of the trunk.


They only stopped traffic for about 2 minutes.  The trunk neatly missed the pillar box, and soon it was stripped of stubby side branches and thinner top pieces ready for loading onto the truck.


Too damned cold to hang around longer.  There were 13 of these fine elms when I moved here in 1983, now just the one left – luckily outside my home. Self, self, self.

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Rainy and cold outside . . .

. . . but brandy and fire indoors.  A few nights back we decided on a log fire.  And there was bugger all on the TV so decided to sit and read.  It was my task to keep the fire going, so obviously I had to be near it.  I’ve been out and sawn up a big box of logs with the intention of a repeat soon.


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Windows, spikes and grappa

Days ago now Rowena was urging me to go out for a walk, and I mumbled something about possibly dropping into a bar.  She suggested an alternative – a photo project – to seek out things that were ‘spiky’, ’round’, ‘warm’ and ‘weight/wait’.  So I went out and sought things or views that fitted.

Then Fred Pipes mentioned a TV item about a  geographer and his projects to cross cities and record them and his emotions/feelings (amongst several other projects – see Daniel Raven-Ellison’s website).  I heard the same guy on the radio later in the day saying how he liked seeing what people put in their windows for passer-by to see.  And so do I:


I suppose I could have called this one ‘warm’, but it didn’t make the final cut.  Around Christmas we on Round Hill have an Advent Window challenge.  Folks are invited to design and display a window decoration for one of the advent days – lighting it up or displaying it when their number comes around.  St Nicholas Road, in the centre of town does the same.  But this one may have been a bit tongue in cheek.


I did find a good spiky – though why they are there I cannot tell.  Art probably. They are opposite what I still call the Art College.


Finally I promised grappa and it is here.  A friend heard that I am fond of a drop of that clear, fiery Italian spirit, and she had been given a half litre of it.  Somewhat inappropriately as she does not drink alcohol.  My lucky day really.




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Inua Ellams – an evening with an immigrant.

We went to hear this 33 year-old Nigerian read his poetry and tell us of his life in Nigeria, until he was 12 when the growth of Boko Haram forced his family to flee Nigeria (his father is Muslim and his mother Christian). Then to England where thieving lawyers ‘lost’ all the family’s documentation (sold it on more likely) leaving them in a worse situation.

In 2011 he went to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace, as one of a group of young people in the performing arts.  And still had no legal status here. Now they have ‘discretionary leave to remain’ which has to be renewed every 2 or 3 years, when they also have to be ready to leave the country should renewal be refused.

His poetry is very moving, funny and sad.  An excellent evening, making me pleased and angry at the same time.  Next day sent a subscription off to Amnesty.

As a young boy he was always the artist, drawing portraits in sand to entertain his friends, but in England money was in short supply.  He could not afford paint, but could steal a pen from Argos, so he became a poet.  Talking of the muse, or whatever it is that inspires the creative urge, he says at the close of one of his poems:

some trap it with tongues or a double bass

strummed, some turn its incline to sculpted

forms, a boy once enticed it with sand and

a stick or now, as I do, with a pad and a Bic.

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