Last of this year’s tomatoes!

Today we will eat the last of our considerable tomato crop of the year.

It is green, but its meant to be green.  It is ripe.  We grew a whole range of types, some in the front garden, some on the allotment and some in the greenhouse.  Here is a picture of just four of the varieties, but not the green variety of today’s lunch.

ripe toms

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Artes Mundi 8

Below is the written part of the work by Anna Boghiguian entitled ‘A meteor fell from the sky’, shown in the previous post on Cardiff.

From the stone that fell from heaven they extracted iron, made tools

they worshipped & thanked heaven for giving them their bliss

As time went their curiosity to make everything lighter and faster

brought the creation of steel, stainless steel and aluminium

Steel made life faster

The Industrial Revolution that has transformed itself

to digital revolution and virtual reality

New ways to interact, to think & to be

the mind has become a machine that responds

to the input downloaded by the public

The public opinion becomes the police force

that decides the moral/ethical values of our being

treating people as criminals

Since steel the world has evolved so rapidly it has lost touch

with its own reality

whatever that is

The Industrial Revolution created

The Alienation of Society

A new Class System

A new Vocabulary.

Whilst I enjoyed reading it I do not believe it.  Seems to be pushing ideas together that do not have a natural link.  But there are a few phrases I like.  If you took the first 5 lines and the last 4 I would like it better.

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Cardiff trip

We arrived in Cardiff early afternoon and had our usual ‘coming to Cardiff’ pint of Brains at the Cottage on the St Mary’s Street.  Checked into the Travelodge on Queens Street, right by the Castle, and met friends Sue and Ros.  We found Nine Yards, a really nice Prosecco bar opposite The Cottage, and ordered the first bottle of the day with some snacks to see us through to early dinner at The Goat Major.  By the time we returned to the hotel we’d gone through 5 bottles of wine.  I had 2 pints of beer as well.

Clearly more activity will be needed to avoid alcohol poisoning.  We spent the following morning in Cardiff Castle, taking one of their excellent guided house tours.

1 salmon detail banqueting hall

The 3rd Marquis of Bute, one of the richest men in the country, spent many millions on a richly ornamented home he used just 6 weeks a year.  The above salmon, in the Banqueting Hall, indicates the level of detail. Note the small lizard beside  it.  The castle and nearby Bute Park ow belong to the people of Cardiff, having been given it by the 7th Marquis when the Labour Government nationalised the railways, docks and coal mines.

A third friend (Gerry) had joined us just for the day.  He recommended a cafe in Royal Arcade, where we went for lunch.  Simple good food but a very hectic lunchtime trade. Then on to the City Art Gallery.

22 Cezanne frame shadows

This Cezanne (The Francois Zola Dam) is part of the Impressionist collection put together by the Davies sisters – spending some of the half million each received from their coal/railways/Barry docks owning father in 1908.  The concentration of wealth goes into few hands, but sometimes a little of the stuff becomes accessible to the rest of us – be it a big Castle or a collection of paintings.

Elsewhere in the gallery are the five artists in the current Artes Mundi exhibition, an international contemporary arts event.  The theme is, ‘what it means to be human in a fast changing and increasingly volatile world’.

My favourite is by Egyptian/Canadian Anna Boghiguian, and it explores the impact of metal working advances on society.  She chooses to see most scientific and technological advances in a very poor light, and her drawings struck me as fairly simplistic, but I liked the written tale.  The whole work is called, ‘A meteor fell from the sky’.

21 Overview of Maetal in society piece

Above is the biggest single part of it.  I have transcribed the words – I do not believe her message, but I like this visual, multimedia way of giving it.  I’ll put it all at the end.

We decided on a trip to Cardiff Bay for wine and dinner and whatever cultural experiences it may offer on a cold damp December evening.  The bus took us south through what little remains of the multi-ethnic Butetown where racial conflict sprang up whenever business sought the next cheap source of newcomer labour in docks, ships and warehouses.  We wondered if the current Marquis of Bute was making money from this regeneration of what may still be his land.

24 Harbour offices

This was the HQ of the Bute Dock Company, now housing part of the Welsh National Assembly.  We passed it after a bottle of wine or two at a bar in the Wales Millennium Centre, as we went in search of a dinner venue.  There are many places to eat, but all part of chains.  We settled for a Sussex based franchise – Bills.  Excellent surroundings, service, food and yet more wine.

The following day we had a morning coffee with Sue and Ros before they set of for home and we sought a bus for St Fagans – the National Museum of Welsh History.  The core of the place is the collection of buildings brought from all over Wales, but there are also three galleries depicting life in Wales over time, with emphasis on lives of ordinary people.  The site was donated in 1946 (perhaps to avoid the death duties being introduced by the new Labour government) by another wealthy nobleman, the Earl of Plymouth, who had a home (‘perhaps the finest Elizabethan manor house in Wales’) on part of this land.

37 Red House Gower

This red farmhouse was originally on the Gower, it was built in 1610.  The red paint (whitewash and ox blood) was supposed to deter evil spirits.  I find it attractive, so no evil in me then.  I did get a lot closer than this picture suggests, even inside, where I found a roaring log fire, a volunteer guide full of stories, a cupboard bed and (on the sloping ceilings upstairs) a knotted straw infill between rafters.  What was that about, I hear you say.

red house thatch demo

This picture, from a history of St Fagans website, shows how the knotted straw interior actually supports the straw thatch – it is (was?) a Gower speciality.

The next farmhouse we entered was single storey longhouse from 1508.  Longhouse farms held the family at one end and the animals at the other end.  This one had a fireplace when the museum collected it in 1962, but they rebuilt it as original, with an open hearth and no chimney.  The building is on the left of the picture below, and the room with open hearth is at the right hand end.

36 general view St Fagans

27 longhouse hearth

After visiting a terrace of cottages (1800) and an aluminium pre-fab (1947, made in an ex-aircraft factory) we found a church with restored wall paintings, based on what remained under subsequent centuries of whitewash.

33 No work of suffer damage

The image here was explained for us by a volunteer who happens to be a musician.  Its about the harm you will suffer should you decide to work or play an instrument on the Sabbath.  Our guide happened to be a harpist and player of the ancient precursor of the violin seen top left, the Crwth.  They have one of the only 3 original crwths in the UK in gallery of Welsh Life here at St Fagans.  I could show you a photograph, but I prefer to finish on this one, brought back from the Riviera in 1950 by an aunt for her niece, the young woman never dared to wear it in public, but she and her friends laughed a lot when they tried it on in private (said the info board).

46 1950s bikini at St Fagans

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A Borrowed Cartoon

I don’t think I should be doing this, but it has been sitting on my desk since Spring, and still makes me smile.  It used to make me laugh out loud, and I hope it makes you laugh.

And, as the world seems to be moving from ‘seeking the fount’ to ‘settling for the puddle’, it seems so much more significant.  I hope Tom Gaunt won’t mind, especially if I suggest you visit his website and seek out a Christmas present of one of his publications.



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Geology of the Isle of Wight

This was way back in September, and I confess little of what follows will reveal much about the geological history of the island, but it might entertain.

I had hoped for the chance to see quarries where building stone was removed, but there are no active quarries, and most have grown over, plus it was not on the agenda for our leader.  The picture here is about as good as it got regarding building material.  This thin bed of limestone, which did get thicker further south, was used as building material. In past times it was even taken by sea to Hampshire and Sussex as a building stone.  It may be Bembridge Limestone, or just a less significant, slightly older limestone.

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Thin limestone beds figured large in this trip.  Over in the SW we found this one, lots of it, at the toe of a big landslip.

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The pattern you might discern on the surface of the rock might be shells, or bioturbation (patterns left in the once soft limey mud left by creatures moving though it).  But turn the slab over and the story improves.

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Now we see that the limey mud was deposited onto a once dry land surface of iron rich brown clay which had dried out and left distinctive shrinkage cracks.  Our limey mud flowed into these cracks.  Nice Huh?

But I hear you say, “That’s all well and good, but where are the dinosaurs?”  We didn’t find any, not even a part.  But we visited a museum on the bleak east coast, north of Sandown, where this imagining of a small feathered one was seen.

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On another day I found myself picking up plastic trash.  Had a carrier bag full (Yes, I found that too) when we climbed back up to the road.  But I was lucky enough to spot a National Trust pickup and driver, and she happily took the rubbish for proper disposal.  Some of the stuff was a bit interesting, so I’ll share it with you.  You can take the man out of the Tidy Britain Group, but you can’t take the T.B.G. out of the man!

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I escaped the field trips on a warm day and walked from Shanklin to Ventnor along the coastal path, then back over Boniface and Shanklin Downs.  There were some great rocks here, but not on our agenda.  The steps in the picture below pass up behind a giant natural block of sandstone, making use of an eroded natural joint in the rock.  The gap might also be due to slippage of the hard rock on a seaward sloping underlying clay.

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Elsewhere much of the stone had been quarried out.  And in Bonchurch the near level quarried out platform with cliff-like back wall has become the location for some grand houses.

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Above the ‘Cottage’ you can see the railings on the main Ventnor to Shanklin road.  These houses are big and mainly attractive, but I’m not sure the link to the quarrying history works as a street name.  Cliff Cottage and all its grand neighbours are on The Pits, Bonchurch.

On the way back over the chalk downs there was an abundance of heathers.  Odd on chalk, but accounted for by a tick covering of broken flint gravels.  Was this formed by solution of the chalk over millennia?  Or some other way?  Whatever, it left an acidic medium well suited to at least two of our heathers.

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Sedentary activity, if that makes sense.

I need to get out and walk.  Walk 5 or 6 miles, that would do. Ideally with rural views, but that’s not essential.  All I seem to be doing is going out to events and reading.  That doesn’t sound so bad, put like that.  Of course it results in a lot of eating and some drinking – so my carbohydrate intake has been way too high this week.

If you got this far you deserve a reward, and here they come – a few quotes from a couple of books.  First William McIlvanney’s  Laidlaw.  The first of three detective novels set in 1970’s Glasgow featuring Detective Inspector Laidlaw.

“St Andrew’s Parish Church looked bleak, a big dark oblong locked and shuttered, like a warehouse for a commodity gone out of fashion.”  Just such a great description, and fitting my understanding of British mainstream Christianity.

The following line is part of a description of the run down lounge in a hotel used by travelling salesmen:

“The man with the beer uncrossed his legs, crossed them the other way.  In the stillness of the room it felt like an event.”

Finally a little Laidlaw philosophy, on golf:

“It’s a good game,” Laidlaw said quietly. “But I suspect all professional sportsmen.  Grown men devoting their lives to a game.  They’re capitalism’s temple prostitutes.”

Its not all detective novels here at the foot of Round Hill.  Margaret Drabble is in the driving seat just now, in The Dark Flood Rises, a novel that seems to be about reflecting on advancing years.  The leading lady, Fran, is still active and working, but many around her are less fit.  She worries about increasing longevity:

“Longevity has fucked up our pensions, our work-life balance, our health services, our housing, our happiness.  It’s fucked up old age itself.”

My third choice comes with an advert.  Barbara Kingsolver has a new book out, and she is coming to Brighton to talk.  I have just finished her 2013 novel, Prodigal Summer, but there will be no quotes, its all excellent.  Oddly, in my experience of her novels to date, it is also just a bit erotic.  I’m not complaining – I rather enjoyed those sections.  But her main theme – the way we treat our planet – comes through clearly along with her wonderful characters.  13th November, St Michael and All Angels on West Hill.  Tickets from City Books, and it gives you a discount off her lovely looking new hardback.

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Wooden Sett from Valley Gardens

Perhaps its a mistake to admit this, but I stole a pitch-impregnated wooden sett from a pile of them that appeared just south of St Peter’s Church during the beginnings of 24 months of remodelling the Valley Gardens.  I doubt there are any plans to make use of them in the redesigned gardens.  I certainly would not walk on a roadway made of them – the pitch is still tacky and stinks of camphor.  But in their day they made for a quieter road when steel-rimmed wheels and horses’ iron shoes passed over either stone or wooden setts.  I saw some others, still set in place in East Street a few years ago, during some ‘dig up the road to congest traffic scheme’ (I owe that phrase to Spike Milligan).

wood sett

I’m not sure what to do with it now I’ve got it.  I have two other setts, both igneous stone.  One is grey, perhaps a diorite, the other a more quartz-heavy coarse grained rock with pink feldspar.  That’s pretty-much used up all my knowledge about them.  Except to say they were easier to use – they now form part of a garden retaining wall just outside the dining room (aka. Number One Shed).




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