Whiting – not the fish.

A few weeks ago I noticed that the greenhouse was getting very hot on sunny days and I recalled that my Nan used to mix finely ground limestone with water and paint the mixture on the inside of the glass to reflect heat.  That material was called whiting, and the brand I recall was Blanchards.  Decades later I found myself needing Blanchards whiting again.  This time mixed with hot rabbit skin glue to make a gesso to cover papier-mache structures – like the cardboard shelves in the little cabinet, or the papier-mache pot, or the shield with pigeon emblem (what I call Picasso’s Pigeon – its based on part of his  painting).  I also used gesso to build up a textured surface before painting with acrylic paints (quicker than thick oil paint but real depth still possible), as in the Isle of Wight clifftop painting below.  Take my word for it, its a bit of the IoW.

treasure cabinet

balloon pot

picassos pigeon

IoW clifftop

So I called into Dockerill’s hardware store and asked for a bag of whiting.  Not stocked anymore they said.  I asked if they could get it from Blanchards, they said Blanchards had not traded for over a decade.  They could sell me half a litre of greenhouse glass paint for just over £6.  I declined the offer.

Gesso is an artists product, so I phoned Cass art suppliers in town.  They stock it in their London shop, but not here.  But Lawrences art supply shop in Hove had 4 bags in stock, and said they would hold one for me, but did not expect a sudden rush of whiting buyers.  Half a kilo cost £3, and a tablespoon from the big bag made enough whitewash to paint the south facing end of the greenhouse.  Turns out that the reason we have lots of snails here on the chalk geology, is because snails need it for their shells.  They like whiting better.

snail-eaten whiting (450 x 600)

I’ve got plenty of whiting left, so no real problem, but how do they cross the chalky surface to start eating without leaving a trail, and do they throw themselves off the glass when they’ve had enough?

Last Monday Steve and I went for a walk.  Took a bus out of town and climbed the steep north facing slope of the Chalk Downs before descending 5 miles to the sea at Saltdean down the Balsdean valley.  I know most of the valley, but I had never followed it from top to bottom.  Walking back to town along the undercliff walk I noticed that recent heavy rain had caused accumulations of white mud at the foot of the cliffs.  FREE whiting!!

32. whiting, not fish

Dry white dusty trails of this eroded chalk powder crossed the path and drained into the sea.  As Steve said, its where whiting met whiting.

If you are not familiar with the mineral name whiting it may be because the British Whiting Federation (formed by the combination in 1943 of the Northern Region Whiting Association and the Southern Region Whiting Association) changed its name in 1989 to the British Calcium Carbonates Federation.  Check out the members and their products on the website.

Posted in Art, Brighton, my travels | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Two newspaper-inspired pieces

First: The Guardian a couple of weeks ago had a photo of a sheet of Penny Blacks with the heading ‘Black Day for Stanley Gibbons’.  The  item was about the stamp dealer’s sale of itself, and the bad news on its share price when a private equity firm denied any intention to bid for Stanley Gibbons.  Private Equity firms are those groups of millionaires who get together to seek targets for buying, stripping of assets and loading with debt before they move on to another target, having taken all the value.   Generally something they don’t shout about – I mean voracious greed and selfishness is not the way to make friends, but I may be wrong.  This particular Private Equity body calls itself, that is it has decided to be known as, publicly and presumably without shame or guilt: Disruptive Capital.  Wow.

Incidentally does anyone recall the Goodies, or was it early Python, referring to that rarer volume of information for the enthusiast: ‘Stanley Stamps Book of Gibbons’?

Second: Back in 1968 I went to university in Norwich, at the nearly new University of East Anglia.  I spent three years in the delightful ziggurat halls of residence next to the library, with a view across the shallow river valley and reed beds from my window and balcony.  Bloody luxury.  The chair in my study bedroom was a welded wire armchair that was modern and comfortable as well as light and tough.  I am sure they were fairly cheap to buy in bulk.  Today one will set you back over £1220, as this item from a Metro mentions.  We have one on display in Brighton Museum, high on a wall in a display of designer furniture.  Should have stolen one when I had the chance.

UEA chairs may17 (600 x 536)



Posted in Art, Brighton, Politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What is the word for ‘Hatred of Trees’?

Last year we suffered from what seemed to be intentional stout boot kicking of tree trunks to loosen bark, followed by the removal of bark strips.  The Council responded by wrapping trees with a tough wire mesh.  I thought the issue had gone, but last Sunday I saw a new example, in East Street, right in the centre of town.  perhaps it is people with near to nothing, who feel abandoned by society, whilst society appears to value trees above them.  The act of slowly kicking a tree to death may make them feel stronger, or powerful.  Perhaps I’m being too lefty liberal.

east st tree damage June17 (450 x 600)

Posted in Brighton, Environmental Concerns, Politics, wildlife | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Day trip to Beachy Head and Eastbourne

We took a bus to Eastbourne, the 13X which goes across the Country Park of Seven Sisters.  Got off at Beachy Head, high on the chalk overlooking the English Channel, and, as we walked east, Eastbourne itself.  Beautiful sunny day kept comfortable by a breeze, but at other times its more than breezy up here:

windy tree

This hawthorn has spent all its life living with a strong wind from the west.  The plan had been to do some art at the Towner Gallery, but we got distracted by the first pub we saw (The Pilot – well kept Harveys), then found a pub for lunch (burgers and Greene King beers, but good enough) before visiting a huge second hand bookshop where volumes were bought.  At one point I had 4 in my hand – but convinced myself they would be too heavy and just bought one.  On to the Towner:

Towner gallery

When we got to the gallery we only had 90 minutes to enjoy Ravilious and Friends, but after a few miles walking, and plenty of food and some beer 90 minutes seemed long enough to be standing and looking.  The four of us caught a bus to Brighton, bought salads and wine, and bused to Strat and Tamsin’s for a leisurely eating and drinking in their garden.  I must have walked home, but to be honest the memory is less than clear.

Posted in Art, Brighton, my travels, Real Ale, wildlife | Tagged , | 1 Comment

New leggings – up a tree!

I have been looking for some leggings. “Why?”, you may ask.  I can only say that I know I’m getting older, but I have lost a lot of weight, and I’m fairly proud of myself, and my shape.  So there.  Most leggings for men are dull, dull, dull – but I found a woman in Brighton who makes them to order in some exciting fabrics.

We went to the allotment this morning to pick broad beans, and I took the opportunity to climb one of the trees we are gradually cutting down.  Jackie took the pictures.

26May17 allotment

26may17 2 (476 x 600)


Posted in Brighton | Tagged , | 1 Comment

London trip and UEA reunion

UEA is the University of East Anglia, I was there between 1968 and 1971, amongst the first intake of undergraduates.  The school of Environmental Science was established the year before so this is its 50th anniversary.  Thus the 7 pm gathering and lecture from senior member of staff (on climate change – the BIG UEA thing of recent decades).

But first – the rest of the day.  In Victoria by 11.30 and tube to Embankment and walk north to The Harp for three halves of beer.  Gloucester Brewery’s Cascade and 2 of Arbor’s Pocket Rocket, a delicious session US IPA tasting of fresh grapefruits.  Then a walk to the British Museum and through security well in time for a talk on ‘Horses and Social Status in Iron Age Britain’.  Our speaker was a PhD student on a BM placement, she had wild-ish hair down to her bum, long velvet skirt and loose woven cotton top, every inch the Pre-Raphaelite idea of a Celtic lady.  Political Correctness has reached archaeology – she explained, “We don’t talk about Iron Age Tribes anymore – more about ‘Regional Groupings’ “.

She explained that horses were really ponies (think New Forest/ Exmoor), that there was no evidence of breeding (no bones of foals found),  and initially no wheels.  Some evidence of eating them, but mainly associated with high status bronze fittings (stuff to direct reins, bits and (mainly) stuff related to later wheeled chariot fittings.  Bronze decorated with impressed red glass (heat-softened glass pressed into recesses no true enamelling yet) as well as coral and bone inserts (often riveted into place).  The pieces below date from about 150 BC, give or take a century.

zoom in on brass fittings

Iron also used but less often preserved.  Iron had to be hammered into shape then, but casting bronze was done, as was hammering thin sheets of bronze over and around iron cores – giving strength and beauty.  We were shown Celtic Iron Age horses on coins in which the horse was semi-abstracted, often disjointed, and anatomically dubious.  As Roman influence arrived (well in advance of the AD 43 invasion) craftspeople began to adopt a more realistic horse appearance.

celtic coin horse

‘Celtic’ horse coin – some become even more symbolic.

romanic celtic coin horse

Roman influence on a British Iron Age coin.  Both coins found in hoard dated to 1st century AD.

I was particularly pleased to hear about the East Yorkshire chariot burials.  There is one from Scotland, and they are found on mainland Europe (or should I just say Europe now? lets not go there.  I don’t mean lets not go to Europe! For God’s sake).

wheel impression

Sorry.  In the boulder clay of the East Riding wood is hardly ever preserved, but in one burial (excavated in 1986) the impression of the wooden parts of a wheel were preserved as a fine clay infill.  Probably washed into the cavity left after the wood rotted, most likely during a flood event.  This is it – except the conservation folk have replaced the clay with fibre glass.  Some of the iron wheel rim and a ring around the hub is still in place.  The burial is about the same date as the brassware – some came from it.

After the talk I had some lunch and failure to get into the Photographers Gallery (early closure for private event – why didn’t the website say so?) I went to the National Portrait gallery (late opening Thursday) and visited the Howard Hodgkin exhibition, ‘Absent Friends’.  I was surprised to see that he actually depicted people as recognisable people in his earlier works, but later reduced them and their context to a series of memory shapes and colours.  I liked both.  I did not know that his marriage to a woman ended and he then had a male ‘constant companion’.  This term was in a caption to a near-erotic image of a naked man on a bed overlooking the Bay of Naples. But perhaps that eroticism was in the mind of the beholder.  Anyway I liked the painting so bought a fridge magnet of it.  Not as impressive as the 75 cm by 60 cm original.

Time for another pint of Arbor Pocket Rocket at the Harp before walking to the Royal Society of Medicine and the reunion there.  Delighted to meet 5 former students from my year.  Three in London now, one near Guildford and one in Horsham.  Of course I had met some of them previously, at the 25th anniversary re-union!

Our lecturer (Prof Corinne Le Quere) spoke of most carbon reduction coming from power generation, but much more needed in building construction and making use of solar gain, lots of progress needed in agriculture (she mentioned moving towards vegetarianism as a very good step), but transport, especially air travel, is huge issue, though vans and cars will (she hoped) move to electricity.  Public transport got me home by 11.30 pm, somewhat squiffy after many free glasses of red post-lecture.

Posted in Art, Environmental Concerns, my travels, Real Ale | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Another 25th wedding beer blog

This will be the last, but it is worthy of note.  Lots of lovely folk brought beers of interest and quality.  Some days after the event there were still some in the fridge.  And here they are:

25th anniversary beers (600 x 586)

The cans from Miriam and Martin.  The Occultist claims to be a semi-skimmed chocolate, coffee, vanilla milk stout.  And why not?  The whiskey is not a beer, but it was a gift from Maire, and I had to share it with Jackie.  Sooo small for two people.  The Hardy’s Ales are from many years ago.  Today they are brewed by Meantime Brewery, but these two come from O’Hanlon’s Brewery and were brewed in 2006.  Finally the three remaining (Liberation, Cydonia and Staggersaurus) are all bottle conditioned beers brought by Lynsey and Laurence.  I thank you all for your continuing interest in my drinking habits.


Posted in Real Ale | Leave a comment