During the past three days the leaves have been turning colour and falling, late summer becoming early winter. It’s still fairly warm even at night. I’d been told bright autumn colour is caused by frost but that can’t be true. It’s warm and we have the brightest red, orange and yellow leaves I’ve ever seen.

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Who would have thought, without it looking out of place, you could construct a welded-steel frame, turn it into a wooden house and dump it on an island right in the middle in a Norwegian fjord? I love this man’s work. You can see the whole thing here on his website. And God knows why he bothered, but I admire the effort he made to avoid bringing this flight of stairs down to the ground. It’s a fine looking piece:
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Also very interesting, here, but it’s in Norwegian, he’s talking about his own quite modest apartment in (what I think is) a rather ugly pre-War block in Oslo. Interesting because his approach to his own place is exactly like Dyv’s & mine is to ours. We’ve fixed up bits and pieces and left some areas as they have been for seventy years or more. The lived-in look with all its little experiments might seem eccentric, or no doubt slovenly to some, but we like it like this.

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This is a tiny version of a photograph by Danish Siddiqui (there’s a bigger version here), one of a series he took of the Pyongyang subway (he also took these while he was in N.Korea). He’s a terrific photographer-journalist, part of a Reuters team that won a Pulitzer prize for its coverage of Rohingya, but for me because of the chess-figure reflections and the colour, as well as the subject, this picture transcends most Reuters pics, which set out to be documentary. For that it reminds me of Fay Godwin’s well-known Meall Mor, taken near Glencoe in Scotland (here it is on Google Maps), that’s more than a postcard landscape.

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On the left, the view directly* out of the bedroom window showing the hillside beyond the garden.  I’m trying to take pictures of green stuff – trees, shrubs, plants and landscape – which clearly distinguish what’s what. Too often in my landscape pictures the leaves of a plant in the foreground seem to smoodge into the blob of trees behind it. In the real world we use our eye’s ability to focus on individual items closer or further away; separating them out doesn’t cause us any difficulty.  I took this picture one morning because the mist makes the background layers progressively lighter; and then it reminded me of the watercolour on the right that’s reproduced in James Ravilious: A Life, a biography by his wife, Robin Ravilious.

*(see previous post)

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Dyveke bought this print at Kew, last month.  Now it’s the first thing I see when I wake up; it and the reflection of the weather and garden.  In the foreground is the outhouse roof and its skylight and to the left…well, there’s a large mirror perpendicular to the bedroom window that brings in a view of the meadow in the distance.   I remember being irritated when I was young by reflections on pictures; nowadays, I can’t get enough of them.

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This is a portrait by Lucinda Douglas-Menzies of Margot Eates and Hartley Ramsden, both of whom wrote about Art and modern artists (Naum Gabo, Paul Nash and Piet Mondrian) while they were all living in Hampstead during the early 1940s.

I think Ramsden is related to the Ramsden family that owned Huddersfield until 1920, when Sir John Frecheville ‘Chops’ Ramsden was obliged by his straitened circumstances to sell the town to itself.

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In the Cotswolds village of Upper Slaughter, a General Post Office K-6 former telephone kiosk now contains a defibrillator.

I’m having a little trouble with the layout on this WordPress thing and I’ve forgotten how HTML works. Anyway this is Kaiser, a huge Borzoi bending down to greet Dyveke a few weeks after Moira was born:

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Moira yesterday, with Jack & Snoopy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moira, a few weeks old:
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Pining for the fjords:

Hasidic Holiday: The Annual Trip to Aberystwyth

My memory for work I admire isn’t brilliant but something that stuck and I return to is these 20 pictures by Chloe Mathews. They are of a group of Hasidic families who take holidays in Aberystwyth every August. Mathews photographed them some years ago and the pictures can still be seen on her website here. She wrote in reply to some comments in Burn, a photography magazine:

The project was shot over a couple of 2 week periods, during the summers of 2008 and 2009. For those of you who mention that the piece was not in depth enough, I agree. I only had a two week window, so I had to work very hard to even get what you see here.

Yes, I acknowledge what some people have said about the novelty of seeing these “unusual” people in close proximity, but in engaging with them on holiday, I was trying to get behind that novelty, and break the usual cliches of a community often misconstrued as austere and formal.

But it’s the unusualness that breaks the other clichés, the ones about seaside holidays. I love the fully-dressed men lying on the pebbled beach, for instance. If it’s not raining it’s going to start at any moment, and yet they’re having way more fun than the tawdry holidaymakers (*is this still a word?) in a Martin Parr seaside picture.

My favourite photograph is this one, I think the reasons are obvious:
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but I also love the Lartigue-like number 8 with the flying diver in the red outfit.

There’s further explanation of her project on its second page.

The engineer Wilem Frischmann, now aged 87 and still working, was not yet 30 when he designed the structure of Centre Point, a 1960s high-rise office building in central London.

His method was to drill close-packed piled foundations into the ground.

Inspecting the holes himself, he got stuck in one and had to spend the night there until it was discovered how to get him out.

From Rowan Moore’s article in The Observer.


First the flowers, Dyveke gave Alma some roses to congratulate her for having got a place at the Royal College of Art.  They are still going a month later. I gave Dyveke two orchids for her birthday.


At Easter, we went up to the mountains

and I took a picture of one of the bearded dwarf birch trees through the dining room window.


Dyveke & I spent four days clearing one metre of snow off all the roofs. I’m fairly sure it’s good exercise.

I found three photographs of Portobello Road taken on a saturday in about 1959, by Norman McCaskill, showing my mother’s café in the background. She’d called it The Yellow Door but it was known as Ann’s.

The doorway to the left is the W. A. James bicycle shop, where I spent hours (I was 7-ish). Bill James also let me sit in his green Morris van and pretend to drive. He had red-blond & white curly hair and had been gassed in WW1. He used to sing “She was a beautiful dicky bird, Tweet-tweet-tweet she went,” while he plunged semi-inflated inner tubes into a basin of water, looking for punctures. Then he’d go next door for a cup of splosh or a cup of cha (both tea). A very nice man, he lived in a flat around the corner in the Golborne Road.

Inside the café I recognise, behind the newspaper-hat woman, the back side of the oilcloth curtains. They depicted in 1950s style a colourful scene with banana trees and bunches of purple grapes. One day there was a thunderstorm; after it was over the street and the cars were covered in a layer of fine sand that was supposed to have been scooped up in the Sahara.

The district nurses who visited the RC convent down the road used to be brought into the cafe by their superiors because it was a convenient place to take an oral exam, and my mother said she always planted them by the windows to point out to prospective customers that the place was clean enough for nurses. There were convent buildings on both sides of Portobello Road, starting about where it bends. The one on the café side was a Victorian poor house, The Little Sisters of the Poor, where indigent homeless old people went to die; hence the need for the district nurses. I think the one opposite just housed nuns. I don’t know why there were so many Roman-Catholic Victorian buildings in the neighbourhood. There’s a convent in Ladbroke Grove, some big buildings at St Charles’s Hospital and more.

I have a vivid memory of walking past the 1959 ‘Win With Mosley’ slogans painted in white all the way along the convent walls. Fascist symbols too, it was there for years. I didn’t know what on earth it meant and no one would tell me. 

In 1963, my mother sold the café to a man who turned it into a greasy spoon, with pinball machines. He probably made a good deal more than my mother. Later the building’s landlord took out the storefront windows and turned the ground-floor into a flat, with more brickwork and residential windows. That’s how it appears nowadays.

This is one of those landscape-format portraits like Gainsborough’s Mr and Mrs Andrews, though I wasn’t thinking of that when I took my photographs. In my case the landowner is trudging home with the dogs through the snow. There are similar trees: a line of ash on the right – you only see the first one but I know they’re there – and spruce or whatever it is, on the left, where I should be standing with my enormously long thin gun instead of a smallish camera. I may take more of these.

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Vesla died a year ago. She was one year older than Misty & Holly who died last week aged thirteen.

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Many blocks in the town of Richmond-on-Thames are bisected by narrow footpaths just wide enough for two people to pass each other. I imagine they are medieval and therefore older than most of the buildings. Unless you know the town well it’s risky to take them, because some are dead ends and you have to double back, but I find them more intriguing and peculiar than the shopping streets; you never know who or what you will meet. This one took me through a pretty little churchyard, where I found a grumpy Dickensian sign. There was no bank to be seen.

Chef hides round the corner to have a fag. Taken outside a café opposite the LRB Bookshop in Pied Bull Yard, London.

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vauxbridge3632London is getting a new, improved US embassy. I may have mentioned this before. It’s going to be at Nine Elms, on the south bank of the Thames between Vauxhall Bridge and Battersea power station. A couple of days ago, Dyv & I were on our way to the Tate Gallery. Getting off the train at Vauxhall, we saw for the first time the grandiose pile of wooden blocks and green plastic that is the world headquarters of MI6.

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Inside Vauxhall Station, near the exit and no more than a hundred metres from MI5, is this modest “Private” office.

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The lake is half frozen across and today we had the first snow to settle properly.

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Both Topsy and Jack were absolutely thrilled.

 

 

 

 

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The goats only came out for five minutes.  They don’t really play in the snow.

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You can see from the tabletop that we only got about 8 cm (3-4″) and for all I know it’ll have melted by tomorrow.

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Still, it’s deep enough snow if all you’re trying to do is shake a frisby to death.

 

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Designers visit museums to be inspired or sometimes simply to copy work from the past. There can’t be anywhere in Britain where that’s been more true than at the V&A. Most of the Victoria & Albert Museum was built towards the end of the Nineteenth century. At first it housed pieces from the 1851 Great Exhibition, held at the other end of Exhibition Road in Hyde Park. Construction of the V&A never finished and the museum has had many architects. Apart from one provocative attempt, a proposal made by Danny Libeskind ten years ago that was not built, the additions have all used the same red brick. This picture below is of the central courtyard:V&Afacade

In fine weather, it’s a lovely place to have lunch and or tea (free entry).

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A few parts of London (16-18C Richmond, for instance) have been built with red brick, but as anyone who’s been to London will have noticed most of the city, particularly the Victorian parts, is of a yellow-ochre brick that turns a burnt brown given enough time and pollution. One exception is the red that starts here, at the V&A, and (as Alma and I found on our walk after lunch) breaks out again at the other end of Exhibition Road with several streets of large expensive mansion flats. Note the two floors of Corinthian columns on these balconies; there are another two above these. You’d never see such willful sacrilege in the USA or France. The orders ought to begin with Doric at the base and get more decorative towards the top, ending with Corinthian or Composite depending on how many floors there are.

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The red brick continues along the southern edge of Kensington Gardens as far as the Albert Hall.  Below is one of my favourite buildings, Richard Norman Shaw’s Royal Geographical Society. Outside it stands the bronze statue of Dr Livingstone; he’s looking from his niche to see if the 73 bus is coming (it never is). I snapped this view of the chimneys and roofs as Alma and I walked past; the building itself is easier understood here, probably.

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There are splashes of the same red further along Kensington Gore at Palace Green and around Holland Park.

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Below is Leighton House, built near Holland Park by the Victorian painter Frederic Leighton over a period of thirty years.  Lord Leighton was unlucky: he died the day after he was made a baron. For 18 years, he’d been Sir Frederic, Bt and it’s only posterity that knows him as ‘Lord’. He was born in 1830 and died in 1896, tying him quite well to Victoria’s reign (1836 – 1901). He started his career as a pre-Raphaelite, but Leighton is now remembered as not much more than a society functionary, a president of the Royal Academy and that sort of thing. His ponderous academic paintings and sculpture seem dreary compared to those of his French contemporaries, the Impressionists, it’s red-brick Leighton House that is his memorial and masterpiece (it’s open to the public though few tourists go there):

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As well as the dazzling red exterior the inside is pretty remarkable. The best-known room is the Arab Hall, below:
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Leighton didn’t design it himself, he commissioned the pieces from his arts & crafts contacts, including the William Morris & Co. tilemaker William de Morgan. Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this? Right back to the V&A: look at this tile with its dense de Morgan-like Victorian pattern

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Although it’s in the V&A it wasn’t made in Kensington. Check the date:

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Here are four items from one glass case in the Islamic Middle East rooms. First, a tile from Iznik, Turkey, c. 1560 – 1590.

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Secondly, a silk velvet fragment with gold-wrapped thread, from Bursa, Turkey, 1450 – 1550.

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Thirdly, a piece of red & cream silk damask, from Bursa, Turkey, 1550 – 1600.

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And last a tile from Damascus ca. 1550 – 1600:

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As you can see, they’ve all got the same motifs as the panel of tiles below, also from Turkey or Syria, ca. 1550-1600.  According to the V&A the spots and wavy stripes on these pieces are either: a) very stylised representations of leopard and tiger fur; motifs allegedly worn by Rustam, hero of a Persian epic, on a tigerskin coat and a leopardskin hat. But here he is in the New York public library’s contemporary (1550) illustration; you can just see a four- (not three-) dot pattern on his hat, and there are no stripes that I can see on the coat:

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Or b) both motifs are the chintamani wish-fulfillment jewel or c) while the wavy lines are tiger stripes, the three-ball motif had apotropaic (warding-off) associations; warding off evil by reflecting it back at the perpetrator.

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Here’s another pattern. You can read about it on the museum’s own label:

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Made in 1262, using a technique from the Eight Hundreds, and it looks as if it might have been made for Leighton House, six hundred years later.  It’s very confusing:
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Lastly I want to show this bowl from Spain:

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Really I just like the flags, you can see them better here, below, and the little spirals (why are the spirals there?).

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Keep going westwards from Leighton House and after about an hour’s walk you’ll come to the late-Arts & Crafts red brickwork of Bedford Park, the world’s first “suburb”.  It’s a shame suburbs didn’t continue being built to this standard. They’re lovely houses; some are by Phillip Webb (as at Palace Green) & Norman Shaw (Royal Geographical Society). You can see much better pictures here.

And finally a picture of me, with Albert’s golden throne in the background (the Albert Memorial), taken in Kensington Gardens by Alma during our walk.

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I’ve been spending some time at the Victoria & Albert Museum recently.  Unlike the British Museum, it doesn’t contain items as world famous as the Rosetta Stone or the Elgin Marbles but despite that the collection is huge and I find it equally absorbing.  I’ll show you just one piece of contemporary porcelain from Japan.  It’s by a woman called Keiko Masumoto who made it only last year, in 2012. It’s surprising to see it in a museum already, but she’s been a so-called Toshiba Ceramics Resident at the V&A and you can see some more of the work she’s made here.  This is a 30 x 45 x 26 cm rice-bale bottle, a traditional form with a 500-year history. You’ll see more of them if you look here.  I think they originate in Korea, but I should say that I know nothing about them except that the name is intended to mean ‘a bottle in the shape of a rice bale’. Oh, and this one has a beautiful blue-and-silver painted mackerel jumping out of it.

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This one below isn’t my photograph, I got it from the artist’s show in a London gallery here, but it’s interesting that it seems to to be able to be tipped to stand vertically – well, it would be able if it weren’t in a glass case in the V&A.08_mackerel_pot04If you click on my pictures, you’ll see more detail.

Taking the bus to the station I’ve noticed that the London borough of Richmond, where my mother lives, has some odd signage.  Take “Weak Bridge”:

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In an ideal world, Richmond Bridge could bear the weight of an Atlas V rocket:

or two columns of Russian tanks blasting their way across the Thames,

but right now we’re all making do with the 18 metric tonne sign.  The weight limit is there for any lorry drivers to see, so to freak everyone out with the unnecessary commentary is just a public display of passive-aggressiveness (“Don’t blame us. We TOLD you it was weak.”) from some whiney person down at the council offices.

The warning of ducks crossing the road near Ham Common is more sensible. Though I’ve never seen a duck there myself it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

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But what about this crossing sign I snapped from a bus on the same stretch of road. I’ve never heard of the Humped Pelican and Google knows it only as a sign. Surely it’s a whimsical British Tourist Board prop to make the punters feel they’re getting their money’s worth of wacky Englishness.

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On my birthday, we took the goats for a walk.

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Then, in the evening, we had dinner at Aker Brygge, a nineteenth-century former shipyard by the fjord, in the centre of Oslo. There’s a ferry terminal, new apartments and offices, some shopping and lots of restaurants.  At the city-end of the quayside is the Oslo town hall, and across the water is the medieval fortress where after the Second World War Vidkun Quisling was imprisoned and subsequently shot.

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I knew vaguely that bewhiskered Italian architect Renzo Piano had designed the relocated Astrup Fearnley Museum of contemporary art at Aker Brygge, but I hardly ever go to Oslo nowadays and I hadn’t seen it until that evening.  (This symmetrical black & white boat goes to and from the little islands in the fjord where city dwellers have weekend cabins.  From Monday to Friday these boats ferry commuters from the far shore.)

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I was quite impressed by the outside of the museum.  You reach it by walking down a pier that’s an extension of the wharf. The institution is divided into three buildings: temporary exhibitions are on the left, offices are on the right, and the permanent collection – there’s a tawdry Michael Jackson by Jeff Koons, old cows and butterflies by Damien Hirst, but also decent work by Anselm Kiefer, Bruce NeumanGerhard Richter and others – is at the far end, on the right. They are tied together by an enormous glass curved roof.

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The roof has sections cut out of it over the canal.  The cut outs make it look a bit fussy from a distance but it’s spectacular while you’re walking underneath it along the quayside,

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or crossing one of the bridges that link the buildings.

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There are a few pieces of art outside.  The one I liked best was this huge Antony Gormley figure that’s stuck to the side of the permanent collection building.  I’m not usually a fan of his rusty steel and bronze men but I suppose they’re all about location, location, and in this context the man was an agreeable relief to all the grey steel structure.

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What I like best about this museum is the way it has been sited. The quay terminates in this little beach (and a big garden to its left, by the water). There was no sun on the beach when we were there because it was about ten at night, but in good weather during the day I imagine it’s crowded. On the water it was still sunny at ten.

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And then you turn around and see Oslo harbour. Back down the canal and framed by the museum buildings are the two redbrick towers of Oslo town hall, this is the place where the king presents the Nobel peace prize every November.

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A week later, we came back during opening hours.  We were curious to see the inside.

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The museum was showing a big Cindy Sherman retrospective. That’s a big retrospective and, in places, a big Cindy.  The piece below had been stuck to the wall like wallpaper. I noticed the cut around the doorway was beautifully made, very precise; God knows how it was done.

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There is one very big wall, lit from the glass roof:

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Alma said the circulation – how you move through the sequence of spaces – was awkward.

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And she’s right: big galleries, small galleries, over bridges,

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up and down steep flights of stairs.  It’s all too chopped up. Figuring out your next move takes your mind away from the exhibition.

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One huge open space divided by moveable low partitions would have been more suitable, she said and I agreed.

By that time we were at the Caffe Renzo, overlooking the beach.  It has an excellent view down the fjord towards home.

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What makes the Astrup Fearnley notable to me is the large amount of exterior public space and the way the museum has been planned by Renzo Piano to make use of it. The idea that a city can never have too much public space has been a theme of Piano’s and Richard Rogers’s work ever since the 1970s, when they designed the Centre Pompidou, in Paris, together. The city of Oslo planners deserve praise too. I suppose almost every capital has lots of  museums and other cultural buildings, these days. Oslo is no exception: as well as the Astrup Fearnley it has the opera house designed by Snøhetta. That opened in 2009, and next door to it a new museum is being built to house the works of Edvard Munch. Both of these buildings are also by the harbour but over on the east side of town, and they too have lots going on outdoors: outdoor cafes that overlook the fjord and broad terraces that lead down to the water.  They embrace the city.

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There’s a big boulder in the middle of the dog run – rather a nice one: it’s a couple of metres high and children like to climb up and sit on the top. The other day it struck me that it looks very much like a dachshund’s head. I haven’t got any dachshund photographs for comparison but here are a couple of Topsy. I think you can get the idea from them:

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In the goathouse yesterday, while it was raining:

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Some goats have much longer horns
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…than others.
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I saw these two the day before yesterday, so there are still bees around. I haven’t seen many this year, though.

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Perhaps it’s something to do with the weather.  Norway had already outlawed neonicotinoids before the EU’s recent ban; it has its own much more sensible rules about pesticides. This old Guardian article about the ban had a picture of a woman wearing a bee hat. I bet she doesn’t wear it on the Tube during the rush hour.

Here is a detail of a strange procession I saw today:

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Some of the people appear twice; it’s because I took it in sections, and meanwhile they kept walking.  Here is the whole thing, but to see anything at all I have to turn it sideways. Even then I can’t reproduce it with anything like the correct number of dots per square foot.  I just hope you’re not looking at this with an iPhone.

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Later on the dogs went into the lake. Topsy had a proper swim. She’s getting quite good, I think she had all her feet off the ground at some points.

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And Jack had a paddle. I don’t think he’d go in at all if he didn’t see Topsy doing it.

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This lot aren’t here thanks to me, they’re wild.

We have tons of buttercups at the moment but they don’t photograph well. En masse they just look like small yellow dots.

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Here are a few more insects, for scale.

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These are all different dandelions.

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One more.

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This is another very pretty wild flower that I have to be terribly careful not to mow when I cut the grass. No idea what it’s called.  There’s one that only grows around here and is therefore called something-Asker, but I’m not sure this is it.  Hope that helps.

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I should have taken some of the lavender.  And of a slug because that’s why I can’t show any irises.

Yesterday, I took these pictures of some of what’s currently in bloom here. I planted roughly half and the rest are have planted themselves. Panorama

I’m afraid I’m awfully bad about names. Dyv’s uncle gave us this rose with small flowers.  He repeated the name for me many times over the years.

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Now he’s dead and I can’t ask him again. It actually doesn’t matter I’d only forget it again within five minutes. I like single roses (flat ones like this) best until the French very double ones come out. Then I like them best.

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This is one of the self-seeding thingies that are all over the place.

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We have three or four large lilac (syringa) bushes. They were here when we got here. They are SO dull except for the week or two when they have these wonderful scented flowers (and they’re well worth waiting for).

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A Bramley apple blossom.  About five years ago, I planted two Bramley trees. They don’t sell cooking apples in Norway.  God knows why.

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A flower from a huge cow parsley that has planted itself next to the rose bush above.

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I’ve got a couple more. I’ll post them separately in case this file is getting too big…

My daughter made me this card.  I can draw cartoons but I can’t think of captions, so I was very admiring.

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She also picked me a vase.  This cheered me up a lot.

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Here’s a model of the GCHQ Building, built on the outskirts of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in 2003. GCHQ does a lot of computing and listening to the internet as the Guardian noted today. But see how green the model is: a doughnut in parkland with hundreds of trees. Probably quite “green” too, I expect. Jolly nice, what?

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And here’s an aerial photograph of what was built. Everything that is grass-green in the model is asphalt-grey in reality, and in contrast to the several hundred trees on the model, in this photograph I can’t see a single one.

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Here’s a drawing of Apple Headquarters in Cupertino, California, designed by Norman Foster nearly ten years later. Apple does a lot of computing – well, you probably know that. But see how green the drawing is: a doughnut in parkland with hundreds of trees. Probably quite “green” too, I expect. Jolly nice, what..?

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Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.  Actually I can’t stand Blossom Dearie.  Anyway this is the view from the kitchen last night.  Note the mist hovering over the lake.

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This was last night. I first heard them from our house, fifty yards down the road. They were making the noise you get when you blow down a mailing tube, only when you got close it was more like the long blast you hear when a ship leaves New York harbour. They are huge, so-called ‘beef’ cattle, though I’m sure that’s not the name they would use. They make the Friesians look like toys.

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They were all following one cow. I don’t know where they were off to. They were headed towards the forest.

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I haven’t seen them since.

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It’s more than a hobby, Jack has a magnificent obsession. He wants people to throw things so that he can retrieve them.  Here he’s asking me to throw this stick that he’s laid at my feet, but it could be a ball or a stone, he doesn’t care. He does this all day long, indoors and out.  It’s his only interest apart from going for walks – oh, and he enjoys confronting the goats from the safety of the other side of the fence.

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And here he is retrieving it.  He’s not very good at it. He dashes off without looking where the projectile is headed and so if anything unexpected happens, he’s screwed. Then he seems to blame me, but I’m damned if I’ll run after a small stick myself. So after a couple of minutes he’ll find something else to lay at my feet. Sometimes it’s tiny: a twig the size of a wishbone will do.

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In between throws, he’ll torture it.

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Often he’ll shake it to death

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and sometimes he’ll gnaw it to death, but it’s a token gesture.  All he cares about is the chase.

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While I was in England, it rained and rained here. Rivers overflowed, there were floods. Now it’s incredibly green, and our meadow is like a hoarding from the Irish Tourist Board. But the colour doesn’t last long. It was stronger yesterday, I think. These pictures were taken at about 9:30 this evening.

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The other day I spent several hours trying to level our outdoor bathtub after the snow had sort of tipped it over during the winter.

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Isn’t this so-called Nick Clegg? Why is he flogging Norwegian beetroot? As if he weren’t in enough trouble.

(These pictures all need to be enlarged.)

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The Clapham Junction sign reminded me of Peter Sellers’s Bal-ham – Gateway To The South.

Here’s a photograph taken from my bedroom window this morning.  A few weeks ago, someone (I thought Sig, but I can’t find it) mentioned how difficult it was to imagine a green, living landscape emerging from the muddy browns and greys that the melting snow was revealing. I couldn’t agree more, but here it is once again.  In a couple of weeks time that row of twelve skeletal ash that follows a small stream down the hill will come into leaf.  Then it will divide this view, screening off the emerald-green profile of the hillside, but I won’t care because the trees themselves are so pretty.  Ash trees are the last to get leaves and the first to lose them, growing like mad in the meantime.

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This very tall man turned out to a birdwatcher – at least, he was carrying binoculars.  There may be good reasons to go bird watching in the fog.  By the time I’d thought to ask, it was too late.Panorama1

The island at the end of the lake. The squared-off smudge to the left of the trees is in fact just more trees that are hidden behind fog.

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This tiny cabin is I think owned by the local council, who rent it out during the summer.  The only time I see anyone here is at the weekend during the winter, when it’s the starting point for children who coast down the hill on their toboggans.  

I like the sharp contrast between the twigs in the foreground on the right and the tree branches in back of them – also the way that the space begins there and unwraps from right to left, before fading out at the bottom left.

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It’s slightly worrying that this reminds me more than anything of a foldout BMW ad from the front of the New Yorker, even though the car’s probably a something else.  Otherwise, it’s a pretty good picture.  I’ve got another one without the car, but I do actually like it with the car.  Oh, well.fog1842

These two pictures don’t really work unless they’re big, so blow them up to the size of your screen.

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From the Turkish grocers,  Ayran and Dough yoghurt drinks. Dough is fizzy.  Both are really good.  I actually bought it for Jack because they didn’t have buttermilk, but I’m having it.ayranyoghurt2113

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Here is a peculiar looking brown ram I saw today out in my neighbour’s little pasture.  They sort of rent the sheep, although I’m not sure who pays who, and then they’re returned for the winter to their other quarters a few miles away. If you click on the picture, they’re bigger.

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In the blurry background you can see the black sheep of the family and I think there’s a lamb there too.  Today they were silent, but last year they had very deep assertive voices.  None of your hesitant bleating, it was more like Paul Robeson singing Ol’ Man River.

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This is a tree stump nearby. I do wish they wouldn’t paint little blobs on the trees; they’re to stop you getting lost, two hundred yards from the car park, but if you’re that anxious you probably ought not to be outside at all.  The fence is to keep the sheep in.  I’m thinking of bringing the goats around tomorrow for a look at the sheep.

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Today a facebook friend of mine, Abu Faris, mentioned a blog: Look at my fucking red trousers!  It mostly concerns (this being England) a form of dress worn by men who want to be taken for upper-class.  The trousers are an extra shibboleth of twittedness just in case the brown trilby hats don’t get the message across. Here’s another example, some hostile-looking graduates of the British military college Sandhurst posing in their red-trouseredness as a group. Something that struck me is how confrontational some of the pictures are, mild-mannered photographers almost starting fistfights: I especially like this and this one (the three school prefect types in the second one look up to no good to me, though I couldn’t tell you why).  Elsewhere on the blog are pictures of hipsters in red trousers.  I’m guessing they’re following in the footsteps of punks on both sides of the Atlantic.  After black, and white, red was always the punk colour.  There’s a picture – it must be somewhere on the web, but I can’t find it – of Richard Hell in about 1978 wearing tight red trousers; for me at the time it represented some kind of extreme of coolness.

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Which brings me to Norwegian red trousers. The russefeiring is an elaborate and meticulously prepared drunken month-long celebration made by and for kids in their final year of high school.  My daughter is currently part of this.  Strictly speaking the red trousers are dungarees, but the upper portion is NEVER worn, I’m told.  It just isn’t. Your name and the name of your school are applied to the trouser legs in block letters and then you don’t remove them for a month except for the obvious reasons.  Later in May every russ person in Norway goes to Stavanger to do more celebrating.

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If I was dressing up like this I’d consider wearing red Italian pope shoes but maybe, like for the fat Englishmen, these outfits are about contrasts rather than matches.

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They wear the outfit every day now. Yesterday Alma rebelled and wore her canary-yellow drainpipe pants, but today I saw she’d come to her senses. There’s also a cap (you can see it on the Wikipedia page) but it’s not worn until 17 May, Norway’s July 4th, for some reason.  Some russe groups (not Alma’s) buy an old school bus off last year’s celebrants and drive around all night drinking beer. Every so often you’ll see a small band of them at the supermarket loading up on hotdogs and cases of beer. Things to be thankful for: it’s light until quite late by this time of the year and I’m quite sure, being Norway, the driver doesn’t touch a drop. Everything is so well planned. To me the most peculiar part of it is that when it’s over the boys & girls return to school, with terrible hangovers, to take their final exams.

I can’t figure out who’s responsible for Look at my fucking red trousers!  except that they’re using the pseudonym Henri de Pantalon-Rouge.  I do wish people would stand up and use their own names.

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Julia put up on Facebook a couple of pictures she took as she was walking through Buenos Aires.  It must have been early this afternoon in Argentina, because it was around nine pm here.  I thought I’d do the same, a simultaneous event on the other side of the Earth, but being me, by the time I was done it was eleven.  Her pictures show blue sky, sun and giant palm trees.  Here we just have a foggy evening and a nosy peek through the window:

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You can just see Topsy curled up on the sofa next to Dyv, on the right-hand side:1454

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The snow behind our house is melting, but  I can’t yet say that it’s almost gone. While I was out in the garden taking this picture, the rotten snow under my boots collapsed and I sank into it up to my mid-thigh.

Last week, after I dropped Alma off for her interview at the Architectural Association, I headed for the British Museum.alm1049

It’s just on the far side of Bedford Square and then one more short block.  I was stunned by these plane (I think) trees in Bedford Square.  Even though we have some remarkable ash and birch trees near our house Norway’s climate must be harsh enough that the deciduous trees never become this magnificent. These are perfect , like actors on a stage, and yet when they were planted a couple of hundred years ago who had the foresight to envision this for their great-great grandchildren – or was it just chance?

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Currently hovering over the square is this high-tech crane cab. It’s actually located above the British Museum and may be something to do with the new underground line (London is always building a new underground line, it’s a big Swiss cheese down there).

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It made a plumed hat for the pedimented row houses:

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On either side of the entrance to the Rosetta Stone gallery are these two silent gents:

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They are very similar in everything but the stone they are carved from, and that makes all the difference to their appearance.

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This gold, ceremonial helmet I showed last time I went to the BM; this time it’s not blurry. It’s inscribed with the name king Meskalamdug (“hero of the good land”) and was discovered at the Royal Cemetery at Ur in 1924 by the archeologist Leonard Wooley.  Actually, it’s what the BM calls an electrotype, an exact metal copy of the original. Until recently, the original was living quite happily in the museum in Baghdad, but now it’s missing, a casualty of the war.  I wonder what hung from the little holes along the lower rim, possibly some leather padding. I like the idea of wearing a hat decorated with the hair and ears it encloses – wearing your body on the outside – why don’t we do that nowadays?  It’s an unexplored fashion theme. If I were a clothes designer I’d spend all my time here, looking for inspiration (and finding it).

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This one is also from Ur. A gold head-dress and beads worn by a Sumerian woman in about 2600 BC, apparently:

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Some years ago an archeologist and farmer called Basil Brown

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dug up a helmet in a field in Suffolk.  Part of the Sutton Hoo Anglo-Saxon treasure.  This is a recreation made by the Royal Armouries (the decoration on the original was in tiny fragments).

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Imagine meeting him coming up the beach.  Quite sinister.

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Science fiction portrayals – Darth Vader & co. – are pretty feeble when you look at what we have in real life.

On Wednesday morning, in order to avoid some horrible central London traffic on my way to Bloomsbury, I was driven on a devious route that went through Admiralty Arch.  For those who don’t know it, this arch is a grossly monumental building dating from the height of the British Empire, round about 1910 (you can see the Roman numerals at the top of the first photograph).  It sits on the corner of Trafalgar Square, a gateway down The Mall, the wide avenue with coral-coloured asphalt that features in every state procession to or from Buckingham Palace.

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As I say, the traffic was awful. We were sitting there trying to get into Trafalgar Square for five or ten minutes.  After a while, I noticed the lampposts:

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They have little galleons on top , with the wind in their sails.  They’re all heading down The Mall, in the direction of the palace.  The inscription is E-RI, for king Edward VII, Emperor of India.  Edward’s mother, Queen Victoria, was the first Empress of India.  Her daughter the Princess Royal had married the German Kaiser – or emperor – Friedrich III, and with Victoria a mere queen her daughter (confusingly also called Victoria) now outranked her at the dinner table. The prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, made the queen Empress of India and equilibrium was restored.

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The base of each post is supported by dolphins’ tails and scallop shells.

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I hope I haven’t got the chronology of this all wrong: I assume the lampposts date from the construction of Admiralty Arch, somewhere around 1910.  It’s sad we couldn’t build lampposts like this today, neither as innocent nor as decorative; of course we’ve had two world wars and a severe case of modernism since 1910.  In the years leading up to the First World War, propriety may have stopped the designer adding mermaids draped in seaweed; there surely must have been some limit to whimsy in those days.  Or is it an example of cool British equanimity: in Belfast and up in Scotland, the Admiralty was building the Dreadnought-class battleships that were to win the battle of Jutland in 1916, while in London it was decorating the streets with tiny bronze-cast galleons inspired by a Peter Pan illustration or a Gilbert & Sullivan stageset.

Before you get to one-armed, one-eyed Admiral Nelson on his perch in Trafalgar Square, you pass Captain James Cook.  He has all his limbs and  looks as if he’s discovering something – in that overcoat, probably not Hawaii.

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Topsy, Jack, Jack’s ball & Alma on Semsvannet.

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I’m putting this up for the hell of it and to see if it’s possible on a blog.  I’ve been spending a lot of time lately making so-called ‘panorama’ images.  All you do is click a bunch of pictures in a relatively straight line making sure there’s a bit of an overlap. Then you can hand them over to Photoshop on your computer. There’s a lot of whirring and shaking and sometimes a wisp of blue smoke and after about five minutes a finished ‘stitched’ together photograph like this one below is spat out.  Actually there’d probably be less banging and it would take less time if I used smaller files; at full size my panoramas are about eleven metres long (and 300 dots to the inch).  I haven’t tried printing one yet, because I suspect that an eleven-metre-long print is going to cost a packet, and so I want to get it right before I try.  There are ways to get a continuous horizontal line along the top and bottom, but I didn’t feel like doing that in the example shown here.  Why bother printing pictures so large, you ask.  Partly to regain a little bit of the scale that’s missing from a tiny picture and partly because so much more of the recorded detail becomes visible.  If you don’t believe it could be that big a deal pop into your local art gallery.  I was recently at the National Portrait Gallery in London and really the difference between an eight-by-ten or a screen-sized image and their momentous likenesses, one-inch-diameter warts and all, is as night and day.  This picture is of my old friend the Semsvannet, the lake by our house, while it’s frozen and the air is foggy.

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 Below, is the centre section at a larger scale.  I think you’ll agree that the detail is pretty good.  The tiny figures and the horses are more than a kilometre away from me and I’m seeing them through a fog. It looks a bit like one of those Dutch snow scenes that Siganus Sutor is always talking about.

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It’s not really the whiteness, it’s more that it’s February and the end isn’t in sight. In Britain the rain has washed last week’s snow away whereas here the skiing season is getting into full swing.

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You can see at the bottom of the gate below that we’ve got about two feet (60cm) of snow. It’s not quite deep enough to go over the top of my knee-length wellingtons.

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Recently, I’ve been taking the dogs down the hill

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and on to the lake.

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It had just finished snowing yesterday when we went down there.  Hardly anybody was on the lake except for the person you can just see in the distance, behind a kick-sledge.  He always seems to be there .

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This is the amaryllis in the kitchen. Dyveke buys one every year and I love it. Even though it doesn’t quite fit with the others, I didn’t want the picture to go to waste.

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Oh, and here’s the snow-blowing tractor.

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As well as being a so-called snow hole – there’s often tons of snow here when it’s all melted down in Oslo – up where we live it’s often foggy, especially in the morning. Roll the three kilometres down the hill to the fjord and it’s clear with sharp sunlight. Sometimes down there there’s what appears to be steam coming off the fjord but there’s no overhead cloud except for the one wrapping our hill.  Our fog clears round about lunchtime, usually. Here is what happened yesterday.

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There was a glimmer of sun when we started out from the house.

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After a quarter of an hour’s walking I could see the sun – sort of.

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And then the fog started rolling back off the lake.

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It happened within a couple of minutes.

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fog9320It was still difficult to see the cliff behind our house. smalltops9272

When that cleared, the sky was also revealed.  There’s our house at the bottom right, in the shadows.

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On 28 December we had one very clear day after all the snow fell. I can’t account for the different sky colour in these pictures, it has not been done deliberately.  The first tree is a cherry in front of our house.  It was almost falling over (our neighbour advised me to chop it down in case it fell on the house), but in the last ten years this cherry has gone to great trouble to lean backwards, growing mostly towards the left, and nowadays it seems much better balanced and less scary in a high wind.  The other trees are all, I think, birches of different ages.

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My favourite is this last one, though I can’t give any good reasons.

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Crow’s Nests

That lofty stand of trees beyond the field,
Which in the storms of summer stood revealed

As a great fleet of galleons bound our way
Across a moiled expanse of tossing hay,

Full-rigged and swift, and to the topmost sail
Taking their fill and pleasure of the gale,

Now, in this leafless time, are ships no more,
Though it would not be hard to take them for

A roadstead full of naked mast and spar
In which we see now where the crow’s nests are.

Richard Wilbur (with thanks to Language Hat).

Christmas is mostly about nostalgia, I find. Although she renounced children’s telly about a decade ago, on the morning of Christmas Eve Alma still watches the 1970s Czech film of Cinderella.  It’s broadcast on television in many European countries at this time of year – rather like the old English film they show in Germany every New Year’s Eve, Dinner For One (The same procedure as last year?).

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Topsy hung around too, pretending to be a rug.

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We’d had quite a lot of snow during the night.

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Now that it’s covered with snow it seems unlikely that we’ll be using our outdoors bathtub again this year – although you never really know.

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The first thing I had to do was blow the snow off the driveway. Then I let the goats out for a couple of hours.

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They hardly ever come out in the winter now.  Dyveke says they’re old ladies, but old ladies go out in the snow. I see them all the time.

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There really isn’t much to eat.

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Though all three had a go at debarking this little mountain-ash tree.

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Holly’s beginning to look a bit like a polar bear.

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Misty, as always, wanted to show me her undying gratitude for something or other.

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Then Holly did a little dance,skip638

and Misty ate some clematis,

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and a rose.

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Not liking the disruption Vesla was reluctant to come outside.  The only thing she would eat, besides the mountain ash bark, was beech leaves.ves8556

One day when the snow has settled I think I’ll take them for a walk.

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We now have enough snow to ski on, should you wish (I don’t). Jack is five months old now.  He’s enthusiastic about the snow. You can see that it was snowing yesterday, quite hard but not unpleasantly (there was no wind).

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At times he goes quite bananas.

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And he likes to share his enjoyment with Topsy.

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Topsy chases him.  We think she has a plan to tire him out so he’ll spend less time later trying to attract her attention in an in-your-face way while she’s taking a nap.

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Today we went to the dog run.  It’s in the middle here, on the near side of the red cabin by the lake.

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Jack has to stay on a lead in case he runs down on to the lake.  I think he’s still quite relieved not to have to face the big dogs yet, too.

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Topsy made a friend, an Italian water dog-Labrador mixture called Alex.

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They had fun with snow,

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chased one another,

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and made peculiar facial expressions that changed too quickly for the naked eye to pick up but were caught by the camera.

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Tomorrow I’ll show some more pictures.  I don’t want to make this post too huge to download.

There is more snow today, though still not enough to ski on.  Our roses are undeterred by it.

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We went down to the dog run and met this so-called puppy:

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It is allegedly four months old.  God knows what it will look like by next winter.  Topsy was unimpressed, she must have realised it was only a puppy.

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But she loved playing with it.  I quite like Alsatians.  It was a good sport,

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…as was Jack.

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who is also four months old, but closer to the snow.

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The lake has frozen over during the past few days.

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Except there’s this strip of water down the middle, I don’t know what could have caused it:

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For those of you from further south, this is a common sight in snowy regions:  can you see the row of tiny orange lights in the centre-left of the picture below?  It’s a downhill skiing run.  It’s probably got a special name, a kunstigsnøpist or something, but I’m not a downhill skier so I wouldn’t know.  The lights are to help you find your way down the hill in the dark.  Can you imagine trying to ski fast down a hill in the dark?  I’d rather drink poison.

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Here are the maple trees on the slope behind our house, with the goathouse to the left.

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It’s December once again, time to bring out the straw goats.  Here are some very discreet decorations we passed:

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It’s snowed again, a tiny bit, and this time it hasn’t melted.

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Some places avoided any accumulation, including this new private venue for viewing the lake, or maybe for fishing.  There was nobody about when we passed by. I think it needs a Trespassers-will-be-prosecuted sign but this is Norway so it won’t happen.

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Someone has run over the pedestrian sign.

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We were taking a late walk.  Not so late, really, about half-three-ish, but it gets dark so early now.

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I got a reasonable shot of the waterfall as we passed.  You’d think it would be easy but the surroundings are quite dark and my pictures nearly always come out blurred.  I’m missing a human figure to give some idea of how big it is – bigger than you’d think from the photograph.

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This is the shaky bridge I mentioned the other day. Topsy appreciates the waterfall, I think.

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And I like the swirling water.

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We met two dogs.  This one liked Topsy.

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And then this setter passed us on its way round the lake.  It was alone, it looks as though it might have a gps thing around its neck.  Topsy really liked it but it was preoccupied, just like the joggers.

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My favourite pictures are the final two.  I like the others, of course, otherwise they wouldn’t be there.  If you’re one of those who thinks it’s nutty to take pictures of trees in the fog, all I can say is you work with what you’ve got.

These are some of the trees that had winter quarters for bats attached to them last year by someone at Oslo University.  I’ve never seen a bat getting in or out but I daren’t check to see in case I disturb them.

Does anyone know anything about ant hibernation?  The anthills around here go quiet in the autumn and you don’t see another ant until the following April.  This seems to be what happens in the United States.  However, my mother says that the ants in Britain don’t hibernate; they’re always on the go, doing whatever it is ants do.  Is it simply a question of how cold it gets in winter?  How would an ant in, say, Singapore know when to hibernate?

Fog doesn’t only obscure things.  I mentioned once before how sometimes the hazel twigs next to our garden look like a Jackson Pollock.  One thing that’s not like a Pollock is the depth.  It must be the fog that enables it.  Some branches are fainter than others and a shallow space appears in between the foreground twigs and the background twigs.

Here is an interesting article about tracking birds in a hurricane, though I must say that I found the end of it to be rather depressing (the tagged birds that survived were shot by ‘hunters’ in Guadeloupe).

This was the footpath on Sunday.  After Saturday’s miserable weather it would have been problematic going for a walk without wellingtons;  I always wear them at this time of year…but I was not alone.

Sundays are a big deal around here during the autumn.  Many families spend July and the following weekends at their cabins by the sea and winter breaks at their cabins in the mountains.  But after school starts and before there’s snow, they stay home in Oslo.  Then on Sunday afternoon they take the twenty minute drive out here, park the stationwagon, and tramp around the lake with their children and dogs trying to tire them out before Sunday evening.

And this Sunday was a perfect day for it.  I think I took the same picture in the previous post and you can compare them to see the difference a little bit of sunshine and blue sky makes.

Someone even had a campfire:

Every so often I’ll see these white balls on bushes.  Does anyone know what they are?  They seem Christmassy and I’m sure they must be deadly poison otherwise they’d be all gone.

The people walk all the way around.  There’s no stopping them.  If this were England, they’d have found a place for tea by now.

Actually, there is a place about half way that sells waffles and brown cheese and coffee.  Standing outside is my favourite horse; an Irish tinker: huge, with big furry feet that wouldn’t fit in the picture, unfortunately.

Here’s a patch of moss I saw on a tree trunk.  It’s rained so much that moss is becoming a cash crop.

I spent years trying to avoid getting tree branches my pictures.  Now that the leaves have fallen I’m making up for lost time, there’s nothing wrong with the odd twig.

I have nothing to say about the goats, gangnam style.  Unlike Madonna, Eton and the US navy academy the goats don’t need this kind of media promotion.

Yesterday it was very gloomy; it rained the whole day. This picture taken outside the front door is nothing like what seemed to be happening.  It was a continuous flow, I thought; but apparently not if you take a quick-enough snap: rectangular drops of water, reflecting the hillside upside-down.  In the first drop, at its top right, I think I can see Topsy who was standing next to me while I was snapping away.

This is the top of the pear tree in the garden, in the middle of the afternoon:

Everything conspires to make foggy sunless days like this even darker,

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and the leafless branches.

Topsy still wants to go for a brief walk on days like this.  We usually just go down to the post box, which is about three hundred yards (or metres) in each direction.

Autumn is the busy season at the waterfall on the other side of the lake. I’m worried the footbridge is going to be washed away.  I daren’t go over there.

And yet there are small compensations.  The view through this rose bush was one for me yesterday. I’m not really sure why.

Last Wednesday, my daughter and I were in London. Early in the morning we passed this very long procession of geese on their way to a pond on Ham Common.  There must have been fifty of them walking single file.  We had a lot to do, and we didn’t realise its significance at the time, but I see it now as a harbinger of our visit to the British Museum.

On trips to London when Alma was younger we would usually spend the afternoon at the Regent’s Park Zoo.  This time, round about lunchtime, we knew we were very close to the British Museum and so we decided to spend the rest of the day there.

We entered past these huge Chinese bells on a staircase by the back entrance:

It takes you eventually into the old courtyard, which Norman Foster enclosed, in 2000, and turned into a central public space.

It surrounds the base of the famous old reading room where Marx worked after 1857, when it opened.  Other writers and researchers – from Kipling to Virginia Woolf, Jinnah to Gandhi, H.G. Wells to Lenin – also worked there and I remember there was some grumbling when the Library was separated from the museum and located in new premises.  Anyway, the new Great Courtyard is very successful, enormous and difficult to photograph.  Everybody wants to know how they clean the glass (I think it’s self-cleaning):

Our first goal was to the right from the courtyard, the Rosetta Stone.

Only one person was looking at the back, and for good reason. There’s nothing there.

The front was a different matter.  It’s one of the most popular items – what the Mona Lisa is to the Louvre, I suppose :

You only have to walk a little way, past this delightful 5-legged Assyrian bearded creature – part-man, part-bird, part-lions perhaps? (there are four of them flanking this archway and several more quite similar ones in the adjoining

galleries) – to come to the Elgin Marbles and more half-man depictions, this time a centaur kicking another bloke in the balls almost certainly in self defence.

There were three or four centaurs in the Parthenon galleries in relief on the metopes.  There’s also this freestanding horse’s head from the tapered end of one of the pediments:

Alma pointed out that it’s not symmetrical, a nice change from the more static Assyrian sculpture.

After a little while it struck me that there may be more animals on display at the British Museum than there are at the London Zoo.  There are cattle all over the place.  This is a tiny Minoan bull tossing a man:

There are lots more Cretan bulls, all quite small.  Here are three:

In another part of the museum is a much larger, copper Sumerian bull, one of originally four found in 1923 by Leonard Wooley, near Ur.  It’s dated 2600 BC, and the display, with what looks like some house-cleaning polish in the background and lines of ducks and cattle below it, reminded me of the processing geese on Ham Common.  It decorated a temple to Ninhursag, whose name means ‘lady of the steppe land’ where cows were put out to pasture.

There were many lions, tigers, Egyptian cats, seals, otters and other creatures that I didn’t photograph.  I can’t remember seeing many birds or fish.

In the print room on the almost top floor was an exhibition of Goya’s etchings and those of some of his contemporaries.  One of them had etched a copy of His Majesty’s Giant Ant-eater, a 1 x 2-metre painting recently attributed to Goya, in Madrid.  Apparently the animal was brought, aged two-and-a-half, from Buenos Aires, and was presented to Carlos III in 1776.  As far as I know it led a happy life in Spain.

As well as the crazy, grizzly Disasters of War (Los desastres de la guerra) aquatint etchings which I won’t show here, Goya himself had quite a lot of bullfight scenes and a couple of dogs on show.  And then there was this elephant, called Who Will Bell the Cat? (Quién le pondrá el cascabel al gato?), from Los Proverbios.

The generally accepted interpretation of this print is that the elephant, representing the people, is being seduced into accepting laws which would sap its strength and put it at the mercy of the ruling class. The fable of the mice who held a meeting to discuss what to do with the cat (they decided to bell it, but then had to decide who would take on the task) was in an anthology that was almost surely known to Goya. In the composition one of the cowering Moors holds a book (laws?) while another holds out a bell harness in the direction of the massive animal.

There were a few other things I photographed.  One, next to the Goyas, was this Indian openwork teacup;  I wondered at first why the tea didn’t come spilling out of the holes but it’s got a leakproof layer inside:

Here’s the BM’s own picture, below; it’s quite different from mine.  The museum says the teacup is from 1900 and cast from silver at the Workshop of Oomersee Mawjee (also spelled Oomersi Mawji) in Bhuj, Gujarat, in western India.  “The greatest silversmith in India”, here are some photographs of a holy-water container he made, from silver and coco-de-mer, in the form of a cow.

Tea-cup and saucer.  Each element is made up of an outer and an inner skin of silver; the decoration appears on the outer skin while the inner face is undecorated and shiny.  The decorated part appears as a pierced skin through which the shiny interior part can be seen.  These separate parts are screwed together on the base.  The decoration on both cup and saucer is the same – a main band of floral scrollwork with, above and below, a small band of acanthus leaves.

 Another object I liked was this large Japanese Haniwa 埴輪 terracotta tomb figure, upstairs.  He’s from around 500 AD, a warrior chieftain from Ibaraki.  This is a subject I know nothing about but I like the hat, beard, tunic and trousers.  It’s nothing like any Japanese art or costume that I’ve seen elsewhere.

We got out of the BM, at the front end, at about three thirty.

There was just time for a cup of tea at the London Review of Books‘ bookshop & café, round the corner, and then we had to head home.  I didn’t see one single goat all day.

The snow only lasted a couple of days; even so, I doubt anyone will be using the watering can again this year.

When does discussing the weather stop being dull?  Only when it’s local, probably. For us onlookers the New York hurricane was more of a disaster than a bout of weather.  It’s hard to compete with something that big.

Now that we’ve put the clocks back it gets dark early: five-something in good weather, three-thirty or four if it’s overcast and foggy.  The snow makes everything lighter. I was finding the dark mud in the ploughed fields to be slightly oppressive; even if it’s a bit colder with snow, it’s still more jolly.  Anyway, it melted.  The lake doesn’t freeze until Christmas.

Topsy got a few flakes on her nose.

Here’s something very slightly interesting.  You may have seen this aerial picture, taken by paragliding photographer George Steinmetz for the National Geographic, in 2008.  It’s slightly odd at first glance because there’s no horizon or sky.  It’s only after you realise that you’re looking at camel shadows not at camels, that the actual camels are the tiny foreshortened whitish streaks below each shadow, that it makes sense; and it’s still disconcerting to see ephemeral shadows describing solids in a much more convincing and informative way than the images of the objects themselves do.

With that in mind, I’ve taken lots and lots of pictures of Topsy and her shadow.  I’ve found it to be much harder than I’d expected but on Monday it snowed, and with a white background and plenty of bright light I’m hoping there will be more opportunity to capture the interesting poses, though I still don’t know what I’ll make with them.  Here’s a few of the ones I got yesterday:

Unlike the camels, these are foreshortened.

Having buried Alex the ex-Yorkshire terrier at the bottom of the garden earlier in the summer (he was 19 and still going strong, but he was hit by a truck), my daughter Alma has now acquired Jack, a Silky terrier.  They are Yorkshire terriers crossed with Australian terriers; slightly larger than Yorkshire terriers but still pretty tiny, with very soft fur like a cat’s.  He’s now 11 weeks old.

If you click on the pictures you will be able to see him in his full glory – and practically at full scale:

He hasn’t had much contact with the goats yet, but he gets on very well with Topsy, who treats him like a small child and generally looks out for him.  He’s too young to take for walks; we’ll probably start in the spring, he’ll still be too short to walk around in snow this winter.

I happen to love figs.  In Norway they usually cost one week’s salary per fig and they’re wrapped in tissue paper as if they’re very rare. Imagine our surprise today at finding absurdly cheap (for Norway) boxes of figs for sale at our local Turkish grocery store.

And now, crows:

This was a point-and-click crow and it’s not completely in focus but I am getting better.

My daughter found this video:

Look out!…Here comes Spider Pig.

Some Pig.

One minute the sun is out, the next it’s teeming with rain, and then it’s both at once.  If this is global warming it is at least giving us photogenic cloud effects.

Only a fool would jump off that diving board in this weather.   Actually, I’m thinking about it.

A hundred yards up the road, in the barn opposite these cows:

are swallows.  Hirundo rusticaGolondrina zapadora, Låvesvalen, Hirondelle des granges, Rauchschwalbe, the European barn or fork-tailed swallow, at the end of this month they will all one day suddenly depart together for southern Africa.

They are tiny.  They flutter in the wind, blown about like butterflies, and though I can’t see how they can travel such a distance under their own steam, I envy them their dodging-winter skills.  Except…

…why do they travel all the way back to Norway?  What would be wrong with spending a winter in South Africa?

 

 

It’s not the daisies that were eating the tree.

The daisies were quite close to Holly, who was lying next to a birch tree and watching me:

I think she’d been taking an afternoon nap there.

She got up,

decided the birch tree was a snack,

and tried to nibble it to death.

Holly is one weird goat.  We’re all slightly scared of her – all except Vesla, who’s much smaller than Holly.

Yesterday, I got a letter from Siganus Sutor in Mauritius regarding his comment in my last post:

Good morning Artur,

As promised, please find attached pictures taken at Vacoas‘s bus station (“la gare de bus”), where there is a sign saying “alighting platform”.  I always thought that it was the place where engines were fired, i.e. allumés — even if buses don’t have steam engines anymore on Mars. Silly me…

Yours

Sig

The usual greeting at the end of Sig’s letters is Salaam, which I like a lot.

Sometimes I think I would like to be living in Mauritius or Argentina.  Both are ideal for goats and horses.

To get to central London from my mother’s, you take a double-decker bus to Richmond, and then a train.  The bus stops are named after the nearest pub, “The Fox & Duck” in this case.

At Richmond, this man was on the opposite platform.  I wanted a picture because of the odd way he had wound his elbow around the back of his head, but by the time I’d got my camera out he’d stopped.

He had a bag full of machines to keep himself occupied, but he was more interested in the other man’s newspaper.  The London afternoon paper is free, and still as trashy as it always was – the 1970s Evening Standard headline I’ll never forget is “I Ate Nurse Judy”, about some travelers who had been stranded on top of a mountain after an air crash – it’s handed out at station entrances, and nowadays all its revenue comes from advertising.  Despite the free papers, most of the passengers I saw seemed to be more interested in tapping out messages on tiny telephones.  What are they doing?  Playing games?  Perhaps they’re reading newspapers online.

If I were a grumpy old man, I’d say that far too many of the passengers have their feet on the seats.

Through Sheen, Mortlake, Barnes, Putney, Wandsworth, Clapham Junction – this could be anywhere.  The only thing that marks it out as London is…well, nothing, really…

until you come to Queenstown Road (this stop for Battersea Dog’s Home).  You may remember Battersea from when I wrote about Battersea Power Station.  It’s still standing (just) derelict nearby.  My daughter suggested a new use for it, she would like to combine the two things Battersea is most famous for:

And then shortly before Waterloo comes the Shard, London’s new tallest building,

designed by the great Renzo Piano. The name comes from its top, which is composed of jagged bits of glass that extend up beyond the top storeys.

There’s nothing behind the glass but daylight, and there are gaps between the pieces, so the top is diaphanous and ephemeral.  It seems to be disappearing into the moving clouds,

like Frank Lloyd Wright’s futuristic, 1956 proposal for a mile-high skyscraper (why were his clouds lying diagonally, I wonder?)

Nowadays all over London are signs and announcements about what to do when you alight from a train or bus.  Is this word used elsewhere too?  I don’t think so, it’s a prissy, Pooterish sort of word. Anyway, at Waterloo I alighted, minding the gap, and headed for Bloomsbury, which I’ll show you tomorrow.

From Waterloo I took the Tube to Goodge Street, and walked through Bloomsbury to the British Museum, where I took many, many blurry photographs:

And an occasional sharpish one:

I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life at the British Museum. I think it’s my favourite. It’s not just the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Marbles (as they’re now called), it has so much gorgeous stuff displayed, from all over the world, that I can literally see that it’s impossible to have anything more than a superficial grasp of most cultures. Look at this gold hat with ears that I snapped as I walked past. I think it’s Assyrian:

There are clocks, canoes, a machine for printing pound notes, a painting from 1943 of the Ethiopian army fighting the Italian army whose rows of troops:

reminded my daughter that there are similar rows in the Plains Indians drawings.

At the top of the stairs was an exhibition of the full 100 etchings of Picasso’s Vollard Suite, where I took more blurry photographs:

And then I went and sat in a sunken garden – I’m not sure it has a name – that seems to belong to University College. I went down two curved flights of steps until I was one storey below Malet Street and all the noise and fumes. What a great idea, I wonder why there aren’t more sunken public squares.

Afterwards I went to some of the remaining second-hand bookshops in Charing Cross Road, and so back to Richmond, and beyond.

I saw this last week, near the British Museum.  It’s part of University College, London.  Why “Hygiene & Tropical Medicine”, what’s the connection?  London School of Hygiene is a terrible, Orwellian name.  I see a reeducation centre, prisoners in white masks scrubbing floors after having been found thinking naughty thoughts about the tropics.

A couple of weeks ago, we went for a walk across a flat plain near our cabin in the mountains.

It’s not terribly high, I think about 1,000 metres.  To the west you can see the Jotunheimen mountains national park:

We were walking towards this hole in the ground, called Dørfallet or “door falls”.  I don’t know what it has to do with doors, at first I thought it was “Dødfallet”, or “deathfalls”, which would make more sense:

It’s a deep canyon,

where the rock has been eroded

by a little mountain stream, the kind they used to deploy in menthol cigarette advertising:

I’m one of those people who are very fond of rocks, and I was reminded of these cracks when I watched the video of Jon Piasecki and Stone River that I keep mentioning.

It’s hard to get a feeling for the scale in any of these pictures, they really need Topsy in them.

All the surrounding land is covered with this very pretty…

lichen:

The lichen is covering marshland, and you can suddenly find you’re in up to your waist.  In our case, it was only ankles.

Then we went home.

This is a damp path, not a stream.  It was on the way home that we met the sheep in the previous post.

I should have taken more pictures.  The sheep and lambs near our cabin in the mountains love to lie in the middle of the road, usually three or four of them together.  This one is doing it right in the middle of a blind curve.  It’s not as if they run away when a car comes, either.  They expect the cars to stop or to drive slowly and carefully around them – and they do.  Someone said they like it because the asphalt is warmer than the other ground, but it wasn’t a particularly cold day when I took this picture.

This post is definitely not about goats.

The rain continues. The good side of this for Norwegians is that the utility companies won’t be able to charge more money for water or for our hydro-electric power, this year.  Not unless they can think up a really good excuse, anyway. Normally, every autumn, they say there’s no water left and so the price is going up.  We never do run out, though.  It’s more photogenic rain than I encountered when I lived in Hamburg, where it was just awfully depressing, or London, where it was lighter but still too frequent for my taste.

Now here’s an odd effect that Dyveke saw from the garden and took a picture of the other day: a rainbow on the ground.  It must be a patch of mist that by chance was hit by sunlight.  Usually we only see rainbows on the other side of the house, behind the camera, and they’re in mid air.  In short I can’t explain this, but it was a nice bye-product of the current weather.

The other morning I saw a fox in the garden outside the kitchen.  As you can see, it was sniffing around our summer bathtub.  We never normally see foxes, though we do hear them crying out at night to one another.  This was quite early, about five in the morning, when I was making some tea.

But later in the day, round about lunchtime, it came back to the same spot.  It quickly saw there were people around, and ran away.  We haven’t seen it since. I’m pleased we haven’t got the hens anymore, but I’m nouveau-fox enough to get a kick out of seeing one.  Why now, suddenly?

 

A man in a tractor had just cut the hay, and these two were looking for food as we walked past.

They soon flew off.  They are always so timid; I don’t know why.

Later it’s a surprise to see what was happening at the instant the shutter clicked.  That may be what I like best about photographs.

The dairy cows are grazing in the meadow next to our garden.

They’re mostly the local brown-and-white (NRF – norsk rød fe), or they’re black-and-white (Frisian), but there’s also this one.  It looks French to me:

Topsy’s not crazy about cows.  Undaunted that it’s never once worked, she makes little rushes at them to scare them away:

They have velvet coats:

These two seemed particularly fond of one another:

The wild roses are out:

Here are some pictures I took yesterday in the garden.  You can see the two stray dogs that Alma found on the road.  They stayed overnight in the kitchen and were then returned to some people down the hill. Very nice dogs, but the barking!

Dog pictures too.  I was given a camera for my birthday and – this is always my biggest problem – I think I can focus sharper with it.

It’s got a video button too, so expect some Youtube action once I’ve figured out how to use it.

I’ve been reading an excellent book about animals, but that will have to wait until next time.

Perfect weather; it’s about 25-ish.

Some of our trees are still in blossom, the one above is a so-called ‘summer’ apple. Not all the blossom is alike in colour and size.  This below is from a Bramley cooking-apple tree, the one the goats split in half last year:

whereas this is from a pear tree:

It’s not unlike the blossom on the crabapple bush near the house:

I’ve cut some of the grass, but I can’t bear to get rid of the forget-me-nots and dandylions, so I stopped. Anyway, I like the contrast between the short and long grass.

Elsewhere, butting was taking place for no particular reason I could think of.  Even with shorn coats the goats are staying in the shade most of the time.

I’m not sure it’s possible to have this much fun if you aren’t a dog.  I love the front dog’s shadow, it shows she’s completely off the ground.  It hasn’t been taken at a funny angle, they really are going steeply downhill.

As usual on the seventeenth of May, we were awakened this morning at seven by a deafening twenty-one-gun military salute from the cannons outside our neighbour’s palace.

17 May is Norway’s national day.  It’s the biggest day of the year here, with flag waving, parades and barbeques similar to July 4th in the United States .  Our local parade of small children goes past the neighbour’s (the crown prince’s) front door (it’s the second photo, I can’t seem to link to it directly).  The children attend the primary school across the road, and when Alma was small we too had to show up at seven, wearing national dress or some other form of best clothes.

Some news people say it’s going to be even more enthusiastically celebrated this year;  it’s the first 17 May since the man shot the teenagers on Utøya, last July.  Norway has been preoccupied ever since with the significance of that incident.  There has been a thoughtful national debate – both about multiculturalism and how to deal with the culprit, as well as about human emotions like sorrow, anger, memorial, and so on.

Vesla has never expressed any interest in the seventeenth of May; it’s not her kind of thing.

Here is a better picture of the three philosophers on the windowsill:

 

 

Not from here, where flanking the house you can just about see the two cherry trees in bloom:

but a few minutes earlier it looked like this from the garden:

Everyone in Norway has their flags up today:

Except us.  We couldn’t decide which flag to fly, so we removed the pole that came with the house.  Anyway, today’s VE Day, 8 May, the anniversary of the end of the European part of WW2.  Only churches fly flags in England.  If a private house had a flagpole and flew the Union Jack today it would seem a bit peculiar.  If you waved the St. George’s cross, the red-and-white English flag, people would just think you were a right-wing extremist.  I’ve tried to design my own flag, but it’s not as easy as you’d think; every shape and colour already symbolises something that I’d just as soon not have on my flag.

Alma painted the Easter-egg heads that are sitting on the windowsill. It means your children are growing up when they’d rather paint Kant, Descartes and Nietzsche (l. – r.) than chicks and bunnies.

It’s May, and I’ve opened the windows.  They are locked tight during the winter and though it’s much warmer that way, we lose any connection with the outside –

where the birch trees near the house are now becoming greener by the day.

The windflowers are still thriving,

so are the daffodils,

and so is Tops.

Vesla had a haircut on Sunday.

It’s always a surprise to see how small she really is, like the front half of a pantomime horse.

I’m not the only one who thinks so.

We lost the goats for a while, but then two of them turned up in Alma’s old hut in the back garden, taking some sun.

Where was Vesla?

Vesla was hiding behind the goat house…

Dyv took these with a telephone, so Vesla’s a bit fuzzy.

It is very clear and crisp at the moment.  Yesterday, Alma and I clipped Holly.  This meant turning her on her back to cut the wool underneath, and I think it caused her to get grass and twigs stuck on her back.

She must have been pleased to get rid of all that shaggy wool, though.

If you’re wondering why Vesla’s wearing a red scarf, it’s because of the butting that always takes place when one of them has a haircut.

This time Holly accidentally cut Vesla’s forehead, right in front of her horns.

Although Vesla didn’t seem to notice the damage, it was bleeding quite badly; so Alma used a red horse bandage that she wound neatly around Vesla’s horns.  The bandage sticks to itself, but somehow manages not to be sticky on its outer surface – I don’t know how they do that.

I think she looks like Bruce Springsteen.

It’s about time we had some nice weather.

Why is United Kingdom singular, whereas United States is plural?  Most countries unite in the plural – the United Nations, the United Arab Emirates, the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, to name a few – for the obvious reason that it takes more than one to form a union.  Sometimes, there is no alternative: the United State or the United Nation would have meant something else, and Union of Soviet Socialist Republic wouldn’t have made any sense at all.  Likewise Union of South Africa, the British

colonial name used from 1910 until South Africa became a republic in 1961, was a less peculiar option than a union of ‘South Africas’. You don’t want a name that raises more questions than it answers, ‘Popular Front’, ‘Democratic Republic’ etc. Sometimes it seems that it might have been possible to use either the singular or plural form, and a choice was made.  In the late 1950s there was the United Arab Republic, a union between Syria and Egypt that only lasted three years and was dominated by the will of Egypt’s President Nasser.  Its Arabic form is الجمهورية العربية المتحدة‎.  Google Translate assures me that’s a singular ‘republic’ and perhaps Nasser preferred it that way (ironically, after Syria quit, the United Republic continued for another ten years with Egypt its sole member).

In the British case the kingdoms that were united were: a) Scotland, and b) England-and-Wales, Wales being a principality that hadn’t had its own king since the Norman conquest (I’m not sure where Ireland came into this).  The union was made law by the Scottish and English parliaments in their 1707 Acts of Union.  I’m no historian, and I haven’t researched it, but I expect the unification into one kingdom was a way of reconciling the fact that both countries had been using the same monarch for about a century: since James VI of Scotland, grandson of Henry VIII, became James I of England.  Now the Scots are preparing for a referendum on independence, and thinking about applying for membership of Scandinavia.  Is this nitpicking important?  Probably not compared to taxation and the profits from North Sea oil, which seem to be the nationalists’ main justifications for voting Scotland independent.  But it is quite fun, in the same way that British republicanism is fun (I think).  How you see the S may depend on your attitude to change. The Scots may want to discuss with the English whether the final S might become part of a compromise.  That unequal Scandinavian relationship that ended in 1905, almost exactly two hundred years after the Acts of British union, was at least known as the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway.

There’s no relation between the photographs and the text here.  I don’t quite see why there ought to be.  We might drink orange juice while we discuss art, without anyone complaining.  Rather than merely illustrating a verbal argument, can’t pictures be a a counterpoint or contrast – perhaps even a relief?

Update:  From the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century lots of new words came into English, and during that time England was ruled by Mary I,  Elizabeth I, Mary II and  Anne I,  for a total of roughly sixty years. Since 1952, Britain has had a queen for its monarch, adding another 60 years to the total.  Why has England never been called a Queendom?  Does such a word exist in other languages?

I have received a letter from my very good friend Siganus Sutor, in Mauritius:

A colleague of mine has recently sent me a number of photos said to have been taken in India. Among them was one showing a goat on which a very large blue underwear has been pulled — for a reason that is not evident at first glance, though I doubt it would have been done just for the fun of it.

I must say I can’t think why a goat would need such an outfit.  Here are more of the pictures.

What a wonderful country it is.  They even drive on the left.

It’s Spring.  The cherry trees have buds, and here are some:

The goats are confined to their part of the garden.  They can’t go outside the fence until the grass has had a chance to grow and the cattle grid is in place.

We have sheared them at both ends, but there is still much work to be done.  This is Holly:

And this is Misty:

They’re still quite glad of their coats at night.  Misty will do anything to find new sources of food.  She’s such a smart goat.

But I thought Holly seemed disdainful.

I didn’t take any close-up pictures of Vesla.  She just looks the same as the others, only shorter.  Here’s Topsy:

There are some lovely wild flowers out at the moment; if there are more than usual, it might be because the snow melted very early this year (that’s just my theory).

 

 

 

My daughter sometimes makes birthday cakes for her classmates.  I don’t know why this one demanded a hedgehog.  She did a very good electric guitar recently, a Gibson.