Archives for the month of: October, 2010

At this time of year, we begin to notice that the sun is quite low…

By this time the camera’s memory card was full.

I’m not sure whether people still talk about how very “real” a photograph is compared to a painting.  Anyway, it’s not.  I have a problem with my camera: I like to take pictures while it’s getting dark, but the lens is so “good” that what comes out looks as if it were taken in broad daylight, all bright and cheery.  Though it narrows my photographing opportunity to about five or ten minutes (after that everything comes out all blurry), it’s no big deal; I can adjust it afterwards using Photoshop, but I find the brightness that wasn’t there to be disconcerting.

On the right, in this first one, you can just see the waterfall that flows into the lake:

Cows roosting in the trees:

More cows, overhead:

This could be Jamaica:

But unfortunately it isn’t.

Coming up next: The Weather.

These are some pictures of the rain on its way to eastwards yesterday, taken from the other side of the hill we live on, looking down on Oslo and the Oslofjord, the water that leads out to Skagerrak and the North Sea.

And some rosehips I passed:

Below, that’s the outskirts of Oslo in the distance, the rich western suburbs that are well-known throughout Norway for petty snobbery, selfishness and competitiveness (all carried out in a very moderate and reasonable Norwegian way).

This is looking lower down the fjord as the clouds are sucked across to Sweden:

The fjøs below is where most of the dairy cows next to our house used to spend the winter.  The farm owner sold all his 120 cows over the summer; they went for about 15-20,000 kroner each (kr15,000 is $US 2,500 or 10 093.7025 Argentine pesos).  He inherited this place, he isn’t interested in farming, and the real farmer, the farm manager who loved the cows, is retiring.  The cows have gone to other farms in the neighbourhood.  My daughter says it’s a good thing, the cows will have a better life, she thought they were living in far too cramped conditions.  I thought they seemed happy.  Anyway, I’ll really miss them.

As Trond predicted, the rain cleared before it got dark.  Betty the horse and her old friend Askur have moved down the hill to a winter stable.  It’s at a big old  farm that nowadays is on the edge of Oslo’s fairly hideous suburban sprawl.  It’s close to the motorway; I only hope that it doesn’t get eaten.  Here’s the driveway yesterday evening, as the rain cleared; one of many avenues of polled ash trees around here that are the symbol of the local county:

Horses don’t like being ridden when it’s foggy, they spook when they see monsters looming.

When I came home, I went to turn out the lights in the goat house.

Last week, Champagne — the only hen to have actually been hatched here — died.  She was quite old: eight, I think.  Now we have only one hen left and that’s Cloudy.  My daughter and I tried to find some more Faverolles to buy; they lay small eggs, but they’re very friendly and I like their feathery feet.  There aren’t any Faverolles available in southern Norway at the moment; so for now she’s on her own, species-wise.

For the first couple of nights, while my wife was away in Stavanger working, we let Cloudy sleep in a cage in the living room.  It got awfully dusty.  When my wife returned, she suggested that Cloudy might enjoy living with the goats.  Cloudy’s always spent the odd day in the goathouse; sometimes she lays eggs there.

We put her in with Vesla.  She’s got her own cage on the ground, on the right, below.  There’s also a family of tits living with the goats, you can see one sitting on the railing in the middle of the picture:

Every night Cloudy climbs up to sleep on Vesla’s bed.  Maybe it’s warmer up there or possibly they just like the company.

I was going to post something else, but the pictures came out all blurry (my fault).  I’ll try again this evening; in the meantime this is Misty, taken five minutes ago.

Photo: ROA

Actually, I think it’s a hare.  An article in today’s Guardian shows it, painted on the side of a building in Hackney (east London).

The building’s owners had granted the artist permission to create the piece, but they have been served with a removal notice by Hackney council, warning that unless they “remove or obliterate the graffiti” within 14 days, a council contractor will paint over the wall and charge them for the service.

…Hackney council said in a statement: “The graffiti … is clearly visible from the road and, whilst it is not the council’s position to make a judgment call on whether graffiti is art or not, our task is to keep Hackney’s streets clean.

It’s not my position to make a judgment call on whether Hackney council are a miserable bunch of morons, my task is to expose them for abusing their power.

The Guardian has another article today, about a clock.

…a Monty Python moment; life imitating art.  The following sentence, in Deborah Mitford’s memoirs, about James Lees-Milne:

It is a pity that people reading about him now are told of his sexual proclivities and seem to overlook the work he did for the National Trust during and after the war.

If you read to the end of yesterday’s comments, you know that last night Trond and I experienced the first of this winter’s snow storms.  Well, storm is an exaggeration.  This morning, on the fields, it looked like nothing more than a mild frost and by lunchtime it was all gone .

This evening, while I was driving around, I saw the full moon and the clear blue sky and I thought I’d take some pictures.  As is always the way with my pictures the moon ones weren’t very good, but I liked the other accidental ones.  So here they are.  The first one was illuminated by a bus going past:

In each one, it’s the evening light that makes them interesting.  I want to take some more tomorrow.

It’s not so much a doctor who lives in the trees I need, as one who treats them.  What should I do about the following accident?

This morning, the goats broke into the garden.  Actually, it’s Misty.  She’s figured out how to open the gate.  The others just wait around the corner while she fiddles with the lock, and then they follow her in.

One of them broke a branch of my 3 year-old Bramley apple tree:

Bramleys (cooking apples) are next to impossible to get in Norway, so I want to save it if I can.  You can see it better up close.  It’s not completely severed, just split:

What I did was I wired it back into place:

And I gave it more support (it’s on a steep slope):

Is there any more I can do?

Meanwhile, from a safe distance …

killer goats were watching me.

This is just to alert you to a very interesting post about Taiwan that was published today at the LRB blog.  It’s by Jason Kennedy, alias Pinhut, sometime visitor here, who lives in Taipei.  He has another great post up at his own blog, BookArmor.  Does any one of you erudite lot (besides Jason) know if the name “Pinhut” is a literary borrowing?  I suppose we can just ask him…

A friend of mine has sent me a postcard of a shawl goat from Bhutan, wearing  what looks like a baggy old mohair sweater.  It’s of a watercolour by an Indian artist, Shaikh Zayn al-Din, made in 1779.  The original now sits in the V&A in London as part of the Impey collection.

Here’s my version of a long, repetitive article I found at Abe Books on the Impey collection.  First of all, it should not be confused with a later Impey collection, one of Japanese porcelain made in the 1970s by Dr Oliver Impey — his doctoral thesis had been on the working of lizards’ jaws.  These Impeys, Dr Impey’s forebears, were the first European patrons of Indian natural history painting.  Sir Elijah Impey, a schoolfriend of Warren Hastings, was Chief Justice of Bengal. His wife Mary established a menagerie in the grounds of their house in Calcutta and employed at least three artists to paint the birds and animals.  One of them was Shaikh Zayn al-Din.  He trained in the Mughal tradition of Persian court painters; he was from Patna, and likely migrated to Calcutta in search of work when earlier Mughal patronage dried up.

Here is a lineated barbet, Megalaima lineate, on a juniper tree.  The leaves  look like little wings:

Zayn al-Din liked to show his subjects in profile, painted from life, used vibrant colour and paid great attention to detail. A new style emerged with the work in the Impey collection. Mughal artists previously wouldn’t have had the bird on a white background detached from the landscape.  Thanks to the menagerie Zayn al-Din wasn’t obliged to use stuffed specimens for study; he gave a good deal of vitality to the work, which is considered to be important to the development of European natural history painting, both artistically and scientifically.

And here is a red-whiskered bulbul, Pycnontus Jocosus:

Maybe I’ve got it wrong, but from what it says at Abe Books, the bird pictures seem to be colour plates ripped out of old books.  Each is available for $165,000.00, with an additional $3.00 payable for shipping within the United States.

Sir Elijah Impey’s impeachment was unsuccessfully attempted in the House of Commons, in 1787.  His memoirs are available here.


Today I took Topsy the dog for a walk to see the autumn colours.  We passed Vesla and the others on the way.  They didn’t follow us, they were quite content where they were.

I saw this in the Guardian’s photography series My Best Shot, it’s currently in a show at the Architectural Association in London (click on it to see it at a reasonable size):

It’s by a German artist called Uta Kögelsberger.  It’s from a series called “Getting Lost”, it’s a flare lighting up the desert at night.  That’s the only illumination, which is why the landscape gets darker towards the right hand side of the picture and there’s the pinkish light on the ground below the flare.  Can you see the tiny figure to the right of the centre?  That’s the artist.  The Guardian piece has this explanation:

I took this picture on the Bonneville salt flats on the Utah-Nevada border in 2006. It’s part of a series where I tried to get lost in remote places; I was investigating why we are so fascinated with the idea of “untouched” wilderness. Part of the reason I went to Bonneville was because I heard about the Donner party of pioneers, who got lost there on the way to California in the 1840s. They ended up eating each other.

I’ve always used unusual lighting in my images, and the idea of a distress flare came from another project about getting lost at sea. I arrived in daytime and spent a long time scouting the right location. Then I framed up the shot while it was light, and waited for night to fall, so even though I couldn’t see anything through the camera, I knew what I was getting. I worked out a spot which was about 400 yards in front of the camera, opened up the shutter, and ran to the spot to set off the flare. I left the shutter open for about 15 or 20 minutes, and the aperture was pretty small: f22 or f33. The flare is what’s lighting the landscape. Everything you see is created in camera. There’s no digital manipulation; I’m a purist in that way. If you look very closely you can see a small black smudge on the right hand side: that’s me. It’s deliberate; I had to stand still for about 10 minutes to get something to register.

The whole place was very dry. I could easily have sparked off a fire, so I had to make sure to catch the flares when they hit the ground. Considering that they go up over 1,000ft and get carried by the wind it was pretty tricky. Out of four tries, only two flares actually launched, and out of those only this image worked out.

Though it seemed like a simple idea, I soon realised it was going to be very difficult to set up. Flares are easy to get hold of in Britain, but it’s much harder in the US – they’re classified as a weapon. Once I had managed to buy some, I wasn’t legally allowed to shoot them off. I had to negotiate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which meant alerting the local sheriff, who in turn had to alert the local search-and-rescue team so they wouldn’t think someone really was lost . . . so the whole idea of actually getting lost didn’t happen. Everybody knew where I was!

I once stayed for a week at that lake near Truckee in the Sierra Nevada that is the last resting place of the Donner party.  I always thought “party” was the wrong word.

Update, 8 October: Thanks to Bruessel’s comment below, we can now see Uta Kögelberger’s website.  She’s really good, I recommend you take a look at her work.  There’s an interesting series she’s done called Paradise which she discusses with an interviewer.


I think we had a brief discussion of horse chestnuts, Aesculus hippocastanum, recently.  They aren’t really chestnuts at all — you can read about them here — but they are known as hestekastanje (hest being the word for “horse”) in Norwegian too.  The driveway up to our neighbour’s farm is an avenue of horse chestnut trees whose branches meet at the top to form a tunnel:

The avenue is just over three hundred metres (or yards) long.  It climbs a hill, and it’s a distinctive and lovely feature of our local landscape.  The leaves of the chestnut trees are just starting to turn, as you can see below:

Here it is from the top end looking downwards, an enormous caterpillar creeping up the hill:

Here is a horse chestnut leaf cluster; they’re very distinctive, with five leaves, almost like a bunch of bananas:

This morning, on the far side of the avenue, we let the actual horses out to graze.

They aren’t used to being in the stables all night and when they first come out they canter round the field a few times.

And have a carrot.

In the background is the chestnut avenue:

Last Sunday, I bought a chestnut of my own.  It’s only about eight feet high:

I’ve planted it to cover up the black hole at the edge of the spruce forest to the north of our house.  It’ll only take about thirty years.

Yes, it’s October!  My favourite time of the year, when everything is 70% off at the nurseries and they’re deserted (I hate crowds).  My chestnut tree was only 180 kroner (£18, $US30, possibly 120 Arg. pesos or 22 euros ); I got lots of smaller green things too, including a Magnolia bush: