Archives for the month of: November, 2012

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).

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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,

 especially the damp earth

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.