Archives for category: Not About Goats

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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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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:

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.

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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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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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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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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.

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

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.

foghouse9280 Finally, from the garden, through the trees, I could see the horse farm on the far side of the lake. tveiter9321

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).

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.

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).

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.

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?

 

 

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!

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.

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.

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?

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.

More watery stuff: thinking of La Grande Jatte, I thought I’d show you this picture of Richmond Hill taken from the Thames (it’s worth clicking on it to enlarge the image).  There’s a magnificent sweeping view of the river from the top, but I didn’t go up there. I took these photographs last week while I was visiting my mother at Ham, in Surrey.  If you walk down past Ham House

you can take a tiny boat called Hammerton’s Ferry

across the river.  Because it’s to the west of London the Thames is still quite narrow,

 and is sandwiched at that point – (that was a lot of work to get a title) – between Ham on the southern or Surrey side of the river and Twickenham on the north or Middlesex side.  So small and close to the city, Middlesex is a county that no longer exists.  It was absorbed into London in the 1970s, but I like to use the name as much as I can because I was born in Middlesex.

When you alight from the boat in Twickenham, first there’s a sign on the gangway floor written in weld:

and then, facing across the river towards Ham House is an eighteenth-century Palladian villa, called Marble Hill House:

Marble Hill House was built for the girlfriend of George II, Henrietta Howard.  Apparently west London stately-home lover Alexander Pope used to spend a lot of time here, Dean Swift too.  Here’s a Wikipedia photo that shows the lawn sloping down to the towpath and the river:

There’s an unsubstantiated story that the two houses are linked by a tunnel, but what would be the point of it?  I like the ferry.  It cost £1, each way.

Then we turned around, took the ferry back and went home.  But on the way we looked in at a plant nursery that is taking advantage of global warming:

This huge old olive tree below could be yours for £3,999.  I don’t think that included freight.  You could probably make your money back over time.

We passed a pair of gatehouses to Ham House that looked like Hansel & Gretel gingerbread cottages:

This is my mother’s cat, Domino.  He grew up in Brooklyn.  He’s a VERY nice cat.

These two robins live in the back garden:

Two of my current favourite pictures: the top one a photograph by Thomas Hoepker, taken in Brooklyn on 11 September 2001, the other is Seurat’s La Grande Jatte on a Sunday afternoon, painted in 1884.

They are 117 years apart, but it just struck me how similar they are in both composition and subject: urban middle class groups enjoying the sunshine, albeit a little passively in the Brooklyn picture.

Thanks to Tom Clark’s post on Saturday, and the clear blue skies we’ve been having recently, I was able to make something of what’s been going on outside our house for the past two nights.  Jupiter and Venus are very bright and close to the Moon.  This is known as a conjunction or appulse, and this – it looks like the piece of wire you need to blow bubbles –  is its symbol:

File:Astronomical conjunction symbol.png

The planets and the Moon were very bright; so bright that by contrast all the rest, stars and what have you, was invisible.  The only other light was coming from the other side of the lake.  I’m illiterate when it comes to reading the night sky.  From what I’ve gathered, the upper planet is Jupiter and the lower one is Venus.  For some reason in Tom’s pictures all three are aligned, with the Moon at the bottom, whereas from in Norway they form a triangle with the Moon in the middle.

My camera was fastened to a rock-solid tripod, so I’m assuming that the slight blur in the image of the planets is caused by the Earth’s rotation during the long exposure (it took, I’m guessing, about 45 seconds).

If anyone knows more about this, please feel free to add a comment.

These two men are ice fishing. Alma, Topsy & I walked passed them on the lake, on Wednesday.

Later we passed them again.

I suppose it’s their hobby; I don’t think anyone is forcing them to be there.  In the comments about the last post mab mentioned multi-tasking.  I see this as a golden opportunity: you could play the mouth organ and read an ice fishing magazine while you ice fish.  You could listen to an ice-fishing tape while you make sandwiches, and then eat them (the sandwiches).  You could drink a mug of hot chocolate,  and all the time you’re ice fishing.

I’ve never seen an ice fisherman catch anything, except perhaps a cold.

Alma was riding past on her horse and knocked on the door to show me a trick.

Betty the horse was very hot.  It was 2 degrees today, quite warm for us, and she still has her winter coat.

This is the trick.  Alma makes a V sign…

and Betty shows her front teeth:

That’s all.  Betty’s very proud of her trick, she did it over and over.  V sign…

and front teeth.

Alma said it took five minutes to learn it, with some feed for encouragement. She’s always enjoyed teaching the animals tricks, and they seem to like it too.

Then they galloped away.

Once again, here are some pictures of a walk I took with Topsy in the snow.  Is this getting boring?  I can’t help it, it’s how we live at the moment, Tops and I.  I’ll try to show some of qualities of the white-on-white snow and mist that we encountered this morning.

Someone, I’m guessing they were sent by the local kommune (council), has driven a tractor across the fields, on its back it has an attachment that scores wide tracks in the snow for skiing.

They make the most of the undulations, and you see people getting up quite a speed. The narrow lines for your skis are doubled up, you can ski in either direction without bumping into anyone so long as you’re driving on the right.  In the picture below you can see a person towing a baby in a sledge.

This man below is going uphill, which is why he looks tired.  He looks a bit like a cutout.

And here is a cutout, the witch with a broomstick.  I think I showed pictures of the witches last winter.

I’ve noticed I’m taking more pictures of people and buildings than I used to.

I used just to take trees and animals.

Here are some small dots that have fallen from a spruce tree on to the snow.  I’m not sure what they do, perhaps one of you knows:

We’re stuck with so-called civilization.  I hate it that cows and trees are being replaced by bungalows with enormous garages. But I can’t stop progress and I don’t think really I’d want to if I could. Look at the pictures of Martin Parr or Cartier-Bresson: people and their possessions, in all their oddness, are worth observing. The thing is, there aren’t that many people around here.

I could easily count all those I see in one day; that’s a feat that would be impossible in a city or even in a smallish town.  I won’t ignore them completely, but I’ll continue photographing more twigs than people.  Here are some twigs:

The other day I was looking at a book of photographs, taken about a hundred years ago by the great English gardener Gertrude Jekyll.  They were sort of like these; roots and bushes,

and bits of trees

(she liked trees).

There was an occasional shot of a neighbour’s house.  It was Surrey, not Norway, so they weren’t quite like this one – the tenant, a friend of mine, says this house has rats.  I’ve never seen any. I wonder where they go in winter, do rats sometimes hibernate?

Topsy was getting bored, my picture taking had been eating into her time.  Normally she keeps up a steady trot, only pausing to sniff the yellow patches left by her friends.

But by then we were almost home, there was just time for a shot of the clematis at the gate.

This nearly-snowless winter picture of a barn by the road near my house was taken last Wednesday.  Since then it’s been snowing very hard, and today the snow blower has broken. We’re snowed-in, trapped until Monday.  To take my mind off it I’ve been reading about Rudolph C. Slatin Pasha and the Fuzzy Wuzzies.

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear,
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair,
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy,
Wuzz ‘e?

I don’t know the origin of that little rhyme or its relation to Britain’s colonial wars in Sudan.  I’m pretty sure there is one, though.

I grew up with Fire and Sword in the Sudan – well, in the same house, at least – it was written by Colonel Rudolph C. Slatin Pasha.  Here he is: short and British on the left, upright and Austrian on the right:

Slatin was appointed pasha by the Khedive, the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt (pashas ranked above Beys and Aghas, but below Khedives and Viziers).  Several years after the book’s publication he was promoted to Major-General Sir Rudolph Slatin GCVO, KCMG, CB, by Queen Victoria and made Freiherr von Slatin, in 1906, by Emperor Franz-Josef of Austria.

He had grown up near Vienna with (like Ludwig Wittgenstein a few years later) a Jewish merchant father who had converted to Roman Catholicism.  As a young man he had gone to Cairo to work in a bookshop; from there he had traveled up the Nile where he got to know General Gordon, the next governor-general of Sudan, and his career took off. By the age of twenty-four, he himself was governor of the province of Dafur, with the Ottoman rank of Bey.  Highly recommended by everyone, Fire and Sword in the Sudan is a thrilling account of the wars of 1883-98, eleven years of which Slatin spent imprisoned by the Mahdi, until on the eve of the battle of Omdurman and with the help of his friend Major Wingate of Egyptian intelligence, he escaped. My family’s copy of the book probably belonged first to my great-grandfather, a Victorian teabroker who lived for some time in Kenya. When I was a child it was one of the fatter and more prominent books in our living room; and although I never read it, I was always mildly curious at least to see the fire and sword (I remember looking for pictures).  I recently came across it again when I read about the battle of Omdurman in Winston Churchill’s My Early Life. Omdurman, you may recall, was British revenge for the killing of General Gordon at Khartoum (Gordon had been another pasha who as  governor-general of  the country had abolished the Sudanese slave trade).  In his memoir Churchill recommended Slatin’s book and now, after fifty-odd years, I’m finally considering reading it (it’s in London at my mother’s house).  One final thing about Slatin, from Wikipedia:

While administering Dara, […] Slatin gallantly defended his province and though he fought many successful battles, he gradually lost ground. At Om Waragat he lost 8,000 of his men in the first 20 minutes of the battle and was himself wounded three times but he managed to fight his way back to Dara. Believing his troops attributed their failure in battle to the fact that he was a Christian, Slatin publicly adopted Islam in 1883 and took the Islamic name Abd al Qadir.

So, much as his father’s conversion to Roman Catholicism from Judaism must have been, this was a politically-motivated expedient rather than the result of a Damascene moment.  I read elsewhere that Sir Rudolph later received absolution from the pope for having become a temporary Muslim.

Who were the Fuzzy-Wuzzies?  They were Hadendoa nomads, who were called Fuzzy-Wuzzies by British troops because of their (for the time) elaborate dos.

Partly from Wikipedia: According to E.M. Roper (Tu Beḍawie: an elementary handbook for the use of Sudan government officials, 1928), the name Haɖanɖiwa is made up of haɖa ‘lion’ and (n)ɖiwa ‘clan’. They were a pastoral people ruled by a hereditary chief, called a Ma’ahes. Osman Digna, one of the leaders of the Mahdiyyah rebellion, was a Hadendoa.  The tribe contributed some of the fiercest of the Dervish warriors in the wars of 1883–98.  So determined were they that the name Hadendoa grew to be nearly synonymous with rebel. They rebelled  because of misgovernment rather than for religious reasons; the Hadendoa were true Beja, Muslims only in name, and not unlike Sir Rudolph or his father in that respect.

Kipling celebrated the Fuzzy Wuzzies in Barrack Room Ballads, shortly after the end of the war.  For the British army, the Hadendoa were notable because they had managed to ‘break’ the square of troops.  The square consisted of two lines of soldiers: the front line kneeled, with their bayonets facing upwards, and reloaded while the back line stood and fired. The British carried Martinis – not drinks, but the latest breech-loading rifles. An Impi is an isiZulu word for an armed body of men. These Kipling poems ought to be recited in Cockney, but probably any accent that’s not British middle- or upper-class would do almost as well.

Fuzzy-Wuzzy. 

We’ve fought with many men acrost the seas,
An’ some of ’em was brave an’ some was not:
The Paythan an’ the Zulu an’ Burmese;
But the Fuzzy was the finest o’ the lot.
We never got a ha’porth’s change of ‘im:
‘E squatted in the scrub an’ ‘ocked our ‘orses,
‘E cut our sentries up at Sua~kim~,
An’ ‘e played the cat an’ banjo with our forces.
So ‘ere’s ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
We gives you your certificate, an’ if you want it signed
We’ll come an’ ‘ave a romp with you whenever you’re inclined.

We took our chanst among the Khyber ‘ills,
The Boers knocked us silly at a mile,
The Burman give us Irriwaddy chills,
An’ a Zulu ~impi~ dished us up in style:
But all we ever got from such as they
Was pop to what the Fuzzy made us swaller;
We ‘eld our bloomin’ own, the papers say,
But man for man the Fuzzy knocked us ‘oller.
Then ‘ere’s ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ the missis and the kid;
Our orders was to break you, an’ of course we went an’ did.
We sloshed you with Martinis, an’ it wasn’t ‘ardly fair;
But for all the odds agin’ you, Fuzzy-Wuz, you broke the square.

‘E ‘asn’t got no papers of ‘is own,
‘E ‘asn’t got no medals nor rewards,
So we must certify the skill ‘e’s shown
In usin’ of ‘is long two-‘anded swords:
When ‘e’s ‘oppin’ in an’ out among the bush
With ‘is coffin-‘eaded shield an’ shovel-spear,
An ‘appy day with Fuzzy on the rush
Will last an ‘ealthy Tommy for a year.
So ‘ere’s ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ your friends which are no more,
If we ‘adn’t lost some messmates we would ‘elp you to deplore;
But give an’ take’s the gospel, an’ we’ll call the bargain fair,
For if you ‘ave lost more than us, you crumpled up the square!

‘E rushes at the smoke when we let drive,
An’, before we know, ‘e’s ‘ackin’ at our ‘ead;
‘E’s all ‘ot sand an’ ginger when alive,
An’ ‘e’s generally shammin’ when ‘e’s dead.
‘E’s a daisy, ‘e’s a ducky, ‘e’s a lamb!
‘E’s a injia-rubber idiot on the spree,
‘E’s the on’y thing that doesn’t give a damn
For a Regiment o’ British Infantree!
So ‘ere’s ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
An’ ‘ere’s ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ‘ayrick ‘ead of ‘air —
You big black boundin’ beggar — for you broke a British square!

From Barrack Room Ballads, Rudyard Kipling, 1892.

A hayrick, Devon:

And if you can’t read my writing, that says:

Send a sample of your handwriting to dsanne at broadpark dot no and I will add it to the collection.  Send it as an ‘attachment’ in your email, in  jpeg format.  This shows that you are a real person, not just a keyboard or a piece of spam.  Then we can start analysing them in the comments.

Starting with Grumbly Stu, aus Deutschland:

A bigger bit of Stu:

And Julia, from Buenos Aires: The text was some lines of a traditional Spanish poem which she sings every night to her girls, but she thought it was too big so now it’s something else.  Actually, I liked it big, it’s easier to analyse.

And now Ø, on a legal pad:

Empty writing.

Here is a page of notes that I scribbled down last week while attending a talk about somebody’s mathematical research. Since it was intended solely for my own use, there was no question of making a special effort to make it look nice. In fact, it may be even sloppier than usual because I was more than a little sleep-deprived: I had stayed up too late preparing my own talk. Now you’ll be wondering how my own talk went, considering that I was so sleep-deprived …

Here’s Ø’s enlarged:

Here’s a fantastic two-for-one from Siganus Sutor, in Mautitius: Martian structural engineer’s writing, plus dodo

Here’s Sig’s enlarged:

And now, ’60s French handwriting analysis. (Caution. Brutal judgments).  Where do we fit on this list?

Now Trond, another structural engineer.  Compare and contrast. He says  Her er mine kråketær i bundet utfoldelse. – Here are my bound-up crowsfeet (according to my wife, crowsfeet is a colloquial name in Norway for handwriting.)

…And now Trond has added some Nordic Ws:

Something from Jesús.  He has written in English.  He says: I’m attaching a writing ( teacher’s corrections included) about one of my favorite movies that I had to do for my English classes. This is another two-for-one, in which we can discuss Apocalypse Now as well as Jesus’s handwriting – an offer you won’t find on many other blogs.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a capital A like Jesús’s before.  It’s very elaborate:

A very welcome late arrival from New Zealand Stuart:

Boy, what an interesting theory.  I’d love to see his handwriting.

Yesterday when I went out with Topsy, there was a mist.  I was inspired to take photographs, but I didn’t take animals this time only vegetables and a lot of minerals.

It was round about lunchtime,

and the mist was moving quite fast,

so I never quite knew what would be around the next corner.It was really just low cloud, I suppose.

And something to do with air temperature and pressure makes it nearly always stick to the surface of the lake.

Turn around and face south, and all the trees are backlit:

even in the mist:

These two trees remind me of an upside-down lung x-ray (mixed up with quite a lot of chest hair) :

Even the parking lot looks interesting in a fog.  When she was small, we used to take my daughter down to the parking lot; looking at cars was the most exotic treat she could think of.  A few years later she discovered horses and she went off cars.

Back past the visitors’-centre-slash-kindergarten-slash-café:

And so back to the birch trees above our garden, where we started:

It’s odd when the lake freezes.  It loses its reflections and depth and looks like any old snow-covered flat surface, and all of a sudden everyone is walking across it instead of around the edge.  The other day a skier zoomed down the hill, started across the lake, and disappeared.   The one who had seen the incident called the emergency services.  A helicopter came; from my living room window I saw it going downwards, lights flashing, and then hovering a few metres over the lake surface.  But it was all a mistake; no one had fallen through the ice.  There was no skier, except in the imagination of the caller.

Below, you can see there’s more snow than there is in the picture I took last week.  This one was taken at about two pm this afternoon,

but even at midday the sun is quite low and the shadows long.

The gate to the dog run is chained shut and padlocked.  Poor old Topsy and the other dogs can’t understand why they aren’t allowed in, nor can the owners.  I know where there’s a hole in the fence.  Besides, we could get in simply by walking over the lake.  Nobody does, though.  Not so far.  We might try tomorrow.


As turkey day approaches in the United States, here is a different kind of oven bird.  At Meliora Latent Julia has posted a video of the nest it builds.  It’s called los horneros and one of them, rufous hornero, the red oven bird, is the national bird of Argentina.  Horneros, according to Wikipedia, are known for building mud nests that resemble old wood-fired ovens (the Spanish word “hornero” comes from horno, meaning “oven”).  I think the nests are extraordinary, how do they know how to build them?  Look at the tiny curved entry to the nest in Julia’s video, it’s like a door that’s half ajar: it probably stops the wind and rain from getting in, and being the same colour as the nest the birds can peek outside without being observed.   As you will also see from Julia’s post the oven bird is keen on expressionism.

Taking Ø’s advice yesterday afternoon, I walked down through the meadow by the lake towards the tree that’s now nearly invisible in the picture below,

 because it’s lost most of its leaves.

More than its foliage I admired the colour of its mossy branches, it’s not quite prominent enough in the photograph.  The branches were cosy looking, like an old green velvet sofa my mother used to have.

I think it’s a spisslønn, Norway maple, acer platanoides.  Here’s one of the more prosaic-seeming brownish leaves that Marie-Lucie mentioned; and it has been an uncharacteristically warm autumn here so far, I suppose that’s why there’s so little red to be seen.

I took this photograph on 15 September, and you can hardly even see the tree, or much else, because I got so caught up with the sunset.  Anyway, it’s the same tree that I photographed on 10 September last year, the one that marks for me the beginning of autumn.  I think we decided then that it’s a spisslønn, Acer platanoides. the Norway maple, not to be confused with Acer pseudoplatanus, the sycamore tree.

Yesterday my wife and I drove up to the mountains, and we cut up some firewood from the trees I chopped down last year.  We hadn’t been there since then, so, unusually, no one but some sheep (and judging from the droppings under the outdoor table, some geese) had been tramping down the different grasses that grow there.  They were quite wonderful to see, as were the moss and lichen.

I had brought the camera, but I’d forgotten to charge its batteries.  Luckily my wife had her iphone, so (and thank you, Steve Jobs) she was still able to make a record of it.

It was perhaps one of the last days of the year that it will be like this.  The leaves had already fallen from the trees, and last night snow was expected for the first time this season.

Not having snow tyres on our car, and fearful of skidding on the steep mountain road, we scurried home again at dusk.

It’s a four-hour drive.  While we were enjoying a caffe latte at McDonald’s in Lillehammer, I was thinking, why don’t they sell duck coated in batter? McDonald’s Duck, like Chicken McNuggets etc.  Would there be a legal conflict with Walt Disney over the name?  Why?

At the bottom of the upper picture is the covered reservoir, taken last Sunday at the top of the rise on which our house sits.  I call it a rise because in this picture there’s a proper hillside, and in Norwegian this proper hillside is called an ås, which really means “escarpment”, and that’s what it really is (there’s a  shallow slope down the far side once you’ve scaled this face like a mountaineer).  As for the reservoir’s roof, you may remember seeing Misty and Vesla butting each other on it in the summer.

What looks like a flagpole is an antenna.  It must be there to allow the water authority remote control of the water flow, but with its concrete tower and the cliff on the right I think the place looks like a WPA project from the 1930s or a still from North By Northwest; it just needs two scrawny guys in trilby hats and carrying shovels (or automatics).

Moving a couple of hundred yards (metres) to the left, here’s the ås  as it goes past our house and past my wife on her cellphone.  She was wearing the sunglasses because she’d slipped and banged her head.

That picture will stay up for about five minutes, until she sees it.

Then the ås dips downwards towards the lake, and peters out at its banks:

All the animals who have been grazing in the meadow have gone home for the winter season, and last weekend we switched off the electric fence that runs along its perimeter.

Here’s a butterfly that alighted on Saturday on the wall above the cranberry crabapple bush, malus sargentii.  This proves that taking pictures that are sharply in focus isn’t impossible for me or my camera.  But I can’t do it with birds.  I was inspired by some lovely photographs of the birds of Argentina that Julia sent me (I’d display one but I can’t extract them from Powerpoint).  So here are some fuzzy pictures of Norwegian birds in the field by our house.  I don’t know what this one is (hopeless), but there’s a pair of them and they are always hanging around this bit of fence by the road:

and here’s an even more blurry one.  Does anyone know what sort they are?

Here are some crows.  At least I can recognise crows, even if I can’t get close to them.

Crows are my favourite bird.

We’ll soon be in the part of late autumn when great flocks of them sit in the trees at dusk; hundreds, this year welcoming the bats to their new homes.

This picture is of the crab apple bush by the corner of the house, taken last Saturday.  It seems to have more berries than usual.  Last autumn I planted six more bushes, but they haven’t flowered yet.

Here is what it says about Malus Sargentii on the Royal Horticultural Society site:

Crab apples are ideal trees for small gardens. The fruit flavour improves considerably if the fruit is not harvested until it has been frosted. The fruit is quite variable in size, about 2-4cm (0.75-1.5in) in diameter, and quality. While usually harsh and acid, some cultivars are quite sweet and can be eaten raw.

The fruit is rich in pectin and can be used in helping other fruits to set when making jam. Pectin is also said to protect the body against radiation.

It is one of the parents of the cultivated apple and is often used as a rootstock.

Malus is a genus of about 35 species of deciduous trees and shrubs found in woodlands and thickets throughout northern temperate regions. The leaves are alternate, oval to ovate or elliptic, mostly toothed. In spring they produce fragrant flowers typically 2-5cm (0.75-2in) across, usually shallowly cup-shaped, singly or in umbel-like corymbs. The flowers are followed by edible fruits, although some need cooking to be edible.

The name Malus is from the Greek melon, and is applied to tree fruits with a fleshy exterior.

It is a native of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, and perfectly hardy in this country.

It was introduced from Japan in 1892 and named as a new species although it is closely related to M. toringo (syn. M. sieboldii), a similar but more tree-like species which has pale pink flowers and smaller fruits.

When it’s not raining, I rush out and pick Victoria plums and apples so that

when it starts again I can be in the kitchen making jam Norwegian-style (really just pots of stewed fruit with a little sugar that we take one-by-one out of the freezer during the year).  The plums go lovely colours:

Askur and Betty, the horses, have spent the summer with a different herd of cows from the usual lot.  Actually the usual lot was auctioned off last autumn, and it’s been redistributed all over southern Norway.  They were a herd of one hundred and twenty; we won’t be able to visit them in their fjøs during the winter as we always did, but Alma thought the fjøs was way too overcrowded so it’s probably good that they’ve gone elsewhere.

This year, the field next to our house has been rented to another, more capable farmer, who’s let us keep the horses with his cows.  There’s a funny beige-coloured breed that we haven’t had here before, you’ll see one of them below.  Alma (the girl) was out with Betty (the horse) when I took these pictures, so Betty doesn’t appear, and Askur looks a bit lonely, but most of the time they’re together.  They and the cows remind me of neighbours who have a nodding acquaintance in a rental apartment building: they peacefully coexist, sharing the facilities and minding their own business.

Although it looks as if the first picture has been taken during a balloon flight, in fact it’s merely from the hillside below our garden:

I happened to open the front door this morning at about 7:30 and I saw shafts of sunlight coming through the trees.  Everything is slightly damp with dew and old raindrops.

In my non-expert opinion these are pictures of a frog.  We often see toads, but they’re much smaller; this one was about four inches (10 cm) from nose to bottom.

Something about the way it was resting its weight on its left arm, it looked as if it might make an earnest speech

or tell me the logic behind Norwegian tariffs on imported plastics .

What you really want is goat pictures.  I’ll  try to take some today while the sun’s out.

Yesterday evening, I went to the dog run with Topsy.  As we walked down the hill towards the lake, I was knocked to the ground by one of a pair of Irish wolfhounds that must have been doing about 30 mph (50 kph). I’ve injured my knee so painfully that I can barely walk, and I spent today in bed. The wolfhounds were bigger than a Shetland pony, probably four or five feet (1200-1500mm) tall at the withers.  It had no trouble in flattening me.  In fact, it was so intent on pursuing another, smaller dog that it probably didn’t even notice as I went down. Even after I’d hit the ground with a cry it went charging along like a freight train. No thought of an apology or a dusting down of the frail old codger. Enormous bodies and appetites, Irish wolfhounds, teeny-weeny brains.  In typical Norwegian fashion one of the ten-or-so onlookers asked me which of the Irish wolfhounds was to blame, the small one or the big one?  “The big one”, I said.  They both looked about the same size, actually. “Oh no,” he said, “it was most probably the smaller one.”  “So why did you ask?” I said, like I wanted to stop for a dog-spotting lesson.  As I limped back up the hill and homeward the woman who appeared to be the owner of the dogs asked me if my knee still hurt.  “Yes, it does,” I said, thinking that on Monday, if this were the USA, I’d probably be suing her for several million dollars.  Next time we go to the dog run I’m wearing cricket pads and a motorbike helmet.

What has eight legs and lives in the garden?  Our new badebur, or bathing cage:

It’s a complicated story; suffice it to say that due to a water leak upstairs in our house we’ve had to remove our old enameled bathtub and replace it with a shower.  The plumber can’t install the shower until next week and in the meantime we decided we’d take baths outside.

The new location has a good view, and bathing outdoors is a delightful luxury.

Next to the tub is our outdoor birdcage.  It hasn’t been occupied since Tango the parrot flew away last summer.  We thought of selling it, but never got round to it.

Suddenly we thought of the badebur, or bathing cage: a permanent outdoor summer bathroom.  No planning permission is required, and when you get bored with the view it can be moved down to the berry bushes.  It’s rather like a Victorian bathing machine.

I’m not wearing clothes because of excessive modesty, I was merely trying the new location out for size.  The bell (top left, below) is to ring for more wine.

This is the current view from inside the badebur:

 One day Topsy the terrier woke up and found she’d turned into an afghan –  or if not an afghan at least a spaniel.  While it’s not as dramatic as the Mexican lion, by coincidence, a couple of weeks before Julia sent me the lion pictures my daughter had given Topsy a new do.

She deliberately left all the long curly fur on the ears, effectively turning Tops into a spaniel or a miniature golden retriever.

 I’m pretty sure Topsy doesn’t mind.

I was sent these pictures by Julia. who received them from her tía segunda, or first cousin once removed, her mother’s first cousin.  They were taken in the United States, in New Mexico, at a garage that had been subject to several recent break-ins.

The proprietor let it be known that he had acquired a Mexican lion.  Once they had seen it, the thieves fled, never to be seen again.

I’m not sure what sort of dog it is – or was – perhaps a leonberger?  Its face reminds me of the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz – maybe it’s the drooping ears.  It’s going to require a lot of maintenance.  I love its tail.

Since he makes such great use of photo archives I thought that Tom, especially, might find these pictures interesting.  I came across them by googling “British Library Catalogue of Photographs”.  Apparently they’ve got 350,000 and they waited until 2009 to have their first exhibition, in which these five appeared.  They led me to Curated, which as far as I can tell is a photography magazine, I’m going to look at it again later when I’ve got more time.

I won’t repeat what the two articles say about the photos.

All right, I will a bit.  The hippo’s called Obaysch – not very African-sounding, perhaps he or she was captured by Germans – and the photograph was taken in 1852 by Don Juan Carlos, Duke of Montizón.

This one reminds me of The Walrus & The Carpenter:

Here’s a giant parrot perched on a chimney.  Is the blurry part a backdrop?  They can’t have had photo backdrops in them days.  The men are very sharp, though.

What are these women checking, boxes of chocolates? Whatever it is required natural light and (I think) open air.  Anyway, I like the room.

This one below is my favourite picture. They look like tiny men inside a motor car engine, or perhaps the one at the bottom with a pickaxe strikes the bell of a clock on the hour.  Could they be digging a tunnel?

Update: Thanks to MMcM, we now know they’re digging the tunnel for the Central Line.  I’ve made the print a bit clearer and one thing I notice is that, of the 23 men in the picture, every single one has a moustache.

The moon, yesterday evening in the snow.  It’s the closest it’s been for twenty years but frankly it always looks about this size to me.

I saw some people coming from the lake this afternoon, and then I remembered it was ice-cutting day.

So we went down there.  There was quite a crowd.  Every so often there was a huge cheer and some applause.

The fact is I don’t really know what was going on.  By the time Topsy & I arrived, all the action was over.

I’m not sure what the horses & sleighs were doing.

These men may look like total wallys, but you can tell they’ve been looking forward to this for months.  When I asked about the horse, the one on the left was quite nice.  These are cold-blooded Gudbrandsdal horses, and they’re used to hauling loads.  I don’t think anyone rides them.  I like the brass bells on the horse’s back, the sound reminds me of Father Christmas.

The main event today was the cutting of these blocks of ice.  It’s some sort of old tradition, I think I remember hearing that they used to send some from our lake to Queen Victoria before she got her own refrigerator.  The blocks are about the same size as she was, about two-feet square (60cm).  In the foreground are the saws they used.

They’ve sawn out the blocks in four or five neat rectangles, and they’ve roped-off the area so no one falls in.  You can see the depth of the ice.

I think one or two people may have gone in the water, perhaps to push the blocks up onto the ice, but I can’t be sure.

On a voyage across the Atlantic Le Corbusier had an affair with Josephine Baker. Adolf Loos was in love with Josephine Baker, in fact he designed a famous house for her that was going to have Lego-like black & white marble stripes:

Except Lego hadn’t been invented.  Loos’s father had been a stonemason and Loos liked marble.  Sadly for Adolf, I don’t think Josephine cared for him at all. Actually I don’t think anyone did, poor old Adsche.

So, in March the sun is my friend.  Here it peeks through – I don’t know, is it clouds or fog?  I suppose it depends where you’re standing.

Behind my back when I turn round the sky is blue and there’s no cloud at all:

Further down on the lake it can’t decide. The sun flickers on and off like a malfunctioning fluorescent light fixture.

Here, by the way, is that little island I showed last week.  There’s another person skiing past it. Or perhaps it’s the same person.

The sun can’t quite reach our house, below. That’s probably good; sunshine will turn our driveway into a bobsled run.

The diving-board raft is still icebound, like the ship in the Casper David Friedrich painting:

This will be a dog rose in a couple of months.  It’s hard to see how that’s going to happen, but it always does.

On the whole, it’s still winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, forget it, it isn’t blossom after all.  They’re snowy crystals growing on the trees; they’ve been accumulating all week, it’s from all the fog.

It won’t be spring for at least another month, but at least the fog is clearing.  We’ve been living in the clouds for a week, and I’ve been reading a biography of Le Corbusier. He grew up in the Swiss watchmaking town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, in a valley in the Jura mountains.

He was obsessed with sunlight – not a bad quality for an architect – and that’s perhaps because for half the year La Chaux-de-Fonds gets an average of three hours of sunshine a month day (scroll down in here if you don’t believe me). During the summer, the figure soars to five or six hours of sun per month day. So he had every reason to worry about sunshine, poor old Corb; he loathed La Chaux-de-Fonds and fled Switzerland at his earliest opportunity.  He reinvented himself: he changed his name to Le Corbusier from Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, and spent the rest of his life designing in warm places like Rio, Marseilles and Algiers, and building Chandigarh, in the Punjab.  By that time, 1950-ish, he’d learnt that the sun is not always our friend.

But in March, in Norway, I tend to think it is.

 

 

Tomorrow, Part II:  Adolf Loos & Josephine Baker.

 

 

 

Yes, once again it’s the Oscars!  In honour of Banksy, whose film Exit Through The Gift Shop is up for some award like best film in the world, take a look at his website

 

 

 

It’s still pretty cold here.  Yesterday my daughter pointed out this cat to me. She’d found a sheltered spot away from the snow to sit on the straw and enjoy the sunshine.

Occasionally a horse galloped through.

The cat didn’t leave, though she retreated.  You can just see (below) that she’s living in a hole in the wall, to the right of the horse (our right).

And then the cat came back.

 

 

 

 

It’s been months since we heard anything of Muntz.  Here’s a picture I just received.  Apparently he’s working as a nose rest for Champ.  It’s a tough job that looks much easier than it is, sort of like artist’s model where you have to stand still for hours and hope you don’t get cold.