Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Wht a Difference a Day Makes.

"This weekend I went to two lectures, but how different can two similarly entitled events be?

On Saturday, I spent a glorious, informative, lively day in the company of two people who, although  jointly and separately streaking onwards,  at the top of their game, were self effacing, open and happy to share their knowledge and information.

Nigel Dunnet and Sarah Price, the rightly crowned king and queen of the Olympic Park 2012  gardens and meadows in Stratford, London, shared with us the highs and lows of their years of work involved with this huge landscape project. We were a reasonably small crowd at West Dean College, but even so, you could have heard a pin drop when they were  talking.  I was struck by not only their knowledge base, but by their evidently flowing and complimentary way of working together.

Sarah, trained in Fine Art, had changed to landscape design some years before. Being an artist, I feel confident in making the observation that she appeared to be a Right Brained person. Her creativity and flow were, I felt, her strength and driver, coupled with, of course,  a large knowledge base. Nigel, on the other hand, is a professor, highy trained, whose background is clearly scientifically based. He  produced wonderfully detailed spread sheets and planting charts. Of course,  he is also hugely gifted in the creative department. Sarah showed slides of her beautifully drawn planting and  design plans. Watching the working and presentational relationship between them was pure joy, and by watching them I felt I learned significant chunks of information, not only about their methods of working, or of how to present creative ideas to clients, but also how to begin and  to manage such a huge project like this. It was an enriching experience.

How very different this was to the "lecture" I attended on Sunday evening at The Festival Theatre Chichester. Here, at the 4th Chichester Art Lecture,  Sex, Psychology and Art,  which was billed as a sort of "Freud Collection" (my words) we sat and listened to, first,  one of Lucien's models, talk about his experience of sitting for the artist, followed by a  lecturer from the Sheffield Hallam Uni about her travelogue of Sigmund's holiday in Hotel Du Lac....

Listening to both of these obviously respected and clever people, I learned absolutely nothing about  either the grandfather or the grandson. I did hear about dinners and jazz evenings  enjoyed with the latter and of how the labelling of a holiday project using the former's name, enabled the second speaker to have her work deemed as tax deductable. I learned nothing new about either man,  about their personalities or their work.

Both speakers delivered confidently and smoothly, but, even so, I felt I  had been short changed. (I left at half time, from boredom, and so I am unable to comment about Frued's sculptor daughter,). Watching the audience shuffle and look around the theatre at intervals, left me with the feeling that I was not alone in wondering what on earth this "lecture" was all about. If anyone who was  there can help to enlighten me, I would be most grateful. I remain baffled, however, about how an evening where the  subjects were two of the most colourful men in such a  dynasty, could be so trite and dull and confusing and patronsing and lacking in any real information.

What a difference a day makes!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Going Out is the New Staying In

Going out has become the new staying in for me. When John was here, we were in heaven staying in. We often watched anything on  tv,  shared bottles of wine, enjoyed suppers for 2 or 3 or 4, chatted about nothing, commented on terribly important things we had heard on the news, and terribly important things that had happened in our day... well, usually we chatted about anything actually! But, anyway, staying in was so easy and was so much fun.

When one stays in on ones own, it's a completely different event altogether. Yes, there is still wine, nice food, tv,  and, luckily for me, 2 or 3 or 4 friends here for suppers : it's all still there, and it's all still fine, but it's not the same. On a daily basis there is no feedback, no chit chat, except with oneself, but we don't always want to discuss and agree with ourselves, do we?  When there is no-one with whom to interact, there isn't as much engagement. TV, for me, often becomes a background noise now, not a part of the whole. Radio 4 is my flatmate in residence. Well Radio 4 always was my flatmate, but  now I  really listen to him!

But this is not a litany of Poor Me. No, rather it is the stream of how I have realised,  and am happy with the knowledge, that I am a sociable, interested, energetic person. Immediately following John's death, I was worried that I couldn't be alone,  that I had lost my comfort in my own company, something for which I had always been very grateful. In the early days I did go out,  or invite people round here, more often than I would normally do, but I needed company then, and that need, now abated, has returned me to my natural level of sociability. I have always been blessed with rich friendships, people with whom I shared interests and laughed and through whom I have learned to laugh once more.

These days, although,  I have returned to enjoying my own company once more, I still ensure that I don't spend long periods alone, and  I regularly and happily get out and about. I visit art galleries frequently, I now go to wonderful  dance and theatre and lecture events on a regular basis, I organise movie evenings and suppers and I love having friends here to eat. Being alone again doesn't need to mean being lonely. In fact being alone again has brought with it a new confidence and a new energy. In the past I didn't have the oomph to initiate events,  to "gather" people so much. I now feel comfortable with organising stuff, stuff  which might, good heavens, even mean a bit of intellectual or creative  debate! 

It's fun, it's interesting and it reminds me that I am alive and kicking. I know it won't bring my old man back, but when I do find myself home alone now, I enjoy those times for reflection and working and painting and writing and being quiet. Perhaps one day, staying in might become my new going out... Perhaps, but not yet.. there is so much to do out there!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Alex Randall - lighting artist

Alex Randall: I've just discovered her work - it's amazing, I think! Take a look - http://www.alexrandall.co.uk/index.php#a=0&at=0&mi=2&pt=1&pi=10000&s=31&p=0...

Don't need to say anymore really, except, if I'm the only person who didn't know of her, then I apologise!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

When my Sister isn't Doctoring and I'm not Painting or Gardening....

Visit on 11th April 2012

Everyone loves a castle, don’t they? I always feel there is a romantic aura wrapping round castles of all shapes and sizes, and Arundel Castle, towering over the small but perfectly formed town, nestled in the heart of the South Downs, is no exception.

Arundel Castle is seeped in history, as gory and dramatic as it gets - Henry VIII, Ann Boleyn, Catholicism, murders in towers and deaths in exile. It’s all there, but a softer profile has inspired an interesting, controversial and much talked about addition to the extensive grounds of the castle. Before WWII, there was a thriving and busy garden here, but as like everyone else’s green patches in those troubled times, this was slowly but surely given over to the production of vegetables, and, like so many other gardens, was not a priority for recovery after the war, and it was eventually covered with tarmac and used  as a car park.

Time moved on and things changed, resulting in the grand opening of The Collector Earl’s Garden in May 2008 by HRH The Prince of Wales. This new garden, designed by the successful and bold landscape design duo, Isabel and Julian Bannerman (http://www.hanhamcourt.co.uk/) is sculptured and manicured to evoke a Jacobean garden,  and has a bit of magic thrown in too. The planting, unlike the hard landscaping, is restrained, though like the matching pair of green oak domed pergolas, is planned on a large, robust scale. In the courtyard, with the rill of flowing water, which is flanked by huge pots, filled with seasonal delights, the tall stone walls are softened by scented  Magnolia grandiflora, Catalpas and assorted shrubs.

As one walks through the pergolas and down the steps into the larger part of the garden, there is a delightful grass maize which circles its way into the centre, planted up with Tree Ferns, (Dicksonia antarctica) and seasonal additions, grounded by large rocks, all hand picked  from nearby Fittleworth quarry, which reflect the rock work “mountain” at the top end which, in turn,  sits low under the shadow of the cathedral’s impressive silhouette. It is always pleasing to have varying levels in a garden and this has been done to great effect here.

Sitting atop this man made hill, which has caused some concern in the town, as it, like the shrine in London’s Battersea Park, has broken the long neat uncluttered line of the  boundary, is a charming, green oak  folly. This sturdy building is full of magic, it’s interior being based on the shell mosaic, designed by Inigo Jones, to celebrate Prince Henry’s Masque on New Year’s Day in 1611. Taking centre stage here,  no mean feat among this elaborate decoration, there sits a golden coronet, ever spinning, on a stalagmite fountain - clever and delightful.

But, do not think this is all. One must make time to explore and wander through the older part of the garden, now bursting with life. This area is managed organically and boasts  many seasonal delights, amongst which, in Spring, are the glorious  tulip beds. There are whole parterres given over  to vibrant, nodding colour. The head gardener told us that appeldoorn tulips are the best repeaters, lasting for many years, retaining their vigour and colour. Each year the display areas will change, not only to surprise and excite regular visitors, but also as a help to keep tulip grey rot at bay. If these bulbs become infected with the virus, which presents as knobbly bud and leaf swellings and distortions,  tulips cannot be replanted in the same spot for 5/7 years - that’s a long recovery.

This area of the garden is undergoing change right now, not only for aesthetic purposes but also as a  prevention intervention to halt another plant disease. Box blight is slowly creeping in from the West, and so the little  perfectly clipped box hedges, which have for so long delineated the beds,  are gradually being replaced with Hebe sutherlandii, a small, grey green whipcord variety, or being removed altogether and small herbaceous perennial plugs, all grown on the estate, of course, are being encouraged to spill out and tumble over the shingle paths. The feeling is of  a much softer, less regulated garden altogether, and now is a good time to see this change in progress, and have a chance to chat with the team who are much on evidence.

Another area of particular merit, is the wild flower garden. To my amazement, each year, the ground in this section is cleared, dug over and over, re-planted with spring flowering bulbs  and, as that shows takes it’s bow, it is once again turned and sown with fresh wild flower seed mix. No two years mix is the same, and the parterres here are successionally planted, thus stretching out, even further, the season of interest.  To date, apparently, 96,000 tulips bulbs have been planted, but at  the time of going to press, there were no exact figures for the number of wild flower seeds sown! No such thing as a natural garden really, is there?

Arundel Castle is a perennial in the calendar of gardens to visit, and I  make at  least 4 trips per year. I learn from and watch each seasonal development and look forward to each new year’s opening dates, which are available at http://www.arundelcastle.org/_pages/02_gardens.htm

Monday, 23 April 2012

Gardeners Delight

“Informative, friendly and inspirational!”, read the on-line caption of the ‘how to find us’ on the Sarah Raven, Perch Hill Farm page in Google.... and yes it was.  My colleagues and I thought that  perhaps Ms Raven was shy, which considering her public profile was interesting.  Her husband was charm itself, warm, welcoming and jovial, but he has had a lifetime of such a role, being a  Nicholson, after all.

I was expecting to find fault and to be disappointed with this visit, bearing in mind the high octane merchandising publicity that goes on - how wrong I was. Instead,  I found riches of visual and intellectual delight. There were long rectangular beds of companion planting, known in the trade nowadays, as the head gardener at Arundel Castle gardens informed us on the Thursday evening before, as “fleg” planting, ie. flower and veg. together. These  beds were raised with wooden boards and were inventively and successfully staked into box frames about 25 cm in size, constructed with wood batons, tied together,  to compliment what was being grown in them. For example, on this occasion, the place was  alive with hot, brilliantly coloured spiky tulips, for which Ms Raven is justifiably renowned, mixed in with purple leafed Kale, ‘Red Bor”, and both were nodding happily in the strong breeze,  neatly squared off in their sections. The breeze  and temperature fluctuations, which  I  imagine would be fairly prevalent here, as the site is on an exposed hillside in East Sussex,  
 had been diverted and calmed successfully, to some  degree, by carefully planned tall hedges.

In another long raised bed, rows of delphiniums and allium, amongst other flegies,  had been loosely, but effectively, lassoed by long twists of hazel, wound round and round the plant formations, like lovingly twisted scarves. It all looked natural yet  beautifully maintained. There were several other creative treats too. For example, the path between the beds at one point had been punctuated with metal arches, which were made from pale jade green wire, crafted to look organic, while themselves supporting old gnarled clematis. The whole avenue not only complimented the arch cut into the hedging on the far  side, but leant this section of the garden an almost Eastern, mystical atmosphere.

Moving on deeper into the gardens didn’t disappoint either. There were a number of intimate “rooms”, as Sir Roy Strong first penned these types of gardens within gardens, again, mainly, divided by hedging. At each beginning there were helpful and interesting notices of information. In one section we learned that half the roses here would be treated organically, while  the other half would be chemically treated to deter beasties! At the end of the summer the results would be logged and much will have been learned, the results of which, I hope, will be made public to Ms Raven’s adoring public.

Turning another corner, we tumbled upon some rich and flowing, almost prairie style planting in classic cottage bed schemes, and some very old climbers, snuggled round the barn walls,  though here the upkeep looked like heavier work. The beautiful Sussex tile hung cottage was crying out for some tlc, and I understand the couple were about to make Perch Hill their main home. Paths were a mix of gravel, brick and old concrete blocks and we were led naturally, though not in any pushy way, to the hub of this commercial enterprise. A large, low half conservatory, half greenhouse building was buzzing with  walls hung with specially packaged seeds, books, and garden ephemera. We headed straight for the dining tables and the teaching areas - both delighted us. Lunch was simple and simply delicious and the list of classes and talks inspired us.

Sarah Raven is renowned for her confident and exuberant use of colour, famed for her tulips and dahlias. Having seen the tulips in situ, we have vowed to return later on in the year to feast on the dahlia extravaganza. My colleagues and I  agreed on and were most impressed by the feeling that this garden had retained the personal touch, no easy task when running a large business. Here one could imagine the family picnicking and sipping tea in  glorious privacy amid bursts of colour, while being gently soothed by the borrowed  landscape of the South Downs.

Details of further open days, classes and shopping opportunites , are all available on the website http://www.sarahraven.com.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Split Personality

For many years now I have been living in a connundrum (SP?).... Being half German and half Irish, I have world war three going on in my head. My Germanic self insists zat ve do everyzing vell and ve vill do it now.... Whereas, always a little bit later, of course, my true Irish soul speaks out, telling me to feck it, do it later.! The net result is that I have spent a lifetime with half cleaned cupboards and  feeling guilty because I always want to plump my cushions and hoover!

Imagine my delight. when in January this year, so only a few precious weeks ago, my lovely sister confided in me that she felt the same. Oh the joy! We now freely, happily swop symptoms. We no longer feel like odd balls - in fact we think we are quite cool...well,  maybe we wouldn't go that far, but it is very true that a problem shared is very much a problem halved.

Anyway, today my German self certainly woke up first. In fact, I was awoken very early, at 5.45am, to be precise. Knowing that there were no trains running from my local station, and keen  to be in London for my art therapy course, I had given myself enough time to shower and do my yoga, please....I had planned to drive for 40 minutes to try and catch a train on a completely different line, which I duly did only to be faced with cancellations and serious delays due to inclement weather. Well, for a start that made me laugh, we wouldn't have batted an eyelid at such a wimpish excuse to cancel a train in Germany! I stood on the freezing platform watching the expected arrival of my already late train being pushed back and back... and made my decision... I had no chance of getting to college on time and very probably no chance of getting home again, so I turned around, gave my parking ticket to a grateful stranger and headed off to Petworth Park for a frosty, bright walk, armed with gloves, furry  hat and a camera. Heaven.

I came home,  uploaded my photos, drank loads of lemon and ginger tea, listened to radio 4 all afternoon and worked on these  - I think my Irish half made the right decision, but that might just be blarney speaking! And my evening has just been cancelled - the wrong kind of snow now , hey ho - more art then, or find an untidy kitchen cupboard... is there really no cure?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Other Peoples' Blogs

I had a good week this week - a really good week -  busy, sociable, sunny AND I got to spend a couple of days and a night in London.....so energy fuelled. I was taken out to Soho House for lunch on Friday which was cool, and just after we finished lunch, the whole Soho House Group was sold for a wopping big sum...... that's what I call timing.

Then I went to the Haunch of Venison, New Bond Street, London,  to see a small and perfectly formed figurative exhibition. That was exiting and informative.

And then I went to stay with my friend in Notting Hill, who has just bought a rooftop apartment.... what a view from up there, what light from up there - and absolutely nobody overlooking her - I don't usually look out of windows first thing in the morning when I wake up in town, I am usually a country mouse and long for my long views, but......

..... that's what I call a good start to a day, and inspirational for a further  series of my landscape oil pastels and paintings. Have I shown you those yet? Some of them  are up there on Saatchi Online.....

....Anyway,  what I really wanted to tell you about was her daughter's blog - this girlie is Young, and Snappy and London - www.hermionetaylorwhosjack - Her blog is called If You Have To Spend It Then Spend It On This...... I already want to buy/own/give  a few of her choices to date - check her out for that next birthday pressie you need to find. You won't be disappointed.