Saturday, May 30, 2009

Swans in Valentines Park

There were other things I intended to write about today but then I got diverted: I am staying in Ilford- in East-most London- and this afternoon went for a walk in Valentines Park. I walked around the lake, round which I had pushed my daughter as a toddler and later my 100 year old mother in her wheel-chair, pointing out the baby birds to both of them, to both of their delight...

I was ecstatic to find that the Swans had decided to make an island nest beneath an Alder tree, where I could see the penn trying to have an afternoon doze while her cygnets- who were nestling on her back and under her wings- preened themselves restlessly. Who's heart cannot be melted by fluffy fledgelings? I am a total victim to their charms. I thought at first there were just two cygnets but finally counted six as they gradually emerged from her plumage. The poor mother eventually had to give up her sleep as they decided to go for a swim, when they were joined by the cobb, their father, and all sailed away... I then noticed that a solitary, unhatched egg remained in the nest.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Philip Sutton's Puppet

In a recent post I mentioned that I had got behindhand with my blog due to puppet making, so now I will explain what I have been doing:

Two years ago I made three Glove Puppets for an exhibition of The Young Henry V111 at Hampton Court Palace- I’ll write more about this in another post. When the artist Philip Sutton saw photos of these puppets he decided he would like one himself, suggesting one of Mr Punch. I agreed to this but got tied up with other projects and did nothing about it, other than researching into different depictions of Punch puppets.

Finally, a month or so ago, Philip Sutton phoned me to say that he had dreamed that I had made him a puppet and it had been dancing about his studio! Full of guilt, I decided this was the moment to fulfill my promise. As in the past he has painted self-portraits of himself as Shakespearian characters in Jokers’ hats (he did a series of Shakespeare-based paintings for the new Globe Theatre in London) I decided it was appropriate to base the head of the puppet on him rather than Punch. The costume I based on a 1843 music cover illustration of Mr Punch- King of Puppets, shown below.

Last weekend I handed over the completed puppet to Philip Sutton, when I spent a lovely weekend at his and his wife Heathers’ idyllic house in the Welsh countryside. I was full of trepidation- what if he didn’t recognize himself? That would make me look really silly! Luckily, all was well and so here are some images both of the puppet and of it- or I should say “him”- bonding with his new master; but first, Mr Punch:

Monday, May 18, 2009

May Greenness 3

My third Green post will concentrate on the trees themselves. I visited some wonderful "tulgey" woods with eccentric trees. For those of you unfamiliar with the word "tulgey" it comes from Lewis Carroll's poem of The Jabberwocky from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, full of evocative, imaginary words. Our family has always used this very descriptive word for a wild wood.

May Greenness 2

Writing about Bluebell woods, I spoke about the overpowering smell: well, another nostalgic May woodland smell is from the Wild Garlic. The ground of the woods around Bath are covered with the delicate snow-flakes of their white flowers. As a child I loved to eat the leaves on walks- together with the clover-like leaves of the Wood Sorrel. In my search for the ultimate Bluebell wood I was yet again entranced by the Pre-Raphaelite detail and colour of these exquisite, very English woods.

May Greenness 1

Having been puppet-making for the last two weeks (more about that later), I have got behind with my posts- so now, before May ends, I am going to swamp you with green May English woods. This first post is just to do with lush greenness...

Chelsea Flower Show/ and more Bluebells

A fellow blogger from Holly Becker's Blogging Your Way class, kindly gave Treeaware a mention on her blog- Studio G. This is a really inspiring blog as Rochelle Greayer, apart from being a writer, is a landscape designer, running Greayer Design Associates in Harvard MA.

This being the start of Chelsea Flower Show week in London, I was particularly interested to see that in the past she has designed two gardens for the Royal Horticultural Society- once being a Bronze medalist for a garden designed to raise awareness of domestic violence and on another occasion- for Chelsea- designing an outdoor spa set in a Colorado native aspen grove, highlighting the influence of Native Americans by incorporating traditional Kiva. I am particularly attached to Chelsea as I was a student at the Chelsea Art School and on the last day of the Flower Show the college was always full of flowers- and the strong smell of flowers- brought home by students- flowers that would otherwise be thrown away.

A new departure at the Flower Show this year: one designer- James May- has filled his garden with beautifully modelled Plasticine flowers- apparently he has had problems keeping them upright in the rain today...

Coincidentally, Rochelle has recently shown a post on Virginia Bluebells- very different from our English ones. Here are some of the images from Studio G:

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Bluebell Woods 2

I'm having to write a second post about Bluebell Woods because this morning I suddenly realized I had forgotten to write about one of the most memorable aspects of the woods: the SMELL of the bluebells! a totally intoxicating, overpowering and nostalgic smell. If you are not familiar with bluebells, think of the smell of a hyacinth when you grow it in a pot and it flowers in your living-room (they are, of course, wild hyacinths) and multiply that by a few million.

I could have just edited the previous post but felt the smell deserved its own one. A thought, why is it when you write the word "smell" you associate it with something unpleasant? The bluebell smell is far from that- and to describe it as "perfume" or "scent" sounds too urban to me. There are a lot of other overpowering, early Summer flowers at this time- I will reserve that for another day. Have you got any favorites, pleasant or unpleasant?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bluebell Woods

Every May I get this desperate longing to see a Bluebell Wood- and I mean, a Bluebell Wood, with a dense carpet of bluebells- not just a pretty sprinkle here and there. This all stems back to my childhood memories, in particular to a wonderful, archetypal one on Midsummer Hill, part of the Malvern Hills. When I think of bluebells, I see this amazing blue spread beneath a hazel coppice, sloping down the hill...

Well, this May I again had this urge. I pestered everyone I knew- and didn't know- and visited some ravishing woods, with the ground a snow of Wild Garlic (more about that later), BUT they only had "drifts" of bluebells...

Finally I decided to satisfy this-itch-that-would-not-go-away by going to a wood that was not easily accessible without a car (which I do not have at present) but which I was assured would deliver. And so yesterday I embarked on my epic pilgrimage.

My destination was West Woods, near Marlborough in the County of Wilshire- only about 30 miles from Bath- but this was hard to believe as I had to take a total of 7 buses and my travelling time- there and back- was approximately 9 hours! This was largely due to buses either not existing or being late so that I missed connections. However, when I eventually arrived (still daylight, luckily...) there was my blue carpet.

Although I was thrilled to find them and spent an ecstatic time photographing them, afterwards I realized I had really been chasing a dream- chasing a memory that only exists in my mind. I'll never, ever, find those bluebells of my chilhood again.