Monday 10 August 2009
Stamford, Lincolnshire. Historic market town. Beautiful stone architecture. Lots of old buildings. Peaceful atmosphere (but then it is Monday night). So why then can’t I find a half decent looking pub that might serve a decent pie and a pint after a hard day’s work? And what idiot converted that church into a Boots and Vision Express?
Wednesday 7 January 2009
Lewes District Council is making a big fuss about street names. They want to sanitise them by using a pre-approval process for new names to rule out anything that might have a double entendre (even if unintended) or that might be "aesthetically displeasing".
What a load of nonsense. Lewes DC is LibDem controlled and this is a poor advert for them. It smacks of pettiness and small-mindedness.
There are many names which have heritage value that could certainly be considered rude now. I used to havea girlfriend who lived at Crouchers. Just down the road was a country hotel that used the name Crouchers Bottom, which had been the name of the property for hundreds of years. In Sussex, there are plenty of Bottoms (valleys and dips). There is also a Gay Street (homophobic?), Black Down (racist?), the river Uck (yes, the signs get defaced all the time – boring, kids, not funny any more). Lewes itself sits on the River Ouse – it doesn’t really ooze anything and it isn’t a particularly attractive word (it’s just an old word for river), but nobody would want to change it.
It’s a dangerous policy. There is an area of Southsea which features the unbelievably tedious names of Harold Road and Trevor Road – so called because, before it was developed, the land was owned by a family with these names. The area adjoins Fawcett Road which has a pub at one end – you guessed: The Fawcett Inn. More entendres than you could shake a stick at. But I suspect that these aesthetically displeasing names were just fine when they were new – language and attitudes change with time.
And do we really want to have a bunch of wholly anodyne names for roads? Downs View is incredibly over-used in this area. Around Chichester, anything to do with the local heritage (Roman history, the Cathedral, motor racing at Goodwood and local flying aces/aircraft of World War Two) gets used time and time again. Or you end up with a situation like that at Kings Hill (what used to be West Malling airfield) where all the roads are named for varieties of apples - braeburn, russet, worcester and bramley – or old aircraft – typhoon, tempest, anson and stirling. They soon merge one into the next in the warren of identikit houses.
Perhaps there should be pressure on developers to be original. Maybe they should be made not to repeat a road name that has already been used in the same district. That would certainly get rid of the Downs View/Street/Road/Close problem. But it might lead to things like the road near my parents’ house called Syke Cluan Close (apparently, it is named for a place in Scotland, although Google draws a blank) – not relevant to the local area, hard to spell for the locals, but certainly original.
Any funny names up your way?
Sunday 6 July 2008
View from the DLWP
As you look out over the English Channel from the De La Warr Pavilion, you’ll probably see some ships, yachts, dinghies, windsurfers and the odd fishing craft making their way up and down and across the water.
Then, on the horizon, you might spot something that looks a little odd.
Watch it for a while and you’ll notice that, unlike the other craft that you can see, it isn’t moving. Take a closer look.
What the heck is that?
Well, the clue is just to your right at the Sovereign Light Café. You’re looking at the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse, which, remarkably, guides ships around some particularly unpleasant shoals with nothing more than a 35 watt halogen lamp, presumably not much different from those security lamps that you can get from B&Q. So, if you’re planning to build your own lighthouse at home, all you need is a suitable concave mirror to focus the beam and a security lamp, and Robert is your Mum’s brother.
As for the lighthouse, it’s been rented out (click for nice piccies). Apparently, Trinity House considered switching it off as modern craft have satnav and GPS or whatever and don’t really need the lighthouse to find their way around the shoals. Except that they realised that, if they switched it off, there would be this huge concrete thing in the middle of the Channel that might be a bit of a hazard to shipping. So, there it stays, flashing away every 20 seconds, night and day, 365 days a year.
De La Warr Pavilion
Yesterday, expecting a not particularly warm or sunny day, we headed down to the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, partly because we walked past it when it was still under restoration and vowed to come back, partly because we were headed that direction anyway, partly because we wanted to catch the Grayson Perry exhibition before it closed (it’s on its way to the Harris Museum in that there oop-north and we highly recommend it – as you might expect, it does feature both ceramics and cross-dressing, but only incidentally to the main focus of the event, which is art from the 50s, 60s and 70s, including some excellent social history) and partly because DG said we should go.
What we got was a warm and sunny day, a fabulous building, an excellent exhibition and a really good slice of flourless chocolate and hazlenut cake.
One thing that strikes you as you wander around the De La Warr Pavilion is just how, well, joined-up (for want of a far better phrase) the whole thing is. It strikes you that someone has thought about the whole thing, right from conception to restoration and on to the day-to-day running of the place. The building itself is stunning:
As you walk further around it, you immediately become sucked in by the fact that the whole thing sits perfectly in the landscape and is so damned photogenic.
Of course, it is art deco grandeur on an impressive scale. Anyone familiar with buildings along the coast of Sussex will recognise the art deco trademark curves, flat roof and clean white (or, in this case, cream) exterior. This has to be the best-preserved art deco building I’ve seen. It reminded me of a few that are now lost (Bognor bus station, anyone?).
But the overwhelming impression is that everything is just right. The red flag with newly-painted white ballustrade and royal blue lamp post…
…the specially-commissioned red chairs in the café…
… and even the wonderfully aligned deckchairs with their matching royal blue canvases.
A visit to the café reaffirms the impression of perfection. The staff are perfectionists when it comes to serving coffee, even to the extent that they took one man’s coffee back and replaced it because the chocolate powder on top was not arranged just-so. And the cakes. Mmmm.
And then there is the roof deck.
The roof terrace is just perfect. A broad expanse that, mercifully, has been kept clear of tables, chairs, ice creams and other clutter. There’s nothing to do up here except drink it all in, particularly if you’re lucky enough to get a bit of sun for some artful shadows…
… and a few clouds to give the sky towards Eastbourne some dramatic texture.
And, as you descend, there is that famous stairwell – which I think will become the most photographed stairwell in Sussex.
The other thing that struck us was the variety of people using the Pavilion. There was a good number of arty-farty types visiting the exhibition, but they were matched in number by locals (particularly of the elderly variety using the café) and a good smattering of families joining a tour of the Pavilion on to a trip to the beach. The fact that entrance to the building and the exhibition space is all free has to be a factor in this.
The Pavilion itself is, no doubt, going to attract a good art-following crowd to the town. This has to be a good thing – Bexhill has been teetering on moving from being a rather genteel seaside town towards becoming more than a little bit shabby. It still has its less-salubrious areas (Sidley has to be in danger of falling into this category), but we got the distinct impression that the town is on its way up. And, in combination with the wonderfully-revived Pallant House in Chichester and all the usual wonderful things in Brighton and Hove, the Sussex coast is becoming more of an arts destination by the day.
Friday 25 May 2007
Pallant House wins Gulbenkian Award. I’ve long admired Pallant House, but the extension is truly splendid and makes it one of the finest galleries I know anywhere. Well worth visiting if you’re in the area.
Friday 20 April 2007
Did you see this? Whether you did or not, try to catch the rest of the series if you can.
Friday 1 December 2006
Wine tasting classes
The French governing party, the UMP, has suggested that children should be taught to appreciate wines when in school - which doesn’t strike me as half as daft as it might first appear. I’m not sure about wine alone, but there could be something in encouraging kids to learn more about art, literature, architecture, food and drink – to be able to critically appraise it and understand its origins. Of course, some of this sort of stuff is taught already as part of a wider education, but I know from my own industry that plenty of kids seem to come out of school with no idea where food comes from, what art is “about” and why architecture is important. Even my own wife can’t tell the difference between sage, marjoram and tarragon growing in our herb trough outside the door.
I have no doubt that having a greater understanding of these things helps you to look beyond yourself, understand the world around you and further appreciate the inter-relationships between so many things in life. That has to be no bad thing, in my view.
Anyway, in other news we have today found out that we will not be liable for Capital Gains Tax when Hels finally sells her flat in the spring, which means that we are tonight celebrating with gin and tonics, noting the subtlety of the fine gin, the delicate tang of the quinine and the sharp twist of lime (or getting drunk, you decide).
Friday 24 November 2006
The loss of two voices
Two great voices have been lost to us in the last few days.
Nick Clarke, RIP.
Thursday 23 November 2006
Strength in the face of frailty
Did you see the documentary on Channel 4 last night about the Young at Heart Chorus? It isn’t often that Hels and I sit to watch television together, but this was an outstanding documentary about an amazing project with a splendid bunch of people that had us riveted, alternately laughing and crying. There is a planned DVD release. The part with Fred Knittle, given two years to live just over two years previously, carrying his oxygen supply on stage as he sang Coldplay’s Fix You as a solo performance after his duet partner, Joe Benoit, had died just a few days before will bring a lump to your throat.
The most impresive character is Bob Cilman, the director. Coaxing, encouraging and, at times, herding this group of wilful octagenarians into performing a stage set that has travelled the world is a great feat of determination – the fact that the performers derive more from it than the audience is not lost on the viewer.
Thursday 16 November 2006
Sunday 1 October 2006
There will be content…
…I promise. In the meantime, here is
the testcard a photo of Oustreham port at dawn.
I like the way that my rather knackered Nokia, struggling with the low light conditions, has produced a fine piece of pointillist art.
Sunday 16 October 2005
Last night, as a special treat for our wedding anniversary, we headed up to the Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells to see the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, who played with support from Langhorne Slim.
Slim played some folksy bluegrass songs, mostly about lost love and failed relationships, with sprinklings of humour and wry observation and even a smattering of audience participation. Pretty good, although he failed to really get the Tunbridge Wells audience going. Mind you, it has to be said that it usually takes quite something to get the Tunbridge Wells audience going – free canapés and a glass of bubbly generally do the trick, both of which were lacking for this gig.
After the interval, the main attraction took the stage. Hels said afterwards that if you didn’t have your surreal head on, you weren’t going to get this outfit – and Tunbridge Wells doesn’t do surreal very well. I think about 10 people in the audience really got the hang of what was being achieved before them.
The Trachtenburgs are a three piece outfit, consisting of Jason on keyboards, guitar and lead vocals, his wife Tina Piña on slide projector and daughter Rachel (aged a somewhat precocious 11 years) on drums and backing vocals. Yes, you read that correctly – not slide guitar, but slide projector. The premise here is that the Trachtenburgs collect 35mm transparency collections from thrift stores, pawn shops, car boot fairs and so on. They then reinterpret them to music, on stage, whilst wearing the worst 1970s fashions (not overstated parody fashions, mind you, but those subtly bad items from that era).
The songs, of course, are just as awful as the photographs that they are played to. Crossing just about every genre under the sun, from prog rock to gospel, songs such as Look At Me and the five-part McDonald’s rock opera (incorporating the totemic What Will The Corporation Do?) amusingly take the mickey out of the innocents portrayed in the slides – though none could exactly be described as sing-along. But the awfulness is part of the act, coupled with the polished amateurness of the performers (complete with Rachel’s persistent gum chewing and Jason’s asides about how something always goes wrong with their shows) and an amusing mid-set Q&A session.
The set was rather let down by lacklustre sound quality in the Trinity, meaning that some of Jason’s lyrics were indistinct – rather important when the lyrics relate so closely to the content of the slides on show. The crazy distortion that resulted from projecting onto a full height screen from a projector sat on the floor actually added to the surreality of the performance, although I’m not sure if that was intentional.
If you get the chance, go and see them whilst they are on tour. But try to pick a venue where the audience might appreciate it.
Thursday 28 July 2005
The shortlist for the Stirling Prize for Architecture is out. I suspect that the McLaren building will win (home of Formula 1 cars and push chairs). The BMW building is striking, as is the Jubilee Library in Brighton (I saw a similar style building on the main square in Stuttgart when I was last there, and it looked absolutely stunning both by day and by night), but my personal favourite is the Lewis Gluckman Gallery in Cork. Maybe that’s because I’m always drawn to buildings with angular interpenetrations and marvel not only at the design but also at the engineering of the construction.
Tuesday 26 July 2005
I think I’ve linked to the Salad Fingers cartoons before. Episode 6 is now online. I should warn you that these cartoons are probably not for the mentally unsound. They are truly disturbing, not least for the excellent and atmospheric Boards of Canada music in the background.
Friday 15 April 2005
"Like something from the Jetsons". I’m not sure if "Googie" is a proper technical term. I’m also not sure if all the examples cited on this site really fit under that heading either. Still, well worth a look. via linkbunnies.
Monday 11 April 2005
We visited Gosport and Portsmouth this weekend to see my brother at his girlfriend’s house. These days, one thing stands out, begging to be photographed. I took a whole bunch, and reckon this to be the best, not for any technical reason but simply because it was caught in sunlight at that moment with dark clouds behind. The Spinnaker Tower:
Wednesday 30 March 2005
St Paul’s Cathedral, with a heavy dark shower cloud looming behind.
I took this picture, then we quickly dashed for cover before the heavens opened.
Newly restored. And rather lovely.
Saturday 26 February 2005
A photo with a mile
From the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate Bridge – one photo for every mile.
Friday 21 January 2005
Friday 17 December 2004
Tuesday 14 December 2004
I feel a trip to Millau coming on.
Thursday 9 December 2004
On the main church in Taormina, right at the top of the façade, there is a skull and crossbones. Catholic pirates?
Sunday 22 August 2004
Arundel Festival Fringe
Yesterday, we had a potter about the Gallery Trail that forms part of the Arundel Festival Fringe. enjoying the opportunity to see some good art (and some less-good art) as well as the chance to poke about inside other people’s homes. There will be pictures soon.
This was followed by a rather good meal in the Fox Goes Free at Charlton, a haunt from long ago that I haven’t visited in a fair while. Ham, egg ‘n’ chips – mmmmmm.
Today we’re going to saunter around West Dean.
Monday 2 August 2004
David Fawcett should really be a blogger – I think he’d be very good at it. His pictures are simple, low key and possibly even not that artistically accomplished. But the genius is in the titles and the spirit that they catch. We saw his work at an exhibition in Tunbridge Wells on Saturday – he was there, being immensely jovial and good-natured (and as tall as he depicts himself in his paintings). You can see his work here. I particularly like "Quiet Fart" – I think we’ve all been there.
Thursday 24 June 2004
Worst interiors of 1974
Wallpaper* magazine would love some of these.
Friday 5 March 2004
Last night, we went to see a play – the first play that I’ve been to see in absolutely aeons. It was Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of The People – certainly thought-provoking stuff given events that have been in the news in recent months. It was an amateur production by The Trinity Theatre Club, and was every bit as good as many professional productions that you might see – the actor playing Dr Stockman was particularly good. It’s on until tomorrow, so if you can get to see it, I commend it to you.
It’s a particularly timeless play. Although it was written many years ago, and Miller’s adaptation was intended to reflect on McCarthyism in the 1950s, it still has resonance today – (as the publicity material suggests) you might watch it and think of the Kelly affair. It also shows that heroes are rarely without taint and flaw.
In that respect, it reminded me of one of my favourite books, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – science fiction in its day that now seems to be only too true. So, a bit late for Book Day, which was yesterday, but there are a couple of recommendations for you.
Tuesday 27 January 2004
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the breaking of the 900-day seige of Leningrad in the Second World War, the Russians have set up several displays and monuments including this poster:
Just so that you can get a sense of scale, that little dot at the bottom of the poster is a woman looking up at it.
Who needs Millennium Domes?