Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Walking the city

Walking, what a wonderful way to spend the day.  Next to painting and making things I think walking (and cycling) is one of my favourite ways to spend my time.  Our feet are capable of taking us anywhere we are willing to go; through sunken lanes, along singing streams over high hills.  Living on the edge of a major city also gives us opportunities to walk streets and lanes.  There can be something magical about following Georgian and Victorian back streets in a town; looking up at windows, gables and chimney pots.  Looking down or around for cobbles, wrought iron work, window sashes and brick work.  Autumn, late summer evenings, snowy winters: each city has it's seasonal rhythm, just as the country does.

This week I am taking my class for a walk along a short stretch of the Trent, we will take the tram to the train station, our glorious red brick, Victorian, layer cake train station.  From there we will pass the canal (industrial artery of a by gone age), then stroll along a plane tree clad boulevard towards the river.  We will pass through the Meadows, back to back terraces that hide a secret.  How many know this area is built on stilts; that the water ways still pass under many parts of the housing.

Finally our steps will bring us to edge of the river, to the Toll House Bridge. Not much remains of the original  bridge, there are the toll house stanchions and the first two arches.  There is also a list of the toll costs for traffic that needed to enter and depart from the city.  For the Trent is our boundary between Town and Country.

From here we look down the great, meandering course of the River Trent itself.

The people use the river for many things, it has it's credentials as a thing of leisure firmly stamped.  In the distance is the hum of the city, close to your ears the sounds of families, students, athletes; wildfowl squawk and honk, splash and hiss but the watercourse and bank is big enough for all.

Turn and stroll away from the bridge, the bank is a wide grass verge and more plane trees to give us shade.  The plane tree is a sign of the city,valued for its ability to take the pollution out of the air, through its leaves and into its bark.  The tree is then able to quarantine this pollution and shed the poisons and cleaning the air. They are the lungs and filter of industrial England.

Further along is the magnificent gate to the Memorial Gardens, built in memory of the lost of two world wars.  Behind is the peaceful garden in which we are invited to sit and remember, reflect and learn.  Water song accompanies your thoughts, cooling the air and soothing away troubled thoughts.  Here the ground is planted with laburnum and acer, oriental poppies and iris, tree peonies and geranium.  Queen Victorian, on her plinth, over sees us as we rest in her garden.

Listen carefully in the summer and there is the sound of ball on willow; we are a stones throw from Trent Bridge.  In the season there will be the roar of the crowd, celebrating a four, a six the loss of a wicket.  Inside the ground white clad men enter battle against their foe, repeating the ritual that is England's cricket in one of it's cathedrals.

We can then turn about and join the canal, returning our feet towards the station where our carriage awaits to take us home.  This is a very different watercourse, man-made and industrial, dirty and less loved.

After this we can return to the terraces and town, here we once again cross the water meadow; flood defence against the rising water.  As we walk we can see the iconic buildings that make up the city skyline, some old, some new.

Finally, after passing the castle (that isn't a castle anymore), the tax offices and the skyline shapes of the church towers and council house dome, we reach the station once more.

With thanks to my husband, Tim, for the wonderful photographs.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Soon Child, soon.

I mentioned, some posts ago, that I had bought a copy of Russell Hoban's Soonchild.   I didn't realise, at the time that I had read his Francis stories  when I was small.  Jam for Francis being one of my favourite books.

Soonchild is the mot haunting story, supported by the glorious illustrations by Alexis Deacon.  Walker books gave the author and illustrator the freedom to craft a book that is more than the sum of it's parts.  It is also a fitting epitaph the (very special) Russell Hoban.

However reading the book planted a seed, one that has begun to grow a little and may well become more than the sum of it's parts too.

I am thinking of working on many of the totems in the story and plan to tell some of Sixteen Face John's journey.

PS: I am ashamed to say I have not yet read The Mouse and His Child, which is really a classic.  Guess what is on the next shopping list?

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Faerie flight & Out hunting for who knows what...

The Fairy Tree nr Halam

Fae,  the fair folk, the Sidhe, Faerie, Little people, Tomte, trolls, the stories traditions for these people are intertwined through out human history.  No matter where you go in the world there are stories of a world we cannot see that exists alongside our own. It is a dangerous and uncomfortable world; we do not know it's rules completely.  Often uwary mortals are caught in the snare of glamour, only to return into a time out of mind.  Anger the inhabitants of these worlds and we must pay the consequences.  

We humans have perpetually been both in love and in fear of the Fair folk; they fascinate some and repel others.  Some long to dance with them others to destroy them.  Iron binds them, we can use it to keep ourselves from their snare.  Eat of their food and we become entrapped, unable to leave without sacrifce.  We leave milk out to appease the brownie and house troll.  We hang horse shoes over our doors for luck.  We see flashes out of the corners of our eyes; yet when we look nothing is to be seen.

Mayflies (click to link to article in Guardian)

It is always wise to heed traditions and beware of angering the fair folk.  Keep looking out of the corner of your eye, you never know what you might see.

I wrote this post in honour of the Mayfly dance that I saw yesterday, they reminded me of fairies in flight.
We also drove past the Halam fairy tree!

This morning the weather is just too gorgeous for words.  So I will let the pictures do the talking....

Where could this be leading to?

I have a bit of a thing about red brick walls.

Copper glory

The wren who chivied me through the park

Songster, singing so hard he quivered.

Chestnut candles.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Taking flight in a different way

Longshanks, Girth and the Fool of the World; each is on the Flying Ship with Keen in the crow's nest.
Not entirely happy with Longshank's face but love his stockings.

This is the introduction to the story, as told by Robin Williams, it is a Rabbit Ears production.  The story accompianied us around Suffolk and up to Ilkley during the summer last year.

Friday, 4 May 2012

An owl house

I wish she would hurry up and paint my other wings.

And done.

See, two wings

And a moonrise.