Tuesday, 27 November 2012

I need to be reclassified as an old fogey

That is it, I am now officially one of the old generation.  You know the one that doesn't understand the young.  The one who keeps on about how it was better in my day...
In the last week it has become clear to me that I have no idea what a celebrity is; that I am out of touch with the modern popular music (who the hell are One Direction?)  Why is Cheryl Cole famous?  Olly someone?
The children in my class are constantly amazed at my lack of knowledge.  Then to cap it all a colleague had to explain to me who Helen Flanagan was (although I am none the wiser as I don't watch Corrie!).

Am I alone?  I don't watch soaps, even the Archers irritates me after a week or so.  I don't watch reality TV, strikes me they are about as unreal as you can possibly get.  I don't listen to radio 1 and only 6music occasionally.  I will go and find my red hat, purple coat and become a disgraceful old codger forthwith.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Bird Totems

I have been bird watching this week, or in some cases just bird listening.  It struck me as I observed just how totemic some birds are for people.  Not only signature birds but totemic spirits for ages, times or just frozen moments.

Each morning, at about 5.3,0 I sit in the studio room.  The window faces the garden with a hedge, bramley apple and black elder right outside the glass.  First to sound is the blackbird; they come to feed at the base of the apple, where the windfalls are left for them.  I was lucky enough to have a mistle thrush some years ago but the blackbirds have staked their claim and shooed them away.

After that the chaffinch, sparrow and great tits start to vie for the bird feeder.  They sound like a group of school children: arguing, laughing and running together in chattering groups.  Some time later the wren will come along the hedge; chickering and shouting to them that there are cats here.  Finally the robin (a triumphant victor who has finished off his rival) will sing out that the garden is his. Of all these birds the one who captures the morning spirit is the wren.  She is regularly to be heard patrolling the boundary and scolding all who are near.  I picture the pugnacious tail and sharp little movements as she harries and scurries about the garden.

These garden birds are the spirits of home and garden.  My work is haunted by others.  We finally have a flock of starlings, returning to the chimney pots and roofs of the area.  Long missed, I have mourned the demise of the spiv of the bird world.  These cocksure and noisy characters were part of my childhood. I have strong memories of watching their wheeling dancing clouds as they flew over the fields near our house.
They are back, with all their exuberant posturing.

Rivaling these are the bigger blacker corvids, crow and jackdaw mainly, that use the fast food litter as a gourmet buffet.  These lovely birds live in the chestnut, oak and maple of our local park, The Forest, home of the goose fair (see birds imbue the spirit of Nottingham everywhere).  Their raking cry fills the air as I leave, in the darkening dusk; my signal that it is time to go home.

Home again and the night belongs to the tawny owls, who hunt the park and gardens of Sherwood.  We hear them call across the trees; we have seen them fly low over the roof tops and have been privileged to watch one sit on a shed roof less than 10 metres from where we were sitting.  This owl is the totem of the night; the flying spirit who softly soars across the night sky.  If we sit for long enough we may catch a glimpse and share a small moment of their world.

Sometimes the seasons are the herald of a spirit: Summer brings the scream and swoop of the swifts.  The joyous aerobatics providing the backdrop to our warm afternoons.  It is time to lie on the grass and watch the dance in the sky.  Autumn brings the geese from the north on their way to Attenborough, or one of the other wetland reserves.  We lie under a flight path to food and can watch the v formations as they pass overhead.  Winter is the turn of the fieldfare, come to share the blackbirds apple bounty on their way over from the Scandinavian farms.

Then there are the times when a bird embodies a moment, speaking in a way our voices can't.  Some years ago we lost a very dear member of the family in a short space of time.  In the moments of her passing (not yet known to us) I passed the rowans, that line the road, and looked up at the sound of birds.  Filling the trees were 30 or so waxwings.  Rare enough visitors but to a city?  Looking back I wonder if Kapi's spirit passed by, visiting on her path away from us.  The waxwing will be forever special to me as a result.
They are with us again, according to John at Hedgeland Tales this is a bumper year.  I hope you are able to share the sight of them.

I wonder if I am the only one to feel like this about birds? They embody so much and it is very easy to tie in our complex emotions to their fragile lives.  What ever I recommend you look upwards when you have a minute, see which spirit is following you.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Having rather a lot of fun

For more on how I got started on this go to the HillsofNottingham blog and have a look.

After these were cooked and finished I had a go at a second set.  Not as keen on the finished product as I am on the bears.  But they are cheerful and would be welcome on a cold day.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Arto Paassilina, Hares and other wonders

This is one of my all time favourite books.  It is typically Finnish and utterly enchanting.  Paasilinna creates a strangely, blackly comic situation;  the vignettes of character and the simplicity of the story hold you from beginning to end.  If you like the films of the Kaursmaki's then you would probably love this.

I hadn't thought of the book for some time, until I was researching animal designs for some Christmas present projects I have in mind.  Trawling through the web I came across a fascinating site that deserves some in depth reading.
Moose Report

On the site I found a range of amazing articles on art and culture in Scandinavia: including some heart wrenching sculptures and this article on Paasilinna.

Scandinavian design tends to get a large coverage, due to the Sunday supplements and the IKEA effect.  Nordic Crime has had a real boost thanks to Wallander, Forbrydelsen and Yhe Bridge. However, much less is known of the writers (other than Tove Jansson), artists and cultural figures.  I am really looking forward to finding new books to read and new art to marvel over.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The bears are back

These are shots of one of the enamel mugs I have been playing with.  This is all thanks to the wonderful Clive   Hicks-Jenkins and his Hansel and Gretel dinner service.  Take a look here for inspiration

I have had a go and am now up to number 5.  I have three more blanks to go and then I think I will be ready to play with an even bigger pot.  Have a look at the humbler offerings I have here.

In the meantime, whilst still sorting out animation niggles, I have been enjoying doing this.