Dropping a Few Names

Dropping Names

Sometimes I think dropping names is an odious thing to do.

However I am going to make a list of the well known, famous, infamous (do I know any of these?) and perhaps people who aren’t famous but ought to be.

Starting with Marlene Dietrich.

I met Marlene Dietrich back stage at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre. I had been invited by Anthony Everitt then theatre critic for the Birmingham Post.  It was 14th May 1973.  The visit was really quite short, ten minutes maximum.  She recounted a moment when she fell off the stage, I don’t recall her saying which stage, where. She blamed it on the whisky.  She said she broke her humerus and grabbed my arm to show me where.  Well as far as I was concerned it was my elbow that she felt.  She was delightfully funny and looked amazing.  I hardly said anything – awestruck.

Francis Bacon

This was early 1970s when I was briefly living in Newport Place in Soho.  A small street directly behind the Hippodrome.  The one roomed flat was above a Coral’s betting shop.  Ostensibly I was looking for work at the time having recently left art college.  Soho wasn’t really the best place to look for work. However it was very distracting and I used to waste my little money and plentiful time on what might have been called cultural drinking spots.  The French (Gaston’s pub) was one such place.  One day I thought I would bravely try the Colony Room.  I had heard about it from people such as John Grosser of the Times, a nearby resident, and Andrew Lumsden also of the Times.

It was one of those grey autumnal London days  when a warm bar or public house would have been very welcome. Anyway I made it in, I think I recall I had to explain that Iwas an ex art student and just wanted to see what the place was like. It was certainly warm and dark inside not a very large room as I recall.  I got myself a Pernod (yes, I was a bit pretentious in those day – Pernod and the occasianal Gauloise or Disque Bleu) and looked around.  I vaguely recognised Robert Carrier who eventually came over to talk.  In the corner sitting on a bar stool I could see Francis Bacon sitting by himself.  Carrier was very garrulous and full of himself, yes boastful in a way.  He was probably the best dressed person in the room wearing a good pink Oxford shirt and tailored mid grey slacks.  Carrier however became a little overbearing so I retreated to the bar where there was nobody except Francis Bacon.  I said hello and that I recognised him as the painter he was.  I also intimated that I was an admirer of his work.  We didn’t really talk of painting just small talk.  I told him I was at the bar to get away from Mr Carrier and his overbearing manner.  Mr Bacon nodded seemingly understanding my predicament.  Bacon said that I had come on a quiet afternoon and that it would become more lively after five (it was about four o’clock a the time) and offered me a drink.  Well that was about it. Bacon was quite sweet and he certainly kept Carrier away.  That was the only time I was to meet Bacon and it was my only visit to the Colony Room.

Much later in life when I had moved to Wivenhoe, Colchester I was to find (after he had died) that he had been a a fequent visitor there. He had used the village as a retreatfrom London where he would meet his friends Dickie Chopping and Denis Wirth-Miller.

From Wikipedia -“According to the Museum of London website, “The Colony Room was one of many drinking clubs in Soho. The autocratic and temperamental owner Muriel Belcher created an ambiance which suited those who thought of themselves as misfits or outsiders”.[4] Belcher has been described as “an imperious lesbian with a fondness for insulting banter”.[5] George Melly said of her, “Muriel was a benevolent witch, who managed to draw in all London’s talent up those filthy stairs. She was like a great cook, working with the ingredients of people and drink. And she loved money.”

Coming shortly

Princess MargaretNottingham Playhouse

Lauren Bacall Hippodrome Theatre Birmingham

Cynthia Lennon – a friend of my sister whom I met in Jersey

Derek Jarman – from Gay Liberation days

Graham Chapman of Monty Python – also Gay Liberation days

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A brief encounter with David Hockney

I am writing this because some time ago Hockney, a devoted smoker, reported to the press that he thought smokers might be less likely to become infected with Coronavirus.  

I think it was 1970 give or take a year.  Most probably 70 as that was the year of my 21st birthday and I think this encounter was in the same year.

It was a hot day in Soho and I was idly looking out of our shared bedsitter in Newport Place and saw somebody that I was sure was David Hockney. Easy to identify really with his mop of blond hair.  He was perusing the window of the newsagents across the road.  This newsagent, as well as the usual papers and magazines, sold a selection of soft porn for all tastes from its top shelves. 

Whatever Hockney was doing there really is neither here nor there.  Seeing him gave me the rather bold idea of inviting myself to tea.  I just happened to have his address and telephone number as my friend Anthony Everitt teaching in Foundation Studies at Birmingham College of Art and Design had taken a group of students to see the artist in his studio.  The address was 17 Powis Terrace. Notting Hill.  I was bored and it was a kind of listless afternoon, hot and a little overbearing.  London is not always great in really good weather.  I spurred myself on to visiting the artist.  I knew he quite like the formality of the British teatime so I decide to ask to come to tea.  Hockney was a little taken aback I think by my call.  I had explained how I had his address and phone number and kind of apologised for my cheek in requesting to visit. He was very affable  and asked me to come around explaining it would only be tea and this would be of limited duration.

With some difficulty I found Powis Terrace.  It was some small distance from Notting Hill Gate tube station.  I was surprised to see that the area was quite run down.  The large late Victorian houses had obviously seen better times.   No 17 was a three storey stucco clad affair, quite large.  The stucco and paint were tired to say the least.  By now I had developed some trepidation. Made my self ring the door bell and was greeted by large friendly black woman with a Caribbean (probably Jamaican) accent.  She told me to go up to see David on the first floor.

The door was opened by another guest and the whole room was immediately in view.  The artist was sitting by a huge glass coffee table, the glass being very thick, over an inch in depth.  I am sure this was the table that features in Hockney’s painting of Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell.

The table was busied with the tea time paraphernalia – at least two teapots, white china and white boxes.  The boxes turned out be boxes of cigarettes form Sullivan and Powell. One of them had the name of Khedive.  I did try one with my lapsang souchong tea.  I realised somehow that I would be seen as some kind of mere provincial worshipping at the altar of an important artist. Hockney was very charming and convivial though especially as I had the impertinence to ask for this impromptu visit. There were others in the room, I hadn’t been introduced to all of them. One guy was on the telephone I think to New York, certainly the US.  The telephone was in on of those egg shaped booths, gunmetal grey with a metal perforated interior. I think I only stayed for about 45 minutes.  Glad I was brave enough to do it.  Think the occasion slightly altered my outlook on life, basically towards the notion of “just do things as you like to do”, don’t  worry about the others.

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The King Rufus – Eling, Hampshire

A hidden gem of a country public house

(Editor’s note: sadly this pub is now closed and is awaiting new tenants – owners. I am leaving the aricle here because of the amazing artwork that the pub displayed. I hope that whoever takes it over manages to keep som of the art. October 2020)

My friend Andy and I on Friday night decided that we should have an afternoon out away from the confines of Milford-on-Sea and Lymington where we normally hang out. I suggested Eling near Totton on the outskirts of Southampton. I had been there once before on a rainy spring day day to visit the tide mill there. That had been an interesting morning. I had never been to a pub there though. This Saturday was to be a pub visiting day. Andy had been to a couple of pubs there and we ended up at one of them, the King Rufus. We had already driven past it and for some reason decided to go back and try it. From the outside it looked like a small probably Victorian built country pub, no great architecture or particularly noticeable features, pleasantly unassuming, possibly dull. Anyway we tried it. I had no great hopes, just another ale house I was thinking, nevertheless worth a visit because if you don’t try you don’t know.

On entry it seemed quiet, a group of about six people round a large rectangular table and us. All was well. A pleasant lady served us and we settled down to enjoy our drinks. Looking around there were a lot of pictures, pleasant paintings. It dawned on me that they must certainly all be paintings by one hand. It turned out the one hand was that of the lady who had served us; Philippa Gould.

Phillipa told us that she had been a an art teacher at a school and hasn’t stopped painting.

The pub sign

The pub is only open 4 days a week, Thursday through to Sunday. It has regular music events, Husband Ray is a musician. They also have Friday night as a Pizza night using the wood fired pizza oven situated in the comfortable garden (well covered patio). The pizzas are made with Italian strong flour (tipo 00) and have a margharita topping as base upon which one can add extra items such as anchovies and olives (my favourite).

We shall certainly be visiting again. Most probably on a Friday night as we both fans of a well made pizza.

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Tuna – a tapenade take

I have always been quite fond of tinned tuna but my repertoire didn’t go much beyond a basic salade Niçoise wonderful as it is. Recently I have been doing a lot of snacking. I thought I would dream up a kind of tuna sandwich filling.

I did Google things a bit and it seemed that the most frequent recommendation was to use tuna canned in brine or spring water, not oil. I personally wasn’t really going to worry about which type I used, it would necessarily be whatever was in the cupboard. Of course, I ensured that it was well drained so as not to dilute any of the other ingredients.

To be perfectly honest I was messing around but confident that whatever was made would be tasty. I started with the tuna and mayonnaise pounding the tuna in a pestle and mortar then stirring in mayonnaise. On this occasion, I used Hellmans™ mayonnaise with a little added olive oil to make it more like homemade. The result was a perfectly acceptable tuna mayonnaise, fine for any sandwich. I was beginning to think tapenade, no I wasn’t going to make a tapenade just go a bit towards that kind of flavour. It was to be capers and kalamata olives. I started with the smallest tin of tuna and reckoned on a dessertspoonful of each crushed (I used a garlic press but the back of a knife would have done).

That is all, a tasty addition to tuna mayonnaise with a Provençale twist.

Well not quite all as I found the above spread dip perfect to make a tuna melt. The first time I have made a tuna melt. The result was delicious. These combos will remain in mind for easy brunch or light supper dishes.

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Cheese Scones

I have recently moved to West Bay, Bridport from Lymington, Hampshire. One of my first visits to an eaterie in West Bay was to the Cornish Bakery. As well as a large selection of pasties (obviously) there were pastels de nata ( a kind of Portuguese custard tart – a lot nicer than the British custard tart in my opinion) and there were scones. I asked the woman at the counter as to how cheesy they were. She offered me one gratis. Sadly I had to inform her that I did not find them cheesy enough.

With this disappointment I determined to try and make some myself. I searched the internet for recipes and ended up trying Felicity Cloake of the Guardian’s recipe. Felicity is an interesting writer, she looks at quite a few recipes by well known food authors and attempts to distil the best from those recipes that she has studied. In my view her distillations work very well. Her recipe was good but not cheesy enough for me.

It occurred to me that perhaps the butter in the scone dough was watering the flavour down. Why not omit the butter and replace it with more cheese using the extra cheese as the shortening. After all it still has a similar fat content to butter. Another influence was a blogger called Annabel Langbein who promotes a 3 ingredient cheese scone (excluding extra baking powder, mustard, cayenne etc). She had basically flour, cheese and yoghourt as the binding agent. This worked well.

I can’t leave well alone it seems.

I decided to go for a proportional approach to quantities, namely equal amounts of self raising flour and extra mature cheese (Cathedral City was the one used mostly as I can get it from the store nearby). I have tried yoghourt, sour cream, double cream as the liquid. I think the sour cream came out best. I think it also makes the baking powder work harder. I just used as much liquid as would make a firm sticky dough. I always added Colman’s mustard powder and cayenne pepper.

I normally baked them in a hot oven – fan 220 c for about 15 to 20 minutes or until they looked lightly tanned. I am on my sixth or seventh batch now and am pleased with the results. I do not mind the slight variation between batches. I haven’t yet had one that I would call a failure.

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Pasta tomato and roasted red pepper salad

Pasta with tomatoes and roasted red pepper.

This recipe was devised as a bit of a take on John West’s Mediterranean tuna salad.

I like the above salad but I needed larger quantities and I also wanted a bit more control. I tend to up the roasted red pepper content.

For the bottled pepper see if you can get Freshona from Lidl, alternatively Fragata from Waitrose. A can of chopped tomatoes, Waitrose chopped tomatoes with basil are good.

I generally use half a bottle of Fragata or a third of Freshona (this different sizes obviously) and half a can of chopped tomatoes. Keep the rest in the fridge in jam jars for the next session.

Cook to well done (not al dente) some pasta shapes. I have used broken taglia telle but now use farfalle. Conchiglie might be good as it holds sauce well. Just mix all together, season with salt and pepper and refrigerate. Mix it with flaked tinned tuna (in olive oil) on your plate (best to leave tuna until last minute). My friend Andy grates cheese on top as well.
You could put a squeezed clove of garlic in but I don’t. Other additions could be thinly sliced olives. Very finely diced onions are also an option but really the whole idea is for it to be simple and quick to prepare.

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Back again after a long time

I have been remiss in not contributing to this blog for ages, years in fact. The last couple of years have been interesting, I mean interesting in the scenes of the Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”. My mother died just over two years ago and then I was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagas. Things are a lot better now, don’t hold your breath too much but I shall be back contributing to this blog shortly. I shall be writing about things as diverse as electric bikes and pressure cookers.

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Chaat Masala

Many years ago (late sixties) when I was a student in Birmingham a new up market Indian restaurant opened in New Street, one of Birmingham’s main retail thoroughfares. It was in my mind anyway rather ludicrously named the Gaylord Indian Restaurant. This was an eye opener as far as Indian eateries go. Little sign of flocked wallpaper, no oriental knickknacks, just a cool European look to it. They did specialise a bit in tandoori, like a lot of other restaurants but what tandoori. Their chicken tandoori straight from the tandoor was beautifully made and was to die for. The rest of the menu was pretty good too. There were excellent with vegetables, the bhindi was great.

What really hit me as I had never come across it before was their chaat masala. It looked like a fruit salad but containing some vegetables such as cucumber and potatoes with fleshy mangoes, peaches, apple, and soft pear. Surprisingly it was served as a starter when it most definitely looked like a dessert. Perhaps this is where my fascination for the dish started.

The dish was very pretty, looking as I said like a fruit salad

The taste was astonishing, or should I say tastes : it seemed to have all the five primary tastes – salt – sour – sweet – bitter – umami.

Starting with the salt (black salt), well I got to learn that this sulphuric almost eggy tasting salt is called Kala Namak and can be found in any ethnic Indian, Pakistani or Bangla Deshi store. It is pinkish grey to black and is extracted in the Himalayas and salt ranges in North West Pakistan. It is the sulphury taste that gives the umami flavour.

The sour and the sweet flavours come from amchoor which is dried mango powder as well as the fruit acid from the ingredients.

Some of the bitter flavours come from the spice of cumin, coriander, fennel (saunf), black pepper, asafoetida, ginger, ajwain or carom seeds (sometimes called onion seeds but they are not from the allium), sometimes powdered mint. Some people add chilli, cayenne or fresh chopped green chillies. I don’t think you need the heat of chilli but it is a matter of taste.

I think the first taste to hit one is the eggy taste of the salt, then the amchur comes through, more so if fresh mango is in the dish. Then the fruit.The potato and cucumber seemed to add a cooling touch to the spiciness as does raita.

As soon as I got home I was determined to emulate this dish. Fortunately Birmingham was not short of Pakistani stores. I asked one shopkeeper about how to get the ingredients for this dish as I hadn’t a clue then what was in it. He pulled out a small cellophane packet with a premixed masala which gave away the ingredients. And being a good salesman he got me a packet of mango powder and a packet of black salt. All I had to do was remember what the fruit and vegetables were.

I have been making it ever since being as faithful to the Gaylord recipe as I can. Sometimes I make my own masala (mix) sometimes buy the ready mixed. More satisfying to do it your self of course. If you make curries you will already have the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds. If you are a foodie you might even have the asafoetida (a warning here, use it extremely sparingly it has a resinous kind of tang that can easily completely overpower a dish).

People new to this dish wiIl possibly be better off with a premix (check date when packed). If you are making it yourself roast the seeds coriander, cumin, fennel and ajwain seed separately and grind in a pestle and mortar ( for ease I actually use an old German manual coffee grinder for spices, the sort with a little drawer at the bottom – find one at a car boot sale)

The proportions of ingredients are entirely up to you but this might be a recommendation for beginners:-
4 tablespoon coriander seeds
4 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
1.5 teaspoon ajwain/carom seeds
2.5-3 tablespoon black salt/kala namak/rock salt
5 red dried chiles, stems removed (optional)
3 teaspoon dried mango powder/amchur
a cautious pinch of asafoetida (less than a 1/4 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger powder
1.5 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried mint (optional)
2-3 teaspoons Kashmiri red chili powder/paprika (optional, for a nice bright colour).

Ideally keep for one month but it will last three months but slowly losing pungency.
People on the subcontinent use for more than chaat masala salad. It can be used to sprinkle over cooked food, delicious with just sliced cucumber on a hot day.

By the way I went back to the Gaylord a week or so later to resample the dish only find that they had added mayonnaise or some salad cream gunk. When I complained they said it was to suit English tastes more. They didn’t last that long.

Picture to follow

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Easy Russian Salad

Recently I felt nostalgic for tinned Russian Salad. I can’t remember which company supplied them might have been Heinz or possibly Crosse and Blackwell. What I recall was something like a macedoine of vegetables but with a salad cream/ mayonnaise type of sauce. It was usually found in the half size tins.

The rumour is that Heinz Vegetable Salad (once Russian Salad) is discontinued. I cannot find it on the official Heinz website.

Unable to find the product on supermarket shelves I thought I would try and recreate the product. I did not want to create an up-market salad but get the feeling of the then popular product sold in the 50’s and 60’s possibly 70’s too. My first attempt, very easy, was a little disappointing. I bought a tin of diced vegetables from Tesco’s added Hellmann’s mayonnaise and a little Heinz salad cream for tartness. This was further embellished with chopped cornichons(Mrs Ell swood’s) and chopped capers. True it did largely resemble the original product that I remember except that there was little or no crunch. I did quite like it though but knew there could be improvements. The problem I think was that the Tesco’s vegetables were too mushy.

Undeterred I had another bash. This time I happened to find in Waitrose their own brand of diced vegetables. I also found their canned boiled potatoes. Good I tried these along the same lines as above and found greater success. The crunch was there. Waitrose diced vegetables are more al dente than Tesco’s. I still added the cornichons and capers but this time I slightly upped the potato content with some of the canned potatoes. This time Tesco’s mayonnaise was used, along with a dollop of Heinz salad cream. I rated this a success.
My easy Russian Salad
The not so good photo above shows my version garnished with halved quails eggs and slices of cornichons.

What I have described above is nothing like the original Russian Salad or Salad Olivier which was apparently created a by a M. Lucien Olivier in the 1860’s, a Belgian chef working in Moscow’s l’Hermitage restaurant, one of the city’s up scale eateries. His had chicken and or game, sometimes shellfish and other costly ingredients.

My easy version is very palatable and adaptable. Add fresh diced shallots if you want. This works. I haven’t tried chopped green olives yet but I am sure they would work. To make it a bit more high end you could serve it with pickled quails eggs ( I used Opie’s), king prawns perhaps, not necessarily mixed in but on the side. Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivier_salad for the history.

The reason I chose to go down the canned route is firstly because I am single and only need small quantities and secondly I like the idea of knocking something tasty and adaptable up from my store cupboard. If you are going to cater for a party I would probably recommend doing it the hard way and cooking and dicing your vegetables. Make sure that you have these ingredients: potatoes (preferably waxy) one quarter, carrots one quarter, peas one quarter with the last quarter being a mix of the more piquant ingredients. The piquant ingredients can be gherkins or cornichons, capers or caperberries chopped, finely chopped raw onion, shallot or spring onion. The latter can add extra green if some of the tops are used. I prefer shallot. The daring could try chopped pickled silverskin onions. Proteins can be added but I think I prefer them alongside or on top, not mixed in. The protein can be tuna, hard boiled egg, anchovies, ham chopped or sliced. Basically anything you fancy.

The salad is great accompanying cold meats left over from the Sunday roast or if you are like me just for snacking.

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Lunchtime at the Pig

Thursday 13th of March we went to the Pig. It should have been the previous day had it not been that Jersey Airport was closed owing to impossibly snowy conditions.

I had not been to the Pig before yet I was a frequent visitor to its previous carnation as Whitley Ridge. Whitley Ridge at the time was our favourite local place to eat, many of our Birthday lunches were spent there.

On arrival it looked almost the same, a bit more freshly painted stucco and a large new conservatory covering some of the previous terrace. Whilst Whitley Ridge was a little on the formal side the Pig has gone for a more everyday approach albeit with plenty of quirky twists. There are touches of shabby elegance (can’t say chic) even some faux shabbiness as in the trompe l’oeil painted cracks on the wall of the reception lounge. In this room we managed to bag the sofa and chairs around the log fire, great.

We ordered wine and a few “Piggy Bits” from the menu – devils on horseback and pork crackling with apple sauce – whilst we waited for the rest of the party.

We weren’t in a hurry so didn’t order too quickly, just as well really as it was one of those difficult menus, difficult in so far as there were too many temptations offered.

I dithered between the baked crab with mustard (and something else), scallops
and brill as main courses. A lot of the offers came in big or little sizes so for starters there were a lot of options. I chose the black pudding with poached egg. Glorious black pudding. Our family are quite piggy and we like to taste each others choices so the starters usual end up as a kind of tapas or mezzes. Mum’s tempura fried oysters were superb.

The restaurant now has been enlarged by a large high conservatory extension which must add a third or more onto the original space. The table are odd lots of things don’t match (apart from the napery) and the scene is partly agricultural with seedlings and small plants growing to the front of the glazed area. Chairs and tables are a friendly mishmash.


The slightly horticultural look of the conservatory

Our table


Waitress at our table

Our Table at the Pig

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Draw Something – or other

First of all I have to apologise that this blog has been untended for almost a year.

Wetherspoon have opened their newly refurbished premises in St Thomas Street. The premises look good and the designers have done a very nice job. The fifties feel of the place has been preserved in place. They have kept the great Festival of Britain style of electrolier and some of the chairs on the ground floor appear to be the real thing – original retro.

Snobbish Lymington seems to have done a volte face as to their attitudes towards a Wetherspoon in the town -there is much, possibly grudging, approval.

In the last year I have acquired another unhealthy addiction, Draw Something. Having purchased an iPad my friend Jane insisted that I obtain this app called Draw Something so that i could play with her. At the time she was already playing the game with her sister in law in Houston, Texas.

Well we now play almost everyday all of us being childishly stupefied by this wonderful time waster.

Below I will add some of our better artworks on Draw Something.

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Great at first sight – Firstsite Colchester

The beginning of the title of this blog is borrowed from Rowan Moore of the Guardian / Observer. A neat pun which expresses some of his caution about the architecture. As an ex curator myself (Minories – Ikon Gallery) I worry about the ratio of promenade space to real exhibition space. The promenade space can and does house free standing objects. The promenade space has little to no control over daylight so would be useless for any art which has any light fugitive properties. For me this circulation space has the feeling of a surrealistic shopping mall. The whoosh of the outward sloping curved wall to the right of the promenade has a gasp factor, but then what do you do after the gasp. The foyer is huge and suggests a much larger building behind, but in fact the building shrinks as you proceed down it, and yes it is downward in some places as there is some sloping to the floor.

Perhaps I am too much of a traditionalist wanting conventional vertical walls for flat paintings – some might say that art practice has changed so much that walls for paintings are less necessary than hitherto. The slope and curve of these walls would make it even difficult for video projection unless you required that kind of distortion.

The actual galleries when you get to them are conventional – vertically walled but they do seem quite compact after the towering space of the entrance.


As to the gold sheened exterior. it’s amazing what you can do with the Terry’s All Gold concept, but the gold in Terry’s and perhaps Ferrero Rocher’s wrappings is actually disposable – kind of temporary: this is not.

Colchester has certainly made a statement in this visual arts centre. When I worked at the Minories the the Council did not seem particularly keen on contemporary visual art, had it not been for Arts Council and Eastern Arts funding at the time I think the Council would have shown little interest in the work of the gallery. Kath Wood and her team must have done a lot to influence the Council.

Good luck Kath.

apologies for the dreadful photograph – a wet day and a smartphone

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Another kind of lomography

People coming to this blog might be questioning my abilities to take a decent photograph. I do myself sometimes. Just before Christmas I saw a guy in Waitrose, Lymington’s car park taking photographs of a strangely beautiful dusk sky. I thought ‘I wish I had a camera’ then remembered that of course I did on my phone so I went ahead and took some snaps. I couldn’t believe how they were coming out not remotely like what I was seeing but very weird and in a grotesque way, rather beautiful. I hadn’t a clue what I had done wrong.

Weird Dusk

What can go wrong with photography

When I got home and in good light I checked the phone’s camera and found that I had chosen solarisation by accident. Here is another spooky picture.

Spooky House

A weird dusk - solarised photography

This photograph seasonally shows the mistletoe in the trees.


Mistletoe in solarised dusk

The next photo shows how odd sodium lighting can look.

Mistletoe and sodium light

Sodium light

Having discovered this attribute of the HTC I took a couple of photographs of my patio garden – one of which is doubly tricked up by re-photographing it on the computer display to double the amount of solarisation.

Patio Garden

Patio Garden Solarised

Patio Garden double exposure

Patio Garden double solarised

For on short time I became a bit hooked on this peculiar photography. Here are a few more.



Mystery photo

Mystery photo

Oh I have just remembered taking the last picture. It was of two pizzas at the Conservative Club in Lymington. Somebody went berserk and bought 17 pizzas for some celebratory reason.

Back to the HTC Wildfire S. Well as a phone it is a bit quirky, I found that scrolling through the phone book/ contact list gave unexpected results, like it would certainly start dialling somebody you had just gone past. So slightly sadly I have let it go and contracted myself to an iPhone 4, a much better phone but the camera is not so quirky (I think).

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Life in the Costa Geriatrica

The Costa Geriatrica is a wonderful name I have invented for the strip of coastal land stretching from Eastbourne to Bournemouth. I live in Lymington at the western end of this coast. It was named as best seaside resort town ahead of Sandbanks in an article by Richard Savill in the Telegraph 5th June 2008.

Typical of the South Coast, Lymington and the area surrounding has been losing larger industries for decades. Wellworthy, manufacturers of piston rings, a once major employer, closed in 1989. In its heyday in the 70′s the Lymington plants provided employment for about 5,500. One of the sites of its plants is now a major supermarket, the other Ampress Park now houses out of town businesses and a new hospital. According to a one time manager there the closure of the first site was a loss of about 400 jobs, the closure of the second lost about 1,000.

Webbs Country Foods ( a chicken processing factory) was another major employer, that closed in 2001. Five hundred jobs were lost. The factory was situated on a large site east of the railway line, earmarked for housing. Commercial property developer and builder, Redrow, bought the 3 hectare site presumbaly hoping to make a a bit of a financial killing. They have been frustrated though by the awkward position of the site, the entrance to the site being adjacent to a level crossing. The site is also vulnerable to tidal and fluvial flooding. So at the moment there is not even the new building work that may have provided jobs for a year or two.

The town has lost the following pubs in the last forty years:-



Crown and Anchor;

Redlion/Whitelion 1998 I think;

Anchor and Hope;

Londesborough Hotel and the Country Bar at the rear;

The Bugle;

The Lymington Tavern (a.k.a. Dorset arms, Fighting Cocks, Champagne Charlie’s);

The Tap Bar – Angel

The Hearts of Oak

What else can Lymington lose. Well it nearly lost its saltwater swimming baths which were saved due to a large public outcry.

Never mind the retirement industry is booming. Oh, and Wetherspoon might come. See Whether to Wetherspoon on this site.

Author’s note – apparently there is another Costa Geriatrica in Spain – near Suerte I believe. Obviously someone was thinking along the same lines as me. I did not knowingly nick the name.

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The Number Four

I was listening to Alex Bellos on favourite numbers on Radio 4 and was fascinated to know that he had created a survey website asking people for views on their favourite numbers.  http://www.favouritenumber.net

I went to this and informed that my favourite was four, my birthday.  Also the sum of 1 and 3, 13 being an auspicious number as I was treated once as child to go and see Peter pan on Friday 13th.  I also mentioned that I liked to collect Macedonian tetradrachms.

I see in Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numbers_in_Chinese_culture that four is considered by the Chinese to be inauspicious as nearly homophonous to the word death, fourteen is even worse “shi si” which sounds like “ten die” in Mandarin.  In East Asia some buildings do not have a fourth floor.  Eight however in Chinese culture is auspicious as it is similar to the word for wealth or prosper. The Summer Olympics in Beijing was scheduled to open on 8/8/08 at 8:08:08 p.m.

Back to four – Judaeo/ Christian symbolism – The Tetragrammaton is the four-letter name of God. The four matriarchs of of Judaism are Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel.  Perhaps not so good is that the four horsemen of the Apocalypse ride in the book of Revealation.  In the Kabbalah, there were four worlds of the Tree of Life. There are four creatures on the arms of Freemasonry, four primary mental functions according to Carl Jung, and four dimensions of modern science: length, breadth, width, and time.  According to Plato the four virtues were wisdom, courage, self-control, and justice.  Four is the smallest number of colors sufficient to color all planar maps.

൪ Malayalam:   四,亖,肆 Chinese: ארבע   Arba – Hebrew:   ٤,4,۴, Arabic

What else is there to say about a number.



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City of contrasts – Birmingham UK




Ikon Gallery

Ikon Gallery



Canal, Birmingham

Canal, Birmingham

This photo was taken in Summer Row close to where the old Birmingham College of Art Experimental Workshop would have been.

A forlorn building on Henstead Street

A forlorn building on Henstead Street

Only a stone’s throw away from the brash new city centre.

The blue glass Radisson

The blue glass Radisson

Amazing - possibly awful

Amazing - possibly awful

The Cube detail

The Cube detail

Note the contrast between old and new.  This is the owners take ” A world class building which dominates the Birmingham skyline. Exceptional apartments, state-of-the-art offices, exclusive shops, water side café bars, Birmingham’s first boutique hotel and panoramic rooftop restaurant all fuse together in one extraordinary location. Put simply, a building like no other.”

The Town Hall

The Town Hall



I lived in Birmingham for approximately 10 years coming there as a student in 1968 and living there until 1979.  Starting from the genteel but declining area of Moseley, crumbling Victorian villas converted into squalid bedsits and finishing in Vicery Close on the Bristol Road, an elegant late 30’s apartment complex set in a  large garden.   Going back the change is enormous. Broad Street, once a slightly out of centre shopping street with Everymans where I could buy artists’ materials and visit if I had the money – the Rum Runner a busy night venue.  Oh and you could look over the Gas Street Canal basin- not the prettiest of sights.  Now Broad Street is the major artery of the so called Westside area.   Change was happening when I was there with the relocation of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, then on a second sojourn, working for West Midlands Arts, there in the mid 90’s the Symphony Hall was apparent.  There was talk of something called Brindleyplace, I thought it was going be just more offices,  I know the Ikon was considering relocating to an old school in Oozells Street.

The Council House

The Council House

Going back there last year to be involved with This Could Happen to You was a shock for me.  First, the new Ikon.  I was amazed at how a Victorian neo Gothic school could be turned into an amazingly trendy contemporary art galley.  Brindleyplace wasn’t merely offices, it was an upscale commercial area with culture and retail.  The canals had been opened up and re-furbished, one walked past new sculpture, good quality street  furniture. What! They used to say Birmingham rebuilds itself every fifty years, well for Westside this certainly seems to be true. Last year I stayed in a SACO apartment,  almost a penthouse, from where I could see this astonishing building the Cube going up.  Well it is finished now and open.  Now the new Library is on its way to completion.  They only built the last one in the 70’s.

Sixties signal box

Sixties signal box

This is listed thankfully.

Canal boats

Canal boats

Difficult to take a picture of a glass lift

Difficult to take a picture of a glass lift

This the lift at the Ikon Gallery must be one of the most amazing lifts in the world.  It has voices singing rising as it ascends and lowering when it descends. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLq7dk-QtGs or Google Singing lift at the Ikon Gallery.

Glazing on the Cube

Glazing on the Cube

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Ikon and John Salt

I was invited to the private view of paintings by John Salt at the Ikon in Birmingham.  John Salt was the first artist to show at the Ikon and then he had a major show in 1975 curated by my then boss Simon Chapman with many of the paintings lent by Ivan Karp of the OK Harris gallery, New York.

Originally from the Sheldon district of  Birmingham UK, at the age of 15, John gained a place at Birmingham School of Art where he studied from 1952 – 1958.  From 1958 to 1960 he studied at the Slade School of Art in London.  Early influences were the works of Prunella Clough and American pop artists such as Robert Rauschenberg. After teaching for a spell at Stourbridge College of Art in the West Midlands he decided in 1966 to move to the United States and was eventually offered a place in 1967 at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

In Baltimore Salt noticed the work of photographers Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander and how the photographers’ documentary style relieved them of  the need of any self-consciousness in terms of artistic technique.

Salt was to start painting from closely zoomed photographs of car interiors.  The paintings were at the time still painterly interpretative representations of the photographs.  He was later to attempt to remove traces of interpretation by following the photographs ever more closely.  One painting of this more faithfully detailed style was taken directly from a Buick catalogue.

Salt was planning to return to England at the end of his Baltimore  engagement in 1969 but when a New York dealer bought two of his works he decided to to move to that city.  His work in New York moved away from consumerist portrayals of car interiors to work that was based on his own photos. After his discovery of a scrapyard under Brooklyn Bridge the images began to be of more mangled or wrecked cars.

It was in New York that Salt developed a relationship with dealer Ivan Karp who was on the point of opening his own gallery and who had a portfolio of artists associated with the then emerging Photorealist movement. Salt’s first one man exhibition was in New York in 1969. He was then to feature in 1972 in the prestigious Documenta 5 exhibition in Kassel, West Germany, where the American Photorealist movement first gained an international reputation.

Through the early seventies his work became even more detailed and realistic realistic painstakingly using an airbrush with stencil to obtain the photo-like precision he sought. His characteristic iconography was of photos of trashy trailers and beaten up cars taken in poor semi-rural areas.

As well as the astonishing realism there is a poignancy to these pictures and possibly the slight feeling of voyeurism in the way they go to depicting poverty. Perhaps there is something harking back to the rural works of the English 18th Century.  Perhaps we will see these works on the chocolate boxes of the next century (hopefully not).

The above is an installation shot of  Pink Trailer with Plymouth 1977 at the Ikon’s This Could Happen to You exhibition last year.  For more images go to www.ikon-gallery.co.uk where you can view a pdf file.

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A quiet place in the New Forest



Royal Oak North Gorley

Royal Oak North Gorley

Fo peace and quiet go to North Gorley, 2 miles south of Fordingbridge.  There is a small plain with wild cattle, horses and donkeys, tranquil ponds and a thatched pub.

Forest pony

Forest pony

The pub serves good food and a wide range of ales.  A very traditional English pub.

Reflections in pond

Reflections in pond




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One of the dirtiest cars seen

Dirty car, Ibiza

Dirty car, Ibiza

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Signsmith van

Seen in Lymington on Easter Day.

Signsmith van

Signsmith van

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