Wednesday, 16 September 2015


A friend of mine turns up with wine and eggs as presents.
The wine is delicious and well chosen. The eggs are things of beauty. Various. Odd. Indiividual as the hens which laid them. The opposite of uniformity.

The gifts set me thinking about presents. I once gave some presents of a book of poetry, written out by hand. The poems were written as part of a team event I did with a Board of Directors, trying to get them to expand the language they used to refer to each other, to see the individuals as muses, worthy of lyricism. It worked, and a s a tribute to their efforts I decided I'd write them all out by hand in lovely bound books, one copy for each f the nine or ten Board members.

Of course, I had completely underestimated the task, which took me weeks. But when I arrived at their offices with a haversack full of this labour, there were audible gasps, when I gave them out.

But was it worth it? In a sense the gift was irrelevant. The narrative of doing it was the point. Without doing it I could not now be recalling it. Such is the life of those plagued by the idea that the more interesting narrative choice is the guidance system for life decisions.

Should all art be gift?

Should even all life be gift?

After all, when we say it's our life, we ignore the fact that life is given, is itself a gift.

The eggs get me thinking too. They are so different from factory eggs, supermarket eggs. But not only is the greater volume of eggs in uniform packages, the greater volume of humanity is too. Eggs in cosy uniform little six packs. Humanity in uniform cosy little office environments, cosy uniform little housing developments.

Isn't that odd? Or is it me that is odd?

Am I the blue egg, rejected for quality reasons yet hiding the bright yellow double yolk?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015


The absence in blogging has been whilst on the boat for most of August. Sailing consumes all other thought. That is why it is truly recreational. All one's problems fall away, replaced by the immediacy of the many nautical decisions that need to be taken, problems which need to be solved.

Today, on land, at home again, it is rain.

Big Madam reports being invigorated by running in the rain. To me it is uninviting. I look at the two crane flies on the window. You can't tell if they are on the inside or on the outside. Jimmy spinners.

It is a day for looking out of windows. It is an interstice of a day - a day of gaps between other more important times. It echoes life at present. With the end of one major contract come questions about what to do next. Rush to fill the gap? Do nothing? Something rather different?

So what do I do? I flow back in the gap to childhood things. When I was a boy my Father used to bring home what I think were called pattern books - big thick things full of engineering data printed on white, blue and pink paper. They were brown paper bound. But the reverse sides were blank and that was their value as sketch books to me. I endlessly drew buildings. Skyscrapers, mainly, cutaway so you could see the use made of the space on each floor. Mine would have swimming pools, restaurants, gardens, living and sleeping rooms, gyms, velodromes, you name it. Occasionally I would have access to cartridge paper. Then my drawings would get much more finished and realistic. Not that they were brilliant. Having an artist as a Father was discouraging. He could flick his wrist and off could come a likeness that I could struggle for months to produce and even then fail. Remembered whiffs of this experience came this weekend, when Mini Madam was asked to produce a self portrait for school. I did one of her which was a likeness - mind you, even now it took me three go's. Hers was what a child would produce - some likeness, but not closely observed.

I find myself drawing buildings, as though a child. One of my boyhood cartridge paper drawings was of Norwich Guildhall. It has one fa├žade finished with diamonds of black and white flint. Hard to approximate in a drawing, I remember. Again, memories of this return as I read Matthew Rice's book about vernacular architecture. He has a great map of the UK within it, like a geological map, except it maps the primary building material for housing. Brick, of course. Sandstone, too. Flint, in Norfolk, and in a  band running down to the Sussex coast. Best of all, a category he calls Random Rubble. Most of Scotland has this.

All drawing is really looking. Even when you think you are good at it, you quickly find you aren't. Relationships between shapes, shades, dimensions. You're almost always wrong. Thank God for rubbers, erasers.

Rainy days. Days for rubbing things out, looking harder, starting again.