Saturday, 26 November 2016

little bits of darkness in the garden

I'm preparing for my third funeral of the year, this one entirely unexpected and unfathomable. First that, then the election and November coming down like a grey curtain of rain over everything. My friends are changing their nationalities, or trying to, or complaining that they can't. The world seems at odds with itself, with everything.

The garden is too wet to go out into. The ground is mud, and the grapes are rotting on the vine. It's too wet to clear them away. The air is clammy and dull.

So. Now is as good a time as any to explore a curiously dark story about a beautiful mossy forest in Japan. I first found out about it from the Kurosawa Corpse Delivery Service series, which mentioned both the beauty of the Aokigahara Forest and how it is now used, as a final destination, by many Japanese people.

This is from quite a garish news channel, but there is a gentleness and a determination about the geologist monk who presents the piece, as he does one of his usual rounds of exploration, persuasion and discovery. There are warnings on the way in, and the preview image is indicative.

Watch only if you are calm and aware.


Thursday, 24 November 2016

Saturday, 19 November 2016

living ink continues to unconvince

If there's one thing I can say with confidence, it's that evaporation has taken place. Here's the view of the grow-house. You can see squiggles where the "quick" ink has developed. The gaps are where the "slow" ink was. It didn't develop; presumably it died in transit (or something).

developed picture

I must, right away, acknowledge both the mould, and the fact that one of the inks did disappear and reappear. It looks like green ink, though; even up close, there's none of the unevenenness you would expect from a grown product. And of course, being wet and November, it grew black mould.

with added mould! hmmmm

The ink is visible all the way through the paper, but you'd expect that from an ink you had to use on wet paper, and that had sat on agar jelly for ten days, anyway.

hmmmm can't stop the paws

Harley got interested and decided to add her pawsworth to my doodlings. You can see the easel behind her - this came in the package. You stood the ink picture in its greenhouse on it for three to ten days for the Living Ink picture to "grow".

what? pawprints

My soggy, mouldy, paw-printed magnum opus:

drying out completely

I think we can safely say that this is not a Kickstarter you'll see for sale on Firebox any time soon.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

autumn in the watery city

The halloween sprinkles left by our slightly embarrassed trick-or-treaters are still out and about. Normally we'd have a pumpkin nailed to our doorpost (we're trick-or-treat friendly) but somehow this year we didn't get to it (that's someone else's below) but a few hardy souls braved the chameleon and our fright masks and got given M&S candy and plastic rats. I found one discarded just down the road, among the pumpkins and feathers:

vomiting pumpkin halloween leftovers 2

Watery mists in the morning, and the beginning of fade on the leaves. The river colours are muted, as if pigment is seeping up from the ground and into the leaves. Even the evergreens are joining tin the party, wreathed in spiderweb tinsel and dewdrop sparkles.

autumn reflections fading ivy leaf

Everything plays dress-up at this time of year.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

the greenhouses behind the switch house

In the main hall of the Tate, bacterial cultures are deciding when the sculpture environment in the Turbne Hall shudders into life.

control room reaction of people

The usual lounging masses are on the concrete parkway, marked with the pocks and cracks of previous art. The children like the sudden lurches of movement. We take a peer behind the curtain; the door to the control room is deliberately left open, perhaps to silence those who would claim a human orchestra or artist. There's no reason why it should be faked, though. Why not use growth as the trigger mechanism? Anything that produces a large enough signal to be detected can be converted into art.

We head into the new switch house, crouched like a confused origami animal in the shadow of the glass towers of the billionaire fishtank flat complex behind. The spaces between the bricks are the exact size that a pigeon can't fit into, somebody tells us. This disappoints me; there should be space for life even in the white fridges we build to preserve our art from the wrong kind of culture.

switch house 2 viewing gallery

Of course we go and goggle off the platform in the general direction of the fancy flats. For the domiciles themselves, it's a weird combination of supplication and a sweet-shop window; the tail of an expensive cat visible here; an expanse of shiny worktop, a tastefully fancy lamp. One imagines aspirational brands bribing residents to place their products in the overlooked windows, more money draining into the smart cupboards of the extraordinarily well-off.

the fishtank flats doomed megalopolis

But on the top floor, as I hoped, an atrium garden is visible. Planters full of cordylines and other drought-resistant plants, a garden under glass. Traditionally, this is the architect's penthouse, and home to mad ideas like orchards, olive groves and lawns. This one seems quite modest and disappointingly tasteful by comparison with the tales we hear of penthouse excess.

It also looks completely sealed, in the modern style; a bottle garden for the doomed megalopolis.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

the urban crack garden in autumn

small garden
It's a sad time of year for the plants growing in the pollutant and run-off murk that gathers in small depressions in the pavement. The temperature of the concrete and paving surrounding them is plummeting, turning into an overnight cold-sink faster than the sparse and shortening sunshine can warm it up. One last hectic scramble to flower and seed (and the chickweed might make it) and then it will all be over for 2016.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

B's plant list from visiting Kew

Here are the plants B noted down for me, when we were visiting Kew; all the plants we took a shine to, wanted to have, wanted to bring home.

At first I was wrting them down:

Begonia Maculata "Wightii" - Silver spatter pattern species begonia
Aloe Pendens -  Yellow flowered shrub aloe
Selaginella - clubmoss, spikemoss
Adiantum Trapeziform - Silver Dollar Maidenhair
Hibiscus Schizopetalus - Japanese Lantern
Pavonia Bahamensis - Green Bahama Hibiscus (hummingbird pollinated)
Begonia Cleopatra - Maple Leaf Begonia

Then B took over:

Guzmania Omer Morobe - Torch Bromeliad
Lizard (we saw a lizard)
Nyphaea Thermarum - Pygmy Water Lily
Ludwigia Sediodes - Mosaic Flower
Cyperus Alternifolius - Umbrella Plant
Black and Yellow Frog (we saw one of those too)
Passion Flower Lady Margaret
Butterfly Lily (Ginger Lily) 
Maranta Leuconeura var. Leuconeura 'Fascinator' - Herringbone Plant
Ruellia Squarrosa - Water Bluebell
Phlebodium Aureum Mandaianum - Crested Bear's Paw Fern
Pelergonium Carnosum -  Fatstem Pelargonium

Then she got bored and I started again:

Passiflora Foetida - Carnivorous Passion Flower
Pepperomia Camptotricha - Mexican Pepper
Cleistocactus Winteri - golden rat's tail cactus
Pelargonium x Schottii - silver feather species pelargonium
Escallonia "William Watson" - scented pink evergreen shrub
Ilex aquifolium fructu aurantiaca - sunset berried holly
Ilex Decidua - Possum Haw
Zelkova Serrata - Kayaki Elm
Fastigiate Hornbeam - Pyramid Hornbeam

Then I got bored and we played the minister's cat all the way back.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

kew and the hive

The hive is gently singing. As the sun warms the hive, the mumbling music intensifies, and the buzzing twittering ringing noises rise into something richer, more urgent, more harmonious.

Inside the hive

tim in the hive   sun through the hive

It's beautiful and extraordinary, the hive at kew, but it's not the best thing, according to B (aged 6). The best thing is the Princess of Wales Glasshouse.

exotic colour leaf patterns
flower spikes houseplant run riot
I'm noting down names of plants I like when B asks if she can write down their names. I pass over my notepad and she procedes to be my secretary, writing down their latin names while me and B's mum explain what the words mean, drawing on childhood latin lessons.

And then we get interrupted by this: