Friday, October 30, 2015

More from Oxford and Ealing Street Parking Scenes

Our Oxford weekend away  feels like it was sometime ago but these pictures remind me of the city.

The Folly Bridge  on the Isis

The famous Radcliffe Camera

Pylones -A shop new to me

Odd collection inside - Not from Damien though



Ealing Parking

And here's a couple of pictures of a local road - Snapped as I fortunately had my camera with me - little sign of the problem the next day

A car driver perhaps lost concentration
and the next day a car shaped hole in the wall
From the other side

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Looking at clouds and signs

One of the benefits of studying (or generally taking an interest in) a topic is  that one becomes more engaged and 'tuned' to the subject under consideration- imagine the dividends if the topic is something like Art or Design.

Nick Pearson (of OPEN Ealing) on Tuesday stood up for (amongst others) the British landscape artist Constable, he might be decried now as the go-to guy for biscuit tines and the like but when his work (Flatford Mill)  was displayed in Paris in 1824 it created a stir - it was honest grounded and without sentimentality - it was how farming and rural life was at the time it did not seek to represent s bucolic idyll but the  reality of what was at the time contemporary country life in Anglia.
London Clouds

So it was with many British and European  artists that his subject matter and ambitions were shared artists such as Turner.

Odd to find that in fact  Turner and Constable (Turner born in  1775 in London, Constable a year later in Suffolk)  were  around at the same time and that there was a degree of enmity between them.

 I have noticed subsequently from consideration of these English artists is the grandeur in clouds in the sky in London- why do we so often ignore the majesty and drama they impart?

[Also mentioned was the new (to me) sensible shoe wearing French realist painter Rosa Bonheur -she worked in the 19th century and her finesse and subject matter really makes her stand out - hoping to see her one of her paintings (actually has two artists credited)  in the National Gallery, London soon.]

A tribute to Turner or Constable?

And Design

As it is with art so it is with Design, yesterday was the last opportunity I had to show visitors there some of my personal highlights from the 'Life on Foot Tour (it finishes at the end of the month) again it was a pleasure , with UK residents and visitors from the USA and Turkey engaging in the tour topic.

I have felt even more than in the Collection Lab tour that I have helped people into the experience and it has given me a cause to reflect on how badly Museums often immerse people in their exhibitions like novice swimmers without those inflatable armbands.

Well I noticed again the 50 year celebration of UK street signs at The Museum - signs reimagined by artists item, these are  dotted around - here's one by   Margaret Calvert (2008) who was so important in the modern street furniture character set.
Women at work

And a 'regular' sign nearby

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Martian (film)- Science as a hero and The Ashmolean

Having mentioned Science yesterday it's nice to keep that theme going a bit because unusually there's a film out there where the hero is pretty much a scientist.
Oxford's Odeon Cinema

Saturday wasn't a great day for outdoor sightseeing in Oxford and we took the opportunity to go and see a film at the Odeon - the film was The Martian and it was great - Matt Damion generally something of a guarantee of a film being pretty much watchable and this certainly managed that.

I wouldn't describe the film as principally being a Sci-Fi film but the story is certainly feel-good  and despite being long-ish and feeling that some elements were not fully resolved I'd recommend it.

I don't know if the US potato marketing board is involved but the allotment plot holder in me rejoiced at his success in growing spuds on Mars!


The Ashmolean

Also on Saturday we had a visit to the oldest university museum, The Ashmolean (dating from Elias Ashmole's bequest in 1677).

A work by Taiwanese artist Ju Ming
I was amazed at both the quality and quantity of world class paintings on show as well as the galleries being relatively uncrowded   it's another place you can get up close and personal to the works which I like.

 Outside a Moore Sculpture at the entrance and

Quite a  fantastic selection of Dutch still life, splendid Rococo I also loved the Hogarth 'Enraged Musician' and Tintoretto Behold the Man (along with seeing Extreme Unction by Poussin) some nice earlier Canaletto's too and (as mentioned yesterday) my favourite enlightenment artist Wright of Derby had a lesser known work (by me anyway) on show his   Italianate Lake Scene with Waterfall.
If you've time when you're in Oxford do visit this Museum - it's world class and no mistake. 
You should visit this

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

More (Science) from Oxford and Book Depository comes through

Sometimes as we get older our experiences enable us to see something of the bigger picture, part of that I suppose is some understanding of history and the connections that have propelled us forward with new perspectives revealed as knowledge is assimilated.

Oxford is undoubtedly significant in England and the discoveries made there are part of a story of history that is wedded to progress, so it was that I was particularly taken with the  Museum of the History of Science in Oxford.

What was particularly interesting at this museum was the display about Harry (Henry) Moseley who was tragically killed in Turkey in World War One one hundred years ago - Moseley who had studied under Rutherford was an Oxford graduate  whose research revealed that the Periodic Table of elements was based on the relationship of the makeup  of the atomic structure of the elements.

He volunteered in the war and his life was taken at only 27 , a tragic loss for family and science-who knows what he might have gone to do in a longer professional career.
Almost Wright (of Derby)

Other artefacts that attracted my eyes included early Marconi radio apparatus and materials from the history of photography.

The great thing about the museum is that the setting for the displays is so appropriate - it feels like the laboratory where 18th and 19th century discoveries were made.

Old skeletons of humans and Dogs have been unearthed there and there's even  a bell jar that could have come from a Wright of Derby painting (he's a favourite 'enlightenment' artist of mine).

In terms of more recent history there's a blackboard that Einstein wrote on during an Oxford visit and it felt quite special to see that item which one of sciences'' most important figures had used.

Book Depository

Pleased to report that although Amazon itself failed to supply (twice) on  the 20th Century Design book by Judith Miller a UK company owned by them, Book Depository has delivered - if you're having trouble with a particular publication give them a go.

Worth the wait- Book Depository comes up trumps with Judith Miller on 20th Century Design 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Back from the (Oxford) break and changing the clocks

Well we had a long w/e away in Oxford and the first thing to be reminded of as we came through the front  door at home was the myriad of devices and clocks that still need a manual intervention twice a year to handle the vagaries of so-called Daylight Saving time.
Oxford Railway Station concourse

It was nice not to worry about it at the w/e but I expect I'll still be finding odd things that have to be clocked for a few days to come but mainly completed now.

Oxford is a lovely city and it's  over 8 years since our last visit so we were reminded that there's really so much to see and do (more on that later) the  downside is that we weren't the only tourists there (but it would be unreasonable to deny the pleasures to others).

Hotel The Oxford Spires that we stayed as was about 15 minutes or so from city centre very accessible too the river and bus which was great if we'd got bored a very impressive health club on the premises too.

The staff very charming and generally welcoming, but reception on arrival not busy but did not make us feel as important was we'd have liked (or are).
Hotel -A nice rural setting and only 15 minutes walk to city

Guests and staff from many countries were  represented and this again reminded me of how important our generally (at present) porous borders work for us.

Quite a treat to be able to select from a selection of naughty things at breakfast - 3 days of this probably about right.

Also we're now enjoying UK City breaks that we take  by using the  rail travel option- if the station and hotel are both well located it increases the enjoyment and lessens the stress (just about okay in this case).

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Another two off Life on Foot Tours - and Now you see it

Not a very busy day at 'Life on Foot' HQ in Design Museum
Yesterday at Design Museum to conduct 'Volunteer led' tours of Life on Foot Exhibition - it's coming to an end this month but will be replaced by an exhibition about cycling called Cycle Revolution which I expect will  be informative and fun.

As I arrived did see notices that filming was taking place and sure enough in the evening News on ITV the premises cropped up on the Back to the Future day story.

My visitors yesterday were small in number but very engaged in the topic, a couple of 'Anglophiles' from Washington (USA) and three Netherlanders with absolutely great command of English Language  - still finding out more about Walking and also Camper footwear- and am seeing quite a bit of interest on the Wabi shoes a sort of pre-cursor to the Croc translation (from Japanese word "Wabiru”) is “to ask for forgiveness .

What I like to call 'the Nib'

Ealing's own Tower block now emerging from cladding and scaffolding a charcoal grey and glass predominate, it  looks different at least just hope it ages well and is maintained

and I'd say this is 'the  profile'

I'd call this the 'Front'

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

More from OPEN's Art class (Ealing) and Chooks sampled

Nick Pearson is quite a communicator, I missed last week's session but the notes he provides are almost as good as being there with great illustrations and references.
Lesson  6 (which I'd missed) had been about  the Baroque but it had included references to Stourhead Gardens as well commentary on the bewitching Las Meninas (by Velázquez) and a painting I've marvelled at in the National Gallery The Supper at Emmaus (by Caravaggio) -some pictures that really went to new places in representation
Green Man Café becomes Orchard Café

Well Session 7 was about 'Rococo and Revolution' and Nick who had visited Paris immediately prior to his lecture was writing it up to the wire - There was a lot about France, which was the world centre for Art at this time and where elements were distilling to create a revolutionary atmosphere - but also in there was the concept of 'The Grand Tour' and Britain's habit of importing talent and making it its own (Like Holbein and even Canaletto to an extent).

I was also delighted to see that Nick had included a personal favourite of mine the British enlightenment pioneer Joseph Wright of Derby - his use of light and the technological themes of his time that were often the subjects of his paintings sets him apart in my eyes -it's been quite a journey from the religious idolatry we started out with on the course  but there's still  quite a way to go to bring us into the 20th Century.

New Cafés and New Names 

The Green Man Café where OPEN operates from/above is now renamed Orchard Café (apparently there was an Orchard there at some time in the past) - yesterday we went to another renamed (or new) eatery in Ealing -Chooks.
New restaurants are worth trying the enthusiasm is palpable and they're really trying - also a 50% food price reduction is operating - I enjoyed my Chicken and Chips hope they do well.

...well if you want some nice Chicken and Chips at 50% off you are

Monday, October 19, 2015

More Ealing changes (retail)

It's never good to be in times or a place where there's no change and although we lose businesses who've earned our trust it's nice to see the hungry new kids on the block slugging it out for our custom and offering something new, better and innovative.
A Chooks shout out





Now open and a great 1st week offer (50% off)

This week sees the start of Chooks Ealing - it's a restaurant where the emphasis is on chicken and I expect the 50% reduction on food for this  week that they're kicking it off with (until Sunday 25th) will mean that they'll have a number of the curious (including yours truly) sampling their wares.

I'm not sure the exact special recipe/style on offer but for me the challenge is  being better/as good as Nando's which is one of (my many) guilty fast food pleasures.

Choice is a good thing but they need to realise too that the Pizza on the Green premises they're trading from had a great story in service and food and they'll need  to live up to this- anyway good luck 'Chooks' (as 'our Cilla' might have said) and I'll share more when we've been there.


Wherever you live there's generally a shop or two you think would improve the facilities -there was until recently a lack of shops that straddle 'techie' and DIY

Prior to Ealing having a Maplin's I used to like to go to Harrow to visit the  Maplin's there and in Kingston I love(d) to look around (and sometimes even purchase) at Clas Ohlson.

Well the good news is that this, one of my favourite shops that Ealing currently lacks is having a shop open in  the Ealing Broadway Centre.

Just past the Primark work has started on the store and the worry I have is  is that it might not have as much stock/size as the Kingston one does - we'll see.
No it's not 'Modern Art' but the retail units that will soon  be Clas Ohlson in Ealing

Sunday, October 18, 2015

New Shoes and Design Book

Yesterday in Kingston (London version) enjoyed a visit it's very good destination for shopping and I managed to get a pair of shoes from Clarks that I hope will see me through the Winter months.
Like an iPhone cowboy

Kingston is good for seeing street entertainers and the guy shown had a nice line in Country Pop (covering the super song Rhinestone Cowboy for example) - what though drew my attention to him was that the audio material (perhaps not surprisingly) came from his mobile phone to the amp.

As I get older I become increasingly irritated by people beyond their early years who insist on wearing trainers  for all occasions (and sometimes jogging trousers/trackie bottoms) - hope the shoes I have are sufficiently tasteful to avoid also the danger of being described as 'old man' shoes (no Velcro here).
Unlikely to suffer scuffing
(but they're not really blue)

I well recall that my mother used to take me along at start of term for new brown lace-ups at Clarks  - generally used to get scuffed quite quickly from football at break times though- good old trend surfing Clark's still have a UK high street shoe shop presence unlike many of their competitors (say  the fascinating Bata for example).
The assistants in the shop were surprisingly pleasant and helpful but I do think I might have detected a touch of  'that wasn't so bad was it sir?' in their attitude but maybe that was what was 'age appropriate'?

Amazon vs Book Depository

Curious why after more than one attempt to get hold of the useful  (Judith) Miller's 20th Century Design book Amazon have let me down (still shows on search of title) but I find that I (hopefully) can obtain the book from the Amazon acquired Book Depository - generally do not find this a good sign for customers of a large company - particularly as (presumably) Amazon should be  able to arrange some sort of transfer making life easier for their customers



Friday, October 16, 2015

Parklet moves to West Ealing and Compost for all

Well it's something you don't see every day.
After a couple of months in Ealing's Bond Street the innovative place to meet aka 'the Parklet' is now trail-ing in West Ealing's Avenue.

The avenue has a variety of retail outlets and a fair amount of people during daytime so I suppose it's a good place to see if it is used.

I don't know how well the experiment went in the centre of  Ealing but I fear that now we've hit the autumn months it'll lose what appeal it might have had and that it'll deteriorate and gather waste.

Compost for all

We should compost more - that is those with a garden are missing a trick so little these days that's for free and not only environmentally friendly but minimal work.
The enclosures on plot 202

I've got three separate piles going on my allotment but find in fact the plastic unit at home works much better - not sure if this is because of the wide mix of materials that get put in or the fact that a good temperature is maintained by the structure.

The bin in the back

No work involved just keeping to one side potato peelings tea bags etc. it's next to the dustbin so also put dust from Vacuum cleaner in along with torn up cardboard and other organic waste plus some wet things (like coffee dregs).

It's quite fascinating to look inside and no smell to speak of - I did hear on the radio someone making the good point that coffee grounds are suggested to keep Slugs and Snails away from vegetables - but they certainly don't deter them on compost heaps.

Composting means less landfill and less pollution (fewer refuse truck trips) - here's a list of benefits.

I take fresh compost out when the mood takes me but the reduction in volume and the rich material are a joy to behold - find out more here.
A selection of inputs to the bin

Thursday, October 15, 2015

'Nice things' and The fun of experiments

Nice stuff.

Unusual to get a nice note
Yesterday I was again conducting my short tours of the Design Museum Life on Foot exhibition - enjoyable and again interesting and interested people took part.

'A life on foot' soldier

One of the things I mention in the 'Urban walking' section is the 'nudge' concept now favoured by public bodies, the idea of encouraging people to do the right thing in this case more walking with the benefits being less pollution/congestion  and better mental and physical health.

Today in the post I got my own nudge from the allotment where I spend time - the idea of a letter saying well done is low cost but will (I'm sure) lead me to trying (at least) to maintain my plot and just think how much nicer it is to have than the usual 'Bills' and junk post.

As I know too the thanks at the end of my tour does mean something to me as a volunteer.

Be an Explorer and experiment

Keri Smith has written about Exploring and when I studied Horticulture as a mature (old anyway) student the person in the class who was the most fun looked at many things as 'experiments'.

When I was young my school curriculum used to include subjects with a practical element at Junior school we sent a small toy  rockets up and plotted the distance travelled against angle of elevation and (I think) we worked out a rough constant for diameter and circle circumference (it came out at about 3- but of course it's actually pi).

I also recall a trip  where we went to a nearby wild field and measured out a small patch of land - the amount of things in one square foot was incredible - more than enough to spend your whole life studying

Later at secondary School we had physics experiments with electrical conductivity (Kevin Geraghty's hair does not pass electricity well) and did experiments for double glazing and  thermal conductivity - practical experiments are great fun ands are the way we really connect with a subject - it's a shame many of us as we get older lose this connection - Art Philosophy, Cooking and even using maps can return some real engagement - I recommend it - don't stop marvelling at things that are around you.
A spider in a web - Don't forget to marvel

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How to thrive in the next economy John Thackara at the Design Museum

John Thackara's quite a speaker and yesterday evening  near the end of his talk he asked people to keep the dialogue going..(so here goes)

It's fair to say that at another venue the talk this could have been some terrible plan on getting rich but at the Design Museum it was of course something altogether more worthwhile and was in fact (to my mind) a discussion of a nuanced strategy on managing the limited resources we have on planet earth.
Outside the Design Museum venue yesterday evening

John is not a designer by trade and in fact he started off by studying Philosophy (at the University of Kent according to his CV) but subsequently his career has been varied to say the least including, according to Wikipedia some time as a London bus driver and a journalist.

John didn't include any insights into Bus driving but he did speak about moving traffic away from polluting vans to two wheel distribution and the need for the so-called 'developed' countries to learn from the leaner developing world, which is a world that's less inclined to always turn to fossil fuel solutions.

The headline figure that we should have in mind according to John is that we've got to do things at 5% of what we currently do to be sustainable - so this means drastic change.

The talk was wide ranging and John  was careful to make the point that he had moved on from being a Doomer and the tone and mood he imparted was optimistic even though many of  the scenarios we need to consider appear decidedly bleak .

John (on the right) prepares himself  for the session
One of the things that apparently irritates John is the vast investment in High Speed trains - he sees this as a political device rather than a solution to a real problem and I do have some sympathy with this view - the points he made about working on trains (which many of us do happily)  and efficient busses becoming more attractive to travellers were good ones (John Whitelegg was an academic working in this area who was mentioned).

John spoke widely and mentioned the developments in thinking about human neurology as well as the fact that so many of now in the 'West' have moved from steady employment to a much more flexible and nomadic careers which is now much closer to a hand-to-mouth pattern of work - a straw poll showed only about 20-30% of those attending were in what can be described as in a traditional employee status.

On the positive side the book he told us includes many real world examples of good practice in efficiencies - like for example the fact that Cuba as a result of the US envoy relies less on medication to keep the population well (Cuba has a similar and sometimes better life expectancy than the USA), it uses prevention and low cost solutions and is fact a hub for medical training in the Caribbean territories.

John is widely travelled and resected he spoke too about how the EU's worries about elders care is not the only way of looking at population demographics in Kerala (India) he'd found that the idea of moving older people to homes was alien to most families.

The big challenge is moving away from a focus (that we're imposing worldwide too) on monetisation and profit - food could be far cheaper without the supermarkets domination of distribution - farmers get a small cut of what shoppers pay.
The message from John was that we need to be radical and for me this can be a positive approach but it does need a commitment to evangelise and use best and (often very radical) methods.

John mentioned IKEA as having good intents but felt that they were in an almost impossible position trying to be good but as a large corporation driven by expansionist goals

John's book is called    How to thrive in the next economy  and as well as being important sounds a good read.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Handmade at Kew

Perhaps it was a sign
On Saturday we visited Kew Gardens- it's quite some since we'd been there and it is always changing.

The seasons mean that even if things don't change they change the way they look and as we move into autumn the colours of the trees are quite something even if many of the beds are now empty.

We didn't know it when we decided  to visit was that there was also a craft fair 'Handmade at Kew' for the weekend - it was £8 entrance each for Friends of Kew which is a fair amount but on balance just about worth it.

Part of a  group of 'Alice' sculptures

What was nice about the exhibitors is how happy they were to talk about and explain what they do - liked Geckoman a business that was run by a guy who at first studied biology but moved first into ceramics and the worked in bronze.
Some examples of Gavin's work

Anna Glasbrook had some lovely light boxes and was developing a sideline in unusual openings for events (as alternatives to the traditional ribbon and scissor), there was some fantastic furniture too and the individual items made by Jonathan Pearce  and also Gavin Robertson were almost beyond words.

I really liked the wirework that  Helaina Sharpley's  had  on show (and sale) too this 'Big Ben' caught my eye and if I had some cash to spare I reckon it'd make a nice present

A Big Ben of wire
This by Rebecca Joselyn

Just launched , Paperize - it's amazingly made of paper

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Leaving a trace, Oliver Sacks, Steven Smith and Alban Levy

After giving my short 'volunteer led' tours of 'Life on Foot' at London's Design Museum a connection (from my performances I suppose) in my mind took me back to my Electrical and Electronic Engineering studies in 1970s Cardiff, as well as the engineering elements of the course I was on there was some time spent studying  'Communications' (in the way we communicated with other) and during those studies we were required to make a presentation. I recalled very little of this apart from  video taping of our efforts revealing various 'tics' and foibles - mine included some self contained arm wrestling as I spoke (which I think is now replaced by other mannerisms).
Not the School of Athens but in fact St Paul's Cathedral

Asking one of classmates recently who it was that taught us he (thankfully) remembered that it was Alban Levy, seems odd that Alban who was an educated and engaging instructor has so little about him on the internet, he could have passed on but the memories and links  of him very seem limited apart from references to a volume of poetry from his young-self  published in 1946 (Nab Valley Poems).

{I think he was a Swansea youth much enthralled by Dylan Thomas}

So when I look at my own presence (created by me) it seems odd that so much of little consequence has piled up  (including a rather neat infographic of my CV) - when all's said and done though we are, hopefully something beyond a digital footprint.

Apart from those thoughts I was also transported and connected again to the Design Museum's 'Life on Foot' by journo' Steven Smith with his rather alluring BBC radio 4 study The lost are of getting of  lost.

I hope to  be able to include some of the threads that Stephen assisted by both 10cc's  Graham Gouldman and the always amusing writer and walker Will Self revealed in the programme that (perhaps) focused on how it is more challenging now to get lost and lose ourselves  but not for me actually.

The other gem that the BBC has given me this week is Alan Yentob's 2011 Imagine programme about, the now late Oliver Sacks, great stuff and the science/philosophy of cognition and brain behaviour it focused on are something for me to mull over and potentially get 'lost in'.
Let's hope the Lib-Dems don't make this just a memory too

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ealing Gazette goes Pun-tastic over my latest Picture of the Week

As I've shared many times my delight over seeing a photograph I've taken being published in the local paper you won't be too surprised to hear of this happening again (second week running).

In hindsight realise my own words could be interpreted as a dig at French visitors but not sure that the Toad in the hole line is too  much better - i'd offered ..

Please find attached a photograph  for the Picture of the Week, it shows a Frog hidden near a courgette plant

We know that local Ealing wildlife includes plenty of Squirrels and Foxes but if you look carefully you'll see  part of the local Frog community hiding camouflaged amongst my West London vegetables.
Here it is anyway
A Frog visits and retains limbs

Friday, October 09, 2015

Pop Art at Tate Modern And respect to Ealing McDonalds

Extension emerging
It's a surprisingly long time since I visited Tate Modern and the visit I made this week was on the brief-ish side looking only at 'The World Goes Pop' (nice name for an exhibition).

Change is in the air and the Tate Modern extension opening next year is clearly moving along to completion and there are also new apartments under construction.

It seems to me that Tate Modern will need to make itself more relevant and exciting too -there are so many galleries in London that are (to me) offering the new and innovative  that Tate should  be careful to retain its edge.
well it went Pop didn't it?

The World goes.. is perhaps a little safe too reminiscent of the recent Saatchi show it covers what I would say is Après Pop from around the world (this showing perhaps the wave of pop as it moved out from the USA and the UK) -the show as interesting in many respects but not an exhibition that will set the world on fire

Highlights for me of the show included Ruth Franken's challenging Man Chair, the analytic Kennedy and Khrushchev silhouettes  by Sergio Lombardo also liked the works that confronted the difficult times in countries such as Spain like The Punishment by Rafael Canogar.

Well Done Mackies

I've been meaning to mention this for some time now I was in McDonald's a few months back (yes doesn't do my rep' too much good) and a woman on hard times was trying to get some money from punters by the time she was served shew had some money but not enough - the server/manager took what she offered and fulfilled he order - seems to me people can be incredibly compassionate and not make a big song and dance about it (and we can all think of how this might shame us).

[And this is not the only example of McDonald's staff acting far beyond the expectation we have of them]