Thursday, 2 December 2010

Wednesday, 22h30

Snow, falling, softly.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Sandor Bortnyik

Sandor Bortnyik - Architect Forbát and his wife

(image from

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Oskar Schlemmer - Dancer

(image from

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Old telephone exchange building

Budapest, Baross utca.  Built in 1910, a relief illustrating the telephone.  Beneath Mercury you can make out the Chain Bridge across the Danube, linking Buda to Pest.  The outlines of the newly completed Fisherman's Bastion and the spires of Parliament are visible too.

Click for a larger view.  I stitched this together from a number of photos, so some irregularities may exist.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Purple tiger

They started as seeds, a collection of carefully labelled chilli seeds taped to a card presented to me by E.  Every type had a heat rating too.  I planted them in April, in a tray, keeping a map of which one went where.  Most germinated, optimistically, a few weeks later, although by then my map had disappeared into the piles of paper in my room.

Now, the purple tiger is easily recognisable though:  purple flowers and small dark fruit, which should ripen to red.   

Monday, 20 September 2010

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Academia vs U2

"... die ding is net dat konferensies nie is soos U2-konserte nie.  They don't sell out."  -  a

Thursday, 29 April 2010


I've never had tulips before.

Thursday, 22 April 2010


Yesterday I needed to get away.

I find empty trains soothing.  Just the gentle sway of coaches, the occasional clack rattling down the train, the rush of wind, and three other people similarly entranced by landscape slipping away.  Occasionally the recorded lady announcing a new station.

This is coach number two of four.

In my bag is a jersey, an umbrella and sandwiches for lunch.  Two apples, water and a bottle of beer.  Two cameras, one for documentation, one for calibration.  Lonely planet.  And Ward Lock & Co's Red Guide to Southsea and Portsmouth, from the postwar 40s I believe.  It comes with a map detailing the route from Southampton to Chichester, a solid black line skimming just north of the coast.  I don't think the railroad has shifted much in 60 years.  The A27 was just a road then.  The map holds that smell of an old library: paper approaching middle age.  Only the water is coloured.  Blue.  Tiny trees make up forests, towns are small blocks that might still refer to houses, warehouses and sheds.


I wonder what happens in Havant?


It is a day that requires distance.  Changing spaces, strange faces.  Walking, seeing, writing, being.  Thinking, unencumbered.  The train helps with that.  My mind is busy at first, jumping, running.  Then comes the blankness.  Then the peace.


Lunchtime has an organ recital in the cathedral.  The scheduled organist cancelled due to ash, so the local Assistant steps in.  I feel 40 years younger than anyone in the audience.  Creaking men can't sneak out quietly.

I try to recall the architectural terms to remember the building by.  The building is Romanesque at heart, but with the inevitable updates over 900 years that make it so interesting.  The aisles slip into early Gothic, with more Victorian ornament stuck on top.  The stained glass is mostly Victorian too: young and still bright, dappling light on the floor.

A violently bright tapestry by John Piper adorns the high altar - it must have led too weeks of angry letters from outraged residents.   A window by Chagall hides in a corner.  It is less blue than I expected.  Menstruation, someone said.

In the north aisle lies the Arundel Tomb - the earl and his wife.  They are holding hands.  Philip Larkin noticed it too.

When I emerge into the light again it's too late to rush to the Roman mosaics at Fishbourne.  So I slowly explore the town.  Shippams has turned into New Look, while Next trades from the Corn Exchange.  A building where Keats used to play is a barber shop.  And the Roman Amphitheatre is a slightly uneven lawn, today with three boys battling with bat and ball.  Yet it remains a pleasant place.  With Georgian houses, tea rooms and stores where Conservatives can shops.  Pleasant.

A pint, then home.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Morning coffee

The weather is finally allowing better use of the outside spaces.  And ever little plat is coming to life.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

they came and ate us

The daffodils are suffering.  Every night the slugs emerge from their lair and climb up the stalks and grab the daffs by the neck and ravage them.  In dark, sticky and slug-like ways.

And the next morning they just slither away.

I do not approve.

Friday, 26 March 2010


(late March, to be exact)  It is much the same as February, but with more light and fewer letters.  A raised bed for the root vegetables has appeared too.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


It is that time of year again.  I should be excited.

Monday, 22 February 2010


This is the month where bulbs start bulbing, the weather teases with hints of a spring that will come, just to crush optimism with cruel frost the next morning. Some days we have rain. Other days we have a gentle mist that hovers in the garden until just before lunch.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Dieter Rams

Braun PS2, Design Museum, London

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Mail-order gardening

The snow has departed, leaving a subdued garden behind. The chickens look muddy and a bit miserable, while the quail are still waiting for summer. The lawn has been stripped down to the roots, revealing the multitude of stones I was too hasty to remove. Like scabby, uneven skin. Brandsiek. Recently defrosted granadillas that originated from next door are now decaying on the vine. The rocket has survived, albeit as something more spindly. It is still crunchy, but angrier after the cold.

From this state of hibernation, I must somehow cast my mind forward to a vibrant summer and imagine the garden. The herb and vegetable part specifically, but there is a troubling hedge-lawn junction that is not resolving itself. So tonight I'm sitting in bed reading the mail-order catalogue, because that is where gardens come from here. At first I found it amusing, because when I grew up we simply bought seed packets at the supermarket or the co-op. Once in a while we'd make the 100km trip to a nursery, which was usually combined with large-scale grocery shopping and the dentist visits too. Later there were other nurseries, closer to home, and homes closer to nurseries. Here there are nurseries too, but the catalogue solves the transport problem, guarantees a wide selection, and ensures everything you buy is F1 so you'll support them again next year. It's definitely convenient, but it's not quite the same.

I've also bought a few sheets of polycarbonate - a cold frame will be born soon.

What to grow? We haven't decided yet. There are the obvious ones, the tomatoes and herbs and leaves you can't live without. Beans, because they're so productive, capsicums are vital too. Potatoes, which I've never had, but always wanted. Beetroot, parsnips are calling me too. Courgettes. For the fruit, but not forgetting the flowers. Broccoli or kale. A sustained harvest, or incremental picking/cutting is preferred. And then there are the tempting ones, those I'd never really thought of before: Jerusalem or Chinese artichokes? Asparagus, or would it be too slow? Maybe a gooseberry? Space is an issue.

The daffodils seem to be stirring slowly.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

t > 0

It is warmer today, so the snow is disappearing. You can still smell it though: crisp and fresh.

Monday, 11 January 2010


I left in a thunderstorm, one of those the Highveld is known for. Sunrise was at Doha, where everything seemed to be the colour of sand. Even the sky, although I imagined I could smell the Persian Gulf in the mist that hovered over everything. Most of Europe was hidden under cloud, it lifted just east of London, revealing a country covered in snow. Everywhere. White, with dark trees poking through, here and there a steely lake. More white. It might still be a response growing up with dusty, grey winter, or a reflection of the eurocentric children's books we read, but snow remains amazing. Or maybe I like the landscape simplified.

I had missed the actual precipitation, so the snow is older, staler, and more crunchy than soft. It's not warm enough to melt properly, so our road has turned into an icy slide. (Hip, shoulder, arm and wrist are all quite bruised). I've never had a white garden though.

Bits of grass are poking up through the snow, the garlic seems quite happy too. I can still dig out some frozen rocket, while the sage is still sagey. The chickens are scratching around on frozen ground, frustrated by their eternally frozen water bowl. The quails seem to huddle and wait.

We're planning this year's crop. This weather calls for root vegetables.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


At O.R. Tambo, trying to avoid the sandwich frustration I had last time, mostly by drinking more beer. Beyond the drop-off zone, beyond the skeleton of the Gautrain, I can see the Kelvin power station. Six squat cooling towers, then a few thin fingers, then another two. Maybe they were added later? I once spent a week working in the shadow of those towers, a week made bearable only by the knowledge of my inevitable departure.

Next to me is a table with an older man, maybe my father's age, maybe five years more. He is seeing off his daughter and her husband. The son-in-law sounds Australian, his wife is on the diluted South African stage, but also with a good dose of the down-under twang. Their baby is bouncing around in a pushcart, waving all his appendages at a colourful book. "Baby Touch Playbook". The grandfather tries to hold the his grandson one last time, but the child is more intent on chewing something inedible.

Sunday, 3 January 2010


Yesterday was a palindrome, at least in some countries.

The sea is quiet today, mostly in a grey, introspective mood. With a bit more sun it feels a bit more reflective, but still subdued. Two days ago it was angry, spitting and furious to be exact. Yesterday was still unsettled, but not as rough. More tired, almost spent: just habitually uneven. Today the wind turned, with it the mood shifted to more somber.

I'm flying to Pretoria tomorrow, then the UK on Thursday. Leaving is slightly easier this time, but it is still a tricky business.