Monday, 24 November 2014

Oh How I Miss You Blogfest …

My post of two years ago encompasses my thoughts and though there are new bloggers that I’d add to the list … I think we all know who each of us respects and enjoys visiting …

So to surprise her (Tina) up there ... this post will be short!: 
Nicholas Roerich: Guests from Overseas (1901)

Who does not miss, could not miss and who will not miss Tina Downey of Viking fame with her Blog “Life is Good” …

I posted about her here … such a dreadful sad loss to her family … and I know many of us miss her as we blog our way along … and come the A-Z in 2015 … it will be very strange without her.

The Sunshine Lad - Lenny

Whom I would miss if he did not blog occasionally, even once amonthjust to let us know he’s still around … that merry soul who is known as Lenny of Lenny’s World … Lenny blog on please!!!  He's my GrandBlogSon ... so named as he calls me his GrandBlogMom ... Sharon is his BlogMom!!

Lenny loves critters - I love Africa ...
not so keen on jigsaws - and this is one apparently!

A note re next week: 4th - 6th December … a reach out – Tina was involved in last year's, and one I know Lenny would support …

Emergency Food Drive -
December 4 - 6

Emergency Food during the festive seasons coming up … and then remembering each and every month thereafter … here are the details … 

Hosted by MJ Joachim and ..... the world .... that's us ... get the word out please ... anyone who does social media ... please tweet, FB et al ... thank you!!   

Here's to this great community ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Turner, the Tate, Art and Science, "Mr Turner" - the film …

Turner – the tubby man, the genius, the visionary … so many epithets have been used to describe ‘the greatest English painter’, or at least one of … depending on your predeliction …
The poster for the film

Turner abounds at the moment … The Late Turner Exhibition at the Tate, more earlier Turners upstairs in the galleries, comparisons with Constable, who also has an Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and then across the tube stations and hoardings for the film, “Mr Turner”, released on Halloween – I wanted to write this post before I saw the film.

Turner: a self-portrait

In recent years I’ve been to see a few Turner Exhibitions – at Greenwich “Turner and the Sea”, down here on the south coast at Brighton … a small intimate Exhibition relative to the development of the early 1800s seaside resort.

I am a casual visitor … who enjoys the experience of learning more, and learning some … obviously I know of Turner … but when I see adjectives describing his colours as brimstone, brick dust, spinachie, eggy, fishy …
Fogo, NewFoundland, from Brimstone head

… against Turner’s favourite, but highly toxic, chrome yellow …

…. or his paintings as sublime landscapes, fiery engines, tempestuous seas, disruptive artworks … the painter crossed many boundaries – experimenting and experiencing life in the early 1800s.

Chrome Yellow in the art work
 "Shipwreck - The Minotaur"
 Turner was born in the same year as Jane Austen, though he lived another 44 years – but he was born into the rough and tumble of Covent Garden ... 

... his father was a barber and wigmaker … so Turner would see many faces and characters coming into his father’s shop for a hair shave, faces trimmed, or wigs refurbished … these trades essential in the time of ‘lice’ …
Hogarth's "Five Orders of Periwigs"

Turner was uneducated, his manners poor and he expressed liberal feelings … however he had a greater vision than his contemporaries …

He was born in the age of sail (1775) and died in the age of steam (1851) … he chronicled the times … the black belching smoke of the tugboat … the fiery furnaces of the new factories …

… the stormy tumultuous seas of the new age of exploration and travel … the fascination with the forces of nature and ‘our’ obsession with these forces …

"The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her
last berth to be broken up" 1839
Turner embraced, investigated, inquired into all things … he travelled extensively and continued to do so into old age … he tested, trialled, created anew, absorbing all the triggers of the age … he was never afraid to try …

The Industrial Revolution had started … and would rush ahead, leaving the Romanticists in its wake … Turner understood the human ingenuity being unleashed into 19th century Britain …

Modern Rare Earth Pigments

He discussed pigments with Michael Faraday – the fiery reds, chrome yellows: the colours of industry;

Turner gave lectures on perspectives … he had always been interested in the geometric rules of art …

Other lecturers were not ignored at Somerset House … the scientific gathering place for both artists and scientists …

Turner's use of the sun and light on landscape

William Herschel in 1801 gave a lecture on “the sun” – Turner listened and then went off and painted a masterpiece “The Festival upon the Opening of the Vintage of Macon” …

Luke Howard, a chemist and amateur meteorologist, gave a lecture in 1802 on clouds and how he categorised them … Turner in due course painted his series of Storm Clouds …

BeaufortHurricane Scale 12
Francis Beaufort, after years at sea … recording his interest in weather charts, also was part of the scientific set … Turner had always had a fascination with the sea … reflected in the names of his paintings: Storm Clouds, Twilight, Trees in a strong Breeze …

… as he had too with the powerful forces of nature or human intervention in the era of the Industrial Revolution …

Royal Institution, Albemarle Street -
where Davy's lectures were given
Humphrey Davy’s lectures gave rise to the first street lights – in 1807 Gas Lamps were lit in Pall Mall to enable the large audience to find their way to Albemarle Street, where the lectures were held.

Charles Babbage, the polymath, who is best remembered for originating the concept of the programmable computer … we can surmise what Turner, Babbage and Steve Jobs might have got up to in the 21st century …

Babbage's Difference Engine
What developments – yet Turner travelled all over Europe, always with a sketch book, crayon or paints on hand … to record, note, draft ideas … he never rested, never relaxed … always pondering …

Turner could see the order in the chaos … that was everything to do with the scientific discoveries that were changing our understanding of the forces of nature … the specialisations within science were yet to come …

This difficult, eccentric, flawed in many ways, man … gave us sublime, passionate and spiritual art that entrances us today – as seen in the many exhibitions, tv programmes, and by Olafur Eliasson, the Icelander’s excursion into Turner’s colour palette – so well explained in the adjunct hall at the Tate.

Olafur Eliasson - three of Turner's palettes
see more here

Turner was pugnacious, self-confident … refusing to sell works of art towards the end of his life – determined that they should make a collection for the British nation – now held at the Tate.

However he suffered from Parkinsons and drank to control the tremors … he had diabetes, cataracts, chronic fatigue – possibly caused by scurvy; he gained weight and lost his teeth – as his death mask confirms.

The cataracts probably came from the poisonous substances in the pigments he used … his later paintings overdo the harsh yellow … perhaps because oranges and yellows are the last colours a person with cataracts sees before he goes blind.

"Rain, Steam and Speed - the Great
Western Railway" (1844)

But he never gave up, he persevered … and for that we are grateful … who would think of painting a hare on the railway track in his 1844 “Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway” …

Albert Durer: Young Hare 1502
… to depict speed … a hare can run at 35 mph, a horse: the only known human conveyance, made 4 mph, while here was the train forging out of the distance at a thundering pace of 40 mph and getting faster …

Turner left a huge legacy of works … encompassing many sciences and understandings of the day …

Timothy Spall, portraying the artist, in the new film by Mike Leigh researched and studied all he could to faithfully characterise Turner …

Spall has an A in art A-level from school … but used to spend a great deal of time visiting the Tate … for the film he took art lessons for two years … life drawing, still life, speed drawing, working in ink, watercolour and then oils …

William and his sister
Caroline Herschel
Spall suddenly understood the enormous concentration that was required of the great artists to make such large paintings … Rubens, Remrandt, Pousin, Claude Lorrain – a huge influence on Turner

Turner read books too ... Mary Somerville, the mathematician, and he discussed her publication “On Connexion of the Physical Sciences” (1834), which noted that electric currents would always affect a ship, wherever it was in the ocean.

The effect of iron filings experiments – used to show magnetism and electromagnetic fields … impacted so much on Turner that he painted a visual representation in his “Snow Storm” painting …

Iron filings and magnetic field

 …  in “Snow Storm – Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Edge” by studying it … you can see Turner was on the deck, you can see he went to the top of the mast … you know Turner was there …

Turner's "Snow Storm - Steam Boat
off a Harbour's Edge"

Turner manifested this incredible painting that shows the sea as a vast uncontrollable force and yet that underneath the chaos there is real regularity … the waves have a hairy quality, like iron filings in a magnetic field …

Turner had found a new way of painting and had created a visual language to express nature’s hidden forces …

An early Turner (1803)
Calais Pier
Turner chronicled all of these changes … reminding the Georgians and particularly the Victorians that they needed to keep up with the times, to embrace the new … Turner in his use of the maelstrom of paint stood out from the crowd …

With these recent exhibitions, discussions and now the film … will remind us of what a great visionary Turner became, and how his paintings heralded a new world … which we 150 years into that future actually can see today.

on at the Tate until
25 January 2015
 I hope you can all get to see the film, and in time get to other Turner exhibitions wherever you are in the world …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Blog Sandwich Update 4 - Eastbourne Pier ...

During my trial and tribulation of trips to the Tower – should be easy really … usually they just transport you there!  One of my failed rail journeys when the signalling had gone haywire …

What happened to me?

… I decided instead a walk to the pier on a sunnyish day to ‘inspect’ the damage, have a coffee and see what was happening, which offered more promise than hanging around at the train station.

This is how I'm meant to
 look -  my Victorian lion
embellishment blazing a
trail -  no not that burning one!

The Pier has to an extent re-opened … the burnt shell is cordoned off – but they can work from the underneath – and the walkways let us view the damage ...

Still Fishing!
... while getting to the end of the pier to fish should we wish, to have tea and cakes, visit the nightclub (no thanks), see the Camera Obscura (another day), or do a little gift shopping in the tourist trap are now possible.

Gifts ... I did walk round and found
a couple of cards .. just what I needed!

It is over 4 months since the pier caught fire … they think that it was arson – but are still working on the case … 

30 July 2014

... however on talking to one of the waitresses in the tea-shop … she said it was all very orderly and definitely not dangerous – until the ‘Blue Room’ actually caught fire.

Nuts, fruits, Turkish and Greek treats -
one of the summer kiosks on the sea front

The ‘Blue Room’ was originally a dance hall, before being turned into the amusement arcade – the ‘popular addition’ to piers after the War.

The Ironwork to be dismantled during
November and December

Two enormous cranes, one on each side of the pier, will move into place on the beach towards the end of the month to dismantle the Victorian iron shell, scheduled for completion by Christmas.

Cheerful summer planting
with some baskets from one of the
stall holders - not normally seen at the front
Then, once the promised funding is in place, the new building will be constructed – this may be on two floors, though the fa├žade has to be similar to the original structure – as it was a Grade II* listed building.

So I’ve included some photos from early September and recently at the end of October … next instalment will be when it’s repaired and open again for business …

One of my iphone photos appearing in my tidal
zone post in April ... the Blue Room is hardly visible
here - the Camera Obscura stands out

The carpet gardens are a draw to the seafront, while the promenades offer tarmac walks, or stretches on to our pebbly beach …

This is the lower tidal zone and so is sandy ... higher up it is pebbly protecting the sea-front against the winter storms and high tides ...

You can see our tidal zones and the beach front in my Z post from this year’s A-Z Challenge: Aspects of British …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

BloodSwept Lands and Seas of Red … the Memorial Artwork Display at the Tower of London …

Today is Armistice Day ... 

The Cenotaph, Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday

At the Paul Cummins’ factory in Derby the ceramicists worked round the clock to make each of the 888,246 poppies, by hand, that will, by 11th November, complete the installation, fill the dry moats.

The carpet of poppies, spilling from the tower and sweeping around its base, has drawn praise for its dignity and creativity.

Each poppy represents a British and colonial life lost in the First World War.

A few days after I visited the Tower and this amazing poppy display … Ailsa Craddock wrote in The Saturday Times: “there were thousands of spectators looking on – I have never been in such a large crowd of well-behaved, interested and caring people from all cultures, nations and ages”.

Mrs Craddock was one of the volunteers selected to plant some of the ceramic poppies in the Moat – so she had an even better take on events, than I did.

The army of volunteers who turned out in all weathers to make sure the poppies were planted on time – grandmothers, students, civil servants, airline cabin crew, injured soldiers, holders of the Victoria Cross, charity workers …
The Waterfall filling the moat, slowly

… people of every colour and creed and every walk of life, united by a desire to take part in one of the most eye-catching installations ever mounted in London.

In the room where the volunteers assemble – some 19,000+ to date – a map shows where they have all come from.  There are red dots everywhere: Australia, the Philippines, Japan, China, Alaska, Peru, Finland, Dubai … there is even one in Siberia.

The Tower of London before the installation
of poppies
Most of the crowds were in family groups talking softly about those whose memory they had come to commemorate.  Older people explaining to young children the circumstances in which their far-distant relatives had died. 

The young will greater appreciate the significance of the period and that dreadful War, after visiting this display, and remembering through their own family histories.

Each day as the sun went down, a yeoman warder read a roll call of names who had fallen during the War, a bugler played the Last Post.  A hush fell among the crowds … 180 requested names were read out …

Tom Piper, who planned and constructed this sixteen acre display of poppies … a single poppy for a single life … it has taken three months to ‘plant’ every ceramic poppy – creating his memorial artwork, which has finally established itself in the public mind.

Piper, a set designer, who is acclaimed for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, came to the project after artist Paul Cummins, who created the first commemorative ceramic bloom, asked if he’d like to collaborate.

In discussion about the installation, Piper has said that he’s learnt not to illustrate the themes of a play with the obvious … thus here it is about loss and commemoration, which has given us all in our own distinct appreciative instinct - a way to tap into the War … back to our family history, or just a realisation of the enormity of it all ….

War Horse - came to give
some nostalgia for the animals
in World War One

The timing of 100 years since the start of that appalling conflict, and the fact technology has raced ahead … many more are now exploring their family trees and unearthing the true stories of their ancestors … filling in some of the blanks from distant days …

A few poppies have been held back for that key date today … the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month: Armistice Day …

The display does look beautiful … but if we/you contemplate that each poppy within that amazing art work does represent someone’s lost life during World War One … perhaps not appreciated in such full comprehension … the Bloody Sea will have done its job.

I’m not sure if because I went at half-term, or for some reason I used the blood red runs to illustrate the Tower’s potency in myHalloween post … the effect has seeped into my memory.

There are six Service charities that will benefit from the purchase of each poppy … someone I know bought six for their local church – to be used on Remembrance Day in the future and for other appropriate events.

Neither the designer, nor the artist have profited from the creation … and it is hoped that the two major sculptural components – the wave, and the waterfall from the Tower window – can be sold to raise extra funds.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red is a unique art installation … which from the first poppy being planted in August, to the visits by the Queen and Royal Family, to other Service personnel, the volunteers who have planted the poppies – who have all watched this amazing ‘painting by numbers’ fulfil its potential.

Planted poppies - to be filled in with many
more poppies to create a 'carpet' effect
There was no idea as to how the concept would turn out, to how it would look … it was not a prescriptive painting – or painting by dots …. it took on a world of its own – which has really caught the public’s imagination.

I wasn’t going to see it – but on advice, thought I should make the effort … and effort it was as my post explained!  but it has opened my eyes in many a different direction.  An interesting experience …

'The Wave' cascading in from
the River Thames - blood red river

There is talk now of leaving it up … but I hope they stick with their decision to start the dismantling process … it was an opportunity, just not taken up by many, who now wish they had: an opportunity cut short – yet reflects the lives of those opportunities denied.

The coming week will let us know … the poppies have turned out to be a dignified tribute – one that will be remembered by this nation for many a decade to come.

Wikipedia's picture for today:
Papaver Rhoeas (bud, flower and fruit (capsule))
PS:  It is being kept until the end of the month … but the grass needs mowing, the dry moats now have soggy,  muddy bottoms … and it will slowly start being dismantled – the purchased poppies dispatched, some of the art work sent around the UK, with ultimately the two sculptures – the wave, and the waterfall – finding their final resting place at the Imperial War Museum in London and Manchester.

Two other things … the transport challenges have been met with better signage, which I certainly didn’t see on my recent trip just before Halloween … and when we donate for our poppy, once pinned on to our jackets, shirts etc …the oak leaf should be set at eleven o’clock – I hadn’t realised that before.

Apparently the idea came from a poem Paul Cummins read - from an unknown soldier, who did not return, but sent these emotive words home ... here visually recreated 100 years later ... 

Another PS - perhaps I should add that I believe it was 20 million human beings, who each lost their life in World War One ... it was a real world war.  As Trisha mentioned below ... an estimate of 55 million lost their lives in both World Wars.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspiration Stories

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Gunpowder Treason and Plot …

I was enticed by a lunch to ‘celebrate’ The GunPowder Plot’s failure … it’s good to fail: well for us, not for Mr Fawkes!!

We had a luncheon without wine this time bloody wine we might have had, but no … we resisted

… however we had Parliamentary Gunpowder Chicken, Char Grilled Bacon, BBQ sauce with veggies … and a not very scintillating … very tomatoey sauce … or

“Guy Fawkes” Pie: lamb with steamed vegetables … just looked rather dull …

The White Chocolate Bombe

Then to sweeten us up further for the insight into the Conspirators’ Tale of 1605

Iced Chocolate Bombe with Raspberry Coulis and exploding chocolate … the bombe was very sweet, the coulis delicious … but no popping chocolate, or

Lemon Posset

a mini barrel of Lemon Posset, Vanilla Wick, with Lemon sorbet and gunpowder … I had this and it was quite tasty … the gun-powder didn’t pop …

Parliamentary Chicken
Coffee served with Bonfire Toffee – the waiter as he served the plate of toffee said “Wotch Yeer Teef”!!

Now I say … Wotch yeer historeeeee!  This comes next!

The Gunpowder plot of 1605 stems back a further 120 years to Richard III’s death at the Battle of Bosworth 1485 … the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses.

Edward VI

Henry VII (1485 - 1509) came next, then Henry VIII – and we know what he did … created the Church of England … so now Britain has two religions vying for supremacy … Catholicism of old, and the Reformation ... offering a new approach to our religious way of life.

Henry VIII (1509 - 1547) effectively remained a Catholic in all but name as Head of the Church of England, though he had used the idea of the new religion in his own desperate attempts in trying to conceive a male heir.

Edward VI (1547 - 1553), his heir, was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty, but who had been raised as a Protestant – and on accession promoted an obligatory Reform – which continued apace during his Kingship.

Mary (1553 – 1558), Henry VIII’s very Catholic daughter, and Edward’s heir in substance, tried to turn back the tide of Protestantism … but to no avail – the reformed doctrines had been made official.

James VI of Scotland and
James I, King of England and Scotland

Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603), Henry VIII’s second daughter and who had been brought up in the Protestant faith, followed the middle path … letting Protestantism take its course.

Elizabeth died childless … her heir was James VI of Scotland – Mary, Queen of Scots’ Catholic son – who became James I (1603 – 1625) from the union of the Scottish and English crowns on 24 March 1603.

Now what?   A foolish idea by desperate Catholics to overthrow the sudden unification of the two nations.

Gather a group of Catholics … meet in a pub … decide to do something, swear to get rid of the Protestant King …

State Opening of Parliament 1523
The Opening of Parliament began out of practical necessity …. by the late 14th century, the means by which the King gathered his nobles and representatives of the Commons had begun to follow an established pattern … once “the register had been ticked” … the Lords and Commons went separately to discuss the business in hand.  The monarch normally resided.

The Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 has amended the timings … our next general election will occur on 7 May 2015 and the State Opening of Parliament will happen soon afterwards.

Barrels stacked, kindling ready to help
Back to our 17th C conspirators … Guy Fawkes and his cohorts … they rented an undercroft (vault) under parliament … stacked it with 36 barrels of gunpowder, disguised as beer barrels, covered with faggots and wood … enough to blow up the Palace of Westminster and the surrounding districts …

… had the ruse worked most of the important people in England would have been annihilated … fortunately – the conspirators let the cat out of the bag by notifying some Catholic big-wigs that they might like to not be present for the opening …

Guy Fawkes by George Cruickshank:
published in William Answorth
Harrison's novel in 1840

… that the espionage service caught wind of the plot and searched the cellars ... found Guy Fawkes, who held out before giving his co-conspirators away ...

There is a Guy Fawkes room in the White Tower at the Tower of London … and on hearing the talk about the torture that was meted out to Guy Fawkes … my bloody moat resonates to me rather more … I suspect the teacher (speaker) thought he was speaking to young lads – except we were a somewhat different group … I’m glad I’d eaten!

Guy Fawkes signature - before
and after torture - frankly
I'm surprised he could write
However the downside to the Catholic Rebellion was that they were never likely to try something like that against the King or English government again … the deterrent was fool-proof … Protestantism was here to stay.

Part of the State Opening of Parliament today always starts overnight with a ceremonial searching of the cellars …

Traitors Gate - entrance from the Thames -
the main transport system
I have to say this talk was rather more explicit than I needed to know – I realise torture went on, I know some of the grisly details … but I am distinctly ‘wealthier’ in gruesome thoughts … however I survived and slept well that night!

The meal did not match up to the South African we had a fewweeks ago – which really stood out.  Different hotel … the chef at the Langham obviously has talent … this was alright (polite euphemism for ok!).

Gunpowder toffee - my 'teef'
are still intact!

The talk was interesting to say the least … and I’ve only given you a half of it … the history tied in with some of my University of the Third Age classes – funny how much I’m learning …

The meal didn’t really match up – much more could have been made to the menu … still we met some interesting diners and had a fun time …

A guy being taken to be burnt
I also have next year’s post jotted down … as I haven’t written about the Lewes, East Sussex connection with the Protestant martyrs … also ‘celebrated’ (remembered/
commemorated) on Bonfire Night:  I wrote about the Lewes Bonfire Societies in2012 … though I’ve mentioned Guy Fawkes on a few other occasions.

Not such a successful lunch … but we had fun, were entertained at our table, and by the speaker … we were amused!

PS I'm having connectivity issues ... hence my in/out of the blogosphere or internetosphere!  It's being resolved so I'll be sporadic for ten days or so ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories