Sunday, 20 December 2009

They say it's all about the children

Whilst I am away I am going to share a little Christmas love.
Inside this tiny little envelope came this.... Leyla's Christmas promises. I will translate.
  • I'll help Baba garden in Cyprus
  • I won't quarrel with Kitty
  • I won't ruin the holiday by moaning.
How sweet are they? Baba is Turkish for Daddy and we are going to the house primarily to finish landscaping the land and to plant more trees.
Leyla argues NON STOP with Kitty so that will last oh, about a day
I thought the last one was sooo sweet. She promises this every year but half way through that'll bite the dust two. Although this year we do have her aunt and cousin staying so maybe the extra entertainment factor will help.

Kitty gave me this lovely watercolour last week. She had even made the envelope knowing me very well when it comes to reusing materials. I love the detail. I have always loved her drawings and since Cornwall she has become fluent at watercolour too.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas through the window

Or living my life vicariously

The English are private and rather reserved race, but come Christmas they throw caution to the wind and push back the curtains...well almost in some cases, and allow us a little peek inside.
I have written before about a journey home from my gran's where I gazed longingly into the lives of others as they too left the curtains open.
We currently live on an estate of houses built in 1905. It is mostly intact apart from a few pock marked gaps with newer flats built after the air raids during the second world war.
I have always preferred Edwardian houses to Victorian because of the squarer layout. Our house is no exception. The estate was built buy a Scottish monied landowner, it is teetotal (no cute pubs) but was specifically built around the station.
The houses are very varied in style and size. There are smaller terraced houses, semi's like ours, then double fronts and finally the great big detached villas over looking the park. If our postcode was SW instead of SE they would cost considerably more. Yet tucked away in an unfashionable suburb of London we struck lucky.
Now we have a dog I thought it would give me the perfect cover to take photographs. The dog was however a two edged sword really, great for stopping and starting, not so great when just as I was about to depress the shutter he would give the lead a good sharp tug. I of course gave him a good sharp tug back and cursed him under my breath. he then gave me one of 'those' looks. You know the one? "Oi bitch this is my walk not yours, put the camera back in the pocket and move it!"
Trust me he can say all of that and more with just one glance back.
This was just one obstacle I faced to put this set together, (the rest are on Flickr although be warned there are a whopping 60 of them and that is with a lot of culling).
I noticed that the fake trees went up first, I swear I saw at least two people naked whilst lining up a shot! A tripod would have helped as keeping a steady hand is not easy in the freezing cold low lit night, yet I quite liked the whole 'hit & run' feel to the images. I loved it that some houses threw all the curtains back to reveal the whole tree whilst other, more allowed just a tiny peek, a compromise between natural reserve and a need to show the street that they too were joining in.
At least half the houses have trees in the window, some of the double fronts have one in each. A lot had a tree half way between the knocked through rooms and so were less easy to capture. There was an amazing array of sizes and decorations as for the lights... interestingly quite a few had no lights at all in a bid to be eco friendly maybe. Others had all flickering all dancing lights that are really hard to photograph as by the time the camera has measured the light they have moved on! It is astonishing when you think, this set is just from the few roads around where I live. I stuck to only our estate but was spoilt for choice after the last weekend when the bulk of them went up. It is curiously addictive and it will feel strange to walk the dog without the need to stand and stare.
Next year I would really like to do a corporate series, I saw a few last night and I was suprised at how corporate/conventional they looked despite the money available. So you know me, if I say it I will eventually get it done.

P.S you may have gathered I have finally learnt how to post date my posts, so to speak, hence a couple will pop up whilst I am away.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Have a really sparkly Christmas

I will return in the new year.
If I have guessed correctly this post is my.......wait for it......1000th
Can you believe it? Doesn't time fly and all that crapola.
I guess it's appropriate to thank you both for reading this blog, just writing it has proved amazingly cathartic, especially over the last few weeks.
By the time you read this I will be packing for my trip to the land of goats & peasants wielding my Pentax, to bring you the story of life in the village.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Oh I have sinned.....again

OK, hear me out. I went up town after work to buy some Converse low rise pumps and bought this cardie too. It was in the sale reduced to £20, keep in mind I will not be taking a coat to Cyprus and so this looks perfect for the plane plus the chilly nights. So far so good.

I could not decide between blue or green Converse, and so went for blue. i wanted both, in fact I rather wanted the amazing glitzy zebra print ones too. I asked to try the blue ones on and was told they did not have my size. The assistant pointed to some identical ones and said they had my size in that style. being rather old and not 'on trend' I asked what the difference was. It was it appeared a silver strip along the base. Nope I did not get it either.
So I have my converse sans silver strip. I figured they would be more use for clambering around whilst taking photographs. Birkenstock's are great for the urban environment but I now need to alert you to the fact that the village has snakes.... I once encountered a cockroach whilst taking a shower, my scream pierced the night setting the dogs off. I got out of the shower got dressed and marched through the village in the pitch black to rant at Emin (who was down at his aunts house) for leaving me to suffer at the hands of these evil flying machines. When I arrived at the aunts house, shampoo dripping from my wet hair the women all threw their hands in the air and laughed, how could I be scared of a little bug and not be afraid of snakes? Well I'm not, although I probably should be! plus I had not realised they were so prevalent. I was however a little wary of the 2 six footers mating at his other aunts.
So that justifies these beauties does it not?

Ok, the cashmere was on is an investment I tell you..... honestly I needed's COLD..The damage? One really awesome quality black +J cardie and.. well I don't need to say it, suffice it to say it is sooooo lovely and cosy and will be something to look forward to on my return. Whereupon I will check in to a rehab clinic for those addicted to grey knitwear. I promise.

Vivian Maier

Click here to visit the amazing blog

Click here to read lots more about her and the blog

The latter image really reminds me of some of my photographs, as I too love the whole reflection thing.
I love this woman's style and the enigma surrounding her photographs this is an awesome body of work and a little sad that her achievement is recognised so late. No doubt a screenplay is being written as we speak with Renee Zellweger and Kate Winslet cat fighting over the part!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Phil Bergerson

I found these amazing images

I love the compositions, my next digital camera will absolutely have a 1:1 format

I am currently putting together PowerPoints for the A Level exams which start at the end of January. I love this part of the job but it is all consuming so no time for drawing or painting.
I have nearly completed my new project which I am quietly pleased about.
It is now snowing!

Influential photographer Larry Sultan dies

More here
It may seem like stating the obvious but where he led others followed, beautifully composed images with that rich light we can only dream of over here. I only realised he'd had died whilst researching him for an A Level project today. He was so young.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Christmas Past

When I first saw this window display in Libertys I did not know whether to laugh or cry the memories it evoked transported me right back to my childhood. This is, give or take a mince pie or two my gran's living room circa the mid seventies.
I loved my gran's house was a Victorian Villa it seemed huge to me as a child, lots of nooks and cranny's and an endless garden. It was very chaotic and disorganised. Shelves would groan under the weight of clutter, cupboards too were crammed full to bursting so that every time I opened a door most of the contents would spill out.
Under every cushion of every seat would be a pile of newspapers, if you placed an empty vessel down for more than an hour it would be filled with any number of useless half broken objects.
Christmas at my gran's was extra special, tinsel & paper chains headily clashed with the already busily patterned environment. I would long to go for Christmas day itself but we frequently had to wait until the afternoon or worse still Boxing day, before making the long journey down.
Of course from my Mothers point of view it was less than idyllic, she would march through the back door and round up each and every reeking dishcloth and tea towel before launching them into a pan of boiling water filled with soap powder where they would sit sterilising for and hour before being rinsed and pegged out a few pounds lighter until our next visit.
The bathroom too was grim and she would roll her sleeves up to make its use palatable. We girls of course ran straight through the back door and straight into the pantry where every single ancient tin would be opened revealing fairy cakes and iced chocolate sponges. We would leave, mouths crammed full before slobbing on the sofa to be waited on hand and foot. My father would for the entire time we stayed sleep in the corner in a winged back chair, occasionally moving to reach for proffered cups of tea. Men were kings in this house, women were here but to serve. What my Mother hated the most was her sister & co always came a day earlier and bagged the last bedroom, leaving my parents to sleep on the front room floor. Her sister would then leave for a couple of days to stay else where but make sure enough stuff was left to secure the room in their absence.
My mother was one of five and she had over five cousins who lived close by so Christmas was a big brash family affair. My gran cooked lots of traditional fare and out favourite game was to find out who would get the tiny fragment of Oxo wrapper that invariably made it's way into the gravy, trust me that in a mouthful of fillings was not nice! Oh and how high the flame would rise after she had dowsed the Christmas pudding with brandy.
I was oblivious to most of the politics of family get togethers and so enjoyed the freedom and chaos, don't forget I had an uncle just 3 years my senior and he came replete with plenty of male friends so as I got older I had even more to look forward too!

An apology. I reread the previous post and realise I may, just may, have use the stress word just a little too much. I felt very low last night and having reread it, it is clear that because I have so few friends if it were not for this blog I would have imploded last week!
This blog is now a stress free zone for this week at least, then I won't be here anyway...

Monday, 14 December 2009

The view from here

It has been such a long time since I did this journey, the last time was probably after Daisy was born and before Kitty's arrival. In those days you could buy a ticket and take pot luck finding a seat or book a seat but know if you missed your train another one would be along soon and you could at least get on it.
Now you have to book your ticket months in advance for a specific train OR ELSE which if you knew the how disorganised I was combined with the vagaries of travelling across London is not easy.
So early Saturday morning stressed, I managed to get Leyla and Kitty on the train and meet my sister, it is quicker than driving but very stressful I am not sure I will do it again for a while. Poor Kitty and daisy will however have to next week.

Mothers new house is very nice, we braved the center of York after brunch, Leyla was mesmerised by Cliffords Tower and the wall, but keeping tabs on her was so stressful in the heaving mass of Christmas shoppers Mother gave up and took her back to the house. This was after Julia had taken Kitty back who was very tired after the early start.
I felt really unwell, probably stress, so Lucy and I gave up soon after and reconvened to a nearby pub and watched the football scores. This of course really pissed off Julia who swears we deliberately leave her out of EVERYTHING she is convinced we see each other ALL the time. We both thought she had gone home not back to Mothers so Christmas dinner (which was vile and virtually inedible) was a rather strained affair.
It was lovely seeing York through fresh eyes, I wish we had had more time to show Leyla around but instead Lucy paid for them to go ice skating next to the Cliffords Tower which they loved and had to be almost dragged off the ice when their time was up . I did try to soften Julia up by treating her to a warming glass of mulled wine whilst we watched them, we then had a buffet back at Mothers sans atmosphere as my aunt and uncle arrived giving the rather highly strung family dynamic a lighter feel.

Friday, 11 December 2009

They Fuck You Up Your Mum And Dad*

Dear Mother

Thank you for your recent email which I found very illuminating, maybe a little too illuminating, and just about the cherry on top of my cupcake of a month since my father appears to be back. It did however fill in a few blanks that therapy would never have revealed, so thank God I did not bother with that.
I know if we sat in a room the memory of my teenage years compared with yours would be very different. You have always, if the subject was ever discussed, painted me as a humourless, sour, sulking monster of an adolescent. Your words at the time were more vindictive, I seem to remember your favourite was "slut" amongst other vicious put downs. I also remember the anger that occasionally spilt over into blows which I did not exchange. I have never felt so miserable as when they rained down, with my pathetic father watching but never intervening.
The worst years were the teen years, I don't remember you being so vicious when I was younger although you once confessed you did not ever remember cuddling me after my sisters were born. I used to think that your anger was with my father who spent his entire life shagging anything with a pulse was the trigger for your outbursts, including your friends as well as the mothers of my friends.
After he finally divorced you to marry someone young enough to be his granddaughter I tried really hard to make your life more pleasant, having decided to draw a line under the dark days and try and move on. We have never discussed the past and any insinuation of your vile behavior towards me seemed heartily denied by you.
I now realise that your anger was directed at my inability to warmly welcome someone I had not realised was the 'love of your life' I was about 14 at the time and distressed at the implosion of my family life. I would not have called your relationship an 'affair' My father had, I remember left us for fresher pastures at the time, but moving a new boyfriend in was probably at best naive and worst a little selfish, which when I think about it is a word you continually apply to me.
I had never realised he was 10 years your junior, and I am sorry you felt unable to leave and fulfil yours and his desire to begin a new life together, clearly your maternal instincts must have taken a hell of a battering, to have to swap someone so tender and considerate for the moron that was my father, but you stoical put the family first and I clearly paid the price mentally and physically.
As I say water under the bridge, until it dawned on me that Daisy and Kitty's father is 10 years younger than me and I vividly remember how vile you were to us when you met him for the first time. You spat out the words 'toy boy' "How dare I bring someone that young to my house" Of course I tried to smooth things over, I hate conflict, but as with every single boyfriend I have brought home, you have barely even bothered to conceal your disgust and irritation with them. You sneered at their academic achievements which were no less than yours, but you seemed to measure everyone by my fathers academic brilliance, only you were not were you? It was your lovers success they failed to match.
Of course you got your comeuppance with Emin who saw straight through you and told you what he thought of you and the way you had treated me. But all this time I have carried the burden of guilt that somehow I have let you down, that I should love you as a mother, that it is wrong to be physically repelled by your touch.
I guess this guilt has manifested itself through pity and desire to make you happy. I am so angry now, especially by how you treated the girls father, which is such a negative emotion, and yet bizarrely I feel as if a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders because I no longer have to pretend ever again. I no longer have a duty to love you or make excuses for my life. I am who I am and you should have been proud of me, you should have told me I was beautiful and clever and funny, because I was and I never realised it. I have spent over 40 years of my life believing I was ugly and worthless, not very sound foundations to build a relationship on but it has probably made me stronger, my confidence has grown through a lifetime of self depreciation.
I now realise that your European weekends were in fact romantic liaisons, you hate liars yet became a consummate one.
Clearly by hooking up with your ex lover after our father divorced you, you had already moved on and had no need of all those holidays we organised to give you something to look forward to.. Good for you. That it is a transatlantic affair is your business, although the words two faced hypocrite seem appropriate having railed against the 'other woman' all your life you have become one.

Regards Alison


Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Howard Hodgkin

Feel the studio love

Just feel the love

I LOVE Howard Hodgkin.
Much has made of Damien Hirst's recent announcement that anyone can with time can paint as well as Rembrandt, that he was no genius. Hirst's recent foray into painting has been met with universal derision since he clearly has not an original thought or idea in his head or the skill to articulate the ideas does have and best of all really cannot paint like Rembrandt.
I did laugh at a recent photograph of him sneaking around taking photographs of gallery windows. Why sneak, I do it quite openly, who cares to me what is wrong with visual note taking unless of course you want to hide the origins of your ideas. Hodgkin nails it for me with this and Hirst would do well to read and digest this.

It is not until you paint that you can appreciate the complexity of these images, they look simple but in fact they are beautifully layered and composed and if I played the lottery let alone won it, one of these would set me up for life. I would never tire of looking at one and I know each day I would see something new, there are few painters that can provide such a gift in an image and I do include most of my favourite St Ives gang in saying that.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


The lovely Belette Rouge tagged me to spill a little honesty. Mmm As a consummate liar this should be easy peasy...although once I had a think I came to the conclusion that honesty for me is a euphemism for things that piss me off. So I have tried to reign myself in a little.

1. I miss Christmas. There I said it, in fact I told him last week, I hate not having a tree, I hate not decking the hall with boughs of holly, I hate not having twinkling lights draped across the fireplaces.
I do not however miss the stress of trying to conjure up the miracle of Christmas, though. For years I tried everything to create something magical One year I took the girls to a large country house hotel the whole works. Cost a fortune, The room had a four poster bed and even had a fireplace and do you know what Kitty remembers? That Daisy and her cousin got posh barbies and all she got was a Polly pocket fairy tale castle. Seriously she has fed and nurtured that grudge for years. This year they are going to Dorset to spend Christmas with their step mothers parents, this is a good thing because both houses are HUGE one even has gold taps which is what my daughters measure success by. So pressure off, but still I wistfully gaze through the windows of others...

2. I honestly could not be this lazy without quite frankly, the most amazing assistant in the world, as I type inane mundanities she is lashed to a photocopier preparing my next lesson. I really need to buy her something big for Christmas, no?

3. I honestly really rather love walking the dog. I martyr myself daily so I pray he does not read this, the dog is currently acting as cover for a new photography project, without him I think I would be arrested.

4. Don't laugh but I am currently try to teach Leyla the grammar section of her 11 plus, I am officially crap and am only just unravelling the difference between a noun, pronoun, verb etc etc etc.. Thank you Bramham County Primary School for providing me with such a crap education.

5. I don't drink enough water, I just don't like drinking it unless I'm thirsty which at this time of year I'm not, all I crave is tea and coffee. The thing is my skin looks so much better if I do drink water, it looks far more hydrated than when I moisturise, yet I lack the discipline to keep myself in check. My kidneys too are screaming after sharing a couple of bottles of wine this weekend. Historically my kidneys are fucked thanks to some seriously shit doctors who failed consistently to treat a litany of infections when I was younger. Don't laugh but our homeopath finally managed to cure the problem, for that alone she deserves a knighthood.
I am now toying with the idea of going tea total over Christmas, I always do when I go to Cyprus, but that's because it's so bloody hot when I normally go, so all I crave is water. There are no bars or restaurants that serve my favourite tipple out in back of beyond so I will have to take what I need. Do boxes of wine travel or do they explode at high altitude? You can just imagine the look on his face as I exit duty free with cocktail cabinet of spirits, but with his sister coming needs must.

6. I love Alan Bennett and managed to watch some of his television stuff Sunday night, A Day Out is just sublime viewing.

7. I sulk if I don't get my own way

8. I did not get that job with the Arts Council, I am officially trapped in my world.

9. I wish I had worked abroad before I had children, I love being a mother but it does limit your horizons somewhat, or maybe I am just using them as an excuse. I feel that I am now wishing my life away just to start travelling, which I can only do once they all bugger off, which lets face it since Leyla is only 8 will be when I retire.

10. Honestly? If I did not eat so much chocolate I too could have a figure like Elle Macpherson. Chocolate is my downfall.

Monday, 7 December 2009

The view from here

So, Lucy phones me up and asks why I have not responded to her text. She invariably has to text me to get me to check my emails, I had forgotten to check both! She phoned to ask if I wanted to go and see the new Alan Bennett play Habit of Art, currently on at the National. I felt like I was having a bit of a deja vu moment since she had asked me a couple of months back and I had received an email with the date she had bought tickets for. She could not remember the conversation or email, but having checked her 'sent items' box she had to admit that "yes" she had indeed already booked the tickets and "yes" she had quite frankly lost the plot. I had to promise under sufferance that I would not gloat about this rather insouciant loss of memory to Mother, since we tease Mother remorselessly about her shocking ability to remember a single word we say.

Lucy then informs me that our errant father had tracked her down via her Facebook page. This was not good news, we have had no contact with him for 7 years since he disgraced himself in more ways that one. She was pissed off but I felt quietly smug that since I did not posses a Facebook account I was safe. In true panto style it was "Oh no you're not" I do not know how, but he infiltrated my flickr account. I felt sick, miserable, pissed off and totally violated. I then stupidly checked his profile, only to discover he is back not just in England but London. Obviously with his new wife who he met in China who clearly married him for his charm, wit and youthful good looks, absolutely NOT for his British citizenship, since he is over seventy and she is in her early thirties and looks younger. Wrong, wrong and very wrong. Judgemental moi ? Absofuckinglutely.
Nothing like pissing on my parade of sanity. Lucy is toying with therapy I will try to push the elephant in the kitchen to a small dark place and pray he buggers off.

Another late night working saw me yet again here

I was struck by an almost Edward Hopperesque feel to the station this late at night, although even Hopper would be hard pushed to winkle out any hint of romance from this hideous dump.
Friday saw me glued to the computer writing an essay about Othello! yes Kitty's homework.

Wills crime of passion
Self fulfilling prophecy
of affable oaf

Sadly I was not able to submit a haiku so had to write 1000+ words instead, but I think I nailed it with the haiku. I had neither read the play or even seen the play, so had to research it from scratch which alongside teaching took up my entire day.

I then met Daisy for a bite to eat washed down with a delicious Prosecco before watching the amazingly brilliant production of An Inspector Calls it is as good as they say and has just transferred to Wyndhams. We were upgraded so lost our favourite seats, better view but felt a bit hemmed in. A women in front kept making the weirdest noises as she fell asleep. On the way out someone remarked it was like sitting in front of Chewbacca, which set me off for the rest of the night.

As if that wasn't enough entertainment I went Saturday lunchtime with little sis to see The Priory on at The Royal Court. We ate downstairs in the cafe again but this time our food was sadly mediocre and a bit of a rip off, especially when they charged my sister for asking for more bread!
The play too was a tad lack lustre. First half was fine, the second half a bit flat, Like a toothless Alan Ayckbourn.

Next stop York!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Studio Love

You can see his work here
I think this is his studio in Normandy, where he settled after living in Moscow, Israel and England

Many, many years ago, in the days before we sat glued to our screens searching the Internet for inspiration, I kept folders of pages ripped from magazines postcards & leaflets. You know the stuff, your flicking through a Sunday supplement and you think, that's lovely, and out it comes.
I would then place all my bits in plastic wallets and file them. I must have had about 30 folders when I left my previous job, some were thematically coded many were not. About the time I changed jobs the Internet really took off and I kind of became addicted to using it. The folders did not languish or collect dust I would often flick through them for ideas. But invariably they became less and less used.
I have now embraced a kind of digital folder and its name is PowerPoint. I do not use it the way others do, I just use it as a place to put work thematically grouped. I have recently been scanning many pages from my folders to place into my PowerPoint areas. Some of the PowerPoint's have nearly 200 pages! but they are the best place to store images and allow students to access them. Plus it has given the work currently buried in my folders a new lease of life. Which in a round about way brings me to the studio above. I found these ripped pages in one of my folders and what an amazing studio it is. I could happily move in tomorrow. I girl can dream can't she? As she wades through the second tranche of marking with the prospect of another very late night looming.