Saturday, 24 August 2013


I spent some time in the garden last night, watching butterflies be replaced by moths around the buddleia bush. I breathed deep the golden-nectar scented air, and marvelled at the softness of the dove grey sky. I wonder now if it was the last whisper of summer I saw disappear with the final glimmer of the day's light. 
I am working this weekend so my alarm barged into my consciousness and jangled my nerves at its usual early hour. Although light outside, the day had not yet the strength to reach through the window glass and, for the first time this year, I turned to artificial light to illuminate my morning. 
Beyond the window the garden was wet. Neighbouring roof tiles darkened by rain and gutters dripping gently. Drizzle hung thickly in the air. The damp earthy smell brought to mind the hints of autumn colour I saw in the bracken-floored woodlands through which I walked yesterday, and the dangling clutches of elder and rowan berries; midnight purple and scarlet.
I left the windows and back door open, as it was not cold; the season has not yet moved that far from summer. From some hidden leafy bough a robin was singing sweet high notes, a little hesitant as if unsure of his voice, but growing stronger as summer wanes.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

"Un Ballo in Maschera" (The Masked Ball)

This week I have been exhibiting my photography at a fine art exhibition in my local town Midhurst, as part of MADhurst festival. MADhurst is Midhurst's annual Music, Arts and Drama festival, usually held over the week leading up to the August Bank Holiday, culminating in a carnival on the Bank Holiday Monday, and celebrating all forms of music arts and drama, featuring local people and businesses.
The fine art exhibition itself, ran from Tuesday 20th and closes this evening (Thursday 22nd) and included work in a wide variety of medium by local arts persons. One exhibitor was renowned sculptor Philip Jackson who was exhibiting his latest creation; my favourite piece in the exhibition. I love the beautiful lines and curves of the sculpture itself, and the story it conjures up in ones mind. The piece is titled "Un Ballo in Maschera"which translates as "The Masked Ball". In the setting of the Jacobean Hall at Midhurst's Spread Eagle Hotel, by the open doors to the garden, with moody lighting provided by local musician Marco, the beautiful lady with her mask captures the elegance, thrill and magical mysteriousness, of a period masked ball, of seduction, of beauty, of the simultaneous strength and fragility of a woman, with superb brilliance.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The last throws of summer

July fades almost unnoticed into August. Soon new school uniforms need to be brought, and evenings are increasingly cool. Thoughts of these are temporarily pushed from our minds and we turn instead to daisy chains and catching grasshoppers, bank holiday gatherings, waving bunting and BBQs. A noticeboard poster reads a very British sentence: "Summer fete on the green (or in the village hall if wet)".
Despite shortening days, summer spirit is high with garden parties, vintage revivals and days at the races; posh frocks sheltering beneath umbrellas and marquees from squalls of thundery rain.

One morning late in the month, we wake not to the sound of screaming swifts, for they have left our shores; we will not hear their screams again until light days lengthen. They are replaced instead by a wind that catches in the trees and heralds a change in the weather.

Whilst doing the dreaded supermarket shop this week I found myself soothing the frustration of air-miles and same-old same-old, with a guilty pleasure meander along the magazine aisle. Outside in the cool of late afternoon, light weight jackets are replacing cropped tops and the sound of flip-flops across the car park is becoming less frequent. It seems autumn has arrived in the magazine world as throughout the lifestyle and countryside section, sunflowers beamed at me from front covers, whilst their neighbours were festooned with garlands of coloured leaves, russet-hued subheadings celebrated apples and hedgerow harvests, and from between the pages hedgehogs and dormice peered inquisitively.

Walking home I pass through our local community orchard, and smile at the sight of ripening apples and pears. A scrumped plum is the most delicious thing I taste all day. Amongst the brambles, where the path winds behind the small industrial estate, a comma butterfly basks in the late afternoon sun and a blackbird pecks and pulls at finger-staining blackberries.
A few bees bumble between the buddleia’s purple blooms or linger in the lavender flowers that scent the garden as I brush past, but my sunflowers are fading, faces turning earth-wards and leaves withering to brown.  
I know beyond the town, tractor wheels and combines turn, from farm to field and field to farm they work the daylight hours, slaying the golden corn that swayed in the summer breeze, a wary eye on clouds rolling over the downs.

The remainder of the afternoon passes, humid with the promise of a storm, and it seems, almost whilst my back is turned, evening falls.
There is a rumble in the distant night and the wind blows stronger. Along the street neighbours call pets in from dark gardens, children are reluctant to sleep; nerves sing. The air is charged.
A blinding blue flash illuminates a steel curtain of pelting rain and the thunder rolls and rolls. It has arrived.
As the lighting fades and thunder is soothed, beyond the bedroom window the cooling rain settles into a steady rhythm, with a repetitive percussion beat from the overflowing gutter.

The following morning dawns all golden light, shadows and mackerel-striped sky. A flock of grey geese lifts with their strange haunting song from a stubble field. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Tale of the Loxwood Joust

A simple marquee marked the transition from the car park into the 15th century. Along the queue pedlars and jesters entertained the waiting visitors that craned their heads to see beyond the person ahead and catch a glimpse of the mediaeval world that awaited them. Smoke drifted gently up from the space within the trees, a camp-fire was being tended. The sound of cannon fire ricocheted around the meadow, signalling the start of the days entertainment. 

Midday. An expectant hush hung over the main arena, the sound of distant sword fighting and cannon and musket fire echoing from the neighbouring meadow. Suddenly a ripple of excitement passed along the gathered crowd and all heads turned towards the arena entrance as the thundering of hooves marked the arrival of the jousting Knights and their horses. The master of ceremonies stepped into the arena, pacing the rails and working the crowd with his story telling and imagery. 

Four brave Knights would battle in the joust for the rights to the land of Loxwood, to the cheers and boos of modern day peasants, ladies and lords, whose favours they carried with pride.