Mar 15

Winter shorelines of the north

The winter shore is a magical place partly because there are no trippers, in fact, there are few if any people at all. This opens up space for the birds, especially winter visitors fleeing here from fiercer conditions farther north.

'Opened up' it certainly is. There are wide expanses of shore, earth, sea and sky raked by wind, rain and a slanting sun. Dusk is even better. When I was much younger, I would go down regularly in the winter - a three mile walk from my home in Prestatyn - when home from school or later after work. Even though I now live in soft Devon, a big part of me remains resolutely Northern.

These walks came back to me this winter in North Devon, I don’t know why apart from loving northerly places, and I wanted to crystallize the remembrance of those lonely beautifully melancholic walks with a poem, Winter shorelines - it contains this stanza:

The winter beach was my escape from home.
Life-frayed decades have passed since there I’d roam.
Myself, birds and a lonely cold refrain
Would release my ‘little idiot brain’.
Where I could wander and be truly me;
Then came a Sibelius symphony.

 

 

 

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was dying just as I was beginning to live; he has spoken directly to me ever since. A critic, Olin Downes, in 1913 said about his Fourth symphony, my favourite, "Sibelius speaks of grey skies and silent expanses of lakes and forests, of bristling crags and winds and supernatural sounds in a wild land." And "[It] is the solitude of a man alone with nature, bitter against fate, cursing the heavens."

Much later, in the year of my birth, he said Sibelius had "...gone too far and remotely into the fastnesses of his own spirit, following a path from which there would be no returning; that had lost touch with his fellow man."

The doyen of Sibelius's critics, David Hall, said of his "... grand, solitary ... mood. That mood, and its sombre but intense beauty, are still heavy upon us as we try vainly to communicate in words the quality of Sibelius' Fourth." It is an "evocation of the stark and the superstitious."

Hall is right. My poem does not try to do that but is just a personal connection.

Nov 26

Long awaited painting.

My resistance finally broke down and I tackled a study done after a break of 18 months. This the second attempt; it's rough round the edges but it's been a struggle feeling a way back into managing thick paint. The actual sunflowers had long since expired, so I needed recourse to memory, pre-knowledge and imagination. Below the main image is a detail.

 

This is a detail:

Oct 14

Painting in a new home

Painting in a new home: Collection of Kate and Andrew Harrison.

 

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Poetry

Please have a look if you have time. I'd very much value your feedback - easiest to do via the link here.

 

We saw two hedgehogs


We saw two hedgehogs feeding side by side
And it wouldn't be our fault if they died.
They had been grunting through the summer night
Safe from traffic, we thought they'd be all right
In an island garden bordered by woods.
Each evening we fed them specialised food;
Put in a plastic box which was surplus.
And they went straight there first night, without fuss.
But far too nervous to come out in light.
Such has been their anthropogenic plight.
And the reasons for this bloody plight are
Modern farms, strimmers, poisons and the car.
And remember bonfires roast them alive
As one did a Guy on November Five.

North Devon, 12 October 2018

 

 

Sep 10

Epitaph for the badger. A new poem.

Epitaph for the Badger

A snarling dark shape in the depths of night,
Blundered into whilst on unknowing paths,
Reduces careless ignorance to fright;
In others, perhaps, causing mirthless laughs.

For sure, there are few to be had today,
Farmers and ministers have seen to that.
While hunts sabs and patrols, try as they may,...

... read more

Sep 4

A new exhibition

The exhibition with ceramicist Eilean Eland is currently on at the RHS Gardens, Rosemoor through September until October 7th. I'm showing some of my flower paintings; Eilean has her exciting organic inspired ceramics. We hope to see some of you there.