Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Boating on the River Lea

The Lea (Lee) is a navigable river running from the Chilterns that, as it reaches London, becomes canalised. Largest of the Thames tributaries, it has been written about many times, most notably by Iain Sinclair. It is a liminal river, so if you like your day's boating alternating between flooded gravel pits, woods, meadows, and almost wild camping, and industrial depots, food distribution centres, speed racing tracks and pylons, which indeed have a beauty of their own, this is the one to cruise.

It is packed with canal boats and barges, and towards the River Stort, river boats. The locks, patience required at these, are variously automatic, semi-automatic or manual, but mostly the latter, so expect to develop some serious muscle. Alternatively you can try smiling nicely at watching weight lifters and give them an excuse to show off their hours in the gym to more practical effect.

Urban legend has it that there is a crocodile in the Lea, fond of taking Canada geese and swans, but we saw nothing more exciting than said geese, swans, moorhens and coots. Although, as dusk started to fall, a kingfisher swooped in front of the boat and quickly back into the cover of a willow. That was uplifting.

There are two kinds of boaters - those with permanent moorings that can run to such luxuries as washing machines, barbeque decks, small gardens, club houses and electricity, and those who have to move their boats from the public moorings every two weeks or risk being fined by the Canal and Rivers Trust and its large team of volunteer wardens. Fair enough. Them's the rules, and many young people are living on the water in London in this way. The bearded and tattooed hipster quotient is quite high.

There could not have been a better day than last August bank holiday to chug up the Lea. Twenty eight degrees made the locks hard and thirsty work. Bob Marley on the sound system in celebration of Carnival turned a few appreciative heads as we passed by, or as they passed us by on the cycle path. And we haven't quite got over the sight of a boat with what seemed to be hemp growing in pots on its roof. Ah, London. Ah, summer.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Giacometti at Tate Modern

It's been an age since Giacometti had an exhibition in London, but what a disappointingly small one this was. There were too few rooms. I reached the end before I had really started.

Tiny sculptures that my old eyes can barely make out, especially if they are tucked behind poorly lit glass, large works that in all honesty I have seen many times before, and some of which are not actually that interesting, and the dark palette of his paintings, had me scratching my head, again.

Yes, I get it, working and reworking and paring down to the essence, with a limited number of sitters, but perhaps something more cheerful? Easy for me to say, as I did not live through the horrors of war or the immediate post-war reality of Europe.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Another good reason to go to Birmingham

Wandering recently, I found myself in the church that became a cathedral in the town that became a city, and huge surprise, the stained glass was designed by Burne-Jones and manufactured by William Morris. Who knew?

There are four huge panels, three behind the altar and one at the rear of the cathedral, all in luminous red and blue. Interestingly, and out of the usual chronology, the ascension is directly behind the altar and the crucifixion to the right.

My favourite was the birth of Jesus, especially the shepherds and the heavenly host appearing above a very gothic wood, not bare grassy slopes.

Worth a detour, even if you have to wait a few minutes for a wedding party to vacate the premises.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Soul of a Nation - Tate Modern

Generally excellent, expect it to be absolutely packed out, so be patient and you will have the chance to view the work in the gaps between people. This is a must see show of black art from 1963 to the early 1980s, covering the civil rights movement. It introduced me to artists I have never heard of, let alone seen. That is shameful as some of the paintings are wonderful.

There are films and much printed matter to read, so expect to take it slowly. The only part that lost my attention was as the exhibition moved away from its political focus to art in general. OK abstraction is abstraction is abstraction, but this seemed to be going beyond the brief unnecessarily.

My favourites were the gilded paintings and the remade African art, voodoo altars and the like. I am still astonished that such protest and response has taken place in my lifetime. A reminder as I get on that much has changed and for the better, but that much still needs to change. Ten out of ten.

Poetry submissions

Gosh, it's hard work. Akin to having another job. You write the work and then you have the complicated and time consuming task of sending it out to journals and magazines asking their kind, overworked and underpaid editors to consider it for publication.

You have to keep track of what you've sent to whom, avoid multiple submissions, follow the formatting and other submission guidelines to the letter or be summarily rejected. There's no excuses for not doing as you are asked, but when you are having a marathon session it's enough to drive the poor poet crazy.

Thank goodness, for the most part, for submittable, which certainly cuts down on all that paper, postage and packaging. I don't know why more journals don't switch to it now. On environmental grounds alone, it is surely the way to go, no?

I think the only reason for not using electronic means for submissions and reviewing work must be to maintain a barrier - only the very determined will apply by printing and posting. But equally only the well off will apply - postage is a factor and it's not cheap, and have you seen the price of printer ink these days?

I'm still umming and ahhing as to whether it is worth sending my work to places demanding such an investment on my part when the chances of me knowing quite what was in the editors mind when she started to put the edition together are slim, and bearing in mind that very few publications actually pay their contributors.

It's a thought in progess. I shall think on.