Saturday, 10 June 2017

Essence of Summer

The shopping mall is filled with bustle,
Peeling skin and bright-red faces
Van McCoy is playing The Hustle
Sun-browned limbs in public places – suddenly, it’s summer.

Refracted vistas; walls that waver
Bright-blue sky and plane delayed
Lip sunscreen with fruity flavour
We only find respite in shade–that’s just summer.

Braided hair and straw sunbonnet
Rose-pink dawn and evening stars
A broken flip-flop, jewels upon it
Melting tarmac, dusty cars– bring on summer.

Long, bright days and ice-cream sundae
Salty snacks and cool, sweet drinks
Short, dark night and boredom, Monday
Flaming oranges, shocking pinks –good ol’ summer.

Bright-green salads, dressings oily,
Polka dots on painted nails
Strawberries, cream and paper doily
Stripy beach bag, wind-blown sails – celebrating summer.

Swimming parties by the river,
Gentle breezes, yellowed grasses
Icy water makes us shiver
Clinking cubes in cocktail glasses: we love summer.

Sweaty nights and shirts are sticky
Lightening forks and violent thunder
Broken sleep with dreams so icky
Downpours sudden and – no wonder; it’s summer.

All too soon, maybe tomorrow
The bright sun fades, the darkness conquer
Season’s joy will turn to sorrow
And that is when we will long for – summer.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Unibond United.

My Unibond AERO 360 dehumidifying device has been in place for over four months now and I must say, it is doing a job of sorts. It has been a fascinating experience, placing that chemical tablet thingie in the plastic unit, letting on to guests that the contraption is a postmodern ornament and seeing it slowly dissolve as the tank underneath fills with blue water. The packaging tells us that said water is “salty” but I haven’t had the courage to taste it, so I take that on trust. The tablet supposedly lasts up to three months, but my tablets have dissolved all of two months – does this mean I was living in a fish tank before I put Unibond in place? Allow me calculate; the half litre that the tablet collects over eight weeks translates into three litres per year. This means that in the just over ten years since I’ve lived in my present pad, almost 30 litres of excess liquid has splashed over my carpets and curtains, has fugged my windows and run down my walls, saturating my books and furniture – I thought it felt uncomfortable in here. Multiply that figure by the 20 million or so households in Great Britain – minus the minority that uses Unibond Aero - and we are talking the Second Deluge. According to the Unibond folk, excess moisture provides ammo for “condensation, mould and mildew” and other antediluvian horrors – and it does make one think: just what is breeding out there? This could provide an explanation for the stranger organisms evident in public life – I rest my case. In spite of Unibond Aero, I still find the odd spot of mildew in my living quarters – but at least the device will stop it evolving into something nastier. Let’s unite with Unibond, now.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Calling all Colouristas

The idea for a book combining colour theory and Greek mythology, which has always held my fascination, occurred to me just over two years ago, and I have now launched Mythical Colouring. The majority of colouring books provide colour enthusiasts with patterns for essays into pure colour. However, even imagination requires a helping hand when matching and contrasting shades. The introductory notes and the guidelines that accompany every story serve as a springboard for the aspiring colourist. Each story consists of two images, an A4-sized image and a smaller – though enlarged - detail from that image. Many enthusiasts may prefer to experiment on this detail before moving on to the full-sized picture. I have also provided blank squares at the outset of the book for pure colour experimentation. Beginning with the story of a prehistoric deluge, the reader is taken through a montage of scenes from the lexicon of Greek mythology that include the pastoral worlds of Hyperion and Endymion, to the subterranean realm of Medea and the adventures of Hercules. In the accompanying guidelines, I explain how to attain the requisite atmosphere through the use of colour, and reminding the enthusiast that he or she is free to experiment.
Know the difference between shading and hatching
Hatching is useful when filling in small, concentrated areas of colour. Best done with a fine point, it is the process of drawing the pencil or crayon in short, rapid strokes. Drawn close together, the strokes will fill an area with colour. However, giveaway traces remain that suggest movement in a particular direction. Shading works best in large areas of paler colour and is usually done with a slightly blunt pencil point. Soft, blendable media give the best results. When choosing colours for each image, decide if you want to create a harmony of cool colours – blue, pink, violet, green – or warm colours red, yellow, orange, brown. You can create contrasts by placing complementary colours alongside one another, for example, blue against orange and pink or red against green, yellow against purple. You can create naturalism by colouring in earthen tones – dark and pale browns, beiges, cream and the occasional dash or orange to pick out details. Or you may want to create fantasy by adding dashes of gold and silver to create brilliance. One good way to explore colour contrasts is to look at bowls of fruit. Warm oranges, red apples and yellow bananas, lie alongside cool limes, green grapes and green apples. Look at how artists contrast warm flesh with cool marble, lay green and lemon leaves and multicoloured blossoms against blue skies. See a warm, earthen-tone boat bobbing about on a chilly blue, green and purple sea. Buy a copy of Mythical Colouring

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Kindle Surprise

Seven years ago, in a flush of ignorance over changing technology, I wrote an excoriating (and excruciating) blog on the subject of the Kindle, which still brings on a blush of shame. Not long afterwards, I acquired my first Kindle – for practical reasons - and soon, I was singing its praises. It has made life much easier in many ways. In a nutshell, I put Kindle in my bag before a plane or train journey, and have access to my reading material, downloaded books, periodicals, documents for editing, and so on. I simply adore my latest Kindle Paperwhite. And yet…and yet, I am delighted to see that sales of physical books are not only buoyant, but on the up. What follows is an unedited excerpt from my original article.
“How can you simulate the experience of going into a bookshop to row upon row of enticingly-entitled and beckoning, multi-coloured spines? How do you mimic the feel of newly-minted pages, the smell of ink, the romance of the illustrations, the glorious feeling of possession once you have bought the book? One, worrying prediction about these devices is that once they are accepted as being the ‘norm’, printed books, both new and second-hand, will become fewer in number and more expensive. Fine for a middle-class family that will boast a bookcase filled with books, and can still distribute a Kindle to each of the kinder, but what does it bode for the literacy levels of the less-well-off? Indeed, all children will be affected. One of my earliest memories is being mesmerised by the sight of a book. If Baby doesn’t see a shelf load of books over his cot for the first years of his life, then how can he grow to be a reader? And what about that inimitable experience, being read a bedtime story from a book filled with colour pictures, by Mum or Dad? And what about the playbook, that repository of endless touching, feeling, hugging? Is this entire slice of childhood to be cut out by an impersonal metal gadget, one that Baby’s tiny fingers can’t manipulate, let alone connect with what is going on on the screen? As I said at the outset of this post, I don’t see how the Kindle can replace the book.”
Well, it hasn’t and it won’t and, judging by the latest news from the publishing world (follow links to Danuta Kean and Zoe Wood), it never will. Kindle, I love you and would not be without, but nothing will EVER replace the book.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Yellow peril...

Egad – they are here, there and everywhere, bright yellow, swaying in the breeze and dancing on the high street. I am, of course, talking about those ubiquitous fluorescent, so-called hazard jackets worn by emergency workers, everywhere. And HGV drivers. And street orderlies, traffic wardens, builders, car park attendants, and nursery leaders and their little minions. Personally, I blame the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and ask: are we really doing ourselves a favour by marketing the hazard jacket as a lifestyle accessory? After all, when an emergency really does happen to happen, who can we call upon? Sure, certain groups have to be seen to carry out their duties but is it really necessary to warn us of the dangers of getting too close to nursery group leaders and their little minions – or are we a danger to them? I believe Baudrillard called it ecstasy, I mean, this phenomenon of a replacing a rarefied entity with a tidal wave of mimicry. Remember what happened in the wake of a love-lorn young couple attaching a padlock to a metal frame bridge in Paris? Now, entire edifices are threatened with collapse under the weight of lovers’ trysts made visible. Sure, certain worker groups wear other colours; red (postal), orange (railway maintenance) and pink – well, I’m certain that someone somewhere is wearing it. If you must be seen, how about bright blue or glowing green or vivacious violet? Whatever, leave hazard yellow for emergency workers, please.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Racks and Wrecks: Why I am off my trolley with buses

Will transport companies EVER put in place buses that are designed for passengers AND their shopping, luggage, buggies, children, wheelchairs and so on, to travel comfortably together - I do stress the comfortable bit. Recently, I endured a nightmare journey from Heathrow to the suburbs, on an airport designated bus. Quite simply, I was trying to look after my trolley suitcase, computer bag and handbag. Ravenous, I wanted to consume a sandwich while travelling in comfort. A not impossible feat, you would imagine, but the very few luggage spaces were already occupied when I got on the bus - at the airport, I stress - the craft being no different from a central London bus. I had no choice but to occupy a "normal" passenger seat while holding onto my computer bag and handbag with one hand, and clutching my roving-inclined trolley with the other. Every time the bus turned, lurched or even swayed slightly, I was obliged to become a human octopus, struggling to prevent my possessions from clobbering other passengers. Eventually, another "baggage" passenger disembarked and I was able to occupy his space, but not before I had become an enraged, sweating, humiliated wreck. The irony is - it does not have to be like this. When I lived in central Europe, even town centre buses were long, elegant transport cabins, with one or two seats abreast at one side, a wide aisle for walking up and down, and a floor-level rack along the other side. Suitcases leaved singly into this rack, while the smaller top rack was for lighter baggage. Sways, turns and lurches made no difference; the luggage stayed in place throughout the journey. When whatever passenger disembarked, he could simply retrieve his suitcase without disturbing that of anyone else. Best of all, the rack was bayed at intervals, leaving space for buggies, wheelchairs, walking aids, whatever. This seating arrangement enables the passenger to sit alongside his or her secured luggage or child or invalid companion, and allows him or her to eat, read, listen to music and actually enjoy the urban voyage. Of course, I am aware that in chilly, old Great Britain, any sucker unable or unwilling to pay £50 or so for a taxi deserves every discomfort and humiliation that the system can throw at him. If we have to haul luggage onto those boxy, inflexible, rack-free "passenger" buses, all I ask is that designers leave enough room - in the downstairs deck, at least - between and underneath seats, for suitcases - please.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

My Big Fat Greek House

The writings of Vitruvius have always fascinated me – oh, how I love to explore his Ten Books on Architecture, and absorb his instructions on how to build city walls that resist battering rams, and learn how the Roman race has the keenest wit and share his musings on ancient cosmology. I quote: “The heaven revolves steadily around earth and sea on the pivots at the ends of its axis”. Beautiful, Vit; your sound bites rival those of another, 2,000-year-old tome. On a recent perusal of TBOA, I discovered the word “gynaeconitis”. No, it’s not yet another, weird down-there disorder, but the name given to the half of the Greek house where women (and slaves) sit and talk and weave their cloths. By implication, the androiditis is where the men converge and entertain their guests. This knowledge set me a-wondering if the modern house could be gendered? For example, how would you rate the wet and slippery bathroom, the clammy kitchen with its cooking odours, the dry, white and uptight living room, and the soft and lush bedroom with its array of scents and colours? I have my opinion on those, meanwhile, I’m returning to Vit’s TBOA, to explore subjects such as “scamilli impares” and to consider building a hoisting machine according to the principles of Chersiphron.