Monday, 30 April 2012

Trending, in a small way

So, Radio 4's The Reunion covered the building of The Globe, on London's South Bank of the Thames.

As it started, and while it continued, I notice there were a substantial number of extra views on my posting about the Sam Wannamaker Festival, just over a year ago.  As a reult of the Beeb, people had searched, and found the Trees!

When I spotted it, I found this leap quite exciting.  This must be what the twitterati feel like when they are trending...

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Pubs Around Nunhead 19: The Ivy House

So, after many rumours and stays of execution, it seems that The Ivy House in Upper Nunhead has finally closed.  See the posts on Transpontine, for example.

It has apparently been sold on by Enterprise Inns, and there is some discussion that it might be turned into residential properties by the new owners. 

However there has been an application for Grade II listed status lodged (in early December), so planning permission might be hard to come by.  Watch this (and other) spaces.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Nene Valley Railway, Today

On our way South on the A1 today, we needed a break...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Poem of the Week

The Convergence of the Twain
Thomas Hardy

In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.

Steel chambers, late the pyres
Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.

Over the mirrors meant
To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls — grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.

Jewels in joy designed
To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.

Dim moon-eyed fishes near
Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: "What does this vaingloriousness down here?" ...

Well: while was fashioning
This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything

Prepared a sinister mate
For her — so gaily great —
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.

And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.

Alien they seemed to be;
No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history,

Or sign that they were bent
By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one august event,

Till the Spinner of the Years
Said "Now!" And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

Saturday, 14 April 2012


I have a vague memory that some years ago I corrected the Wikipedia entry on Nunhead by adding a reference to the 343 bus - that key transport connection for Upper Nunhead.

So I was very pleased to see the 343 mentioned in today's Guardian (albeit in the Loomus cartoon, offstage, being chased by a giant dog...)

Monday, 9 April 2012

National Trust Niggles

So, yesterday, to meet some old friends, we went to Chartwell.
Now I was quite taken by the house and gardens, and I learned lots about the Churchills that I didn't know before. 

But,  so much of the man's life was just glossed over and ignored by the National Trust exhibition.  It was a simple panegyric - all praise and light, no nuance, no shade.  And much the worse for it. 

They asked us to join, and I'm afraid (even if I'd wanted to), I just couldn't,  given the unashamed hero-worship of the presentation they offered.

So we never saw the whole person - the bad as well as the good.  So, much as I liked the house and gardens, I came away with something of a sour taste in my mouth about the NT.

Mind you, seeing freinds was good.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

All at Sea

Well, much as I liked the award-winning power ballad 'Man or Muppet' in the middle of the film, I'm afraid the new Muppet film was a little disappointing.  As had been said elsewhere,  they used to be anarchic, and now they are too safe.
Which is a shame.  What has happened to the sheer joy of Muppet Treasure Island?

On the other hand, we went to see Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! yesterday and really enjoyed it.  Aardman (Peter Lord). Terrific animation. Sillier.  Much recommended.

Poem ot the Week

Man or Muppet?
Bret McKenzie/The Muppets

I reflect on my reflection
and I ask myself the question
What's the right direction, to go
I don't know
Am I a man or am I a muppet
(am I a muppet)
If I'm a muppet then im a very manly muppet
(a very manly muppet)
Am I a muppet (muppet) or am I a man (am I a man)
If I'm a man that makes me a muppet of a man
(a muppet of a man)
I look into these eyes
and I don't recognise
The one I see insi-i-i-ide
It's time for me to decide
Am I a man or am I a muppet
(am I a muppet)
If I'm a muppet, well I'm a very manly muppet
(a very manly muppet)
Am I a muppet (muppet) or am I a man (am I a man)
If I'm a man that makes me a muppet of a man
(a muppet of a man)
Here I go again
I'm always running out of time
I think I've made up my mind
Now I understand, who I am
I'm A Man!
I'm A Muppet!
I'm a Muppet of a man
I'm a very manly Muppet
I'm a Muppety Man!
That's what I am...

Friday, 6 April 2012

XKCD April Fool

For those of you who might be interested, from Nunhead, on IE, Win XP, maximised Window size, 1152 by 864 pixels, sitting upright, I got the Snake.

Gray Tree

The same tree looked very grey against a mournful sky yesterday morning.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Poem of the Week

Musee des Beaux Arts
W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel's Icarus for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Making an Exhibition

I very much prefer figurative art, in all its various forms. It strikes me as a more inclusive, mor engaging and formally more enriching approach to the world than more abstract endeavours.

It was therefore with some trepidation that I visited the new exhibition abou the Nunhead Abstract Expressionists at the Nunhead and District Municipal Museum and Art Gallery, in Gellatly Road yesterday.
This was a strange experience for me - like anyone who has dabbled in the history of local artists, the work of the various groups that grew out of the Nunhead Pals after the First World War is well known.  Subtly influential and in some ways groundbreaking - despite their inarticulacy - these artists, and particular the loose collective known as the NAE, have been the subject of some scholarly attention of late.

And the N&DMMAG have many of the original works on display, from the Skehan Hoard and elsewhere.  So despite my generalised dislike of Abstract Expressionism, this should be a good show.

Unfortunately however, despite some wonderful art - by which, I must admit, I was profoundly moved - what the exhibition presents is a comprehensive failure of curation.  A wholly wasted opportunity to tell the story of some of Nunhead's brightest stars, and a travesty of intellectual thought and feeling.

Ostensibly, what the exhibition purports to offer is a historical guide to the story of the NAE's rise to fame and eventual slide into obscurity.  This is told in a series of set-piece displays, supported by short textual introductions and the obligatory multimedia.  However, in the desire to tell that story the art itself is quite neglected.  No label discusses technique (eg the new use of impasto and ciaruscuro that so shocked the Vorticists when they discovered it), no explanation is given for the materials they used (an implicit revisioning of the cheapening effects of Communism decades before Orwell). 

In summary, they are presented as historical quirks - oddities outside both the avant-garde and the artistic mainstream - when in fact they were one of the key enginehouses powering the New British Art of the 1920s and '30s.

Further, in what purports to be the intellectual underpinning of the exhibition, a rather naive piece about 'Slippages,' there is minimal discussion of the foundational impact of Saussurian linguistics on their subsequent deconstructions of language and utterance.  An inexcusable lacuna.

There is talk of a redevelopment plan for the N&DMMAG.  On the strength of this exhibition, they would do better to get their intellectual house in order before investing in bricks and mortar!

The rest of the Museum is, of course, very nice. 
 This is art of a recently-discovered 15th Century fresco.
This from the History Wing.
 An ancient Nunhead Roman pavement - beautifully conserved.
 The current crop of Nunhead artists are well represented.

And the Museum is slowly garnering an International reputation, stretching far beyond the boundaries of Southwark.

So I had a cup of tea and a cake at the majesterial cafe, run by the inestimable Mrs Brew, and then went home, slightly shaking my head.

The Exhibition of Nunhead Abstract Expressionists at the Nunhead and Diistrict Municipal Museum and Art Gallery closes at 6pm this evening.  Just look for the signs opposite Skehans.  In fact a preliminary trip to Skehans would probably help with any visit to the N&DMMAG.