Friday, February 20, 2009

The Night House 

Been too busy lately to read all of the poems that Joe Riley posts each day on Panhala. The kind of being too busy that isn’t just about finding gaps in time which aren’t filled with activity, but is about being sufficiently able to still the clamour in the mind when between activities. A clamour which is the echo of all that frenetic activity and worry spilling over into what ought to be the quiet spaces in between, but isn’t.

It was an accident - or so I thought – that I clicked on the link that led to this poem. I’d intended to click the next email down – a list of job vacancies - but in my haste I missed. I’m glad I did; it seems kinda relevant…

The Night House

Every day the body works in the fields of the world
mending a stone wall
or swinging a sickle through the tall grass --
the grass of civics, the grass of money --
and every night the body curls around itself
and listens for the soft bells of sleep.

But the heart is restless and rises
from the body in the middle of the night,
and leaves the trapezoidal bedroom
with its thick, pictureless walls
to sit by herself at the kitchen table
and heat some milk in a pan.

And the mind gets up too, puts on a robe
and goes downstairs, lights a cigarette,
and opens a book on engineering.
Even the conscience awakens
and roams from room to room in the dark,
darting away from every mirror like a strange fish.

And the soul is up on the roof
in her nightdress, straddling the ridge,
singing a song about the wildness of the sea
until the first rip of pink appears in the sky.
Then, they all will return to the sleeping body
the way a flock of birds settles back into a tree,

resuming their daily colloquy,
talking to each other or themselves
even through the heat of the long afternoons.
Which is why the body -- that house of voices --
sometimes puts down its metal tongs, its needle, or its pen
to stare into the distance,

to listen to all its names being called
before bending again to its labor.

~ Billy Collins ~

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Take a picture. Take a pair of scissors, cut up the picture, shuffle the pieces around on the desk so they are a random jumble of colour, shape, bits of detail. Hinting at being parts of a whole, but that whole is hidden in the confusion of cut edges, partial shapes, broken connections. That's the world in my head these days. Small scale detail still holds together, but the big picture is torn apart.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

An unshakeable belief 

Eighteen years, three million pounds, and an unshakeable belief that those who said it couldn’t be done were wrong.

That’s all it took for the first steam locomotive to be built in the UK for nearly half a century to be running today.

And, by good fortune, running not half a mile from my house.

Passers by might have wondered why I had a step-stool and a plank of wood in my hands as I walked up the path beside the railway line. A few years ago there was only a simple low post-and-wire fence to keep trespassers off the line, but the world has changed since then. Now there’s a six-foot steel-spiked fence in the way.

No matter. I plant the steps up against the fence - only two feet are on terra firma owing to the build up of ground next to the fence, but I came prepared for that; with a short length of rope, I tie the steps to the fence and voila! My personal viewing platform.

After a 45 minute wait, it was all over in a matter of seconds. Bizarrely, I barely saw the locomotive – with the camera on burst mode, the viewfinder blacks out between shots so after the first shot I was effectively shooting blind. I didn’t get to see the loco until I got home.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Against the light 

I didn’t set out with anything particular in mind to photograph, but the recent heavy snow meant that my motorbike stayed in the garage and I took the train to work; with the remnants of snow on the ground, a bright sunny morning and a longish walk through some of the back streets of central London at the other end, it seemed worth taking the camera.

The G1 is so light, compact and easy to use I can hold it in one hand, secured with a hand strap, feeling quite unencumbered as I negotiate icy pavements and dodge other pedestrians on the mile and a half walk from King’s Cross station to the office near Oxford Circus. Had I purchased the D90 as I’d originally intended, I think the bulk and weight would have meant that even if I’d had it with me, I might well not have bothered with the hassle of stopping, taking it out of my backpack, to snap shots like these. But with the camera always at the ready, it is so easy to take advantage of the fleeting images which flash across the eyeballs as I hurry on the way to work.

Did I say I love this camera?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Still some left 

(This reduced size image doesn't do justice to the level of detail this camera is capable of capturing. Click the image for a larger version, or for pixel-peepers, the full size original is here).

Monday, February 02, 2009

The most snow for 18 years 

Clearly the motorbike was out of the question. Even the trains struggled;

the signal says it all.

Central London was surprisingly busy, although I don't suppose the outdoor cafe tables had many occupants:

A few hardy souls - or daredevils - risked pedalling, but this one had more sense.

Sound advice:

The pub lanterns are almost surreally orange:

Was he opportunistic? Or wildly over-optimistic?

Don't sit still for too long...

More from today here. Best viewed as a slideshow.