Saturday, 27 February 2010

Got A Ticket to Ride

Went on the train to Liverpool, in the rain, yesterday,  There was no lingering on the waterfront as the wind gusted off the Mersey, just enough time to take the picture above as we negotiated the building work going on to the side.  Today it has been bright blue skies, how contrary is our weather.

The reason for the visit was not outdoors, but inside warm and dry.  The Rothko Seagram murals are on display at the Tate until 21 March and this was our second attempt to see them. Last time we went it was a Monday, we discovered that this is the day the Tate shuts, Grrr.

The murals were as wonderful as I remembered which was many years ago in London. The Tate's room has subdued lighting and the walls have been painted grey  The hang is visually most effective and encloses you with six of the paintings.  The only quibble I would have was the open entrance detracts from the atmosphere as you can hear the hum of the people coming into the building.  But the painting still alter your brain waves in the same way as you gaze on and through them.  Rothko wanted the visitor to have the feeling of being caught in a room with the doors and windows walled-in shut so this hang does not quite attain this.

What I did not realise until I bought a book about his work in the shop (no visit is complete to a gallery without a bit of retail therapy) is that he originally painted 40 works in all for this commission but these are now scattered all around the world, although there is another enclosed room in Chiba-ken, Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art in Japan.

Leaving the Tate we lunched and then walked towards

china town.  The grey sky makes the building stand out quite well in this photo or you could have

 a black and white postcard version complete with Evel Penguivel.  This was part of Liverpool's Year of the Environment and the different types of penguin were used to symbolise and highlight the impact we all have on climate change.

Then we arrived at our next destination

the Anglican cathedral to see the exhibiton on the modern icons 'Icons in Transformation' by Ludmila Pawlowska but also I had never visited the cathedral.  It was one of the last ones to be built in this country, the first part was completed in 1910 but it would be another 50 years before completion.

The architect was Giles Gilbert Scott and here is his memorial on the floor looking towards the altar and small east window.  The late poet laureate and church lover John Betjeman said "this is one of the great buildings of the world...the impression of vastness, strength and height no words can describe".  He was right, the space and light are awesome, even though it was a dull day the interior was wonderfully bright and the ceiling heads for heaven with its huge span and space. So different from the medieval cathedrals I am used to, but modern construction has solved all the problems they had with holding up the weight of a vast building, however it is a continuation of the same tradition and workmanship.

We did not take the trip up to the tower to view the city from the top, this might be something to be left for a summer's day. 

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

ABC Wednesday - Fort

I was going to do Freezing for F, but at the last moment thought, no winter has gone on for far too long, what about something from the dimly remembered summer. So I turn to a day at the beginning of September when the temperature was 28 degrees centigrade and the skies were clear blue, oh we can only dream of that at the moment in these northerly climes.  Although it has to be said, the skies are blue at the moment, but its a cold zero degrees blue.

Seen through the trees in the distance is the fairytale castle that is Fort La Latte

Do you recognise it?  Perhaps if you have ever seen the 1958 film The Vikings with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis as unlikely Vikings.  This Fort was one they were battling over, however it was supposed to be in England somewhere, Northumberland I think,  but filming in France would be a much more attractive option.  Kirk Douglas attempts to storm the castle here

Fort La Latte is on the Emerald Coast from this viewpoint it is just a dot on the far promontory, but

looking the other way is one of the famous parts of the coast Cap Frehel  The colours at this time of year are of the vivid yellow gorse and purple heather.
The Cap Frehel's two lighthouses, old and new.  But until, as Stanley Kunitz calls it,
"the iron door of the north" clangs shut

then dream of fairytale castles, warm seas and sandy coves and the fluttering of butterflies, for there were many in this floral heath, but too fast for me and my camera.

Follow the link to ABC Wednesday and see more words beginning with the letter F

Monday, 22 February 2010

Sheep in Snow

The  fresh snow came as a surprise to humans and sheep alike.  I think they are saying got anything more interesting to eat than this cold grass.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

ABC Wednesday - Egypt Bay

A sandy beach, a stretch of water, time to take a dip?

Oh look the sun has come out, maybe just take in some rays, and the view....

is delightful interesting of Canvey Island Oil Terminal.  Although over there is also the home of Canvey Island's own Dr Feelgood who are still rocking after all these years, you can't keep a good band down.

The exotically named Egypt Bay is on the Thames estuary.  These are the Halstow Marshes or Cooling Marshes which are on the Isle of Grain, Kent.  If the name Cooling seems familiar that is because this is the countryside described by  Charles Dickens in Great Expectations. They certainly were cooling when we were there as it was a very blustery day, but sunny, unlike how Dickens describes it when Magwich is hiding in the marshes.  But given a winter day I think it would be exactly how it is in ones imagination.
This little bay would be very useful for smugglers landing contraband, the convicts might have been those housed in hulks in the Medway, which is at the other end of the island, or the ones of Dickens imagination. Real or imagined their fate if escaped and caught was to be hanged, to deter others.  And curlews, well the marshes are a birders idea of heaven.  There are numerous birds of prey, waders,(including Avocets), and field birds like lapwings.  But its most famous inhabitants are at the Northward Hill RSPB reserve. Stand at the top of the hill or sit and view the marshes and woods as great grey winged birds glide, here are about 100 nesting pairs of herons, but also the largest colony of little egrets in the country.

This end of the Isle of Grain is a mix of grazing land, woods, water and marsh with big skies but also

go through the gate and cherry orchards are there by the reserve and apple and pear orchards too.  And if visiting at night you may hear a nightingale sing.

Escape, visit the ABC Wednesday meme where there will be more words beginning with the letter E


Monday, 15 February 2010

Il Divo. The spectacular life of Giulio Andreotti

A film directed and written by Paolo Sorrentino, 2008
117 minutes, English subtitled version.
What I know about Italian politics could probably be written on the back of an envelope.  If I were to sum it up it would be that  in the twentieth century its leaders seemed to change on a regular basis. The kidnapping of Aldo Moro in 1978 by the Red Brigade and his death because the government refused to negotiate.  The death of the Vatican's banker, Calvi, found hanging beneath a London bridge, was a window into a dark and murky world of power, politics and religion.

This film has expanded my knowledge.  The director Paolo Sorrentino has made a brave attempt at encapsulating the second half of the 20th century politics in the years of 1991-92.

The right wing Christian Democrats had been in power since 1946 and Guillio Andreotti had been elected president of the council of ministers seven times, and also held some of the great offices of state.  One position he had not occupied was President of the Republic and this film follows his quest for election.  He has his own clique and there is also a link to the shadowy P2 Masonic Lodge.

In the past, Sorrentino shows, opposition to Andriotti has been dealt with by making people disappear in various ways, explosions and machine-guns to name but two.  Murders like that of the journalist Mino Perocelli.  Links with the Mafia are rumoured.  In fact this film has been tagged as "The Godfather meets Nixon".  There are an overwhelming cast of characters which are introduced with subtitles

but Andriotti has many complex entanglements.  I did flag in the middle of the film for about ten minutes as more and more information was given, it seemed overloaded and without direction, but once this was over we were led into the scandal and criminal trial of Andreotti as his political life unravels, and things picked up for this viewer.  This is the scandal that will break the party.

The acting of Toni Servillo playing the part of Guilio Andriotti is amazing.  As the lead and main protagonist one would expect him to dominate the film, but he does more than this and portrays a dark sinister person as he scuttles down the corridors of power, like a giant spider manipulating people and events. But this is not a one dimensional view as he shows the continual physical suffering of headaches, his relationship with his wife Livia (Anna Bonaiuto) and his secretary.  An impression is given of a person with huge intellect, a rapier like wit, an icy will, who only shows his interior life to very few people. Perhaps his raison d'etre could be summed up in his own words "Power is the disease one has no desire to be cured of".

For the non Italian it is difficult to remember all of the people, some stand out like Pomicino (Carolo Buccirosso) who parties and always seems to have a woman on each arm, Cardinal Angelini (Archille Brungnini) of the church and the reason for the Christian in Christian Democrats, always a strange concept to me as a northern European. I would think a second viewing might seperate a few more, but it does what good films can do, give an insight, and make you want to know more.

Sorrentino has said "all Italian people grow up knowing Andriotti".  He has been called many things such as The Fox, The Black Pope, The Hunchback, Beelzebub and of course Il Divo.  His character remains enigmatic, did he really regret the death of Aldo Moro, did he really break with the mafia. More questions than answers but this film presents a view of the man.

One last word for the cinematography, of Lucca Bigazzi, which helps create the atmosphere, hughe looming classical interiors, dark rainy streets and sparce rooms of power.  A nice mix of classical and sharp staccato modern music completes the film.

For a more informed view of the film read Philip French's review

Here is the English trailer

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Through A Glass Darkly

I discover that there are many fans of stained glass windows from my post yesterday so here is another window from the Saint Sauveur church in Dinan.

This one shows the life of Saint Roch (click to enlarge) and I think the reason I chose this particular window was because Roch was the patron saint of the town. However when I tried to check this out I did not find anything apart from his life story and that he was born in Montpelier. He also shares this window with Saint Fiacre, an Irish saint, and Saint Crepin. It must have been quite nice to while a way a long sermon looking at the saints stories.

What else did I learn, well Saint Roch is also invoked for the protection against plague, his day is August 16th and he is often portrayed with a dog, which in legend licked his wound and brought him bread when struck down by the plague. Therefore he is also the patron saint of dogs and those who love them.

Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine

I also found a saying associated with him "Apres Saint-Roch aiguise ton soc" the literal translation is 'after Saint-Roch sharpen your plowshare', I wonder if that mean that it is harvest time soon after the saint's day, or it could mean something completely different. A saying like 'il pleut des cords' (its raining rope) has an equivalent in english of, its coming down like stair rods, but I don't think we have one like the Saint Roch saying.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

ABC Wednesday - Dinan

This week's ABC goes from last weeks home waters to continental Europe and the town of
Dinan. The best way to arrive is supposed to be by boat, along the Rance, but we took the old railway viaduct which now is the N176 to arrive at the 13th century ramparts. Enter the gate,
walk down narrow cobbled street and

become surrounded by 15th and 16th century half timbered houses. Some now converted into shops selling flowers but some
just displaying flowers. This citadel of Dinan has three kilometers of wonderfully preserved late medieval houses, Romanesque and Gothic churches, enough to feed the mind but also at least 30
cafes, creperies and restaurants, together with numerous cakes shops and a most wonderful 'il gelato Italiano' shop, Le Pole Nord, selling more than 50 flavours of ice cream; what a perfect place to spend a dull showery day. No blue skies in these photos.
Despite being a tourist destination it manages to combine that with the air of a living and breathing working town. Some similar places such as Colmar seemed preserved in aspic and fully taken over by tourism, but Dinan,, possibly because its centre has no significant museum or art gallery, seems to have avoided that fate. It also has
little shops. This was shut for lunch but look at that trompe l'oeil, well we are in France.
As well as brilliant colour in the stained glass of St Sauveur church it also has a cenotaph containing the heart of the knight Bertrand du Guesclin, Eagle of Brittany, who spent much of his time fighting the English in the 100 years war. Parts of him are buried at four different locations, he may be in a bit of a pickle come The Resurrection

if it is like Stanley Spencer's Resurrection in Cookham Churchyard. But as we are surrounded by the past but amongst the living
there is still time to take the tourist train down to the river harbour or perhaps sit at the table and relax with a glass of wine.

Dash over to ABC Wednesday meme to see more words beginning with the letter D

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

ABC Wednesday - Coniston Water

Coniston Water one of the Lake District lakes. If you click to enlarge then a red sailed yacht is gently cruising between the shore and Peel Island on a calm warm May day when nature is fresh and green.

The year turns and we drift
into Autumn and look from the cairn on the top of High Light Haw over the Water to Coniston Old Man. This is a great place to have lunch on the flat rocks below and feel complete contentment.

The shape chugging its way along Coniston Water is the steam yacht Gondola

originally built in 1859 and beautifully renovated. The photo is from here where you can also see the wonderfully plush and comfortable 1st class saloon, gleaming engine and golden prow. It plies its trade up, down and across the lake, calling in at

jetties on both sides. But not on a Monday in mid Winter. One of its calling points is Brantwood,
once the home of the Victorian artist, critic and author John Ruskin. The gardens are lovely in spring and summer, bare here in winter, but lots of logs ready for the fire or perhaps a boat boiler.
There are bays and inlets on the east side

popular in the summer for picnics, swimming and canoeing. Some people cannot resist
leaving their mark.

This might be called my 'local' lake and when I'm passing to the north I always look at the
seats at the end as I drive past. Now these might be called concrete brutal, but I'm looking for the water. The more it rains the more the water rises and this is like a measure. At the extremes of weather the water can rise over the slabs and just below the seat. When it reaches that point it is probably flooding elesewhere. There is the reason the Lake District is so green.

But the water has receded now so you can sit on the seat and contemplate the view although
the sun was not quite able to break through the clouds yesterday, but it is indeed a lake for all seasons.

To join the rest of the ABC Wednesday crowd go here and you will see lots of words beginning with C.