Wednesday 30 September 2020

Interlude … Tamarisk, Old Man’s Beard … last of the summer …


Walking down to the lonely sea and sky, as the last of the summer unwound – before being brutally interrupted with the almost unannounced coming of an early winter … perhaps rough autumn would be a better description of the much needed torrents of rain and hail we had here …

Old Man's Beard

 … the hedgerows bubbled over with Old Man’s Beard and waving crusted salt cedar heather-coloured Tamarisk fronds …

 … gorgeous sight to the eyes framing the English Channel, with its rocky shore guarded by pebble embedded groynes …


Tamarisk fronds

I’ve been reading about Linnaeus … the great naturalist and taxonomer (Carl Linnaeus (1707-78), who invented the system of giving all living organisms two Latin names.


It was he who gave Tamarix Gallica, the French Tamarisk, its botanical classification in 1753, while it had been in cultivation since 1596.


Gaz Nougat from Isfahan, Iran

How do they know: I guess recorded as such … though, to me, of more surprise is that its juice is an ingredient for Gaz – a Persian nougat delicacy from Isfahan, central Iran.  (White nougat is delicious … )


Old Man’s Beard … what a name … for our only native clematis (Clematis vitalba), which in folk lore is also known as the baccy plant – not something I’d heard of before …


Looking down towards the seashore

… I spotted this (to me) anomaly when I read an article by one of our broadcasters, Monty Don, … known as ‘the nation’s gardener’ … he’d learnt as a kid from ‘an old boy’, a farm labourer, that Old Man’s Beard stems could be smoked, after they were peeled, showing the confined woody tubes, which could then be lit …


… bliss … the two kids could loaf with a smoke  under a hedge mulling over their future … before they became old enough for a proper ‘straight’ – as cigarettes were called.


Cuban cigar - showing rolls
It seems that once technology in the 1880s caught up … affording a packet of cigarettes led to smokers rejecting roll-ups.  Over the next 100 years we know what happened … yet in War needs must and at times the poor resorted to finding other ways to have a smoke.

I’m using this ‘interlude’ to post some photos before the ‘rough autumn’ really sets in … and to see if I can control Blogger – at least enough to not cause me any more ill-dressed posts … which I do not like!


Virginia Creeper turning - early September

As you might expect I couldn’t but help but add a few anecdotes in to the post … my mother, who would have been 100 in a couple of weeks, told me about this plant as we drove my grandmother around the lanes of Cornwall in the early 1970s …


… the other garden plant names I mainly remember by that osmosis of youth – growing up … but Old Man’s Beard (or Traveller’s Joy, as it was also known) has always stuck in my memory – as my Ma’s hedgerow plant.


One of the many paths going
down towards the sea

Here’s to a positive ending to this post … we shall see … as long as I centralise the photos 'we're' ok ... for today that will do ... the next one will be the last of my London visits - to the Tutankhamun exhibition: it was wonderful!


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday 25 September 2020

We are the World Blogfest # 41: Flock Together …


Covid strikes, businesses wonder if they can keep going, people are anxious … how to destress …

Ollie Olanipekun's green
woodpecker that inspired him


… one man was using nature, then started taking photos of birds and putting them onto his Instagram page … to his surprise one commenter identified each bird …


… communication started – they were of the same age (mid-twenties), both from London … then set out for a walk together … and not long after that “Flock Together” began …


"Flock Together" - c/o Zaineb Abelque
Ollie Olanipekun, heads up a creative agency … his new friend Nadeem Perera, a sports coach, had taken to birdwatching as a teenager to help himself through a turbulent teenage period …


The collective is a sharing ‘flock’ for people of colour … Perera is the bird specialist – always on hand to identify and add to knowledge about each species; Ollie encourages openness – where they share their thoughts on life and talk frankly about experiences … as he says:


Black people, in particular can be pretty bad at talking about their emotions … so the main thing I want to achieve is to support people of colour who have been going through such a rough time” …


It’s a cross section of creative-people … who can share, join in, generate ideas … or just find tranquillity – which being in nature gives you …

“You don’t have to be anything more than what you are” – quote by Nadeem Perera …


The collective has only been going since April and I hope they’ve had a happy summer … they are certainly helping many …


… with plans to visit schools and appropriate organisations … they will be expanding their reach … with trips out, always keeping the local walks going, while making sure there are no barriers to disadvantaged backgrounds.

That's a Blackcap ...  

They seem to be having fun and to have established firm, supportive friendships … which I think is just wonderful … going above and beyond for others … the word is spreading – other (people of colour) birding, walking or hiking groups are coming about …


Ollie and Nadeem enjoying themselves - as a 
promotional photo by Zaineb Abelque

… as they say in due time – no doubt their ‘open-air-bird-doors’ will spread … but for now they’re happy with their ‘Flock Together’ of gaggling humans.


This is a perfect example for a We are the World post … helping people ease out of the Covid darkness and gather mental strength ready for the light release (that surely has to come) in 2021 …


We are the World Blogfest

In Darkness, Be Light


Flock Together: Urban Birdwatching in London - c/o Hype Beast - and I would like to acknowledge Zaineb Abelque's photos from the Hype Beast article ... thank you ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday 21 September 2020

London Visits pre-lockdown, Tate Britain and Steve McQueen … part 7 …


I was off south from the Ladbroke Estate area to the National Gallery of British Art – now known as Tate Britain.


Millbank Pier - Tate connections

I hadn’t realised there’s a river boat connection between the two Tates … probably to be used only when I have plenty of time in London – rarely, if ever.


We need to go back to Tate Modern to explore Steve McQueen’ s exhibits … I didn’t stop for long to look at the 14 exhibits … some slides, mostly film and video … during February and March  there were some workshops –which slid in before the Covid curtain came down.


My approach to exhibitions is usually not to rush to do the write up – because over time I can learn more and don’t need to cogitate while I’m at the exhibition.


The link for the downloadable
brochure is below

I know who Steve McQueen is … as I’d been to see his highly acclaimed film ‘12 Years A Slave’ (an 1853 slave narrative memoir)– but knew little else – the medium is almost beyond my remit.  So this exploration has been interesting … and I can satisfy my own interest now – yet I can let us see relevant websites where we can learn more.


McQueen, who is of Grenadian and Trinidadian descent, was born in London in 1969 … fortunately, after some school institutional racism, his creativity gave him an outlet … and he studied art and design at Chelsea College of Arts, then fine art at Goldsmiths College, University of London – before honing in on filmmaking and video art.


He (c/o of Tate Modern brochure) is celebrated for his uncompromising vision … as his art combines an experimental approach to the moving image with a sensitivity to the social and political conditions we live in.  Many of his works are poignant portraits of place and time.


I rather wish I’d had time to explore … but now looking at the brochure (download below) … these are two that I’ve picked out (descriptions c/o the brochure):


Western Deep (2002)  The TauTona mine in South Africa, known as ‘Western Deep’, is the world’s deepest gold mine.  Employing more than 5,000 people, it operates twenty-four hours a day.

The film begins in complete darkness as the miners descend three-and-a-half kilometres (2.17 miles) underground.

McQueen documents an intense work regime where the temperature can reach over 90 degC,   accompanied by jarring sounds created by the mechanical equipment.  Western Deep is a hellish representation of labour that makes the silent resolve of the miners all the more powerful.


TauTona Mine logo
Having been down a mine – hardly any depth – I can appreciate what McQueen has done here … the film must awe inspire … and expose us to the horrors of earning a living.

(Running time 24 minutes – video, colour, sound)


End Credits (2012 – ongoing) is an ongoing project dedicated to the African-American singer and actor Paul Robeson (1898-1976).  A prominent civil rights activist, Robeson was blacklisted and put under surveillance by the FB from 1941 until two years after his death.

McQueen’s film includes thousands of documents from his FBI file, including annotated redactions acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. 

The documents roll past like the credits of a film, while voices on the sound track read from the documents out of sync with the image on screen.

(Running time 5 hours 38 minutes continuing video play - the audio goes on for 14 hours+)


Paul Robeson

I leave you to check out the available downloadable brochure describing the other 12 exhibited entries …  


Duveen Galleries showing some of the
billboards - they stretched along the whole
wall space of the galleries
Right – back to Tate Britain … where McQueen had/has another exhibition … this one is his epic portrait of London’s year 3 pupils (age 7/8) presented originally on billboards across London – but brought together into the huge Duveen galleries space at Tate Britain.


One of the less formal groups -
possibly from a special needs school
Again words taken from the blurb: Year 3 is considered a milestone year in a child’s development – when they start to be more aware of being part of a bigger world beyond their families and friendship groups.


The individual class photos are a microcosm of society, and were blown up into 600 monumental billboards or as here at the Tate gathered together in an epic group portrait, they are a testament to London’s great diversity.


Overview of a few of the class
photo groups
Every primary school in London was invited to take part in the project.  1,054 schools of every kind – state, independent, faith and special needs schools – took up the invitation: all in the form of a traditional class photo … 76,146 faces from the schools – that’s two-thirds of the city’s entire population of seven-to-eight year olds – an unapologetic celebration of multi-cultural London.


There’s true delight … on the faces of these children and their teachers pays testament to the work each photographer did to make them feel comfortable …


Duveen Galleries
courtesy of Rikard Osterlund

… then there are the reviews … wonderful descriptions … skewed ties, missing teeth, checked summer dresses, woolly tightsgrinning cheery kids - various websites to take a look at.


There may be no single meaning to “Year 3”, but that gives the portraits a social significance – which will reflect from the future back to the year 2018/19 when the portraits were taken.


Lastly coming this Autumn a miniseries:


Black Panther poster -
Letitia Wright stars
Small Axe – a British American anthology series, created and directed by McQueen is set to premiere on BBC One, and Amazon Prime Video.  I’ll leave you to look … three episodes are scheduled to open the 58th New York Film Festival on Sept 25th (Friday), while the Mangrove episode will open the 64th BFI London Film Festival on October 7th , 2020.


John Boyega by Gage Skidmore

However you might be interested to know that Letitia Wright of Black Panther fame, as too John Boyega of Star Wars fame both star … for more information see Wiki.


I will be keeping my eyes open for ‘Small Axe’ here on our screens in early October.


There’s a lot of exploring to do from these exhibits … and a greater understanding about Steve McQueen’s services to the visual arts … for which he received a knighthood in the 2019/20 honours list.


Photo taken in 2009
We have one last exhibition to see … up the road, on the way back to Victoria Station before my train home.  My timed ticket was 4.30 … so little hurting legs again put one foot forward – towards the Saatchi Gallery and the Tutankhamun treasures … and got lost!  Such is life … the day was worth it …

Steve McQueen (director) ... c/o Wiki ... 

Tate Modern - McQueen Exhibition ... the guide is downloadable from here ... 

New York Times article on McQueen ... 

"Year 3" exhibition at Tate Britain ... 

Small Axe (mini series) ... details re opening Film Festival opening dates in New York and London ... 

PS - sorry this is a mess ... but blame it on you know who = blogger ... I suppose I'll adjust ... really time-wasting ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Tuesday 15 September 2020

London Visits pre lockdown, Frestonia, Ladbroke Estate memories and an art exhibition … part 6 …


In this country you go from the sublime to the ridiculous … so much change, so much hidden … while Anna’s art exhibition has titles including ‘Watching’, ‘Staging’, ‘Casting’, ‘Establishing’ 'Propping', and more …


Three canvases on display at gallery

In the 1970s I was living a little to the east – yet during my time … there was an attempt by the residents of Freston Road to establish the Free and Independent Republic of Frestonia … 

who knew, not me …


… the squatting residents failed in this attempt but did go on to set up a housing co-operative with the Notting Hill Housing Trust …


The People's Hall,

At that stage in my life I wasn’t that curious, or that brave – I wasn’t a rebel … nor am I now – but I tend not to follow the crowd – so this part of ‘town’ in the late 1970s was beyond my brain’s remit!


Entrance to 
Frestonian Gallery

As I look and read up about the area: it’s fascinating … as I can appreciate how talent comes in all forms that leads to change and thought – that I, of the 3rd age, understand a little more today – and that’s come from blogging and the internet – where my eyes have been opened to much else in the world.


So this tiny motley site in the 1980s became a creative hub for writers, artists and musicians, as well as cultural activists.


Casting - from Anna's exhibitoin

It also as you can imagine became a fervent nest of human vipers … upsetting the establishment of greater London …


… the residents held a referendum on declaring independence  (94% approved) – and – even more interestingly today perhaps for us Brits – were in favour (73%) of joining the European Economic Community – now the European Union.


First edition - 1904
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Geoffrey Howe at the time expressed his support – saying “As one who had childhood enthusiasm for Napoleon of Notting Hill (– by GK Chesterton), I can hardly fail to be moved by your aspirations”.


Let’s go back to simpler times … Frestonia had its own flag, postage stamps (honoured by the Post Office); passport stamps for visitors; a national newspaper ‘The Tribal Messenger’, as well as an art gallery ‘The Car Breaker Gallery’ – within the confines of the Republic’s area of influence.


The Frestonia National Film Institute was also formed; its first screening being – appropriately – Passport to Pimlico* and a film of the Sex Pistols.   (*about Pimlico suburb being declared a legal part of the House of Burgundy – released as a British comedy film from Ealing studios).


The Clash (an early English rock band) recorded their album Combat Rock in Ear Studios (also known as the People’s Hall); while they and Motorhead practised in Frestonia’s rehearsal studios.


The Clash’s music was often charged with left-wing ideological sentiments … and were dubbed by the New Musical Express as “The Thinking Man’s Yobs”.


I have put some links at the bottom … as I’ve been so interested looking into Frestonia … but let’s move on to the art exhibition I went to see: my reason for being in Frestonia – albeit forty years too late!


Lower third of Anna's work
'Jacob's Ladder in Chichester Cathedral

I’ve shown you Jacob’s Ladder – Anna Bentley Freeman’s exhibit under the title ‘Descent’ being set in Chichester Cathedral in 2016 … and here was another exhibition that I could visit and offer Anna some family support. 



This exhibition entitled ‘Order and Chaos’ … deliberation and spontaneity – where she has depopulated her canvases …



… the flea market scenes have been purposefully emptied out of human figures … as too the carefully staged museum ‘interiors’ of cities around the world … bringing order to the often ramshackleness of the flea market scenes.


She loves the baroque – as seen here in the qualities of vibrance, grandeur and a certain sensuality present in all things … giving the exhibited works that splendour of colour so often found in ‘museums’ and flea-markets …



I was entranced … so will let you peruse … if you would like to look at the Gallery’s exhibit site.



Next – we’re off to Tate Britain … where Steve McQueen – the British film maker – had an exhibition on … and I’ll elaborate on his works at Tate Modern that I skated over.


Thanks for joining me on these various parts of my one day in London town earlier this year – I’m glad I’ve extrapolated on the whole.

Anna Bentley Freeman at the Frestonian Gallery - overview of her exhibition ...  

Anna's Jacob's Ladder artwork in Chichester Cathedral ...

Frestonia ... 

The Clash ... 

Passport to Pimlico - an Ealing Sudios comedy film

G K Chesterton's 'The Napoleon of Notting Hill' published 1904

This is still not quite right ... but better than it was on publishing - this is the new way!!  (new blogger)

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 8 September 2020

London Visits pre lockdown, Piggeries, Potteries, Dovecotes and Equidae … part 5 …

We move west from Arundel Gardens (built 1862/63) … where from the title you can hold your nose as the stench assails you … probably until the late 1800s …

Ladbroke Grove in 2006 - full of
Carnival goers ...
To the west is Ladbroke Grove a (new) north-south main route established by the Ladbroke Estate over forty years: 1820s – 1860s after the infamous Hippodrome failed … further west from ancient Porto Bello, which wandered through rough pasture land.


1823 plan for the development
of the Ladbroke Estate - an
early plan:  it consists of a large central
circus with radiating streets and garden
squares (or paddocks).  {Interesting
naming ... circus and paddocks - perhaps
the plan gave Whyte the idea for
the opportunity to build
the Hippodrome}

This was the depository for all peoples at the lower end of the scale of life … those ‘dossing down’ as they attempted to make a living in the ‘hum-drum’ developments spreading out from the Hyde Park area … tradesmen of all sorts … handymen, carpenters, woodworkers, builders, labourers, etc …

… then to add to the mix there were the locals trying to make a living with their piggeries, dovecotes, chickens … set up near the brickworks on the heavy clay soils of the Hippodrome – useless for horses, but wonderful for bricks.

Brick lining for the sewers in the late 1800s

The horse-racing had established stabling, places for carts … for the horses as well as the developing trades needed for the Great Exhibition, Hyde Park, in 1851 and subsequent building expansion as it spread westwards.

In the booklet ‘Arundel and Ladbroke Gardenthe houses were described as of great architectural merit … built using bricks from that heavy clay found in quantity just to the west of Ladbroke Grove, and no doubt by the local navvies desperate for work on the new housing.

Great Western Railway (broad gauge  -
Metropolitan Class) 1850s .... very early:
(the tube now is narrow gauge) 
It was at this time that the railways were being built, later the tube (Underground) lines were being added, and the sewage system … 

River Thames and marked in black are the planned
sewers for London.

... Bazalgette’s sewer system … a necessity in 1858 when cholera became rife in England.

The 'Silent Highwayman' on the
effluent filled River Thames in the 1800s

All effluent was left to trickle away into streams and tributaries before reaching the main river of London ‘The Thames’.  

One even went under Buckingham Palace kitchens … before common sense and realisation kicked in.  Foul … by the way it was only 160 years ago …

Beehive Kiln - all that remains of the
brick kilns of the 1800s

The bricks were a major and integral part of London’s development in the 1800s … houses, sewer tunnels, railway and tube works – bridges, tunnels, embankments – all used brick linings …

The Piggeries, Chickens, Doves and Pigeons would have been a large food source … vegetables and fruits would have been brought in along the lanes – Porto Bello, and similar … sheep, geese and cows out from the rural fields …

Vegetable stall at Borough Market
in south London ...

Not much remains to remind us of these times … but my tired legs took me westwards – it would have been kinder if I could have walked straight over … 

... but no – I found myself in the morass of recovered footpaths – I too zigged and zagged along … once again getting lost.

I ended up asking – I have a smart phone, but don’t much like using it! – I did eventually find my way through.

Making Skep Beehive shaped
baskets in England
I didn’t go looking for ‘the extremely rare Beehive kiln: so-called because of its domed roof, similar in appearance to the beekeeper’s straw skeps used to catch swarms of bees and also the inside appearance being like a honeycomb’.     (see above)

Today Pottery Lane is in an area of one of London’s most fashionable and expensive neighbourhoods … but in the mid-19th century it lay at the heart of the wretched and notorious slum known as the “Potteries and Piggeries”.

As with most modern cities … the residents of today tread on the land that dirty and dissolute vagabonds used to exist on … ever hoping for a better life.

George Orwell lodged in Portobello
Road in 1927
So much change in such a short time … it was interesting to, in my mind, realise that to the west of where I used to live (Arundel Gardens) is probably more refined now than life in that northern part of the Ladbroke Estate.

Having found my way over … we now come across an area and its squatter residents trying to establish an Independent Republic in 1977 … well that I didn’t know …

Portobello Road curving away
… with, of course, some other fascinating snippets of London life – it’s now quite upmarket … and we will get to the art gallery after we’ve explored the squats …

The Programme for the
Summer Olympics 1908

Beyond the next north-south main route lay another development … set up in the early 1900s … White City – an exhibition area for the Franco-British Exhibition 1908 and the 1908 Summer Olympics: 

... our first Olympic Games to be held in Britain (again, a note … Rome was selected as the host city – but Mount Vesuvius erupted in April 1906 devastating Naples … funds for the Games were diverted to the reconstruction of Naples – Britain came to the rescue).

An illustration from the frontispiece of
Orley's Farm - illustrated by
John Everitt Millais (1861)
So our dissolute and vagrant opportunists had plenty of choices to make a living, joining forces with the early building entrepreneurs of the 1900s.

Life is interesting … I’m so glad ‘I sweated my poor feet and humbled my hips’ to get over there … I’ve stumbled on rather a lot …

Pastoral countryside ...
to the urban areas of London

Well I’m stopping now … interesting snippets coming up as well as some stunning art work …

HorsmansWest London – a family’s archive of builders covering the changing of the guard in the Ladbroke Estate area … views of Portobello in its early days ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories