Monday 29 November 2010

" Because it's Cold " is No Excuse...

In this case, the job had been planned for a while. New heating/air-con for the office, and because the contractors were pushed for time, or didn't like heights, or something, and didn't want to take the old outdoor units down, or fix the structure for the new ones, I apparently volunteered to do it. Amazing the number of things I volunteer for without being aware of them. So this morning, first job was a bit of snow clearing and gritting, by which time the big green thing was warmed up and ready to go.
The new units are lower down because um. because the fitters don't like ladders. Or green things.
Bare hands on aluminium ladders, that sucks the warmth from your bones on a minus degrees morning. But I never got the hang of doing stuff with nuts and bolts and wrenches with gloves on.

Ladder and platform? Well, our driver had to go away and do something else, so the ladder was the vital pathway for delivery of hot tea and more cutting blades.

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Sunday 28 November 2010


Temperature 17 miles east, last night, -12 deg C, 10.4degF

Temperature last night at Llysdinam, Wales (170miles), 0 deg F, -17.8 deg C.
The North Pole, at the same time, was -14 deg C.
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Saturday 27 November 2010

Freddy the Rat Perishes Revisited

Why? I'm reposting this from  2007, because all of a sudden there's a cluster of hits via google and the question in the google searchbox?  "what is the poem freddy the rat perishes about?".
Look, kids, just read the damn poem. It is what it is, Freddy the Rat fights a Tarantula, who has been terrorising the creatures of the newsroom.  He seeks to stop the tyranny, and he is not afraid of the spider's venom as he has already eaten poisoned cheese. With his last act he saves his friends.
Is it an allegory of the underworld of New York in the 1920s? Maybe. The only person who could say for sure is the writer, and he died in 1937, so there's no point in asking him.
So. Poems? The one thing we can be sure of in a poem, is that our perception of it will not exactly mirror that of its writer. That's the whole story of art. It asks questions, leaves possibilities, and every time we read it, there's a slightly different story.
"Oh yeah!", you say "Well that's not what my teacher says, so who do you think you are to disagree?" Me? I'm a human, and thus as well qualified to have an opinion on Freddy the Rat as anyone else. And that's my advice to you. Read the poem, form an opinion. Stop asking others what it's about, ask yourself.
If you want to learn more, read about the writer, Don Marquis. read about the America he lived in, learn about the world outside his windows, learn about the people who read his column, and of course, read all the other stories he wrote.

The story of Freddy was not written in a vacuum, it was one of a whole series, written by Archie the cockroach, who was a re-incarnated free-verse poet, living in the bottom of Don Marquis' typewriter, and writing his poems and stories by jumping from key to key, in the night when no humans were around.
Of course, he could use no capital letters because he couldn't jump on the shift key simultaneously. Oh. Yes, sorry, I forgot that many of you have little or no idea what a typewriter is, let alone have used one.
A steampunk manually powered keyboard, all levers and fulcrums, no screen! stamping out letters on paper at a speed even the slowest crummiest printer would find laughable.

You can see one in a museum, I guess. Here's the poem. Oh. By the way, typewriters only had one font, until the nineteen seventies, when the IBM selectric came along.

The poem's displayed here in a type-like font

"Freddy the Rat Perishes"
By Don Marquis, Published in "archy and mehitabel," 1927

listen to me there have
been some doings here since last
i wrote there has been a battle
behind that rusty typewriter cover
in the corner
you remember freddy the rat well
freddy is no more but
he died game the other
day a stranger with a lot of
legs came into our
little circle a tough looking kid
he was with a bad eye

who are you said a thousand legs
if i bite you once
said the stranger you won t ask
again he he little poison tongue said
the thousand legs who gave you hydrophobia
i got it by biting myself said
the stranger i m bad keep away
from me where i step a weed dies
if i was to walk on your forehead it would
raise measles and if
you give me any lip i ll do it

they mixed it then
and the thousand legs succumbed
well we found out this fellow
was a tarantula he had come up from
south america in a bunch of bananas
for days he bossed us life
was not worth living he would stand in
the middle of the floor and taunt
us ha ha he would say where i
step a weed dies do
you want any of my game i was
raised on red pepper and blood i am
so hot if you scratch me i will light
like a match you better
dodge me when i m feeling mean and
i don t feel any other way i was nursed
on a tabasco bottle if i was to slap
your wrist in kindness you
would boil over like job and heaven
help you if i get angry give me
room i feel a wicked spell coming on

last night he made a break at freddy
the rat keep your distance
little one said freddy i m not
feeling well myself somebody poisoned some
cheese for me im as full of
death as a drug store i
feel that i am going to die anyhow
come on little torpedo don t stop
to visit and search then they
went at it and both are no more please
throw a late edition on the floor i want to
keep up with china we dropped freddy
off the fire escape into the alley with
military honors


Tuesday 23 November 2010

Tonight's Scene From my Window

Four hours ago there was a screech of tyres followed by an almighty bang. A car was smashed up at the road junction a few houses away. There was a lot of angry shouting and a crowd of about fifty people out there. Somebody yelling "Get out! get out!", and not in a sympathetic way at all.
A short while later, ambulances, (at least two, plus paramedics), fire crews, and eventually police arrived. I just looked out again. A big truck-crane, more police, men in yellow coats... police tape across the road by my front gate, and a bored looking police officer telling both traffic and pedestrians to turn around and seek another route.
Looks like they'll be here a while.

Update: Car was a stolen Renault Clio, out of control, during the early evening rush, when commuters seek to bypass the main routes via our leafy road. The car came sideways out of a cross-junction, and somehow missed the evening line of cars, it shot across the road, spinning and smacked sideways into a tree, wrapping itself around the tree and smashing a cast-iron telephone-cable junction-box and uprooted a four-foot iron bollard. Two men are seriously injured in hospital... others mysteriously evaporated before police arrived. the car had to be cut open to get the rear seat passengers out. ~There's bark damage about eight feet up the tree. I'm all for car-thieves getting killed during their escapades, but it's only luck these guys didn't kill some innocent commuters. And the tree. the tree. I get very angry on behalf of trees. It's been growing there for a hundred years.
The driver probably won't get found.... unless he's dumb enough to take his injuries to hospital and claim he got them falling downstairs.

Good night all.
"World Outside Your Window" Tanita Tikaram


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Sunday 21 November 2010

It'll Soon Be Time..

...for Santa to start thawing them for another festive season.
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Why the Long Face?

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A Few Thoughts on Thanksgiving.

Here in Britain we have no such holiday, so this post refers to the American Thanksgiving.

Does it ever occur to you that Thanksgiving in the United States, has its roots in a group of illegal immigrants who, ill prepared for the country in which they settled, survived only because of the welfare and assistance freely given by the very people they later disposessed, given out of stores to which the immigrants themselves had never contributed.

Even that first thanksgiving was possible in part because Chief Massasoit's men hunted down five bucks to be roasted.

So, America, stop for a moment and ask yourself, what, today, would be your treatment of those illegal settlers from Plymouth?

Thursday 18 November 2010

The University Museum Escape Committee

From the front room of The Eagle and Child, St Giles, Oxford.

The Eagle and Child is commonly referred to as the "Bird and Babe" (other, less palatable variations on the name are known). About fifty yards away to the left of the front door, is a very good second-hand bookstore, run by Oxfam.
The pub belongs to St John's College, (as does the Lion and Lamb,  on the other side of St Giles). It's been a pub since about 1650, just after the civil war.
In more recent times its claims to fame include having had me as a regular customer in the mid seventies, and prior to that, being a regular meeting place for a group of Oxford folk who enjoyed writing; they were known to each other as "The Inklings". The best known of this group were C.S. Lewis, writer of, amongst other things, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, followed by a host of other Narnia stories, and J.R.R. Tolkien, best known for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
I can report that it still serves a good pint of beer.
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For RDG.

I couldn't get you a big red Ford Truck, will a little red Morris Fire-Engine do?

p.s. It's got a bell that rings!
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Bicycle Parkour

And some of the beauty of Scotland, thrown in for free.

Words that Potters Use, or "Why on Earth Do We Call it Throwing?" By Dennis Krueger

This article was first published in Studio Potter,  Volume 11, Number 1 (December 1982)

Posted here by permission of the author.

Subsequent to this article, Dennis and I exchanged a few letters, because I'd collected a number of scandinavian and Finnish words related to pottery,  and we also discussed the existence of old norse words in the dialects of northern England.  (much of what I was taught as a child was 'slang' or in some way was not proper english, turned out, when I arrived in Iceland not to be slang at all, but the old norse words still being used by the descendents of vikings who landed a thousand years ago, and built farms, settled the land, married the girls of the Brigantii who were in this land before them.)

Dennis spent many years as a potter, and also founded a business called Krueger Pottery Supply, in 1988, in St Louis, Mo.
I've visited their website, and recommend a visit for U.S. potters.
Dennis Krueger is mostly retired now, but the business is still in the family.

"When a person changes professions one carries the knowledge and experience of the profession left behind into the new profession. In my case the old profession was German language and literature; the new one, pottery. I knew that language, like any other attribute of man, is in a constant state of flux. Anyone who tries to read Chaucer, or even Shakespeare, in its original form can see the enormous changes that have occurred in English just since the Middle Ages. I knew that language has a history just as political events or personalities do, and I knew that most European languages can be traced back to Indo-European roots that actually predate writing.
When I first began making pots, I was naturally curious about the new words I was learning - words which didn't seem to make much sense. Until then, I had thought grog was a rum drink, slip was something 'twixt the cup and the lip, and I wondered why on earth wheel work was called throwing. Since I had the skills in etymology to answer these questions myself, I eventually got around to doing just that.
One of my initial discoveries was of great personal interest. In graduate school, I had been told by one of my professors that Krueger means country innkeeper. Krug (not Stein) is the German word for beer mug and a Krueger is the man who serves beer mugs. This is indeed one definition. The other is that a Krueger is the man who makes beer mugs: Krueger means potter. No wonder I had such an affinity for clay! When I finally explored a larger number of potter's words, some patterns began to emerge. Within the flux of language some areas change rapidly and some resist change. Much of the specialized vocabulary of pottery has resisted change for the simple reason that the activities and objects described have changed so little over the centuries.
I shall begin with the words that appear in Old English (500-1050 A.D.), although many have even older roots.
Clay appears in Old English as claeg and means exactly the same thing it does today. To find the root for clay, we have to go back to the Indo-European root *glei- meaning to glue, paste, stick together.
To throw. Potters at Marshall Pottery in Texas describe their work at the potters wheel as turning. They understand only the modern meaning of to throw and do not use it to describe their work. However, the Old English word thrawan from which to throw comes, means to twist or turn. Going back even farther, the Indo-European root *ter- means to rub, rub by twisting, twist, turn. The German word drehen, a direct relative of to throw, means turn and is used in German for throwing. Because the activity of forming pots on the wheel has not changed since Old English times, the word throw has retained its original meaning in the language of pottery but has developed a completely different meaning in everyday usage. Those who say they throw pots are using the historically correct term. Those who say they turn pots are using more current language. Both are saying the same thing.
Glaze and glass come from the same root - the Old English root glaer, meaning amber. Amber, as everyone knows, is a "pale yellow, sometimes reddish or brownish, fossil resin of vegetable origin, translucent, brittle." (The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 1967). For the English-speaking world, glass - and with it glaze - must have come into use at a time when amber was a commonly recognized substance. Since amber was a substance much like glass in appearance, the word for amber - glaer - was transferred to the new substance.
Kiln derives from the Latin word culina, meaning kitchen or cookstove. Culina was introduced to England by the Romans in the first and second centuries A.D., managed to survive the Anglo-Saxon invasion of the fifth and sixth centuries, and showed up in the Old English forms cylene or cyline, meaning large oven. Culina has retained this specialized meaning ever since, and nowhere is it used to denote kitchen. Its cousin, culinary, is of much more recent origin. Its first written appearance was in 1638, and its closeness to the classical Latin form indicates that it was reintroduced to English by sixteenth century humanists.
Slip has a history like that of to throw. It derives from the Old English word slype, a relative of slop, and its original meaning is liquid mud. Common usage retains a hint of this meaning in the verb to slip, and in the common adjective slippery. As a noun, however, slip means liquid mud only to potters and ceramists. Everyday language has completely lost the meaning of slip as it is used in pottery.
Pot, potter, pottery. These words do not show up in England until late Old English or early Middle English (1050-1450). There are forms of the word pot in Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Middle Low German, Old Norse, Swedish, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. However, no forms exist in Old High German or Middle High German. This suggests that the word pot comes from some vulgar Latin derivative of the classical Latin verb potare, to drink. Medieval Latin uses pottus for drinking cup; classical Latin uses potorium for drinking cup; and classical Greek uses poterion for drinking cup. The Oxford English Dictionary, however, disputes this etymology and claims that the origin of pot is unknown. Since the former explanation is better than no explanation, I shall opt for it. Pot comes eventually from the Latin word for drinking cup. It seems likely that the words pot and potter were introduced to England at the time of the Norman conquest (1066). Pottery seems to be a much later addition to English than pot or potter. Apparently it was adopted from the French poterie in the fifteenth century. By the way, the -er of potter means one who makes, and the -ery means the place where.
Since pot, potter, and pottery come into English relatively late, it is logical to assume that they displaced another set of words prior to their arrival. After casting about for a number of possibilities, I hit upon crock, crocker, and crockery, and decided to see how old they are. Crock goes back to Old English crocc - crocca meaning earthenware pot or pitcher - and is related to Icelandic krukka, Danish krukke, Swedish kruka, Old High German krog or kruog, Middle High German kruoc, and German krug! The ultimate origin of crock is unknown. There is a written record of the word crock, dating from about 1000 A.D. Crocker is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "potter." The earliest written record of crocker occurs around 1315. The existence of Crocker today as a surname is strong evidence that it is quite old. Crockery is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "crocks, or earthenware vessels, collectively earthenware, especially domestic utensils of earthenware." Its earliest written appearance was in 1755. This suggests to me that until the arrival of the Normans in 1066, crock and crocker were the common Anglo-Saxon terms for pot and potter which were pushed aside by the new terms imported by the French-speaking Normans in 1066, but which lived on with a specialized meaning. Crockery, however, seems to be a much later coinage, probably formed by analogy to other nouns ending in -ery. Crockery did not come into common use until the eighteenth century.
Four words whose origins are unknown, but which are probably quite old, are to wedge, bat, grog, and saggar. Their monosyllabic forms would seem to indicate Anglo-Saxon roots, but no evidence exists to prove that one way or the other. Even the Oxford English Dictionary sheds no light on their derivation.
To wedge. The Oxford English Dictionary contains the following under to wedge:
wedge, v. in 7 wage (of obscure origin; the modern form is probably less correct than the earlier wage but cf wedge Sb 4). Trans. to cut (wet clay) into masses and work them by kneading and throwing down, in order to expel air bubbles. 1686 Plot. Staffordish. 123 (Potter's clay) is brought to the waging board, where it is slit into flat, thin pieces . . . This being done, they wage it, i.e., knead or mould it like bread.
The latter part of this entry contains the date, 1686, of the oldest written record of the word. I suspect that the word is much older and that if it is related to wage, it may simply mean something like make, as in the expression "to wage war," but that is just speculation on my part.
Bat. On bat there is even less information than on wedge. The Oxford English Dictionary defines bat as a "lump, a piece of certain substances" and calls its origin obscure.
Grog. As used by potters, grog must be a figment of our imaginations because it is not listed in any of the major dictionaries I consulted. (It is found in An Illustrated Dictionary of Ceramics.) The Oxford English Dictionary lists only the meaning for the rum drink. Perhaps if potters who read this would send sharp letters of protest to the editors of Random House, Oxford English, and other dictionaries, this deplorable situation could be corrected.
Saggar. Saggar seems to be a corruption of safeguard.
Many words are derived from the names of the places they are found, or from the way they are made or used. Ball clay is a type of clay found in Dorset and Devon in England, so named because the clay was cut into balls weighing about thirty pounds. Bentonite is named after Fort Benton, Montana, where it was first mined. China is named after the country of its origin. Kaolin is of Chinese origin and derives from kao ling, meaning high hill - the place it was first found. Faience, the tin-glazed earthenware, was made at Faenza, Italy, in the sixteenth century. maiolica is named after the island of Majorca (formerly maiolica), which was a transfer point for work produced in Valencia, Spain, and exported to Italy. Mishima may derive from the radiating character of certain almanacs made at Mishima, Japan, or it may have been acquired by association with the island of Mishima where the ware was transshipped from Korea. Potash - potassium carbonate - was originally produced by burning wood in a pot. The Dutch coined the term potasch in 1598, and it entered English in 1648. Raku means enjoyment, and the ware takes its name from a seal engraved with this word, which was used to mark early pieces. It is also the name of a series of potters - Raku I-XIV.
The derivations of some words that came into the language in the Middle English period (1050-1450), or later, are quite amusing.
Porcelain. Chinese porcelain was reputedly first introduced to Europe by Marco Polo via Italy. The Italians therefore had the privilege of giving it a European name (although some say it was the Portuguese who named it). They called it porcellana. In French it became porcelaine. The English took it over from the French and dropped the final -e. The Italians probably kept the origin of the word a secret; it is unlikely that the English would have had anything to do with it otherwise. Italian porcellana originally denoted the sea shell concha veneris. This Venus' conch shell is hard and white, and perhaps the Italians named the Chinese ware porcellana because they thought the shell was ground up and used in the body, or because of the similarity in hardness and whiteness. More interestingly, the word for the seashell itself comes from the word porca, pork. The shell was so named because of its similarity to the genitalia of the sow.
Celadon is an equally interesting word. Most of the dictionaries say that the name comes from the character Celadon in Honore d'Urfe's novel Astree. d'Urfe for his part is said to have borrowed the name from the Latin poet Ovid. The character in d'Urfe's novel always wore pale green ribbons. The connection seems tenuous at best, and no one can explain how the name was transferred to a pale green Chinese glaze. An Illustrated Dictionary of Ceramics offers this much more likely derivation: "The name is probably a corruption of Salah-ed-din (Saladin), Sultan of Egypt, who sent forty pieces of this ware to Nur-ed-din, Sultan of Damascus, in 1171."
Stein. When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Freiburg in the Black Forest area of West Germany, I remember being asked by a friend back home to send her a beer mug. I went to a shop and in my best German (which at the time was none too good) I asked for a Bierstein. The saleswoman kept asking me to speak English. I kept refusing because I was determined to speak only German. She only figured out what I wanted when I pointed to the object. Later, I realized that Bierkrug is the correct word, and that Stein means stone. How the German word for stone has come to mean mug in America is a mystery to me. I still feel embarrassment for not having known the difference that day in Freiburg.
Direct borrowings from other languages are common in the English language for pottery. We have already seen kaolin, mishima, and raku. Some others are ceramics, engobe, sgraffito, and temmoku. Ceramic is of recent French origin. It was borrowed from ceramique in the nineteenth century. Its root is the Greek word keram(os), potter's clay. Engobe derives from the French en- plus gober which means, literally, to gulp, take in the mouth, hence to coat something with saliva. From this original meaning to its current sense is not too great a leap. Its earliest appearance in written English was in 1857 in Birch's Ancient Pottery. Sgraffito is borrowed from Italian and derives ultimately from the Greek graphein, to write or scratch. Temmoku is used to describe black-glazed stoneware cups and bowls made during the Sung dynasty (960-1280) at Chien-an (Honan province), China, and so called by the Japanese who sought the ware for use in the tea ceremony. I do not know its meaning or origin.
Modern technology has introduced a number of new words to the language of pottery. Opax, superpax, and zircopax are all based on opacifier. Fiberfrax is from fiber and refractory, kaowool from kaolin and wool. While these are brand names, they are often also used as common names.
Finally, I decided to see where art and craft would lead me. Art goes back to the Indo-European root *ar-, to join. Craft derives from the Indo-European root *ger-, to twist, turn. I was tempted to try to make something out of the difference but gave up the idea, knowing that it would be futile.
In summary, the potter's language has a core of words that go back to Old English roots, and beyond, which have changed little in form or meaning over the centuries because the objects and activities have changed little. Many new words have been added - largely from foreign sources - describing new techniques, new bodies, new technology, or new objects so that there is a continuous enlargement of the core vocabulary: a sign of a healthy and vigorous craft."

One word that appears in Dennis' article is "claeg" as the old-english word for clay. Certainly here in Yorkshire it never died out, my grandfather and father would describe the clay-mud of the ploughed fields as "clag", if it sticks to your boots, in thick, heavy clumps, you might describe your walk as "claggy going".
Thick fog is sometimes referred to as claggy weather, and I've seen pilots write "I could see nothing through the clag".
Back in the days when I did pottery demos and talks, I used to delight in a bit of naughtiness, and shock. There are quite a few naughty things that can be inferred or implied in a pottery demo, the Women's Institute members would go pink, and nudge each other as I coned clay up into a distinctly phallic shape, then pressed it down, forming a spinning globular breast shape, complete with nipple, all the while chatting along about something else. Then when my thumb was lighly touching the nipple and suddenly plunged down, opening the wet mound, there'd often be an audible gasp.
Ladies, I apologise. I was just trying to get you in the mood to spend your money on my pots.
And making you all flustered when I talked about how porcelain's name came from those pink folds....

Well.   Blame Dennis.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Superhero Fail

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Strolling Around Oxford on a November Evening

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A Good Place to Stay on a Cold and Frosty Night

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A Bit of Nostalgia.

 Hillman Imp.
I was, on Sunday, at the Heritage Motor Centre Museum, at Gaydon in Warwickshire. 
This little car brought back a few memories. I had one, well, two, really. Designed at about the same time as the Mini, it was, in some ways, a better car. It was rear-engined, had more passenger room, more storage- there was a big luggage space in the front, but the rear window also lifted to reveal a big deep shelf behind the rear seat, which would swallow up the day to day stuff, groceries, overnight bags, coats etc.
The engine was totally unlike the mini's. The mini used a very traditional cast iron block,
mounted transversely at the front, whereas the Imp, breaking new ground, took a light alloy overhead cam engine derived from the famous Coventry Climax engine used in Grand Prix racing cars, and mounted at the rear, driving through an all-new transaxle. My little car was the same year as this, and I really loved it. Yes, it was a flimsy tinny box, but incredibly light and manoeuvrable. That was also its downfall. I don't suppose it ever was wind-tunnel tested in design, as, at speeds over about sixty, the front end tended to lift and with the weight off the front wheels, it would wander a bit. Big trucks displace a lot of air, and the Imp would get blown sideways. A company marketed a solution, they called it a 'Hermes Aerofoil', a wing that bolted on under the front end to provide an aerodynamic downforce. I had a different solution. Ten or fifteen gallons of water, kept in collapsible camping-type bags in the front. That kept it in line, and could be emptied and squished flat if the space was needed.
The car had several other design flaws. The cold start mechanism was an auto choke. It never worked very well. Thus, frosty mornings could be a nightmare I used to pour a kettleful of boiling water over the inlet manifold, which usually worked. Also, the cooling system was all at the back, and was barely able to cope on a good day. If it was a warm day, traffic was stop-start, you could pretty much guarantee overheating, and serious overheating meant the head gasket would fail. I became adept at stripping and reassembling the top end of the engine.
Still, the car was a friend, replaced with a new, improved version that we had for less than a year when some old fool failed to notice the red light and stopped traffic ahead, and drove into the back of it.

I also had a Mini, around those years. The imp was more comfortable, had better space inside, but the mini...
The mini was like a mad little roller-skate on steroids. You could throw it into corners on country roads and fly around them, you could drive flat-out and be totally in control. If I was trying to be a respectable gentleman of suburbia, I'd choose the Imp any day.
But if I wanted to be an uncontrollable hooligan laughing crazily as I drove... Um. Well. I was younger then... It had to be the Mini.

I've Been Travelling

I've been away from home a few days, travelling on the most wonderful, futuristic automobile. 
I only fell off about twenty-six times on the first day.

A Mediaeval Woman, a Potter

For  the many women  potters out there.

All too often, images suggest that early pottery, hand-building, was primarily a women's art, a home-making art, an art of the hearth, but along came the wheel, which was a machine, and we men do love our machines, so, once we have  a machine,  all of a sudden, men get interested in clay. The wheel-throwing of clay is seen as a historically male-dominated activity.
There's some truth in it even now, but that's a generalisation, and I've seen  it reversed many a time.
I was delighted to find this image, countering that generalisation, in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. On a mediaeval German playing card, the image shows an accomplished woman potter making a baluster style cup or vase, we can clearly see she's using a shaped tool, of wood or bone, (we potters call it a 'rib' to this day), to impress grooves into the side.
Look at her dress, it would not be out of place in our times, I look at her face, her posture, her arms, and I think she's very much a real person. I'm interested by the way her wheel is placed upon a wooden pallet, but beneath it is a tiled floor, suggesting, not a humble peasant's shack, but perhaps her employ in the household of a noble family, as is also suggested by the hanging shield.... 
The wheel is mounted upon a fixed spike, probably capped with steel, which would pass through a loose clearance-hole in the flywheel, and sit in a socket on the bottom of the wheelhead, it might have had a metal (iron or maybe bronze) cup on which to pivot. The flywheel, which she spins with her foot, hangs from the wheelhead on vertical spokes.
She's got a lump of clay ready on the floor, but I see no bowl of water, or slip, of which I think she'd need a little.  
The wheel spins anticlockwise, and she's hooking it toward her with her left foot, rather than kicking it. I think the dress might be a hindrance there, snagging on the spokes, but she's hitched it up above her knee on the left there, to free the leg.
I wonder, does she dry her hands on that free end hanging down from her turban? Or is that smudge on her suspiciously wonderbra bosom a hands-worth of clay?

All of this, by the way, is my conjecture from looking at the picture, it in no way constitutes any sort of trained analysis.

Well, Ladies? Any comments?

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Saturday 6 November 2010

Topical Post (a couple of days late)

Pictures of Guy Fawkes in Knaresborough, Yorkshire.
As part of Knaresborough's "FEVA" arts festival, somebody had the bright idea of reinstating various bricked-up windows and doorways with trompe l'oeuil paintings.
Seen above are the windows alluding to Guy Fawkes, who was born in York and lived for some time at Scotton, a village close to Knaresborough.
For those readers who are not british, Guy Fawkes was the man of whom it it said "He was the only man with honest intent to ever enter parliament"
In fact, he was one of a group of plotters who sought to overthrow the king and parliament by blowing them all to pieces with a huge bomb made of 36 barrels of gunpowder. The plot was discovered, Fawkes was apprehended in the cellars below parliament, in the early hours of the morning when the king was due to open the year's sessions. 
In Britain, every year since, on the fifth of november, people hold bonfires, let off fireworks, and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes.
The country was ruled by a protestant king, which catholics such as Fawkes believed was unlawful. 
It was held that a king ruled by the will of god and was placed in his reign by god. However, to a catholic, a king who did not acknowledge the pope as god's representative on earth, was a heretic, and therefore could not be ruling by god's will...
Fawkes was the man who was to set a torch to the fuse. He and his co-conspirators were all arrested or killed whilst attempting to escape.
They were hung, drawn, and quartered, Fawkes is the only one widely remembered.

The next pair of pictures are of  "Ginger" Lacey . Lacey went to King James Grammar School, Knaresborough, before the second world war, when he became an R.A.F. pilot,  and during the Battle of Britain became one of the top fighter aces.

One of the paintings depicts the artist at work. I might be wrong, but I think this one's Julie Cope.  I found her postcards and prints of some of these windows at an excellent gallery,  Art in the Mill in the evocatively named "Green Dragon Yard", off Castlegate, betwixt the castle and the market-square. Theres a nice little cafe in the yard too.
Green Dragon Yard

Market Place, Knaresborough.

Harry who?

Whatever they're buying tickets for, it must be good. Zombie theatre?

I've lost the leaflet from the tourist office, so I'm not sure of the other artists involved, and the various involved websites, FEVA, and Yorkshire Forward, which between them commissioned and sponsored the project are surprisingly uninformative on the subject, which is, I think, a shameful way to treat artists.