Posts Tagged ‘roses’

Scottish Colourists’ Exhibition and home grown new tatties

August 3, 2017

The exhibition of work by the Scottish Colourists at The Granary in Berwick Upon Tweed (good photos)  had been on our list for a while. On a very wet Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, we decided to go and it turned out to be a really pleasurable and enlightening visit. We had seen some of the work of the group who became to be known as the Scottish colourists – Peploe, Fergusson, Hunter and Cadell – in previous exhibitions at the National Gallery of Scotland. As often happens in art, the group members became most well- known after 3 of them were dead – in the 1940s, with only Fergusson living on until 1961. The exhibition’s paintings are shown in chronological order and this gives the viewer and idea of how the styles and ideas of the painters developed over the years. I was allowed to take photos and the following were works that stood out for me personally.

The first painting is “Peonies in a Chinese vase” by Leslie Hunter. The painting itself is more distinct than this photo but even here, you can see the range of colours used by Hunter. The painter wrote “The eye seeks refreshment in painting. Give it joy not mourning. Give everything a distinct outline. Avoid over finish – an impression is not so robust but that its first inspiration will be lost if we try to strengthen everything with detail.’’ In this painting, there is a mixture of realistic outlines of objects but also an impression of these objects. So I think that this makes us appreciate the form of the painting and asks us to use our imagination.



“Peonies in a Chinese vase” by Leslie Hunter (Click to enlarge)

The 2nd painting is “A vase of pink roses” by S.J Peploe. While the roses are painted in greater detail than in the previous work shown, this is still not an attempt to portray the roses photographically. What attracts me to this painting are the range of shapes and lines, which give it an abstract quality. The mix of colour – ranging from the dark at the top left and bottom, to the delicate pinks and orange of the roses and the light background – provides a contrast and this makes you look at the work more closely. At first glance, this is a fairly simple picture, but when you start to look at the detail, it ends up being a very busy one.


“A vase of pink roses by S.J. Peploe

The final painting is “Loch Creran, Argyll” by Francis Cadell. When you first see this work, it certainly is the colours that draw it to your eye. There is a superb range of colours here, with subtle changes of shade. You are almost tempted to take do a child-like exercise and spot how many shades of green and blue are here, but this is not about quantity. The loch and the surrounding mountains are depicted in what was for me a very gentle and calming flow of colours. The real Loch Creran (good photos) is a stunning location. Cadell is not aiming to replicate the real-life views. He is perhaps trying to give us an alternative view, which has a more dream-like quality.

Overall, this is an outstanding exhibition. It’s on until October, so get to see it if your are anywhere near it.


“Loch Creran, Argyll” by Francis Cadell

From the artistic to the more practical and a different kind of taste. In an earlier blog post this year, I promised to include a picture of my emerging tattie (potato) shaws, but it slipped my mind. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been harvesting the early tattie crop and here is the result. In Scotland (as elsewhere) we have two crops of tatties each year – early and late. The early ones have much thinner skins than the late tatties and tend to be much more tasty. You would never peel early tatties. To do this would be the act of a philistine and make you susceptible to the wrath of the tattie gods. Now, there is a certain psychological element to planting, feeding, watering and then harvesting your own tatties. When you dig under the shaws and reveal the oval packets of flavour and nourishment, there is definitely an element of  achievement, of pleasure and a harking back to times when people grew their own food out of necessity. These tatties have a distinct flavour – you must be careful not to boil them too hard to ensure this. I could eat these on their own with just some butter.

One of my favourite poet Seamus Heaney’s most famous poems is “Digging” (Heaney reading the poem) and it contains the lines “The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft/ Against the inside knee was levered firmly. / He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep/ To scatter new potatoes that we picked,/ Loving their cool hardness in our hands”. That last line is brilliant and you would need a whole paragraph to describe what the poet is saying here. Heaney has a very enviable facility with words.


Early tattie crop in my garden



Summer flowers – bees and flies

August 25, 2016

Around this time of year – late August – I get my camera out and go into my front garden for close up photos of what’s available. My first look outside the front door proved to be a good time to get up close with the bees on the hebe bush. I think that the photo below may be my best close up photo of a bee. Of course, we desperately need to keep having bee-friendly plants in our garden, as our bees are under threat and we desperately need to keep them. So be friendly – to bees! The second photo shows the hebe bush in full and it is a very colourful addition just outside our front door at this time of year.


Close up of bee on hebe


Hebe bush in my garden

The roses in the garden have done better this year than they have ever done. It may just be maturity of the plants although I did them more this year. If we had never seen a rose before and someone showed us a “flower” made of paper in Japanese style, the new would admire it greatly – the elegant folds in the leaves and the delicate colour. I like the quote from Alphonse Karr “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses”   – so his glass was half-full.


Peach roses in my garden


Delicate pink rose in my garden

The hydrangea plants/bushes which we have in the garden are also in full bloom now. When the flowers start to form, they are small green clusters of what look like tiny peas and it’s hard to imagine that these will turn into large flowers which are perhaps 20 times the size of the original. Hydrangeas come in many forms and colours and you can, if you wish, change the colour of your plants. I managed to capture a fly on one of the hydrangeas and then a clear close up shot in the photos below. Having just watched the Olympic Games, the fly looks as if it’s on its marks and waiting for the gun to go off.


Hydrangea flower head in my garden


Fly on hydrangea flower in my garden

Return to Bamburgh and Howick Hall Gardens

July 23, 2016

Another trip to Bamburgh in Northumberland earlier this week and a return to the excellent Mizen Head Hotel previously featured here. Just around the corner from the hotel is the local church – St Aidan’s (good photos)  – and we walked with our relatives around to the church just as the sun was setting. A very helpful church warden called us into the church to show us the reflection of the sun coming through a window and shining in bright orange on the church wall. Unfortunately, the photos did not come out. The church has an outstanding profile at dusk as in the photo below.


St Aidan’s church Bamburgh

At the back of the church, the old graveyard continues and next to the church is a large field where sheep were grazing. You could have been there 100 years ago as from that point, looking north, there are no visible signs of the 21st century. Looking south, you can see the imposing Bamburgh Castle which dominates the countryside around. The photo below is taken from the graveyard.


Bamburgh Castle from St Aidan’s churchyard

Inside the church the stonework is magnificent and you can see the different additions to the church over the centuries. Given that the stonemasons who built the church had no modern equipment, the result is very impressive. One feature of the church is an example of a squint which – see photo below – was an aperture allowing the poorer people in the congregation to see through to the main part of the church. [Note: the photo shows the quint at an angle]


St Aidan’s church squint

We had an excellent visit to the nearby Howick Hall Gardens (good video). The gardens are unusual in that, instead of the normal array of formal gardens you see on visits to sites such as Alnwick Gardens, this is a vast area of woodland and countryside which has little gardens dotted around which specialise e.g. in hydrangeas of different kinds. Around the house itself, there are cottage gardens as in the photos below.


Cottage garden at Howick Hall


Howick Hall gardens

For me, one of the pleasures of going to gardens like this is the opportunity to get close up photos of a range of flowers, most of which I’m unable to identify but all have intriguing shapes and colours as shown below.


Rose at Howick Hall gardens


Lily at Howick Hall gardens


Feeding bee at Howick Hall gardens

The gardens are known as an arboretum – a collection of trees, shrubs and flowers and there is no lack of variety at Howick Hall. It’s not possible to cover all of the 64 acres at Howick Hall in one day, so a return visit, perhaps in the Spring to see the banks of daffodils, will be needed. You can also do a lovely walk from Howick Hall to the beach for free. This is a very attractive part of the world with a range of places to visit, including Craster, famous for its kippers. We walked past the smoke house, with light smoke coming out of the roof aperture and you could smell the fish being smoked. The walk from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle will be in the next edition of the blog.


New wall, digging find and autumn flowers

October 10, 2015

I’ve just finished building a new stone wall. There’s quite a lot of tension involved in an amateur like me attempting to produce a finished wall that looks as if it might have been built by an expert i.e. to the untrained eye. Are there enough stones that are large enough to catch the eye. Are the different colours in the sandstone well distributed across the wall? Is there a good contrast between the rougher and the smoother stones? Is the pointing done well enough? From a personal point of view, the builder himself/herself has to be pleased with the outcome, according to my expert tutor and former qualified stonemason Ian and, while I can see faults in the wall, I’m pretty pleased with it. Robert Frost wrote “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, / That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,/ And spills the upper boulders in the sun,/ And makes gaps even two can pass abreast” in Mending Wall. The poem’s narrator and neighbour set about mending the wall and he sees his neighbour “Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top / In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed”. The stone for my wall came from a local house where, possibly 100 years ago, a man from Dunbar built the wall. Now another man from Dunbar has built a new wall from the same stone.

New stone wall

New stone wall

Behind the new stone wall – on the right of the picture above – I’m digging a new patch to extend my vegetable garden. Digging this part was at times easy – as the spade cut through the soil which was newly wettened by the previous day’s downpour. At other times, I hit solid clay and occasionally my spade hit a largish stone and sent a shivering pain through my arm. One of my favourite Seamus Heaney poems is called Digging and in the poem, Heaney recalls his father digging potatoes 20 years ago ” The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft/ Against the inside knee was levered firmly./ He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep/ To scatter new potatoes that we picked,/ Loving their cool hardness in our hands”. This fairly simple task is enhanced by Heaney’s words – “coarse boot” “bright deep edge” and “cool hardness”. I’m going to plant potatoes in this patch next year and will recall Heaney’s words when I dig them up. Near the end of the digging, I unearthed a coin and it turned out to be an old penny, indeed a penny from 1916. In the photos below (a clearer picture here) you see the inscription GEORGIVUS V DEI GRA BRETT OMN REX FID DEF IND EMP. In the full Latin, this is “Georgius V Dei gratia Britanniarum omnium rex, fidei defensor, India imperator” which translates as ” George the Fifth by the grace of God King of all the British, defender of faith and emperor of India” – so a modest chap was our George. On the reverse is Britannia – a female figure representing the Roman name for the area no known as the British Isles. This military looking figure suggests clearly that the British Empire is strong.

1916 penny

1916 penny

1916 penny

1916 penny

It’s clearly autumn now, with the leaves on the trees giving a final show of golden opulence before careering down to the ground. It’s also dark by 7pm. In my garden, there is decadence in the bushy lobelia and the sword lilies’ heads have shrunk. Some of the geraniums have kept their vibrant colours while other have rotted. There is still much to see as in the photos below. The sedum is at its flowering peak, the fuchsia are still producing delicate and intricate heads and the Indian summer has produced new roses. New in the garden are the cyclamen which will last over the winter and well into spring.

Sedum at its peak

Sedum at its peak

Autumnal fuchsia head

Autumnal fuchsia head

October rose

October rose

Newly planted cyclamen

Newly planted cyclamen

The Beautiful Librarians, Le Tour ends and sweet peas

July 28, 2015

I’ve just finished reading The Poetry Book Society’s Choice –  The Beautiful Librarians by Sean O’Brien a professor at Newcastle University and well established British poet. For me, an educator of librarians in universities in Scotland and Australia for 34 years, the title was alluring, of course. As a member of the Poetry Book Society, I get sent 4 books a year – not chosen by me. O’Brien’s book is a mixture of what might be nostalgia and class consciousness “Scattered comrades now remember: someone stole the staffroom tin/ Where we collected for the miners, for the strike they couldn’t win”  and comic interludes such as in Old Lads at the Ramshill Hotel “.. these wobbly suitors with their grease-grey quiffs/ And suits that are older than they are”. The title poem, superbly analysed by Carol Rumens is also a nostalgic look back to when O’Brien was a student. The poem begins “The beautiful librarians are dead,/ The fairly recent graduates who sat/ Like Françoise Hardy’s shampooed sisters/ With cardigans across their shoulders/ On quiet evenings at the issue desk,/Stamping books and never looking up/ At where I stood in adoration”. The reference to Francoise Hardy is very meaningful to me because, as a teenager, I was lovestruck by Ms Hardy’s stunning looks and vertigo inducing French voice, such as in the song All Over the World. Some of the poems in this collection appeared to be very clever but lacked depth, while others were superb – try it for yourself.

The Beautiful Librarians by Sean O'Brien

The Beautiful Librarians by Sean O’Brien

So, another Tour de France has come to an end. Three weeks of aching ascents and death-defying descents has thrilled millions of people across the globe and not just cycling enthusiasts. My cycling pal John maintains that even watching the cyclists go up some the high climbs such as La Croix de Fer (video) makes his legs feel sore. It was great to have a British winner again in Chris Froome and there were many exciting finishes. I’ve been wearing my Guardian cycling T Shirts recently but I was surprised – and shocked – at so many people not knowing what the third word in the slogan (photo below) originally was. As ever, I’ve promised my self that I’ll do more hills from now on, inspired by the teams on Le Tour. I would advise you to watch this space, but …..

Le Tour de France T shirt

Le Tour de France T shirt

My wife’s running partner brought us a beautiful bunch of sweet peas freshly cut from her garden. These flowers not only have soft but attractive colours but they also have a lovely perfume. These delicate flowers do not last very long but make a lasting impression as in the photos below, and some of the pinks were replicated in a rose I saw in a garden only yesterday.

Jar of sweet peas

Jar of sweet peas

Sweet peas close up

Sweet peas close up

Rose with burgeoning buds

Rose with burgeoning buds

Warkworth, The Alnwick Garden and The Verb

July 11, 2013

A weekend away for my wife and me ( nearly wrote “my wife and I” but you can’t have “for I”) to the village of Warkworth in Northumberland, where we stayed at the very classy Roxbro House, which has ornately decorated rooms, excellent staff, an excellent breakfast menu (including delicious half peaches with raspberries) and complimentary cheese and wine between 5pm and 6pm – great value for money. It is situated just opposite Warkworth Castle with its magnificent stone walls and hilltop location, ensuring that the Percy family, which owned the castle and most of the land as far as the eye could see in the 14th and 15th centuries, could see their enemies approaching. Warkworth is a lovely village and you can walk around the village along the Coquet River, where I counted 27 swans in one group, gliding along this slow-moving river.

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to The Alnwick Garden, probably best known for its grand cascade, a huge man-made waterfall, with intermittent weirs, down which thousands of gallons of water fall each minute. It’s a very extensive garden, with many different sections, such as the rose garden, which has an outstanding variety of roses of different colours, sizes and perfumes. Photos 1-3 show some examples of the roses on display. The garden also includes a cherry orchard, woodland walk and serpent garden. It’s fairly expensive to get in but you could easily spend a few hours here, especially on a warm sunny day.

I was downloading a BBC Radio 4 podcast this morning, to listen to on my bike ride, when I noticed at the bottom of the screen, an icon for a programme on Radio 3 called The Verb and discovered a new place in which you can listen to people talking about words and literature and music. The show is presented by the excellent Ian McMillan and it covers, in its own words “Exploring different worlds of language, dialects, rarities and curiosities and how spoken and written language interact”. The programme I listened to today came from Derry/Londonderry (the correct reference to this once very divided city) which is the 2013 City of Culture) and featured a writer’s description of days during which he cannot write with any conviction, partly because his brain is full of porridge which has been left to harden in a pot, an exploration of the song Danny Boy and 2 songs by an up and coming singer. An excellent find and worth checking out – it is available worldwide.

Rose from The Alnwick Garden

Rose from The Alnwick Garden



Rose from The Alnwick Garden

Rose from The Alnwick Garden


Rose from The Alnwick Garden

Rose from The Alnwick Garden