Friday, November 03, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Where am I?




For some time now I have been feeling as if I was on the cusp of change. I just didn't know the direction.

Now suddenly I am living in a different city, a different country. I have moved from Australia to go to art school.

But where to? Well the picture attached shows you my new city. Northern hemisphere? Southern hemisphere?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Parsifal

The acoustics in the Festspielhaus at Bayreuth are just as amazing as everyone reports. The music glides out from under the covered orchestra pit at the front and swells into the hall, bringing the voices of the singers with it. It is no wonder that people queue for tickets to the Wagner festival and are willing to sit on very hard seats for 4 hours at a time to hear the music. It is glorious and for days afterwards, everytime you are in a quiet place you hear the music in the back of your head.

The performance of Parsifal (directed by Schlingensief) was probably the most controversial of all the operas I saw. Most people I heard talking about it seemed to find it really repugant. I had the opposite reaction and found it the most moving opera I have seen. I was so affected I had to go for a walk in the first interval to recover my equilibrium.

I bought an icecream to help recover. The man in the queue behind me was making very loud aggressive remarks about how awful he found Schlingensiefs´s Parsifal and the man in front of me remarked to his wife that those were his thoughts entirely. I wandered off down to the lovely park (the intervals are one hour long) in front of the Festspielhaus. I noticed a group of young people sitting having a picnic and as I wandered past I asked if they were enjoying the performance. Two young glowing female faces turned towards me and nodded . The looked at me shyly, not quite sure of my reaction. I told them I was delighted to find at least someone who thought it as good as I had.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Need that jumper

The paper today reported that July temperatures in northern Germany were 5 degrees C above normal.

I imagine people going to Bayreuth for the second ring cycle (now playing) packed for hot weather. They will be feeling the cold as in the meantime it has turned really cold. Here in Hamburg it is cold enough for the heating to be turned on and I read that in central Germany it is even colder. 12-16C. Brrr! I was going to leave my jumper here and travel lighter to Bayreuth (and home) - that would have been a bad move.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Harvest time in Hamburg

The rye field around the corner from where I am staying is ready for harvest. It glows golden in the evening light. Posted by Picasa

Horses

Horses are a feature of the fields around Rissen and in June I spent a good deal of time drawing them. In June many of them had foals - but not this beautiful black stallion. Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 11, 2006

Walmdachhaus in Rissen, Hamburg

This thatched roof house in Rissen village has just been renovated and is occupied by the local real estate agent.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Back in Hamburg

I am back in Hamburg. Arriving at the airport felt like coming home. It has been hot but now the first feel of autumn is in the air, a reminder that Hamburg is very far north.

When I open ´blogger´from here everything appears in German. The machines must know which country you are logging in from.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bristol

Bristol is a pretty place, built on steep hills, population of 400,000 and a tidal river that runs into the sea. Why did I expect a big industrial town?

There is a replica of an old ship in the harbour of the type that would have sailed from Bristol to discover the new world a century before the ships of convicts set sail for Sydney.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

High heels and cobblestones




Walking with high heels is a challenge at any time, but particularly walking down the steep cobbled lane called Gentle Street. I followed this young woman down Gentle Street as she carefully place each heel on a cobble.




The street eventually leads to St Johns Church. There was a service on but a pianist rather than an organist so I didn't stop to listen but went on to La Strada which is just down the steps on the other side.

(I discovered while writing this that if you mis-type high heels, you get high hells.)

Paintings of Frome here.

Ethel



My walk this morning took me past this church where I hovered a while to listen in case there was an organist playing.









As I listened I looked at the view from the front of the church over the graveyard. Then I stooped to look at the inscription on the wonky stone at the front.


















Ethel
Only and Beloved Child of
Philip and Kate Edinger
Died July 11 1898
Aged 14 years.

Rook Lane Chapel

Today I walked the Frome historic walk. This is the Rook Lane Chapel built in 1707 . It is, to quote the tourist brochure, a grade 1 listed building and the front is one of the most beautiful facades in Somerset. It was recently rennovated and is now an arts centre.

Somerset and the other English counties.

Its raining today, probably much more like normal Somerset weather.

People here refer to places by county and today I asked a woman at the tourist office for a map of English counties. However, if such maps exist, the tourist office doesn't have them. The have lots of information about Dorset, Sussex, Kent or Cornwall but no maps to show where they are.

It is a bit like the suburbs of Sydney. Everyone takes them so for granted no one thinks to produce a map.

£ and $

Goods seem to cost as much in pounds as they do in Australia in dollars. The only problem is that £1 = A$2.5

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Good coffee

This is La Strada coffee shop at the end of Cheap Street in Frome, my second home at the moment. I read about the current Bayreuth Ring Cycle (post below) while I was at La Strada this morning. My post of 22 July (Pretty Frome) shows the shops opposite La Strada.
It is a quaint place and the coffee is excellent.

Three stars only

Today's Guardian had a very scathing piece about Rhinegold and Die Walkure, the first two operas of the new version of the Ring Cycle at Bayreuth. The reviewer was disappointed by the production and some of the singers but praised the orchestra. Three stars out of five they gave it.

St Johns

This is St Johns, the church where the schoolchildren performed the Ring Cycle last Tuesday. Built in the 13th Century but largely rebuilt in the 18th century.

23 years













About thirty people turned up for the peace vigil. It reminded me of the Peace Group in Hamburg I belonged to in the early 80s. As today, we had stood in a silent circle to protest war. I tried to remember which war it would have been that we were protesting in the early 80s, but there have been so many and I couldn't recall which it would have been.

Afterwards as we sat at The Lamb drinking beer or grapefruit juice we exchanged stories. One young man, Barnaby, said that he had a special feeling for Lebanon as he had lived there as a child. His father was a graphic designer doing a contract there and the family had intended staying in Lebanon as it seemed like a vibrant place to live. But war broke out. He said remembered waiting for a school bus when the bombing started one day. There was noone else about. He was scared waiting for the bus and then a hedgehog shuffled across the road and stood next to him.

I asked him which year that would have been and he replied '1982'.
Then I remembered which war it was we had protested in Hamburg in the early 80s. That was 23 years ago. Posted by Picasa

Vigil for peace

The quaker community in Frome is organising a Vigil for Peace this evening. A local graphic artist has made a banner and shortly the banner and its carriers will start off at the Lamb Pub and walk down Bath Street to the Frome market place .

The papers are full of the Israeli bombing spree and one can only applaud people who find something practical to do about it. I will be joining the marchers.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The packhorse bridge at Tellisford












There are several lovely swimming spots on the River Frome and one of them is at Tellisford. You drive to this small gathering of stone houses called Tellisford, walk down the steep road past the mill, over the bridge, along a little lane between high weeds, turn right, climb a style, and walk over the paddock to the river swimming spot.

The bridge (pictured) is narrow, probably just wide enough for a wagon. It is made of stone and you can imagine the pack horses clattering over the cobblestones in centuries past.

The mill itself is being renovated by an enthusiastic group. There are pictures on the door showing how they intend to harness the water's energy to produce electricity. Presumably they will feed it into the national grid.

more paintings here

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lager Loaf

Frome Country Market
Lager Loaf
Contains : Lager, Bananas, Dates and Walnuts
£2.20
Serve sliced with butter
Mrs E Brock, Wistara Villa, Great Elm

That is the lable on the packet. Word for word. And very delicious it was too.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Wagner pops up everywhere

Last night I went to a performance of Wagner's Ring Cycle put on in St John's church, Frome by local schools. Having been very disappointed by the one hour whisk through the (16 hour!) Ring Cycle I saw recently in Sydney Opera House I was a little sceptical about a children's production.

I needn't have been. The production was excellent and I suspect whoever organised it has bred a generation of Frome citizens who will love Wagner's music. The fire music was particularly successful with a group of orange clad children bathed in orange light waving filmy orange textile 'flames' up and down. Viewed down the isle from the back of this lovely 13th Century St John's church, it was magic. A short sighted person would have thought the font was on fire.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Church window



















In the photo below of Stina drawing the Valentines Lamp you can just see this window above the lamp. The building used to be a church but has been converted to flats.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Stick to your own knitting bishop

A representative of the car industry has 'reprimanded' the bishop for his comment that it is a sin to live your life without caring for the environment.

Global warming headlines

The UK Sunday Times reported today that:

The Bishop of London Richard Chartres says that it is sinful for people to contribute to climate change by flying away for holidays or using gas guzzling cars.

‘Grass is dead, long live the plastic lawn’. Plastic turf companies report a doubling of their sales last year. When drought kills your lawn, get a plastic one.

A new hormone drug are being tested that will give people the ability to brown without sunbathing. The tan protects against sunburn but the drug does have some side effects. Trialists reported feeling nauseous.

But don’t despair about global warming. There is good news too:
Britain’s original working class resort, Blackpool, is to use its bid for a super casino to inject a flavour of Dubai, the 21st century playground for the newly rich.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Roses in Frome

 Posted by Picasa

Painting the valentines lamp

Stina and I were out paintng and suddenly it was night. I suppose it was about 10pm. If you look hard you can see Stina drawing the lamp.














Stina has a commission to make cards and bookmarks of this lamp which is well known in the area. It is the Valentines lamp and lovers make a wish under it.

Watering flowers in Cheap Street, Frome

I suppose normal weather conditions make sophisticated watering systems for your hanging baskets unnecessary. But we are not having normal weather.


















The paper today predicted that global warming will make heat waves such as the one that Britian is currently experiencing more common. I guess they will sell lots more watering cans.

Sweeties

Fair dinkum.

You might think that sweet shops are a thing of the past, but they are not.














This one is in Cheap Street in Frome. Jars of lollies in the window and more jars of lollies inside.

An 'apppeny worth please sir.

In France you have a hard time finding sweets. I know because I looked for chocolate but had to settle for fresh veg, fruit, cheese (sheep and goat and cow), delicious bagettes, beer and wine. Oh well.

The piper

Fish ‘n’ chips and a pint of ale. Does that sound like a good English dinner? English or not, that was my dinner and I can feel the effects of the ale. I suspect it has rather a high alcohol content.

As I guessed, it is not nearly as easy to make prints as it seems when you watch a professional. I made a monoprint of a bagpiper I saw in the town square this morning, using rather too much water I fear.

The piper had a donkey and a horse with blinkers harnessed to a wooden wagon. They stood docile as he piped for his supper and probably theirs as well. He was not a highlander but looked more like a local Shepard. Probably bagpipes are common in many places, not just in Scotland the brave.

Well, with a little (or considerable) encouragement from the ale, I will put my bagpiper online.

Monoprinting in the studio in the garden

Much of Frome is solid rows of 3 storied stone houses with front doors of different colours. Des and Stina's front door is blue. Up some steep stone stairs behind the house is a wonderful garden full of old English plants and vegetables. Stina's studio is in a seperate house in the garden.

Stina specialises in printmaking and she has a printing press in her studio, which she uses both for her own work and to take printing workshops. She showed me some of the many monoprint possibilities yesterday before disappearing off to London for a couple of days, so I am about to try this technique. If any of my products is worth showing, I will post them on my blog. Don’t hold your breath though. I suspect it is not nearly as easy as she makes it seem.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bach Partitas in Lullington














There is a 12th century church in Lullington near Frome which you reach via small windy roads between the hedgerows. A father and son violinist team played Bach Partitas and Sonatas in this church as part of the Frome Festival. During the intermission everyone went outside into the sunshine and eventually wandered around the back to admire the 12th centuary archway which is apparently one of the best preserved Norman arches around. I think they said it was built in 1121. I always look at very old buildings and imagine the hands that built them that very long time ago.



















I am staying with Stina and Des in Frome and Des (pictured with the arch) and I went to the Bach performance. We parked in the next door farmyard with other attendees as the small church parking lot was full.

Pretty Frome













This is a painting of the view from La Strada coffee shop in Cheap Street, Frome. (Yes, as usual I am sitting painting in coffee shops.)

The food at La Strada is made on the premises, including the icecream. A sign over the door announces 'Italian Artisan Ice Cream'. They couldn't make the smoothies better in France! Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 21, 2006

Frome in SW England














I am in Frome in SW England. Population 28,000, cute, a large artistic community and currently very warm. Yesterday was the hottest day in England's recorded history. 36.3C at Gatwick I think they said and it was at leat 33C here as well.













The houses are all built of stone with light sandstone facings. They are 2 or 3 stories high and narrow. A bit ike Erskineville really. The pub opposite where I am staying sells beer by the glass or jug. You can take your own glasses (pint or half pint) or jug and get beer to bring home. There are several types of beer, most of them dark honey coloured and all are home brew, not from one of the big beer companies. It is delicious, especially in this heat.

In France beer (a lighter coloured brew) is popular in the mornings. People drink beer in the morning at cafes. I wondered how they stay awake after drinking beer so early in the day, but of course they have a siesta so they dont have to stay awake. How very civilised!

Paintings of Frome

In the butchers shop




















This photo was taken in a town in southern France. The butchers shop also sold ready made rice with mussels ... which has I name I should know but cant remember ... a spanish dish ... yes that's right ... you've got it.

Paella, if that is how you spell it. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Food to die for

I hope one day to be able to return to the south of France even if just for the food which is exceptional. I bought bagettes in a little backery in Toulouse about 1pm on the afternoon of the world cup final. The bagettes were warm, just out of the oven (I think backeries bake twice a day) and I have never tasted bread with such a crisp exterior and succulent interior. Even when it dried out the bread was moist, unlike the 'french' bread rolls we buy in Sydney which turn papery when dry.

In the markets many stallholders sell just a few items, but they are invariably good. Food served in restaurants is fresh, plentiful and served to delight the eye, without being fussy.

I have decided that chefs are another form of musician. Perhaps I shall have to start drawing chefs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sunflowers in southern France















The photo doesn't really capture the intense yellow ('Indian Yellow' for painters) of the sunflower fields. The fields that had had sunflowers the year before were lying fallow. Apparently the sunflowers are left on the stalks until they are exceedingly ripe, and the plant heads are just a black mess.

The Region of Lot

This is the River Lot about an hour north of Toulouse.













I had never been to the south of France and I found it really charming. I can understand the English who are buying houses in the south of France and rennovating them. You hear English spoken alot in shops and cafes.The country roads were virtually empty as the region of Lot (around the River Lot) does not have beaches and is not overrun with tourists. The surrounding villages are also very quiet apart from on market day when local produce is sold from stalls. The local produce is wonderful. I have never tasted such delicious camenbert as is sold there. In fact all the food sold is exceptional. The French certainly live up to their reputation for good food.

This is the village of Le Vert, a collection of about 8 houses including a working farm.

Click here for paintings of the French countryside around Le Vert.

Pictures of Toulouse

This is Toulouse. Just so pretty with its narrow streets and pink stone walls.



















This imposing building on the main square had a giant screen up when I was there. The final of the World Cup was due to be shown that evening.














I walked a few streets along south from the town square and was suddenly confronted with this wide serene river. Temperatures were about the same as we are used to in Sydney but the town was a whole lot quieter and more pleasant as there was little traffic in the town center. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 17, 2006

Toulouse

Toulouse is called the pink city because the sandstone that was used to build it is pink. It is a whole lot nicer than I thought. Instead of the big industrial city that I expected I found a lovely pink and cream sandstone place with an imposing town hall.Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 08, 2006

All that way and only $3

Well Germany is out of the football but what a game! I watched that one from start to finish.

Tomorrow I will be in Toulouse. The following evening the final is on. I think it will be a long night in Toulouse... have to drink some French red to celebrate with (or commisserate with) the happy (or sad) Toulousians.

Talking about red, I discovered some very nice Shiraz in Hamburg Aldi for Euro 1.79. That's about $3. How do they transport it all that way and still make a profit?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Musikfest am Reichenberg


This is the town of Neckargemuend. They have the best public display of flowers I have ever seen. The flowers are planted in boxes along bothe sides of the bridge.

The local Musikfest am Reichenstein was on while I was in Neckargemuend. Wonderful setting in the woods on a hill, and only a few steps from where I was staying. There was a mixture of music, local and international inluding a bus load of musicians who came from a Czech partner city.

This photo was taken early in the day during the classical music sector. Later the place was packed despite the 12 Euro entry fee (about $20).