Friday, July 27, 2007

antony gormley: hero

When I grow up, I want to be Antony Gormley (except that he’s younger than me, so I’m not sure if this will work). Visited his Blind Light exhibition at the Hayward Gallery yesterday and thought it was wonderful. Two things stood out. Blind Light, the “brightly lit, cloud-filled glass box” is about entering the space and experiencing complete disorientation (with virtually nil visibility), but also observing the space from outside the glass box and seeing figures emerging as shadows as they come close to the edges. In total contrast is Event Horizon: where (some 20?) life-size figures are placed on rooftops and walkways within area of the gallery and seen from the gallery’s three sculpture terraces (and from elsewhere).
Quite beautiful and surprisingly powerful.
Photo: Event Horizon figures plus real people at the National Portrait Gallery

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

end of another school year

For most of us at school, today is the end of term (unfortunately, I have to work an extra day – together with a few others – but that’s another story!). It means I’ve been working in education for a whole two years since retiring from my architectural practice. The time seems to have flashed by! I’m going to miss the good friends who will be leaving – some retiring; some for new challenges in other fields; and some just moving on. I worked with Tony, Head of Art, on Friday as part of the school’s Activities Week (he’s also retiring after over 25 years at the school). Some Year 8 pupils were trying animation for the very first time and the results were just brilliant. It was just wonderful seeing Tony at work - with his humour, enthusiasm, knowledge and encouragement and then to see the children respond so positively (and clearly feeling really proud by their achievements at the end of the day). Tony might be retiring, but he’s still got what it takes!
Humbling and inspirational stuff.
PS: the animations weren’t quite “Wallace+Grommit” standards, but Aardman better watch out!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

people’s music: another update

I’m continuing to receive great favourite music suggestions from lovely friends and family. I’ve already compiled a list of over 30 tracks (note: see blog posts 8+23 June).
I’ve been playing the following tracks a lot recently (the running order is brilliant, with each track running into the next beautifully!):
1. “Heartbeats” by Jose Gonzalez (Catherine P)
2. “Break on Through” by The Doors (Hannah B)
3. “Still Ill” by The Smiths (Paul B)
4. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who (Felix H)
5. “I Might Be Wrong” (live version) by Radiohead (Ian A)
6. “Beautiful Day” by U2 (Gail A)
7. “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley (Catherine P)
8. “Cold Water” by Damien Rice/Lisa Hannigan (Ruth B)
9. “Staralfur” by Sigur Ros (Gareth R)
10. “From The Morning” by Nick Drake (me!)
Still keen to receive further suggestions!
PS: the somewhat impossible criteria was: “ if I had to choose just ONE piece of music, this would be it” (it might be just a great piece of music or something that has special significance)…. and, in addition, there was an opportunity to add another track under the general heading: “Steve, I think you might also like this”.
Photo: Radiohead (of course!)

Friday, July 20, 2007

city life

Last night I went to a lecture. It was entitled: What changes will the city need to make to deal with climate change, and will it be able to survive at all? I went thinking it would be a thought-provoking and challenging evening; I came away somewhat frustrated and feeling it had been a wasted opportunity. There were two speakers: Professor Susan Roaf offered what was billed as a “mind-blowing picture of the history of the end of the city” – but I found it all rather bland and it hardly scratched the surface of the problem (eg. her solutions included “battening down the hatches and stopping building altogether” and “avoiding building above six storeys high”!) and George Marshall, who was more interesting - in a somewhat homespun, make-do-and-mend sort of way - with an emphasis on recycling/re-using materials and illustrating these with photographs of his own house (which totally failed to persuade me I’m afraid!). Maybe the title of the talk was just too ambitious, but it just didn’t work for me.
The biggest irony was that, during the course of the evening, George Marshall admitted that he was actually moving from the City of Oxford to Powys, Wales to build himself a new home in the middle of nowhere!!

Monday, July 16, 2007

where in the world?

Perhaps it’s just the thought of breaking up for summer, but I had one of those conversations recently when a friend asked where in the world I would like to visit (money no object!). Somewhat pathetically, my answer was “Upper Saltings in St Ives”. I know there are much more exotic places but, in all honesty, I would gladly settle for this. It’s the top floor of a converted sail loft; it sleeps 10-12 people; it’s just stunningly beautiful and it overlooks Porthmeor Beach and the ocean…. turquoise sea+white sand. The photograph is taken from within the main living/dining space at Upper Saltings – Felix is cooking supper; Ruth is preparing the dining table; Stu is painting; and Hannah+Moira are just chilling in the wonderful huge bay window seat.
It’s an absolutely magical place (but don’t visit St Ives in high summer!).

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Spent last Wednesday evening watching a DVD of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”. There was comparatively little in the film/documentary that I wasn’t already aware of, but I still found it completely compelling viewing. It made me think about what kind of world our grandchildren will inherit from us. Then, strangely, I found myself watching “Who Do You Think You Are?” on BBC1 immediately afterwards (even stranger because I seem to watch very little tv these days). Tracing back Nicky Campbell’s adopted family history some 150 years in Australia, via Scotland, seemed to somehow help put the Al Gore DVD into context and emphasise the massive changes the world has witnessed since the mid-1850s. In turn, thoughts of Nicky Campbell’s adopted family put me in mind of our own adopted grandson Mikey. Campbell emerged at the end of the tv programme saying what a huge part nurture (within his adopted family) had played in his life; and I reflected on the vital importance of nurture within Mikey’s life with Alice+Dave as his adopted parents.
It then dawned on me, of course, that nurture (this time, of our planet) was also at the heart of the Al Gore film too.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

goodbye mr chips

Staff gathered together at the end of the afternoon yesterday to bid farewell to a much-loved and highly-revered Dave Watson, Deputy Head Teacher, after some 32 years at our school. A brilliant teacher and someone who was genuinely interested in and concerned about people (rather than numbers or statistics). I can recall a long conversation I had some time ago with a very difficult Year 11 pupil, who spoke with huge respect and in complete awe of this larger-than-life teacher. I’m just finishing my second year at the school and can certainly recall feeling somewhat overawed by Dave in the first few days in my new career (afterall, he’d been in education all his life and I was a complete novice)…. but he was just great – asking me how things were going; encouraging me; making me laugh – and, very soon, I realised he was a very special man. You could have asked anyone in the staffroom yesterday and they would ALL have said similar things about him (young and not-so-young alike). Dave spoke a few words at the end of the afternoon (when he wasn’t being interrupted by well-wishers!) and he made us feel very proud to be working in education (even new “boys” like me!). He’s going to be greatly missed in school by staff and pupils alike and those of us who have worked with him feel very privileged to have done so.

Monday, July 09, 2007

sounds of summer

We usually spend a lot of time outside in the summer, but certainly haven’t done so this year, so far. However, we did actually manage to read the Sunday paper and have a relaxed lunch in the garden yesterday. Perhaps summer has arrived at long last (yes, I know it really came in April!)? The only downside was the fact that the neighbours at the back our house thought it would be a really good day to play music ….. very loudly. It was just like being at a rock concert, but without being able to see the stage!
Photo: lavender+shadows in the garden

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

david soul and me

In an idle moment(?), I followed Ellen Loudon’s advice and checked on my “celebrity profile”. It transpires that I’m a dead ringer for David Soul (of “Starksy+Hutch” fame)….. I’ll settle for that, I thought. I ended up googling him and discovered that he’d actually aged somewhat from his “Hutch” years. Then, of course, I realised that he and I really DO look like brothers – but only if I compare our current somewhat haggard appearances!
Photos (clues): me (blurred football captain, aged 10), him, him and me.

Monday, July 02, 2007

birthday weekend

Despite the gloom+doom of the weather forecast, the Smith birthday weekend was just brilliant. One of those perfect weekends with a group of great people and made even better because we were able to stay with lovely Gail+Ian at Old Walls. We barbequed in Mags+Jez’s large(!) workshop extension to their house on Friday; we chilled during the day on Saturday – but also went for a lovely afternoon walk around the estuary - and then all met up for wonderful food+drink at Pig Finca in Kingsbridge; and on Sunday, we all met up on Thurlestone beach and watched huge waves and played an hilarious game of rounders (boys won!) before returning to M+J’s place for yet more food.
We hardly got wet at all (except for Brian, Luke+Rob who decided to go for a swim)!
Photo: birthday team photo on the beach