Friday, January 27, 2006

Pipe organ building...?!

Here’s a very strange photo. Sorry I can’t provide a larger shot, but my photo links to the photo page, which in turn links to a very large full-size original — of a building, somewhere in Japan, whose façade seems to have been designed to mimic an organ!

A bit of googling gets you nowhere, because if you search for “pipe organ building” you’ll get pages about the building and construction of the musical instruments themselves. If anyone happens upon this post and has any knowledge, please let me know via comments, or my username at gmail dot com. Thanks...

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Historical miscellany

Dropping by the excellent Things Magazine tonight, I’ve found one of the best repositories of historical maps of cities there could possibly be online. And of course, when I visited the London page, and another site linked from it, I started to think yet again about London. — Although not before I’d also looked at another recommendation which seems to be mostly maps of Swiss towns and cities.

Handy, then, that I clicked into Wikipedia’s page about London’s streams and rivers (now all fascinatingly hidden underground) — this is the real value of a site like Wikipedia. Many people call for its destruction but I can’t think of another way to get a comprehensive list and helpful links about such a subject on a single page. Can you?

To further business. We don’t often think too much about the now fragmentary and evanescent ‘street history’ of London. Mostly we think of the great fire or the menace of the Spanish Armada, but not how Moorgate got its name, or whether the new, shining walls of the corporations can measure up to those of the Romans. Nor do they think of the hidden delights like Bunhill cemetery, which I encountered before a job interview near Old Street, and in which William Blake is buried.

Which is all very strange, because in London, the modern world and the open wells of living history coexist on the streets. So next time you wander your city, do it with your eyes open.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Cold... and snow on the wind...?

It’s a cold night, and I have been dreaming of London, and walks along Bankside past the New Globe, to get to Tate Modern. Where they will have a new gallery space this December, called Poetry and Dream. It sounds enchanting. And the above painting will be shown there.

Tate Modern in winter was dark and spacious — in winter it seemed even more spacious than it did in summer. Perhaps it was the neutral light and commanding works inside standing monolithic against the ever-changing city outside. Anyway, I only really posted this because I love this painting and it suits the night.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006


I just called a friend of mine and the first thing I heard when he answered was not his voice, but the half-babyish, half-boyish attempts at speaking of his nephew.

Of course, we can never remember that far back in our lives, but how wonderful it must have been to realise, in glimpses, that our parents’ noises meant something. That we could make those noises. And how adventurous and exciting to start to make them ourselves.

My niece’s first properish word (or that I heard, at least) apart from ‘mamamamamamam’ was ‘shit’. But sort of like ɕɪʔ rather than ʃɪt. The wonders of a characterful mother! ;o)

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Year musings

Well, another year... we’re in the strange and wonderful interregnum between the start of 2006 and the end of Christmas. I know that when the new year glow dies down for many, they assume that’s it — the end of the holidays; time to stow presents and cards away into the usual places of everyday life; the candles don’t get lit again; perhaps the tree even gets put away early.

All of which is anathema to me. Although religion has nothing to do with it as far as I’m concerned, I still like to think I keep Christmas in the way it should be kept: a reservation of time shared with family and friends, an appreciation of the childlike magic inherent in the season as winter really starts in earnest and all the contrasts between humanity and shivering nature are on display.

I love the decorations — around this house are sprigs of holly, some gathered from our tree in the garden, some from elsewhere, and to me it brings an exciting, sharp reminder of coldness and pagan ceremonies into a warm, cosy house. The tree contains some sparkling glass decorations and painted eggshells which I remember marvelling at when I was 5 or so.

For at least a few minutes each Christmas — possibly more — I go back to being 5. This is not about holding back the return of the everyday for a little while longer; every Christmas, I simply don’t feel the return of the everyday until sometime mid-January, even when I’m back at work.

For now, this house is warm, a cold sun shines on the ice-filmed twigs in the garden, and pies and cakes bulge with dark, spicy fruits laden with fiery alcohol. Millions of children still look at their empty stocking in wonder because Santa actually touched it... why waste that? Happy New Year, everybody. :o)

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