Monthly Archives: January 2010

Advice from a master

I am in danger of turning into one of those opinionated little gits that I so detest on the radio. I am going to stop it right there as it is entirely unproductive and not a little draining.

Instead enjoy an extract from a letter wot Vincent wrote to his his sister Willemien in 1887 – seems like sound advice to me.

“…to write a book, to perform a deed, to make a painting with life in it, one must be a living person oneself. And so for you, unless you never want to progress, studying is very much a side issue. Enjoy yourself as much as you can and have as many distractions as you can, and be aware that what people want in art nowadays has to be very lively, with strong colour, very intense. So intensify your own health and strength and life a little, that’s the best study.”

The full version and the others can be read at

Road with Cypress and Star - Van Gogh

“You & Yours”

I used to listen to this Radio 4 programme about three times a week when I worked in photographic prop shop (textiles only). For some reason (and I was in my twenties) I preferred this station to any other. I like music, but not all day long, and I can’t stand the public ranting across the airwaves with their opinions.

You and Yours was hardly the highlight of the day. I think I thought it was some kind of consumer show, which I still believe it is, but it is somehow very serious and worthy and a little bit dull. The World at One with Nick Clarke (now sadly deceased) was like an auditory trip in comparison.

Yesterday I caught a bit in the car. In the same reverential tones as always, they reported on leisure activities for the disabled and I was suddenly transported. They talked to someone from Riding for the Disabled and I was reminded strongly of the transformational qualities that horses can play in our lives. I once helped out at a Riding for the Disabled club at Lee Valley in East London and I have never forgotten sharing in the enjoyment the riders so clearly felt on horseback.

The programme talked to an instructor with 35 years experience and the reporter asked her how the profoundly disabled cope with no strength in their limbs. The instructor had an answer that blew the question out of the water. She replied that she had, last June, taken on a new 5 year old pupil who had lost her legs and arms to meningitis. This young girl was now walking, trotting and steering independently. The instructor said that the dynamics of riding are more subtle than we imagine. It does not necessarily require extravagant flapping and kicking, instead we can do so much with our seat and core muscles and that the horses (not all but many) seem to understand and respond positively to a rider with disabilities. In fact, some tricky equine customers are equally transformed by their disabled riders.

I am not saying that the playing field is level in terms of competition; dressage for instance is graded by disability of the riders from 1-5 so those with a milder disability, say 2, will only compete against other riders deemed 2. I am certain though that those riders who come to riding with a disability are as rewarded, if not more so really, than those of us whose interest and relationship with horses is more mundane.


– that made me shiver:

The publicity about the new Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy. This is notable for the 35 letters written by Van Gogh that will be shown alongside his art. For those of us, like me, too greedy to wait until we get to the RA transcripts of them are available here

Sir David Attenborough’s description of a chopping tool used about 2 million years ago. The object and his description are beautiful and both can be seen and heard here

– that made me shudder:

The wife who let her lecturer husband out into the academic world in trousers just the wrong side of too short. He was a nice man and deserved better. Perhaps she is having an affair, or maybe she just no longer looks at her husband.

The woman who crashed into a brick wall on a three lane carriageway near the Olympic park when her steering went and had to be pulled out of the wreck by my other and doubtless better half who (and this is a double-edged sword) had no thought for his own safety as he rescued her.

Lost Gloves

This blog invites people to take photos of single, lost gloves and email them in. If only I had known about it last week I would have sent in a photo of an attractive striped child’s glove on a wall over the road from me. It was especially notable for it’s pristine cream condition, surrounded as it was by grey slush.

It seems to me that a pair of gloves is commonplace and of little interest, but a sole one, left or dropped, becomes much more than that. In the moment of loss or separation it gains a whole unknown narrative and some of us stop and wonder about that.

Whilst Eugenie on School for Saatchi drove me crazy, I love this. I do however suspect her influence in the rubber glove installation…


Why do they use this word exclusively for poor English cricketing performances? No-one says Sunderland collapsed at Chelsea do they, or that Ricky Hatton collapsed in his two most recent bouts. It seems a ridiculously dramatic term for a few balls that I suspect my dog could have caught with little bother.

Speaking of the dog, the last twice we have been disturbed by the foxes, but he has twigged on and remains bed-bound, wakes me up and demands sense and reason plus consoling pats as to why he should not launch himself headlong through the window onto the car below.

As always, I do my best to oblige.

An English dog, one presumes, collapsing

One of those days

Was yesterday, but at least I warned myself in advance. It felt mainly like the world was turning as usual but I was somewhat lagging behind the axis.

The Lucky 15 yielded a 33.3 into infinity % profit and the PU Aachen made a 100% loss. Whilst I was in the bookies backing Aachen, which I had forgotten to do online, I realised that due to advancing decrepitude I could no longer see the results screens from a respectable punters’ distance, even with good amounts of squinting. Before I donned glasses for driving last year, this was not the case. Anyway I moaned a bit about this and Irene, the manager, kindly offered to lend me a pair from her secret specs stash behind the counter.

So, not unlike Cinderella, I tried on a disgustingly smudged pair of men’s glasses (think 1970s news reader) which blurred everything and then a pair of more fashionable ones which made no difference to anything. Clearly I am an ugly sister of the betting shop’s spectacles world. Next time I am in there I will demand a strong cup of tea and make sure I have taken my own glasses with me.

The day proceeded in a pretty haphazard fashion and I threw in the towel midway through a marathon MOTD when I found myself trying to change channels with a spectacles case instead of a remote.

Perhaps I should add dementia to my list of complaints.

Big enough so even I can see it

Proceed with caution

NB: This post comes with a dashed off quickly warning.

The jumps comes back today at Kempton and also at Huntingdon (after passing a second inspection). This recent inconvenient weather will have interrupted exercise regimes for some horses. I know that some trainers, who are near the coast, have been taking horses down to the beach for gallops and we can be sure that those horses are probably going to have a fitness edge on their more land-locked rivals. Obviously some trainers will have better facilities to cope than others, and some will have been harder hit and for longer, so rather like the weather forecast it is going to be pretty difficult to predict. Without the benefit of paddock-side view I will just pass on the information that Ferdy Murphy, Evan Williams (entries tomorrow @ Ffos Las) and Victor Dartnall (entries next week) have been using the beach. There will be more, but you are going to have to work those out for yourselves!

I also read that Lucy Wadham has been using Godolphin’s facilities at Newmarket and was rewarded for her efforts with a winner at Southwell this week in the all-bumper card run on the fibresand. Nicky Henderson had a good few winners that day too, so we can surmise (no surprise there though) that his facilities are pretty much up to scratch in the big freeze.

I have looked at the Lanzarote Hurdle today and Henderson’s Tasheba is currently just shading favouritism from Venetia William’s Aachen. I think Aachen might go off favourite. I am not convinced about the step-up in trip for Tasheba where it is obvious that it will be right up Aachen’s street. We will see. I will also be testing the “off a break” theory in this race, combined with different fitness regimes mentioned above. I am aware I am stretching my own credulity a bit with this each way selection – Fenix, trained by Lucy Wadham and off the track for 819 days! I have popped this one in a speculative Lucky 15 with the two Johnston horses I expect to win the 6f and 1m maiden races at Lingfield as well as Bridge of Gold at 15.40.

I am expecting some favourites to get turned over today on the NH cards and I am feeling quite chipper about Aachen, my only niggle is how they’ve got on in the weather up in Herefordshire as he’s making his seasonal debut. Anyway good luck, I think we will need it!

Foxes and low windows

We have had dog disturbed nights recently.  The ice and snow on the pavement has meant that late-night pedestrians have upset Rudi’s sensibilities forcing him into some light growling and barking.  I hoped for peace now that it has finally melted away, but last night was the worst yet due to foxes.  From the noise they were making I wonder if it is mating season, either that or some great foxy crime was being perpetrated down the road.  Their noise sends my dog into an incandescent rage of growling, howling, barking and generally hollering at the varmints accompanied, most alarmingly, by flinging himself at the single-glazed window with considerable force.

He knows this window battering is highly-frowned upon, but he just can help himself in the face of fox provocation.  I can’t just shut him out otherwise he gives full rein to his anger and bashes other windows or just makes a terrible noise to wake the neighbours.  I managed to calm him with a little sympathy and understanding, but he made me smile because he can’t calm down completely.  He ends up lying on the bed, being stroked and sympathised with and sort of huffs and puffs intermittently.

“But” humph

“And” grumph

“Foxes!” ggrrrrr

The other half of the bed has no time for any of this (and can we blame him leaving the house as he does before 6 a.m.), but sadly I think this may be a regular occurence for a few weeks yet.

I think the dog needs earplugs, walks to fell Ian Botham and I am going to have to get a quote for double-glazing, at the front at least.  This will be expensive as we will be replacing 1970 abominations with wood-framed sash windows.  Either that or bars.

I am borrowing the Stephen Foster blog’s house artist to illustrate our fractured night, featuring an unwitting fox at the centre. It’s come out a bit big, but I like it like that 🙂

The History of the World in 100 Objects

After the initial euphoria and novelty value of the snow has worn off it actually has a slightly deadening effect on all the senses.  So after a period of flatness I was glad to register a blip on my excitement scale.  Two blips actually, which neatly collide (in my own mind at any rate!).

Excitement 1: the bathroom floor is decided upon, ordered and *paid for.  In the usual form and function tension I think form has slightly won the day.  I’ll let readers be the judge of that when it’s fitted.

Excitement 2: the BBC start a series next week on Radio 4 in the 15 minute slot before Women’s Hour called the History of the World in 100 Objects.  This is the culmination of a 5 year project with the British Museum and the presenter is Neil MacGregor, the Museum’s Director.  He has said that he has moved from “the study of art to the contemplation of things”.  I like it.  It seems that even the earliest humans could not resist a little form combined with function here and there, despite relying on some of these objects for their very survival.  More about the project here:

One of the 100 objects

*50% discount Emily!

The Blog belongs to Cassia and her Godmother

The blog is rejoicing that Cassia’s Godmother (having had the foresight and wisdom to carshare with a 4×4) had a narrow escape from a night on a snowy Haldon Hill in Devon and was not forced into an unseemly toilette arrangement on the hard shoulder of a dual carriageway.

The last word comes from 5 year old Cassia herself, these contradictorily being her first words this morning.

“Mummy, why does my mouth taste of crab sticks when I haven’t been eating them?”

Why indeed Cassia, why indeed.