Free Art Friday Exeter

I started Free Art Friday Exeter in July 2015 as part of my “Particulart: Up in the Air” exhibition at the Glorious Art House in Exeter.It has its very own Facebook page.

Free Art Friday is a worldwide movement that has existed for many years. Artists leave pieces in public places to be discovered and taken for free. Its founder My Dog Sighs has given a talk at TEDxWarwick. He wrote this description of the movement on its Flickr group page:

Artwork placed on the street for any member of the public to enjoy and take home — go on, make someone’s day! Post only pictures of free art please.

Free Art Friday is not an original concept. There are many artists across the world making art and leaving it out on the street.

There are no rules. That’s the joy! In order to keep a record of exclusively free art you need to make sure the work is easily removable and does little or no damage to its environment.

Some put out canvas. Others use materials found on the street. Cardboard is popular but your imagination is your limit.

P.S. It doesn’t have to be Friday!

The concept of Free Art Friday has many strands.

For the artist, it is an opportunity to create work free from the constraints of commerce, to voice an idea, shout a political message or just amuse and confuse the viewer.

Art is so often tied to a need by the artist to ‘make a living’ and constrained by gallery and dealer issues. FAF focuses the artist on the act itself, giving complete artistic freedom as opposed to considering financial and commercial limits.

Many Free Art Friday participants’ work is humorous and good natured, hoping to cheer up the walk to work of the viewer. Hoping to make them question everything. To expect the unexpected and realise that along with the need to sell, promote, fight the system and rebel, there is also a need to embellish and entertain in a non profit way without the need to cause damage to property.

The act of removing the work intrigues. Almost an act of situationist art itself. Is there guilt? Why is it taken – as part of a street cleaning operation, consigned to the rubbish heap? or coveted and displayed? Are they artists themselves? Kids, willing to steal and destroy purely for the act of rebellion or someone never faced with something completely free, not promoting or selling? After all how many things do you know that are completely free, no strings attached?

All street artists, whether producing static or removable art, hope to promote discussion in one form or other: “Talk about me and my work”, “Question the images thrown at you”, or “Use your political power”.

(My Dog Sighs ’07)

I started by trying to give away my prototype for Particulart, the carbon dioxide that ended up a bit too big and time-consuming to knit. A bit of a wrench! The lady on Reception in the Exeter Civic Centre couldn’t quite grasp the point of Free Art Friday (“It’ll disappear within 5 minutes”… well, yes) and thought it better if I didn’t leave my carbon dioxide molecule there. So I took it to Exeter Library instead, and left it on a table in the café. Did anyone find it, did anyone see it and was intrigued but didn’t dare take it? Was it just binned by the café staff? Deafening silence!

There it rested until the new year and new resolutions, and I thought I’d get it going again. So I rolled up one of my prototype Soul Cube sheets into a scroll, tied with a ribbon, and nestled it among the Oxo Cubes in the city centre Tesco. Again, a deafening silence.

And then I met Cleo of Miss*C’s Graffiti Academy at an Exeter Visual Arts Forum. She knows the FAF founder My Dog Sighs, and was immediately interested, and started to crochet some beautiful butterflies to leave around Exeter and further afield.

I left a Green|Blue greetings card under a tree in Fore Street, and suddenly had my first find. I donated another carbon dioxide to a fundraising raffle for refugees (held on a Friday). After all, climate change was one factor leading to the unrest in Syria. Our last offerings (at the time of writing) were Mini Fashion Statements, tiny scrolls made in a Craftivists Collective workshop on craftivism, and left in the pockets of clothes for sale in stores around town.

Free Art Friday is what it is. Any one can get involved, leave art for others to find, and post on the Facebook page. My art is typically more political. Cleo’s butterflies are jewel-like and beautiful and have reached more people. She also inspired the set-up of Free Art Friday Exmouth, which has formed a group and will do its first drop during Exmouth Festival.

Interested? Go on, make someone’s day!


God’s eye view

I’ve been working on a set of 21 images of flood risk around the south coast of England, from Sussex to Bristol. That sounds so prosaic. What has emerged is a beautiful forest of sometimes fragile, sometimes twisted trees. I’ve called the series Green|Blue, and you can see more on my website. It channels my enjoyment of playing with data, my wonder at the beauty that can be found in unexpected places, and my concern for the environment and the way we see our place within it:

The view from above has become normalised. Google Maps and OS Maps, city centre plans and ‘you are here’ stickers on the boards at local nature reserves, give the impression of omniscience and omnipotence. The very notion of ‘flood risk’ calls both our knowledge and power into question in the face of uncertainty and the force of nature.

What seems to be the most solid and robust is in reality the most fragile and vulnerable. Changing the perspective, looking slant, confers a new understanding and humility.

Exe-productIf you are interested, I’m producing the images as archive quality prints and greetings cards. I was honoured that TEDxExeter thanked their speakers with gifts of prints and supporters with greetings cards, both of the Exe. I think they make great gifts… although I might not be impartial!

Here are also a few related links that I like:


Power Culture

This blog is becoming a bit of a signpost to other blog posts I’ve written. RegenSW asked me to write a couple of pieces for its new blog “Power Culture: exploring our energy generation through the arts”. Naturally, I wrote about Particulart and Didcot Power Station.

  1. Energy infrastructures inhabit our interior landscapes
    I am almost certain that Didcot Power Station’s looming bulk sparked my interest in energy and shaped my environmental interests and career. But I am not the only person which it has sensitised. Many regard it as a blot on the landscape, many others have seen its sculptural appeal.
  2. The art of knitting, chemistry, and gentle protest
    It took me 44 years to learn to follow the energy, so here’s the story of how Particulart sparked and took on its own energy…

Taking the Long View at TEDxExeter 2015

Each year I summarise the posts I write for TEDxExeter on the theme of the annual conference. In 2015 it was “Taking the Long View” ; in 2014 it was “Ideas Without Frontiers”; in 2013, “Living the Questions”; and way back in the mists of time in 2012 it was “Sustainability and Our Interconnected World”. Here are my 2015 posts.

  1. Magna Carta
    The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta was the inspiration behind the 2015 theme. Why we chose that and not the 50th anniversary of the Sound of Music.
  2. The telescope
    Taking the literal view of the Long View, a smattering of quite interesting factoids about the origins of the telescope and its name; the transit of Venus and Cook’s voyages; and the Interplanetary Scintillation Array and other more modern telescopes.
  3. Climate change and knitting
    The Guardian’s campaign to keep fossil fuels in the ground, a Lenten Carbon Fast; and how I take the long view in my knitting and arts practice.
  4. If you go down to the woods today…
    The short-termism of deforestation, and some hopeful examples of the long view of reafforestation.
  5. Up the Women
    From Clause 40 in Magna Carta to HIllary Clinton via the suffragists and suffragettes – the long struggle for women’s political rights, and a call to vote on 7 May [sigh].
  6. Further together
    There’s an old African proverb that says “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Also a tribute to the wonderful TEDxExeter team.

Didcot Power Station, art installation

Didcot Power Station was commissioned shortly before I was born and dominated the landscape of my childhood. I am fairly sure that its looming bulk sparked my interest in energy, and possibly shaped my environmental interests and career. And now, one of my interests is environmental art, including the subset that is the art related to energy production and supply.

I know that as part of General Studies during my lower sixth year, I had to write about the architecture of four buildings, and I chose Didcot as one of the four. I wrote about its aesthetics – the shape of the cooling towers, the site layout – although now I know that I missed a few angles. Since then I have been sensitive to articles about it, unsurprisingly not always positive, and have seen one or two art pieces using Didcot as a model. But only now that it is in the process of being demolished, have I investigated a little more thoroughly.

Didcot Power Station* was built in the late 1960s to meet the rapidly growing demand for electricity. Most of the other stations built at the time were located close to coalfields or on major rivers. Didcot was unusual, built in a rural area that was highly regarded for its natural beauty in order to be close to sources of demand and reduce transmission losses. This meant that more attention was paid to its aesthetics than were to, for example, the slightly later Drax.

Historic England’s assessment of Didcot as a candidate for listing is my prime source of information about the design.

At the time, the CEGB built stations to a standard template, but had to preserve local amenity and submit its proposals to the Royal Fine Art Commission for approval. As architect it appointed Frederick Gibberd, whose previous work included Harlow New Town and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. His brief was to maintain the views across the Vale of the White Horse, and covered the layout, cladding materials, the colour scheme, hard landscaping and planting.

My mother has written a few maths text books.

My mother has written a few maths text books.

Gibberd modelled the site from four viewpoints, considering differing numbers, sizes and groupings of cooling towers. Henry Moore had a small role in the design when it came to the Royal Fine Art Commission, moving the towers around to create a good composition. The final solution used six cooling towers of standard height and hyperbolic swoop.** The towers were divided in two groups of three, as widely spaced as possible at either end of a NW-SE axis across the site, with the rest of the plant equidistant between them.

Gibberd considered colouring the plant and towers in cream, biscuit, white and dark green, but chose to use a “muted palette of colours to create an even grey tone over the whole composition”. He worked with landscape architect Brenda Colvin on the site planting. The lower buildings and coal yard were screened, but Colvin felt the towers “were a significant feature of the landscape – giant eye-catchers”, and so the planting did not attempt to screen them but provided a setting and a balance to open up the views.

Roger Wagner, “Menorah”, 1993

The first artistic reponse to Didcot that I was aware of was “Menorah” by Roger Wagner, in which he uses a view of the six towers and chimney as a back-drop to the crucifixion drama. He writes: “When I first saw Didcot power station through the window of a train from Oxford to Paddington, the smoke belching from the central chimney reminded me more of a crematorium than a symbol of God’s presence. And yet having said that, the astonishing sky behind the towers looked like the arch of some great cathedral, while something in the scale of the cooling towers themselves, with the light moving across them and the steam slowly, elegiacally, drifting away, created the impression that they were somehow the backdrop of a great religious drama.”

But Wagner was not the first to respond. According to Historic England, “An evocative cultural appreciation by Marina Warner and entitled Didcot Power Station, 1970 (BBC Elstree, 1990) formed one of a series of short documentary films relating to building history produced by the BBC.” I’d be grateful if anyone could let me know how to obtain a copy.

Even earlier, in 1966 during construction of the power station, Sir John Betjeman lamented the defacing of rural England in Inexpensive Progress: “Encase your legs in nylons, / Bestride your hills with pylons / O age without a soul; … And if there is some scenery, / Some unpretentious greenery, / Surviving anywhere, / It does not need protecting / For soon we’ll be erecting / A Power Station there.” He doesn’t name Didcot, but Betjeman located other poetry in the area, most famously “Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!”

On a (possibly) more positive note, Sir Tim Rice wrote the lyric Ode to Didcot Power Station for the musical Three More Men in a Boat (1982). I couldn’t find it online, but I confess I didn’t look very hard. Here instead are a few lines from Kit Wright’s 2005 Ode to Didcot Power Station: ” DIDCOT! To one more / Soft eidolon thou steams’t ope mem’ry’s door… / For in thy hanging shrouds I view return / Far other blue-grey clouds;”

Seeing Didcot’s towers once more from the train also prompted memories for a former master of Keble College Oxford who, writing under the pseudonym John Elinger, won a poetry prize in 2009 for The Cooling Towers at Didcot. But later in the poem he writes: “Technology’s half / Life seems so short. The towers must go, / They say.” And indeed, in 2014 and 2015, the towers are being demolished.

…which is why, when a glimpse of the towers is no longer a vehicle for memory, documentary photographic evidence is so important. The Social landscape of Didcot, a Facebook page of Paul Bodsworth’s photographs “capturing moments… and interesting aspects of life in Didcot… using composition that challenges mainstream photography and viewers alike”. He started photographing Didcot at the end of March 2012, one year before its decommissioning and “the Power station stops creating its plumes of steam and falls quiet.” I don’t know whether photography is art, but this image of the first demolition in July 2014 in particular tells a story.


Barbaresi & Round’s 1:1 scale model of a cooling tower section

During the three months prior to its decommissioning, Rachel Barbaresi & Susanna Round were appointed as resident artists at Didcot, funded by RWE npower and South Oxfordshire District Council. In their blog Where clouds are made, they describe their visits to the station, conversations with workers past and present, their impressions internal and external, investigations into Gibberd’s design, and the relationship of the power station with the town of Didcot. All of this is included in their ‘work’: “Through the project we want to explore how the power plant and cooling towers have come to play an imaginative role in the sense of place for Didcot residents and beyond.” But their residency culminated with an exhibition at the Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot during May-June 2013.

Barbaresi & Round’s blog mentions James Attlee’s role as Writer on the Train for First Great Western, and his post about passing and photographing Didcot on his daily commute to London. Unfortunately, Attlee’s original post is now unavailable, probably because it is now in book form.

The blog also briefly describes their work with the film maker Martyn Bull. Bull’s sound and video recordings of the power station became a sound installation in the Cornerstone exhibition. Thankfully, Bull’s work How beautiful can a power station sound? is still available.

Finally, Barbaresi & Round quote from Marina Warner’s reflection on Didcot as her 1991 contribution to the BBC series Building Sights, which again seems not to be available. The towers “symbolise heedless, overflowing consumption with an ironic economy of form” and, echoing Shelley’s Ozymandius, like monuments “they contain the promise of ruin”.

Historic England refused the listing because, although Gibberd’s design has “strong resonance”, Didcot conformed too much to standards and policies. And so… at 5.01am on 27 July 2014, the three southern cooling towers were demolished.

Through the news reporting, I became aware of the work of Patrick Cannon, abstract paintings which preserve Didcot in its setting of natural beauty. But I would say that the final piece of art associated with Didcot, for the time being at least, is the performance art of the demolition itself. This BBC video starts with the collapse in reverse, and the three towers spring to life before crumpling into dust. Solid blocks deform as ripples of fabric. The closest tower blows a smoke ring as they collapse in situ, in the place Where clouds [of dust] are made.


* The original power station was coal-fired, and is now known as Didcot A since the gas-fired Didcot B was built in the 1990s. I’m using Didcot throughout to refer to Didcot A.

** I vaguely recall reading that Didcot’s hyperbolae were modified, so the towers are more pleasing in shape than say Drax’s, but can’t find anything to back this up.


Culture vulture

Third Way magazine has just invited me (as one of its friends and family, aw!) to write approx 100 words about my cultural highlight of 2014 for the Reviews section in the new year issue. It was lovely to be invited, and to be prompted to recall some pleasant memories. I thought I may as well write something while I was musing, and here it probably shouldn’t be quite yet, but here it is!

2014 was a rich year, from the Matisse Cut-Outs, to Fidelio at Garsington, to finally visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Hepworth Wakefield, to putting on my own first humble art exhibition in Exeter. But my highlight was discovering The Bookshop in Wigtown, a cornucopia of quirky delights, one of those deceptive spaces that opens up nooks and crannies to entice the unsuspecting into discovering a pair of armchairs by a fireplace, a suspended violin-playing skeleton, a vintage bicycle, or a ladder to a platform and a cosy-looking mattress. It also sells second-hand books.

I could have written myriads more about squillions of other things. It has been a good year so far, and it’s not over yet!


A Suburban Serenade

It happened! Possibly not one of the daftest ideas I’ve had, but must be one of the dafter ideas I’ve pursued.


Just before 3pm on a warm and muggy Sunday afternoon in September, the 12 members of Sine Nomine (one of the tenors couldn’t make it) drove to Elgar Close in east Exeter, wondering whether we would find any audience waiting for us. We did. And as we walked around the streets named after English composers, singing music by each on their street corner, we gathered more and more. A group of about 30-40 aged between 2 and 72 travelled with us all the way round, some responding to the leaflets through their doors, others walking past and spontaneously joining us. Many stopped what they were doing to listen, popping out of their front doors and garden gates, and appearing at windows.

As we sang and walked and sang, Sunday afternoon was happening around us: lawnmowers, cars apologetically making their way between choir and audience, planes overhead. Between corners, the audience and choir chatted about the music, the estate, being brought up in the area, or never having been to this bit of Exeter before. Not quite the Lord of Misrule and the overturning of all ordinary behaviour, but permission still given for conversation and overt curtain twitching.


One enthusiastic lady on the corner of Sullivan Road suggested we sing on her lawn, obviously determined to video us in front of her house. There were many cameras, and many photos and videos taken that we will never see, and memories we will never know.  I hope I retain many memories, but perhaps the one that stands out is of the lad of about 4 who came all the way round with his Mum and younger sister, and stood listening intently at every corner.

Then after the final notes of Britten’s “Hymn to St Cecilia” died away on the playing field at Britten Drive, we walked back to our cars and were waved off by some of the audience as we headed back to my house for tea and cake.

View Larger Map

Big thanks to Chris and Josie for getting the choir and music together, to all the members of the choir, to Councillors Henson and Leadbetter and Exeter City Council for supporting the venture financially, to the Council again for letting us gatecrash the Unexpected Exeter Festival and providing a bit of publicity, and of course to the audience!



Tewlwolow Kernow

It was a hot bright day during the 2013 summer heatwave. I approached from below through the gardens recently planted with exotics from even hotter climes. The land was once owned by the monks of St Michael’s Mount, and the Mount shimmered on the horizon behind, at once below me and above keeping watch.

I passed through a circular seating space, an antechamber, through a narrow door into a low and dark space stoppered by light in front and behind, and opened out suddenly into bright height.

The space is an oval chamber, open to the sky. There is a bench running around the edge. I sat down. It forced me to lean back and look upwards.

I’m told there is background illumination, presumably nestling in the ledge above the seating, but the power of sun overwhelmed all human mediated light. It was at first unbearable, a space seering on the eyeballs. Eventually, I put my sunglasses back on.

SkyspaceSt Michael's Mount

Initially I had seen a flattened image of blue and white. The sunglasses brought the image into three dimensions… not the 3D of a white frame superposed on blue, but the 3D of a blue lozenge mounted on the white ceiling, now decreasing to grey as the blue increased. The edge belonged to the sky instead of the opening in the ceiling. The only tell-tale of reality was a thin bright line reflecting the sun; the edge of the opening cannot be infinitely thin.

Here are the truths mediated by dark protective lenses…

The lozenge was coloured light-blue nearer the invisible sun, shading to dark-blue on the opposite side, and becoming darker as my gaze lengthened. It was a jewel, a cameo brooch, a gift.

It was a film projection, across which clouds and birds were flying.

It was a dish of liquid, through which clouds and birds were swimming.

I could stretch out my hand to touch the face of God.

The ellipse was the entire cosmos. I was being shown the universe as Julian was shown “all that is made” lying as a hazelnut in the palm of her hand.

Anti-shadowThe anti-shadow – made by the sun shining through the oval opening – was an alternative universe brighter than our own. But it was misshapen, swollen above the fault line that ran across it. It was the brightness of a Lucifer, or an Icarus that had approached too near the sun and fallen. Its lines were blurred.

One could not come close to the other.


Tewlwolow Kernow is “An underground elliptical domed chamber which James Turrell has designed as a space from which to view the sky, especially at twilight.” It is found in the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, whch opened in mid-September 2012, located in the golden mile above Penzance. Tewlwolow means half-light, i.e. twilight.


Site-Specific Exercises

Last Thursday, I cycled over to West Town Farm near Ide for a workshop on Site-Specific Writing. The lovely Oriana from Resident Writers organised it with Christine from OrganicARTS, based at the Farm. OrganicARTS has done a lot of work with pottery using clay from the Farm, natural materials and dyes, and it has been an ambition to encourage writers too.

We convened in the workshop for introductions and a cup of tea. Then Chrstine led us on a tour of the Farm, while we chattered enthusiastically and incidentally followed Oriana’s instructions to notice places and things that touched us – whether veg patch, old railway cutting, shepherd’s hut, open fields, skeletons of buildings, henge of native trees, woodland, pigs afar off. Then Oriana brought us back to the workshop and gave us a tour not so much of the theory of site-specific work, but of some illustrative and inspiring examples. After a shared lunch (Bryce brought the most incredible vegan gluten-free chocolate brownies), she put us to work on a series of timed exercises.

One of the art works about to lift off from West Town Farm

One of the art works about to lift off from West Town Farm

There were about fifteen of us, with an impressive range of experience and genre. I felt a little – well, being on a beef farm, I think the word has to be – cowed. But it really didn’t matter. The whole day was so laid back, and the slightly ramshackle workshop with its patina of clay so welcoming to informality, that sharing of our attempts was surprisingly unthreatening. So here are mine.

Exercise 1

Think of three characteristics you have, or things you believe in or stand for. How could they be represented by things at the Farm? The exercises were all very flexible. Stories could be poems. Three could be one.

Make connections

There is no sign now of the old railway line except a cutting, but it is still linking places and sparking connections…

I am under the sea, looking up to the surface far above. The ferns are the fronds of seaweed drifting in the current. All around are the rocks, the earth – a sea bed of sediment laid down, compressed, pummelled, churned and turned. Fallen trees are the masts of long-drowned tall ships, now encrusted with lichen corals, barnacle-strong mosses and waving ivy anemones. There is treasure set among the mast roots.

Attentive to the common-place

Bramble shoots hang from the old railway bridge over the cutting. Year-by-year they add feet of growth until eventually they will reach the bottom of the cutting and root themselves and spawn. Rapunzel is letting down her thorny tresses, up which we can climb to ambiguous adventures.

Slightly eccentric

I want to dig into the woodchip pile and snuggle amongst the warmth of composting mulch.

Exercise 2

Imagine your niece or nephew has never been to a farm. Tell them a short story to describe the farm.

Once upon a time, because that’s how the old stories lost in the mist and mizzle always begin… once upon a time, there was a Town in the West. There were shops and houses in the Town, surrounded by tarmac and concrete and barren lawn, and the shops and the houses were filled with stuff. The roads around them were straight and smooth, and filled with cars and lined with signs telling the cars what to do. And on the northwest of the Town, there were highrises, tall and grey.

But in this Town in the West there lived a Talking Head, which spoke of oases and rivers, fields and trees, daisies and berries. And as it spoke the Town began to change. The highrises began to put out branches, and their sides became grooved and knotty. The branches put out leaves and buds and flowers. And the specks of air pollution became bees and hoverflies and pollinated the flowers. And as the trees put their roots down into the water supply system, the fruit started to swell and ripen, and the people laughing climbed to pick it.

The cars abandoned by the people became cows and sheep and pigs. The roads cracked and curved, and the central reservation and the streetlights and signs all blossomed into hedgerows. And the cows and sheep and pigs all grazed on the hedgerows and the tarmac, which had become grass and wild flower meadows. The sodium lamps burst into sprays of elderflower, and the blue signs to the M5 became speedwell and borage in the hedgerows; and the red stop signs and traffic lights became red campion and foxgloves, and later haws and rose hips; and the green A-road signs and traffic lights became the many-hued greens of may and rowan and ash and spindle and hazel and alder and willow.

And as the Head continued to talk, the shops and houses started to spread themselves wide and long, and all the stuff in them began to take root and grow. The stuff in the buildings with cellars became parsnips and carrots and potatoes, and the stuff in the bungalows became cabbages and chard and pumpkins, and the stuff in the terraced town houses became rows of runner beans and tomatoes climbing high. And the barren lawns grew into fields of grain waving their heads in the breeze.

And the people spent their days looking after the farm that used to be the Town in the West, and celebrating a place that was no longer a grey desert, but bursting with life and growth gifted by the Talking Head.

Idea for story sparked by Talking Heads “(Nothing But) Flowers”

Exercise 3

Write a lyrical recipe, or an ode to a vegetable.

It’s best to drawn a veil over this one!

Exercise 4

Write a story or poem about a place on the farm that moved you. Or write about how you found the day, the group, the farm, site-specific writing.

Time out from my routine. Morning writings interrupted. But this is writing too – inspiring people, new perspectives, stretching exercises. And a challenge: can I find an environment becomes a place provoking words, while surrounded by a group chattering away? There are many stories here, from many sources, but must I be alone to listen to the stories of the land?

To native trees whispering of delving deep and reaching high, of fellings and fallings and rebirth. To bardic birds, singing of territorial battles and courtship, and daily meals hard hunted, and the fierce joy of it all. To wildflowers, writing with light and colour, and eager pollinators humming and whirring as they sup from jewelled cups. To the human remains, the steam lane become green lane become cathedral, arched with trunks and fallen spars and ancient-to-modern brickworks.

And did I listen properly through the others’ words, and give them their due?

The Way Home

I’d not cycled to Ide before, and I discovered a new-to-me old lane in Exeter. My route lay along the familiar stretch down Woodwater Lane, beside Wonford Playing Fields and down to the river. A modern arched footbridge took me across the river, a swing bridge across the canal, and an older brick bridge across the railway. Barad-dûr, the incinerator under construction, stands guard at this entrance to the Marsh Barton Trading Estate, where I always cycle at peril from the criminal negligence of white van SMIDSYs.

I tried a new route; instead of going straight ahead and through Alphington, I turned right immediately, then left and past Sainsbury’s, where there’s a section of cycle path. I still didn’t manage to suss the A377 Alphington Road / Cowick Lane / B3123 Church Road junction, though, and this time I was aiming for my new old lane. Ball Farm Road runs roughly parallel to the A30, and it took me to the footbridge over the A30 and Ide Road. A corkscrew up, over, and a corkscrew back down delivered me into the heart of Ide. Now was possibly the most dangerous part of the journey. Country lanes are not busy but there are a disproportionate number of accidents as motorists drive too fast. Anyway, it was still beautiful, and not too steep, and I arrived safely.

But the best was left to last. After a day in the countryside, the ride back through the country lanes acted as a gentle reimmersion into the weavings of nature through and around the urban and suburban landscape.


#turnedoutgreyagain, a Twoem

What is this big shiny ball in the sky? Will it be my friend?
Blackbird perched precariously in pyracantha,
picking at plentiful berries. #ventriloquismforbeginners
I forgot I’d moved the snowdrops last spring. #februaryjoys
Municipal planting of quince flowering strongly.
Leaves on their way.
Two goldfinches breakfasting on the niger seed.
Gonna have to dig out that hot water bottle again. #springfail

Sun shining. In the garden planting potatoes.
Rain spattering against the windows…
Now it’s hailing. #typicalbritishspring
Two herring gulls harrying a buzzard.
Year’s first lawn mow, and sad farewell to celandine and speedwell.
You don’t know what you’ve got till you’re wantonly destroying it.
Grey and dreich outside. Tea and crumpets inside. #slowstartonsaturday

Happy to see shadows when I opened my curtains this mornings. #sunstarved
Two buzzards wheeling in the blue sky directly over my house.
Unusual, not least the blue sky.
Spur of the moment train to Exmouth to catch the evening sunshine. #bigskies
Glorious blues and yellows walking east,
and west with the sun in my eyes listening to the rush of surf…

First hawthorn, blossom and leaves.
Blackthorn blossom about to burst. #springsigns
A day of goldfinch and skylarks, colour and song.
Sunshine and warmth, swallows and unfurling cowslips.
Pussy willow swirling in the wind like enthusiastic orcs at a music and movement class.
Reed mace standing to attention,
bending from the base before the wind like arthritic emaciated Guards.
Peewits crying in the night.

And so it ends. By turns irritating, digressive, long-winded, scintillating. #lesmis


[Twoem: a poem on Twitter. This isn’t a Twoem. It is a poem crafted from earlier tweets. But what should it be termed?]