Singing: Now Sleeps The Crimson Petal, Now The White (from the movie Vanity Fair)

This is the best recording I can get of this lovely song by Mychael Danna from the 2004 film version of Thackeray‘s Vanity Fair, with Reese Witherspoon in the female lead (Becky Sharp).

The lyrics are from the sonnet by Alfred Lord Tennyson Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal Now the White:

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The firefly wakens: waken thou with me.
Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.
Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.
Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.
Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.

Various composers have set the sonnet to music: Benjamin Britten, Thomas Quilter, Paul Mealor.



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A Spookiness of Stones

Nine Stones and their Shadows

Nine Stones and their Shadows

Further to Eclipses and Cuckoos, a further nine stones, unearthed on our lottie over the past month or so.  Where they had lain, are now sweetcorn and globe artichokes (and one cardoon, misidentified by the garden centre and masquerading as an artichoke).

They are very similar, cardoons and artichokes. You can eat cardoons – the stems – whereas it is the bud (the large globe) of the globe artichoke that is eaten.

What’s spooky about these nine stones?

Read this:  “She was already inspired by the endless variety of flint and the flint surrounding Le Pigeonnier was unique to the locality. Broken down for use in buildings and walls, the stones fell open onto moody landscapes of smoky greys and browns through which, in varying degrees of red and pink, flecks of precious chalcedony darted and danced, like sprites who had tumbled into them from the tower’s woodland backdrop and become trapped there.

Stones Sliced 15 May 2015She too had tumbled in. Head over heels she’d fallen, seduced by their promise of story. From stone to canvas, back and forth she went, carrying, translating with paint and brush, their ancient tales. In the way of lovers, she was in thrall to the other.

Especially the ‘egg’. When she held one half in each hand, she thought she felt them pull towards each other.  An over-fanciful imagination? Perhaps.

Their ‘interiors’ were richer in colour than other pieces she was drawn to collect: swirls of earth and blood. She’d decided to have their two exposed faces polished. Now, they fit together like two pieces of a Chinese puzzle. The same but different, each interior exposing deeper dimensions and a mirror, that also absorbed and reflected back her world, her lights and shadows and no reflection ever the same twice.

Flint and feather.”

Yes, it’s an extract from my novel-in-edit, Flint and Feather.

The manuscript had been set aside for some time until very recently, I’d forgotten that the artworks created by my main character, are inspired by stones – the flint that surrounds her home (Le Pigeonnier).  When split, the stones open up to beautiful and diverse interiors. No one interior is ever the same as another.

A little boy (an allotment neighbour’s son) had gifted me with a smooth black stone. Then I kept finding them. Then I started finding them split cleanly in half – to reveal an amazing diversity of colour and form in their interiors, like these in the photos.

Had they been put in my way, again and again (I have quite a pile of these now) by an unseen force or forces who want me to finish this novel? Is it my subconscious? Is it coincidence?

Whichever (and I invite you to think on this and come back to me with your thoughts) I find it odd, delightfully so, that I invent a character who is an artist whose work is inspired by stones, especially one she finds that she refers to as the Egg, which has split into two exact halves which when, “… she held one half in each hand, she thought she felt them pull towards each other.”

And now I am an artist inspired to create art from stones split in two.

Five Dark One Light Stone 14 May 2015I’m inclined to ask, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Or in this case, cuckoo.  Oh, yes, there’s a cuckoo in a nest in my novel.

What do you think – cuckoo or egg?


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Tumblr Features My Work : The Dust of Life

the-dust-of-life-v-adjacent-pageTumblr emailed me to say they’d featured a couple of spreads from one of my Arthouse Coop Sketchbook Project sketchbooks in their BS Project.

When I checked, it’s the first of my Arthouse Coop sketchbooks, the Fiction Project. I wrote a series of illustrated short stories  to the theme I’m a Scavenger. I called the collection The Dust of Life. This is one of the many pejorative names given to street children around the world. The stories are fictionalised accounts of the daily lives of real children who are obliged to work on giant stinking and dangerous municipal waste sites around the world, scavenging for recyclables in exchange for a pittance, with which they buy a little food for themselves and their families. Some children living like this are only two years old and work and live naked.

The Dust of Life Silk Print Series IIt’s featured here on Tumblr.

I made a slideshow of the entire book. It’s posted on Gallery I, set to a composition The Pages of My Life by my internet friend songwriter, singer, musician Rob Stevens.

I’m pleased this particular one of my Arthouse books has been featured because it draws attention once again to the scandal of street children scavengers around the world.

Think of donating just a fiver to one of the charities for streetchildren on Just Giving.


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Flint & Feather Resurrected

Above the laptop is a packet of radish seeds. A ball of string.
Adjustable spanner.
Two staplers.

To the right of the laptop is a blue mug from the pottery attached to Aylesford Priory.
Reflected in the laptop screen is the curtain hanging across the shed door (greenhouse shading).

Behind the laptop is a wooden wall with insulation attached (bubble wrap).

The insulated wooden wall belongs to the shed at the allotment.

Outside, things are growing. I’ve dug, weeded, planted. Watered. Fed. Sought advice.

Inside this outside I made this growing space. An obelisk, inside a circle, inside a circle, inside a square. Beans. Chives. Radish seeds. Basil seeds. Nasturtium seeds.

On the corners of the square, a golden courgette, a round green courgette, a squash, a clump of sorrel.

Next to this, a patch of cabbages.

And in the midst of all this, I’ve resurrected my novel Flint & Feather.  It had been stalled, frozen. What I mean is, it needed digging, weeding, planting, watering, feeding. Et cetera. In other words, like all the growing things at the allotment, it needed love.

How could I ever have known that for the hearting-up of a cabbage, all that was required was love?

And its tools. Seeds. String. Spanner. Staplers. Secateurs.

All you need to resurrect a novel.

An allotment. It’s not just about growing fruits and veggies.

I like the cast shadows. Sweetcorn hold hands here, doing a circle dance.Sweetcorn



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A Bad Photo Gone Good

Rhubarb FlowersI tried to take a photograph of rhubarb flowers (they’re the blurred whitish things).

Technically, it’s all wrong.

Yet, sometimes, a bad photo can be good.

Funny thing, beauty.

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What I’ve Been Singing: Le Spectre de la Rose: Les Nuits d’Eté: Berlioz

I had a first-time try last Friday at singing some of the songs from Hector Berlioz’ song cycle Les Nuits d’E (Summer Nights) the texts for which came from six poems composed by Theophile Gautier.

I’ve had a CD for some years of the song cycle recorded by the late great Janet Baker, so I was not entirely unfamiliar with it. I never thought at the time that I’d one day be singing it.

The theme of the cycle is love, its progress from innocence to loss and renewal. The second song of the cycle, Le Spectre de la Rose, began as a work for piano  – Afforderung zum Tanz (Invitation to the Dance) – written, in 1819, by Carl Maria von Weber.

In 1841, Hector Berlioz orchestrated Afforderung. This version of the music was used for a short ballet in Weber’s opera Der Freischütz at the Paris Opera. It was the Berlioz version of the original piano piece that was used for a ballet, Le Spectre de la rose – a Diaghilev Ballets Russes productionwhich premiered in Monte Carlo in 1911, with Nijinsky in the role of the rose. Nijinsky’s spectacular leap through a window at the end of the ballet became famous, though I read that it was a bit of a stunt and that behind the set Nijinsky leapt into the arms of four men who then wrapped him in warm towels.

There were no men waiting outside the music room with warm towels when I sang Spectre last Friday. I wouldn’t have protested if there had been.   :)

I do love researching songs and composers.



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Archeology and Hand Dyeing – Some Raspberry-Dyed Fabrics and Papers

Raspberry Dyed FabricsGrowing on our new allotment is a number of raspberry plants. They’re old and neglected, but still producing little fruits, though not particularly useful, food-wise.

Rather than wasting the harvest, I used it to dye some fabrics and papers. As I did with the rhubarb leaves gifted by a friend last week, I split the raspberry dye between my two copper dye pots – one with a silver coating inside and one without. Again, the results differed.

In the picture above, the beige fabrics on the left came out of the un-silvered copper pot; those on the right – pink and pink-beige, from the silver-coated copper pot. I’ve included a piece of white silk to show the depth of colour achieved.

I love the subtle differences in tone between the different fabrics.  Each piece has variations, too, in part because some of the fabrics are salvaged and have their own histories. The dye, in this case, has acted as a revealer. I like that the hand-dyeing process uncovers the past and in this, becomes archeology. I might stitch some arrows onto these pieces when I come to use them in artworks, directing the attention to an event revealed.

The most pink is a cotton vest from Marks & Spencer that has seen better days. I’m surprised that it seems to have taken more dye than the other fabrics. Maybe it’s because the weave must be dense, as when wet, it’s quite heavy. The fabric on the bottom of the pile on the left was a thin white cotton t-shirt.

Rasberry and Rhubarb Dyed FabricsThis second image is of a selection of last week’s  rhubarb and raspberry-dyed fabrics.

Gentle and subtle alchemy to mark my 444th blog post.

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Sunday is No-Spam Day

Keeks Lying on Post

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A Dyeing Experiment Gone Right: Rhubarb Dyeing and Mordants

Rhubarb Dyed Fabrics in Copper and Silvered PotsThis image  may not seem very exciting, but I proved something during this dyeing process.

A friend turned up the other day with a huge parcel of rhubarb leaves from her dad’s garden. She’d kept a promise to bring me some for dyeing purposes and had had them in her freezer for a couple of weeks.

They were already defrosting, so I had to do something with them quickly. I left the parcel outdoors overnight – two nights ago – in a plastic picnic box with the lid left off. It rained heavily during the night, so by the time I had prepared some fabrics to dye, what I poured into the dye pot yesterday was liquefying rhubarb leaves and fresh rainwater.

Two dye pots, in fact. I have two copper dye pots. One was fetched for me from the copper market next to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. I had asked for an un-silvered pot but it couldn’t be had. Of course, copper is poisonous, so copper pots that are to be used for culinary purposes are coated inside with silver. Not long after acquiring this pot, I chanced upon an un-silvered copper pot in an antique shop in Rye, East Sussex.

Copper is a mordant. As far as I know, silver is not. I knew that in theory, the dye batches ought to come out differently.

And they did. I simmered my two batches in the two different dye pots for about two hours. In the picture above, the darker, greenish fabrics came from the uncoated copper dye pot.  The brighter, more yellow ones, from the silvered copper dye pot.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.     :)

I used muslin, organza and a couple of very old white cotton pillowcases, edged with lace. The cases are from a number that belonged to my late grandmother. The two I dyed had become so fragile that they tore in the wash and in the hands, just like paper. They took up the dye in the most interesting way, revealing their laundering, starching and no doubt – sweat – histories.

The lightest-toned fabric is the piece of muslin that went into the silvered dye pot. For some reason, it hardly took up the dye at all. I wondered if it had to do with any dressing added to the muslin, which came from a roll. Then, the muslin (from the same roll) that went into the uncoated copper dye pot was beautifully dyed.  Any explanations anyone?

I’ve experimented today in the same way on some silk pieces, to see if the principle holds with silk. And also some khadi (cotton) papers and coffee filters.  More on today’s work in my next blog.

Metaphysically, different kinds of pressure will cause different reactions.  A bit on the trite side, ….

I love these gentle colours.


P S  HEALTH  Do take care when dyeing. Use gloves and tongs. And the smell of the rhubarb leaves simmering is mouth-watering. But rhubarb leaves are poisonous due to their oxalic acid content, so keep children away.

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A Roar of Summer

A Roar of Summer.

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