Twigs and paintings

Honestly, I am working on a proper post, but this little idea came up when I was transferring pictures from my phone to my laptop.

Our flat overlooks a communal garden. Before the latest batch of named storms, someone had a clearout of branches and created the pile you see above. On a gloomy February afternoon could there be a whiff of Blair Witch? Maybe I’m reading too much into it. I’ve been writing something with a supernatural flavour to it and I’ve been a bit pre-occupied with the garden. It was a lifeline for me during lockdown, along with other residents who patrolled the space in those days when you weren’t supposed to go anywhere.

Fortunately, this pile was cleared up before Eunice, who would have made short work of it.. I watched the storm from the safety of the flat. None of our trees had any mishaps, although our avian residents were laying low throughout.

This is an old picture of one member of a dynasty of crows whose territory covers the garden. There are about five of them at the moment.

The magpies are just visitors I think. But they’re getting bolder. One morning this ek I saw five of then sitting in one tree. A new family? A crow joined them in the same tree and they moved on, but not straight away. They were back again the following day all in a different tree this time broken up by two crows.

We have wood pigeons, the non-player characters of the garden, gulls (must be rough at sea, as everybody’s Mum and Dad always said) small birds (robins mostly, pretty bold for a tiny bird) and the occasional green bird (the feral parakeets of the south east.)

And squirrels, moving through the net of branches like fish in the water, ignoring the boundaries between trees. They pay hardly any attention to other animals except to scurry up a tree in seconds at the sight of some threat or other.I can hardly believe that cats ever get them.

I once saw a cat make a half hearted leap at one of the crows. He took off, landed again and then gave the cat a damn good talking to, like an adult rebuking a teenager. The cat slinked away.

But back to twigs. After Eunice, the garden was covered in debris from the storm.

Some of these were gathered into another pile.

This sort of stuff does tend to loom large in my mind these days. Although it’s a sombre time of year, the outdoors definitely helps. Before lockdown I imagined my retired life would have involved lots of bus travel and photography but I’ve also been lying low, sheltering from Covid and confining myself to the very local. I’ve also had some medical issues (nothing life threatening) which keep me close to home while I wait for a procedure. So forgive me if I think a lot about the garden.

Really, we got away without much damage as far as Eunice was concerned, and I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much either. Having covered my health experiences on the blog, I have now tested you with nature notes. So perhaps I should turn away from the micro-local and remember Local Studies.

One of the loose ends I managed to tie up before I retired was the case of some missing paintings, which we lost track of during a re-organisation of space at the Town Hall several years ago. With the help of the Mayor’s Parlour staff I was able to locate three pictures which had hung in some now non-existent offices. Such as this one.

A rather nice nocturne featuring Chelsea Old Church, roughly photographed by me just after we got it back. Or this one.

A slightly wonky photo of a painting showing a view looking down Oakley Street. The shop on the left is now a branch of Gail’s bakery.

On the right, Argyll House (possibly the subject of a future post) is currently undergoing building work and is sheltering behind a giant picture of itself.

This painting was frustrating because we didn’t have a decent colour photograph of it. It had been photographed at some point- it was used for the dust jacket of Barbara Denny’s excellent book Chelsea Past, but that was probably in the pre-digital era and the library didn’t have a print or a negative. So I was quite pleased to have it back.

There’s another picture, my favourite of the three, which I couldn’t get a decent picture of (glare etc). I’ll save that for another day. You’ll have noticed I couldn’t remember the names of the painters. Someone will tell me.


I read today about the death at the age of 57, of Mark Lanergan, one of the great singers of rock music. A quick survey of my CDs showed eight albums either solo works, or by Screaming Trees, the grunge band of the 90s he was in. He had a distinctive voice, both rough and smooth, if you can take a bit of music critic writing. I remember reading about his recent memoir Devil in a coma, which details his struggle with illness and thinking he must have been a bit of a handful for the hospital staff.

I particularly liked Blues Funeral and the Last Words album by Screaming Trees. My favourite from that album is Ash Grey Sunday, one of the best opening tracks ever. He made the rest of us look cautious.

I’ll also note the sad passing of Gary Brooker. A Whiter shade of pale is one of those classic songs that form part of the cultural background for anyone of my age. For anyone really. My late friend Carl Spencer was a real fan of Procul Harum. I remember his favourite was Conquistador.

When you sit on a draft for days, as I often have, events overtake you, whether it’s the war in Ukraine, or closer to home, the death of a resident of Kensington and Chelsea. Writer and ilustrator Shirley Hughes had died at the age of 94. Most parents will have memories of reading books to their children particularly the Alfie books (the one with the cement mixer was Matthew’s favourite). And of course that childhood tearjerker Dogger. I met her once at a library event and she was a lovely person, just as you would wish a children’s author to be. Sympathies to her family and friends from book lovers, parents, teachers and librarians.

Good luck to all the brave people of Ukraine.

I saw a report of a demonstration in the UK which featured a lttle girl who had drawn her own poster with the slogan “Putin is a poo”, with a nice picture of a steaming turd. Fair comment.

Another local resident:

2 responses to “Twigs and paintings

  • litelwumin

    Blessings to you and your family ~ from Minnesota, USA. Always a pleasure to read your posts.

  • Sara Wright

    I came across your blog by accident when I was trying to find out if any old colleagues still worked at RBK&C. I worked with you about 25 years ago in Chelsea and Old Brompton Road Libraries and have fond memories of our chats about music and films. Your Covid experience was very very moving and I hope you and your family make a complete recovery with no lasting damage. I love all your photos and memories of K & C too. Sara x

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