Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

Ali Smith’s ‘Artful’ and some paperwhites

Posted 10 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Books, Photos

Just finished reading Ali Smith’s lovely, confusing, inspiring ‘Artful’, which I’m clearly going to have to re-read if I want to boast to people that I really ‘got it’; it’s a dense, fast-moving combination of intriguing fiction and literary criticism, and I read it as the former, not worrying too much about wringing every ounce of meaning from the many poems and quotations which pepper the text. I did pick out a few lovely things though;

“When human beings love they try to get something. They also try to give something, and this double aim makes love more complicated than food or sleep. It is selfish and altruistic at the same time, and no amount of specialization in one direction quite atrophies the other”.
EM Forster

There’s lots of Katherine Mansfield in the book, and lots of trees. I never enjoyed reading DH Lawrence, but I like Mansfield’s description of his ‘Aaron’s Rod’ as a tree, “firmly planted, deep thrusting, outspread, growing grandly, alive in every twig”.

And there was more nature in the following, which made me think of the ‘We are the clay that grew tall’ line in Melissa Harrison’s terrific book ‘Clay’, which I talked about the other day.

“Decay is the beginning of all birth … it transforms shape and essence, the forces and virtues of nature. Just as the decay of all foods in the stomach transforms them and makes them into a pulp, so it happens outside the stomach … Decay is the midwife of very great things!”

and here’s Ali Smith herself, talking about something I’ve already mentioned:

“We do treat books surprisingly lightly in contemporary culture. We’d never expect to understand a piece of music on one listen, but we tend to believe that we’ve read a book after reading it just once. Books and music share more in terms of resonance than just a present tense correlation of heard note to read word. Books need time to dawn on us, it takes time to understand what makes them, structurally, in thematic resonance, in afterthought, and always in correspondence with the books which came before them, because books are produced by books more than by writers; they’re a result of all the books that went before them.”

That one’s pertinent.


I took this photograph of a bunch of paperwhites secured with twine.

Coffee with Eva

Posted 04 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos

When Sam was over for Xmas we met up with our dear friend Eva in Brighton’s nice Marwood cafe (pictures of which appear below). I am ashamed to say I hardly ever get round to seeing Eva, which is absolutely stupid, and something I must remedy in 2013.

Eva is terrific; we wished her well for the holiday season and she politely assured us that she had absolutely no intention of seeing us on Christmas Day, because she had an essay to write and also had ‘an onion and a pepper’ in the fridge that needed eating. If we did met up, she insisted, she would be unable to join in the festivities or pretend to like her presents. She also talked briefly about her new obsession with crime, her time in Turkey (when she was frequently mistaken for a spy) and her hatred of communism.

Eva is now in Greece where she is spending the next two weeks picking olives. I think perhaps she, rather than me or Sam, is the one with it all sorted out.

Flooded rivers and birds in trees

Posted 03 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos

My parents have been flooded in for a few weeks up in Cambridge, meaning that when I spoke to my mum the other day she sounded a bit stressed.

“It’s been awful”, she told me. “We’ve not been out of the house. We’re both desperate to get out, we can’t wait for the flooding to go down! We feel rather trapped”.

“Oh dear. Is Dad OK? Put him on”.

There’s a rustling as my mum puts down the phone and seeks out my father. I hope that being stranded is not upsetting him too much.

“HELLO!” He booms. “Have you heard about the flooding?”.

“Mum told me”, I explain. “Are you OK?”.

“Oh yes!”, he replies, enthusiastically. “It’s very exciting!”.

Sometimes I’m more like my mum, sometimes more like my dad.

I took this photo last time I went up to visit them.

New Year’s Day

Posted 01 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos

When we finally made it out of Brighton on the first day of 2013, it was much colder than we expected and the light, which had been thrillingly rich all day, was already beginning to dip. So we only walked around Devil’s Dyke for half an hour or so, mindful not to slip in the mud and binding our coats tight around us, as if we might conjure an extra layer by wrapping them round twice. Of course I had a hangover and new (year) promises to keep, so the cold wind did its unwelcome job of battering last night’s boozy breath out of my lungs until I felt like this was the start of something new, not just a painful bit left over from yesterday. I felt less than re-born, but glad to be alive and idling into another year.

No news yet on the resolutions, but I did take a few photographs.

Sept/Oct instagrams

Posted 08 Oct 2012 — by Jonathan
Category General, Photos

A quick summary of the last few weeks, courtesy of Instagram. If it were completely accurate it would contains a great many photographs of beer bottles, but I’m with-holding them for a later post, and so I don’t look like an alcoholic.

Pride 2012

Posted 01 Sep 2012 — by Jonathan
Category General, Photos

Went to Pride today; lovely as always to join in the festivities, especially as we went to hang out with our friends Oli and Sanj beforehand, in what they cheerfully term their ‘gay house’. Sanj was ashamed to have no sparkling water to hand, and rebuked me for folding my arms at one point. “I need you to relax”, he told me, wrenching my posture. “This is a gay house”.

Squirrels, Boxing Day 2011

Posted 29 Dec 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos

Squirrel watching in the local park is probably something I do frequently enough to legitimately describe it as a hobby – but if it’s not that it’s certainly a holiday tradition; there’s nothing nicer than wandering over to St Anne’s Well Gardens at lunchtime on Boxing Day and mooching around spying on wildlife. Accordingly – the latest dispatch from the animal kingdom:

Show off

action shot

Catkin christmas

Posted 12 Dec 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos

I’m limbering up towards feelings of Christmassyness; this weekend Lynds and I trotted up to Cambridge to see my folks, and were given gifts of hats, scarves, socks and gloves. As always, my parents’ were liberal in their provision of alcohol. Over a long boozy lunch on Saturday, we managed to sample delicious ale, Italian wine, sloe gin, amaretto and spiced rum – bravely fighting off the offer of prosecco to finish. A long afternoon nap followed.

Best bit of the weekend was a lovely walk around a lake near their house – it was a beautiful winter morning, crisp and crunchy with frost but the sky was a clear and brilliant blue. Lyndsey picked some lovely purple catkins.

They’re now our christmas tree, following an aborted attempt to construct one out of cardboard.


Posted 11 Sep 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Photos

Not many people flying red flags in rural Cambridgeshire, but I take your point. This sign actually denoted a little archery change in the village of Offord Darcy, just up the road from where my parents live. The archery looked fun, but I didn’t like the look of the ultra-modern bows. These sorts of things shouldn’t, I don’t think, be allowed to move with the times.

Brighton timelapse

Posted 28 Jun 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Photos, Video

This timelapse was done on my phone, so quality is not amazing – but it’s still quite nice I think. Brighton darkening out of my back window. There goes Brighton. I can sit and look out of my window for ages, provided I have a beer. It’s sort of more interesting in the flesh. But imagine you’re me for a moment.

The peaceful Vosges

Posted 02 Jun 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos, Share, Travel

While we were in Alsace earlier this month, Anne-Sophie took us up into the Vosges mountains, where we spent a few hours clambering through a series of impeccably preserved, incredibly interesting, World War One trenches. It was quite an experience, although one that seemed to spark in all of us – except perhaps Anne So – a vague feeling that there was something important missing from our individual knowledge about the events of the Great War, or just a dissonance so huge between our lives and those lost then that punctured a hole in our capacity to imagine what it must have been like to have been living and fighting on the Front. We tend, here in Great Britain, to see the wars from a very British perspective, and unless my lack of awareness is atypical, we have a far more realistic sense of the travails of the Second World War than we do the first. We speculated, walking around, that much of people our age’s visualization of war in that environment comes not from books, nor even films, but rather from video games – although I’ve never played a war video game in my life, so I guess that’s not the case for me.

What did I feel? Mostly I think I just felt a sense of serenity, inspired by the stunning views and pin-perfect temperature, and a kind of placid fascination, which manifested itself in the kind of self-indulgent over-intellectualization you’ll find in these paragraphs. We talked a lot about how it must have felt, without really understanding. But once or twice, down in the cool dark chamber of a trench, I felt a glimmer of panic, a sense of the immensity of what was faced in that place. I need to read more about it. At times we stood at points where the French and German trenches were a matter of 20, 30 metres apart – a stunning contraction of distance in a vast landscape. Then, seeing a branch shiver in the wind or hearing the snapping of undergrowth, you could get something of that claustrophobic closeness – the notion of your enemy appearing suddenly before you.

Mostly we talked, paradoxically, about the near-century that has passed since. We speculated – in an uninformed kind of way – about how the forest would have slowly been repopulated with trees, about wildlife timidly returning to a landscape pockmarked with the echoes of gunfire. The incredible thought of a century of near-peace in a mostly unchanging landscape is quite something. It made us wonder, actually, if there might not be some potential in a book which was called something like ‘A Natural History of War in the Twentieth Century’ – a study of the impact of conflict on the natural world, on flora and fauna. Oddly I can’t find anything online that does that. We spent a lot of the weekend, actually, talking about bats, frogs, butterflies, the sound of cicadas. On the way down the mountain we passed a stationary deer, and it was – unsurprisingly – quite magical. We drove past and it stood alert in a pose which was simultaneously full of movement and perfectly still. Unmoving, and yet taut with the expectation of flight.

Here are a few photos from the afternoon.

Drinking in Strasbourg

Posted 25 May 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos, Travel

This Sunday afternoon, I sat outside the lovely Berthom bar, in central Strasbourg, with my friends Vic, Alec, Ant, Anne-Sophie and Rich. We actually stumbled upon the bar about eight months ago and immediately fell in love with it; the stylish font on the sign, the dazzling menu of beers, the dark alcoves and friendly waiting staff. This time, barely recovered from clambering breathlessly up hundreds of steps (and 66 metres) to the viewing platform of Strasbourg Cathedral, we collapsed gratefully into our seats and ordered:

A Maredsous 6 Blonde and a Bel Pils, for me. The former a very refreshing Belgian beer, slightly sweet and dry, with a nice, burnt, orange colour, the latter a plain but hugely drinkable pilsener from the Duvel stable.

A Faro Lindemans and another Maredsous 6 Blonde for Vic, who (rightly) found the former – a Belgian Lambic beer – unbearably syrupy, although it also had a counterbalancing (but not very pleasant) sourness, too. The latter, as mentioned above, made up for the ordering faux-pas.

A couple of strong beers for Ant; I forget what the first was, but it was a heavy, dark, bitter concoction (and very nice for it). The second was the dark variety of the first beer I had – a Maredsous 8 Brune which was lovely – malty, thick, and laced with something spicy. Both these beers were 8% ABV and upwards. Brills.

A very sweet, light, fruity Pêcheresse for Anne-Sophie, which came – like all the beers at Berthom – with a really beautiful label. And I can’t recall exactly which beers Alec and Rich had, but I recall a very pale Vedett Extra White sat on the table, and also another brune, so thick and dry it was essentially stout. There may have been more.

Given false confidence by all this booze, we took these (very transparent) photographs of a guy we liked the look of. He totally knew.

Bank holiday frolics

Posted 03 May 2011 — by Dan
Category Observations, Photos

It’s been a really lovely bank holiday down here in Sussex; Dan came to stay from distant Reading and we had lots of fun street partying, buying records, talking to environmentalists, listening to talks on radical dandyism, drinking flat whites, watching our friends play us songs in the park, playing bar-billiards and, of course, knocking back lots of Doom Bar.

Here are some photographic highlights – click to enlarge.

Thanks to Martha Rose, Do You Feel What I Feel Deer and Laura Hocking for the weekend’s musical accompaniment.

Fish market, Marseille

Posted 26 Mar 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos, Travel

Nothing in Marseille was a disappointment, in that the city was everything I expected and a bit more – a bit more relaxed, a bit friendlier, a bit hipper, a bit more beautiful. But I did expect something from the daily market – held down at Vieux Port each morning – which it didn’t quite deliver. But it was nothing more than size; and the fact that it was smaller than anticipated – just a row of perhaps ten stalls set against the waterside – didn’t in any way reduce the amount of colour or life. Indeed, with most stalls stocking a still-wriggling haul, life was in no shortage.

The fish themselves were a wonderful variety of colours, and magnificently ugly. We seem to be obsessed with eating beautiful fish in the UK – Waitrose’s fish counter is a measured display of smooth, silver scaled treats. Here in Marseille, I discovered, they draw little distinction between the perfect, shimmering form of a sardine and a wonderful series of red, blotchy, lumpy, out of proportion little fellers – heads bigger than their bodies, fins apparently replaced with malformed little wings, twisted at the edges like loose leaves of lollo rosso.

The nicest sight of all was the fisherman, unloading fresh catches and untangling nets. The most compelling the fish surgery; heads getting roughly seperated from bodies on blood-stained plastic trays. Seagulls – lacking the rude manners of Brighton’s flock – waited patiently for the remains to be discarded into the water.

First day in Marseilles

Posted 21 Mar 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Photos, Share, Travel

“You know”, I said to Lyndsey on Saturday afternoon, sat on the beach at Catalans, just along the coast from central Marseilles, “if I miraculously earn myself a decent pay rise at some point in the next few years, I’m not going to spend a penny of it on improving my day-to-day life. No upscaling the flat and paying more rent. No wardrobe renovation. No splurges at Resident Records. I’m not going to change a thing EXCEPT that I’ll use whatever the raise brings in to fund a sequence of citybreaks through the year”.

Could there be a better way of spending that money, after all? I think we all spend far too much of our time weighed down by domestic concerns, and where once I could put emotional distance between a week and a weekend, too often now I find one bleeding into another. A weekend away does wonders. Not just geographical distance but pyschological space.

We decided to go away for two nights quite late last week, and I’m very glad we did.

And glad we chose Marseilles, too. One doesn’t automatically equate the month of March with Mediterranean sun, so although the forecast was good I hesitated before plumping for a weekend in France’s southernmost city. But actually the weather was great, and Marseilles – so often characterised as Paris’s unruly, chaotic little brother – was simultaneously sumptuously beautiful and thrillingly edgy.

Our plane touched down around midday on Friday; and Marseilles airport is a funny little place. It’s not exactly tinpot, for it’s a major hub, but it’s all exposed wires and undecorated walls; steel barriers and customs sheds. The bus into the city immediately demonstrated that for all that Marseilles is a Mediterranean city, Southern France is a great deal more verdant than Spain or Portugal.

Yet the city itself is resplendently decked out in the colours of the Med; eggshell white, olive, mustard, cornflower and terracotta. It is immediately rather scruffier than Paris, and walking down from the Gare Saint-Charles it was hard not to notice – with not the least bit of discomfort – how few pink-white faces there were. Outside coffee shops and tea-houses groups of men sat pulling at cigarettes and tiny coffees, dressed in the uniforms of arab Marseilles; a moustache and a Fez for those over 40, a tracksuit for younger generations.

Turning down to Vieux-Port, all begins to change – the buildings smarten up and more and more white faces appear – but the general feel of Marseilles is integrated rather than segregated; it’s a lively city, ethnically, with huge numbers of Italians, Armenians, Algerians and Tunisians. Like most ports, it feels like a working city (despite the fact that it boasts the country’s highest unemployment), and we spent three days pretty much without hearing another English accent. The odd surly waitor aside – of course – I found the whole place exceptionally welcoming; blunter, warmer and a great deal more laidback than Paris.

Having traversed the Port, with its fleet of lovely white-sailed fishing boats, and wandered up into the stunningly picturesque streets of Le Panier – the historic district North of the harbour which Hitler dynamited, having declared it “a mass of criminals, under-humans and saboteurs” – we sat out on the balcony at La Caravelle (34 Quai du Port, 13002 Marseilles), a small bar at Hôtel de Ville: one of the few buildings in the area which – happily – Hitler spared. I knocked back a couple of small, strong lagers and nibbled on delicious olives while Lyndsey merrily embarked on a run of mohitos which would eventually take us from bar to bar and decimate our plans for an early start to our Saturday.

In Bar Marengo (21 Rue Saint Saëns, 13001 Marseille), an unadorned bar where little distraction is provided from the serious business of drinking, we topped up our glasses and tried out our French on the incredibly friendly barman. Lyndsey started each sentence hesitantly (“Bonsoir. Je voudrais une pression et un mohito”) before transitioning seamlessly into flirtatious Spanish.

Around the corner, in Polikarpov (24 Cours Honoré d’Estienne d’Orves, 13001 Marseilles) the bar-staff forgot to charge us for cocktails and danced heedlessly around to the Talking Heads (“realisant mon espoir / je me lance, vers la gloire”) while we held our empty glasses out towards them, pleadingly. Somewhere along the way we had decided it was too late to eat and simply resolved to order more cocktails.

Je suis retourné

Posted 20 Mar 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Photos, Travel

I’m back in Brighton after a couple of pretty wonderful days in Marseilles; me and my girlfriend decided a last minute city break was in order, both as a celebration of my having resolved a precarious job situation, and in order to recharge our batteries with a bit of sun. Sun in March is, of course, hard to secure – but Marseilles, a fantastically vibrant city on the edge on France’s Mediterranean coast, provided it in spades; so we spent two days walking, eating, drinking, and basking as the Mistral – a cool wind which rushes down from the Southern Alps – met the heat at Vieux Port, a gloriously serene harbour which is right at the centre of the city.

There was plenty more than just the port, of course – but for now here it is; as nice a focal point for a city as any I’ve yet encountered.

Wool animal

Posted 08 Feb 2011 — by Jonathan
Category General, Photos

This first image was taken just off Chichester canal at lunch time – moments after I pressed the shutter I was rocking back on my heels, attempting to prevent my camera from a comprehensive slobbering. Luckily the animal diverted his attention to my face at the last minute. The second image – the ducks laid off. Luckily.

By Chichester coach station

Posted 04 Feb 2011 — by Jonathan
Category General, Photos

It’s a grey, drizzly day in Chichester. If I understood white balance better I could do something with that sky.

Beach volleyball, Brighton

Posted 03 Feb 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Photos

Last Sunday was perhaps the first real sunny day of 2011; and not just bright – in pockets of calm when the wind fell, it was warm and faintly blissful sat down on the beach, scuffing my shoes through sand watching four Italian men play volleyball in the artificial beach outside The World Famous Pump Room. Warm enough to enjoy an ice cream, warm enough to sit basking watching the ball fly back and forth while dogs, restrained on leashes, looked on eagerly.

Amazing photo

Posted 08 Jan 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Photos

A good photographer needs to be good at framing, sure. And a good photographer also needs to be able to use the technology in his reach to get the best shot possible. That’s a given. But most of all – and I bet this is something that David Bailey says all the time – a good photographer really needs, once in a while, to stumble across a seagull perched on a digger, pulling a boat. The rest is just luck.

My dad took this, not me. I’m plundering his Mac in search of things to fill up my blog with.