Friday, 30 January 2009

The view from here

There are many people in education who love to compartmentalise pupils into neat boxes. These same people will often look down their noses at people who read horoscopes, but give them a psychometric test and they are like a pig in clover. These same people also use the word, pedagogy, I hate that word.
I recently sat through a 3 hour talk by a motivational speaker, we laughed, we cried, mostly I felt like I was being taught 7 ways to suck an egg, but arrogance sits very comfortably on my shoulders. However he did teach me a way of compartmentalising people that so far has hit the spot every time. I am slightly oversimplifying it here but the gist goes like this.

Group A, These people are Dynamic, natural leaders, outgoing, very good a getting through tasks no matter whose toes they tread on.
Group B, These people are cautious, heaven is in the detail, they are task driven, make copious lists and slightly reserved.
Group C, these people are quiet, occasionally timid, very reserved. They do not like drawing attention to themselves but they are good with people.
Group D, these people are impulsive, outgoing, live for today and good with people.

Recognise yourself yet?
If not this story might help.
A teacher tells his class that the next day they will sit a very important test. The next day at the beginning of the lesson he tells his class that the test is cancelled.
The following reactions occur

Group A, beam with delight “Yes sir I agree, that is the right decision, I knew you would see it my way”
Group B, are livid “Oh, sir, that is not fair, I have been up all night revising, you cannot cancel the test, it is not fair”
Group C, smile and say “thank you” they are very happy to have avoided the test
Group D, look up and say “What test?”

Well even I had to admit that I clearly sat firmly in Group D as does Daisy. Kitty of course is group C and both Emin and Leyla are Group A. as is my sister. My poor mother is group B as is one of my colleagues who not only confessed to copious list making, but if she does something over and above the list will write it on the list just to cross it off!
I tell you this story because it illustrates why when Daisy came home on Tuesday and announced that she was flying to Switzerland on Saturday morning, I did not bat and eyelid. She had initially told me she was going sometime during half term in February. When I expressed surprise at the late notice she then informed me I was lucky, she could have realised the day before. The cherry on top is she has to be at school for 5am, and she has decided that rather than stay at home and pack she is going out tonight! Oh to be 16

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Kate Breakey

As I continue to add to the A Level PowerPoint's I came across this artist who's work just stopped me in my tracks. Visit the amazing website here

Sartorial style… The highs.. The lows

I have not posted a sartorial post for a while;
I managed to successfully navigate most of what the weather threw at me during my travels over Christmas. You need to pack outfits for travelling, outfits for swanning around lovely, if slightly over heated hotels and then outfits for layering up for the great outdoors.
What I missed was a second scarf; I only took one, and should have taken at least 2 more. To add to my Holy Grail of clothes list would be a stylish but waterproof, coat with maybe a hood. Not a Mac but something thicker which does not create the classic Michelin man profiles that so many puffa jackets have a tendency to do. The Barbour I tried on was not warm enough so the search will go on. I should probably be looking around August rather than when I actually need it. Such are the vagaries of the retail industry.

Whilst I was in Berlin I could not resist having a peek inside the Muji sale; however the exchange rate was so bad that what was £45 in England was £68 in Germany, I spied a maroon version of my grey merino wool shawl cardie. Back home I waited patiently and finally found one last week for a bargain £15. This I decided was what I needed to inject a bit of colour into my winter wardrobe. Which as you can see resembles various shades of sludge. So yesterday I skipped to work, only to feel just a little uncomfortable. It took a while and then finally I realised that it was exactly the same shade as my years 11 girls school uniform jumper. How on earth had I not realised this earlier? Worst of all I was wearing it over a brown top, brown is the colour of their skirts. I could not wait to go home and rip it off.
I guess it will be one for the weekend now.
I must also give praise to what has been the most fruitful provider of lovely knitwear, Uniqlo, last year nothing I tried on there fitted, this year everything fits.
Best of all was the thermal underwear. I bought 4 short sleeved tops which are perfect, they are very thin but very warm the added bonus is that they are not trimmed with nasty synthetic lace like so many other brands, instead they look just like T shirts, and in colours lovely enough not to hide.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Sally Gall

Images from here
Crawl is the beginning of my ongoing investigation into a part of our landscape we, as upright creatures, rarely take the time to think about. Infants know this world for a time. Picnickers and soldiers glimpse it. There is no more dynamic stage of life and death on earth than the first few inches above its surface. This is where prairies and forests are born. Here is where the bulk of our food comes from, and where all terrestrial creatures return when we die. Comforting, beautiful, frightening, strange--this is the terrestrial world. And it can only be discovered and known intimately on hands and knees.

I am currently trying to source resources for the students photography exam. Some of the themes are really good and I have thoroughly enjoyed finding photographers to help the students with their ideas, these are Buildings, Colour and Daily Travel.
The two that leave me cold are Sport and Technology, slim pickings there.
My absolute favourite images from today are these by Sally Gall. They came via the now ubiquitous The Year In Photography, which is now a resource in its own right.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Istanbul in colour

On the brighter days I was able to take some colour images, they give a flavour of the beautiful tiles that are all over the mosques inside and out.
I met my sister on Friday night for a quick bite to eat, which turned into a rather prolonged drinking session. She has found a lovely quiet wine bar that is attached to a hotel close to where she works, so it is not as frenetic as our usual haunt.
Ironically she too is visiting Istanbul, but in a professional capacity. This means visiting the port on the Asian side, so no luxury there and too far away to do much site seeing. Like many people who travel a lot for a living, pleasures are few and far between, it must be hard to be so close to something beautiful, but not have the time to see it.
I think she found mother a struggle on holiday , although I can see two sides to this story,
My sister has forgotten that my mother is a) getting on b) partially blind c) will do absolutely nothing independently of others.
My mother on the other hand has forgotten that my sister is a) pig headed b) suffers no hesitation c) likes her own space
What really upset my sister was my mothers refusal to visit the special shops in Hong Kong where all the designer stuff is kept, so my sister returned home empty handed and irritated.
I amused her with my New Years story. which goes as follows;
Emin had decided on a traditional Turkish New Year 'do' I thought this was to be a dinner dance and dressed accordingly. Not so, this transpired to be a shack clinging to the side of a mountain, 20 miles outside of Istanbul, it had snowed heavily and so the place was freezing cold, the tables were crammed together, the food was as cold as the room and the entertainment began at 10pm and did not finish until 4am.
We were told to be at the Au pairs house for 5pm, we did not leave our hotel until then, we had to get a tram, then walk up a long hill to get on a bus, this went at a snails pace until we got off, we then waited 15 Min's for a lift, finally arriving at the Au pairs at 7.30pm. I still had to get changed, finally we left at 8pm. 11 of us piled into a large van with no seat belts. I could have wept, I was sick with worry, I am normally so scornful of people who die in car crashes because they had over filled the car or they were not strapped in. Here I was doing both. Being in a van meant we had to cross over to the Asian side on a bridge further up. The traffic was barely moving, the bridge was a toll bridge and so where there were 4 lanes we already had 6 and then for each toll booth 3 lanes tried to jostle through one small gap. Two and a half hours later we finally arrived.
I then sat with fixed grin as all around danced and partied. They knew the songs they manged to dance on a square of floor no bigger than a postage stamp, and they all without exception chain smoked.
At midnight we lit a sparkler. This bit amused my sister no end having watched Fireworks in Sydney harbour. We arrived back to our hotel at 5.30am grabbed some sleep before flying home. At this point I must praise BA who were just brilliant, they plied me with delicious Sauvignion Blanc twice, they left on time and landed on time, and smiled a lot.
I have been on the wagon since...Until last Friday!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Helen Frankenthaler

A small dose of life style envy accompanies this post. I am late to come across Frankenthaler's work, I found it whilst putting a PowerPoint together on the theme of Colour.
I love seeing artists in their studios

and I love these paintings, a real breath of fresh air in terms of colour and lightness of touch.
I have spent many many hours putting together this PowerPoint, colour was one of 6 GCSE students will have to chose from next week from their exam paper.
Years ago when I first began teaching, we would give the students their exam paper and tell them to get on with it, and little has changed in some schools. However I am held accountable for the grades these girls achieve and as they have little or no inclination to help themselves I invariably end up doing much of the research for them.
I enjoy it but it does require many, many, many hours of looking and of course I do get easily sidetracked.

The view from here

Is not as pretty as it looks.
This tree blossoms from the end of December through to April. It stands outside my office window and has become a beacon of hope, guiding me through the bone chilling winds and driving rain. Throughout, the blossom clings to the branches like barnacles to a ships hull.
This is the last year I will see it as we are as a school finally moving. We are told we should be grateful, what’s not to love about a new purpose built school all sleek and modern? Well how long have you got? The air craft hanger they have given me is a soulless and very badly designed box. I hate it. We are perched up high on a hill and I am on the top floor with views of an industrial wasteland that is a Medway town. No trees just mile upon mile of sprawling urban landscape.
But from the end of March my current view will be no more. I leave what appears to many, to be a room of chaos, but I love it, there is a place for everything, I have spent 5 years fitting the room around me like a warm cashmere coat. Come rain or shine I can hear the war cries of the local boy’s grammar playing rugby, I watch birds and squirrels fighting for the last crust the girls have left after lunch. I watch new buds open into fresh luminous green leaves and then watch them turn a golden brown, before falling again. To watch the seasons pass from this window has been one of the small pleasures that gets me through the day.
I have tried so hard to leave this job before this moment, despite a fairly substantial pair of golden hand cuffs. But I am still here.
In an effort to look forward I am busy trying to work out ways in which I can humanise my new environment. If you have ever seen the film Green Card you may remember the greenhouse Bronte sold her single status for. It too was high up, but it was an oasis of calm and so I will let my ivy roam and try to create my own green house in the sky.
Well that’s the theory.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Bruce Rae

Just after my passion for photography was reignited, I would devour all the photographic journals I could find. Standard newsagent fare did not cut it with me, then I found AG photographic
A tremendous publication, now on issue 54. Many of the images were very inspirational, not least those of Bruce Rae, whose little table top tableauxs I was always trying to emulate, before I found my own voice.

Seeing them now after over 10 years, I still love them. They have now been assembled into the most beautiful limited edition book called Tableaux Whispers Echoes.

The view from here

The view from my bathroom window at 7am this morning.

I've seen professional photographers shoot hundreds of pictures but they are all basically the same. They are hoping that in one fraction of a second something will make that face look as if there were a longer moment...

If you take a hundred, surely one will be good. It could be anybody doing it...There are few good photographs, and those good ones that do exist are almost accidental.

Photography has failed...How many truly memorable pictures are there? Considering the milllions of photographs taken, there are few memorable images in this medium, which should tell us something.Photography can't lead us to a new way of seeing.

It may have other possibilities but only painting can extend the way of seeing.

Quotes for the irascible David Hockney,

I have always drilled into my sixth form photographers the more photographs you take the better the chance of capturing that fleeting moment.

I appreciate the gist of what Hockney is saying, I can get far more emotional punch from a William Scott or a Breon O Casey, than I ever can from a photograph. But, and there is always a but. I do think that photography can feed into the way we see things, it can open up vistas previously passed by, above all the age of digital photography opened up the world in a way that paintings never could.
The biggest mistake we make is to compare the two, to assume that one is better than the other, that one can replace the other.
For me painting and photography perform two separate functions, they can feed into each other or complement each other but at the end each creates a unique viewpoint.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

World Heritage, Istanbul style

I have wanted to visit this area of Istanbul for a long time. I recently watched a programme that tried to raise the profile of the area, as it has become so run down that UNESCO will strip it of its World Heritage Status. The are is full of these beautiful timbered houses. sadly through neglect many are crumbling and unless there is an injection of cash, they will probably not last much longer. The government is based in the capital city of Ankara so shows little interest in preserving this area. No mod cons but always a satellite dish!
Many of the buildings house work shops like this joinery I photographed. The man made stair rods.

Despite the proximity to the main tourist area where the mosques and palaces are, the houses are virtually squatted in. Life is very tough for these people, the only heat in the bitterly cold winters come from coal fires, hence many of the buildings have burnt down, In the summer I would image they are baking hot.

This was the middle of the day but the streets are empty. but you can see what a 'done up' house looks like in the distance

I have always loved the use of found containers to put plants in, I loved the fact that despite the decay someone had seen fit to plant up some pots.

In a way I preferred the houses as they were, when you occasionally saw one done up they were almost Disneyfied and cloyingly pretty.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Istanbul: The markets

This was not the bazaar but a large market place known as the spice market, although it sprawls much further afield than the initial covered area. Everywhere you look you see these little ally ways that open up into court yards, invariably very run down. This is a city of shops that specialise, department stores are an anathema here, instead wonderful stores with just one focus

Coffee, the smell as I walked past was divine, there was a long queue. In the shop a young boy weighed the coffee, another wrapped the coffee up into little bundles with brown paper and sellotape, another stacked the coffee, another sold the coffee, another took the money for the coffee and finally someone watched the till!. I would like to wax lyrical about Turkish coffee but, no, it is vile stuff, more a soup than a drink, you have to drink it with a glass of water, what's the point? but the smell is something else.

All across Istanbul you will see people bent double carrying huge great bundles, often from store house to shop, in this case the shop is on his back. The Turks are nothing if not entrepreneurial, they will set up a stall to sell anything from lottery tickets to umbrellas, beware the dodgy men exchanging Euros, it will end in tears.

A few holiday reads

My favourite book of the holiday, Bryson is just so good at clearing muddied waters. I have always struggled to enjoy Shakespeare, but after reading this it was like a veil was lifted and he was a mystery to me no more. I almost feel ready for Hamlet now!
I managed to read a great deal whilst on holiday despite Leylas best efforts to make me compete in a record breaking attempt at Dr Who top trumps

My favourite quote of them all is.

'Books generally just confirm in you what you have perhaps unwittingly decided to do already.

You go to a book to have your convictions corroborated. A book as it were closes the book'.

This is a quote from A bit slow to get going, the story is a simple one, but become more profound towards the end. The quote above resonated with me as I do very frequently chose books not by their cover but by whether I can empathise at all with any of the characters.
This rule is obviously not enforced all of the time. I am often drawn to very esoteric narratives as well, but even they I prefer, when pegged on a place I know or an event that interest me.
Nor does it explain my ever constant fascination with murder. As a teenager I read every single book the library van had on murder, real, fiction, I did not care, I devoured them all. I had no plans to kill and I have never had an experience of violent death, but even now I like nothing better than a good detective story.

I love Alan Bennett, he is a genius at capturing the tiny nuances of human nature. This book has both sets of stories, I preferred the first set as the latter set I found so dark they were quite unsettling.

A classic example of falling for the review, all this book did was irritate me, I wanted to give her a metaphorical 'slap' I came away empathising with her mother and I was not in the least charmed by her, I found the pieces such a hotch potch of inane tangents (not dissimilar to my emails I suspect) that I really struggled to finish the book

This reads like one long suicide note, how depressed can one man be, I did LOL though how could you not? Although I struggled to empathise or relate to him on any level, I did enjoy the crispness of his dialogue.

Hells bloody bells, how dark can a book be? I did not really pay much attention to the blurb, having read Lovely Bones I was not anticipating an easy ride, but this was so dark.

Not once have I ever dreamt of killing my mother, even at my lowest ebb my plan was always to get as far away from her as possible, so I found the story difficult, and yet despite this I could empathise with certain strands of the narrative. Even so it was a relief to finish it.
I am now just beginning Sebastian Faulks Engelby, all about Cambridge, whats not to love?

The view from Hong Kong

My sisters last email she is now home

Hong Kong has been interesting. We have done the following with varying degrees of ease & interest:
- bought a tube ticket & negotiated my way round HK.
- visited Statue Squ
- it's just a square with a statue.
- crossed to Kowloon using the Star Ferry.
- walked around Kowloon being offered 'very good tailor' every 2 mins, I'm not sure what was wrong with my clothes.
- wandered around a park which had a flock of flamingo's.
- went to Victoria Peak - OMFG - it's high up. At one point we were higher than cruising airplanes - I swear! We ate the most expensive meal in the world up there.
- went to Temple Market, load of rubbish & hardly any fakes (so Alison - no LV or Marni).
- took a bus to Aberdeen & bartered a price for a tour on a sampan (we took one that looked like it was 2 days from sinking rather than the many that looked like they'd sink that day).
Took another bus to see a Buddha & other statues.
Took another bus to Stanley, nice harbour town. Went to a Spanish restaurant for lunch - go figure.
So I'm about to pack for the last time. Eat my last breakfast (alison the buffet in the hotel is so immense it would bring a tear to Kitty's eye). Then take my last epic flight back (hopefully not landing on the shark infested waters around HK).
Ps - Alison - she's your mum!

This last small sentence is LOADED with meaning. My sister and I often refer when talking about mother, to her as MY mum, This is now a bit of a joke which we use when either of us has had enough of her occasionally poor behaviour.
I can thus infer from the final sentence, that my sister has had enough of mother and will now need to put a few months between them both before renewing her acquaintance with her! So it is my turn now.

Friday, 16 January 2009

The view from here

I have had to work hard and late this week at school, a mix of open evenings and report writing amongst many other jobs on my 'to do' list. And I don't normally make lists.
Last night I received yet another tearful phone call from Kitty. Daisy had eaten her dinner, as well as her own! The details are worthy of a Shakespearean farce but I am too drained to write (after an hour of counselling a student who has been beaten and almost disowned by her mother this week)
Whilst walking home to mediate my two princesses, I started to hum a tune from my past, I wish I could embed this for you but I can't, but if you are as old as I and want a blast from the past, theme tunes do not come better than this
If that does not raise a twitch of a smile then surely this extract from a piece Woody Allen wrote for the Guardian on Monday will.

"Received offer to write and direct film in Barcelona. Must be cautious. Spain is sunny, and I freckle. Money not great either, but agent did manage to get me a 10th of 1% of anything the picture does over $400m after break-even. Have no idea for Barcelona - unless the story of the two Hackensack Jews who start a mail-order embalming firm could be switched".

Read the rest here

Oh lucky me, the girls are at home this weekend, Kitty wants entertaining so I have suggested that she come with me and Leyla of course, to the Saatchi Gallery, perhaps I can sneak off and pretend they are live exhibits, robots out of control. A can of Coca Cola should do it.
Wish me luck

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The view from the window

I was really looking forward to the various train journeys, so that I could get some fresh images for my view through a window series. The first journey we did not even have a window, then the weather was just so bad I really struggled. I finally got these, which I love but it was sparse pickings.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

I want never gets

Images from style .com Oh, are these just not completely sublime? How did I miss them? They are from the Chanel spring summer 09 collection. My father was a Paleontologist and we had a lot of this polished agate in the house, how I wish I had squirreled it away to make one of these.
And these are gorgeous too, bags and jewellery, just the images are lovely, the colours and textures, it even has my favourite pattern, polka dot.
I had another email from Little Sis today, my reply may give you a taste of my life at home right now!
"It's my last day in sunny Oz. I have shorts on today as this be the last time for a long time (sorry if that delightful image gets stuck in you head all day)*. We are going to Hong Kong tomorrow & the forecast there is only 18c.
Diving was spectacular. I saw sharks just about every dive, a few turtles, eagle rays & sea snakes to name but a few. The boat was an experience - the first night the weather was so bad that no-one got much sleep, but after that it was all good weather.
We went for a 10km bush walk on Sunday - my suggestion! My legs are still throbbing from the climbing but it was worth it. We had quite a relaxing day yesterday to recover. Today I am going to the zoo. The only koala we have seen was dead in the middle of the road & I don't want that to be my lasting memory of koalas. Also I think they make kangaroos up cos I haven't seen a single one.We have seen lots of lizards & some spectacular spiders.Time has flown by - but I'm still having a great time."
* My sister is a large size 18 but carries it well as she is nearly 6ft tall
I replied
"Glad YOUR having fun....get used to a SUDDEN drop in temperature baby, because it has been V cold here, although a current balmy 4c.There are no Kangaroo's because like the Aborigine's they have shot them all, any they have missed will have been incinerated in a bush fire, hence the lack of Koala's.
Judging from the reports in the papers you are lucky not to have been munched by a shark since they have started to come closer to the shore for food. You would have been fine though because humans do not carry enough fat on them to make us taste good....mmm, well most humans anyway... Bet you miss me!
I have finally been ill, "at last" you cry.. the usual sore throat aches and pains, Emin tended to my every need, NOT, luckily Daisy and Kitty went to Gemma's Mum's* house for the weekend, it was apparently HUGE the bathroom was MASSIVE and it even had GOLD TAPS so how can I possibly compete*. Emin did enquire as to whether it had enough room for them to move in, they were not amused. They very sensibly fed Kitty steak and chips so she was tolerable. I had to listen to her wax lyrical about the wedding cake for half an hour, oh joy. Carrot cake for the bottom tier, fruit cake for the middle tier, and chocolate sponge for the top tier, maybe not in that order, but you get the picture. Sadly no Ginky figurines on top, apparently Martin finally had an opinion on that part!
I have made the mistake of telling Daisy you will be in Hong Kong for a few day's she will I am sure, send you a list of a range of goods she is sure you will not mind purchasing for her! any fake Marni anything is good for me, especially the jewellery...or Prada... or Louis Vuitton. Just in case.
See you soon XXXX"
* Gemma is Daisy and Kitty's fathers girlfriend/wife to be. She is a size 6 and 16 years younger than me! well to be fair he was 10 years younger than me, you do the maths! but thats another story.
*Sorry but I hate gold taps but hid my revulsion well, I think.
I am feeling better, but I am still too tired to go to the Gym which I find really annoying.

Melanie Rutten

I think we need a break from the holiday snaps, so have a look at this fabulous collage artist. I saw her work at an exhibition in Brussels and loved the quirky nature of her images as well as the colours she uses.

Melanie Rutten her work is on show at a lovely new gallery in Brussels called [Image]2

Monday, 12 January 2009

Berlin Modern

This monumental building sits on the opposite side of the river to the Reichstag, they complement each other beautifully and like many new buildings in Berlin the time taken to rebuild has meant a better quality of structure. Just inside this building was a section of the Berlin wall, with stencilled numbers tallying the total deaths of people who tried to escape each year . I still cannot believe walls like this are being built.
Despite arriving in the pouring rain the day before, these images taken on Christmas Day reflect the stunning clear blue skies we had until lunch time after which huge snow clouds rolled in yet sadly unleashed not a single flake of snow

Sometimes you need some figures to illustrate the sheer scale of it all

This was just the beginning of a very long walk along the river, that night we excitedly got ready to see the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, when we arrived we were directed out of the building to a back entrance we in fact had tickets to see the Berlin Chamber Orchestra, seriously on the one hand I was gutted on the other, who cares it was still an amazing way to end Christmas day.
I loved taking the photographs this year, I sometimes wish I could do this for a living, but maybe the fun comes with no pressure.