Still Life At The Mall?

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This image sums up how I feel whenever I go into a big shopping mall – soul sucked out, life signs shutting down, a sense of being processed, objectified in the drive to SHOP and SHOP and SHOP. On the other hand, when I came upon this scene through the strangely translucent shutters of a closed-down men’s clothing store I couldn’t have been more delighted. I didn’t have to arrange anything. It was all set out for me. I simply had to pull out my camera. Still life in the mall indeed, although sometimes you have to look hard for it.

 

Paula’s Black & White Sunday Challenge at Lost in Translation is Still Life. She has come up with a very intriguing take on the theme. Go see.

February: In The Monochrome Garden

P1030162 - Copy (3)Petasites fragrans   winter heliotrope

These are the leaves of winter heliotrope, a November to February flowering evergreen that originated in North Africa, and is now considered a wayside weed here in the UK. It has a great tendency to spread and form carpets. On the other hand it does flower when other plants are busy hibernating.  Also the flowers – a fleshy, purple pink – smell of vanilla, and track the sun’s course during the day. And all I can say to that is, this year winter heliotrope must have really had its work cut out. Sun. What sun?

Sometimes the plants make no flowers at all. There were certainly none to be seen on this clump, but then it was growing in deep shadow. The other fascinating thing is that the male and female characteristics appear on entirely separate plants, and it is usually the male flowering variety that we see in the UK.

I must also confess that I’ve learned all this just now. When I took the photograph yesterday in the gardens of Benthall Hall, I thought it was butterbur, a plant that grows in like fashion and has many other similarities of leaf and flower.  It was only when I was editing the shot, that I noticed the leaves looked too smoothly rounded and heart-shaped for butterbur. Next came a quick check on Google, which in turn led to realizing that this was an entirely new plant for me. So thank you, Jude, for setting this particular challenge – and the proposition of using both monochrome and looking for patterns in our chosen garden subject. It was the heart-shaped leaves that attracted my attention. I thought they would make a good design for Valentine’s Day.

For more about this challenge, please go over to Jude’s garden photography blog:

February: Monochrome

And now here is a shot of Benthall Hall, caught before a squall sent us scurrying to the car. P1030167

This sixteenth century home of the Benthall family is just a mile or two up the road from my house in Wenlock. The land on which it stands was once part of Wenlock Priory’s extensive domain, but now the house and grounds belong to the National Trust.

I hadn’t visited the house for years, and this weekend was its first opening of the year. For me, one of the property’s  most fascinating stories is the fact that in the late nineteenth century, the plant hunter, botanist and co-founder of Maw & Co, the world famous decorative tile works, George Maw was a tenant. He planted the gardens with his botanical treasures, and in particular crocus of both the spring and autumn varieties. Botanical images of course inspired many of the Maw’s tile designs that graced public buildings across the world during the Victorian era. Today part of that heritage, including original design catalogues, is on show not far away at the Jackfield Tile Museum in the Ironbridge Gorge. It is well worth a visit if ever you are in Shropshire. But one thing is certain, we will be back to explore George Maw’s garden as the year progresses. Please expect further reports.

copyright 2016  Tish Farrell

A Case Of Extreme Planet Abuse? The Silent Forest

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Humans have been cutting down trees since the end of the last Ice Age. Even by the Neolithic period, i.e from around 6-8,000 years ago, whole scale clearance of forests was taking place across Europe. Some of this was a bi-product of domesticated stock grazing; some was direct harvesting for building materials and fuel; most was probably due to felling and burning to make farm fields. For thousands of years, then, we have been destroying the planet’s life-nurturing tree cover.

But now look what nightmare plans are afoot for our surviving trees – genetically engineered fuel- and paper-making-friendly trees that grow in sterile, silent forests. In the video geneticist David Suzuki gives clear explanations of what is involved in genetic engineering and flags up the potential consequences of the bio-tech industry’s objectives for tree-life on the planet. It is all very disturbing, but I think we need to know what’s going on in our world, and with official sanction. See what you think. This is followed by a documentary film, in which Dr. Suzuki is also the narrator.

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/51040243″>A Silent Forest</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user11341138″>Raindancer Media</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

On reflection: can there be too much of it?

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Writers are past masters of diversionary tactics. This particular writer spends a considerable amount of avoiding the work in progress. She is not sure why. But staring out of the window is definitely a popular pastime. On the other hand, who wouldn’t want to stare at a sky like this, the sun going down behind Wenlock Edge.

Then I discovered something really neat as I was trying to snap it. My office has a cabin bed in the corner under the roof light. So I clambered on the bed, and opened the window to the horizontal to give myself a makeshift ‘tripod’. I then set the Lumix to sunset mode and rested it on the back of the window. And this is what happened.

Who’d’ve thought avoiding writing could be this much fun. But there’s a lesson here too. Sometimes we overthink the pieces we are working on. Sometimes we need to loosen up and play. And ask questions. Definitely ask questions. E.g. What would happen if I let my characters think for themselves, and stopped trying to control them? What if I let them go play? What might they not come with? Something magical, diverting, extraordinary? Do I have the nerve to let them go?

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

The Bees’ Knees In Vibrancy

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This is one my favourite photos. If you look hard you can even see the bees’ wings vibrating. And yes, for those who come here often, I know I’ve posted it a few times before. But isn’t it joyous – hot red, buzzing bees, sunshine.

And how about bees in the sneeze weeds (aka Heleniums)

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Or the bee on this sunflower that was growing last summer in a pot by the shed:

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All of which is to say we need to keep thinking about bees. We cannot do without them. They pollinate many of the plants that provide us with essential foods.  In the northern hemisphere new seeds are coming into the shops, so we can all think about sowing some bee-friendly flowers. You don’t need a garden. A pot of oregano will please them, and make you happy too when you’re making spaghetti sauce.

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And then sedums will provide a valuable late summer nectar boost for honey bees. There are many varieties of this plant – large and small. They don’t need much attention and will grow in containers too:

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If you want to find out which plants are bee friendly, there are many bee sites on the web. But for local first-hand information ask your local beekeepers society. There will be one. Meanwhile the Royal Horticultural Society provides some useful guidance if you want to give your life and bee-life lots more buzz.

IN 2016 THINK BEES

Happy Wednesday Wherever You Are

Vibrant

Winter Garden From My Window

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It’s the final week of Jude’s Winter Gardens challenge over at The Earth Laughs In Flowers. This, then, is the view of my garden captured on Saturday afternoon. It’s as much as I’m prepared to show you at the moment, so dreary is it after weeks  of rain. Also there was a definite lack of gardener-input in the autumn. Things just kept on growing and it was hard to know when to chop them back.

So they didn’t get chopped, and the place now has the look of a garden version of Miss Haversham’s attic. But you may just spot (in the bottom right hand pane) a small clump of tete a tete daffodils. Even they  aren’t planted, but are sitting on top of the soil. They were tipped out of a pot bought last spring, at which point I had every intention of re-planting them. Oh well. Neglect hasn’t stopped them thriving. They started flowering at the end of December.

I have to confess that I’m a fair-weather gardener, at least where dampness is concerned. And it really is too cosy indoors. Also unlike the garden, the house is now clean and tidy, which was the real reason I took the first two photos – to document that tidiness is possible. And I’m sharing the proof with the world in an attempt to stem backsliding tendencies.

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But housework and fair-weather gardening aside, I am getting twinges of planters’ itch. My first delivery of vegetable seeds arrived earlier last week – all those crisp packets of pent-up potential, and now it is February. Hurray! Time to sow the peas and leeks in the allotment polytunnel, and start off the aubergines and sweet peppers at home.

And talking of sweet things, my first sowing of sweet peas on the kitchen window sill is already sprouting. So apologies to Jude for not quite sticking to the winter garden plot. I’m  finishing  this post with thoughts of summer, and deliciously scented blooms to come. And I know she won’t mind because she knows very well that it’s forward-dreaming that keeps gardeners going through the long winter season.

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copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

Vibrant: me on Lamu Island far too long ago

 

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It was a four day trip over Christmas. We’d been living in Kenya for three or so years by then, and another five to go before we would return to the UK for good. Lamu Island  set my imagination alight. Later I began writing a teen adventure aimed at the African schools literature market. It was published by Macmillan in their Pacesetters series around the time we left Kenya in 2000.  It’s still in print, and even if I say so myself, quite a good yarn. I have a feeling my brain cells were a little more vibrant back then. Perhaps they are craving the African light…

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Vibrant

Thursday’s Special: Organized Noise

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This week Paula’s guest at Lost in Translation is Tobias  M. Schiel. He has set us a challenging challenge entitled Organized Noise. I think I have the gist of it – and this is my take on what he says (so if I’ve got it all upside down and backwards, Tobias, please tell me) – that you can use the camera’s eye to frame everyday  ‘stuff’ and ‘clutter’ that of themselves do not have aesthetic appeal. In other words, the photograph itself endows the scene with creative interest and possibility through framing, focus and cropping. It thus exposes something intrinsically or extrinsically fascinating in a context that we might otherwise screen out as uninteresting or unworthy of particular notice. As Tobias says, this is more likely to work in the abstract.

So I’m  not sure that this photo of a stricken pine on Cornwall’s Seaton beach quite fits the bill. But I’m posting it because the scene as a whole caught my attention. The tree had been blown off the cliff.  The way it was lying suggested to me a crash-landed dragon, the peeled trunk in the foreground its snout and eye.  But with a more abstract eye, the main thing that struck me about this pile of beach debris was the vivid range of colours – materials natural and unnatural.

Maybe this next shot is a better example? – a close up of some of Seaton’s amazing geology:

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In his explanation, Tobias says that this approach is used in musical composition, but as a writer I can see that this photographic version is also a visual analog for what the best creative writing does: that is, it takes a scene, or a detail of it, something that others might miss altogether were it not for the affecting way in which the writer chooses to delineate it, often mixing heightened reality with metaphorical abstraction.

Thanks to Paula and Tobias for hosting this fascinating challenge.

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

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Through A Web Darkly ~ Inside The Old Barn

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I took this photo yesterday. The footpath we were following winds through an old farmyard, everywhere rustic dereliction. Being nosy, I had to peer in through the barn window. This shot was taken through a spider’s web, and is admittedly rather weird. My first thought is some kind of time warp or threshold. So if it inspires any of you to create a piece of poetry or prose, please feel free to link back here so I can read what you’ve come up with. No rush.

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Many thanks to bloggers for their fun responses. So nice of you to play along:

T N Kerr   A Very Special Birthday

Sandra Conner Beyond the Web

Gerry  Sneak the Spider

Travelling Hopefully ~ The Writer’s Way

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The writing life is full of snags and snares, setbacks, tanglements, diversions and dead ends.  Written words demand so much mental application – from the writers who deal in them, and the readers who receive them. After all, before the writer’s meaning can be de-coded, willing victims readers must actively choose to engage.

Even then, nothing is certain. Reader engagement is always provisional. Only when the decision is made – that sticking with the decoding process will yield rewards, do writers have the chance to have their say.

Readers want a good pay-off from the writer’s words. But for their part, writers cannot read readers’ minds to know precisely what they expect. It’s all very precarious.

Interaction-wise, the applied and performing arts definitely have the edge. They communicate directly with an audience’s senses and emotions, often bypassing the need for intellectual effort input altogether. Reactions to such works may be superficial and fleeting, and the creators’ deepest intentions not fully grasped, but engagement at some level swiftly takes place. The experience is vivid in its fullest sense. Excitement can be instantaneous. Written texts simply cannot compete with this kind of immediacy.

Also words can be such tricky things. Lumpy. Clumsy. Rife with ambiguity. Achieving absolute clarity on the page involves hard labour, although this is only half the battle. In fiction writing plain speaking is not enough. The construction must be affecting. Fascinating. There must be mystery –at the very least the hook of: ‘how will this turn out?’ Then there is the matter of authenticity and the creation of a convincing, fully functioning reality. (Even fantasy worlds must have believable existence.)

In its crudest form, writing a story is like devising and setting a trap. How do you lure in the reader? What does it take to hold them until the final word is read?

So this means there’s a craft to be learned, and practised and practised. Then practised some more. And when you finally release your carefully worked contrivance onto the unsuspecting and uninterested world there will be rejection. (See Lynn Love’s post on this and how to murder it HERE). It is part of the learning process. It teaches you to target your work more carefully; to read more; to develop powers of objective self-appraisal; to learn from negative comments; to become better at what you do.

You also need to bear in mind that this apprenticeship may take a life-time; that success in material terms may never happen. The act of creating is a vocation; an act of faith too. But at the heart of it, you write because you must. Perhaps that should be enough. I seem to have hopes of it. It anyway keeps me going – one word at a time.

 

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

 

Related:

Losing Kui ~ An Extract

Kui’s 5* Review on Kindle

Tish Farrell Books & Short Fiction

 

DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic

Go here for more hopeful responses.