Why using your hands might be good for you

Last week I bought a slightly unusual lawnmower and it took some finding I can tell you. My search started with fruitless visits to the major DIY retailers where my enquiries were met with baffled looks and the kind of sympathetic expressions that are reserved for the mad. I tried a few specialists who did at least suggest that they might be able to get me one but at a price that implied it was made by Bentley. In the end I went online and even this wasn’t easy. eBay had plenty of vintage models requiring ‘TLC’ and / or the manufacture of parts involving the use of a lathe and Gumtree had some that looked as though they had been at the bottom of a well for a decade or more. But eventually I found what I was looking for and it arrived the following day in a surprisingly un-lawnmower sized box. Continue reading “Why using your hands might be good for you”

Have we done our best creative work by 30?

Age Shall Weary Us

martin roberts
The Author under 30. Considering his best creative work.

Last year I met the parents of the friend of one my step-children. He was a retired Naval Officer, she a semi-retired nurse. As we stood in the kitchen exchanging small talk over a cup of coffee I was struck how like the archetype of parents they were. Then another thought struck me; wasn’t I an archetypal parent as well? After all, give or take a year we were the same age, I had children too, we discussed the iniquity of university tuition fees, we shared concerns about our children’s future in the ‘current climate’, we worried how they would ever afford to buy a house and laughed about them looking after us in our old age. Damn! Despite of how I perceived myself I was looking into a mirror – I am not 17, I’m 57. Continue reading “Have we done our best creative work by 30?”

The Madonna of Sant’Agostino

The Madonna of Sant'Agostino

Orinzia asked for the bench to be moved. When she walked out onto the terrace that morning she had noticed that the plumbago, now in full bloom, was not only covering the back and a large part of the seat with its outstretched tendrils of delicate mauve blooms, but that its advance was obscuring the view across the gardens and out over the city. Although it might have been easier to have the gardener cut it back, it seemed a much better solution to move the bench. That way the view, which was always there, would be available to anyone choosing to sit on that part of the terrace and the plumbago, whose life was limited, would also be preserved. Continue reading “The Madonna of Sant’Agostino”

Sutherland’s Churchill

In a recent clear out of the Nicholson family attic the following letter between the artist Graham Sutherland, fellow artist and friend Edward Nicholson came to light.  Its contents throw new light on an age-old artistic scandal.

Hotel Negresco

September 1966

My Dear Nicholson

Katharine and I have come to Cannes for a few days. The season is over and we shall not be much bothered by the kind of crowd who haunt the town from June to August. There are a few Americans left as, having much money and even more time, they now cannot seem to be parted from the continent that they all worked hard to leave. I suppose, as the prodigal children, they enjoy parading their wealth to us poor souls who were left behind, even if they secretly know it all to be such vulgar hauteur. The Negresco1 is full of them and it grieves me so to see the French, normally so dignified (if not a little haughty themselves), bowing and scraping to gather tips left by farmers from Iowa and Texan cattle barons. But such is the way of things. Continue reading “Sutherland’s Churchill”

War for the Playstation generation?

It may seem a little churlish to want to assess Ernst Jünger’s classic First World War memoires ‘Storm of Steel’ nearly a hundred years after the fact but, as this is a book for all time, then it surely deserves continuous review, not least because, as I read it I began to wonder if it could actually be true. The fact Jünger rewrote the book at least four times during his lifetime, the more to suit a contemporary audience, must surely cast doubt on its veracity. But, in fairness, I don’t really doubt his account for no better reason than most of it (and I mean most) can be corroborated from official records and contemporary eye-witnesses. However, as the chapters roll by one has uneasy sense of unlikelihood of it all – Jünger as Captain Hurricane, Flash Thompson, Nick Fury and GI Joe; life imitating art had the art yet been created. Continue reading “War for the Playstation generation?”

Tattoos: look on my works ye mighty and despair.

About a thousand years ago, whilst casting about for the career that, forty years later I am yet to find, I worked as a milkman in north west London. Our yard had a full cast of characters amongst whom was a young lad called Keith. Goodness knows what the intervening years have brought to Keith, let’s hope they have been ones of fulfilment and happiness, but in 1978 there were two interest and two only in his life; Iron Maiden and tattoos. The former passion found it apotheosis in Keith’s Mark II Ford Cortina which, along with sheepskin seats, vinyl roof and metallic paint was kitted out with a set of speakers that entirely obscured the view from the rear window. On starting the engine the speakers would spring into life and the windows, the ground and buildings within several yards would vibrate to the shock sound waves Messrs Harris, Murray, Smith, Dickinson, McBrain and Gers. Continue reading “Tattoos: look on my works ye mighty and despair.”