Wednesday, September 28, 2005

How odd!

It seems I have a job (at least temporarily). The odd part is how little I did to get it. Other applications have caused me a lot of time and trouble, but with this one I ignored an initial email; met the sender on the street quite by chance; decided it might be worth pursuing; then found myself with a job offer. It's a funny old world, isn't it?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Doors Open Day

As a frustrated architect, I can't resist an oppurtunity to look round old (and new) buildings. Edinburgh provides an excellent selection, and the main problem on Doors Open Day is one of choice.

I've looked at Crocket's Land many times, as it's one of the more picturesque houses in the West Bow. Inside, it's a fairly unaltered house from 1700 or so, and has recently changed hands. It has a lot of very old wood panelling, done in Baltic pine. The previous owners had apparently stripped the pine bare, but the present incumbents have painted it again. One other visitor, who lived nearby and was clearly curious about what the neighbours were up to, hissed to her friend "They've ruined it!". I heard the same opinion later, when I was in the Signet Library and overheard some other architecture groupies discussing their day. I rather liked the effect. It's an example of a problem that dogs all owners of old buildings. People judge them by the aesthetics of their day, and currently, stripped pine is in. From what I know, such an interior would have been painted from day one. The wood used is decent, but not showy, and leaving it bare would have made you look like you couldn't afford to paint it. We are often disappointed how suburban the tastes of our ancestors were. The paint they used looks fairly genuine too.

The Mansfield Traquair centre gives another example of the past being painted in brighter colours than we'd like to admit. The paint in this case belongs to the murals by Phoebe Traquair. I've heard about these from several sources, so it was good to finally see them. The church is/was catholic, which explains the willingness to place bright images on the walls, something few protestant churches of the era were keen on (though, oddly this stricture seemed not to apply to stained glass). It's a nice reminder though, that pre-Reformation churches could have been just as brightly decorated. I'm not sure I like them as paintings much; a bit too arts and craftsy. They have been very well restored, apart from one badly faded bit which was over a coffee machine for many years.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Isn't oil paint gorgeous?

After quite a long dry patch, I finally did some painting last night. As ever, it was awkward getting started, but once the smell of turps is in your nostrils, you're on a roll. The usual gripes were felt: "I don't have enough brushes" (actually, I have loads); "I wish I didn't have to wash the brushes afterwards". The subject was a copy of a Peter Howson head that I started a while back. It's looking a lot better now. I really need to get into a regular painting habit again. A routine can be a very helpful thing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bored, Bored, Bored

Is there anything more dull than an application form? Dull, yet stressful, as the outcome could get or lose you a job.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Do I look like a twig?

Just back from a walk around Holyrood Park. On descending the hillside, I heard a rustling, flapping noise just behind me. It sounded like a plastic bag being blown around. After turning a few times I found that it was actually a crow flying around my head. It didn't seem to be actually agressive--it could have dive bombed me much more assertively if it had wanted to. It kept pace with me for quite a distance, always seeming about to land on my head, but not quite doing so. I wonder if there was something aerodynamic going on--some kind of eddy created behind me by the stiff breeze that could comfortably accommodate a crow? Or was it just trying to weird me out?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Little Sparta

I've wanted to visit Little Sparta--Ian Hamilton Finlay's extraordinary garden--for some time. Yesterday I finally managed to, courtesy of the delightfully obscure McEwan's bus service 100. A fair walk was involved, but the day was crisp and bright and the scenery pretty, so this was not a problem.

It's hard to do the garden justice here, and I only had an hour or so, but it is brilliant. I enjoy gardens, but not always the production of self-styled garden designers. It's rare to find an out-and-out artist expressing themselves in this way. Why? I say the world needs more bird tables in the shape of aircraft carriers.

The garden is the more remarkable if you approach it, as I did, from the moorland behind. It appears as a small cluster of trees on a very open hillside at nearly 300m. Once inside, it seems huge, and you're only conscious of the lack of time to see everything.

Naturally, I was the youngest person there, except possibly for the very nice young lady who collected the money. But then I'm used to this.

It's refreshing to see a visitor attraction where the car drivers are forced out of their vehicles and have to walk up an unmade road for half a mile or so. I can see that changing.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Blake's 7

I've been enjoying re-watching Blake's 7, recently made available in a nice DVD box set. One interesting discovery is how little I actually remember from this well-loved programme of my childhood. Other than generalities of plot and character, it seems that the memory is very fickle and arbitrary after 25 years. It often seems to be an image that stays. From Countdown, which I watched last night, the clearest memory was of the three pronged detonator thingy that Avon manages to disarm in the final seconds. A message for film-makers perhaps--that a simple arresting image can lodge in the mind? I also can't believe how little of Servalan there is. In memory, I had her stalking through every episode in slinky dresses, but there is much less slinking than you might think. Ah well, fine stuff all the same.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I declare this blog open

I'm sure my thoughts are just as interesting as many others that I see published, so... No, wait, that sounds Pooterish. Anyway, here I am.