Who stole Swedenborg’s skull? What did Swedenborg invent, and what did 18th century people use as hair gel to put on their wigs? Rather disgustingly, it was animal grease. Just a few of the topics! Fantastic to meet up with participants and share their drawings and ideas. Here are some of them, including pictures of facial expressions. Great fun!
There have been builders in the upstairs flat for the last three months, and they’re still there. Every so often I’ve managed to escape dust clouds and noise to go to the seaside for a couple of days, and the weather has been amazing, even, in the case of Brighton, warm enough to swim at 7am. Heaven! Although I’m not a brilliant swimmer, so it was mostly rolling and splashing about/floating in the sea close to shore. In Folkestone I sat in Mark Dion’s seagull on wheels, and wondered about moving house. With thanks to Mick Williamson for the seagull photo.
On the afternoon of August 2nd, some of my robots took part in Primrose Hill Community Association’s Art Trail. Having dusted them and wound them up, I activated them on the hour (or maybe they activated me) on my windowsill. Lovely to chat with visitors looking on from street level. One of my earliest books for children was Robotina Finds Out, published by Faber and Faber.
Not far from where I live is a nature reserve. Its meadow, currently full of wild sweet peas and wild geraniums, is a delight. There’s a beetle hotel there too, built by High Speed Rail in return for … access to adjacent woodland?
Adelaide Nature Reserve lies on the site of what were once hay meadows, supplying food for London’s horses. It slopes down to railways tracks leading to and from London’s Euston station. When, as an art student many years ago, I travelled by train (unless I hitched a lift) from my art college in Wolverhampton, with a tiny suitcase and a folder of ideas and drawings to tout around, I would have seen the greenery above the tracks as the train approached Euston. Or maybe I was too excited to notice it. I was en route to meet up with the man who later became my husband, and to keep appointments with a magazine or book editor or two whilst in London. As the train emerged from the tunnel, there was a definite feeling of travelling through a portal into new adventures.
Trains pass through the Primrose Hill tunnels and its archways, engineered by George Stephenson and Sons, designed by William Budden, can be glimpsed through fencing and foliage from King Henry’s Road above one side of the tracks, an elegant and mysterious looking structure which, when the first one was built in 1837, attracted many sightseers.
Near the Adelaide Nature Reserve, behind an attractive wall (due to be pulled down), its bricks arranged in a Flemish Bond pattern, is another nature reserve, owned by Network Rail and soon to be destroyed and earmarked for the site of a huge High Speed Rail ventilation shaft.
The first place I visited when I was well enough after having the Corona virus was the Adelaide Community Garden, where I have a tiny square (3′ x 3′) of herbs – rosemary, Moroccan mint, thyme and hyssop, all planted with bees in mind as well as for their scent and taste. Here it is in March …
A couple of kind fellow allotmenteers watered the square when I was in isolation for two months, so it’s now dancing in greenery …
On those first visits, still wonky from being ill, I feebly but happily sat and stared at the flowering and burgeoning on other more ambitious plots, watched a pair of blue tits feeding their young and listened to the hum of bees, and birds celebrating the sunny weather in joyful arias. There are robins, blackbirds and goldfinches here as well. Bliss! And once again I realised the importance of green spaces, how they are essential for humans’ wellbeing, how even looking after a small square of garden or a few pot plants can be an act of optimism in these weird and challenging times.
I’m lucky enough to have a tiny back yard, which despite facing north east, gets enough early morning sun to encourage a camellia, a rose bush and a bay tree as well as assorted ferns. Nearby, beyond a thirty foot wall, are the main railway lines in and out of Euston, whose rumbles I can sometimes hear at night. Occasionally the vibrations from passing trains activate clockwork robots and other toys on the shelf above my work desk, a friendly sound of gentle whirring and clanking. The robot on the right was bought from a stall in Bridport Market, was made in Japan in the 1960s. She has a sparking tummy. Sometimes.
Making visual or written notes is an essential part of my work practice. These days overhearing interesting snippets of conversations is a bit more of a challenge though … Here are some pages from my 2020 notebooks, pre C-19.