Sunday 22 September 2013

Selamat Makan! Or Good Appetite

I can't remember a time when I didn't read recipe books for fun. At home they sat on the most accessible book shelf, within easy reach of us all. My dad would turn to them for education, inspiration, travel guides and kitchen companions. Perhaps he'd bought some exotic new ingredient that had made it from wherever to Hereford. I haven't forgotten my first Christmas pomegranate, not to mention our first ugli fruit. Or he'd made friends with the chef of a new restaurant in town and been shown how to make something unusual. His collection of books now sits with my brother the chef but I still find it pleasurable to absorb new culinary ideas and culture whenever a recipe book comes my way.

Sunday 15 September 2013

The London Mappers: Thames Festival Talk

Stephen Walter 'London Subterranea' (2012)
After spending a virtual week in the troll-inhabited unmannerly wilderness of the internet, Friday took a turn for the civilised and I entered the world of maps and the City of London. As part of the Thames Festival 2013, Renaissance expert Jerry Brotton and map dealer Daniel Crouch told a cartographic story of London and its iconic river, from the first printed map of the city to recent artistic attempts at mapping the capital.

Jerry opened with statements regarding the different directions in which his and Daniel's experience of maps go. From a renaissance studies point of view his focus is the 'idea' or philosophy of maps, with emphasis on depicting the civil v barbaric. He is also interested in how maps define our identity or even imagining how the early moderns used maps. Daniel's interest is the materiality of maps - how they are presented aesthetically or how rare they are. This duality should have made for an illuminating partnership.

Friday 6 September 2013


Every funeral this year has started with a journey west. To Torquay in February and then Hereford yesterday. I don't mind travelling long distances to say goodbye; the physical miles ensure time and space to deal with memories. A retracing of the doodles or flourishes on the map of my mind, if you like. But first this.

We were sat in uncle Steven's gleaming car in the crematorium car park this morning. We watched a careless driver cut across a grassy corner and crash into a wooden 'no exit' sign. He stopped, eyed up the wreckage, raised his hands in disbelief/embarrassment/exasperation and then drove on. Happily for my uncle Steven's pride and joy, this mechanical menace decided to park a long way from us.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Elector and Engineer

A kindly pink face peers down at the bookish historians,
Handling mysterious metal pieces and glowing wood.
They give him an occasional glance, a flirtatious smile,
Comments made quietly as wunderkammer shimmers,
A nod to Papi, an acknowledgment of mastery.

A Saxon prince argues with his smouldering engineer.
Roles reversed as he belabours the capstan;
Pincers attack and pull at the gleaming wires,
'Nein, ziehen, sanft ziehen', croons the gentleman.
As in fairy tales, so magically the gold is woven.

The gruff engineer deftly adjusts the die, just so
And carefully wipes the hot wax from the cold steel
His hands see the bench, but his noble unskilled
Apprentice clumsily works, looking, checking, sweating.
An orderly world overturned by a mechanical universe.

An efficiency of tools and the process changes;
Sheets of fresh traded wood from the east, fragrant lie
To be tortured gently to make furniture pieces.
The engineer stands to the side and the Elector presses;
People, nobles, Emperors, timber bending to his will.

These Promethean princes each praying for knowledge;
Reforming Kingdoms under a new God of reading,
Remanufacturing their states and forcing their will with
Steely determination and ballistic intelligence.
Stamping paternal authority over the natural unnatural land.