10 January 2009

home and away

Sometimes you just have to call a halt and chill, or at least try not to freeze. This was the week that the London Heat Puddle froze over. Trish the cat got a nasty shock when her tongue stuck to the ice in the outdoor water bowl, but at least she recovered. The aloes may not. We on the other hand battened down the hatches, stoked up the Belle Portable and elbowed each other out of the way for face time with the heat.

It was wonderful. I dusted the coal dust off of the sewing machine and made a little birthday bag for my niece. It's the first piece of sewing I have done for ages - doubly pleasurable, in the making and the appreciation of the gift. (My mum, I noticed, checked how well the seams had been sewn.) I also cleaned out my button tin and sorted my cotton box. I used to sort cottons when my mum took me to work with her - she was a dressmaker - and her boss used to reward me very handsomely with folding money and wooden coathangers. No wonder I enjoy it. With the occasional glass of sherry and the last of the Christmas chocolates it was all very comforting.

I got time too to look back on Silvertown. The fox from my last post just appeared from nowhere in the grounds of Brick Lane Music Hall, coincidentally appearing against a mural. It was a particularly beautiful fox, very ginger, sleek, well fed and clearly at home in the space between the industrial land near the river, the old railway and the newer buildings to the west. The music hall itself is in a Teulon church, restored after a fire several years ago. I'm not a big fan of victorian gothic, but Teulon's brickwork here somehow has the quality of a piece of embroidery or patchwork, bricks and slates and tiles sewn together.

Nearby were the now disused Tate and Lyle working men's club, railway ephemera and working factories.

To the north, is London City Airport running alongside the old docks. And a little way back east is Barrier Park at Pontoon Dock, one of London's newest parks, stunningly designed, but looted so severely by local thieves so that there are signs on the fences to say there is no scrap value. The day we went there was freezing cold. The Green Dock with its sinuous yew topiary sheltered us from the wind until we could warm up in the cafe. John, as is the habit in this family, snitched some seeds from a pine cone of some sort. (Betula Nigra, Black Birch.)

And memento mori on the riverbank.

Those days between Christmas and Twelfth Night were the winter counterpart to my summer "Holidays at Home" Better in some ways because there was no expectation of fine weather, so any day when you could get out was like a gift and a day at the seaside especially so. This was the usual haunt, marshes along the north Kent coast, the tide so far out that the mud was full of fishermen digging for worms in competition with the seabirds. Cold and gloosy.

River, railway, sea, sky, lapping, slapping, trees, grids, groynes, bricks, stone. Memento mori.

Oloroso sherry. And dulce, dulce domum.


Anonymous said...

i do love the 12 days of christmas and will celebrate them more and more. i put my tree up on the 24th and take it down on the sixth. i'm going to do more to enjoy the peace, the time out of time, the...stasis??? of the solstice, and it makes me happy to think you were out in it, on the beach. sous les paves, la plage.
are those BLACK flowers?????

colleen said...

They are ivy flowers and I just love 'em. They have been spectacular this year and lasted for ages. You need to look out for a good (free) local source. The flowers were more a dark indigo which has not quite come out in the photo.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous photos! We don't put our tree up until the 24th either, and I think my favourite time is after Christmas is over, in the lull before we all get back to our lives again.

Anonymous said...

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Sci said...

Hi, I found your blog searching for anything about the Belle Portable stove. My mother's just bought one, but I think there's a couple of pieces missing. Do you have any more photos of yours? It would certainly help me in making up replacement parts. :)
Don't yet know how to send a private message on blogger, but my email's sci@sci-fi-fox.com if you might be able to help out?
Best wishes, - Peter/Sci