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Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Damien Hirst

Until the end of September, there is a major international sculpture festival taking place across Leeds and Wakefield. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, The Hepworth, the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Art Gallery are all hosting exhibitions and there are installations in the city centres. 

The sculptor, Damien Hirst, grew up and went to art college in Leeds. He has made his name with shocking and controversial works and the pieces displayed in Leeds are not for the squeamish, it has to be said! The huge painted bronze 'Hymn' has been placed right in the middle of Briggate, Leeds main shopping street. 20ft (6m) high, it depicts a man's body with the skin stripped away to reveal the internal organs. Not especially what I want to see when I'm looking for new jeans in M&S! Apparently, it is based on a children's toy anatomy set and Hirst was sued in 2000 by the toy's manufacturer for breach of copyright and settled out of court. It didn't stop him selling 'Hymn' for a reputed £1m. 

Meanwhile, 'Anatomy of an Angel', a marble angel, based on a classical sculpture 'L'Hirondelle' by Alfred Boucher but again with her skin peeled away to reveal bones and organs, is in the upmarket Victoria Arcade. I found her slightly more palatable... but I'd rather see the Boucher! (Boucher himself is no longer alive to sue!) 

Then, in the Art Gallery, there is apparently 'Black Sheep with Golden Horns', one of his animals in formaldehyde pieces, though I have not been to see that yet (and I'm not sure if I will!).

I know Leonardo da Vinci was making anatomical drawings way back in the 1500s - but at the time that was pioneering work. He was making new discoveries by dissecting bodies, observing and drawing them closely. Personally, I don't consider Hirst (and others like him, who came to fame in the 1980s/90s) to be a true artist, just a showman with a talent for publicity and plagiarism. Hirst is apparently 'the richest living artist', worth over £200m. His works are mostly not even constructed by him; he has a studio/factory full of assistants, making them - but the debate rages on!  Give me Magdalene Odundo's ceramics (see HERE), anytime, over a Damien Hirst piece.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Not the pipe band...

I went down to Roberts Park one evening to watch the Bradford Pipe Band, who were advertised as conducting a rehearsal in the park. They were a no-show, probably on account of a sudden rain shower earlier in the evening, though the rain had stopped by the advertised time. I did, however, get to see another band on the river: a flotilla of goosander, some 30 in total. They looked like females and juveniles. I've often seen a pair on the canal or river locally and once saw a female with a small brood of babies, but I've never seen such a large group before. At this rate they will be competing with the ever-growing flocks of geese that hang around.

Monday, 29 July 2019

In a summer meadow

So, I'm not that good at identifying wild flowers but here are a few that I noticed:

Ox-eye daisies (possibly my favourite, so simple and innocent looking) are the most obvious and brightest, holding their heads high above the others. In the picture above there are also buttercups, red clover, yellow rattle and some tiny white flowers that I think may be eyebright.

Here's a common spotted orchid. There may be more orchids, perhaps rarer ones, hidden among the grasses but we were obliged to keep to the paved footpath through the middle of the meadow, so we could only see what was immediately on either side of the path. I can understand that they don't want everyone tramping the flowers down! The flower that I think is eyebright is in the front of this photo too.

Left is yellow rattle and to the right, I think, the cuckoo flower or lady's smock.

Then there is water avens (right) and the pretty blue flower is germander speedwell, guaranteed to cheer the weary traveller along the way.

A feather caught in the grass drew my eye - as did the light catching the tiny red flowers, which I think are common sorrel, a herb.

and finally, another common but pretty wild flower - herb robert, a type of geranium. It does smell really herby when you crush its leaves. 

There... I didn't do too badly, did I? (Thanks Google!) 

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Grassington meadows

Our Grassington walk took us downstream along the River Wharfe for a short way and then we climbed up the valley side through a series of hay meadows. Eventually we arrived at a meadow that has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, for the diversity of wildflowers that it holds. It was once the site of a hospital. That has now been demolished and a few new houses have been built, but the hay meadow has remained undisturbed by modern agriculture. It holds a number of unusual plants, many of which have delightful names: how about 'melancholy thistle', 'sneezewort' or 'quaking grass'? 

The flower you notice most is the ox-eye daisy, just because it's bigger and brighter than most, but scattered around is a rich variety including clover, vetch, orchids, water avens and yellow rattle, the latter a semi-parasitic plant that suppresses grasses and thus helps to encourage other wildflowers. I'm not that good at identifying wildflowers, I have to admit, though I love to see them.  

Beyond the meadow, the views open up. Some of the grass has been mown for sileage. Across the valley, if you look carefully, you can spot long, thin, terraced lines of old field patterns called 'lynchets'. Easier to see in low evening light but you can just about see them on the left of my photo.

Then we descended back into the little Dales town of Grassington, along an old walled lane known as High Lane. By this time, the sun was out so we were able to sit outside a café, enjoying its warmth, and have a well-earned cup of tea.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

A torrent

All the rain we'd been having at the time meant that the River Wharfe was pouring over the rocks at Linton Falls in a torrent. It was an eerie brown colour too. I suppose such a strong flow stirs up the mud and peat. It's a pretty spot, just down the hill from the village of Grassington, where a footbridge crosses over the river. It's the gateway to several good walks up and down stream. Upstream there is a weir and a small hydroelectric plant. There are a few houses backing on to the falls. I suppose they must just get used to the tremendous noise of rushing water.

(Heck, this is my 3500th blog post!)

Friday, 26 July 2019

A damp day in the Dales

Hardy photographers from my camera club (well, myself and two others!) were not put off by the rain at the start of our planned walk round Grassington's wildflower meadows a few weeks ago. Upper Wharfedale, with its lush greenery, dry stone walls and stone field-barns, can look stunning on a sunny, summery day but the drizzle and low cloud brought a different kind of beauty - and it didn't rain for all of the day!

(We're having a heatwave now, so these cool photos are nice to look back on.)

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Sports Day

I went to watch my two granddaughters in their school sports day, just before the end of term. One is now seven and the other four. The younger one attends the local primary school part-time at the moment and will begin full-time in September. The seven-year-old has now done two full years there. It is lovely little school, with fewer than 150 pupils. It is friendly and caring, and they have a strong ethos of helping each other. The little ones, when they first start, have one of the older children as a 'buddy' and that really seems to work, giving them confidence, particularly at break times. It's the kind of school I wish all young children had the good fortune to attend.

Sports Day, too, was organised largely in cross-school teams, with about 12 in each team, from the tiniest up to the eldest. My two were in the red team. Here you see them engaged in a game that involved transferring tennis balls from one large box to another, right down the team line, as quickly as they could. I loved how they both threw themselves into everything. The four year old, in particular, attacks life with her whole body! I'm so thankful for them both.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The Tempest

'Shakespeare in the Park' were performing The Tempest recently in Roberts Park, Saltaire. It's the Shakespeare play that I studied for A level English at school - but that's so many years ago, I confess I remember very little of it. These days I am too deaf to hear a non-amplified outdoor performance, but it was gratifying to see a sizeable audience enjoying the play. This on a day when there was also the Wimbledon men's singles final, the cricket World Cup final and the F1 British Grand Prix to enjoy on TV, if you so chose. I had an hour or so brisk walk (to justify then sitting inside on a lovely summer's day!) and I just passed by to watch a little of the play. Then I hurried home, a bit late to watch the tennis, which I'd recorded. I was still sitting there in the early evening, it was such a long, gladiatorial fight between Djokovic and Federer!

The story behind 'Shakespeare in the Park' is interesting. (See HERE) Steve Pearson, its founder, was inspired by a book he picked up in a New York bookshop - and this is now the fifth year the company has been performing free Shakespeare plays in the open air. They started in Roberts Park but have extended it to other parks in the district too.

It can be a little difficult to follow (if you can't hear!) as they wear modern dress, change the gender of the characters according to the actors they have recruited, and add modern twists. The drunk, Stephano, entered singing 'Baby Shark'! That's him with Caliban and Trinculo, above and below:

Below, there is Ariel, working his magic with the shipwrecked lords. 

I did actually love the play when I studied it. Though I can't recall the detailed plot, I can still quote some of the lines!

'Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes; Nothing of him that doth fade But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange.'

'But this rough magic I here abjure;'

Even now, the words please me. I remain very glad that we had to study some Shakespeare at school. I feel it has added richness to my life experience. I don't think schools study it so much nowadays.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Follow the colour

Colourful bunting invited me in to the allotment gardens... and once there, it was easy to follow the colour all around. I liked the juxtaposition of these contrasting colours, textures and shapes - pretty pink roses and a blue shed:

Wonderful pink veins on a cabbage leaf:

More beautiful roses, which seem to be at their best in late June/early July, though wet weather can really spoil them quickly.   

These yellow spikes are, I think, Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata). I liked the look against the grey weatherboarded shed:

I'm always a fan of sweet peas and this variety seems to flower abundantly:

Monday, 22 July 2019

Open day at the allotments

In June and July, events come thick and fast locally and I am having trouble keeping up! I'm also taking an awful lot of garden and nature photos, but I do love seeing the rainbow of colours that Mother Nature bestows on us in early summer. These pictures were taken at my friend's Allotments' Association Open Day in Bingley. Long-time readers of my blog may remember that this area, right beside the River Aire, was flooded and badly damaged in December 2015 (see HERE).  There are probably still a few plant pots nestled up in trees along the river! It has taken the allotment holders a good deal of hard work to restore the fences, sheds and greenhouses but now you wouldn't know that the devastation had happened. The plots are lush and productive, full of vegetables, fruit and flowers. What a delight!

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Rae Gala

For once, it didn't rain on the day of the annual Rae Gala and I wasn't doing anything else, so I managed to get along and enjoy the atmosphere. It is organised by the Friends of Northcliffe Park, to celebrate the wonderful gift of the park to the people of Shipley, by the landowner Sir Norman Rae in the 1920s. It's good, wholesome, family fun, with many local organisations providing stalls and activities.

Music was provided by the Hall Royd Brass Band:

A group of ladies known as Northwind demonstrated tribal bellydance (below), which looked rather fun and was very colourful, and a local group demonstrated T'ai Chi.

Activities for the children included making (and bursting) huge soap bubbles:

and various (good, old-fashioned) races like the sack race:

For the even more energetic, you could make yourself a fruit smoothie by pedalling a static bike:

For the less energetic visitors, rides were provided by Bradford Model Engineering Society on the two miniature railways they operate in Northcliffe Woods, which also usually run on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer.

All that, plus ferret racing, face painting, ice cream and various food stalls, made for a very good afternoon out. At a small local event, there is always the bonus that you bump into lots of people that you know, so there is time for chatting and catching up on news. Shipley rocks!

The good news is that Northcliffe Park (which is a huge area of woodland, meadow, sports fields, allotments and a children's playground) is no longer on the list as a potential crematorium site for the locality. That means that the people of Shipley can continue to enjoy the park as 'an open space for recreation and benefit of the public, forever' as was intended in the original bequest. Now, that is worth celebrating.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Snail's pace

I just popped down into Shipley town centre to collect a library book - and was surprised to find two large and colourful snails slithering around the market place! They were part of the Shipley Street Arts Festival, organised annually by Q20 Events and now in its 5th year. Unfortunately I wasn't able to stay and enjoy the whole range of shows, which included local dance groups, street theatre and an aerial circus display. This year the theme was nature, a very topical subject.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Gansey Girl

Bridlington's north pier has this attractive bronze sculpture by Steve Carvill, installed in 2015 to honour the town's fishing families. Called 'Gansey Girl', the fisherman's wife is knitting a gansey, a traditional fisherman's jumper. Each fishing community had its own identifiable pattern, made up of motifs related to the sea: nets, ropes, ladders and herringbones. The tradition dates back to Elizabethan times and made it possible to identify where a fisherman was from, just by his jumper. The ganseys were hard-wearing and designed with the front and back the same so they could be reversed to even out the wear. They are tight at the hem and cuffs to mitigate against wind and water.  (Read more about them HERE). The fish on the plinth bear the names of some of the local fishing families.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Harbour life 2

Fishing boats come in all shapes and sizes. Most of those in Bridlington harbour are small boats for catching shellfish, as the lobster pots piled up on the quayside suggest. It is, apparently, the largest shellfishing port in England. You can wander around the harbour and get very close to the action. There are pontoons for mooring leisure craft and a quay with warehousing, where the larger trawlers still berth.

The boats and floats make for colourful pictures, even on a dull day. 

'Svalbard' seemed unnaturally clean and neat ... perhaps they never use it?

Nowadays there are small motor craft and catamarans among the fleet, but at one time the local small boats were cobles: open sailboats with wooden hulls and flat bottoms, traditional to the north-east coast of England. Some have been preserved, like the 'Three Brothers' on the left of the picture below, built in 1912 and restored in 2013.