It Did Not Stay For Its Close-up

After lunch today I scanned the next five of Charles Keeping’s idiosyncratic illustrations to Charles Dickens’s ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, displaying the artist’s liquid line in expressive portraiture.

‘Martin and his friend followed them to the door below’

‘On his livid face was one word – Death’

‘Whole troops of married ladies came flocking round the steps’

‘ ‘Pinch him for me, Cherry, pray,’ said Mercy’

‘The agent was swinging backwards and forwards in a rocking-chair’

Soon afterwards we set out on a short forest drive.

Pearly blackthorn still drapes the hedgerows. We noticed a meringue version at East End; a cascade behind a cock pheasant on Sowley Lane; and scoops of cream alongside St. Leonard’s Road.

Also at East End the pale blue lightly-clouded sky provided a backdrop for bare birches, skeletal oaks, and a yachting weather vane.

Oaks along Sowley Lane have bowed to years of prevailing winds from the Solent, beyond which is the Isle of Wight, creating the third layer in the rape field image. Screeching gulls, excited by the soil-churning of a distant tractor, advanced inland – silhouetted dark against the sky, and light against a line of birches.

While I photographed bright purple aubretia and gold and cream lichen decorating the old stone wall of St Leonard’s Grange,

a passing car flattened a hen pheasant, roughly in the centre of the picture, upon which a ravenous crow immediately alighted. Disturbed by the cyclist, it did not stay for its close-up.

This evening we reprised Jackie’s lemon chicken and egg fried rice meal, with which she drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc and I drank Recital Languedoc Montpeyroux 2018.


  1. I abhor drivers who knock over birds or animals and leave them in the road. Surely this driver must have known that he/she had hit the pheasant! On a more positive note, the purple aubretia looks beautiful.

      1. Sometimes one cannot help colliding with a bird, Here we find small mammals and reptiles left in the road – I can’t help thinking that speeding might be a problem.

  2. In this set of Keeping’s exceptional variety of brilliantly portrayed characters, the one I especially admired was the “tropps of married ladies,” each with her own personality, yet amazingly alike.
    The poor unfortunate pheasant!

  3. More wonderful illustrations–I agree so expressive.
    And such wonderful photos, too–the blackthorn, the gulls against the birches, and the bright purple aubretia.

  4. Your expression – ‘displaying a liquid line in expressive portraiture’ is as creative and cunning as Keeping’s beautifully descriptive images themselves!
    It is such a shame when drivers feel that they need to drive so fast through beautiful places that they may fail to see or appreciate the beauty.
    If the driver was not on their way to an emergency, I hope all is now well.

    1. Thanks very much, Emma. I’m so pleased you appreciated that expression, which took some thought. Unfortunately pheasants do dash out in front of cars, yet, I agree, a little care would save some.

  5. I always feel sad to see any creature that has been plowed down. (It’s a wonder I’m not immune to it after all these years.) When I saw that header photo, I thought “uh, oh” and had to read on to see who it was.

    That purple aubretia is gorgeous!

  6. Troop of Married Ladies…that HAS to be the official term for a collective group of married ladies. And watch out when they “come flocking round the steps”. πŸ˜‰ HA! πŸ˜€
    Love the illustration of the agent in the rocking chair!
    Oh, what beauty in your photos…the yellows, purples, golds, birds, trees, sky! πŸ™‚
    So sad to hear about the pheasant hen. πŸ™
    PS….your poetic descriptions of what you saw are vivid, wonderful, emotion evoking, and ignite my senses! Yes, even the senses of smell and taste as I read of your delicious meals! πŸ™‚

  7. I was interested in the mention of St. Leonard’s Grange. I grew up in an area of the midwest where grange halls were common; they were rural community centers with a variety of uses, especially educational and agricultural. It seems your granges are rather more complex!

  8. At the risk of incurring the wrath of righteous indignation, I prefer your photographs to the illustrations; I simply dislike the style. Chicken and egg fried rise sounds good!

    1. Thanks very much, JoAnna. I wouldn’t have photographed a close-up – that was just a way of saying that, like most scavengers, it rushed away at the sight of any threat.

  9. Your photo of the weather vane brought back some fond memories for me I recall my my dad’s homemade weather vane atop the rear bungalow at the family homestead “Tullawalla”

    1. Thank you very much, Liz. As I returned to the car Jackie pointed out that layered landscape and I was pleased to be able to say I had already photographed it πŸ™‚

  10. Those are beautiful photos from the day, but so sad about the hen pheasant. The purple aubretia is gorgeous. I looked it up and it is related to mustards and their allies. I wonder if it would do well here?

  11. I saw a picture the other day where BH Gulls were following the plough back in the 1920s, and it was drawn by two horses. It must be quite an old trick that they’ve learnt many years ago.

  12. I like your interesting photo of the crooked lines on the road! Your steely trees are still waiting for spring leaves to emerge! We have spring pollen flying everywhere here. Our cars have turned Yellow!

      1. it gets this way every spring! When we lived further east four hours. There where many tall pine trees. When they let loose the pollen dust clouds occurred with every strong breeze!

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