‘Soul-Contenting Pictures’


Today’s title comes from James Branch Cabell’s preface to ‘The Silver Stallion, a Comedy of Redemption’, another of the splendid collaborations between the author and his illustrator, Frank C, Papé. This is the first illustrated edition of 1928 published by The Bodley Head.

The work is a splendidly rumbustious picaresque fantasy by a master of his field. This really is an impossibly nonsensical, yet un-put-downable escapade, rendered readable by Cabell’s flowing, poetic prose, full of lovely descriptions, perfectly positioned alliteration, barely concealed wit, and lascivious innuendo – all cleverly reflected in the elegant lines of his elegantly imaginative illustrator. Many of the author’s sentences are lengthy, yet gently undulate for the eyes to scan with no hesitation.

The numerous black and white illustrations consist of introductory pages to each of the ten books in the volume; tipped in plates; and line drawings at the end of each chapter. I have scanned twelve, almost at random.

The detail pays careful attention. How many riders are depicted here? The little boy stands protected among the frightening creatures concealed in the shadows. Can you spot the gaping-mouthed beast fashioned from the rock?

This little end-piece has sweat on the father’s forehead, a button bursting off his trousers, a hole in the boy’s onesie , and a missing shoe. The end of the chapter is repeated in the caption to the first illustration.

Note the protruding toes in this one. The artist portrays fingers and toes with such free-flowing accuracy.

Study the faces here, especially those in the peaks of the waves.

The artist’s take on the writer’s subtle lascivious humour is demonstrated by the young lady’s almost falling out of her sedan chair at the sight of what is suggested by the strategically placed leaf on the man’s shadow.

The paragraph above this end-piece suggests what is depicted in the dark clouds.

Papé’s mastery of line is represented in the two halves of this introduction to Book Five. Facial expressions indicate sanctity and devilry;

similarly the fluidity of his line is apparent in this drawing which captures the angry frustration of a father unable to control his impudently recalcitrant son.

Cross-hatching is used to good effect to provide a dark framework for this fearsome frolic. Look where the winged creature is aiming its sting.

The beauty of this liquid line may cause one to miss the dog’s sad, tearful, face.

The illustrator’s ability to pack immense detail into his frame. You may find much more, but I will draw attention to the wife’s taking on the disturbers of her sleep with fire irons and a broom.

The three faces in this end piece bringing up the rear tell a splendid story. In the form of the building overlooking the arch, Chad puts in an appearance.

Late this afternoon, Jacqueline brought Mum over for dinner. A pleasant evening ensued. Jackie produced vegetable soup; cottage pie with cabbage, carrots, and runner beans; and bread and butter pudding with cream or evaporated milk, according to taste. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, Mum’s choice was orange juice, Jacqueline’s, Ciro Bianco 2017, and Elizabeth’s and mine, Lellei Pinot Noir 2015.




Mirror and mantelpiece

Yesterday morning Jackie visited Molly’s Den where she bought a mirror for the wall above the fireplace. On the left of the mantelpiece stands the miniature mock Ordnance Survey Map that Becky made for us almost two years ago. Please ignore the fact that we have not redecorated since the fireplace was put in.

It seems a crime to obtain the bevelled glass and wonderfully hand-carved frame for £40, simply because such craftsmanship is now out of fashion. Observant readers may have observed the finial to the left hand vase. When these ornaments were in Jackie’s parents’ home her father had used plasticine to make good the break. She has made good the break with Blu-Tac.

Reflected drawings

The reflected images in the glass are of two family portraits. That on the viewer’s left has appeared before, on May 3rd 2014:

The other

is one of my proudest possessions. It was produced by Flo when she was about 8 and asked at school to draw something that made her happy. The placement of herself is quite brilliant. The drawing stayed on the wall for a year and was presented to me at the end of that time.

Magnolia Vulcan

In the garden the blooms of the Vulcan magnolia are now opening out;

Clematis Lidl blue

and the clematis Lidl blue, so named because it was an unnamed cheapie from that store,

Rose Penny Lane

and the rose Penny Lane, benefitting from one of the Rose Garden mirrors, climb up one side of the potting shed.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious liver, bacon, and sausage casserole, with creamy mashed potato, crunchy carrots and green beans. Jackie drank Peroni, and I finished the Madiran.

‘Look At That Book’

Jackie spent most of the day cleaning and renovating the rancid master bathroom.

This floor, unevenly tiled in some kind of rubbery squares, gives an example of what she was dealing with. The difference she has made is evident in this photograph taken as she began. When I returned from my walk the whole surface was the colour of the clean ones you see.

From Downton Lane I took the path through the fields and alongside the bluebell wood, into which I deviated.

The tractor ploughing against the backdrop of the Isle of Wight on the horizon attracted its usual entourage of gulls and rooks. When I reached the road I turned left and continued on past the bottom of our lane to Milford on Sea.

Cattle alongside this route seemed oblivious of the then distant ploughman.

As I marvelled at the weeds and grasses forcing their way through the tarmacked surface of the narrow path to Milford, I thought fondly of Dickie Hamer. Father Hamer, S.J. was the gentle, well-loved, Jesuit priest at Wimbledon College who guided us towards O Level French. I don’t remember why we called him Dickie. Perhaps his first name was Richard. It was he who had first told us of the power of something as slender as a blade of grass to battle its way into the sunlight in search of the energy for photosynthesis. One day, as he took a tour round the classroom, he admired the drawings Matthew Hutchinson had made in the margins of his exercise book. ‘I’ll have some of that’, I imagined. So, on another occasion, I started embellishing my pages. When Dickie reached my desk, instead of the hoped for praise, I received disappointed admonishment. ‘Look at that book’ exclaimed the schoolmaster. I hear his voice, see his face, and feel the shame to this day. The experience was worsened because I knew I could never match Matthew’s art.

A game of catch cricket was in progress on the Hordle Cliff top. When the ball was hit in my direction and I failed to grasp it, all round hilarity ensued. My unspoken excuse is that a cricketer accustomed to pouching a hard leather bound ball cannot catch a bouncy one designed for tennis. And anyway my effort was one-handed with the camera hanging from my wrist. Moreover, one bout of shame is enough for any one day.

I returned by the Shorefield route at the beginning of which is a house that in dry weather has baskets of books outside for sale in aid of children’s charities. A couple had parked their car and stopped to make a selection of purchases.
This afternoon I made a start on the garden. In the immortal words of Captain Lawrence Oates, ‘I may be some time’.
For one of my birthdays in the early Newark years, Jessica gave me a cast iron replica of the Nottingham Castle benches. This has accompanied me on most of my moves since, and brought to Downton from storage by the splendid Globe Removals team. There are twelve hardwood slats linking, by bolts, the very heavy metal sides. Whilst at Sutherland Place I replaced some of the deteriorated wooden sections with iroko I had cobbled from a picnic bench. The bench has been dismantled for transit. I decided to put it together again.
The cast iron pieces lay beneath the heaviest skip pile consisting largely of IKEA contiboard. I shifted all that and dragged the iron out. Then I couldn’t find the nuts that held the bolts in place.

So I had to do something else, and made a start on weeding the paths. I didn’t get very far before diverting myself by looking up at the shattered tree. The main trunk of this as yet unidentified plant had obviously suffered in the winter gales. I had to cut the top off. There was no time like the present. I sawed off the damaged section, lopped up the branches just coming into leaf, and carried them to the far end of the garden where there has obviously been a bonfire at some time.
All this time Jackie continued to work like Helen, or maybe another Trojan, upstairs, apart from a small break when she pruned a climbing rose in an effort to preserve my scalp when walking underneath it.
I suppose every garden has its pernicious weed that defies all efforts to eradicate it.

Ours I recognise, but cannot name, from the garden at Lindum House. It is a long trailing and climbing creature with velcro epidermis that clings to anything. The creeper emanates from a buried, elongated lichee like object burrowing underground. All I will have time for this year will be to pull the greenery up by the handful before its little white flowers appear.

Extracting one such cluster revealed this fascinating little plant:

Each set of petals is about the size of a daisy. I don’t know what it is.

This evening we dined at The Jarna restaurant, the decor of which was described two days ago, when I vowed to return with my camera:

Sam was doing deliveries himself tonight. At one point he went out into a heavy shower of rain. He placed his container beside his car whilst he opened up the boot.

This could be seen through the tiger left in the window glass otherwise covered by a laminate.

Ceiling lights of different hues imparted their glow to the diners, to their napkins, and to Sam’s head as he took the orders. Ours was green.

The food was good too.

P.S. Jackie put this comment on Facebook: Just done some research, seems that Ladies bedstraw is slightly different, it is Gallium verum , the weed in our garden is Gallium aparine , AKA- catchweed, everlasting friendship, Robin-run-the-hedge, even sticky Jack, and my favourite, Sticky Willy!!

‘Time To Go’

This morning I was surprised to hear a very satisfied male woodpigeon joyfully waking the residents of Westbourne Grove.  I am spending the weekend in Sutherland Place, which is not where there is a great deal of evidence of avian life.  Much as it may try, it doesn’t match up to the night owls and morning cocks of the new forest and nearby farmyards.

Artwork to the binAround the corner, in Artesian Road, are sited two large black domestic rubbish bins.  I made several sad trips to them.  Clearing out the bedroom cupboard revealed the sorry state of much of my artwork, both photographic and drawing.  Some of the drawings were by children.  Collected over the years these had suffered from the various moves since 2006, and a burglary inflicted on my landlords some months ago.  There were framed pictures with broken glass.  I didn’t really have the heart to trawl through them all to see what was recoverable.  Particularly regrettable were some very large black and white unmounted, and therefore the most vulnerable, prints I had made with chemicals and an enlarger during the 1980s.  I rationalised that I still have the negatives, should I wish to replace them.  Unfortunately nothing can replace the clarity of those images made in the old-fashioned way.  C’est la vie.  It was also sad to lose the original drawings I had done for the covers of a magazine dedicated to work with elderly people during my last years as a Social Services Area Manager in Westminster.  I had ditched the printed copies when I left Lindum House.

I laid the battered folder on the ground and had one last look.  A kind and helpful woman asked if she could help me put them in the Paper and Card bin.  There is a green flap at the top, that must be lifted to insert the discards, so assistance is advantageous.  I couldn’t dither forever, so I accepted her offer. I explained what I was doing, and she said: ‘Time to go’.  And in they went. Louisa portrait 8.3.91 But not before I had retrieved a portrait of Louisa I had signed and dated on 8th March 1991.  That I will iron out.  Ouise, you are getting it for Christmas.

The broken framed work went in the Household Rubbish container.  It took me some time to lift my spirits for the last of the packing.

Until mid-afternoon I was taking down and packing up pictures; Sam’s oar also came down, but the enormous great thing, one of two won in the Wadham eight in 2001, defied packing. I do hope the removal men bring a suitable screwdriver to dismantle it tomorrow. Anything, like table lamps, for example, that has wires attached had the flex wound round it and taped up.  Waste bins were useful for containing old telephones, such as the beautiful Belgian relic (not you, Anne) bought in Newark Old Chapel antiques centre in the late ’80s.

Elizabeth FranksThe oldest family portrait I possess is one of Elizabeth Franks, my paternal great-grandmother.  I have never disturbed the frame to examine it behind the glass, but it looks to me like a tinted photograph.  Her unflinching expression, rather severe, even for a Victorian eighteen year old, and stiffness of pose, suggests a nineteenth century subject for the camera.  I removed that from its wall, but it won’t fit into a box.

Deciding I could pack the last of the books whilst the men are taking the furniture to Michael’s house in Graham Road, Wimbledon, I thought I would pack it in for the day.  In an attempt to make myself slightly more savoury for my friends in the Akash in Edgware Road, to which I repaired later, I visited the very small, but thriving, Sainsbury’s Local, in Westbourne Grove, to buy shampoo.  As I stood in the checkout queue, I began to realise that the cacophany of dicordant sounds of messages and instructions all talking across each other was a string of self-checkout machines that have been installed since I was last here.  Younger people used them.  They can probably cope better with being told there is an alien object on the tray than the oldies who prefer to deal with a person.

This evening I walked to and from the Akash for my usual meal of hot haldi, special fried rice, onion bhajis to die for, and a plain parata, with Cobra to drink, all followed by a complimentary brandy.  The first thing I noticed was the absence of Majid, Shafiq, and Zaman.  Other faces I have grown accustomed to over the years were there, ably holding the fort.  My regular friends were attending the wedding of Majid’s younger son, who, of course, I remember as a small boy.  The manager has done a great job of bringing up his two boys and I congratulated him in a note.  Majid’s nephew, Dean, was in charge this evening.  Shafiq has trained his kitchen understudies well.  He would have been pleased with the meal I was served.  I had a long talk with Dean, who was intrigued to learn about this blog, and avidly, there and then, read a couple of posts featuring his family restaurant.  He made me a present of my meal ‘on the house’.

The Bridge House

My route took me past The Bridge House on the corner of Westbourne Terrace Road and Delamere Terrace, where, when staying overnight at Beauchamp Lodge, I spent many hours over one pint of beer and several pipes, setting crosswords; and where, on Wednesday evenings during his epic 2004 transatlantic trip I eagerly awaited Sam’s weekly call from a satellite phone in the middle of the ocean.