25 February, 2009


Our great guru and friend, Robin Tanner, always said that he could not concentrate or settle to anything while there were workers in the house mending something or attending to whatever needed to be attended to. In those less politically correct days, he had named this distemper 'men-in-itis'.

We also suffer somewhat from this ailment . . . so things tend to go on for months, if not years, without being dealt with!

This very day has been remarkable, exhausting but successful, for we have found (rather by chance, if not mistake) a good way of minimizing the miseries of men-in-itis. Not avoidance, but concentration!

A big boiler which was removed last year sometime has been lying around ever since looking very unattractive. Now (after a bit of phoning that we could have done months ago) these friendly blokes are about to heave it onto their truck . . . and away it has gone!

Also, for far too long, there has been a leak in our drive. For a year it has been an intermittent trickle but then a very big lorry went over it and it turned into the mighty river you see here. Again, once we had actually got round to inviting his services, this water expert managed to dig down to the pipe, remove a section and fill the gap with a series of plastic gismos that looked more like children's toys than building materials . . . but the problem has now been been cured.

At the same time (although this was more planned) our son Dan was removing branches from a tree that had been cut down last Christmas . . . by our daughter Cressida from Glasgow . . . but that's another story.

The moral of this is that, if you dread three days suffering with men-in-itis, get the three jobs done all on the same day and, further to get into the spirit, get out the secateurs and prune a hedge yourself . . . which is what I did!

(" . . . and don't forget to mention the rose hedge that I dealt with," says Frances, "and that was in addition to packing and posting those two orders that came this morning!")

10 February, 2009

The Plague

I am informed by the ghost in the machine that this is my ONE HUNDREDTH post! I can hardly believe it. It seems only yesterday . . . ! What to do? How to celebrate appropriately?

The clear answer is to share with all you gentle readers a treasure that has finally reached a finished state and which came to us here just a couple of days ago.

Everyone who has glanced at this Blog and/or become aware of the books we make, will know the name of Angela Lemaire . . . most recently in the context of the wonderful woodcuts in the Britten: Christmas Sequence but also her numerous earlier books.

Even earlier, Angela was making books! When Frances and I first met her, Angela showed us a book called The Plague which she had made when a student at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in 1967. It consisted of a text largely formed from quotations from the Bible and etchings of quite exceptional power. I was bowled over by this and managed to persuade Angela to let us purchase the last copy available (apart from her own) of the tiny edition she had printed.

As she had not quite got round, at the time, to the matter of a binding, the object consisted simply of folded sheets and there were a number of separate sheets of paper printed from the sides of wooden coffins which were to be involved in some way. We immediately thought that this was a challenge in general terms for a Designer Binder and, in particular, for Nesta Rendall Davies who, among other things, had so imaginatively bound the copies of my own Paradise Driver.

Nesta was intrigued but said that it could not be given a very high priority. We are generally happy to look forward to long-term pleasures so said we would contentedly wait. Nesta's life thereafter did become increasingly 'full' in various ways, not least by the having of a baby . . . so The Plague had to stay at the bottom of the in-tray.

That beautiful baby boy is now SEVEN years old . . . but the binding IS finally complete and Nesta handed it over to Frances at the Fair in London. Given the 'maturity time' for the binding and the fact that the 'sheets' had remained in Angela's drawer since she printed them, this object has taken FORTY-TWO YEARS to reach completion! All the more wonderful to find it finally together . . .

. . . and it is a truly stunning book with which we are completely thrilled. I have tried to photograph it with as much 'atmosphere' as possible but I am aware that this sequence of pictures (going from front to back - except for the 'scene-setter' above) is a poor substitute for handling the book oneself and discovering the worms, the winding-sheet, the coffin boards and so on as the pages turn.

I am now going to shut up and leave the photographs to give you at least a hint of the power of this remarkable book in its entirely appropriate clothing.

The photographs should benefit from enlargement so, give them a click!

Two good friends have commented below that it would have been helpful had I given the measurements of this book. Of course they are correct.

The box is 41 x 35 cm and, as you can see, the 'book' tucks tightly inside it. The etched plates are 20 x 20 cm.

07 February, 2009

No more snow photos . . .

. . . is what I said to myself but, waking up after a night of snow that had taken the forecasters by surprise, I could not resist recording this nice demonstration of how protected and snug our little valley is.

While the trees towards the top of the hill on the other side of the river look like an over-the-top set for "The Return of the Wicked Snow Queen" or some such film, those lower down seem not to have been snowed-on at all.

03 February, 2009

Snow Sculpture

As every camera in the land will be clicking away during this unusual weather, I feel that mine should not be the odd one out . . . although I have always been subject to more than a touch of snow phobia. Even as a child I did not rush around in it screaming ecstatically as children are expected to do. Rather I was wont to blunder round in a state of general discomfort born of cold, damp and sensory deprivation, waiting for my hearing, my sight and, particularly, my sense of smell to get back to normal!

Here, nevertheless, are a few examples of Nature as snow sculptor - with a couple of jokes thrown in.