21 May, 2012

This is the time of year . . .

 . . .  when I am drawn to express my awe and ecstasy at the beauties yet again showered upon us by Nature - each year more wonderful than the last - and my joy that there are at least some who still feel that these gifts are the sufficient and perfect reward for all the labours and trials and sadnesses of our lives and that, even if there are many who are blind to them and seem bent on destroying these beauties in a mad scramble for money and power and self-love, nevertheless the next Spring will come round and offer the same munificence . . . so that our souls can be renewed and we can be sustained for another year.

I have these feelings of wonder and thankfulness every day of my life but the focus is even more profound today . . . the eve of the day that marks my having enjoyed this delicious life for three quarters of a century.

17 May, 2012

Come to the Fair!


The London International Antiquarian Book Fair may not sound like the obvious place to find contemporary books but in the National Hall at Olympia this year there is a room devoted to what is described as ALSO exhibitors - there you will find Old Stile Press books and other stands with artists books, fine bindings, tools and materials for binding and conservation . . . and a bar with real ale!  The main focus is, of course, on wonderfully rare books from the finest dealers both British and International and this year especially on the National Trust which cares for 140 libraries around the UK.

We hope that you might be able to visit the Fair and if you would like a complimentary ticket let me know and I will forward one to you.  I - that is Frances (it seems I confused people by writing here about my father and some readers thought it was Nicolas' father!) - look forward to seeing you.

We shall have on display our newest titles : The Swimmer

and earlier ones - for instance, in the 200th anniversary year of the Grimm brothers do you have a copy of Harry Brockway's Faithful John?

13 May, 2012

something nasty in the woodshed!

This is not, as you might think, one of the deeper dungeons in the Tower of London. It is our woodshed . . . the scene of one of the most important labours of our lives, keeping warm.

This morning I had the great pleasure of seeing and reading an exquisite photographic essay that Nancy Campbell has posted on her website on the subject of The Woodpiles of Denmark.

I immediately felt that I might grab my camera and see what I could offer by way of an alternative vision. In Denmark, the building of a woodpile is clearly a matter of civic pride or, at a personal level, the outward sign of some very tidy minds!

I have to say that things are not quite like that in this part of the Lower Wye Valley. An altogether less formal approach holds sway . . . as can be seen below.

We are, of course, very much at the end of the log-burning season at he moment and much of what can be seen here are logs that I have tried to split . . . and failed.

 . . . and the woodshed is almost empty.

What has to happen now is that we telephone a couple of burly and brilliant young men who come with their saws and a trailer and their boundless energy and set to translating trees around the place which have blown down during the year, shed branches, grown so big as to overcrowd and reduce light (and thereby have earned a squirt of red paint from my can) . . . into a full woodshed ready for the new year.

All I can now show you, therefore, is a selection of natural sculptures . . . or victims waiting for drawing and quartering.

Some recent roofing work has happily provided us with a generous stack of what we call 'easy-burn' wood

 Finally, and nothing to do with wood, is what I reckon to be one of the most arresting photographs of my career. I should, however, correct that to read 'my camera's career', for I have to admit that it was taken 'by mistake' as I stumbled over a small piece of wood to take a capture a larger (above)!

I did help it on a bit in Photoshop but I am thinking of letting the camera go out by itself from now on.

08 May, 2012

Green Man

 Anyone who makes a habit of visiting the Artlog of Clive Hicks-Jenkins (and who on earth does not) will know that the wizard of Ty Isaf has of late been giving lots of little green men a run for their money.

Walking across the garden this morning I noticed that the (greatly welcome) sun was hitting our own Green Man particularly happily so I went for the camera!

This lovely fountainhead was carved for us many years ago by Harry Brockway, around the time when he was working with us - making exquisite wood engravings for various books. We are blessed with the fact that our water supply is a spring on the hill behind us and what is not captured for drinking and every other home use forms a stream that goes through garden and field and on into the river Wye. While never having the time to 'do' things with it (as in the Villa d'Este) nor yet tried to subdue it into electricity, we do have a few pipes carrying it in all directions and the most successful use is the pond into which this Green Man spurts.

When Harry and we were discussing this small commission. my idea was a fountainhead who combined the character of a Green Man with that of the little pucker-lipped cherubs who are to be seen puffing winds in the corners of old maps. This latter aspect has been, for the moment anyway, somewhat obscured by his rather magnificent beard!

While I had my camera there I was happy also to record the peace of the lovely stone buddha that was left to me by my uncle and aunt who spent lives in the East.

04 May, 2012

One hundred years ago today

 It is difficult to imagine life a hundred years ago when my father, Sir Edward Pickering, was born on this day.  I don't possess any photographs of him then but the television has been filled with programmes about Titanic and the people aboard in 1912 and the lifestyle and dress put his birth into a context unbelievably different from our current times.  These two photos show him when he was around 25 (above) and then around 50 (below) as the somewhat anxious father of the bride. The time between these two involved the upheavals of World War Two during which he was parted from his family.  His marriage didn't survive but he continued to encourage and inspire me with a love of words and of music.

His life was totally devoted to journalism in one form or another and we constantly wonder what he would have made of recent years in newspapers.  He was at work in an advisory role right up to his death in 2003. His second family and I only met after his death but we can now have very happy occasions together with children, grandchildren and indeed his great-grandchildren and today we can all raise a glass to toast a hundred years since his birth.