Monday, December 19, 2016


To everyone who visits me here  I send my sincere appreciation and every good wish for this season of good will and hope for a future with fewer flaws than the present but with all of its joys extended ad infinitum.

Here's my Nativity image. Interpret it any way you wish. The original version comes from a book of a suite of my ink drawings published by The Old Stile Press in 2010: Scenes from the Life of Jesus. The colours in this version are digitally created.

Monday, December 12, 2016


No, but seriously, the most interesting thing is the way the two halves of the 'Walnuttian' brain, whilst being different, are joined in this remarkably...yes, tender...way.

I've outlined and highlighted the two sections in my photo of the walnut. See what I mean? Maybe our current brains are responsible for so much conflict because, um, we've lost that loving feeling?

I see a woman and child. What do you see?


I've just made a world-shaking, probably Nobel prize-winning, jaw-dropping discovery.

We are descended from walnuts.

Proof? Below is the incontrovertible visual proof.

Once upon a time there was a much more advanced civilization inhabited by beings with brains shaped exactly like walnuts. Our current brains are a de-volved, deteriorated version of the much more interesting and effective original. We can still glimpse its splendid earlier form by observing a walnut.

As you see in the photo I've just taken and placed next to a standard brain diagram, there's no split between the two halves in the wondrous walnutbrain: left and right are tenderly, harmoniously joined. Simple really.

I will now eat the proof and go to bed. Amazing what revelations can occur at 4 am.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


Here's a self-page-turning catalogue of some of my past bookworks and boxworks. I think I may have posted this before but anyway, no harm in repeating, is there? It's best viewed on full screen. In case you can't get the full-size with the preview below, try going to this link.

What is it about 'should'? Not a particularly good word or sound but it's okay, not a problem. Until you start putting it in front of almost every sentence you speak to yourself. This is the season of Should.

I Should send cards. No, I Should make cards and then send them. I Should make my own cards, it's so much more personal, it shows I really care and also shows how talented I am. I Should be doing more. It's the end of 2016 and what have I done? A whole Shoulding year gone by and my To Do list is still where it was last year. Now it's ten past four in the afternoon and I'm writing this instead of finishing that thing I Should have finished about a month ago. Should. Should. Schouldschouldschouldschouldschould.....

Thursday, December 08, 2016


Funny thing about selfies. They're everywhere. Why are we so fascinated by our reflection? Narcissus?

 For me, it's like those identity parades where a presumed witness is asked to point out the presumed guilty person. I'm trying to find out if I'm the same person I think I am. Which means, I suppose, the one I WAS. When? Yesterday? 20 years ago? Or much much further back? Am I guilty of nostalgia? Choosing a time when I was "really" me, as opposed to the more-or-less me whose selfie you're now seeing? It's a puzzle.

I used to paint a self-portrait nearly every year - much better kind of selfie, commonly practiced by the A-list (just noticed that A-list sound like Elites - ha!) of artists through the centuries.

That's about all I have to say on this subject for now. What do you think, if anything, about photos of yourself, taken by you or anyone else?

Wednesday, December 07, 2016


Politics schmolitics, some facts are too important to ignore. I'll change the subject next time but right now I must share this important article.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


For those who don't know Léo Ferré here he is with  Comme à Ostende. There are many videos of Ferré on Youtube, including this song performed when he was much younger and stronger-voiced than in this version, but I like it and his appearance suits the words. (Lyrics below, with my translation).  Ferré was a poet, composer, classically trained musician, conductor and actor,

Ferré, along with Georges Brassens and Jacques Brel, belongs in the French 'chansonniers' tradition  of troubadour poets/composers/singers. They were by no means pop stars although they eventually attained popular acclaim and respect and have influenced countless serious artists internationally.

Friday, November 25, 2016


I said  I'd do it so I did. I think it's a bit better than the other translations I've seen out there but I know it's not perfect. I offer this to anyone who wants to sing along with Brel in English. Please form an orderly queue.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Acting on a recommendation by English Man, I went last night to the wonderfully nostalgic Wilton's Music Hall  for a performance by Camille O'Sullivan of some Jacques Brel songs. I'm very familiar with and a long-time fan of Brel but had never been to Wilton's or heard Camille and both were definitely worth a trip to the eerie no man's land that is Aldgate East at night. Miles of deserted glass-fronted office buildings dotted here and there with sad, empty little fast-fooderies like a jumble of ill-assorted type faces in a short-sighted sentence. Then a leaking railway bridge, forlorn boarded-up shops and then....a sign! 'Wilton's Music Hall' with an arrow pointing to a side alley, voices, lights, warmth, people crowding into an ambiance that is not of this century and all the better for it. My seat was directly behind a spiralling carved wooden pillar redolent of all the hands which stroked it over the years and I forgive it for making me crane my neck to see Camille O'Sullivan on stage.

She was a seasoned, confident performer, chatting in an intimate Irish lilt as if she knew everyone in the room (maybe she did) but when she sang, the voice soared powerfully away from you and was all about her - and why not? It made for a great show wasn't Brel enough for me. I do not mean that she should have impersonated him - of course there are innumerable covers of his songs. It's just that if you've seen and heard Brel, well, I don't think Camille really gets him. Partly it's the execrable English translations and partly because her emphasis is on showbiz whereas Brel was all about the words, the content of his poetry, articulated musically, forcefully, making sure his 'message' hits you - he was a kind of preacher, like it or not, and when he was bad he was lousy and when he was good he was sublime. Here is one of his sublimes, in my opinion. You really need to hear the words but I haven't found one decent translation on the internet. I'll search again or might have to do it myself.

UPDATE: Just done it. Could be better but anyway.... See next post.

Camille was best in the lusty, boisterous numbers which she performed with punk-ish and puck-ish energy but she lost it in the quiet ones. Ne Me Quitte Pas was sentimentalised out of existence. She did sing a few of the original verses in French but that couldn't erase the saccharine of the English translation or her catch-in-the-throat little girl interpretation. 
I never understand why some excellent singer/songwriters accept to have their lyrics translated so ineptly - no self-respecting poet or novelist would. But anyway, it was a good evening and I'm glad I was there. Here are some pics I took, behind the spirally pillar, in dim light.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Fantasy isn't politics (well, this could be argued) so I'm allowed to break my resolution for a minute.

In case people ouside the UK don't know what this is about, the government has just awarded the Queen a 66% pay rise to fund a £369m ten-year refurbishment of Buckingham palace, in a time of austerity (for everyone except the wealthy) and of drastic cuts to the NHS, education, libraries and other essential public services.

 I couldn't resist a What-If fantasy.

P.S. It seems to have provoked a discussion on Facebook. Anyone interested can see it here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


That's it. I'm not posting about politics anymore. I've bought a ukulele.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


I've been fantasizing about who would defeat Donald Trump in 4 years time and came up with my ideal candidate.

She would be black or Hispanic or mixed race. She could be of any or no religion. Her personality would contain ingredients of Michele Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, Odetta, Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, Naomi Klein, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Moore, Angela Merkel, Bernie Sanders and a few others, but she would be uniquely herself.

She would be friends with people of every race, class, nationality, religion and sexual orientation. She would be well and accurately informed about social, cultural, economic, environmental and political problems at home and in the rest of the world. She would be able to identify every country on a map and probably speak one or more languages other than English. She would be unafraid, bold, outspoken, able to dish out as well as take criticism, but also kind, attentive, perceptive and observant. She would have a sense of humour. She would be able to sing and dance and write her own speeches.

She would transform politics by removing spin, soundbites, sanctimoniousness, snobbery, sneering, suspicion, sneakiness, slander, subservience and scoundrelism. She would speak her own mind, in her own words, with intelligence, insight, inspiration and factual information. Some day she'll come along.

 I borrowed parts of the image from Paolo Uccello's St.George and the Dragon, courtesy of the National Gallery, Creative Commons licence.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Obama and Trump meeting in the White House today, making the necessary diplomatic public statements, with much hemming and hawing to conceal their true feelings. What strikes me is this: why the theatre? Everyone knows what these two men think of each other and have said about each other. Why couldn't they just have spoken straight from the shoulder and the heart? Just a few seconds of genuine unrehearsed sincerity would have instantly introduced a constructive note into the whole divisive election aftermath. Maybe Trump could even have apologised to Obama for his 'birther' and other insults - wouldn't that have been something?

I'm always bewildered by the theatrical aspect of political discourse and the fact that we generally collude in the fantasy that what is on the stage is real, whilst being aware that it is a play - the manner in which most politicians speak their lines makes this perfectly obvious. But occasionally, rarely, a politician comes along who doesn't play the game and who talks like ordinary people talk when they're saying what they actually think. Not that the content is necessarily better: sincerity doesn't guarantee truth or wisdom or wit. But at least you get to know who you're really dealing with.

Trump played the 'sincerity' role in his campaign, the ordinary guy, one of us. Except that he's not and it's a carefully crafted script by a very crafty individual who has been play-acting all his life.

Obama in the White House must have learned how to play the game but, listening to him and watching him, you can't help noticing that it's stressful for him to play it. In those moments when he doesn't have to act you can almost hear a sigh of relief. It's what makes him endearing, whether you have agreed with him or not.

The Obama family ring true. The Trump cortège will be reality television in a White House setting. Anybody want to write the script?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016



Victory for the racists, the mysoginists, the wall-builders, hate-mongers, fear-mongers, the fascists, gun-toters, bullies, demagogues, egomaniacs, money-worshippers, the ignorant of and indifferent to everything beyond their own barbed wire-protected enclave.

Courage to everyone else.

I want to quote from a post today by James Brush in Austin, Texas:

So what now? I’ve been teaching for 17 years, trying--often not succeeding, but trying--to work against casual bigotry, bullying, incuriosity, anti-intellectualism and white man entitlement. How does one go on now? How does one try to say to our kids--especially the gay, hispanic, immigrant, black, and girls--that our schools are “no place for hate” when our country clearly is. That so many revel in it.

How do we explain to our son that a man who makes fun of other people for being different, who based his campaign on the idea that so many of the people we know, care about and love do not count because they are of different races and ethnicities, they are LGBTQ, they come from different corners of the world, and have different religions or none can use this ugly message to win the presidency? That so many people are ok with this. I’m not sure what to say or do.
But dammit, I’m going high. And on the side of love.

Friday, November 04, 2016


Warmth and therefore joy are back, thanks to a sympathique, efficient, careful and knowledgeable young Polish-German heating engineer I had the good fortune to chance upon.

He instantly identified the problems (one of which, embarassingly, was spent batteries in the thermostat) and dealt with them all, no hanging about, in less than an hour, for a reasonable fee.

Home is toasty warm now and tonight I'll sleep gratefully, sending sweet dreams to all our fellow Europeans.

Thursday, November 03, 2016


Up all night wearing coat plus scarf plus two and half sweaters plus tights plus warm trousers but still cold, too cold to get into bed because if I fell asleep I might not wake up early enough to phone boiler repair people.

My flat is currently excruciating because the boiler stopped working and it's all because a plumber I called about two weeks ago to fix a minor flaw (not a heat-cancelling flaw) did Something to the boiler. Something he explained at great length but with little clarity, involving a piece of rubber tubing and a bucket. When he was finished and paid he said he'd come back as soon as he returned from holiday because the boiler needed a new tap kit and he'd bring this. The pressure gauge went down to zero and stayed there but the heating still worked. This boiler has worked well for several years but yesterday it packed up - nice timing! Cold weather coincided. I've left progressively urgent messages on said plumber's phone, at first cheerful, then apologetic, then terse, then angry, then tearful etc. No response of any kind from him. Of course. 

So I've been sitting in the kitchen leaning against my electric oven, waiting for a new boiler repair person to arrive. But that won't be for another couple of hours, so I've been thinking, as one does.

I'm incredibly, impossibly, unfairly privileged. My suffering consists of a malfunctioning boiler on a rather cold day. I'm not homeless, I'm not sleeping on cardboard in the street, or abandoned, lost in a burnt-out jungle in Calais or elsewhere. Compared to millions of people nearby or far away on this planet I'm wallowing in luxury, unimaginably fortunate. So fortunate that it's shameful. Yet I'm dependent on the comforts I take for granted. Even temporarily deprived of them I'm ready to rage at the failure of people and technology to provide me with the instant and efficient services I demand, pay for and can't live without.

I know my shame is theoretical, merely a blog post to while away this cold time while I wait for warmth to be restored.

But still, I'm thinking.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


It's important to make our voices heard if there's any chance of stemming the tide of xenophobia, fear, ignorance, indifference and selfishness which is creeping, seeping into the fabric of our society, not only here but in many other so-called democratic, so-called enlightened, caring societies.

Here is a petition to sign.

Below I'm copying a letter from George Szirtes (posted on Facebook) to his Members of Parliament:

George Szirtes


Dear Mr Bacon and Mr Freeman,

I see your name is among those who voted to turn away 3,000 unaccompanied children. I myself came here as a child refugee in 1956 and met a far kinder world than the one you represent. I am well aware that nothing I say will make the least difference to your views, but I want to register my distaste not just at this particular action but at the hostile mood your party has created for all foreigners. I have been a citizen of this country since 1964 but consider myself a citizen of the world, that is to say of humanity too, which, in the judgment of the prime minister - your prime minister - makes me a citizen of nowhere. Nowhere is where you have left so many of us: doctors, nurses, public service employees, students, even widows who have lived here for decades but have recently been asked when they are going home.

Is the condition of what you consider 'proper' UK citizens likely to be any better for either this decision or the rhetoric your party has embarked on? Are the lives of those at the bottom end of the scale, the unemployed, the disabled, the dependent, likely to improve from the condition your government has reduced them to, as a result of this refusal?

If you believe it will improve the conditions of those born in this country, those, that is, who have benefitted from the work of people born elsewhere, people who have given long years of their lives to this country, people who paid their taxes and contributed their skill and labour where it was wanted and still is wanted, if you believe that their changed conditions are going to be any better for the rejection of 3,000 unattached children, please explain to me in what way.

I look forward to your kind and considered answer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


These questions ocurred to me today while on the bus to Camden Town.

Is posting on the internet our thoughts, our pictures, our stories, our rants, our activities, then eagerly, hungrily, checking for responses, is it a bit like being a child again, seeking parental approval or if not approval, any kind of response? Are all internet social media like metaphorical parents of whatever sort of child we were (and still are to some degree)?

For my part I can answer a hesitant yes. Does anybody else reading this feel the same?

I cross-post to Facebook and some people have replied over there.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Same period of time (1962), same place. The reason why Reg and I are in Rome is only because my sister Anne and her Italian husband, the writer Gerardo Guerrieri, said  'Come! You can work with us.' when we were wondering what was next after our years in Paraguay ended (more about all of it in my ongoing online autobiography).

So we're both working in the office of the Teatro Club, an extraordinary organisation created by Anne and Gerardo which brings international theatre, dance, music - myriad roads really leading to Rome. I'm designing posters for a forthcoming show by the Moisseiev Russian ballet company but meanwhile, Odetta is about to give a solo performance and I'm helping out backstage. 

Odetta, whose unforgettable voice I've never heard before and whose majestic presence overwhelms me, is standing calm and serene before her curtain call while I'm running around panicking in case I've forgotten something and catastrophe is imminent.

Odetta, the Odetta, turns to me smiling like a Buddha and says something...why why why why can't I remember her actual words?...something which means don't sweat the small stuff, but so much more eloquently, and in that voice, with that presence, so calm, it's like a shower of blessings and all my panic melts away and all the panics melt away and you have to laugh.

She goes on stage and she sings her songs and now, all I have to do is to put her records on and I'm back in that moment. If you've never heard Odetta, or even if you have, listen to her. This is from one of her blues albums:

Friday, October 14, 2016


It's 1962 or 1961. My husband Reg Dixon and I have left Paraguay behind and are living in a rooftop apartment in Trastevere, Rome's left-bank. In the evenings we often drop in at the Folk Studio, a cavernous musical haven for world citizens and restless locals, run by Harold Bradley, a hugely talented African American singer, actor, painter and all-around exceptional human being. His deep velvet basso profundo version of the old Gospel classic God's Gonna Cut You Down can easily persuade you Harold is God (but he'll never cut you down because he loves you too much). 

We've made friends with Harold and since Reg plays the guitar and we both sing, sometimes we perform our American, English, French, Spanish or Mexican repertoire. Other amateur and professional musicians often come on stage from the audience and, one winter night, a skinny kid wearing a casquette (you know, those flat caps) gets up there. 

To my shame, I cannot remember what or how he sang or even if he had his guitar with him but I know it was good. Reg and I and another man and the kid, who is very very drunk and hilariously funny with it, go round the corner to a bar for some food. The kid's sense of humour is so sharp and so contagious that we are all falling about in blissful hilarity. The kid's name is Bob Dylan. He isn't yet very famous but his manager Al Grossman is with him protectively on that evening in Rome.

I'm absolutely sure that neither Dylan or the late Grossman would remember the incident but herewith my very good wishes to the Nobel prizewinner.

Looking for a photo to include, I came across an astonishingly detailed account by Olof Björner of Dylan's comings and goings, which includes his trip to Rome in 1961 (I'm pretty sure it was actually 1962 but never mind). I've copied the relevant extract below. Also found a photo of Harold Bradley at the Folk Studio around that time.

Harold Bradley (centre) at his Folk Studio in Rome in the 1960s
I found the above photo on this website.

Monday, October 10, 2016


Foolishly, I stayed up last night to watch the Trump/Clinton debate - if that word can be applied to the infantile slanging match I witnessed, my jaw dropping so low that I still haven't quite retrieved it.

In 1984, when some of you were still in swaddling clothes (does swaddling still exist?) I won a Guardian competition for political montages and got a bottle of champagne (not Bollinger). Below is my original cartoon and above it is a new version I've just done, simply changing the faces and the context. I rest my case.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


What is the title for someone you're related to but not actually related to in terms of DNA and stuff of that kind?

For instance: this beautiful young woman whose birthday is today and who happens to be on a quick trip to London from her home in Vancouver and so of course she came to see me because not only are we sort of related but we also like each other very much and she could, sort of, be my daughter because she is the daughter of my ex-husband and his third wife - I was the second - and her step-brother and sister are also, sort of, my step-children. Well, whatever the title of our relationship, it's great and we had a wonderful lunch at a local pub and talked of almost everything under the sun, apart from the weather.

Although she looks like a teen-ager, Valerie is also a brilliant lawyer.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Can't let today go by without congratulating Jeremy Corbyn.

Bravo Jeremy! A non-triumphalist speech, generous to his opponents, no bitterness, no recriminations, no blaming, no waffle, only a positive, constructive, grateful message spoken from the heart. A new kind of politics? Almost makes one optimistic about the future.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Rulers: I hate them, Especially the measuring kind. I'm good at DIY in general, always have done my own putting up/taking down shelves, painting, plastering, caulking, basic electrical stuff, self-assembling furniture (even when instructions are in ancient Greek) and so on. However, my bête noire is/are rulers. All those fine little lines between actual proper numbers are beyond the pale. I more or less ignore them. A piece of cardboard marked wherever marks are needed is much handier.

So here we are, latest box construction in full flow, and I just happen to put the big ruler (centimetres) against the left side of the box and then again on the right side.

Well, as you can see in the two photos below, the height of the left side is 41 (minus two-ish little lines) whereas the height of the right side is 40 (plus four-ish little lines). Conclusion: the left is higher than the right by a certain number of little lines. Now I don't mind some roughness, I often prefer it. But if one side of the finished box when hung on a wall will be noticeably higher than the other, it will drive me nuts. Therefore it must be corrected.

Unfortunately I have been extremely conscientious and every bit of wood etc. is firmly glued to every other bit so lowering one side is out of the question. No worries! As usual, I'll bluff my way out of measurement by improvisation. I will...erm...simply build up the top of the shorter side with some clever packing. Or maybe lower the higher side by planing the hardboard down. Or maybe......

Friday, September 16, 2016


New pableau in the making. Sometimes I find ready-made boxes but I'm building this bigger one from scratch using what materials are on hand - an old stretcher for the frame, odds and ends of wood, hardboard and balsa for the sides. Lots of cutting, gluing and sanding. Solid but not fancy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Pableau box No.3 is finished, titled REFLECTION. I haven't managed to get a good photo showing its angles, depth and reflections. Would need special lighting skills, or something. Here's the best I could do so far.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


I finally altered the child' face to look more or less like I wanted it to. Not touching it anymore. Working on  new box now.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016


That picosong link is so tempting, makes it too easy to indulge one's secret (not so secret) desire for performance.  Here's my own very abbreviated take on a timely favourite.
  September Song

But there's nothing like the original Walter Huston version, heard in the movie clip above, from 'September Affair' with Joan Fontaine and Joseph Cotten.

Monday, September 05, 2016


Sometimes, when you're grown up, especially if you've even passed the grown-up stage, playing in a metaphorical sand pen is the most fun you can have without actually regressing to childhood.

In my sand pen there are toys which didn't exist before digital technology. Being able to make 'experimental' videos, record one's self fooling around with words or music and other similarly useless activities then shamelessly putting them up on the internet, may indeed be proof of excessive vanity allied to lack of focus.  But the answer to such self-accusation, especially when you're post-grownup, is: SO WHAT? I'll fool around if I want to.

So here's another of those picosong links:

 Ne Me Quitte Pas cover by Natalie

Okay, in English the lyrics sound a bit maudlin but in French they don't. All comments welcome, pro or con.

Don't Leave me by Jacques Brel (translation by NdA)

Don't leave me (repeat)
Let's forget
Everything can be forgotten
It's already gone
Forget the time
Of misunderstanding
The time we wasted
Who knows how
Forget those hours
Which sometimes plunged
Knives of whys
Into the heart of bliss
Don't leave me (repeat)

I'll offer you
Pearls of rain
From lands where it never rains
I'll dig the earth 
Even after my death 
To cover your body 
With gold and light
I'll build a kingdom
Where love will be king
Where love will be law
Where you will be queen
Don't leave me (repeat)

I'll invent
Nonsense words
Which you'll understand
I'll tell you about
Those lovers
Who twice saw their love
Burst into flame
I'll tell you the story
Of that king
Who died
Of never having met you
Don't leave me (repeat)

It often happens
That a dormant volcano 
Believed too old
Suddenly erupts again
And they say there are
Scorched fields
Yielding more grain
Than the best of Aprils
And when evening falls
For the sky to blaze
Doesn't the red marry the black?
Don't leave me (repeat)

I won't cry anymore
I won't talk anymore
I'll just hide over here
To watch you dance and smile
To hear you sing and then laugh
Let me become
The shadow of your shadow
The shadow of your hand
The shadow of your dog
Don't leave me  (repeat)

Thursday, September 01, 2016


The posters are up at Uplift.

I mentioned a while ago that I'm one of the winning artists in a poster competition organised by Uplift, the company which is converting the former Pizza Express building on Kentish Town Road into a cinema. The brief was to design a poster for your favourite film and I chose Bicycle Thieves.

This morning Uplift invited the winners to gather at the site where the chosen posters (beautifully printed and mounted on wood panels) are displayed on the hoardings which conceal the construction-in-progress - the cinema itself won't be ready before next year. The artists were photographed with their posters and interviewed by the Camden New Journal (out next Thursday). 

One reason for my choice of this film was that my brilliant late brother-in-law Gerardo Guerrieri worked on the script so of course I mentioned this to Dan Carrier, the journalist for CNJ. Will post his article about all the posters when it comes out next week. I arrived late to the gathering so didn't meet the other artists, unfortunately, but I hope the CNJ article will show them all.
Meanwhile some photos I took this morning.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Wiped out by this heatwave, maybe also the air pollution, intensified by the heat. My upstairs studio like a Turkish steambath and creative energy down to zero. However, it gets a little bit cooler in the evening and some kind of nourishment must be taken. Soup is the answer. A bunch of fresh watercress, some broccoli, a few new potatoes, a sauteed onion, a couple of chicken stock cubes. When cooked, liquidise. Voilà! Delicious either hot or cold, with croutons. Don't need anything else these hot days.

 Well, maybe a dessert.

Long ago in a book (by Marguerite Duras I think) I read about clafoutis. Oddly enough I'd never eaten this cherry dish in France, never even seen it. I love the name, the je-m'en-fou implied, and kept a recipe from one of the Sunday supplements. So I thought I'd try it now and defeat the heat apathy. I have the cherries - last of the season - dark and luscious, plus eggs, flour, sugar, milk. The recipe is peculiar:

After stoning the cherries, it tells you to lay out the stones in a row on a tea towel, fold the towel over them, then smash them with a hammer. This is supposed to release the noyau, the kernel inside. Maybe I smashed too hard but there were only some miniscule whitish bits all tangled up in shell fragments. But I obeyed, gathered up the bits and sprinkled them over the stoned cherries, put the lot in a buttered dish. Then the whisking of flour, caster sugar, eggs and milk. The amounts of sugar and milk specified seemed far too much so I ignored the recipe and reduced them, poured the mix over the cherries, added some raisins (my idea) and baked the thing for about 50 minutes. Not bad, but not ecstatically good as I was led to believe. Rather bland and chewy, eggy, a sort of flan. I ate half of it with vanilla ice cream. The other half is for tomorrow.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Beautiful summer day made entirely perfect by a visit to George Szirtes and Clarissa Upchurch in Wymondham (pronounced Windam) Norfolk.- I'm running out of superlatives, I can't keep saying beautiful etc. but it really was, start to finish. Here's George's Facebook post about it.

 First of all the view out of the train window from Cambridge onwards - the flawless geometry of the Norfolk Fens -  endless flat horizontals broken by shorter verticals and then suddenly these absolutely outlandishly perfect circles equally spaced over the ochre flatness. Rationally I knew they were hay bales, not made by human hands, but it was all really BauHaus. I haven't been to this part of the country before and I was mesmerised, amazed that the wooded clumps of trees here and there on the flat ochre or green carpet were all exactly the same height so that they looked like hedges, carefully trimmed by a hedge-barber. (instead of a hedge-funder, heh heh). And no human beings in that perfect geometrical landscape, no figurative olde worlde peasants tilling the soil. I thought it would be an idea to insert some life-size statues of said peasants in those fields, you know, just to surprise people looking out of train windows.

But never mind all that. The real point of the day was the connection with two exceptional individuals, Clarissa and George, and the inspiring environment in which they live. Unlike George, I'm not good at describing a day's progress with its many significant details so I'm not even going to try. Both of them are multi-talented, multi-faceted, impossible to summarise such richness, visual, verbal, personal. The time flew by, lunch and conversation were delicious, stunning artwork in portfolios and on the walls (the walls too, especially that silky aquamarine one!). Here are a few images. Others remain in my mind and heart. 

Monday, August 08, 2016


Latest Pableau nearly finished. Hard to photograph because of the reflective surfaces but here are a couple of shots. The back of each flat piece is painted somewhat differently from the front and you can see this in the mirrored background, including the text bubble (written wrong way round on the back so it reads right way round in its reflection).

"Everything puzzled me. I resolved to devise experiments to test reality." The sentence comes from my unfinished-probably-never-to-be finished graphic gnovel. Am taking bits of it to make more Pableaux.


Sunday, August 07, 2016


It's my umpteenth birthday and this is a lit candle in the photo, proving that I'm still here on the 7th of August 2016.

Friday, July 29, 2016


When things get too familiar, too routine, too repetitious, too obsessive, too frustrating, or too whatever, I like to try something that gives me a kick but doesn't necessarily lead anywhere or mean anything except a momentary YES!

Singing is like that for me - not serious singing, not proper singing, just fun. Songs I love, done my way. Best fun of all is concocting a different musical background for a well-known song (I use Garage Band) and singing over it. I recorded a few of these 'covers' and probably uploaded some in past blog posts but I don't remember when or where.

I must thank Roderick whose recent attempts to post a sound recording of his own voice led to my proposing variously convoluted techy options but the problem was finally solved by commenter MikeM who suggested a very straightforward solution. I've now used picosound myself to post two recordings.....

(Click on the titles to hear the clips)

1.  Nat's No Regrets  (Je Ne Regrette Rien)

2.  Nat's Cucuru  (Cucurucucu Paloma)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


A musical interlude.

I've always loved the song Caruso for its beautiful minor chords, its melancholy, but until now I never bothered looking up who wrote it or when. I assumed it was old, traditional, perhaps anonymous, and Neapolitan. Having finally consulted Wikipedia (please do likewise if you don't already know the story) I find that it really was about Caruso but even sadder than I thought.

Here it is on YouTube performed as a duet by Lucio Dalla (the song's composer) and Pavarotti in 1992. Listen to it before reading my rough translation.

CARUSO by Lucio Dalla 1986

Here where the sea sparkles
And the wind blows hard
On the old terrace
Facing the Gulf of Sorrento
A man embraces a girl
Who has been crying
He clears his throat
And takes up his song again

I love you very much you know
So very very much you know
We’re locked in a chain by now
It heats the blood in our veins by now

He sees lights flickering on the ocean
He thinks of nights in America
But it’s only the lights
The white froth behind a motorboat
He feels the pain in the music
He rises from the piano but then he sees
The moon emerging from behind a cloud
And even death seems sweet to him
He looks into the girl’s eyes
Her sea-green eyes
Suddenly a tear falls
And he feels he is drowning


The power of words
When every drama is a farce
A bit of makeup and makebelieve
And you can be someone else
But two eyes gazing into yours
So close, so true
Make you forget the words
Confound your thoughts
You become very small
Even your nights in America
You turn around and see your whole life
Disappearing behind the blades of a propeller
Even if life is ending
He’s not thinking too much about it
He’s even feeling quite happy
He launches into his song again


Monday, July 25, 2016


Late last night, on my way home from a marvellous musical soirée at friends' house, I'm waiting at a bus stop. Two African women next to me are talking with great animation, their voices bubbling, swirling like amplified, orchestrated bird song. I want to speak this language! I turn to the larger, more voluble of the two:

me: where are you from?
she (smiles, gives me a hug, kisses my cheek): Nigeria.
me: which part?
she: Lagos.
me: My friend Teju Cole is from there.
she: Ibo?
me: Yes, Ibo. You?
she: Yoruba.
me: Oh, I think he's Yoruba too.  

(Truth is, I can't remember which of the two Teju is).
The bus arrives. The three of us get on and the large woman sits behind me.
she: How old are you?
me: I'm not going to tell you. Guess.
she: Sixty-two.
me: Thank you, I'm flattered (actually I'm ecstatic) but you're wrong.
she: Seventy-one?
me: (smiling enigmatically) Wrong. How old are you?
she: Guess.
me: Thirty-five?
Her round face, firm and polished as a nectarine, breaks into a gleaming smile.
she: I'm fifty-one.

It goes on like this and by the time I get off at my stop, we have been friends forever. We hug, we wave. I love these women. I love London.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Uplifting news:

I'm one of the 15 winners of a film poster competition to be displayed on the hoardings of a cinema opening at the beginning of September in the old Pizza Express building in Kentish Town. I've just heard from the organisers that I'm on the winners list.

The brief was to design a poster for one's favourite film of all time. So I chose Bicycle Thieves because its brilliance is timeless and because my dear departed brother-in-law Gerardo Guerrieri worked on the memorable script. Below is my poster design and yes, I did borrow from that famous photo. Will post more when all the posters are up on the hoardings.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Done it. Registered to vote in the Labour leadership election. Paid the outrageous £25 fee.

And in other news:

I've just finished the first in my new series of Pableaux (poem-tableaux) - not exactly a poem but kind of poetic?

Title: How could she know. Dimensions: W 31.5 cms X H 31 cms X D 4.5 cms. Media: wood, balsa, canvas, acrylic. It's a box inside which the cut-out shapes are arranged on different levels.

I couldn't get the photo to show its 3-dimensionality or the thin gold edges around the frame.

Monday, July 11, 2016


Parabems Portugal, muito bem! I love Portugal and they deserved to win the World Cup. I love my birthplace too but France lost, that's how it goes.

On Saturday night, more excellence:  I was privileged to be at an extraordinary evening of spellbinding performances from Mikey Kirkpatrick (Bird Radio) and John Bently (Bones and the Aft) - thank you all. I was blown away, gut-wrenched.

Some of Bird Radio and Bones & the Aft gigs are on YouTube but there's absolutely no substitute for seeing and hearing them live, right up close in an intimate setting. Mikey and John have strongly individual musical and poetic styles but both have similar roots and a passionate engagement with place and time, everyday tragedies and wonders. An image comes to mind of medieval troubadours but with very modern, very original sound and fury. See the Facebook page of Bird Radio for news of their CDs. John Bently is also a fellow book-artist (see Liver and Lights website) and his brilliant handmade books are collected world-wide - buy them now while there are still some left!

I took some photos at the gig on Saturday and attach a few below. Lights were dim in the room and I had to fiddle with Photoshop to extract anything at all from the pictures but I'm quite pleased with the somewhat impressionist effect that unexpectedly emerged. Unfortunately my camera's battery died just as Bones and the Aft's set was getting under way so I missed what would have been some memorable shots.