On the way to the bus stop I felt a sharp knock on my head – a conker! They’re falling thick and fast, gleaming up from the pavements, shiny and lustrous shedding their prickly pods, fat chestnut treasures nestling among the crisp papery leaves. Rustling autumn, cracking nuts.
At the bus shelter I kept company with a daddy-long-legs stuck vertical on the perspex. What an amazing creature! Its long wire legs, subtly taper to their little suckering pads, dark body curled up at the tip like a tiny canoe, cellophane wings, millimetre antennae. It’s hard to contemplate a beating heart in such a minimal creation – another miracle of natural engineering.
I like the news of those clever Caledonian crows who can fashion tools to help them winkle their dinners from awkward corners. There are only two species who do this apparently – them and us!
But can they knit? At a meeting to discuss volunteering with some interested Amsterdam councillors Monica Rose of RSVP gave a spirited account of her hundreds of volunteers and the work she and they do to bring knitted comfort to people in distress and need. Toys, blankets, hats and gloves are made by willing knitters all over Britain, collected by Monica, and transported voluntarily by post office workers; another example of yarn joining people together.
My own small experience of volunteering within the local school is rather exciting at the moment: we’re having ‘challenge days’ on the BTec Fashion course and each week there’s a new experiment in quick-response creativity. So I wasn’t entirely surprised by the early morning text asking me to please bring a table-lamp in with me. This time we were making wire sculptures, tracing their cast shadows and then using these drawings as templates to create leather necklaces – twist, clip, draw, cut, stick, staple, embellish, record all in less than two hours. I love being back at school!
Another ingenious construction is Tim Hunkin’s Waterclock on the pier at Southwold, though as you can see here – beware of the spray when the hours are marked! It’s among several examples of his quirky entertaining work. It was a blowy day; the North Sea churned and swirled around us. Unlike the crashing clear Atlantic it seemed to be full of sand giving it the curious mass and glisten of heaving toffee. A little sit in the Sailors’ Reading Room soon warmed us up.
The Norwich train had chugged past neat allotments – two men building a garden shed, another filling new raised beds – then suddenly outside Stowmarket a run of huge industrial cylinders painted in rainbow colours. I’m sure I wasn’t dreaming. Incidentally, my Norwich pal told me that the ubiquitous Keep Calm and Carry On message was first designed as a poster in ’39 as a morale-raiser for the British public in the threat of mass air-raids; it was never distributed publicly – until now!
Our royal mail will no longer be royal when it’s sold off – so what will be the fate of the monarch’s head on our stamps when it’s bought up by private speculators, will the crown disappear, who will be in charge of the stamps? My childhood stamp albums were my pride and joy – they’ve just floated to the surface again – and I remember that the special present for my tenth birthday was this genuine Penny Black. Being the inventors of the postal service Great Britain never needed to define itself on the stamps – the monarch’s head and crown told the world the story. When I was a girl that seemed to me a special matter of pride. A tiny rectangle of sticky paper can convey so much.
October is always a blowy month and the need for winter vests will soon be unavoidable. At St. Pancras station I rather like the blustery statue of John Betjeman holding onto his hat – very much more fun than those looming giant lovers. Though a beautiful love song has been running through my head for the last few days – maybe from a Verdi opera as we’ve been having a lot of that on radio 3 this week. I can’t remember the aria’s name – it looks like this – you know the one don’t you?
I’ve had some enquiries about next year’s calendar – will there be one? Yes, work has begun on that and some new cards too; they’ll be available from early November. The Collier Campbell Archive book continues from strength to strength with nice new reviews here in November’s Elle Decoration (p 47), including a ref to the special edition, and Choice Magazine in the USA. I’m participating in the My Nature show curated by Slow Textiles at Kingsgate Gallery, from 10th – 30th November where there’ll also be a symposium on the 16th. And I’m looking forward to the glass-blowing collaboration – an evening adventure into 3 dimensions with Michael and Natascha at Sandfish on the 22nd.