Thursday, 26 June 2008

A sense of place

Spaces produce feeelings. The arragement of objects in relation to each other can influence how a space creates its atmosphere. This is implicit in interior design and gardening.

In a garden, for I know something of that, as opposed to nothing about interior design, borrowing the landscape behind your garden can make the garden seem bigger. Indeed even painting your fence green or brown behind the shrubs can imply extra spaciousness. Strategically placed trees or bushes can imply some extra room behind, creating a sense of curiosity as to "what is back there then? I wonder what is through there."
It constantly surprises me the effect a place can exert by dint of its configuration.

Temperature and climate and time of day can make the same place feel different; a forest in sunshine of the afternoon with all the birds chirping can make it easy to see the figure of a dryad draped around a majestic tree, her smile inviting mischief and promising sensuality with her lithe feminine form.
But that same wood at dusk can seem filled with flitting spirits, intent upon deceiving the eye with swift flitting movements between the trees. Fireflies, such as I have seen in special places really can take on the occluded forms of Oberon, Puck, Peaseblossom and the fairy horde. You can easily see how such legendary creatures took shape in human culture.

Take that wood at midnight, however, on a cloudy moonlit night and threat lurks everywhere. Our primal fears of the Wolf in the darkness, come to eat us up after his eyes, yellow and luminous in the dark, have appraised us hungrily and unseen fron the cover of the undergrowth.
How places play upon us seems very much to be determined by our own sensitivity and awareness. It is much easier to view the forest as a benign mystery full of mischevious sprites if we are feeling poetic and have the wit to imagine them.

Our wolves may take many forms, although Our dryad could be fashioned from a real object of desire, possibly painted green for artisic effect and most alluring in her arboreal intertwining, the place of fear inside us from where the wolf springs has a common source from our ancient past.
Some of this we choose imagine and have consciousness of. Other feeings such as oppression can be involuntary and influenced by such simple things as a badly placed doorway, tasteless wallpaper or ghastly intrusive curtains.

And how did we, creatures of the savanna and forest, come to have this influence of place upon our psyches? What is is about a maroon and mahogany study that calms and comforts to creatures who only devised these things in the last evolutionary eyeblink?

Wolves in the forest are an old feeling, spirits of rocks and trees ans water also it is easy to imagine being with us since before we even clothed ourselves as species.
But yellow three piece suites, spacious kitchens of stainless steel and plumped up pink boudoirs seem odd things to feed our sense of place.

I have more to expand on this, but as usual, so little time. And the plane is landing so I have to switch off, as so often.

Sunday, 8 June 2008


I am 35000 feet above the North Sea en route to Oslo. Somehow, I got booked business class, which is was an unexpected treat, not, seemingly because of legroom: the arbitrary curtain the marks the boundary between expensive and cheaper seats can apparenty be placed anywhere.

No, the good thing is DINNER. Dinner was very good and catching on quickly, I indulged myself with a glass of champagne. I am aware that champagne is often seen for its own sake as the height of decadence: us proles in years gone by would raise our glasses loftily and appreciatively to our uncultured lips and feel we were partaking temporarily in an elevated social ritual where the drinking of champagne made us momentarily equal with those rich and priveliged sophisticates who could be glimpsed on telly at expensive receptions. We felt we must certainly be improved by this action and maybe have absorbed a small but significant increment of poshness by the act.

Anyway, I digress, as so often.

A twenty year old muscle injury in my hamstring starts to trouble me with pings of sharp pain and so I self-medicate with a gin and tonic. This is not a drink which I feel entirely comfortable with as it has certai iffeminate connotations which the invoking of the idea of colonial gentlemen in pale suits cannot dispel.

Staring out of the window, I am struck by a thought I often have but which I rarely articulate: the irregularity and randomness of natural phenomena such as clouds and the shimmering of the sun on the waves that I saw earlier, actually seems to have a pattern to it.

The clouds are all different shapes and spaced irregularly below us. But if eyes are allowed to lose focus, they apear to have a regularity about their spacing. Like a shoal of synchronised seahorses, they cross the sky in a coordinated formation.

It seems to me that the universe is lumpy. This is why space has lots of, well, space, with galaxies peppered throughout, and buses always come three at a time. Probabilities seem to hold to this too, with events clustered together less randomly than might be expected. Or maybe its just me. Humans bein creatures that like to spot patterns, even when there are none.

Looking down npw, a strange optical/atmospheric effect creates a column of light that appears to link the sea with the sun.

This is physics: a way of looking at things such that phenomena are seen and appreciated and a cause wondered at. And how we discover springs from there. It doesn't have to be about equations or research, just about noticing and wondering why.

Always woner why. All the time. That way, you will never be bored and, though you may elicit odd looks when you wonder out loud, you will never be boring.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Hungarian beer blog

I had a few beers and, when I used to write on myspace, the feedback was always that my foreign beer blogs were the most enjoyable. So I thought I would resume the tradition. I have had a few Leffes and this being my favourite beer, the effects are probably disproportionate.

I am in Hungary. (and this is not just for the hungarians reading ;-) i like it here. The people are really cheerful and friendly. It makes me reflect on the default nature of us Brits:
"How are you?!"
"Oh, mustnt grumble i spose.."
So why then do we? Is it the weather? Enthusiasm is so infectious. It leaves us feeling so happy and glad we encountered it. Sometimes we don't even know why.
Maybe it is the weather.
We drove here from Vienna. its the nearest international airport. Oh! And what a storm! I have never seen such! Two or more hours of gradually darkening hungarian sky lit every few seconds by a blinding flash that was momentarily brighter than day. Over and over again for hours.
And rain! Huge rain! Bug hot drops like pure passion from the sky.
Is this part of what makes the people?
Too tired tonight. Small devils of tiredness and fatigue are playing around the inside of my cranium. The vagaries of dealing with different cultures has depleted the reserves of my intellect.