Thursday, 29 September 2011

Pink palindromes

   I wish I knew who took this stunning photograph (I presume it's a photograph), it's of Roseate spoonbills (Platalea ajaja - Ajaja is a South American native name for the bird).

   As with pink flamingos their roseate pigmentation is due to the canthaxathin in the crustaceans they eat. The ethereal beauty of their plumage is a challenge for any artist to capture, this painting is by Krysti Melaine;

   “A bowl of spoonbills” isn't a main course in a Dadaist restaurant; it seems a “bowl” is the collective noun pedants apply to spoonbills. I imagine it's because the drinking bowl is synonymous with conviviality and that these birds, when sifting through the mud of shallow waters with their spatulate bills, often mix with other large wading birds. As a possible result of their gregariousness Roseate spoonbills are serially monogamous (Parallels can be found in nature for any form of aberrant behaviour – including one's own).

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Of a different stripe

   As there are only a couple of thousand tigers left in the wild tiger skin rugs often elicit revulsion, but this is a recent phenomenon, previous reactions were often more carnal as can be seen in this detail from Stanley Spencer's 1940 self-portrait with the redoubtable Daphne Charlton,“On the tiger skin rug” -

    - though there were others less comfortable with tigers who'd had their ribs ablated;

                                                                                                                C E Jensen 1892

Thursday, 22 September 2011

An unlikely feline

   This fellow mooched by my front door yesterday morning (and, no, he didn't follow me around all day. I gave him the slip at lunchtime);

   It's a Fox moth caterpillar (Macrothylacia rubi), fully grown (8.5 cms long) and thus lacking the thin orange bands and black coloration it exhibits when younger. It spends the winter in leaf litter hibernating in larval form and doesn't pupate until the spring; it seems the hairs, which can cause intense irritation of the skin of anyone touching them, make the caterpillars less appetizing to foraging birds than would the pupae.

   It's interesting that the pilosity of caterpillars such as this one led to the word 'caterpillar' – it is derived from the Old French chatepelose meaning 'hairy cat'.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Magnificent kitsch

   The French term for a ship's hull, une coque (a shell), is particularly apt in the case of my latest vide-grenier (car boot sale) find. The man selling this metre long shell-incrusted vessel couldn't believe anyone would want to buy it as he found it extremely ugly - it was a gift from in-laws - and is covered in grease from years of sitting in a kitchen. It sails under the green and red of County Mayo, though I suspect that's because paints of that colour happened to be around during construction. Whatever its history I'm delighted with the end product.

   It even lights up!

   I've been informed by a professional that the trick to cleaning the shells is to dab them individually with cotton swabs dipped in acetone. I'm filled with a weary ennui at the prospect of such a tedious task, luckily I will never get around to performing it.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

"As ignorant as the back of a cab"

   In my 'cranioteque' (above) is a plaster bust of a man with domed head and pinched features (he's hidden on the top shelf). I bought the cast at a junk stall thinking it was a likeness of Voltaire. It turned out to be that of the masochistic Curé d'Ars, the patron saint of priests, whose image, I've since realized, crops up a lot here in France and serves as a regular reminder to me of my ignorance regarding the appearance of Voltaire. But I know what the Priest of Ars looked like;

   Here's what St. Augustine has to say of him (to De Selby in Flann O'Brien's “The Dalkey Archive”);

But do you know, I think the greatest dog's breakfast of the lot is St. Vianney.
I never heard of him.
'Course you have. Jean-Baptiste. You'd know him better as the curé of Ars.
Oh yes. A French holy man.
A holy fright, you mean. Takes a notion when he's young to be a priest, as ignorant as the back of a cab, couldn't make head nor tail of Latin or sums, dodges the column when Napoleon is looking for French lads to be slaughtered in Rooshia, and at the heel of the hunt spends sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional – hearing, not telling – and takes to performing miracles, getting money from nowhere and taking on hand to tell the future. Don't be talking. A diabolical wizard of a man.”

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Words are not in the room;
Noise is in the room.
All meaning is in the shape of the room
Whose curved wall leads us back to what we once were.

That's to say; what we were before crying,
The creation of self and of lying,
And the shrill, pathological my-ing
That became what most of us is.

So, it's back to pre-blah-blah
And wondering who we are,
And whether it'll be far
To what we will be.