Friday, 18 November 2011

Coots on Gunnera

Gallinules preening on immense peltate leaves lend Kew Gardens an Amazonian air.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Show's over

   Yesterday a headline in the French news read, “Berlusconi – une sortie en catimini”. I couldn't recall seeing the word catimini before and so looked it up.
   It sounded a little as if his exit from political office was chaotic or calamitous, but it turned out leaving en catimini means “sneaking out” or even “sneaking out under shameful circumstances”. Some say that the shameful aspect can be explained by the association of the word catimini with menstruation, “catamenia” being a medical word for menstrual fluid (in the 16th and 17th centuries the phrase avoir ses catimini meant “to have one's period”). However, others think this etymology fanciful and suspect that catimini has more to do with the skulking habits of felines and has its origins in the Picard language of northern France; cate (cat) + mini from min also designating “cat” and the root of minou, minette (kitty, pussy). Minette and “pussy” both refer to a cat and both are slang terms for the female genitalia – a linguistic analogy demonstrated by French and English sub-editors who translated Berlusconi's crass exhortation, Forza Gnocca! (an intended parody of his party's slogan, Forza Italia!) as Allez Minette! and “Go Pussy!”.

Well, whatever the language, he's gone. Probably.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Living sculpture

   This summer I nipped into Harrods, a department store in in the West End of London. It sells nothing of interest, but is well worth a visit, or more accurately, the food hall is worth a visit. Get there at ten in the morning when it's opening and one can examine the decorative sculptures before the place fills up. It's a good time to take photographs and generally get in the way of the employees trying to set up the stands.

   Mermaids clinging each to each. I like the way their caudal fins are gathered in wet, lazy folds, a much more sensual arrangement than the way their tails are traditionally represented.

   It seems these pieces were created at the London workshops of "U.K. Sculptors".

   The wall tiles were designed by W J Neatby (1860-1910).

   They're real fish swimming around behind the leaping sea trout. I wonder who feeds them, the fishmongers or the maintenance people? I would be nice to think it's some impossible-to-fire old retainer whose sole responsibility it is and who is a vestige of the old days when Harrods boasted that it sold everything from a pin to an elephant. I remember as a boy taking the famous puff seriously and being disappointed at the pet section's paucity of p-p-pachyderms. There were monkeys in cages, and even galagos - nothing there now of course, except acres of g-plan sofas.

Assorted game ignored by an urban fox who's stealing away to raid a few dustbins.

            More splendid Neatby ceramics. These tiles and peafowl weren't in the food hall, they were in the bauble and wig department.

PS Don't race round to see these creations just yet – today I read that Harrods has been sold and is closed for two years for refurbishment.

   And the fish, who will feed the fish?  

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Confession of a nympholept

 Illustration of a European Robin by Paul Barruel (1901-1982)

   I picked up a Robin (Erithacus rubecula) yesterday. It had stunned itself on a window pane. I took it into the garden, held out my open hand and waited for it to revive and take off. It revived, but before flitting away decided to linger for some long intimate minutes. It started to preen, conscientiously running each primary feather through its mandibles, apparently happy to be sitting on the palmate branch of an enthralled tree. The bird was so ineffably beautiful I didn't want to blink in case it disappeared, and so light that if I wasn't looking at my hand I wouldn't have known there was anything there.

Friday, 4 November 2011

When Methodists dream

Wedged between the tumescent guru being bearded by a prude
And the spluttering priest being suckled by a nihilistic nude,
I wonder if I was right to have killed that man I found so rude
And who hastens toward me.