Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Articles of Faith

A friend of mine, Neil McCulloch, called around the other day and took some photos of my house. He has a great eye for composition and I'm delighted with the results. More of the photos that Neil took can be found here on his wife Bobbi's blog “Finding Me in France”, an entertaining account of her migration from Canada (where she was a psychiatrist dealing with difficult cases) to sleepy Burgundy (where she became a travel writer – her blog was recently transformed into a greatly acclaimed book).

The above photo depicts a “terrarium” containing a Sarracenia carnivorous plant made of paper and rooted in polystyrene, to its right is a Giant Clam valve and above that a Loggerhead Turtle carapace.
The stooping figure is made of welded strips of steel and is a life-size self-portrait by Declan Field.

This is an ampoule of salt water. I like the muted tones lent by the dust (so often sadly lacking in households “cared for” by people with CCD (Compulsive Cleaning Disorder)). The blurred image in the background is of a glass dome that houses a plastic elephant-head umbrella handle.

The ampoule's label reads “EAU de MER, Isotonique, Methode de Quinton”. RenĂ© Quinton (1866-1925) was a French polymath, now largely forgotten, who in his day was famous for his saline treatments. In 1897, to prove his theory that saltwater does you good, Quinton conducted an experiment on a 10 kilogram dog called “Sodium”, replacing half a litre of the animal's blood with the equivalent of saltwater. After a week of being at death's door Sodium recovered and was declared “more gay than ever”, his gaiety being attributed to the saltwater rather than his relief at having survived such an ordeal. After five more years of intermittent gaiety Sodium was killed by a cart.

The water in the vial is of a weaker concentration than the intravenous type and is intended to be taken orally (I keep it on hand for emergencies (along with the teeth)).

And finally a stunning picture of my most treasured possession: a Pink-backed Pelican (Pelicanus rufescens). Arranged in front of it, as if in tribute, are a posy of glass flowers, a ceramic bloom from a broken grave ornament and the polished shell of a Turban snail (Turbo marmoratus). I think the diffused sunlight helps give the pelican a faintly messianic air...

And so began the early 21st century “Cult of the Pelican” whose sole adherent, a middle-aged recluse with a long nose and pouch-like double chin, would waddle in circles around his room composing odes dedicated to the object of his veneration; “... pelican... pelican.... more than his belly can... no, not memorable enough... needs more religion, how about Vatican? That's it!... better feathered than the Vatican... Perform miracles? You bet he can... ”