Saturday, May 23, 2015

Abandoned Tyneham

DSC01147 (1400x914)If you can find it, you should visit the old village out past Wareham…  The fellow across the table waved his fork sort of westerly as I dipped into another portion of fish pie.  The dinner party was approaching 11 pm, and my host passed the wine bottle again, asking “Tyneham Village?” Right, the one that nobody ever returned to.

‘Made a mental note, checked the map once I got home, and off for a drive in this morning to try to find the place.

And I agree, it can’t be done without directions, nor without checking whether tanks are having artillery practice that day.

DSC01167 (1400x933)1943, and D-day preparations are underway in England.  The soldiers need a staging area to practice taking terrain, and the Jurassic Coast is similar to Normandy.   The mining parish of Tyneham is chosen for the mock assault and the residents are all displaced.  None ever returned: after the war, the entire area became an artillery range for the British Army.

Now, on selected days, it’s possible to weave over the hills and down the slopes to visit what’s left of the village seventy years later.

The drive out is really worthwhile all by itself, with spectacular views across Dorset and the seacoast.  The Grange Hill viewpoint is especially good, carpeted with spring wildflowers.

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The village tucks into a forested hollow at the base of the ridge, easy to overlook if not for the car park nearby.  A signpost gives the history and a map of the trails at the entrance.  Then its in to explore the village, all roofless weathered red-brick walls bordering weedy overgrown floors.  It’s a tiny Pompeii.

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The old church and cemetery are tended, and the school has been partially restored (original furnishings and a charming nature table that, unfortunately, seems to have fallen from favor in modern England).

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And absolute tranquil silence: the area is surrounded by fences warning that live fire can fill the woods and slopes beyond the wire from time to time.

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The nearby farmstead is being restored as a museum.  It’s a collection of both old farm machinery and random bits of munitions scavenged from the surrounding fields.   The barn is used by a local theater group, although with the poor signposting, audiences must be word-of-mouth.

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People will say that this was a FOMO chase (Fear of Missing Out), but the village is an interesting artifact and worth an hour to explore.  The trip is worth it if you find a way down to the beaches, or want to make the diversion from the nearby South West Coast path.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Touring Dorset’s art studios

DSC01281 (1400x932)Purbeck Art Weeks starts today, stretching from Swanage to Wareham with the theme ‘Out of the Depths’.  Similar Open Studio events are held across England over the summer, a chance to visit working artists in their ateliers' and discuss their works and ideas.  I like the intimacy pawand authenticity of driving from house to house, following the trail of yellow PAWs signs, and then discovering something unexpected and wonderful.


DSC01292 (1400x893)Cathy Veale’s watercolours, on display in a church along the Swanage seafront, use bold tones and strong contrasts to evoke the chalk cliffs and lapis seas of the Jurassic coast.   She gets the hues in strong summer light nicely, the way the sea shades from deep blue to transparent as it nears the shore and the earth tones mottling the cliffs.  The outlines of waves and eddies seem out of scale and figurative, I prefer the more delicate perspectives she captures towards her horizons.  But it’s work I wish I could produce.

Veale - Man O War Bay Veale - Reach Veale - Sailing from Swanage


DSC01248 (1400x933)The Boilerhouse Gallery alongside the Corfe Castle train station houses a number of working artists.  I liked Julie Winsor’s balanced kinetic sculptures, Rachel Fooks sand-textured ceramic tentacled forms, and Nikki Hall’s lovely glass sculptures with cilia and organs reminiscent of bacteria.  The whole gallery is a pleasing co-op of clever ideas, and the views of the old castle from the adjacent rail bridge are a bonus.

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DSC01271 (866x1400)Moira Purver is a sculptor living high above Langston.  Her house and gardens are lovely (I got lost, admiring them, on the way to her studios in the stable).  The yard was dotted with clever figures in silver and copper; her studio was filled with sketches and notes for works in progress.  I loved the human emotion and warmth,rooted into the earth and grass.  This was my favorite venue, especially the discovery of vast murals splashed across the outside wall of her studio.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

#100 happy days

DSC01029I’ve been gradually building out my community on Instagram, trying to connect with people who are doing good work, and to post better photos myself.   The site requires different aspect ratios than my camera frame and limited photo editing, so it’s tricky to load raw pictures.  But if I load my A5100’s raw files to my PC, fiddle a little in Photo Gallery, then upload with InstaPic, my gallery really improves (like this shot along the M3 over the weekend).

I’ve been using Instagram’s Search People Screenshot_2015-05-21-12-59-22 (2)function to find new photographers to follow.  Much like’s Pick Six, I’m given samples from a couple of dozen candidates that I can Follow or Hide.  Selection seems based on what I already Follow or Favorite: if I add a food site, I’ll get days of foodie lover’s albums to sort through.

There is a lot of chaff, people that basically post selfies or glamor poses, monoculture series of cars or pets, celebrity sites, and overprocessed candy-colored scenes and still-lifes.

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But I’ve got a good selection now that gives a manageable number of pictures with a high ratio of interesting things. It gives me lots of ideas for my own composition as well as a smile when I thumb through the new shots (gallery of recent Favorite’s, right)


I’ve registered for the 100 Happy Days challenge, and began yesterday.  DSC01103The trick will be to keep variety along with happiness, as well as to make time each day.  At the end of the exercise, late summer after travel and sailing, I’m looking forward to having a mosaic of 100 greatest hits to use as a screensaver or wall poster.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Duck, Haunch - Head, Heart

DSC01070 (1400x934)As a good INTJ, I value logic, honesty, and confidence as a basis for sound decision-making.  Yet a second voice has surfaced, feelings about the opportunities and problems being considered.   I find that over the past couple of years, I’ve developed more passion for choices, more emotion about alternatives, more intuition about people. 

‘talking with others, this emerging duality seems shared among peers previously biased one way or the other, perhaps developing from our maturity and experiences.  Accepting the evolution, DSC01071 (1400x835)it’s stimulated some further discussion about how we keep the heart and head in balance.

It’s analogous to bringing familiar, yet unrelated ingredients together in cooking, to take the MasterChef example.  Will the combination clash (as with fruit and fish) or click (as with venison and ale)?  Does a good combination just happen or does it need tending; can it be planned or is the result inherently unpredictable? 

DSC01053 (1200x1400)Ultimately, one only knows by going to the kitchen and trying: one Duck/Risotto, one Moroccan Lamb Leg.

I used the duck in two ways: as crispy breast and as confit (poached) legs.  My butcher supplied fresh pairs of each, and I set to the sensate task of spicing, rubbing, and marinating the game. 

I love the working with spice Spicesblends, it reminds me of the stalls in Turkish and Moroccan souks, vibrant earth colours and rich heavy smells.  Poaching enriches both the duck and the stock, simmering to a strong  blend of flavours during slow hours.

The risotto begin with lightly browned arborio rice and fruity white wine, but takes on earthy notes as porcini mushrooms and diced sausage are added.  The flaked duck is added last, then topped with slices of rendered and seared breast.

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It was the head’s afternoon: a complex recipe, many ingredients, planning, timing and attention required to assemble the whole. 

The combination was really superb, well blended tastes infused throughout the dish and complementary elements that rewarded exploration across the plate.

DSC01048 (1400x903)Sunday’s recipe called for a 2.5 kg lamb leg, braised and roasted.  The butcher brought out an enormous haunch and set to it with a hacksaw and knife, carving out joints and bones with deft strokes.  Back in the kitchen, w.wezen’s prep was similar to the duck: a rich rub of spices and a sear to set a crust and retain the moisture. 

Differently, it simply went into the oven for DSC01049 (1400x934)hours with no mixing and fussing.  There was time for a late afternoon walk along the Thames and people-watching in the cafĂ©’s.  It was the heart’s day out, relaxed and sociable, trusting that things will come out right without continual maneuvering.

And it did come out quite lovely, tender and flavorful.  The juices were perfect with the trimmings, and the meat was delicate and evocative of distant origins.

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So when there is a decision to make, do you make it with head or heart, or take a chance with the combination?  As with the cooking competitions, will technical skill or cherished tradition produce the better result? Slow-cooked or fast-first impression; fiddle with it or let it be?

I lead with my head,  preferring to assess with a clear view of reality and a strategic range of possibilities.  But my heart is increasingly engaged with those processes,  DSC01059 (1176x1400)colouring choices with passion or doubts. 

Writers know there is strength in how each informs and tempers the other, complementing and enlivening the whole.   The head says which way to go, the heart says to keep walking, is one aphorism; The heart always sees before the head can, observes Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle.

Yet they can often come into conflict:  beliefs vs. hopes.  The desire to know why reverberates against the refusal to accept answers.

DSC01080 (1400x934)It doesn’t lead to more mistakes, but it does draw out my inner debates.

I find that I rewrite notes more often, adding and scrubbing emotive adjectives. 

I am pausing to consider whether achievement of a goal will yield satisfaction as well as success.

I do feel more whole.