Sunday, 26 February 2012

There's nothing slow about this Spring

The air has more spaces in it this morning. I peg a fatball on the washing line, for bluetits and coaltits. Spaces – to let in sap and movement and light that shivers slightly. It's misty but it's clear, clear -

it's full of -

slipping, movement, almost-footfalls, shape-changing, quivering – ah, the dreams of trees and grasses, what they will become. Light catches on bark and brush and birds – the garden is trying on its dreams. There's nothing slow about growth, it's just our vision that's gradual and limited. The plants and birds are awash with possibilities, the light draws them out, now this, now that, it's like a changing room at sales time, flurries of red crepe, gold silk, a swathe of linen, midnight blue and indigo, try it on, what might I wear tomorrow?

There's nothing slow about this spring.


March 1st - World Book Day - at 6 pm, I'll be reading at Blackwells, on the Bridges, Edinburgh - along with Tessa Ransford and A C Clark.

There should be nothing slow about this reading either, as at one point the three of us will be reading as the characters of an 18th century French congregation. Whose priest, Father Meslier, has some rather unusual ideas....

Saturday, 18 February 2012

At the Royal Scottish Academy - Winter in Colour, Ink and Style

Images from the catalogues....
Anthea Lewis (left) Helen Wilson (below)

I'm tempted to explode in a flurry of enthusiasm, bright colours of the imagination, superlatives to mirror the colour and the energy, the flights and the boldness of the paintings, prints and sculptures at the RSA. But really, a large white space would be better, so what is seen can filter in, fill and spill over, it would be better to walk softly, to hold one's breath, to marvel in silence, as if walking through a snowy wood, just as the sun goes down. Packing colour, silence and low light in pouches and fingers, glide through the rooms like a snail with its spiral home on its back, antennae wavering, extended....

Leena Nammari

It's the mixture of styles perhaps, it's like reading a collection of words by different writers. I like landscapes and buildings, and these collections restore my faith in art because there are so many recognizable shapes and scenes, colourful, skewed, stretched and enhanced, rounded or written over, filtered in different shades, elastic skies, globular water, transparent plants melting into sunlight. So much of modern art leaves me wandering in a maze, rarely dull, often brightly coloured even sparkling, sometimes twisted or repetitive, but too often incomprehensible to me. These figures, birds, animals, seascapes are warm, even in winter, they are brimming with life.

You can see many of the images at the links below, but it's far better to see the originals at the RSA, at the bottom of the Mound, Princes Street, Edinburgh. The exhibition runs until 1st March.

Moira Ferrier

Society of Scottish artists

Royal Scottish society of painters in watercolours

visual arts Scotland

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Sisi and the Achilleon at Corfu

Inside the Achilleon

She never really took to court life. She was drawn to literature, she liked reading, open windows, evening light. Walking and horse-riding. Her horses, she loved them. Revered Achilles, that marvel of a man. Possibly she doted on her husband too or at least looked up to him, believed in his romantic feelings, matching her own, but royal matches were never simply about feelings or solely about feelings or about feelings for a sole person. It did not take long for her to see his failings, which could not be hidden by his emperor's clothes, his finery. For he was an Emperor, of Austria.

She – a democrat before her time – wanted equality for the Hungarian people. They loved her for that. She pushed for the restoration of the Hungarian constitution, and the dual monarchy, Austria-Hungary. She became Empress Elizabeth, affectionately known as Sisi, at the age of 16, when she married Franz Joseph. But spent more and more time with her books, while her husband pursued his ruling duties – and other affairs. She took to travelling.

In Budapest they named a district after her, Erzebetvaros.

She had a palace built in Corfu, overlooking a bay of green water. The grounds were studded with pine trees. A statue of Achilles on a high plinth, has his back turned to the trimmed rose bush planted gardens, with archways shaded by vine leaves. He gazes out, over the sea. She called the museum the Achilleon. Huge pastoral paintings hang on the walls. Porcelain bowls painted with rose and blue patterns. Echoing empty rooms.

She had it built as a refuge, after the death of her only son, Prince Rudolf, but she did not enjoy it for long. Refuges can often be scarred places, inhabited by the very memories or feelings one is trying to evade. And so Elizabeth had to keep moving, so as not to be gripped by sadness, her life's disappointments, the shedding of dreams, filling days with departures and shifting scenery, setting foot on new shores.

Geneva's lake shore was the last one she knew. She was due to leave in the morning for Montreux. But one Luigi Lucheni had planned to assassinate the prince of Orléans. When the prince failed to put in an appearance at Geneva and, having learned of Elizabeth's presence there, the frustrated would-be assassin of royalty turned his sharp knife on Elizabeth, the least royalist of any royal. One of these strange conjunctions of time, place and circumstances that feels both entirely misplaced yet oddly fated.

You can read more about Elisabeth here.