Motorway journeys around the northwest of England have been made a little more interesting in the last few years by the proliferation of Pie slogans on some of the bridges. ‘Pies your time is now’ is one and ‘Vote pies’ another. Those I see most frequently are on the M6 around junction 18 but I hear there are some at the northern end of the M57 at Switch Island and other places.
The journey home was otherwise uneventful and we are now relaxing with the dog in front of the fire, planning journeys in 2016.
After a few days of getting up before dawn, some early train journeys, painting the flat bathroom and having the boiler fixed for a hefty sum, it was time for a little pleasure. The sunny, warm and still Indian summer days we have been enjoying for the last few weeks are coming to an end. The sky was still blue today but the wind was strong and had blown all the fallen leaves onto the pavement.
I was heading for the National Portrait Gallery in Queen Street to see a photography exhibition documenting Scotland one year after the Referendum entitled ‘Document Scotland: The Ties That Bind’. The gallery itself is a fabulously decorated building:
The section of the exhibition that spoke most to me was Sophie Gerrard’s ‘Drawn to the land’, a series of pictures of female hill farmers in various parts of the country. Having been brought up with the children of hill sheep farmers on the Ochils and the Perthshire hills, a sheep to me will always mean a Scottish Black-faced Hill Sheep. I love the uplands and cannot believe that I have spent the last 25+ years living just above sea level. The photographs did not shy away from addressing the hard life many hill farmers have but also celebrated it and why these particular women had chosen either to stay in what is usually a male career or return to it, having moved away.
Other parts of the exhibition focussed on the links (particularly slavery) between Scotland and Jamaica and the lower levels of the Scottish Football League. I am still waiting for my camera to come back from repair and to indulge my passion again.
Since James stopped working Wednesdays in April, we have usually spent the day catching up with chores in the house or garden and running errands. That was not what was planned and today we finally got back to the original idea of using the time to visit places nearer to home. There are lots of things in Liverpool that I have not seen despite working there for the last seven years. Some will have to wait for another day because I had been intending to see the Jackson Pollock exhibition at the Tate Liverpool since it began and as it ends on Sunday, today was the day for art. The exhibition is entitled ‘Blind Spots’ and concentrates on his lesser known works, some of which are monochrome. No photography is allowed (no doubt because they want you to purchase items in the shop) and I am really missing my camera while it is being repaired. So here is a detail from one of his untitled paintings which I have in my book.
An adjacent exhibition was the work of Glenn Ligon, a postwar American artist. Much of his painting is abstract expressionist and focusses on the civil rights movement. Other works he referenced are included and the black and white photographs of the treatment of demonstrators by the police was as powerful as those of the impact of the Mafia that we saw in Sicily last month. Afterwards, we walked back towards town, found some more Christmas presents (I like to be organised) and in Oxfam, the inevitable music and books. Liverpool Oxfam shop is the only one I know which has a large section just inside the door of unsorted ‘New Arrivals’. It was then time to head back to Lime Street and home. The only unusual thing spotted on the very familiar train journey was a field of blue sheep who had obviously just been dipped. A little more colour to add to a colourful day.
A lazier day might have been a good idea after two quite busy days in London. However, we had decided some time ago to make a trip to the Great Northern Contemporary Craft fair in Manchester as I was not going to be in Edinburgh for the one I usually go to in November. I tried to have a long sleep while James was doing the flu immunisation clinic but the window cleaners put paid to that. Once he was back we headed off and had to contend with heavy traffic all the way into the city. The craft fair was being held in the Old Granada TV Studios and much of the peripheral structure has been left as it was.
Craft fairs are always inspiring and encourage me to get back to making and designing things. I picked up a couple of Christmas presents and lots of ideas. There was also an exhibition ‘Ornament’ which contained items from various museums and galleries around the city curated by Victoria Scholes: artist, writer and Coordinator of the NW Craft Network. Needless to say, a lazier evening is following.
I woke before my alarm yesterday so by the time I had breakfasted, got the Tube to Gloucester Road and found the conference venue, it was still only 8.30am. The sessions covered a wide range of topics relevant to today’s general psychiatrists and it was great to catch up with colleagues from other parts of the country and to see how well some of my former trainees are doing. One unexpected good thing that really drew my eye, was a glass screen outside one of the auditoria. It consisted of parallel glass sheets equidistant from each other but with the outer edges curved. It did look a little like a drawing of sound waves and later I saw someone drawing his hands across them, as if he was playing a harp.
In the evening I had a lovely time over dinner with a very dear friend I had not seen for several years who serendipitously just happened to be in London at the same time as me. We resolved to not leave it so long before our next meeting. By late afternoon on the second day and after a very stimulating session on ethics, I was ready to venture outside and my back had had enough of sitting in those chairs. A short Tube journey and I was once again in the Oxford Circus crowds and heading to one of my favourite shops, Liberty. In addition to looking for Christmas present ideas, I am still hoping to replace the black pashmina I left at the airport two years ago. I have still not seen one quite like it. Liberty had them in every colour except black. However, it was not a wasted journey as I can never resist looking at the carpets, Japanese prints, Arts & Crafts furniture and the fashion even if I am not buying. Back in the street and heading through part of Soho and Bloomsbury, I added another two independent shops to those I already know about. I could have bought some music for our next choral society concerts at the first but until I know which version of the score we are using I had better wait. The bookshop specialises in anthropology, religion, mythology and all sorts of other beliefs. It even sells wands and is worth investigating further when I am not quite so tired as anthropology is a particular interest of mine.
Wandering through the university I noticed filming was taking place. This is something I often see in the Georgian part of Liverpool near the hospital. Here is an almost abstract shot of a university building in the evening light. It is still very warm even for early October.
Now I am just waiting for my train and will soon be home again, away from the crowds for a while.
After spending the morning clearing out the home office, attempting to add a photograph of a crane fly to my natural history project collection and discovering that my camera was not working properly, it was time to head to the station. In the darker half of the year it is good to have a train journey in daylight as most are too early or late. After two days of rain the sun even started to appear from behind the clouds. The first crowd I spotted was a large flock of Canada Geese resting on the grass at the wetlands just north of Stafford. I do not know whether they are on their way further south or have decided to spend the winter there. The trees are starting to show off their best autumn colours. Friends who emigrated to Australia said that one thing they miss is autumn. All too soon I was at Euston and in the midst of the crowds of people. There were buskers on the tube and as I emerged at Oxford Circus, a guy playing an unusual musical instrument, not one I have seen before:
I am now relaxing and getting ready for a busy couple of days at a conference.