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Joan Eardley

One of my biggest regrets about falling ill right now is that I have missed out on an exhibition of Joan Eardley’s work. She is probably my favourite Scottish painter and I had been looking forward to the National Gallery of Scotland’s first major Eardley exhibition. Before Christmas I was too busy to find time to make the trek to Edinburgh (and to be honest, the prospect of travelling anywhere near the middle of Edinburgh at the height of the shopping season scared me profoundly), but I had promised myself that post-Christmas I’d have a few weeks to catch up. As it turned out, I did not. Grrr.

But Eardley is wonderful. The painting I posted above (“Two Children”) can be seen at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove museum. The piece is big, powerful and almost overwhelming. It feels out of time – very modern, very traditional and very much of its time .. all at once. The Eardley paintings I have been fortunate to see all share this strange quality; they also share a quiet anger, an air of resigned melancholy. Her famous depictions of children have an odd, almost urban art feel to them coupled with a traditional motif (- and I cannot resist her almost nonchalant use of lettering). Eardley’s later landscapes are almost abstract by comparison.

In unrelated news, I’m halfway through Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I tried reading it a few years ago but gave up after 45 pages or so. This time I’m mostly confined to my bed and am enjoying taking my time with the book. Sometimes you have to be in the right frame of mind for a book to find you.

Apologies to WCW

This is just to say
that amazon.co.uk is
running a couple of promotions
which end on Sunday.
I just placed an order worth
roughly £18 for some fiction
that would’ve set me back far more.
Forgive me but the books were
so delicious
so sweet
and so cheap.

Destroy in Order to Create

To make a Dadaist poem:

* Take a newspaper.
* Take a pair of scissors.
* Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
* Cut out the article.
* Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
* Shake it gently.
* Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
* Copy conscientiously.
* The poem will be like you.
* And here you are a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.

– Tristan Tzara


I am still home from work waiting for the Scottish NHS to discover what’s up with me. Ms 4thEd (formerly known as Ms Bookish) is getting sick and tired of being, well, tired and sick, I tell you.

In the meantime I am reading editorials on the US not-quite-but-almost election. I am reading books. I am occasionally cooking (when I’m not exhausted). I am getting twitchy.

I can’t even write a proper, entertaining blog post anymore. Boo.

Public Writing

One of my current preoccupation is the idea of public writing – that is, writing/lettering/typography found in public places and spaces. I take photos whenever I see somebody doing something interesting – whether they be commissioned or non-commissioned pieces. I have even tentatively put together a small Flickr-set of some of my photos.

One of my favourite examples stem from my erstwhile hometown of Copenhagen, Denmark. I was walking along a wall when I noticed the street name elaborately carved into the bricks. Above the carved brick you had the traditional blue-white street sign with the same name. Two centuries of labelling streets in one go. I was excited by the juxtapositions: permanence vs. easily replaced and serif vs sans-serif. I was also excited by how the contemporary street sign had been placed higher than the carved brick as if to exercise its dominance, its importance.

One of my Scottish friends, Fi, works as a curator and we recently spoke about the concept of public lettering and writing. Fi mentioned that the first thing was sprung to her mind was the Scottish Parliament’s Canongate Wall. It is absolutely fascinating: various stones with quotes on Scottish identity and history are inserted into an outer wall, so anybody walking along the street will be asked to reflect upon Scotland, art and identity. Even the pavement has slates engraved with sentences. And, as I agreed with Fi, that is really a great example of public space and writing being combined to great effect.

And then you have non-commissioned stuff like graffiti and posters and random notes put up in windows..

Turning the Page

Ah, 2008. How wonderful to start off a new year with being unwell (hence the ‘no update’ bit). I spent most of New Year’s Eve in hospital and have spent all of 2008 (so far) being unwell. This ranks as possibly the least promising start to a year.

But I am at home in my pyjamas, alas. I drink (decaf!) coffee, sleep a lot and read when I am awake. I’m currently making my way through the latter stages of Sarah Waters’s The Night Watch which has proven substantial enough to keep me interested and lightweight enough to allow me to sleep when I need it.

Here’s to 2008 improving.

Seasonal Greetings

Merry Christmas everybody

Eliot the Fanboy

TS Eliot was a Doctor Who fan fiction writer?!

While ‘Four Quartets’ has received due attention for its literary merits, until now no critic has touched on its merits as a piece of fan fiction.

Well, I laughed.

Small Presses, Big Ideas

Let me draw your attention to the excellent Speechification blog. Basically the blog posts bits from BBC’s Radio 4 that might otherwise have slipped past you. All the programmes are available as MP3s (I gather this has been sanctioned by Auntie Beeb?).

Recently I have enjoyed Small Presses, Big Ideas where Phill Jupitus looks at small poetry presses and, as the blog says, “he clearly revels in the tactile and sensory splendour of these little volumes and gets the poets to enthuse splendidly about this eccentric and essential world”.


GeoGreeting is a really nice idea: images taken from Google Earth show buildings shaped as letters when viewed from above. You can then combine the letters/buildings to send online greetings. It’s that latter bit which doesn’t really work for me, but I do enjoy exploring the various letters. The “o” is particularly beautiful.