Friday, August 19, 2011


This is Plaucus, the Magician.

I've been working on developing characters for Walter Harris's 'Octave finds a voice'. Strange to be drawing again, but really nice.

We find him:

"....standing on one leg in a clearing, scratching himself, tall and thin as a moonbeam, and wearing a long blue and silver cloak, yellow pointed shoes and a tall silver blue hat with a dark blue feather at its tip. He has a long silver beard with a blue point, and a silver wand in his hand.

Plaucus hops and down as though he were a bird himself. The feather in his hat and his beard seem to nod at each other, as if they were both parts of him"

"Plaucus stood on tiptoe and bellowed the last word, his beard sticking out parallel to the ground. “There, what did you think of that? That was a tenor sort of voice. " "

Friday, August 05, 2011


Figs ripen in August and gorgeous they are too, eaten raw or cooked, but no more so than with prosciutto ham and ricotta cheese. They're not juicy fruits but they are luscious with a delicate aroma and sweet flavour.

It's impossible not to describe them sensuously. I love the way the BBC Food website talks about them:

Thin skin encloses hundreds of seeds (actually miniature fruits themselves) held in a succulent, softly fibrous red or purple flesh. Figs are very delicate and need gentle handling. Go for plump examples that feel soft (but not too liquid) with no bruising or splits. At the peak of their ripeness they will have a faint bloom.

Gently wipe the skins with a damp cloth, trim off the stem if it's hard, then either keep whole or cut in half from top to bottom. Alternatively, you can make a fig 'flower'. Make a deep cross at the top end of the fig, cutting almost but not all of the way through. Then squeeze at the base with your fingers - the four quarters should open out like petals.

Figs are best at room temperature, so take them out of the fridge an hour before you eat them.

Makes one reach for one's DH Lawrence doesn't it?
The proper way to eat a fig, in society,
Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,
And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower.
Then you throw away the skin
Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx,
After you have taken off the blossom with your lips.

But the vulgar way
Is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.

Every fruit has its secret.

The fig is a very secretive fruit.
As you see it standing growing, you feel at once it is symbolic:
And it seems male.
But when you come to know it better, you agree with the Romans, it is female.

The Italians vulgarly say, it stands for the female part; the fig-fruit:
The fissure, the yoni,
The wonderful moist conductivity towards the centre.

The flowering all inward and womb-fibrilled;
And but one orifice.

The fig, the horse-shoe, the squash-blossom.

There was a flower that flowered inward, womb-ward;
Now there is a fruit like a ripe womb.

It was always a secret.
That's how it should be, the female should always be secret.

There never was any standing aloft and unfolded on a bough
Like other flowers, in a revelation of petals;
Silver-pink peach, venetian green glass of medlars and sorb-apples,
Shallow wine-cups on short, bulging stems
Opening pledging heaven:
Here's to the thorn in flower! Here is to Utterance!
The brave, adventurous rosaceae.
Folded upon itself, and secret unutterable,
The milky-sapped, sap that curdles milk and makes ricotta,
Sap that smells strange on your fingers, that even goats won't taste it;
Folded upon itself, enclosed like any Mohammedan woman,
Its nakedness all within-walls, its flowering forever unseen,
One small way of access only, and this close-curtained from the light;
Fig, fruit of the female mystery, covert and inward,
Mediterranean fruit, with your covert nakedness,
Where everything happens invisible, flowering and fertilization, and fruiting
In the inwardness of your you, that eye will never see
Till it's finished, and you're over-ripe, and you burst to give up your ghost.

Till the drop of ripeness exudes,
And the year is over.

And then the fig has kept her secret long enough.
So it explodes, and you see through the fissure the scarlet.
And the fig is finished, the year is over.

That's how the fig dies, showing her crimson through purple slit
Like a wound, the exposure of her secret, on the open day.
Like a prostitute, the bursten fig, making a show of her secret.

That's how women die too.

The year is fallen over-ripe,
The year of our women.
The year of our women is fallen over-ripe.
The secret is laid bare.
The rottenness soon sets in.
The year of our women is fallen over-ripe.

When Eve once knew in her mind that she was naked
She quickly sewed fig-leaves, and sewed the same for the man.
She'd been naked all her days before,
But till then, till that apple of knowledge, she hadn't had the fact on her mind.

She got the fact on her mind, and quickly sewed fig leaves.
And women have been sewing ever since.
But now they stitch to adorn the bursten fig, not to cover it.
They have their nakedness more than ever on their mind,
And they won't let us forget it.

Now, the secret
Becomes an affirmation through moist, scarlet lips
That laugh at the Lord's indignation.

What then, good Lord! cry the women.
We have kept our secret long enough.
We are a ripe fig.
Let us burst into affirmation.

They forget, ripe figs won't keep.
Ripe figs won't keep.
Honey-white figs of the north, black figs with scarlet inside, of the south.
Ripe figs won't keep, won't keep in any clime.
What then, when women the world over have all bursten into self-assurance?
And bursten figs won't keep?
D. H. Lawrence, Birds, Beasts and Flowers: Poems (London: Martin Secker, 1923)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Barclays Bank Jumps Ship in Ghost Town Newbury (to mix my metaphors)

My family received a sheaf of letters this morning from Barclays Bank, each one informing us that the two branches of Barclays Bank that are situated conveniently in N ewbury, one in the Market Square and one on Northbrook Street (our 'High Street'), are both to be closed pending a move to the white elephant that is the Park Way development.

At a stroke Barclays has just contributed to the death of this Town - TOP work chaps!

Now if Lloyds TSB (which is conveniently situated on Bridge Street at the pivotal spot where Market Place joins High Street) can assure me that they are staying put on the site of the old Globe Inn, they may have all my business.

Which is not inconsiderable since I have to pay shed loads of charges all the time!

Enjoy the music. Ghost Town by the Specials.