Rabu, 28 April 2010


Last Saturday our daughter Nina graduated in her Masters degree in Education at The Senate House, Cambridge. Nina on the lawn of The Senate House:

The Senate House of the University of Cambridge in the centre of the city is used mainly for degree ceremonies and formerly for meetings of the Council of the Senate. It was designed by Sir James Burrell and built in 1722–1730 by architect James Gibbs in a neo-classical style using Portland stone (on the right of the picture):

The site was previously used for houses, which were purchased by an Act of Parliament, dated 11 June 1720. It was officially opened in July 1730, although the western end was not completed until 1768. The Senate House was originally intended to be one side of a quadrangle, however the rest of the structure was never completed. As you can see from this old print The Senate House (far right) is situated on Kings Parade adjacent to the famous Kings College Chapel.

The interior is a fine room and a splendid setting for the graduation ceremony, 100 feet by 43 feet, and 32 feet high, with paneling and galleries of Norway oak boldly carved. The floor is of black and white marble, and the ceiling is divided into quadrangular compartments richly decorated.

The ceremony itself is quite something, full of solemn occasion - the whole ceremony is carried out in Latin with lots of mortar board doffing before the Vice Chancellor of the University. The degree itself is conferred on the graduand kneeling on a hassock before the Vice Chancellor who is sitting on a grand throne-like chair. Nina at the entrance to The Senate House after the ceremony:

And just to show that Cambridge University is not as stuffy as its reputation might suggest, as part of the university's 800th anniversary celebrations earlier this year, The Senate House and neighbouring King’s College were illuminated with a spectacular lightshow, illustrating aspects of the history of the university:

Selasa, 27 April 2010

Senin, 26 April 2010

Eric Ravilious

Eric William Ravilious (22 July 1903 - 2 September 1942) was an English painter, designer, book illustrator and wood engraver.

He studied at Eastbourne School of Art, and at the Royal College of Art, where he studied under Paul Nash and became close friends with Edward Bawden.

He began his working life as a muralist, first coming to notice as an artist in 1924. He went on to become one of the best-known artists of the 1930s. His watercolours, painted with a fine stippling technique within compositions that give light or dark features a telling role, are thought by some to have an almost uncanny loveliness.

He was the leading light of wood-engraving in England at that time, and undertook ceramic designs for Wedgwood. He also designed graphics for London Transport.

Ravilious was an official war artist in World War II and received a commission as a Captain in the Royal Marines. He was killed in 1942 at the age of 39 while accompanying a Royal Air Force air sea rescue mission off Iceland that failed to return to its base.

Kamis, 22 April 2010


The unprecedented inconvenience caused by the ash cloud from the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull cannot have been missed by anyone. The eruption has however produced some remarkable images. Lightning caused by the eruption:

Eyjafjallajokull is situated in the south-west of Iceland, by the sea and covers around 40 square miles. The icecap of the Eyjafjallajokull glacier covers a volcano that's 5465 feet (1666 m in height). The crater of the volcano measures 1.8 miles to 2.5 miles across (three to four kilometres).

Before this year's eruptions, the last time the volcano exploded was between 1821 and 1823. It also erupted in 920 and 1612.

Between March third and fifth of this year there were nearly 3,000 earthquakes at the epicentre of the volcano. But most were too small to be of any concern, measuring two or less on the Richter scale. Though some were felt in nearby towns.

The ash cloud from the volcano has reportedly reached a whopping 55000 feet (17000m) in height.

The fissure of the current eruption is 500 metres long and is spewing 1,000 °C (1,832 °F) hot lava up to 150 metres into the air.

Rabu, 21 April 2010

Coffee bar

This is the office I go to every morning where I write, read the paper, do the su doku and crossword.


Strobing through naked branches, orange filtered sunlight
shadow-flickers on grimy windows, sparks on the curves
of cars creeping across the waking city.
Double-decker faces peer from steamed-up buses
that diesel-rumble along slippy shiny roads.
iPodded pedestrians, briefcased
and laptopped plod towards their towers
of concrete, steel and glass where money
gently hums to a pinstriped rhythm.
Beneath café awnings aluminium
chairs are being unstacked,
sandwich boards unfolded.
Inside, the jarring sound of coffee
being ground, the hiss and whistle
of an espresso machine.
The first customers ordering
lattes and cappuccinos –
takeaways in cardboard cups.
People carrying things –
window cleaners with squeegees,
postmen with heavy sacks,
groceries from the metro-store,
designer shopping bags,
bottles of designer water,
umbrellas, and a guitar case.
Biffa bins being lifted,
emptied into sturdy trucks –
the heave and slide of life’s
detritus consigned
to the landfill
of history.

Selasa, 20 April 2010


There's a bit of a current trend for 'Sleeveface'. You dig out your old albums that have portraits of the singer on the sleeve and match it up to yourself or somebody else and photograph the result. You can try this at home. Here are a few examples:

Minggu, 18 April 2010

Cool Dutch living

Cactus House, Rotterdam
Cool-looking would be a good enough reason for this building, but this housing design was created to maximise each apartment’s outdoor space and indoor sunlight. The splaying stack of slabs creates big terraces for gardening and the irregular shape allows sunlight to enter from multiple angles.

Cube House, Rotterdam
Living in a tilted house must be easier than it looks. Architect Piet Blom tipped a conventional house forty-five degrees and rested it upon a hexagon-shaped pole so that three sides face down and the other three face the sky. Each of the cube houses accommodates three floors: a living space including a kitchen, study and bathroom, the middle floor houses bedrooms and the top is the pyramid room that can act like an attic or viewing deck.

Wozoco Apartments, Amsterdam-Osdorp
A zoning law and blueprint mistake were the inspiration for this apartment complex. Dutch housing regulations require apartment construction to provide a certain amount of daylight to their tenants, but the architects forgot to plan for that. Their solution? To hang thirteen of the 100 units off the north facade of the block. The ingenious design saves ground floor space and allows enough sunlight to enter the east or west facade.

Rabu, 14 April 2010

Les Villages Perchers

The approach to Menerbes

France's answer to the Hamptons. A magnet for the café society and political and art-world scenesters who like to throw their money and celebrity around. But it is also the Provence of shrill cicadas, pulsing heat, friendly countryfolks and the Garrigue (scrubland) crunching underfoot.
The Villages Perchers or perched villages in the Luberon mountain region on the Vaucluse plain, Provence, are amongst my favourite places in France. Several visits for both work and play have confirmed this. The area is already famous for being the setting for Peter Mayle's 'A Year in Provence' when he lived in one of the villages - Menerbes. These sleepy villages sum up the essence of provençal life to me. Our last visit was in the autumn of 2008 and the pictures here are from that trip.
Gordes, Lacoste, Roussillon, Bonnieux, and Menerbes are the best known of the villages. The reason for the hilltop locations was due to fortification against invaders in the Middle Ages. The remains of castles dot the terrain and each village seems to have either a castle or church with turret or tower visible from the approach below.
Menerbes is an ancient perched village on the Northern slopes of the Petit Luberon, one of the last holdouts of the Huguenots, who surrendered in 1578 after a 15 month siege. A number of artists, amongst them Picasso, used to live here.

A dog's life in the centre of Menerbes

Gordes is one of the more touristy villages, a favorite with film directors, artists, painters and Parisiens. It can get crowded with tour groups and the prices can get expensive. However the approach up the winding road at sunset is beautiful and the village is visible from the road for miles.

Taken from the winding uphill approach to Gordes at sunset

More dogs in the centre of Gordes

Lacoste and its chateau can be seen from other villages but is a smaller, less frequented stopover. Its claim to fame stems from its famous resident, the Marquis de Sade, who lived there in a castle in the 1770s.
Nowadays the château is owned by the couturier Pierre Cardin and undergoes a slow renovation; it is closed to the public. He hosts the well known Festival de Lacoste each summer, featuring art exhibitions, recitals and operettas. The village has been nicely restored; many artists live here.

Lacoste and the partly ruined, partly restored chateau of the Marquis de Sade

The hectic main street of Lacoste

Roussillon, once the stomping ground of Samuel Beckett, is unique and often called the Red Village due to the reddish stone mined from the ochre quarries in the distance. Apparently ochre provides a range of colors and does not fade in sunlight, ranging from pale yellow to blood red. Entering Roussillon, the buildings seem to glow and during dawn and dusk, the sunlight provides colourful nuances.

The ochre buildings Roussillon

A corner of Provence in Roussillon

Lourmarin is a very pretty village on the Southern Luberon slopes where the Grand Luberon and Petit Luberon meet, surrounded by lovely countryside with olive groves, vineyards and forests.


Provençal life in the centre of Lourmarin

Bonnieux is another steep village from where you can see at least three other villages. It sits directly across a valley from Lacoste.


A scene in Bonnieux

Right now I'd like to be sitting outside one of the cafés in any of these villages.