Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Field Study's Man in E17 forages for hope

Snowdrops - Campton Plantation 18th Feb 2013

Saturday morning found Field Study's Man in E17 distracted from his preparations for a series of emanations aimed at demystifying rainfall; emanations or explanations intended for five-year-olds. The distraction was our monthly stint volunteering for the Organiclea fruit and veg' stall by the Hornbeam Centre, on Baker's Avenue, E17. On the way to the stall my alter ego reported on some of it's progress in preparing the explanations. It seems that the mystified five-year-olds are not or will not be children (or even human) as I assumed, and that the field student will explain rainfall to other things which are five years old. 

"Not Joseph Beuys and all that dead hare stuff again," I thought. 

"How did you know?" it asked, quite surprised.

"Strangely, I happen to be able to read your mind," I replied with a yawn, as it was before 8am on a Saturday morning.

"Strangely you happen, sounds about right," it quipped.

As we cycled down Hoe St' together I tried to distract the field student further from the eccentricities of the avant garde by questioning what it means to volunteer; an intervention that included asking the question, 'when is volunteering not really volunteering?' 

My ponderance was left hanging, ousted by the practical task of setting up the stall and preparing the produce for sale. The setting up was accomplished quickly as we are in, or are approaching, the 'hungry gap' - a time of the year when a predominantly local seasonally supplied stall will have less produce to prepare and sell. 

One of the local items or foodstuffs available from the stall is, 'Walthamstow Honey' (2012) produced by the bees of Eric Beaumont, I believe. My sadness persists at not having managed to harvest any honey from our bees last year and I hope that my inexperience and hopefully decreasing ineptitude as an apiarist will not be as challenged this year. While I plied Walthamstow's foodies with local produce on a warming morning full of the promise of Spring, I thought ahead to the afternoon when I would visit our apiary to check on the overwintered bees and dwell  on the hope and prospect of honey 2013. Just how local would it be?

Apiary 16th February 2013

 all 3 hives appear active and well populated

we have been feeding the bees over winter with fondant 

I'd gone to the apiary with 'Neopoll' to feed to the bees.

The bees had started foraging and could be seen returning to the hives with pollen sacs. I noticed 2 colours to the pollen sacs - a pale creamy one (above), and a brighter mustard (below). I wondered what the provenance might be for this pollen - a foodstuff which is very important at this time of year to honeybee well being.

How far do bees fly to forage for pollen and nectar? The maximum range might be 6 miles however bee colonies foraging that far will get little benefit from the forage as they will be expending more energy than they are actually getting. The less distance the bees have to fly for forage the better provided the immediate environment supplies their nutritional needs. Foraging range is also very important when it comes to considering the presence of pesticides and genetically modified crops in the environment - an issue that is perplexing many beekeepers. 
I had a quick scout around the allotment for early flowering plants that may be providing bees with forage. I found a patch of Lungwort, Pulmonaria officinalis which honeybees might forage. As well as that, there were catkins which bees can use as a source of pollen although their role is not entomophilic as far as that plant is concerned.


The apiary and allotment is just about 3 miles from Walthamstow as the crow flies, but the latter is out of range for productive forage as far as our bees might fly.
Further to the north, some 40 odd miles away and later in a long weekend, I came across a great show of snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, well out of range of our bees but all being well not out of range of those of other beekeepers. I hoped the bees 'back home' would be discovering similar swathes of plenty and I thought it would be a good thing to  plant an area with snowdrop bulbs for next year.  

Mean while, in the darker reaches of a field student's imagination, another colony of bees is settling into a new hive all a hum to the note of E.

 Dead bees in the compost

Friday, 15 February 2013

a field student of a purple spouting potty plot plotter

Purple Sprouting Broccoli - Feb' 2013.

This is a slightly overdue report from the allotment as it has progressed into February. My excuse is that I have been buried in various seed catalogues and gardening books in order to devise and contribute a planting plan to the communal effort that is the or our allotment; an effort that aims to provide nourishment for some of the hearts, minds, bellies and souls of E17. The perennial wit of Field Study's Man in E17  perched on one of my studiously hunched shoulders and amused itself with 'plot plotting' comments. "You are a potty plot plotter for the pot, you are", he squawked, in ever increasing tongue tied up-iness. Fortunately he very nearly throttled himself with his tongue before I could throttle him with my hands. He fell off my shoulder and lay on the floor barely conscious and I was able to enjoy some respite from his tongue twisted twittery and get on with a plan. Just as the last raised bed presented itself for the delights of this year's seeds the revived and very irksome alter ego butted in with some distracting blather about something he had just finished reading. "For the sake of fecundity, will you please shut up and let me finish this plan!" I implored. I tried to explain the importance of what I was doing and resorted to a burst of fancy, even outright pretentiousness, when I told the field student that I regarded each raised bed as a form of musical notation; each bed a 5 line staff, every seed, plug and plant a note expressing harmonic progressions of exalting purity and plenty. Call me J S Beere or what!? "I can't hear myself plot!" I cried. "Who do you think you are, Beethoven?" was the field student's tasteless quip. I must have flushed red with embarrassment at this (self) expression of yet another ego. The field student obviously found the sibling ego hilarious and rolled around on the floor in fits of laughter. It is very difficult to finish any task such is the 'distractive' power of Field Study's Man in E17. 
I stuck to my deadline and posted the interrupted plans to my fellow 'allotmenteers' in the hope of something of practical use in them. The first response was much more earthed or grounded than my elevated pretensions.
The 'blather' of the field student related to a letter he had read. The letter was written by Wendell Berry* and concerned rainfall, randomness and mystery in relation to soil. The field student banged my head against the wall in frustration at my inability to comprehend his account or understanding of the letter. I suggested he go away and come up with an explanation fit for a five year old. How can the mystery be explained? 

While the field student is 'working' on his explanation I invite you to look at some pictures of the allotment as it was on the 3rd February.

Wesley is adding 'rockdust' to a raised bed planted with garlic.

Joe is making a new raised bed for rhubarb, with nifty use of some recently cut branches.

How the leaf mold basket has progressed since December.

A raised bed just treated with rockdust - a kilo' per sq metre.

The vestiges of the Great Forest of Kale.

Dead hedging.

Inside the polytunnel and our reestablished reconditioned raised beds.

The pond by the polytunnel continues to fill and has just been relieved of some overgrowth.

We washed the inside and outside of the polytunnel


Field Study's Man in E17, true to form, missed a bit because, he says, 
it's a map of the inbetween where the earth meets the sky.

*Home Economics, Wendell Berry - Letter to Wes Jackson, 1982 (Counterpoint, USA: 1987)

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Field Study's Man in E17 on a tale of two Cazenoves

Madame Lillie - Cazenove Rd, N16. 4th February 2013.

About 8 years ago I was tasked with a job of going to Cazenove Road to pick and collect some (unwanted) apples from a tree in someones garden. I duly drove to Cazenove Road N16 and knocked on the door of the house whose number I was given. A very confused conversation ensued with the occupant of no. ?, Cazenove Rd, N16. It took a surprisingly long time for me to twig (for an apple to drop) that I had mistaken Cazenove Rd, N16 for Cazenove Rd, E17. My embarrassing ineptitude swelled up in me as bright red as an apple. I apologized to the disturbed and mystified resident of Stoke Newington and left tout de suite and finally arrived at Cazenove Rd, E17 quite a lot later than arranged.

I have discovered some other confused Cazenoves though I think it would be unwise for me to provide any links to the misaligned maps and addresses because I am reserving 'embarrassing ineptitude' for myself. However I felt some redemption for the error of my way to Cazenove Rd, N16.

Two days ago I was back in Cazenove Rd, N16 and it was most definitely where I was supposed to be. It was then (in February 2013) that I remembered something not at all embarrassing about Cazenove Rd - that something being the occasion of a Field Study performance as part of the project, Splendid Lights. held at Madame Lillie's in 1996 - a venue which seemed to be closed down on 4th February 2013.

The text in the 'Splendid Lights' blog post link states that 'Madame Lillie' was on Stoke Newington Church St which, unless Madame Lillie moved between 1996 and 2013, is probably mistaken. This is further evidence of the E17 field student's dubious sense of place and psycho-navigational skill.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Field Study's Man in E17 needs to get out of the house more but he can't escape the home in his head.

Church Hill, E17 2nd February 2013

Field Study's Man in E17 found me in rather a glum mood yesterday. I explained to the field student how an incident at 'home' involving a door damper had escalated into a full scale psychic conflict of a sort only veterans of housing of multiple occupation would understand or be familiar with. I think you need to get out of this singular preoccupation, he said, and thus insisted we go out for a walk. He might have had a point; was I actually enjoying the psycho-dramas playing out in my thoughts? I followed him grudgingly and after a few moments we stood at the top of Church Hill and were awe struck by the John Martin-esque setting of the sun at the lower end of Walthamstow High Street.

Field Study's Man in E17 started singing 'Walthamstow Sunset' which is/was a rendition of 'Waterloo Sunset' with 'Waterloo' substituted for 'Walthamstow'. While there was no verse in Ray Davies' great London song that could not take Walthamstow instead of Waterloo, I found the well intended effort to cheer me up just a horrid cack-mouthed ear worm of a gesture and so plugged myself in to my electronic gizmo, at which point Field Study's Man in E17 vanished from my sight and/or site. The first song to bore its way into my toxic cranial cavity was Laurie Anderson's, 'Over the River'. What an odd coincidence that was.

I went to the library to see if there was a 'dvd' of Stanley Kubrick's, Paths of Glory. I was told the library did not have the director's (personal) copy of that film, nor, for that matter, any other copy of the aforementioned film. I broke out in a cold sweat at the imminence of an apostrophic nightmare in the retelling of this story and so sought out 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation !', Lynne Truss. Damn! Every copy in the borough was on loan!

I walked back up Church Hill still pestered by the worminess of the field student's sunset song. While walking I also felt I was dragging the domestic difficulties as if they were rendered or materialised as big lumps of plaster of paris or even concrete. Once back in the house and home I reached for my copy of, 'The Art of Rachel Whiteread', published by Thames and Hudson. I had an idea this learned collection of analyses and interpretations would help me better understand the nature and complexities of domestic atmospheres you can cut with a knife or, depending on the possible variety of materials and their densities, other, more appropriate cutting tools.

I turned to Chapter Two, and began reading, 'Matters Immaterial, On the Meaning of Houses and the Things Inside Them', (Shelley Hornstein). I did my best to comprehend the analyses of RW's works but I struggled to get to grips with the elaborate intricacies Hornstein made between sites, substances and sensibilities.

I attempted to explore the essay by using something personally relevant as a sort of critical 'scope'. In this case it was the door damper. A door damper makes the act of pushing a door open heavier, harder, more resistant; it requires more force. What if you didn't know the damper was there? What could explain the unusual or additional force/effort required to open the door? One cause or explanation I thought of was an increase in the 'materiality' of the air/atmosphere within a space/room behind the door. Rachel Whiteread goes the whole way and makes the spaces of the rooms solid and impenetrable or 'repellant'. Of course there could be other explanations or causes; e.g. the door could be very heavy, you/I could be very weak. What if you/I thought of 20 different reasons (fictitious or factual) why a door requires more effort to open? Would this be an example of 'forcing a trajectory of thought' concerning rooms you cannot get into? I thought doors and trajectories was a pertinent connection to make.  Field Study's Man in E17 just walked through the door as if it were nothing. Of course, he is not as hard core as Rachel Whiteread and thus does not achieve such monumental, weighty and uncanny results. The field student's 20 different reasons got progressively paranormal and disturbing so I left him alone while I took another look at the damper and reckoned that creating a caste of a room which has a 'dampered-door' would be a very exacting technical feat, so much so that the damper would probably be better removed and all the bodged screw holes realized in uncanny relief instead for posterity.

My favourite sentence in the essay is,

'We could say that virtuality has shaped city life in novel ways that alter the dimensional comprehension of propinquity'. (p.61)

I really enjoyed the way my mouth and lips were stretched and otherwise exercised by the latter part of the statement, and that 'propinquity' found me reaching for a dictionary. The sentence, in my mind, cries out for a 'discuss' - which of course the author goes some way towards doing, before concluding this trajectory of thought with a notion that House 'seems to harness virtual energy'. Well, House was and perhaps the memory of it still is something close to what it was but what is virtual energy?

I very much wanted to visit House during what turned out to be, sadly, a relatively brief residency on Grove Road near Mile End, back in 1993/94. I recall some of the media hoo-ha and one of my first responses (to the art work) was, I wish I'd thought of that.  I didn't make it to the much decried installation. House has continued to haunt me over the nearly 20 years since it's weighty manifestation and hysterical removal from that part of the East End. According to the essay cited above, the artist looked for houses in several north and east London neighbourhoods and sometimes I have wondered if Walthamstow/Waltham Forest was among them and if such a work had been created 'here' would the reaction have been any different?

Field Study's Man in E17 found me lost to the peculiarity of a little ornamental intervention featured in the image below. He whispered softly, 'ah, innwendig' to which I replied snarkily, 'unnwendig'.

a piece of barbed wire emanating from the wall

- Chapter Two, 'Matters Immaterial, On the Meaning of Houses and the Things Inside Them', - Shelley Hornstein.