Sunday, 11 November 2012

Sunday Ramble

My day started with the business of which side poppies should be worn and if this is different for either sex, a complex issue partly related to the history of clothing, and the need be able to draw ones sword, and partly related to the queen wearing her poppy on the side men do and some women’s clothes just not having a buttonhole on that side.

I guess if I look online there will be a whole new lot of questions and answers to this one, but life is too short. My children made some adjustments to comply with the monarch, I have already joined the spread of having the bottom button of my waistcoat undone by necessity rather than convention.  

It looks like pizzagate is now over, two high profile locals or dfls I am not sure, Ian Driver and Lisa Richards, I would guess we will hear more from both of them and certainly hope so.

Another dfl TSE had something to say here:

“There are three conditions which often look alike
Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:
Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment
From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference, ... .” prob’ly thought it up in a shelter.

Well at least Ian Driver and Lisa Richards don’t seem to be indifferent and do seem to care about Thanet. I wonder what the other councillors think, well at least Simon Moores has said what he thinks, can all the rest be indifferent?  

I had a pretty ghastly shopping experience today as family shopping in Matalan progressed I found myself in an isolated part of Westwood Cross, with what were ostensibly shops, including Comet having It’s bankruptcy, but there being very little to interest me.
Dunlem Mill was I suppose the most interesting and varied of the shops there, which is something like a department store, and I did buy a wooden spoon, they do have artists materials but I am very fussy about these, so I couldn’t even look at things I would use. 

The view is pretty uninspiring too so I didn’t sketch anything. Comet is one of those places that I only really visit when something needs replacing, so the reductions of between 10 and 20% weren’t much use, as I don’t need a new fridge.

Personal technical and technological items, which for me would once have been mainly my camera, have been mostly incorporated into my mobile phone. So although theoretically there would have been all the interest of a camera shop sale, in practice there hasn’t been this for some time.

Artist’s material wise I did buy two Cotman riggers on Ebay while being very cheap as watercolour brushes go are very useful. The rigger brush was introduced to allow artists to paint the rigging (long thin lines) in maritime paintings.

I am pretty impressed with these and needed very few dips to paint the London Eye albeit badly the other day.

What I am saying I think in my roundabout way is that here were two shops that have in their way replaced the camera and art shop, once two of my favourite type of shop, really offering me nothing much in the way of solace while the fairer sex were buying clothes.

Comet’s bankruptcy had one strange feature, which was that it was reported on the bbc as being impending, before it actually happened, I would guess that it would have to be a pretty strong retailer not to go bust after aunty had said they were going to.
The riggers are the brushes at the top the others being for comparison, as you see the riggers have longer hairs, highly recommended if you paint with watercolour the two of these cost me about £5 including postage, sable ones would have been a bit more expensive. I have never had a problem with a Winsor and Newton watercolour brushes sable or synthetic.

The bbc seem to be, right in it, at the moment and wishing to understand what the Arlington Tesco Margate public enquiry was actually about, I have to say I am not really much the wiser having looked at their very limited coverage.

Little bits of information that have come my way seem to suggest that the council have had some internal dispute over Arlington House, their heritage officer, I believe the only person in the council to have any qualifications related to heritage, ceased to be their heritage officer over it and it would seem that the council basically support Tesco over this and not the residents who actually live there.

Well perhaps eventually there will a well reasoned and impartial report about the whole business, but I am not holding my breath.  

My take is still that Arlington House is worth listing and preserving, as it an iconic building of if not the first order certainly the second, if it isn’t significant enough to preserve than it does beg the question are any of the designs from the 60s of any merit at all and should all buildings stick to established classical designs.

Try and buy an important piece of 60s retro and you will find both the price and the demand high, so I do wonder if the whole approach to this issue is wrong. Perhaps the bottom should be some sort of art gallery, but then many would say that Margate is the wrong place.

My children have a collage as part of their homework and were not uninterested that a new art gallery is opening in Ramsgate this week with an exhibition by Sir Peter Blake, arguably the king of collage. Any of you who have ever looked at the cover to the Beatles album, SGT PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, his caps not mine will be familiar with his work.

Just painted Jacob’s dream after Rembrandt, as you see it is still very wet.

if you are unfamiliar with the original, here it is.
I may continue to ramble on here.    


  1. Michael, when you say "and not the residents who actually live there", you're obviously assuming that all of them oppose Tesco. Well I personally know three different people who live in Arlington House, and they ALL support it.

    1. As I said Peter I don’t really know, I have seen a few “No to Tesco” stickers in the windows around that part of Margate and no “Yes to Tesco” ones, but I may have been looking the wrong way. I believe one the ward councillors for that ward spoke against the development.

      What I would really like is to get people to look at Arlington for what it is, which to my mind is a major piece of the 1960s, in this climate of all things retro, I am not sure plastic windows and all that is the right approach.

      Painting magnolia emulsion over the orange wallpaper may be easier on the eye, but perhaps I ought to ask you take a good look at Arlington through the viewfinder.

    2. As always it's the "no" brigade who shout the loudest, but (as I pointed out in another comment) Louise Oldfield was "outed" in the Gazette this week as a Tesco user, and Tony Flaig also inadvertantly let slip that he was off to Tesco one sunday morning a few months back - and these are two of the most outspoken "no" brigade. Certainly I find it very hard to believe that Tony will drive past Tesco at Arlington to go 3 miles further to Westwood Cross if / when it does finally get built...

      I must point out that I'm neither anti or pro Tesco, I'm just pro sorting out the ugly mess that greet people as they enter Margate, and as no-one seems to be coming up with a viable alternative plan then Tesco seems the best bet. Even if money was spent renovating the existing shops in the arcade, the reason most of them went out of business in the first place is because people stopped using them.

    3. The loss of genuine art,and camera shops is a great loss.

    4. Peter I have reservations about this Tesco user business, once Tesco has closed many of the alternatives one becomes a Tesco user, on a like it or not basis.

      Tesco did a fair amount of damage to Ramsgate by opening what was by the standards of the times a large supermarket in the town which closed many of the alternatives, they then applied to open Manston Tesco promising that they wouldn’t close the one in Ramsgate which they did close, further damaging the town.

      I try to avoid using Tesco when I can for this reason, but still periodically do as I have a life to live and a limited amount of time and money.

      I think the point here is much more about thinking through the appropriate use of iconic buildings, particularly with the new iconic building, The Turner Contemporary, on the same skyline.

      Displaying Alex Katz’s 60s artwork at an enormous public cost at one end of Margate Sands, while at the other end treating Margate’s largest 60s icon Arlington to a Tesco revamp has certain inconsistencies.

      My comment was a reply to you as an artist, which one again is go and look at Arlington through your artists eye, and then let me know if this has modified your opinion.

      Perhaps the answer is to try and get Tesco to do something in sympathy with the exiting brutalist architecture, perhaps it is to get them to fund some sort of arts initiative with their supermarket, I don’t really know.

      I do however know that once the appearance of Arlington has been messed with in a way that assumes it has no architectural significance and no aesthetic benefits to the emerging arts based regeneration in Margate, there is no way back.

    5. 9.36 I think the problem is really one of no cameras to sell anymore. The photos in this post were all taken with my mobile phone and published unedited. I know I am not a professional photographer, but have been taking pictures for some time and don’t think it would be easy to tell the difference between the ones I have taken using my phone and those taken using various professional cameras I have.

  2. As a recent convert to photography I must say I love looking in camera shops. I wouldnt mind lookinng in art shops either. But then I am a professionnal browser as a youth I spent my free time searching the racks of all record shops. On the tesco issue I am in favour as I dont see a queue of other people wishing to tidy up an awfull eyesore which has only got worse over the last 20 odd years. As for Lisa Richards versus Ian Driver the sooner the elections come around and we get rid of Driver the better.

    1. As far as the contempory shopping experience is concerned, I find I avoid it as much as possible due to my increasing failure to find anything of interest. Traditional art and camera shops were packed to the roof with interesting items and waranted staying awile, and usually buying. The modern highstreet with chains, building societies, and largely womens interest shops holds little appeal. As far as digital photography is concerned, well it has a place but old film cameras and black and white film have soul, and who could discard them. Enjoying this blog.

    2. I closed down my darkroom some time ago and frankly don’t use film cameras at all anymore, that said, I don’t think I would much good at taking pictures without the experience of using a purely manual camera with a separate light meter and do wonder how the new batch of budding amateur photographers will overcome this.

      If I had been in the main part of Westwood Cross I would have gone through the bizarre and unsustainable shopping with smart phone business, I do in Waterstones Bookshop and Hobbycraft artist’s materials shop.

      In both cases when I find the article I would like, I point the smartphone’s camera at the barcode and the apps inside sort the rest out, finding the cheapest source of the item, which is nearly always the internet.

      With books and tubes of paint I don’t really see why this should be the case once the cost of postage has been factored in, if the onstreet retailer is paying about the same price as the online retailer, prices should be roughly comparable.

      The problem is that the price difference is usually considerable. I have to admit to keeping my book prices roughly in line with the cheapest source for the book on the internet and with say Amazon offering much less than I am, when they want to buy a secondhand book to resell, I really don’t understand why we have the problem we have.

    3. I was still exclusively using film cameras as recently as mid 2010, buying my first ever digital camera in July of that year. Within 6 months though I'd switched entirely to digital, and no longer have my film cameras or darkroom equipment either.

    4. I still enjoy visiting high streets though, largely for charity shops (my favourite place for that in Thanet is Birchington, though Faversham and Herne Bay are even better).

    5. Peter it’s the pace of change in technology followed by a standstill because the camera in the phone does all I need to for internet publishing that surprises me. I find I seldom use even my digital slr now as the phone camera’s integration with the internet means that the pictures I take with the phone are automatically uploaded to the internet, when I go into a wif hotspot.

      Oddly enough the actual blog publishing is nearly impossible with a phone as the apps I have found really don’t work well, but I guess this is just down to waiting.

      It is almost as though the technology has snookered its own commercial expansion, very weird, the personal gadgets I would have wanted or wanted to give people this year are mostly free apps.

      The things that technology doesn’t come near to mastering are human subtleties, speech recognition, drawing, painting etc.

      On the whole I don't think charity shops have really mastered secondhand books yet, better if you want to find a book to resell than something good to read I would say.

    6. The fact that charity shops have relatively few books forces me to read a wider variety of genres, so in some ways that's a good thing. I get through a book a week on average: I'm currently reading the memoirs of a London stripper, last week I read some fiction by Sean Hughes, and before that I read an autobiography of Suzi Quatro. Very occasionally I look for something more specific though (for example I'm currently trying to decide which is the best book on Marc Bolan / T-Rex, which I'll then probably buy via either ebay or amazon).

  3. My interest in photography also involves the cameras, just as in easel painting I might like a particular pigment for its unique hue or a particular brush for the way it lays paint. I think we should aim for quality in much the same way as the artisan had pride in his tools. I quite happily use various digital cameras, including my phone camera, and have had some good results. However there is disappointment I find in the presentation of the technology and software of digital, that leaves me cold and wanting in the experience. There is a quality experience in using an all metal SLR or rangefinder. I find the same in highstreets and malls. I can only find a couple of shops worth my time-as you say some may even be charity shops.

    1. Given the option I would rather use a Nikon F above all other cameras, the camera I used the most during the pre digital age, but a non starter now. I guess the truth is that from the time the camera was invented the movement towards perfecting it kept moving forward and the most recent non digital slrs with auto focus and automatic metering modes are as much further away from the box brownie than either the earlier slrs or their digital counterparts.

      Same in the darkroom really, when I stopped using it fairly recently I have to own to some of my metering equipment still using thermionic valves, but I guess I wouldn’t have processed prints using a daylight contact process.

      Always the same rub with something involving science and technology, where to you make you cut off point?

      I mostly paint with watercolour a runny and imprecise business where I don’t think technology stand a chance.

  4. My mobile phone does calls and text. It doesn't do photos. But for £10 on pay as you go, that's ok.
    My film cameras still suit me just fine - including the one I bought from eBay for £1.99. So that's ok too.
    I live within walking distance from Lovely's in Northdown Road - so plenty of art browsing, so that's good - pity they couldn't sell me talent too.
    Henry's still sell cameras in Margate High Street. Seems they survive by buying in collectables at low price and then selling them very, very high. Remember when they had a place in Broadstairs and Northdown Road whilst Austin Russell [?] and Donald de Vere kept Ramsgate snappers supplied?

    1. I don't even have a mobile phone anymore, as I decided that I quite like the idea of being uncontactable (actually that's not strictly true, as I have a mobile phone with no SIM card - apparently I can still use it for dialing 999). I used Henry's for many years to buy my film, paper and chemicals, always friendly and helpful.

    2. A bit of clarity on the mobile front here from me Peter and Col.

      I have a pay as you go mobile with the £20 for six months mobile internet add on, I also always carried a small camera in my pocket, this used to be a Zenit B with the small Zeiss lens it came with. After this various compact digitals, as it was both my mobile phone and my compact camera went wrong at the same time, the phone has to have enough internet capability to deal with the blog, business enquiries, but most of all to look up the price of books, which I deal in. the camera has to be good enough quality for pictures to be usable in my book publishing business, an A4 book can have an A3 wrap around cover.

      So what I did was buy a smartphone with a reasonably good camera, the linkage to the internet makes the camera much more versatile and powerful.

      I do use Lovelys in Northdown Road, but the main art consumable I use, watercolor paint I buy mostly online, the price differential is too great to do otherwise.


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