Tuesday, May 30

More scrubbing

on a different section of the river bed, a big flat slabby section of massive stone blocks running along the river wall for about 100 metres - we don't know what it is yet, so the current technical term  for it is 'A Long Hard Thing'. This was a fabulously satisfying exercise, we were like the Borrowers cleaning a giant's front path, the mud lay like chocolate blancmonge with a furry green skin that sliced off neatly with a trowel and then after a bit of scrubbing the stone became visible along with stone-mason marks.

The houses that existed behind the wall in the C18th were ultra-gothic stone mansions and no-one wanted to buy them so they were demolished to make space for cheapy little houses - now selling for several million pounds. It's possible that this pavement was made from that gothic rubble, possibly to shore up the wall.

Further down the shore some people are looking out for Viking fish traps and there are boatloads of people on the water

Saturday, May 27

A chaser is

1. a person or thing that chases
2.  a drink drunk after another drink of a different kind,  
other things are chasers but they don't interest me, I was thinking of the first two when I agreed to go and help monitor a 'Submarine Chaser'*

I was expecting a sleek metallic shark-like beast, ageing gracefully on the river. Instead I found boat become river bank, a woody container of mud with prickly plants and a tree growing in/on it. 
Twelve women clanked across the river bed with buckets and brushes, following the Man-who-loves boats, struggling and sometimes failing to stay upright as our boots sucked us into the  stinky Thames mud. We located the boat's remains then arranged ourselves around it to wipe away mud from it's edges, mud that will be redeposited in a few hours - a Sisiphean parody of housewifery.

The Chaser served in World Wars I and II and was part of the Normandy Landings. For post-war civilian life, the big engines were replaced with a neutered set, someone added a dinky cabin, it became a houseboat, then abandoned, then moored up to die at a boatyard in Isleworth where it made a nuisance of itself banging around on the tide so it was holed to shut it up. Now it is visited every year by the Man-who-loves-boats and a cleaning lady army to stroke it lovingly, photograph that year's state of decay and then leave it for another year.

*as a newly trained foreshore archeological monitor. I need monitoring practise and also I need reminding how shallow and easily bored I am.

Wednesday, May 24

The Castalia

was a 'failed ferry' -  it became a hospital ship in 1883 when the Metropolitan Asylum Board bought it, built several chimney-ish warehouses on it and moored it out at Deptford.

Last Saturday I became embroiled in a Metropolitan-Asylum-Board-themed jigsaw game. 

I discovered about the ship and the jigsaw last month when I was busy cleaning bits of boat and basket embedded in the foreshore* in Rotherhithe. There was a 'Receiving Station' at this place, people with infectious diseases like cholera and polio were held here until a fireboat took them away to the hospital ships. The Castalia was the ship for women.

The Receiving Station was bombed out of existence in the war and now a city farm occupies the site

On the footpath outside the city farm is a display case with shards of crockery from the Metropolitan Asylum Board (MAB), there were many items in the services; platescupssaucers, jugs-of-every-size, tureens ...

Items lost in the river often don't go far, the river buries them for a while and then allows them to re-emerge. People picking up pieces of  MAB crockery have noticed that sometimes they fit together - it has become a huge community jigsaw - if anyone finds a piece they leave it on the display case and each month people get together around a big table to try the new pieces and see if they fit. The aim is to reconstruct an example of each piece.

*I have developed a fascination with the Thames foreshore - the bit that's briefly visible at low tide. People come here to enjoy the river and look out for treasures; neolithic tools, bronze-age jewels, bones and bodies and reminders of bodies - It all comes back to bodies one way and another - this is what my anthropology thesis is about

A terrible thing happened in Manchester this week. 

I hesitate to write about any of these attacks because I don't want to fuel the publicity which seems to be the desired outcome -  to say that it's a horror and an unimaginable sorrow for the families concerned is to state the obvious - but it is beyond horrible. My niece and nephew are the age of these children - just going to their first pop concerts ...

Wednesday, May 17

I am now catless

- Porky's owner returned at the weekend and I went back to my Putney palace where it's raining so hard that I've had to light the fire inside as a sort of counterbalance - I can't carry around enough clothing to cope with British weather.

I do have the right sort of clothing to dress up as Kalinda Sharma (my latest crush) - which I did today to meet M. at a very delicious lunch cafe*  I ordered a glass of orange blossom tea which I now realise is the flavour that makes baklava taste like Savlon

I recently learned that there are about 100 million discarded things in space, including a spatula, an obsolete space station and a space suit that was thrown overboard with a transmitter attached to it's head - an 'ephemeral satellite'. 

An art project about this junk includes a short beautiful film about Suitsat

I'm dwelling on Suitsat because I am currently feeling adrift, school is nearly over, all I have to do is write a big essay - ON MY OWN - there are no more classes. In an effort to cling on to institutionalisation a little bit longer I signed up for a grim tutorial about how to use a software package - this involved being trapped in a dark room with a clunky pc that I couldn't turn on and a lady lecturing us at speed from the dim end of the room. 

*broad bean purée, soft boiled egg, paprika and asparagus followed by pistachio-cherry-frangipane cake and cardamom coffee if you're asking.

Tuesday, May 9

I'm in Bethnal Green

keeping company with a large male cat in a tiny ground floor flat. I'm under instructions not to give in to Porky's requests for more food and must watch out for the lady who sometimes lets herself into the front garden at night, convinced that the cat is starving, she likes to push food through the catflap-in-the-window.

It's all about bodies lately - my research has led me to reading about London burial places and bodies on the Thames Foreshore. 

I teach Life Drawing in an old mortuary* - sited near the place on the Thames foreshore where bodies tend to wash up. Our model for the next couple of weeks is a body builder, pumped to the point that his head doesn't quite belong on that body but this might be a help to students who worry about being realistic.

*no longer functioning as a mortuary

image: Lucy Mcrae

Wednesday, May 3

I had one of those builders round

the sort that do a lot of teeth-sucking before telling you how difficult it will be to fix a broken window. This one, in his broad brummie accent, assessed the situation and told me quite frankly it would be cheaper and less trouble to move.   

I said  we can't move, there's 50 different species of bee* in the garden, it's like having a farm

he said   I know what that's like, I leave a sandwich out every night for the fox - a chip buttie, he bites the middle of it and then just walks off leaving the crust - every night         

*More about bees here
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