Thursday, July 31, 2008

Alpine Herders

Stayed in Berlin another couple of days having curryworst at the famous diner under the railway bridge and pig knuckle on mash with saurcraut? Saw the modern art museum but nothing exceptional apart from some Kiefers. However at another exhibition saw some very good bronzes by Louise Christine Thiele'
So again very fond farewells and back on the road. I'm composing a song called the 'autobahn blues' about the big black air conditioned missiles that blow past at 200kph and upset my little red car but I've got good music on a good stereo and wind in my hair and carbon monoxide in my lungs!!
And the winner of my next visit was.... Magdalena the alpine cow herder extraordinaire. Started climbing (in the car) after Chur in Switzerland and reached the end of the road high in the alps and then had another 30min walk straight up to the ski resort (in winter) of Alp Dado where M and Ricarda and Marie milk 106 cows for cheese made in the valley below. The house is at 2100m but the girls have to climb another 300m in altitude to bring the big boned brown swiss cows home for evening milking. Stunning views of the mts still with some snow and the valleys below and silent apart from the cow bells in the distance. Nik (Lake Constance) and Anne (France) turned up so it was quite a reunion. Cooked venison fillet and pork for 15 and we guitared and grappaed late into the night. Don't want to talk about how I felt the next day!
It must be the thin air and the exercise but I have never seen three girls eat so much, they live and dream about what is coming out of the oven next! Great thunderstorm striding around the mountains gave the impression we were close to whoever is up there and there is just a big feeling of peace so far away from the bustling world.
So with three proposals of marriage for my cooking not my body it was with regret my little car made it's way down to the real world.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


So a short trip up to Kesswil a nice little town on Lake Constance near the German border with no address for Nik, walked around town and then found him unexpectedly on the road home. He is a journeyman stone cutter a system that has been in place since the middle ages. They are trained by a master craftsman and then have to leave their village and not return home for a number of years, travelling by foot working in their speciality. Nik had been away for 4 years and was returning home with other journeymen to ceremoniously shed his clothes and become part of 'normal society' again so it was party time with his lovely family and friends and a night time throwing him in the lake with old songs and much joy.
Spent two days with him and then a long autobahn (11 hours) journey to Berlin to see Rainer and Petra who came to the Egg as customers but have become special friends. Rainer from West Berlin worked in East Berlin before the wall fell as head of Depts at Humboldt University and was involved in the repatriation of prisoners from the Stasi time and Petra from East Berlin works as events manager at the same university. Rainer has a small apartment in the centre of the city and loves to walk the streets so I have had my own personal guide for history and culture and I can see why Petra has a love of travel after being imprisoned for so long in her own country.
Berlin is a city of contradictions with the old and the new the ugly and the beautiful and to me it has a great feeling with wide avenues and many parks. Again if you are in the mood for the city (and have a good guide) it helps so much towards the enjoyment, not to plan to see everything but to discover it like a Chinese scroll, weaving in and out of the past and the present.
Had a wonderful morning with Ruth Tesmar head of the Arts Dept. A great artist herself she has places for students but also studios of her own high in the roof of the Uni full of objects and printing presses and installation projects and has such a passion for art that my mind opened like a flower to her and when I finally stumbled outside it was like into another world.
So maybe a few more walks then who knows, milking cows in the Alps with Magdalena, Denmark to see Jens and Margit, Netherlands to see Marty and Gerben and Mirjam, so many options and only 16 days left.
I've loved the trip so far, no pressure, taking it day by day and reconnecting with good friends.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Hi again, with friends Felix and Anna in Dattwil near Zurich. Lovely countryside but the architecture a little too square and conservative. Lots of sculpture though and I met Martin a dynamic sculptor in stone, metal and wood and with Felix translating understood a little about life as a sculptor in Switzerland.
Enjoyed Basel with the fantastic Beyler Museum. Beyler is an art dealer who bought paintings personally from Picasso and has one of the finest collections I have seen. Not only famous artists but some of their finest paintings. Also saw the Tanguly Museum but after a while the machines became too much.
Felix, also an artist, hates computers so I am helping him by creating a catalogue of his works so he can more easily sell himself which he also hates to do (dont we all!).
Finished my stay in France at Salesta near Strausborg and enjoyed time with Frank a stone sculptor who is living in and helping to renovate an old castle. Passionate but poor (sound familiar) he doesnt know how long he can continue without more work. He is organising a two day exhibition with his mate Jim where Frank will provide percussion with hammer and chisel on a sculpture while Jim plays incredible music (he gave us a recital) on his 24 string guitar from India. Such talent. He showed us through the castle late at night with only a candle which only illuminated small parts at a time so was full of surprises. It was on the medieval salt trail and travellers could only pass through if they left some salt.
Tomorrow I am off to Kesswil on Lake Constance to see if I can find Nikalaccio a stone cutter who spent some time sculpting at the Egg in the summer.
I hate to tell you but I am in love with my little red car!
Ahhhh the things we do!

Friday, July 11, 2008

In France and stuggling with the French keyboard! Loved the cultural scene in St Ives but time to move on and took the boat from Plymouth to Roscoff and to Annes cousin in Avranches through the lovely calm French countryside. Nice to have a French lady with me to translate the language and the landscape. Then on to her parents place in St Germain du Pert near Caraten in Normandy where the Americans came ashore during D Day. They were disappointed that I didnt want to see the monuments but I enjoyed helping Aubere with the renovations of his old farmhouse.
Its hard Im running out of computer time .
Au Revoir

Thursday, July 3, 2008

St Ives

Climbed high above the town normal and quiet to find French Anne and a bed on her hard floor. Saw Tate nice but not inspiring but Barbara Hepworth museum and garden fantastic I spent two hours in the garden in contemplation. Met wonderful old irascible woman on the street and bought her a drink and met more cornishmen and now I have a local to have a warm flat beer in!

You looked and away
And growled
Give me your money
And laughed
When I gave you
The time of day and
A bloody mary
To hear your story
Of husbands gone
And dead sons
And if you were
Twenty years younger
You'ld pinch my arse!

Awake with broken back and bones then on the street again. Much more to the town than first impressions. Peel back the veneer of the tourist promenade and there is some damn good art. Met Bob in his gallery and treated to his life, his poetry, his friends and his paintings. He closed the gallery doors to recite and talked for two hours with him about life and art. Shambolic, learned with a good soul he only shows paintings away from the mainstream so doesn't sell a lot, more it's a place for his artist friends to drop by.

Rip, rip, rip, rip it up Bob
Your pink, pinkprint for living
Will leave you destitute
Your friends will be artists
And you will ask the people you meet
For their souls to burnish
And to Hepworth their gardens

So I hope it's not left to me
Neither wordsmith nor
Minstral enough to sing
Your sweet song
But will take the vision given
And J, J, J, Appleseed it
In rows of fertile minds

It's the first time I have been in a place where I have had the time luxury of saying I will leave some art for tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Down to St Ives

Fond farewells to Billie and John. She is a great artist but it's hard to convince her and others of it. Her sense of balance and colour is totally instinctive and I wish I had half of it.
Went out to the Cornwall coast and travelled small roads down to Padstow to sample Rick Steins' food but the town was packed presumably because it was Sunday and I couldn't even get into the carparks. So down to St Ives, houses plain. The stone houses I remember must be further south, coast wild with occassional sandy beaches cramped with cars and people.
St Ives no exception, you have to park well out of town but the harbour surrounded by the town is exceptional. I can see why it has attracted so many artists, they say there are 146 galleries! Everything is focussed on the jewel of the harbour from house windows to the shops to the people and the little streets tumble together cobbled and uneven, little doorways flower pots and big angry gulls swooping down to snatch you food. People mainly English day trippers, refined older couples with nothing to say or large (in stature) younger families noshing on fish and chips and icecreams. Inspired young singers voice rolling out over the harbour, cornish pasty and bed with the Euro final.