Monday, 30 December 2019

A new dawn

The sun is shining and the sky is blue - it's all looking pretty good out there just now.  These few days between Christmas and New Year are always different – the rhythm of the daily grind briefly disappears and pretty well anything goes. This year however the absence of that normality is rather satisfactory as there is a pleasing balance insofar as Christmas and hence New Year fall in the middle of the week, neatly sandwiched between two weekends, producing one long weekend.  An added bonus is that this  actually leads to relatively straightforward arrangements for school holidays and travel. Coupled with benign weather there really isn't much to dislike this year.

Looking back, previous scribblings at this point in the year inevitably tend to the contemplative, but this time we not only have a new year but a new decade. We're going to be living in the 20's, which whatever it brings sounds pleasing to my ears. So is this a new dawn? Will anything change?  This tree was there in 2010 and I'm pretty sure that it'll still be there in 2030, but all around things do change and following the discontinuities and frustration of the last few years I sense that many of our friends and visitors are quite keen to move on a bit. Whether that's possible is anybody's guess.

We have a new government – well sort of.  It goes against the general desire for progress to find that people who were not elected are eased back into power whilst some who patently do not deserve recognition are honoured for divisive actions and policies. At the local carol service some of this was referred to (obliquely to avoid upsetting those who only go to Church on such occasions) in the address – not a sermon – by our stand-in Vicar. At the end of his remarks on change and what might be awaiting us in the next few years he concluded with the words "We shall see".  I couldn't have put it better myself.

Oh – and a very Happy New Year to both my readers!

Friday, 6 December 2019

Forever green

A long time ago in a gallery far away. Well actually no, predictive text is fraught with hazards, but certainly a long time ago, the idea of the Grapevine was born. Having found the space and agreed terms, the need for an identity was uppermost. Various names were suggested and considered but we very quickly settled on Grapevine. Why? Well those who have followed our progress over the last 17 years will probably know, our then location at No.109 was already well-known as Grapevine, having previously been a wine shop with an exhibition space upstairs. There seemed little logic in changing it for even in those pre-online days, most delivery and taxi drivers knew exactly where we were. Name settled we then commissioned graphic designers and with the approval of younger members of the family the logo and typography emerged, and it was green!

And it still is. When we opened in Burnham 12 years back it was very soon made clear by those who mattered in North Norfolk that our identity should be perpetuated, so as 7 years previously we accepted the inevitable. Now of course, green is fashionable and more significantly part of worldwide consciousness.

Not getting too carried away, I have given some thought to how green we actually are. Surprisingly encouraging it seems. We are entirely lit and heated (minimally) by electricity and I am informed this is renewable and sustainable. Our artists and makers are increasingly local - no airmiles to be found here, and they use local craftspeople for framing and local supplies wherever possible.

We could do better of course. Most of the packaging we receive is re-used but I still feel uneasy about bubble-wrap however many times it goes round. We also use cling-film wrap. With this, we are at least now using what I am told is a degradable form but I'm not totally convinced. And of course, in common with most rural businesses, we do use that ubiquitous on-line retailer for things not readily obtainable locally - but as noted before their boxes do come in useful.

On a personal basis my footprint has also reduced, no longer travelling to the far corners of the country on the pretext of meeting artists. There is inevitably a downside to this and in some cases a real sense of sadness, as inevitably a number of those who exhibited with us and supported us in the early days have retired or sadly died.

This time of year prompts consideration of gifts. In common with many of our friends and acquaintances, the character of our giving and receiving has changed over the years.  The blatantly commercial element has been squeezed by various forces, economic and political uncertainty across the spectrum and a more deep-seated drawing back from the acquisitive desires by the younger and greener sectors of society. So where does this leave the world of the small gallery?

Probably and hopefully not in a bad place. Our art is reasonably green - particularly if you let us wrap it in brown paper or corrugated card. It supports genuinely local economies. It comes in all shapes and sizes and it has a long life –  and can be passed on to future generations even if you or the recipient tire of it. So what are you waiting for?

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Time for a change

The last 3 months seem to have passed chaotically but with little change of any real significance. Unlike last year there has been repetition and distraction but little drama. Hardly any real winter weather with an absence of snow, frost and cold. Neither wet nor dry, the season has past surprisingly uneventfully. There has been wind - lots of it, but even that rather like in other aspects of our life has been "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing".

Encouraged by the absence of winter, nature joined the chaos with snowdrops running riot then disappearing as rapidly and completely as they burst into life. The statistically unusual but now unsurprising 'record-breaking' warmth of late February prompted the daffodils to burst into equally early bloom.

These too were not long for this world and are now almost history, with camelias and forsythia in hot pursuit.

So now what? Officially winter is now past and spring has been confirmed. But as with the world outwith our beautiful little Norfolk bubble, has anything really changed? Well with the weather, possibly. We shall see. It's a new month on Monday - as Flanders & Swann so perceptively noted all those years ago, "April brings the sweet spring showers, On and on for hours and hours!"

As for the wider world, I am yet to be convinced that change is that close. All one can say with any certainty is that in time, at least, we move forwards tonight, and for that I am grateful.

Monday, 7 January 2019

The sound of birds

It's grey in Norfolk just now and we're at one of the days that is singled out as a low point of the year. Apparently yesterday, January 6th, is not only when we take the decorations down but also, somewhat soberingly, is statistically the day the most people die – if you read the Telegraph. Other statistics are available but when you put this alongside stories about what the most depressing day is - although how this can be identified is beyond me - you might be forgiven for not feeling upbeat just now.

But put your nose outside and whilst it's maybe a little early to be full of the joys of spring just listen and look. Even though we haven't had much winter the birds are out and being busy. Any feeder seems to be overflowing with small birds, all looking full of life. Blue tits, Great tits, Long-tailed tits - you name them - there they are. Robins are singing, Blackbirds are busy nest prospecting, Pigeons are back apparently doing what pigeons do mostly and the Rooks are starting to remind us they're there.

The lengthening of daylight is barely perceptible and yet the birds' biological clocks clearly know. Maybe if we didn't have our obsession with statistics, we too, might be out and about doing rather than contemplating darkness and cold.

Nearly 120 years ago at the start of the twentieth century, one of my favourite poets, Thomas Hardy, wrote one of my favourite poems, The Darkling Thrush, evoking the sound of a bird singing at just this point in the year, prompted apparently by

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.