Reach, Wednesday. Parked in the village, climbed up onto the Devil’s Dyke and walked south-east between hedges rich with autumnal fruits, hips, haws, sloes and blackberries. Just before the line of the old railway we dropped down to the right from the Dyke and followed a field edge before descending steps onto the track bed in a cutting. Before the bridge a path up led us through woody scrub to Swaffham Road, which we crossed to join the long sweep of Barston Drove heading north-west. Land to the east rose up to the perfect dome of a small hill. Two roe deer sat heads up, ears pricked in a tractor track across blonde stubble. Joining a road we soon turned right along Green Lane (Track) and walked three sides of a rectangle round the overgrown clunch pits back to the village.
Paul, a member of the old U3A walking group, used to tell this joke/riddle. ‘Q. Why can’t you get to Wicken from Woodditton walking along the Devil’s? A. Because it’s beyond Reach.’
We walked the tow path along the Cam upstream from Clayhithe on Tuesday. The trees along the river were redolent of the heavy, cloying scent of late flowering ivy; and emitted the gentle hum of thousands of foraging bees collecting a last Indian summer bounty of pollen. A strange nebula appeared in the smooth steely blue waters of the Cam.
Several posts over the past three or four years have shown or mentioned the work of David Runnacles, a street photographer based in Cambridge. His work has now been featured in INSPIRED EYE | Street Photography Magazine + Insights Video – he was contacted after the editors saw his work on Flickr. You can see the feature – photos and interview – at https://www.theinspiredeye.net/street-photography-magazine/, costs a one dollar trial subscription.
The low sun picks out the tower of All Saints, Cottenham, against an approaching stormy sky. Pevsner writes: ‘The one feature one remembers about Cottenham church is the tower with its odd stepped battlements and bulbous ogee pinnacles. It is of yellow and pale pink brick and dates, exept for the ashlar-faced lower part, from 1717-19. … It was in existence when Pepys visited relatives at Cottenham.’ The Buildings of England – Cambridgeshire, 1970
The Capability Brown designed park at Ickworth provides a fine setting for the distinctive eccentricity of the rotunda-dominated house. Within the park the woods are mystical, dark and mysterious. The trees with gnarled and convoluted trunks look as if they might shake out their roots and lumber off to terrorise unwary visitors. The twisted, fissured bark threatens to open and release forest spirits. Buttresses split and break and the bark and the interior grain appear as tortured geological strata and weathered volcanic eruptions. These are ancient trees, bleached skeletal remains reach into the sky, stag-headed. They are age incarnate, witnesses to hundreds of years of change, metaphors for the decline of the seemingly timeless unequal social and economic structures that brought them there.
Brought there from where? These are not just the native trees of Suffolk, yes there are familiar oaks and beeches, but also redwoods, towering pines, slender avenue-forming yew and monumental exotic members of the quercus family. My reductive side wants to put a name to them; my reflective side is happy to be amazed and awed.
Maybe I should try to introduce my own pictures of women reading into the course as well as bringing up Kertesz’s book (see yesterday’s post). There are around 20 examples of women reading in my book Take a Seat – Take a Moment (2020). They introduce an inevitable change in the nature of the subject: a majority are reading phones, tablets or laptops, rather than books or other printed material. How does this change the interpretation of such images?
I’ve signed up for a six week U3A Cambridge course, Reading women: Questioning Image and Meaning(s), run by Britta Dwyer. Britta describes the course as follows.
Why are women readers so over represented in the visual arts given the limited access they had historically to the ‘activity of reading’? Why were reading women considered dangerous? In this class I want to bring together a selection of works of women reading – from the Renaissance to present – to ask some loaded questions. Beginning with WHO is reading and WHAT is being read (bible, novel or newspaper) I want to explore HOW the images reflect upon social issues (women’s literacy, patriarchal taboos) and crucially, HOW the images function as metaphors for voyeurism and gendered viewing. So, join me on this challenging journey as we interpret images of ‘Reading women’.
I don’t know which artists will be covered, but I will try to introduce On Reading by Andre Kertesz. In the preface to the 2008 edition, Robert Gurbo writes of how Kertesz’s ‘images celebrate the power and pleasure of this solitary activity’. Twenty-seven of the photographs feature women and girls, 32 men and boys.
Late afternoon walk out along Cow Lane yesterday. A dozen young bullocks at a water trough. Pheasants running for cover. Ripening blackberries. An uncut field of a mysterious grass-like crop. Joggers and cyclists; and cars raising dust along the newly gritted road. Crunching footsteps. The sun trying to break through.