Tag Archives: beauty

Review – Irvine Stone’s “The Agony and the Ecstacy”

The Agony and the EcstasyThe Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book starts off slow, and the plot continues at this pace – it’s a pretty straightforward recounting of the major events in Michelangelo’s life, with some occasionally wooden reactions to them.
What makes this book shine – in fact, what makes it unmissably stellar – is the lyrical, beautiful descriptions of both the process of sculpting, and Michelangelo’s sculptures and paintings themselves. You learn how difficult it is to mine marble, how to transport it, how to choose a piece without inclusions by watching the sunrise through it. Then Michelangelo picks up his hammers and chisels – made afresh for each sculpture – and Irving Stone takes you inside the mind of the master, so that you feel you understand the exact places to carve away the snowy grain of the marble to achieve the desired effect, and you taste the marble dust at the back of your own throat.
Stone’s bibliography leaves you in no doubt that he knew what he was talking about, and there is a surprising body of Michelangelo’s writings in existence. I think that reading this book is about as close as you’re likely to get to one of the greatest creative minds who ever lived, and this book will be coming with me when I go to Florence. It has made me yearn to see these great sculptures and frescos, which Stone describes with such authority and conviction.

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A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…

I am shamefully behind on the reading material in the loo. So many things creep in, insisting on precedence – gardening catalogues, glowing with promise, are generally on top during the winter; English Heritage or similar, siren calls to a day’s adventure, during the summer. At some point, holiday brochures pile up, blue-and-white photos of places promising warmth, sea, and history jostling with usually rustic interiors offering courses in jewellery making or writing.

At the base of it all, though, percolating through as the truest inhabitants of the small bookcase, are the New Scientists. I bring you this article from a timewarp; a whole year ago, to be precise! The article’s entitled “Everything’s coming up roses with scent gene”, and is discussing the breeding programmes attempting to give today’s gorgeous roses the scent of the old-fashioned ones.

The part that made me smile – and has kept me smiling all day – is the discovery that it’s a single gene expression that does the job; a beast called RhNUDX1 – “known in other organisms to produce an enzyme that helps cells handle stress”.

So get out there and smell the roses whilst you may – it WILL reduce your stress levels 🙂

Small_Red_Rose

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Why I get such pleasure from going detecting…

I came across a lovely quote in the week, about why people go fishing. Now, I don’t do fishing – I think I was about 14 last time I caught a fish – but this is pretty well why I go detecting;
Fishing provides that connection with the whole living world. It gives you the opportunity of being totally immersed, turning back into yourself in a good way. A form of meditation, some form of communion with levels of yourself that are deeper than the ordinary self.
Ted Hughes

I had the most amazing experience on the field tonight. I parked the car, started detecting, and ground to a halt to watch the two adult buzzards and last year’s youngster, riding the wind swooping up the valley side. The female has particularly lovely markings, similar to these:

Photograph courtesy of Aviceda { creative Commons Attribution}

Photograph courtesy of Aviceda { creative Commons Attribution}

It started chucking it down; they went off to sulk in a bush, I retreated to the car. The rain was coming from one side, so the windscreen and one side window were completely rain-obscured. The other side was dry, though.

I noticed some fast movement on that side, and watched enthralled as a stoat and a baby rabbit danced a most elegant pavanne, with fluid grace. Well, that was only going to end one way; the stoat made the killing move almost in touching distance of the car, and stopped to catch its breath for a while, completely unaware of me.

stoat-wallpapers-4Stoat. Photo by Marsch

Soon it trotted off, without eating the rabbit, and I was annoyed at its wastefulness; but it reappeared with two clones – presumably its kits – further down the slope. They sat and waited, apart from a brief bout of twining round each other, whilst the original went back and dragged the rabbit – easily as big as it was – down to them, and out of sight under a bush.

The rain stopped as abruptly as it had started. The buzzards launched themselves again, and flew off. It was too late to do much detecting, but it didn’t matter; I had been immersed in nature’s beauty for long enough, and was completely at peace.

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Bloodhounds!

I had an excellent surprise this morning – driving back from a karate lesson, there were signs out for the East Anglian Bloodhounds – http://eabh.co.uk/. I grabbed a very quick shower, packed a lunch and a book, and set off on foot to see if I could catch them. As luck would have it, I guessed right on where the first run might go, and met the quarry – the landowner’s daughter and a companion – running across the meadow, so I trotted off myself to get in a good position to catch the show.

I ended up looking at one of Imagemy favourite views in England… as the first riders came into shot. There is a jump in the center of the picture, and an open gate at the top left for those who don’t wish to jump, in very wet conditions – the Master has taken the conservative route, and has to hustle to catch up!

There was a little scrum by the jump, as people sorted themselves out – then a steady stream of people galloping by. The riders wear stocks and black jackets, and look fabulous – it really counts as historical research, rather than leaning on a fence enjoying some glorious Spring sunshine and admiring horse flesh : )

ImageJoking aside, that’s truly so – it’s not often that one can feel in one’s bones what a group of horsemen galloping past feels like, nor hear the horns or the dogs’ belling. My beloved Wimer obtained a hunting licence from the King for this very land, although I’m not sure what method he would have used. Certainly he would be expecting to kill something for the table, rather than just have a fun outing!

I was only going to stop for one hunt, but had another stroke of luck and met the next quarry; so got myself into position for the following run too. They generally do three or four runs, with breaks in between. I had time for a coffee… before the hounds went one way and the riders, the other! I got a lot of photos of rear ends…

ImageImage

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Everyone relaxing at the end of this pass. The man in shorts in the foreground is the quarry.

A very pleasant sight on a lovely day!

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Nature’s Autumn gifts

Weather-wise, today was perfect: a hint of mist first thing, so soften the view; then by the time I was ready to go digging, it was so sunny and bright that I worked in a T-shirt.

The best bit, though, was finding someone parked at the field entrance, and “having” to park at the top of the woods and walk down – through satisfying pillows of leaves for kicking, then out onto the meadow at the edge of the wood, looking down a long, long vista of just-turning leaves, punctuated here and there with a tree or bush with its flame already well advanced.  Glorious… I’ve added Euonymus Alata Rudy Haag to my must-have list. It pulled me the width of the meadow to admire its vibrant beauty.

Back in my own garden, I gathered a posy-vase full of the last flowers – cosmos, a single sweet pea, and a spray of asparagus foliage for contrast. It’s a satisfyingly fat lollipop – no sophistication here; but still, something to make me smile over many days!

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I hope you enjoy my books as much as I loved writing them! Here’s my Amazon page.

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