Hopper Times

It has been noted that Edward Hopper is the artist of the pandemic. This evening his “Office in a Small Town” floated past in the unending stream of images that make up the current ‘net experience.

https://artisticjunkie.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Office-in-a-Small-City-Painting-of-Edward-Hopper.jpg

It really does have a great sense of isolation / loneliness. For me there was some other flicker of recognition. A photograph that is oddly similar.

This was taken at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (都庁) building West Shinjuku in 2009. At that particular time the only Edward Hopper work that i would have known was “Nighthawk”.

Somehow many of the elements of “Office in a Small Town” have ended up repeated here. There must be something about the composition / proportions makes it “work”. However, it is strange for them to be so similar and yet so far apart in time, medium and feeling.

The photograph was originally “Untitled”, but now deserves a title… “Shiver and Shake”.

Spaceman

That is my (maternal) grandfather and his telescope. No idea why the picture was in the newspaper. If there was any associated text it appears that i forgot to scan it. My recollection is that he built it, but the details are somewhat lost to me. It could be that my uncle still has it… trying to find out.

At the end of the garden there was a concrete post with a steel pin mount. The telescope itself was roughly 2m in length, maybe 20cm in diameter, painted silver, and looked homemade. No entirely sure on that last point… is a actually possible to build a functioning large mirror telescope? Perhaps it was a kit?

My memories of that time are most olfactory – everything smelt of coal, coal itself, coal dust, coal smoke, but i’m sure that at some point i was allowed to look through the telescope. It definitely wasn’t something to play with, and getting to look at the stars felt like a privilege… even it was kind of disappointing!

Recently the sky in Hamburg has felt clearer, with more stars visible… which has got me thinking about buying a telescope and at least try to get a look at the planets. Saturn’s rings, Mars’ red spot… just the obvious stuff.

Bicycle Boy

After looking at the Pets and Animals post, it occurred to me that my father had probably told me something about that particular time.

While working in the garden my father had scratched his arm, perhaps removing brambles, and i’d asked him some scars running across his upper arms. He told me that as a a kid he’d ridden into a wire that had been strung across a road. If you look back at those donkey pictures you’ll see the, presumably resultant, bandages.

Memory is a very strange thing. The set of recollection i have from that time is really limited: water the garden with the bath water during a summer drought (1976?); trying to dig up the body of the family cat which my father had run over in the drive and buried in the garden; finishing a box of tissues blowing my nose when it wouldn’t stop running; being chased by a horse in a field at the end of the garden; and now this tale of wire across the road.

The Reluctant Soldier

Don’t know anything about guns, and will therefore assume that this is an Enfield Rifle. How could i possibly be wrong!

The above is probably my favourite photograph from this time – even though it’s poorly executed, the expression is really good. With slightly better framing it could have been wonderful.

A Triumph 1800

Another mystery solved – a sleep deprived venerable gude has come through and identified the “Wolseley” as being a Triumph Renown. Most specifically, judging by the round edges on bonnet, it’s probably a Triumph 1800 Town & Country Saloon 1946 – 49.

There aren’t really any generally interesting pictures left. It’s mostly people that i can’t identify, and a few more family portrait things.

From what i know, this should be somewhere in North Yorkshire, probably Richmond. Unfortunately it doesn’t seems to include any of the elements of skyline…

Edit: that’s Richmond Grammar school. The buildings currently look like this:

Richmond .

a little less shabby looking than england in the late 1940s / early 1950s.

The only reference i have to this school is a story my father told of growing a silver acetylide crystal (shock sensitive high explosive…) with a friend. They detonated it in a dustbin at the bottom of a stairwell, and the friend lost a finger in the process. Maybe they grew the crystal in a dustbin and detonated in the stairwell… to be honest that wasn’t the detail of the incident that stuck with me!

A (Chaotic) Reffective Update

Things got a little chaotic for a while. Now that the number of active and (until recently) new infections is much lower, any outbreaks (like the recent Tönnies case in Gütersloh) have a dramatic effect on R.

[There was a paper showing how the sensitivity of R increased as it was lower, how small changes had large impacts… but now i cant find it. Will update if i come across it again!]

Makes sense, and didn’t seem to bother anyone. The overall trend in Germany is still positive. Locally there are some issues (Neuköln, Berlin, etc) but it looks mostly under control.

Here in Hamburg, over the last month or so, the average is 20 – 30 cases every 7 days. Not great. Not terrible.

Mystery Plane

Is that KAI36? Maybe KA136? Regardless can’t find any information on what this might have been… perhaps it’s one of the famous ones? A Spitfire or Hurricane? It doesn’t look particularly large so maybe.

I like to think that my father drove his parents mad for a few months by refusing to wear any clothes other than these white shorts and a pair of sandals. “The boy is going native! What are we to do?!”

Pets and Animals

The pets that you get as a kid in Sudan or Iraq, at least under empire, are a little different than the cats and dogs in england.

My father often talked about his pet “antelope” in Iraq, which had to be kept in a tall cage to stop it escaping… and then there was a Mynah Bird. Lord only knows what they were feeding him! Not the bird, my father.

The pictures with the donkey are presumably in Sudan. I don’t recall hearing anything about the donkey… or the help. What a strange arrangement.

It seems incredible to me that such an ordinary family (my Grandfather worked as a furniture salesman when they eventually returned to england) would be in a position to have servants. A generation before they were working as servants in a house in Chelsea – wouldn’t it have seemed odd to them as well?!

Edit: this probably deserves a better scan, but i really like it.

Babylon Baghdad

These were fun to work out. The first is a statue of King Faisal I on horseback. There are a few other similar shots, one of which is on a postcard franked in 1953. The palm trees look the same. Case closed!

Next is the Lion of Babylon, which is famous enough for me to have known about, and to have a wikipedia page.

The final one required some effort. It’s not exactly a great photograph. There are some animal forms relief carved into a brick structure. It looked kind of familiar, but not much to go on. There were some other pictures that made me wonder if this was part of the temple complex of Abu Simbel, but the style is very different. After several hours distracted by that, i went back to searching for Babylon related things and finally realised why it looked familiar: it’s part of the Ishtar Gate, currently reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

The above, by the Dutch archaeologist Machteld Johanna Mellink, shows the same section of wall.

And about Abu Simbel. There are no pictures. Even though i can remember my father mentioning it… but usually in relation to some tall story about fishing off the Aswan Dam with twine and a meat hook and catching a huge Nile Carp.

Well, apparently he wasn’t making it up! Lets just ignore that he appears to be throwing a very unfashionable salute out of frame… nice pith helmet kid!