Californian Republic

This is the State flag and nothing more than that really. I thought at first that it might be a gesture of independence, but it’s not. It was raised on a couple of houses in the district we are staying.

It’s described as follows:

“Historic Bear Flag raised at Sonoma on June 14, 1846, by a group of American settlers in revolt against Mexican rule. The flag was designed by William Todd on a piece of new unbleached cotton. The star imitated the lone star of Texas. … The word, “California Republic” was placed beneath the star and bear.”



Still life with fire hydrant, lets call this a conceptual piece. In the Museum of Modern Art this would be displayed in a large white room with a brown line an arm’s length from it to signify you can’t touch it or go any nearer. Modern Art kept at arm’s length, perhaps a good idea sometimes. As it is it was on the roadside on the way to Larchmont.

In my next posting I’ll be talking a little more about the Museum of Modern Art which is over the road from the Broad. The Broad is a private museum of art featuring the collection of works owned by one couple: The Broads

Completely unjustified!

More to come!



LA Houses and the menu please.

A stroll away from where we are staying is an area with some pretty fancy houses, and I took a stroll that way just yesterday with the intention of finding my own favourites. Not many people do stroll around these parts. Most of these are the sort of places that have gardeners and automatic watering.

Whilst in Larchmont village, a bit of a misnomer really as it’s just a short area of a very long road that has some very pleasant shops and coffee places there, I was accosted by the other side of this society. As with everyone over here their manners seem to be excellent. Sitting on the floor near a road junction where I planned to take a photograph he spoke to me: ” Can I prevail upon you for a double cheeseburger and some fries sir, I am very hungry”. It’s a first time I’ve been begged at where the menu comes first. I’m sorry to say I did not respond like the local waiters around here with a ” Sure, I’ll be right with you Sir”, just a rather weak “Sorry”. Whilst I was there he wasted no more time with me and asked others nearby, with the same menu, I hasten to add.

After the following junction, the houses. Traffic will stop at a sign like this and you can cross the road here with safety.


This is a smaller model than the norm around here,
but some that look like this are huge at the back.


I like the symmetry with this one, and the colour.
Helped by the Californian sky.


This is almost a face with the two eyes being the dormer windows.
It has an expression of lazy indifference, 
or perhaps I’ve been in the sun too long.


This is a biggie! The colour just would not work anywhere
but California. A Spanish type mansion.


This one is similar


This one has an English country cottage look to it, but on steroids.


My favourite is this one which looks like part of a luxury yacht, lovely lines and dramatic feel. Looked absolutely brilliant in the sunshine. Owners unlikely to worry about what’s on the menu.

Completely unjustified!


My second job title when I first started working was : Typographer. I was hardly qualified in many respects and ‘winged it’ to get the position which was in a large advertising agency. In those days we did a character count and produced type mark ups for the typesetters to follow. I had no idea what I was doing until Norman came to the rescue. He’d been there for years and knew all the ins and outs. He could also see that I had no idea what I was doing. I learnt pretty quickly, thanks to Norman

A visit to the Broad Museum here in Los Angeles to see the wonderful exhibition of modern art there and the dreadful typography. Anyone knows that there’s no such word a tive and that separating a word in the middle is really quite unforgivable. These were some of the basics taught to me by Norman all those years ago.


That aside the place was terrific, so lets not dwell on a completely unjustified error.
( Typographical joke there! )

We not only enjoyed some of the works, I suspect one is not supposed to enjoy some works. Some can and are meant to shock, others either inspire or deflate you. There was something for everyone here

I’ve never been the greatest fan of Jeff Koon’s work but in this place I found them exciting and interesting. We had a guide who gave us a talk on various pieces and she explained it all about the various pieces she had chosen to show us. Koon’s pieces are immaculatley crafted and made and look brilliant in this gallery setting. There are two separate pieces here, and two images of me taking the shot within the rabbit!


Joseph Beuys’ work, as well as Anselm Kiefer’s pieces, those are the  ones referred to in the terrible typography at the head of the page are not my own favourites.

My favourite from the whole show was a painting by Jean Michel Basquiat this is a detail from the work.


I enjoyed this piece too. A huge table and chairs bringing every visitor back to childhood. Apparently it weighed a ton! You could walk under it but were not allowed to touch, always to me a bit of a daft rule for sculpture which is in essence tactile.



In this shot you get a feel for the space of the place, and to the left is a third of a painting by Jenny Saville I’ve never seen her work for real before, only in magazines and newspapers. She’s one of the few British artists in the show we saw, but is surely one of the best. This massive work of this massive woman is both challenging and absolutely brilliantly executed.

watching out

Last but not least, I’m putting this image in there because to me it says a lot about art galleries. The painting? I’ve no idea who did it now but I’ll go back there and report back. The guy on the left is one of the many who keep an eye open for people approaching the artwork with less than favourable intentions. It’s obvious that the dress code for these people is black throughout, but as a gesture of independence some of them decorate themselves, one had very ‘painterly ‘ socks on and this chap had paid a lot of attention to his hair and colourful stuff on his identity tag.

So the guy on the left has the gesture of independence, as has the guy on the right.


For those who could not find the typo trauma, then here it is:

typo trauma







World Cup telly


As an aside from my Californian sojourn we are able to view the World Cup from here. I did this drawing for the last one, or it could even have been for the one before. No need to stray away from the telly here with “Piranha Ready Chewed Food”

I can tell it’s an older piece of work as it’s in colour!

As for myself, I’m being taken to a baseball match here tomorrow evening, I’m told it’s like rounders on speed. I’ll let you know.


An art scene seen.

We’ve been to LACMA. That is the shorthand for Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I like art galleries, great places to watch people as well as the exhibits, so this was well worth the trip. There’s loads to see and plenty of space to see it in. Without going into detail here are some of my faves from the day. All of these taken on my daughter’s iPhone lent to me for the day, as my own seems to have melted. We are hoping to return to take a little more of it in soon.

One of the great things about this place is the they let you take photographs of the works so I was able to wander around snapping at will. I was prevented by a tiny oriental lady from taking any of the Picasso works. She was very pleasant about it telling me they were from a private collection. ” Not to worry” I said ” It’s only Picasso”.


I was taken with this print which is from the German expressionists. Chaos in the streets, a brilliant piece with the merging and dynamic of the crowd moving with fear up to the right  and that brilliant use of space to create drama.


Lovely peaceful painting by Dufy


and another, this time by Pisarro


I found this appealing, but I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be. It’s a little like those songs where the melody is so strong you forget that the words are about pain and rejection. This may well be about pain and rejection or the mechanisation of the world, I just thought it was rather a pleasant piece of work. It’s by Leger, Ferdinand Leger. Great name Ferdinand!


Is this a painter called Marmite? You either love him or hate him. If you buy the substitute for marmite then you might not like it, but there’s no substitute for a Jackson Pollock. If you have the chance to see the real thing I think you might agree.

And there’s another great name. Is there not a phrase: ” You’ve made a right Jackson Pollock of that!” meaning that you have the wiring wrong somewhere? If not, there should be.


Andy Warhol apparently ate a lot of Campbell’s soup and with nothing else to inspire him he was told ” Well you eat a lot of soup Andy,so why not paint the tins” So he did, and a lot of them. Making silkscreen prints of many. Are these a celebration of the art of soup making or an icon of Modern America, or did he just like soup? Might be a mix of all three, a soup mix perhaps.


Here’s my own icon from the day, a view just outside the building looking up into the Californian sky. Prints can be bought of this for not far short of a million dollars.


I’ll be writing more about art galleries in the coming days, not necessarily about the art, but also about the places.



Rolling Stones : The Joint was Rocking – Going Around and Around (Memories of Eel Pie Island )

This is yet another great blog from someone who knows about this stuff, not just worth reading but listening to the music. More than a good entertaining read!

The Immortal Jukebox

‘Eel Pie Island was a big hang-out for me, an ancient damp ballroom stuck in the middle of the River Thames reached by a rickety wooden footbridge. But you felt that you were heading somewhere truly exotic.

It was the place where I began to understand the power of Rhythm & Blues.’ (Rod Stewart)

Last week was a big week.

My daughter started at University.

I drove her there with a knotted stomach – hoping, praying, that these next years would be all that she hoped – the time of her life.

On the way I ceded control of the CD Player – she’s not exactly a fan of the usual fare I play – Howling Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Arthur Alexander.

First up was an Elton John compilation.

‘Crocodile Rock’ blasted out and suddenly these lines really hit home :

’I never had me a better time and I guess…

View original post 1,032 more words

Picture this.

I’m challenging myself to give you a description without a particularly relevant image, this image is of a small house in Carpenteria, and is meant as decoration to this piece rather than having any particular relevance as the blog is about an image I have in my head, not in digital format.


We went to Carpenteria’s Museum, in this small town on the coast just below Santa Barbara. It’s worth a visit.

As we entered the place, a long single storey building which was dark as we walked in. A delightful elderly lady welcomed us in and asked if we’d like to see the Museum, if so she would turn the lights on, which she kindly did. It’s not that she was working in the dark, just that she was lit a little by the doorway and some localised lighting.

Behind her I noticed a lady, of similar age I’d guess, in what might be called the back office. She was in profile to us, dark haired with a pair of glasses with wings. Her chin was in a set in a determined way, slightly jutting forward in concentration, her bottom lip slightly forward of her top. She was lit by two frosted glass bell jar type of lights from long leads going to the ceiling. The yellow light lit her and the top of her head, and in front of her was an old style computer screen which cast a very slightly blue light to the edge her noble profile. She sat quite still in rapt attention to her task. Behind her were racks and racks of shelves with what looked like ancient box files. Wooden shelves and dark files. The whole thing was framed by the doorway to her small office. This entire sepia scene, was just a few seconds as her colleague was busy explaining to us the delights of the Museum, and it would have been a little odd to keep looking over her shoulder.

It could have been a Norman Rockwell work. Here, in the background, was an elderly lady who when she was born probably wrote on a small chalkboard at school, and now she’s busy fathoming a computer.

It’s stayed with me, you’ll have to imagine it.



Give them a break.

It’s a fine balance staying with family. You like to be helpful but essentially you are getting in the way of a routine they have in place. So we thought before we came here to California: “Give them a break!”

We booked to go North in a hire car to Santa Barbara and to stay slightly inland at Ojai. For the uninitiated that’s pronounced  Oh Hi! I’d also planned a trip to the coast to have a guided bird watch trip with Jenny, both the accommodation and the outing were booked through Air bandb and both very much lived up to expectations. They don’t much have to factor in bad weather in these parts and this was no exception.

The place we stayed in Ojai was right here: Ojai BandB, and the birding trip with Jenny right here: Birding.

The drive north was a revelation with five lanes of traffic going both ways, ten lanes in all!! Like a moving sea of metal. That’s about as poetic as this gets. Once off Highway 101 we had a pleasant drive up to Ojai up what was quite a normal road for us, and our next day was the birding foray, plus a trip to Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens. I relied on a woman telling me where to go from my dashboard, she had a habit of saying that there was light traffic on our route and sullenly staying quiet when there was not.


After our great bird watching experience it was a walk along the beach, before a short drive into the hills for our trip to the Botanical gardens. Apart from driving into someone’s driveway in a sat nav glitch, we got there fine and what a lovely place. They are bound to have a cafe with the usual giant snacks? No! They don’t and for lunch we had a thing called a lunchpot from a vending machine, it was truly plastic in every way, but oddly, enough for us on what was a very hot day.

There’s a reason they don’t do catering at the site and it’s all down to fire. This area suffered very badly quite recently from what’s called the Thomas Fire. We saw blackened trees in the area where the leaves were regenerating on some, but not all. It laid large areas to waste. What’s this got to do with lunch? Well the City Council does not want huge numbers going to the gardens ‘for lunch’ as there’s one route in and one out. So in the event of fire there would be a problem. So here’s an attraction that discourages visitors who only want to eat. Neat!

The place is not huge and there are walkways everywhere, with some stunning plants and trees. Here’s a view and here’s more: The Gardens









The Barking Lot


It’s the name of a Vet Practice and it can only be in California, or at least the USA. They like these names for businesses, perhaps they have something in common with South Yorkshire where the locals there seem to like business names that are intended to make one chuckle, or not! Judging by the look of the place it was doing ok.

We were on our way to a Vegan Restaurant for a spot of brunch, a bit of a treat for me on Father’s Day, on top of the jar of marmalade bought from Larchmont Farmer’s Market. Marmalade being one of my foodie passions and not very common in these parts where they have enough oranges to be making marmalade all year round, and daughter and family have lemons growing in the garden. Meanwhile back to the vegan brunch. I had a wrap and some spuds, the wrap had chick peas and all sorts of grainy things in it with a spicy tomato ketchup with an exceedingly deep and rich flavour, the whole thing was delicious. Daughter had pancakes that looked like a small tower with fruit on the penthouse level and sweet things at mezzanine. Normal meat eating steak man son in law took to the grains too whilst grandchildren tucked into a pizza, with cheese made from cashew. It was in many ways a revelation, not just from the taste of the food but the vast amounts that is served. It’s not often that “Clean Plate Davies” is defeated but this was a notable success for the server.

Back to base camp to recover, and check out where we are going tomorrow, and there faced with what I’m now told is called “The Black Screen of Death” on my iPhone, which essentially means the thing won’t work. It’s a first world problem that we’ll deal with. We might even have to look at a map.


We passed Helga on the way, there has to be a story here. Who is Helga and what exactly happened in 1966, or was that just the route? Get your kicks on Route 66?



Why so many overhead wires?

There’s probably a very good explanation for it but the streets of Los Angeles seem to have dozens of old power lines. Or may be they’re new. Walking past this area the other day I could not help notice, with the ultra modern new skyscraper in the background. There were also people having a lesson in “how not to walk”.



The last time we came here…

There were no mobile phones, or cell phones as they call them round these parts. We were met then by Derek, a friend who’s ambition was to live in the States and be a hot shot lawyer, who could have blamed him then, it was the 80’s and he was from Nottinghamshire. His girlfriend Carol was a Californian who wanted, and did achieve, a quiet life in the UK, turning her back on California.

Like us, at the time, or a little before in his case as he’d already settled over there, we had been living in the same house in Shepherd’s Bush, London, hence the connection. One of those big old regency houses near the BBC, a bit gone on the edges and divided into so called ‘flats’. I had the top floor and Derek and Carol were my neighbours in a small bedsit on the floor below.

Derek’s new ‘Condo’ in the Santa Monica area of LA was, to say the least, a little different, being the size of a junior basketball pitch and with, even for the 80’s almost every conceivable mod con. A big improvement on a front room in Shepherd’s Bush with a kitchen in the corner and a Baby Belling. ( Remember those? Small cookers that were used a lot in bedsits, that could heat up to nuclear fission temperatures and presented an almost unthinkable fire hazard. Common in the 70s and 80s )

I can still remember the pervading smell of gasoline when we landed at the airport, LA was suffering one of those petrochemical smogs, that we don’t hear about much these days. Derek had forgotten what time he was due to pick us up, we had no means to find him apart from a pay phone in the airport, he wandered into the terminal eventually with an apology, and off we went. No texting or ‘whats apping’  in those heady days. I’ve no idea what became of Derek, he probably did become a hot shot lawyer, he was driven enough. Carol became a potter in East Anglia.

I remember also from back then the hundreds of TV channels with little worth watching and a plethora of ads, some of the oddest ads I’d ever seen on TV. Cowboys recommending medicines for constipation was a particular one that lingered far too long in the memory. It’s changed a little, there are dozens of ads for the fattiest foods you could possibly imagine, and the strangest ads for medicines that have a litany of what harm they can do to you if you happen to have other medical issues. In fact they go on so much about the side effects you wonder why they are still in business. There’s a whiff of lawyers around for these ads. Wonder if it’s Derek?

We went out, treated by daughter, the other night, for a sushi dinner. I’m familiar with only sushi Sheffield style, where my son takes us when we go up there. Yorkshire sushi is a slightly different to LA sushi.

The place was in an unassuming parade of shops not far from the 101 Freeway, not dressy, just casual with simple seating. Quite noisy from people chattering, thankfully no music, service was quick and friendly, but as daughter said ” Can’t take that long to put raw fish on a plate”, which was a little on the harsh side as it came looking and tasting great, and not all of it was raw.

We got there by Uber taxi, the journey there silent, the journey back we were driven by a guy who’d been Michael Jackson’s driver for a short while. This journey  peppered with conversation about all the places he’d been, he made us very welcome in LA, while being interrupted by the lady giving him directions to the house on his cell phone. How taxis managed in this huge town before Sat Nav and Uber is baffling.

To get an idea of the size of the place you could take a trip to the Griffith Observatory, from where you can see the whole of the city spreading out before you, with the straight roads narrowing to the horizon. We had a little outing up there. It’s also where James Dean was filmed in “Rebel without a Cause”, so they’ve put up a statue of him there to celebrate. I have to say, not the best piece of sculpture of James Dean, it’s a bust, and makes him look in his late 50’s, he was only 24 when he died, and I think it needs to be a full body statue to get that particular slouchy look he personified.







The unutterable glamour of flying.

Travelling long haul is exactly that, a long haul. I’m not convinced of the glamour. We took to the skies by the so called trendy Virgin Atlantic to Los Angeles to visit family who’ve gone there for a while. It was, I suspect just like any other airline, the planes are the same, and the seats not a lot different unless you pay a King’s ransom to fly anything other than “Economy”. We thought we’d gone one cheaper still by flying “Economy Light” until I discovered that the light meant that you could not take any clothes with you to Los Angeles that would not stuff into a case small enough to fit an overhead locker. It’s probably popular as I’ve discovered since being here, that you only need a change of shorts and t shirt, and my wooly socks and jumpers could have stayed at home. It cost me another 90 quid to bring those woollies with us.

Stuffed into a seat with a telly in the seat in front for nearly 11 hours is not recommended for good back health, or for the digestion. And to help you along they bring what appears to be “meals on wheels-like food”. It was not as bad as The dream and the reality…  and they had made the effort, but after such a meal I’d have liked a good healthy walk in the fresh air rather then being cooped up in a metal tube. I suppose I could have walked up to first class to see how the other half live. To be fair they looked as raddled as we did after 11 hours and US customs to deal with. I felt like and probably looked like a badly wrapped parcel.

We’d started the journey in England with a coach ride to Heathrow which added a frisson of tension to the journey when the driver took a detour to avoid traffic jams on the M4 by heading south onto the M3. Visions of missed flight loomed but only briefly. His insistence of regaling us with every single safety advice, which was then repeated on a recording after every stop was enough to drive you to distraction, but his creative route taking enabled us to keep moving and get to the airport on time. So we forgave him.

We’ve been here in La La Land for a few days and the sun has not stopped shining. This massive sprawl of housing and roads stretches for miles, with glamorous areas cross-fading into the more down at heel within a few blocks. Criss cross street plans make it easy enough to get around, heaven knows how drivers from the USA manage on our roads. I doubt there is such a thing as a car without automatic transmission. The people are friendly, and chatty, unlike our British reserve. In a supermarket to pick up a Rug Doctor carpet cleaner a guy nearby volunteered that he found it so hard to do he’d just “got a guy to do it for him”. Daughter replied pointing to me: “He’ll do it for me”.

So here we are and I’m cleaning carpets five and a half thousand miles from home. I brought an apple and orange on the journey only to have to hand it in before I reach US customs. High mileage fruit is not welcome here, and they even have sniffer dogs to seek it out.

More tales from La La Land will follow, if I can stop the sweat leeching through the keyboard.



Here’s a house with a roof like a thatch, except it’s tiles!