Thursday, October 6, 2022

Thursday, August 25, 2022


The exponential growth of industry and population around some of China’s central cities on the plains upriver from Xian meant that age-old flooding and drainage problems were getting worse whilst a constant water supply could never be sufficient.  So, back in the early part of this century it became necessary to find ways to engineer the drainage, and also find some way to capture water on the rainy south side of the Quinling Mountains and deliver it in a steady flow to the north side.  


The World Bank were asked to finance the drainage scheme … and their preliminary report was a kind of geography lesson …

The bright idea that followed was to locate exactly the right point on the south side of the mountains where the most water flowing off the south side of the Qinling Mountains could be gathered from the upper part of the Hanjiang River system, and then to deliver all of it through one huge and more or less horizontal tunnel, back under the mountains to the area where the plains of the Weihe River and the Yellow River merge.

It turned out that the mountains were incredibly hard and brittle as well as being waterlogged and so the tunnelling was fraught with danger and it took thirteen years.  Here’s the news footage that celebrated the tunnel’s completion.

And here's a sanitized view of working conditions for the labourers ...

Monday, July 18, 2022

my episodic memory

the loved one is reading through a stack of her diaries ... going back more than thirty years ... and we had a short conversation about memory in which i gave a frivolous explanation of why i don't keep a diary 

i said, somewhat self-importantly, that I felt no need to file my past in a strict order ... and i went on to suggest that anyway, everything that we can remember seems as if it happened yesterday

but in truth, i'd be ashamed to commit a lot of self-inflicted fiascos and disasters to a journal

later in the day there appeared a short video of a narrow street in a village in northern spain through which three shepherds and a couple of gentle old dogs were leading a large mixed herd of sheep and goats up towards the mountain pastures ... there was a wonderful cacaphony of ancient bells and occasional rasping country voices

and whilst i revelled in that sound, i remembered that i had journeyed not too far away from those shepherds many years since, back in 2001

and suddenly i needed to re-structure a memory

i set about searching the on-line maps to find a village i'd been stranded in when my van broke down ... the water pump had cracked and i had to wait there all day whilst another came fifty miles from the nearest big town, first on a service bus, and then on a school bus

it took a while to locate the village, Zarreu, because i had only remembered the name of the district, Cerredo ... different maps give the village one name or the other

on that morning, unable to converse with the mechanic, i had phoned a good spanish friend and asked him to translate as best he could

and then, all day, i had wandered the few streets of what turned out to be a coal-mining village

the language spoken in the village was an asturian dialect and i felt some connection with the place because my father was the son of a Welsh miner

so i had a vague recollection of the solidarity expressed by many Welsh people for the Asturian miners when they were oppressed, first by the mine owners, then by Franco

just a couple of weeks before this, the twin towers in New York had been destroyed

in the window of the village's tiny "casa cultura", someone had thoughtfully placed a copy of a famous poem about New York by Lorca, the one about black doves

my sense of connection became deeper

the water pump arrived right at the end of the working day, a friday ... but the mechanic said he'd come in first thing next morning to fit it and so i slept in the van that night

he didn't show up

but his apprentice did

after a wait, he decided the boss was probably too drunk to work, and so he did the job himself

it took a couple of hours and whilst i watched, the phone rang in their tiny office

he answered it, expecting a conversation with his boss ... but then he handed the phone to me

it was my friend linda, the english wife of the spaniard i had called for help the previous day

she said i have bad news ... your sister is wanting to contact you because your father has just died

the shed where i heard that news is still there

green door, what's that secret you're keeping ?

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

self-portraits ... part iii ...


sickert, 1889 and 1913

george bellows, both around 1921

andy warhol, 1966 and 1981

paula rego

goya 1790 and 1797

margaret bourke-white, 1933 and 1943

john la farge 1859 and 1864

isaac rosenberg 1915 and 1916

robert crumb, 1970 and 1990

and warhol, again

julie heffernan, maybe 2010 and 2015

godfried schalcken, d.1706