At the match: Westfield v Alfold

A tackle – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, All rights reserved

The glorious sun gave way to cloud and intermittent rain but, in spite of the disappointing weather, those who made their way to the Parish Field had themselves an entertaining game of football, one that both sides will be annoyed with themselves with not winning and which ended with honours even and a 3-3 draw.

This was a topsy-turvy game that never actually really settled.  The ball spent a lot of time in the air and neither side seemed able to put their foot down and control the match.  If Sky were here they would almost certainly have 50/50 possession and 33/33/33 territory.  Westfield led 1-0 and 3-2 and the visitors held the advantage at 2-1.  The woodwork was rattled.  The referee had to calm uncool heads.  In the end hands were shaken with rueful smiles.

All in all, an enjoyable afternoon.  I took some photos: they are here.

At the Royal College of Physicians: Scholar, Courtier, Magician: the lost library of John Dee

John Dee – Portrait in the Asmolean Museum. (Wikipedia)

By the 1580s, John Dee had amassed a library containing hundreds of volumes.  His collection covered his principal interest: everything.  He was well-read, informed and listened to.  We may think of him today as a dark figure furtively practising the occult from his home in Mortlake but it wasn’t that simple.  Yes, he did that but, yes, he also did much else besides.  Either way, whilst travelling in Europe his brother-in-law, to whom he had entrusted his collection, allowed it to be ransacked and broken up.  Dee never came close to bringing his library back together again. Now, the Royal College of Physicians is displaying some of the hundred or so volumes that came into their possession in the seventeenth century that were part of Dee’s collection.

It’s a simple conceit but a rather brilliant exhibition.  The books are displayed so that we can see Dee’s own notes in the margin.  Like any good student sometimes he merely underlines a passage of interest, at other points he scribbles at length.  What they show is a man of relentless, restless intellect and curiosity who saw no divide between the spirit and rational worlds because nobody had yet come along to prove which was truly the best way to understand the world.  He was a mathematician, astronomer, spy (one suggestion being that his attempts to contact ghosts as described in his diary are an elaborate code for his secret service) and many other things too.  What he wasn’t, ever, was a Doctor or Physician in any real sense.  But we now know him as Doctor Dee in part because of how his legacy was set up by people who only focused on the fantastical elements of his life.  As this sensitive and compelling exhibition shows we have done an supremely interesting, if not always accurate, man a major disservice.

John Dee’s house in Mortlake is long gone although there is a block of flats in SW14 called John Dee House.  The library went before the house.  And the reputation of the man has drifted more and more towards legendary.  There are many facts we can’t know and a lot we can only infer but what this exhibition does so well is reveal who John Dee was and what he did, whilst leaving space for the enigma and myth to thrive.

At the match: Little Common v Bexhill United

Bexhill United in blue visit Little Common – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, All rights reserved

Overnight Storm Katie left a trail of fallen trees, torn off roofs and damage ranging from the “first world problem” level to the genuinely worrying.  Katie was still howling as these two local rivals ran out with the memory of their last meeting when five red cards were brandished still fresh.  Drama was therefore promised and whilst, with the wind lashing in a straight line from behind one goal towards the other, it did not quite match the set-up this was still a game with hard tackles, good goals and not a little skill.  I enjoyed myself.

The visitors had the lead at half time.  With the wind at their backs they had most of the early possession and got the ball over the line midway through the half before being called for offside. By the time they scored though it felt slightly against the run of play as by then Little Common had asserted dominance where it counted.  A pattern that continued into the second half although it was very late on – and with Bexhill down to ten men – before the home side pulled away to a deserved victory.  3-1 might have slightly flattered them but only slightly.

There was a decent enough crowd, the majority taking shelter from the breeze in the only covered area behind the goal nearest the clubhouse.  As a result of today Little Common now sit 9 points ahead of Bexhill in the table – and with two games in hand could turn the dominance gained from doing the double over their neighbours into a sound beating in the league table.  But I was warned, starkly, by a fellow spectator that with the fixture pile up caused by so many winter waterlogged pitches that they may fade a bit after today.  After all, it’s local bragging rights you want and having got those Little Common may well ease off a bit.

I took the camera along (and got a ‘thank you’ for taking photos of Bexhill Ladies last week, which was nice) and when it wasn’t being blown about got some photos which can be seen here 


At the match: Bexhill United LFC v Leyton Orient WFC

Concentration – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016 – All rights reserved

Bexhill are looking forward to Wednesday when the first women’s match under lights at the Polegrove will be played.  The visitors will be nearby rivals Eastbourne Town.  Both sides need to take the positives from such firsts because today, in routine league action, both lost 4-0 and they occupy the bottom two sports of the London & South East Regional League.  There’s not much glory here, just a lot of hard slog.

Orient are a decent side. They moved the ball well even if their coach was a little too fond of telling everyone who’d listen that the total football he yearned his girls to play was being stifled by the sand-covered pitch.  The ladies in red were thwarted multiple times by a brutal offside trap that saved Bexhill on numerous occasions.  The hosts needed to be resolute in defence as there were few chances going their way at the other end.  With a bit more belief Bexhill could really be a decent team but belief must be hard to come by when the season has only brought you 9 points from a possible 54.

There were a few in the crowd and what they saw was a decent, if not close, game played in an excellent spirit.  I took some photos and they are here.

At the Match: Westfield v Montpelier Villa

A Montpelier Villa player ponders the mud – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016 – All rights reserved

“I think we’re the crowd,” I said to the man next to me as our conversation about the Scottish Welfare Football Association came to a close.  “I think we are,” he agreed.  The only other people around us, five minutes before kick off, were club members, match officials and players.

After a mostly dry week, albeit one with stormforce winds that blew Hastings’ seafront helter skelter over, Saturday morning saw virtually every local football match fall victim to waterlogged pitches. Biblical rain began at the sunrise and didn’t let up until well into the afternoon.  Somehow the sodden Parish Field home of Westfield passed the test and so we had a football match.  There weren’t many here to see it (although it did grow beyond the two I’d feared) and those who were there stood cowering under the inadequate shelter provided by the small patch of roof attached to the clubhouse.  The players stood up to the test though and whilst the match was never even close to classic it was far more skilful and entertaining than we could ever have predicted.

The only goal came on 31 minutes via the boot of Nick Boutal.  Clear chances were as rare as clean jerseys but even with that the posts of both teams were rattled and there was plenty of probing attack – even if they were often undone either by the conditions or by strong defence.  Remarkably, again given the conditions, the quality of play was decent throughout and nobody felt the urge to use the slippery surface as an excuse to take someone out with a full-on slide.  The Westfield no. 16 deserves credit for ending the match looking like he’d spent the previous two hours on a rugby field at the bottom of a ruck.

All in all, a good time was had by most – I’m sure Westfield would have been happier if they’d finished with a point although Montpelier probably did enough to justify plundering the spoils.  Around me there was talk that Westfield’s much planned new ground over the road could be nearing reality. A decent home is the least this excellent club deserve.

(I took the camera. Resultant photos, all from the same vaguely dry spot, are here.)

At the Lucy Bell Gallery: Bruce Rae “Looking Glass”

Image by Bruce Rae showing at the Lucy Bell Gallery – click on the image to go to the exhibition website

As a homage to monochrome photography, the art of printing, and the intriguing beauty of still life, Bruce Rae’s “Looking Glass” exhibition now showing at the Lucy Bell Gallery in St Leonards has few equals.  There is grace, elegance and, for want of a much better word, allure in these images that seem so simple but which are the result of a combined eye for detail at the mechanical stage of pressing a shutter and then in the quest for a printing process and format to bring forth the desired result.  It is all quite affecting. 

The paper Rae used in the 1980s has long gone.  In the intervening years he has tried all manner of vintage processes, notably salt printing (there’s a nice Telegraph article from 2001 that comes up via a quick google).  But for this collection he has ‘gone back’ (per the press release) to a more standard approach and printed onto silver gelatin papers.  The resulting pictures have a superficially narrow colour range but within that reveal myriad tones and depths.  When even a shot of a lightbulb makes you gasp you know you’re in the presence of something special.

The exhibition has but a short time to run on Norman Road.  Get yourself there and be entranced.

At Somerset House: The Museum of Innocence

The Museum of Innocence at Somerset House

A collection of vitrines (glass cabinets) await the visitor who, to get here, has already followed the arrows, observed the video loops of walks around a town and who is now keen to see the fragments and mementoes of a fictional relationship curated by Orhan Pamuk whose novel is, in this exhibition, brought to some kind of fictional life.  This shouldn’t work.  Or at least it should be unspeakably pretentious.  It may be the latter, I’m no judge and, anyway, I like a dose of pretension, but it is also remarkably affecting.

Various objets are collected, along with, on a facing wall, notes about each of the vitrines.  Some of the objects are mundane, everyday items, some seem more obviously personal.  One cabinet is filled with football player cigarette cards.  You can easily imagine interlocking lives and loves which these things may have touched.  It reminded me of the story of how, when the British tried to fake a spy from a corpse they spent months collecting the detritus that would fill his wallet: ticket stubs, dry cleaning bills, a few coins.  I turned out my pockets as a I left the exhibition and a raffle ticket fell out.  I have no idea if I won.  I have no idea where I even bought it.

It is all arranged with such precision that it recalls old style natural history museums with their pinned down bugs, only here it is the minutiae of our shared existence that is being catalogued.  This could all become cold or excluding – I was never in love in Istanbul in the 1970s – but it isn’t.  You leave wondering what would be in your collection


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