Thursday 3 August 2023
Once again much water has flowed under many bridges since last I added to this site. No need for tedious explanations, rather I'll offer this selecion of recent birthday pieces and a couple of re-discoveries linked loosely to this time of year.
Friday 8 January 2021
Ah, yes, a rather full five years have elapsed since the last update. Way too much to cover in this setting. So I'll just add some pieces from those years and then make it my intention to use and add to the site more often from now on.
3 October 2016
It's been a busy time since the last entry. Here is a piece which captures a few minutes during the Summer. 'Cafe by the Ardeche'.
9 April 2016
Spring has arrived, vigorously ... my new hip is settling in well... and off we go again though never quite as before - se 'The last onion'.
13 January 2016
Having passed 60 at Christmas I'm thinking that it is time to stop worriting on with questions of purpose and mortality, and simply get on with living. 'Re-Calibration' is my attempt to do just that.
20 July 2015
Pastoral church newsletters are not usually considered ground breaking literature, but having sweated over this one I thought it might be of interest to a wider readership than the Norwich Area churches for whom it is intended.
July 2 2015
A day of hot, crackling sun which reminds me of other days like this from a long time ago. The border pinks from our childhood garden which are now blooming here in Pakefield reinforces that good memory. See 'Pink Buttonholes'.
June 15 2015
After weeks of waiting and willing the peony buds to open out into blooms today seems to be the day!
Also a hand out which accompanied two Praying with clay workshops held last Sarurday at the URC Eastern Synod day out in Cambridge. No expertise was offered by me or required by the particpants but, rather like the peony, creativity bloomed anyway.
April 27 2015
A new week and a new poem relating how events of some 30 years ago came to an unexpected resolution - see 'Miss G's Revenge'. This is followed by a collection of pieces produced for last year's May Day event at the Seagull Theatre.
April 21 2015
Spring is well under way, the sun shines and a quiet few hours have enabled the website to go live. You will see that it is far from complete but some recent material is now available and other archive stuff will appear soon.
March 24 2015
After many months offline the fosten.com website 'Heaven in Ordinarie' is gradually returning. The new site will grow as and when I acquire some 'how to do it' knowledge and find a few moments in which to post material
If you have always wanted to ask me something, now is the time to go for it!
Sonnet - after George Herbert
Art - a disapproved intrusion into everyday;
money diverted from utility to bling;
a pointless twisting ladder topped with birds -
why shiny metal when the real ones fly around?
Who'll see the lighting when the night time hours
make of the precinct a desolate, empty, windswept place?
Fancy aspirations; money outwitting taste;
an effete affront to a town of honest graft.
Art - a counter-balance to the deadweight drag
of pound shops, eddying litter and too-young pregnancy;
a life-line from a 2-D world of cash and goods;
aspiration breaking free from all that is mundane and dull;
playful, fun, subversive; the spiritual in drag;
something whole and holy: something precious - not quite understood.
Water and pigment flow without boundaries
within a scene where canvas and timber,
mist and tide succumb to the lightest
of breezes and manufacture motion.
As day draws subtly out of night
a contradiction resolves, mystically;
a deadweight of many tons
assumes a fluid character to sounds,
less those of speed or movement,
much more like restless sleep -
a creak, a sigh, soft steadiness of easy breath.
The mist curtain draws clear,
reveals a world of carrying way,
making steerage, offering purchase;
where blocks allow free movement,
where ropes are sheets,
where planks are sheer and
hulls may tumblehome....
And thus this ghost of how once was
affirms the beauty and the promise of today.
The High Light
The High Light
reaches low point
when the time comes
and the keeper goes.
There is money saved
as a trade give way;
a life's work is lost
on account of its cost.
Around the coast of these home nations
runs the tide of automation
as Trinity House ensure
there's nobody at home any more.
When first we met you were weeping,
tears for the painful loss of purpose,
and a wound held open by the
final stages of decline.
Formerly, you had bristled with industry;
the shipyards, the coachworks,
the canning plants, the freight lines,
the tidal flow of bicycling workers ...
and fishing, the heroic icing on
the cake of dignity...
but these have gone and left behind
is a spent core, a vacuum, an aching heart
and heads that shake in grief and disbelief.
If Resurrection is a fine idea
what meaning might it take where
desolation, ghosts and fireweed should prevail?
Look carefully and well. Notice,
against the pink and rose of dawn,
the town rising again in outline;
new life, safe energy, prized heritage,
a beach washed clean, belief and hope
splashed out in water sparkle music
celebrate the newness of the day.
The Smokehouse, Raglan Street
So, here it is,
half-hidden behind planners' blight
and passing traffic blur -
a gem, a place wherein
is practised an ancient art.
The atmosphere is of place
yet not of time;
this could be any point from now
to back, back, back beyond our knowing;
any moment when fish
was taken, dressed with skill,
preserved against the hungry months.
Within more recent times the town
has seen huge segments of
industrial worth dismantled,
drained and lost. Famous names
and trades and dignity were
spun and carried off by progress,
only to disappear like
guttered leaves of Autumn.
Though not everything is lost -
for here, smoked and scented
by the ancient sacredness of oak,
persists and flourishes
a trade, a way of life,
a staple and a delicacy -
a timeless intermingling of
salt and air and fire
The Great Lowestoft Beach Robbery
Years before I'd come to where
a safe, sandy, sunny corner had
supplied a happy hour beside the sea.
Now I returned to walk again
the safe, sandy, sunny corner by
the sea and found it - gone!
Even at low tide, though the sun still shone,
safety had been breached, no sand remained,
just rocky remnants and a menacing wall.
Who had delivered this blow?
Who had pulled off this shameful heist?
What vehicle could remove a million tons of sand?
The council workmen scratch their heads,
the police have crises elsewhere to attend,
meanwhile, the local Poirots have their thoughts ...
To know how a beachful of sand can be mugged
just watch how the beach huts extend ever south,
and notice how Pakefield's suspiciously smug.
A significant Lowestoft building - not built by Morton Peto
Comely, she looks
in the low light of this winter's afternoon;
positioned carefully between the land and the sea.
She is a tethered island; a safe
and steady haven for sleek racing craft
and serious ocean voyagers alike.
George Skipper of Norwich set her style;
pragmatic, country house vernacular,
spacious, homely, purposefully glazed.
Without pretension she combines
angled pantile pitches, rugged rendered blocks,
appropriately tasteful piercings and a copper dome.
Her presence is within the town
but neither confined by nor dependent on it;
belonging here and, confidently, elsewhere too.
Where Peto stands full-square Italianate, rooted, fixed
and bristling with pigeon spikes,
Skipper's lady effortlessly unfurls her sails
in readiness to catch each passing breeze.
The Lowestoft Seafront Air Show
Who killed the Air Show?
said the weather - all I set was a challenge
said the council - though we mess up some, this was not one of ours
said the volunteers who steward the event, direct the cars, shake the buckets and inject enthusiasm into the pulse
said the pilots who steered around the cumulus then flipped and rolled and, one time, ended in the drink
said the enthusiasts who gripped binoculars, studied programmes, listened to the tannoy's tinny commentary on events
said the tight wads, the feckless, the cheats, the shallow men
and women, boys and girls who ride in other people's slipstream,
who drain the fun, steal community of substance, and only live
to take and take and take and take ...
and never give.
Fell Runners of the Eastern Flatlands
focus on the rhythm
balance effort with breath
effort with breath
focus on the rhythm
dig into the gradient,
focus on the rhythm
ease back on the downhill,
absorb the shockwaves
pretend this is a free wheel
balance the effort with breath,
focus on the rhythm
up - rhythm
down - rhythm
again - rhythm
balance - rhythm
breathing - rhythm
effort - rhythm
The Finish Line
An old shop in the High Street, Lowestoft
'Being an artist is to be in the business of taking notice ... '
For years I've known this former shop front -
but in a glancing, tangential
sort of way - glimpsed in passing or
as a backdrop for a parking place.
But now the artist arrests
my progress, demands
that I stand still and watch and see -
a piece of history, a relic of
a time that was,
an endangered species captured
by eye and brush before
it slips away beyond recall?
This High Street shop goes back
a long way, they say,
it runs deep, too, and
carries in its frame so many
characters and stories;
merchants and their businesses,
traders and their families;
even the helpless crones accused
of witchcraft at the Bury Assize.
For centuries this place has clung
tenaciously to where the cliff
falls away, sharply, as,
building by building, street by street
the town has shifted southwards.
A front door on the street,
a back door watching the fishing come
and go and with it a village and
a way of life washed away
by time and storm surge tide
and planners' choice.
So here the shop front stands
empty of goods but not of soul;
a quiet, private place where
a gentle beauty holds itself
until it is appreciated, savoured
and presented by the one who,
with his brush in hand,
Planning: a case study
An idea may look good on paper
yet not be successful on the street;
to separate the traffic from the people
sounds tidy but in practise isn't neat.
'Clear', 'safe', 'free-flowing' serve Utility;
'mingle and 'impediment' may delay
so these invisible threads of community
weren't valued and Utility won out that day.
And we turned the street into a pavement
and walled in a road between homes;
we separated Precinct from High Street,
cut ribbons, patted backs, said 'Well done!'
Each evening the Precinct's a funnel
for wind and litter and those
with no life, no trade and no purpose,
with no hope and nowhere to go.
So study this painting, you planners,
be humble and learn from mistakes;
deal in lifeblood not lines on a drawing
and bring hope to this town once again.
Advent in the Precinct – after Sir John Betjeman
'... and lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.'
The bells of waiting cash tills ring,
the Xmas musak plays again,
with lips drawn tight
and knuckles white
the Christmas husbands flit and flee
from cosmetics on to lingerie.
And as the East Coast sea fret swirls
hooded youths and scarce clad girls,
anacronyms in tweed and pearls,
rest wearily by winter flowers
in pigeon-shatted concrete bowers.
Then lads unplug their iPod bungs,
as do the girls and teenage mums,
and Sally Ann led carollers call ‘Come!’
even to shifty ones who’d rather dwell
snug by the fire at the Carlton Bell.
And is it true? And is there value
in this frenetic Winter fest? Seen in
a wind blown shopping mall, God
slipping in amongst us all? For
if that’s so, then do not tend
to grumble at the cards you send,
begrudge your family and friends,
or panic at your overspend,
but listen out, among the throng,
for that sweet sound: the Angel Song.
Notes on the poems
January : Painting 'Towards Lowestoft Town Centre' - Geoff Harmer
Sonnet When the steel sculpture of flying birds was erected there was a predictably negative response. This poem, which borrows its form from George Herbert's wonderful poem, 'Prayer' hears the negatives and attempts to move them on. The phrase 'spirituality in drag' was quoted by Grayson Perry in the 2013 Reith Lectures.
February : Painting 'Misty Departure, Lowestoft (Excelsior)' - Adrian Wincup
Ghosting attempts to capture the near mystical moment as a large wooden sailing vessel gets underway.
March : Painting 'Lowestoft Lighthouse' - Trevor Osborn
The High Light is, as the name suggests, the higher of the two original lighthouses in North Lowestoft - the other being, not surprisingly, the Low Light.
April : Painting 'Lowestoft Silhouettes' - David Buck
Resurrection. Lowestoft, in common with so many other towns, lost almost all of its historic industry in the second half of the 20th Century. What does the future hold?
May : Painting 'Smokehouse, Raglan Street' - Claire Louise Dowson
The Smokehouse, Raglan Street adds another optimistic note to the answer given in Resurrection.
June : Painting 'Towards Lowestoft' - Stephen Higton
The Great Lowestoft Beach Robbery observes that the scene shown by Stephen's painting pre-dates significant erosion of the northern end of Lowestoft's south beach.
July : Painting 'The Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, Lowestoft' - Dick Wolsey
A significant Lowestoft building not by Morton Peto. Peto was the entrepreneur largely responsible for the development and extension of Lowestoft during the 19th century. His Italianate style buildings (including the Town Hall, Post Office, Station and properties on Marine Parade) dominate the town's architectural landscape. George Skipper, who practised mainly in Norwich (the Royal Arcade, Jarrold's store and Norwich Union, Surrey St.) introduces a refreshingly different style with his Yacht Club (1903).
August : Painting 'Lowestoft Airshow' - Doreen Abel
The Lowestoft Seafront Airshow has been a Summer highlight for a number of years. If spectators at this free event had been more generous with donations the planes would be flying yet.
September : Painting 'Lowestoft Scores' - Sam Capps
Fell running in the Eastern Flatlands attempts to capture from the inside what it is like to be a runner in the gruelling annual 'Scores Race'.
October : Painting 'No. 36 High Street' - Richard Dack
An old shop front in the High Street, Lowestoft. The town of Lowestoft was originally clustered around what is now a rather lost and sometimes forlorn backwater at the north end of the present day shopping centre. The quotation was either coined or quoted by Grayson Perry in the 2013 Reith Lectures.
November : Painting 'The Odeon' - Lowestoft - Ian McKenzie
Planning ; A Case Study recognises that so many planning decisions in Britain during the 1960s and 70's prioritised traffic flow and uncritically assumed that separating pedestrians and vehicles was always a good idea. Hindsight reveals the massive damage done to community and town centre vibrancy by this policy.
December : Painting 'Angel Clouds over Christchurch, Lowestoft' - Mark Burrell
Advent in the Precinct is a homage to Betjeman's benchmark poem 'Christmas'.