Summertime at Moorgate and Wantage Road

(Warning – this post contains images of nudity)

A couple of pieces of public art to welcome the arrival of Summer.  This is from the City of London (outside Moorgate Station)

This is advertised as being by Salvador Dali.   In fact, it appears to be have been fabricated  by a dealer based on a illustration for Alice in Wonderland that Dali had drawn late in life (the Guardian has the story here) –   The asking price, should you wish to buy it, is £1.5 million.

Simply as an object – and I pass it every morning on my way to work – I rather like this.  If they were selling it for £14.99 in Homebase as a piece of garden furniture I’d be tempted to acquire one.  

That Dali was illustrating Alice at all reminds me of what Orwell had to say in his generally uncomplimentary (“he is as antisocial as a flea”) essay “Benefit of Clergy : some notes on Salvador Dali“, in which he wrote of

“…  the old-fashioned, over-ornate Edwardian style of drawing to which Dali tends to revert when he is not being Surrealist … Picturesqueness keeps breaking in. Take away the skulls, ants, lobsters, telephones and other paraphernalia, and every now and again you are back in the world of Barrie, Rackham, Dunsany and WHERE THE RAINBOW ENDS … It may be therefore, that Dali’s seemingly perverse cult of Edwardian things … is merely the symptom of a much deeper, less conscious affection. The innumerable, beautifully executed copies of textbook illustrations, solemnly labelled LE ROSSIGNOL, UNE MONTRE and so on, which he scatters all over his margins, may be meant partly as a joke… But perhaps these things are also there because Dali can’t help drawing that kind of thing because it is to that period and that style of drawing that he really belongs.”

This, on the other hand, is from the window of the osteopath near to the County Ground in Northampton that has featured before on this blog –

A skeleton on its way to the beach on a bicycle, dressed in a sort of bright green hooded bathrobe (and note the cricket bat in the lower foreground).  A piece of home-grown vernacular surrealism that, I imagine, would set you back a good deal less than £1.5 m.

September Sun by David Gascoyne

As I’ve mentioned before, getting up early does have its compensations at this time of year.  Before the darkness descends completely, I can see the dawn before or during my train journey into work and the sunset on the way home.  Sometimes the effects can be quite spectacular.  Here are a couple of photographs I took the other morning in between Harborough and Kettering.  It looks as though there is a high wind blowing from left to right, but in fact it is the speed of the train (heading from left to right) that causes this effect.


And here is a poem to go with them.  David Gascoyne was originally a Surrealist, who published his first volume of poems at 16 and rescued Salvador Dali from the diving suit he had unwisely chosen to wear to the London International Surrealist Exhibition of  1936.  He flirted briefly with the Communist Party, was involved in the Mass Observation project, performed with ENSA during the war and spent most of his later life in France.  His post-war poetry was generally in this Neo-Romantic style and was deeply religious.

By the nineteen-seventies he found himself living on the Isle of Wight, and spending some time in a pyschiatric hospital.  One day a therapist – Judy Tyler Lewis – visited.  Her role was to read poetry to the patients in an effort to cheer them up.  She read September Sun.  Gascoyne stood up and pointed out that he had written it.  At first she assumed this was a delusion, but soon discovered that it was the truth.  One thing led to another, they married and lived happily after after.  Poetry can occasionally make something happen, you see.


September Sun: 1947
by David Gascoyne

Magnificent strong sun! in these last days
So prodigally generous of pristine light
That’s wasted only by men’s sight who will not see
And by self-darkened spirits from whose night
Can rise no longer orison or praise:

Let us consume in fire unfed like yours
And may the quickened gold within me come
To mintage in due season, and not be
Transmuted to no better end than dumb
And self-sufficient usury. These days and years

May bring the sudden call to harvesting,
When if the fields Man labours only yield
Glitter and husks, then with an angrier sun may He
Who first with His gold seed the sightless field
Of Chaos planted, all our trash to cinders bring.