Friday, 5 December 2008

Another book with benches ...

Re-reading Dracula by Bram Stoker recently, I wondered about how I could have forgotten that classic bench scene when the Count first takes blood from Lucy:

At the edge of the West Cliff above the pier I looked across the harbour to the East Cliff, in the hope or fear - I don't know which - of seeing Lucy in our favourite seat. There was a bright full moon, with heavy black, driving clouds, which threw the whole scene into a fleeting diorama of light and shade as they sailed across. For a moment or two I could see nothing, as the shadow of a cloud obscured St Mary's Church and all around it. Then as the cloud passed I could see the ruins of the Abbey coming into view; and as the edge of a narrow band of light as sharp as a sword-cut moved along, the church and the churchyard became gradually visible. Whatever my expectation was, it was not disappointed, for there, on our favourite seat, the silver light of the moon struck a half-reclining figure, snowy white. The coming of the cloud was too quick for me to see much, for shadow shut down on light almost immediately; but it seemed to me as though something dark stood behind the seat where the white figure shone, and bent over it. What it was, whether man or beast, I could not tell; I did not wait to catch another glance, but flew down the steep steps to the pier and along by the fish-market to the bridge, which was the only way to reach the East Cliff. The town seemed as dead, for not a soul did I see; I rejoiced that it was so, for I wanted no witness of poor Lucy's condition. The time and distance seemed endless, and my knees trembled and my breath came laboured as I toiled up the endless steps to the Abbey. I must have gone fast, and yet it seemed to me as if my feet where weighted with lead, and as though every joint in my body were rusty. When I got almost to the top I could see the seat and the white figure, for I was now close enough to distinguish it even through the spells of shadow. There was undoubtedly something, long and black, bending over the half-reclining white figure. I called in fright, 'Lucy! Lucy!' and something raised a head, and from where I was I could see a white face and red, gleaming eyes. Lucy did not answer, and I ran on to the entrance of the churchyard. As I entered, the church was between me and the seat, and for a minute or so I lost sight of her. When I came in view again the cloud had passed, and the moonlight struck so brilliantly that I could see Lucy half-reclining with her head lying over the back of the seat. She was quite alone, and there was not a sign of any living things about.

Phew! Great book, just a pity there weren't more benches.

Monday, 1 December 2008

A little bit more of the buttery bench...

... as requested. Sorry I don't have the whole thing but isn't this beautiful?

Where did November go?

Ah, on Your Messages probably. Never mind here are some benches so beautiful they make me feel like crying:

They're designed by Nigel Ross and this is what he says on his website:

The love of the outdoors led me to working in various forestry related employment and eventually running my own fencing dyking and forestry business on Arran.

My art developed from this background with the rhythms and energy of nature being an inspiration and by the mid-nineties I was working fulltime as a sculptor and maker.

I sculpt from lengths of fallen trees creating abstract forms sometimes with a functional element. The sculpture, sculptural benches and furniture, bridges etc are situated in woodlands, parks, gardens, schools, hospitals, gardens, and new developments across Britain, Europe and USA.

It's a good thing these pictures have come out so small because really you need to go to his website and admire properly. The twist in the snow in particular.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Shhh! Private bench chat going on ...

Benches at the Chelsea Physic Garden

A rather prosaic bench inscription (although the moss is nicely buttery, it has to be said!)...

This one was more personal, I like the heart carved in the wood (it made me think of lovers' hearts and intials on trees) and also the wine glasses clinking (under the seat, next to the plaque) ...

It was hard to resist going to sit on these, although the rain stopped play ...

And I loved the shape of this one ...

Monday, 20 October 2008

Consider the bench book

Thanks to Garden Monkey, for drawing my attention to this link to the Domestik Goddess's post on garden benches, and the reference to Mirabel Osler's book on The Garden Bench.

The always interesting and normally reliable Garden Monkey however wondered whether a whole book on garden benches isn't just a little indulgent.

Hah, I say, particularly with this blurb ...

Here are seats for languor, for conversation or momentary sloth, contemplative benches, benches for lovers, seats for scents, secrecy, twilight or shelter.

Which in my opinion makes it quite clear that just one book is not enough to contain all the poetry even a common-or-garden bench can inspire. Bring on the sequel.

(Interestingly, using the Domestik Goddess link to, the book costs over $80, but with, it's a snip at one penny. Does this mean we value benches more in the UK, or less? I wish I could see the book's cover.)

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Bench picnic

And do you know what the best thing is about this bench laden down by good French market food? I got to eat it - just yesterday!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Stay sleepless in Singapore

It's cheaper....

WHAT was supposed to be a free 15-minute nap on a park bench turned into a costly snooze for one Singaporean.
The New Paper on Tuesday reported that a 62-year-old, who only wanted to be known as Mr Kassim, was fined $200 when he dozed off on a Sun Plaza Park bench while taking shelter from the rain.

The National Parks Board (NParks) fined the private bus driver for having misused the park facility by sleeping on the bench.

Saddle up now ....

Many thanks to Beth for her photograph of this bench, found in Park City, Utah:

Do please send me your bench pictures - I have this vision of a map of benches from all over the world, so we can have a nice 'quiet sit down' wherever we are!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Secrets and benches

You never know what you might find on a park bench...

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Whispering bench

This bench is in West Fairfield park, Pennsylvania, as part of a monument to the area's Civil War military and naval heroes. "A person sitting at one end of the bench can turn and whisper into the wall behind him. A second person sitting at the opposite end can clearly hear what is being said."

Thursday, 4 September 2008

State meetings on benches...

An extract from Trea Martyn's book, Elizabeth in the Garden:

In the late 1580's, Elizabeth commissioned Richard Dixon to carve four six-foot-long seats for the gardens at Greenwich. According to the Office of Works accounts, the seats were 'turned with rails and baluster with a lion and a dragon supporting the queen's badges, with two arches under the seats and two elbows to lean, one carved with pediments crested for the weather carved with teh rose and crown with the Queen's letters, with an ostrich, a tassel and an eagle crowned holding a sceptre crowned.' Numerous new seats were added to the gardens and orchard. There were long seats for the garden, one in a 'jasper colour', which gave the appearance of marble and symbolised chastity. In the orchard, three seats, seven benches and several arbours were repainted in jasper, and a canopy was added to the Queen's seat. Four seats in the orchard were painted the colour of brick, and a 'back board for her Majesty to sit against' was painted in diverse colours and gilded.

Towards the end of the century, Portington, the Master Carpenter, made a 'fair standing seat in the mulberry tree garden and new seat with four pillars under the same tree for her Majesty.' The seat was eight feet long and six feet wide, 'standing upon terms arched and carved.' It was painted 'with ash-colour and jasper like rance [a kind of marble, or a red colour varied with veins and spots of blue and white] in water colour'. The four pillars made a pavilion, built around the mulberry tree. Joiners added six five-foot-long and five-foot-high seats with balusters and 'a carved pediment on top' painted jasper and gilded. In 1600, nineteen seats in the orchard and garden were given a new coat of paint. The following year, one last seat was made for the garden: it had a brick base painted a stone colour and a blue lead-covered roof.

The impression is that Elizabeth built a suite of outdoor meeting rooms in her gardens at Greenwich. We might imagine her conducting state business there, recalling her meetings with Cecil in the garden at Theobalds concerning the war in the Netherlands, during the fateful summer of 1587.

Stirring stuff. I haven't managed to find a photograph of what these benches might have looked like, but here's the Shakespeare garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. However, this is very definitely not a queenly bench:

Better is this one at the Elizabethan gardens also in America.

I don't feel too bad at having to go out of the country to find Elizabethan garden references, because Trea Martyn says she had to also in researching her wonderful book. It makes me wonder if any bench has been listed yet?

ps here's some Jasper for you to see the colour ...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Benches as advertising sites

I suppose it will be coming here soon, but not for a long time, I hope.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Bench cartoon

From The Garden Monkey via the Guardian newspaper.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

A poem by the wonderfully named Everette Maddox:


Mind if I put up
a park bench
in your mind?
I mean, if
the mind is a park,
why not have a poem in it?
After all, when
you get through
buying hotdogs &
getting a load
of the swans
you'll want
some place to
sit down. It
ought to be fairly
comfortable by
the time a few
generations of
transient assholes
have worn it
smooth, & the paint
off – though
the original idea
was to advertise
my product: my own
green life, now
flaking into winter.

NB: I hadn't heard of this New Orleans poet before, but this is an account of his funeral:
When the poet Everette Maddox died in New Orleans, in February of 1989, more than four hundred persons showed up for his funeral march. It began on Oak Street, at the Maple Leaf Bar and followed a Dixieland Band to Carrollton Station, where it paused and had drinks before winding back to the funeral services at the Maple Leaf

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Beautiful Alpine Benches

(subtitled - how much I *heart* the Dolomites. Is it possible to be homesick for a place you've only visited briefly?)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Book bench

Thanks to roving correspondent, Sylvia Petter for this photograph of the bench in the lobby of the British Library

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Sitting electronically?

Scientists in China have worked out a way to turn old circuit boards into park benches.

"In the study, the researchers developed a process to recycle those nonmetallic materials, which they say could be used to produce diverse items like sewer grates, park benches and fences. The recycled material could also be a substitute for wood and other materials since it is almost as strong as reinforced concrete. "There is no doubt that the technique has potential in the industry for recycling nonmetallic materials of PCBs," Xu says."

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Benches at Bolzano

Here are some of the benches (or stones) behind the new arts centre at Bolzano, the capital city near where we were staying. Apparently it gets to be both the hottest and the coldest city in Italy ... The two bridges in the first photo were put in just a month ago, and wobbled nicely - just as London's Millennium bridge should have done if only people had kept their nerve.

I like the shape of the museum's benches, very simple and organic:

Saturday, 12 July 2008

How to see a city

So here I am, trying to decide whether to go to Vancouver or not next year so I google it and get the above pic. It's trying to tell me something....

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Transplanted benches

Here's an old railway station bench...

now happily basking in the sun in a corner of a bucolic Kent garden.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Benches at the Redcross garden

A visit to the Redcross garden in Bankside, London garnered some wonderful benches. The garden was originally built by the social reformer, Octavia Hill, to act as an outside sitting room for the needy local people but then fell into disrepair for many years. Now it's an oasis, with this beautiful pond-side bench to sit on and dream.

And this recognition of someone who dreamed (and nagged) for the revival of the garden:

And this one to Elizabeth Casson who went on to help found the occupational health profession after seeing what good could be done in the garden's hall which put on activities such as dancing, singing, poetry readings and children's games...

And this bench is where the garden's fans hope the bandstand will one day be built again...

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Sunday Morning in St James Park

Dozing on benches...

and look at these deck chairs, set out two by two...