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London, Rediscovering My City: Into the Wimbledon Wilderness

It’s been well over a year since I first discovered Wimbledon Common, despite its location but a few tube stops down from my humble abode. But even then, our walk straight through the wilderness did not betray the full extent of rurality (is that a word?!) which is retained in this mid-urban idyll. A recent revisit changed all that. Dragging my visiting mother in turn, we wandered back into Wimbledon Common to discover anew a bucolic enclave mere miles from one of the world’s most developed capital cities.

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Taking random turnings off the horse-beaten paths, we found ourselves delving deeper into denser forest, whose clearings became scarcer as bounteous ferns filled the forest floor, and nettles and wild berries crept up in between them. It was one of those late summer days that dreams are made of… The sun was tempered by a honeycomb filter and tree trunks were spattered intermittently with the resultant golden light.

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We got ourselves lost quite successfully and could have imagined that London was another country away were it not for our sudden emergence onto a neatly trimmed golf course in the middle of all this beauty. While not exactly detracting from the aesthetics, angry pompous golf fanatics did not take kindly to our pausing on their path to take photos and admire the scenery. The photos in this post are thus a fingers-up to their absurd pomposity, and a nod to the nature which, after all, dominates their frolics and makes them a mere oddity, secondary to the glory of the landscape.

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Eventually we found our way out and back into Wimbledon Village where afternoon tea awaited. We may have loved the hours we spent disconnected from all civilisation, but were nonetheless grateful that urbanity never lay too far from reach… were it not for mobile phone connectivity, we may well have never found our way out of that forest jungle!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

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Musing on the Seashore

I found myself on Monday morning sitting by the lapping shore of the Mediterranean, which was softly sweeping golden currents of calm, watery loveliness onto the freshly wet sand. The sun was warm despite the winter, and across the vertical column of light reflected over the water, small sardine fishing boats glided slowly into harbour to unload their night’s catch. I was lucky. A quick weekend at my family home in Marbella coincided with a few bursts of sunshine, while back in London, Monday’s regular commuter stream was being battered by arctic winds and snow showers in some 20 degrees less than I enjoyed back on that seashore.

As the water licked the beach’s edge, giving temporary glimmer to all the stones and shells it passed over, those who like me value the early light of daybreak took a similar stroll along the sand, an excitable dog invariably at their side (at least when it was not jumping in the waters, who teased with their swift withdrawal from shore line back towards the mass of sea). One such passer-by approached me, laughing apologetically for her dog who, nuzzling my side with his freshly wet face, seemed to sense that I was, at that moment, all at one with the sea which so delighted him.

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I not only took time to contemplate my luck at enjoying this transformative moment of winter sunshine; I also reflected upon the very accessible humanity which you can find amongst those who live in the sun, and in alignment with nature. In Spain especially, where the golden warmth of sun graces the country on most days of the year, there is an intrinsic approachability and outwards civility to everyone you meet. Strangers greet you like members of their family. Passers-by exchange not merely a glance but a comment on the beauty of the day. My time living in Mallorca open my soul to the kind of embrace of humanity I found in the Spanish. Now back in London, when I’m on the tube, and in the angry streets of the city, I feel the need to hide away that recharged humanity, in a place where smiles are too often met by scowls and courtesy left for others to administer.

Circumstances are so often the source of our mood and our civility. But as that moment in the sun reminded me, we should all take time out to smile, give and share with others, even when the demands of the daily grind render this difficult.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Post 1000 | Celebrating a Daily Norm milestone!

Who would have known, when I wrote my first ever post on The Daily Norm on 14 November 2011, that some 7 years later I would reach the massive milestone of my 1000th article. When I think how much I must have shared with Daily Norm readers in that time, and how many hours I have whiled away sharing my musings and inspirations with the world, I almost can’t believe I could have written so much. And yet for me, this is a moment of utmost pride. Because writing a blog does take time and real effort. But The Daily Norm quite simply changed the way I saw the world and the way in which I prioritised my life: For when you know you are going to share slices of your life with the world wide web, you make more of an effort to live life to the full.

Now, when I look back at my statistics, I find it eye-watering to see that over three-quarters of a million people have looked at my blog and shared in my life’s adventure. That’s practically a country! I am honoured to have well over 5,000 subscribed followers who continue to put up with my waffle and indulge me in sharing my aesthetic vision of life. Thank you everyone, truly. You have given me a reason to paint, to draw, to take photos on holiday and generally have pride in my existence.

So how can one celebrate this great feat in Daily Norm history? Well, asides from bubbles, and plenty of them, no celebration of this nature would be the same without the protagonist of this blog, the little cute, one-armed white blob whose existence prompted the name and the nature of this creative platform: my Norm. And here, in the latest of my Norm sketches, we can see the Norms going about their own appropriate celebration of this four-figured, triple-zero achievement. Let’s just hope these poor little blobs don’t get squashed by the somewhat tenuous erection of that last mighty “0”.

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The Daily Norm celebrates 1000 posts (©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2018, pen and ink on paper)

But that’s not all. This week, The Daily Norm will be very much daily again (sorry, that’s become something of a rarity of late) as my 1000th post spills over into 1001, 1002 and so on and so forth, with a look back at the most popular ever post, and the most popular Norm painting, as well as some new content and my favourite Norm sketches ever.

All that remains is to thank you all once again for supporting The Daily Norm. A newspaper is nothing without its audience and the same goes for this blog. Who knows if I will make it to 2000 posts, but one thing is certain, The Daily Norm isn’t going anywhere. So long as there’s a Norm, a painting or a beautiful landscape to be seen and shared, I will be blogging.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Colours of Marrakech, Part 1: Rose City

Colour, smell, thunder, stares, snakes, spices, the sound of birdsong, the call to prayer. Morocco is a country of extremes and its dazzling city of Marrakech all the more so. Those extremes began as soon as we entered its airspace, as desert planes and mighty big African clouds overhead gave way to one of the most sparkling fancy airports I have ever set foot in. A further transformation manifested as we took a taxi into town. On the left, a modern city, its roads neatly paved and lined with illuminated orange trees. On the right an old city crumbling, smelly, loud, maze like. Children begged around our legs, women enveloped in veils eyed us suspiciously and the use of donkeys in the place of vehicles marked a return to centuries past. Marrakech is different from any place I have ever visited before, and the next few weeks on The Daily Norm will bear testament to our time there; a trip which tantalised each of the senses and engendered the thrill of the different and astonishment at everything we saw.

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A focus on the visual is what will shape my tale of Marrakech, as I take inspiration from the colours which were visible in such extremes across the city. Known as Rose City, by far its most prominent colour is the peachy shade of soft terracotta which characterises its ancient Medina. Stemming from the red tint of local stone and mud, the colour is a naturally occurring bi-product of the city’s quasi-desert location. In fact the rosy hue became so synonymous with the city that when in modern times concrete started to replace traditional mud construction methods, the former French rulers decreed that all such buildings must be painted in the same colour of pink.

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The result is a city almost universally sculpted from rose, a place where nature itself provides the rose-tinted glasses through whose sheen Marrakech can be seen to glow a warm shade at all times of the day. But as we will see from later posts, the city’s characteristic hue changes as it reflects the light, and when an intense sunset reigns in the skies, the resulting reflected pink is like nothing I have ever seen before.

But for today, and by way of introducing to this incredible Moroccan city, I give you photos of Marrakech in its most iconic warm terracotta glow, ranging from sunrise in the morning to full sun as the baking semi-desert conditions almost cooked the city streets below. This is Marrakech, Rose City, Daughter of the Desert, and it’s going to be a wonderful Daily Norm ride…

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

London, Rediscovering My City: Wimbledon Common

Knowing that the first weekend of Spring was going to be gloriously sunny, we had one objective in mind: to get outside. After living two years in Mallorca, London can feel claustrophobic by comparison. Life here is more geared up to the inside – cosy corners, candlelight, cushions – and yet ironically it’s one of the world’s greenest cities, so much so that a map of the city remains recognisable, even when the roads are taken away. This past weekend, we were determined to enjoy some of those green swards, and enjoy them we did. After agonising over Wimbledon or Richmond as potential locations, we actually ended up doing both in one. But the photos which resulted from that extensive walk are so ravishing that frankly I’ve felt compelled to split this post in two. Both green gems need their place in the sun!

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A renewed enthusiasm for the great British outdoors definitely comes of my Mallorcan experience. I spent so much time taking inspiration from the island’s impressive landscape that I realised how little I had devoted myself to the equally beautiful countryside back at home. And the English landscape really is beautiful, a point made no better than by artist David Hockney, whose vast multi-coloured canvases pay homage to the Yorkshire countryside in all its wild beauty, a selection of which can currently be enjoyed in a show of his work at London’s Tate Britain.

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It was to Hockney’s ravishing landscapes that my mind turned this weekend as we set out on our outdoors trek across Wimbledon Common. Within metres of entering the Common from the bustle of Wimbledon Village, we felt as though we had been plunged into the middle of the countryside. Here there were no cars, no litter, few people… you could barely even hear planes. But what could be heard was a relentless chorus of chirping birds awoken by the promise of Spring. The further we walked, the deeper the wooded landscape became, and as the trees leaned inwards over a path made from the footsteps of many, the tunnel effect brought to my mind the works of Hockney, as did the twisting complex maze of branches over head, which looked all the more beautiful for the lack of leaves, which, in mere weeks time, will be covered.

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These photos capture, I think, the very elegant beauty which can be found in the simplest patch of the British outdoors. Here there is no topiary, no control. The flowers are far and few between. Instead the trees, wild and tall had been allowed to dominate, and in the twisting unplanned trajectory of their growth, they had created an architectural marvel which is every inch as impressive as the sea of glittering glass skyscrapers comprising the centre of London, mere miles away.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Solidarity for London

22.3.17 – just another number to add to a growing series of dates which mark terrorist atrocities. The trend begun with 9.11, and those images so ghastly that none of us could believe our eyes. The dates which have followed each add a further horror to this incredible trend of evil, senseless murder in countries known for their civility. Today, London was hit again, and we must once again reflect how unsafe we really are; how, owing to the despicable ignorance of an unconscionable few, we must live life on a knife edge, gambling with our existence when we simply walk over a bridge, or take the tube in the mornings.

Yet we British are famous for our resolve. The show will go on – how could it be otherwise. But that does not mean that we should indulge too far in the English “stiff upper lip”. This is a time to reflect and show emotion. To be shocked and to react. To fight against terror and stand up for our free-thinking democratic society. There is always a bastard in every group of innocents.We must just do everything we can to stop them in their tracks.

So doing my bit for London solidarity, I´m posting a few of my recent shots of London, taken on the go. Their desaturated, grey tonality is beautiful, but also rather appropriate for this sombre day. But while London is today shrouded in the black of mourning, its soul is deeply, strongly, diversely coloured. Centre of the world, standing stronger whatever the adversity.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

London welcomes in the Springtime

Outside living was an inescapable characteristic of our daily Mallorca existence. Apart from maybe the odd week around January time, there were very few days when one could not go for a stroll to breathe deep of the Mediterranean air. In returning to London, we did so in the knowledge that our relocation would mean an accompanying retreat to the indoors, to cosy wine bars, chic restaurants, bustling galleries, but far fewer midnight strolls…And I would be lying if I said this were not true, as we allowed ourselves to become quickly ensnared and enveloped in the comforting charm of dimmed lights and candle-flickering interiors while outside the crispness of late winter lingered.

But as though Mother Nature wished to sooth an internal longing for the great outdoors, our return to London was marked with a surprisingly clement burst of Spring. Such were the favourable conditions that we had little time to bemoan our loss of Mallorca, for here in London, our world-famous expanses of green parkland glimmered as lush green grasses and newly sprouting flowers bended towards the sunlight. Spring had arrived early!

And today, as we mark the Spring equinox and more or less the true beginning of British summertime, it seemed the most appropriate time to share a collection of photos collated during these weeks as I enjoyed these first glimpses of better times. They are all quick snapshots, taken on my trusty iPhone while life (and my home renovation) made time fly fleetingly by. They are shots which do not pretend to be photographically refined, but which offer a flash of hope for happier, warmer, sunnier times to come, even here in Blighty.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Revealing my Festive Wonderland

A few weeks ago, the three photos I posted signified the official arrival of Christmas in my home, even though back then it was still November. Now, some 30 Christmas trees later (most of which were for work I should add), time has galloped onwards and as only ten days remain until the full celebration of Christmas truly begins, there can be no doubt that we have well and truly arrived at the festive season. What better time then to share with you the very Festive Wonderland which is this year’s Christmas manifestation of my home.

Christmas decoration is very much part of my annual creative calendar. I relish the opportunity to transform my home with seasonal touches which have the power to add insuperable cosiness and magic in every corner. Thus, over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of baubles and trees which, while changing slightly throughout the years, retains the same core of cherished pieces, each involuntarily launching their own sentimental tale of memories past. However, the rather open-plan layout of my apartment in Mallorca means that my various trees, which in London would have each graced separate rooms, are here seen together in more of a unified space. The effect is quite magical, as tree is reflected in tree, and different coloured light sparkles across the entire living space.

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So here I present a miscellaneously mixed magical gallery of decorating touches, featuring bauble details, whole tree portraits, and my favourite photos of all – those blurred out of focus light landscapes which in themselves seem to carry the festive magic which is the effect given by such a mixed scheme of light and glitter.

Merry Christmas everyone!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Three photos suggesting the onset of Christmas

It’s the 25th November. Which means only one thing: no no, not black Friday. I would frankly rather pay double the original price than fight my way to near death for the sake of a much tried and tested cut-price pair of Calvin Klein boxers. No, the 25th November means that the final countdown to Christmas has finally begun. And with one month to go, its time for the sceptics and the anti-festive moaners to return to their holes of gloom, for the festive season is truly upon us. And indeed in my home, its onset has come early.

Yup, that’s right, my home is well and truly a Christmas wonderland as this year I took to decorating even earlier than usual. The reason is largely a practical one – travelling a lot during the latter weeks of November and the early ones of December, I pretty much knew that it was now or never. And as the evenings get even darker as each day passes, I am surely enjoying the festive cheer which this prompt decorating spree has brought.

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So as we begin this final month’s countdown to Christmas day, here are three photos – just small snapshots from my very Christmassy home – suggesting that the onset of Christmas, at least in my world, is very much here. Merry pre-christmas everyone!!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Melancholy Woman: Lament for a Broken Union

Sometimes in life you receive news that shocks you to the core. News which wrenches the inside of the stomach, infiltrates the heart and mind, brings tears to the eyes and fills your life, your hopes and your ambitions with darkness. I have lived through the pain of death, and the anguish of heartbreak. And all I can say is that that same physical reaction as I had experienced before once again engaged with my total metal and corporal being when last Friday I awoke to the news that the UK had voted to leave the European Union.

There is much that can be said of a Union which has grown too big, of laws unruly, of an organisation stretched beyond its limits, but there is very little which can justify the decision of 52% of the UK’s voting population opting to leave the EU for what were utterly anachronistic, completely unintelligent and sickeningly ignorant reasons. A  wave of xenophobia, which has long infiltrated English society, was normalised by a leave campaign which popularised an exit from the EU as being an excuse to cleanse the country of foreigners and in so doing exercise what they lauded to be the action of “taking the country back”. Such a move does not enable Britain to become in any way stronger, nor more progressive. It is a retrograde step which will see the nation isolated, deprived economically and falling far outside the progressive benefits of a globalised society.

It is a move which has already seen the value of the pound plummet, the political system spiral into disarray, and the relationship of the UK notably deteriorate with its neighbours and allies near and far. In leaving the EU, those who wished to reinstate an England of the past have robbed its future generations of an actively mobile, economically stable future, all the while forgetting, with an unfathomable level of hypocrisy, that the England of the past was a country whose very success and global position had been marked by its own breed of imperialism and abuse of other countries and cultures overseas.

Little more can be said to best express my feelings of dismay at this time. Embarrassment of being English is coupled with my fears of being like a disconnected refuge living abroad without the rights and the freedoms to which I have become so easily accustomed all my life.

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Melancholy Woman: Lament for a Broken Union (after Picasso) (2016, acrylic on canvas ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

In reflecting on this time, I turned to art, as I always have in times of happiness and grief. When I saw the painting by Picasso, Melancholy Woman (1902), I felt engaged by a work of art which appeared to me to sum up the emotions of the moment. Taking a spare canvas, and moving immediately to paint an interpretation of the work, I created my own Melancholy Woman in the abstractive interpretative style which has shaped the body of my recent creations. In repainting this work, I have kept to Picasso’s expertly chosen colour palette, founded of his famously melancholic blue period, replacing his forms with a more geometric gathering.

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Melancholy Woman: Lament for a Broken Union (after Picasso) (2016, acrylic on canvas ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

 

My melancholy woman laments, like Picasso’s, for an intense heartbreak. I imagine his protagonist wept over some lover, some union lost. My woman also weeps for a broken union. The European Union. Broken by those who entirely misunderstood the modern world, proactively destroying the future of those who might still have benefitted from it. What happens next, no one knows.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com