Friday, August 26, 2016

Clothes Moths

We all know how destructive the clothes moth can be whenever a favourite garment is extracted from cupboard or drawer and found to have been eaten in part by the grubs of this small and obnoxious creature.
Until about six months ago I clouted them in one way or another whenever seen.
After quite a plague of them (a shopkeeper said that there had been such in Chiswick), we adorned the inside of cupboards and drawers with anti-moth devices. These took the form of moth balls, a plethora of different coloured objects designed to kill, and an annual supply of conkers, gathered from beneath a horse chestnut tree in a nearby square.
So I thought that I had got well on the way toward eliminating these pests. Certainly the count of “kills” declined. Not many moths were seen.
Yet still Margreet would find clothes ruined by moths.
So, by chance, we thought we would try a new ploy by setting out Toblerone-shaped traps that contained sticky paper impregnated with moth-attracting pheromones. And low and behold, moths started to fall for the bait and died a sticky death.
I felt that if we could catch all flying moths for a year, we could interfere with their breeding cycle and thus with their resultant clothes-eating grubs.
What we had not noticed was that although we could see and destroy the moths by day, it was at night that they appear, like ordinary moths do, and fly around  mating and having a nice time.
As the first two traps were successful, it was most surprising to discover that in our house were so many of these destructive creatures.
I wondered if by hanging these traps in cupboards was not, in fact, attracting moths toward vulnerable clothes. So we bought refills and left them open and in places that moths might frequent – and well away from where hands or clothes might come into contact.
I laid each on a piece of paper on which I recorded the daily the number of carcasses sticking to the trap. The number was considerable – and mounted by the day.
Instructions coming with these most successful devices state that the adhesive sheets should be changed after three month’s use. Ours seem to last longer. And to increase the length of life for each one, I now fold back half of the protective sheet and pin it back with a paper clip. This then doubles the life of the sticky killer and leaves enough pheromones and sticky surface on the newly-revealed half to catch more moths when the exposed surface becomes too crowded.

From only seeing a few clothes moths six month ago in our small house, and thinking that I was winning my battle with them, I have just been around my traps counting the carcasses – and the number was one hundred and eighteen. I might really be winning. 

Monday, August 08, 2016

Words and Art

Because of the disruptions of war, I missed out on the education that I should have been exposed to at that time.
So I had no idea until later in life that writing was so creative and such fun. And perhaps I would never have got started had I been told that I must understand grammar to be able to write.
When embarking on the business of words, it was to produce five copies of a book on my ideas about early American history when I was in America around 1970.
These books were each illustrated with my own lino-cut prints. But I was not concerned about the artwork but about the punctuation of the text.
So I consulted my life-long friend at Yale, Edmund S. Morgan, who happened to be America’s authority on the subject of the Founding Fathers and author of many key works on that period. Of all people, he should know the answers to my queries on punctuation. “There are no rules,” he said.
So in the early 1980s, when I came to write after a car accident that prevented me from continuing to sculpt large pieces of wood, I used words and sentences as I might see and create shapes in the chunks of trees that had become my chosen material.
That is, I would make words flow as my eye might follow patterns of wood and grain, and then, perhaps, stop to concentrate on detail. I was shaping ideas into words in a fluid kind of way.
The transitions and tangents in my life after flying aeroplanes in wartime, to designing in the theatre, to landscape painting, to sculpture, then writing and back to painting, have all been minimal.
It is ideas that count. And turning ideas into different forms of artistic expression seem to come to me like I breathe.
Those who would read my books, articles and blogs are most probably scornful of my use of language and its presentation. But I don’t care.
I just let ideas flow out in my visual art and writing, and that’s it – good or bad.
Ed Morgan was quite right. “There are no rules”.

Perhaps having had no education because of the war was not such a bad thing after all.W