Normally the layers of cities build up over time. The city gets thicker and thicker and the ground level rises. We are used to walking on a cushion of time (the fourth dimension), six or twelve inches (or feet) above where our forbears walked.

But have you seen the House on the Hill in Zone 18 ?


What was once a high point has been eaten away to be part of the general flatness; except for the House on the Hill, which is still where it always was.

It is now a rare piece of treasure; a flash of ancient gold in an urban patchwork, calling out to be passed from one generation to the next. Could it ever be saved from the jaws of the bulldozer; by will or by law ? Would it be worth it ?

Indeed this is the spice which makes the stew delicious. It might cost four times as much to renew as to destroy and redevelop but the ‘flavour’ it would give to the entire neighborhood would be of untold value.

In its own right it is a building of unusual charm (an archetype of its kind) but it is not just its charm which matters. It is rather the fact that this is one of the increasingly rare original buildings to be built in the area. Before this very house was built there was sand. It is a direct link to an ancient past, even within a single life-time; a time whence the traditions of human habitation had not changed for centuries, perhaps millennia.

And, according to the writing sprayed on the wall, if you want to live there you can. Just ring 77390030.






There was once a cook who was known for making stodgy stews. They were filling – more than enough to stave off hunger – but they lacked flavor. His restaurant was never full. One day a passing merchant knocked on the door and offered the cook a very small bottle of spice, for the modest price of a thousand riyals. ‘A thousand riyals for that little bottle ? That is ridiculous’ said the cook; ‘I am not interested’.
‘But this is the best spice in the land’ said the merchant, ‘A small fingerful in one of your stews will transform it into a delicious meal. This bottle will last you for a year. There will be queues around the block and you will be able to double your prices. Let me show you…’
So the merchant went to the kitchen and sprinkled a few grains of the spice into the stew, which was bubbling lugubriously on the stove. As the merchant stirred the stew a mouth-watering fragrance wafted up amongst the steam. The cook took a sip and smiled.
He bought the spice bottle for a thousand riyals and from that day on his restaurant became famous. He still made stews with the same simple ingredients he was used to using but there was now something about them which made his customers sigh with delight, and tell all their friends.
It was the spice.

There was once a street lined with very ordinary buildings. Half way along the street was a small run-down old house – one of the original houses to be built when the city was beginning to grow. I am glad to say that an enlightened developer saved that building. It cost him four times as much to refurbish as it would have done if he had knocked it down and built something completely new but as he said, ‘it was worth every penny; people pay more to live on that street now because it’s different from the rest’.
That is the spice.



This is one of the last remaining ‘first generation’ houses in Old Salata – it is an original – and as such it has Value.

It is the ‘spice’ which makes the meal flavoursome.
It is the spice which we remember.




The Joy of Tracing

The act of tracing is an ideal state sometimes. The image is softened by a veil of tracing paper. The mind can disconnect as the hand connects. Something like electric currents can be felt at the tip of the pencil, guiding the hand.


Subject and Object are perfectly in balance as the hand responds to the image below. It interprets; neither dumbly copying nor being obliged to create something entirely new, in the emptiness of a blank piece of paper.

1_DSCF3365 copy

In this case the artist is a filter; not a creator. The hand can relax, entering into a state of pure intuitive action. Time is slowed down. The triangle between the hand, the eye and the brain runs smoothly, without interference. If I was a writer I would call it ‘Autonomism’.

High Places

It is always good to go to a high place; one gets a perspective on things, looking down. Things at a distance seem to move in slow motion. The sounds of the city become murmurs in a prevailing silence. I see a person on a street, or in a window, far far away. I notice them as I never would from the ground. My mind’s eye becomes a telescope and I zoom in; it is a fusion of the seen and the imagined. It is a frozen moment ; Time is slowed down.


All Change at Dalston Junction

Dalston Junction isn’t what it used to be. The very name used to have a thud about it but now, on September 20th 2013, it seems bright and sleak.


I am on a mission; to look down on this year’s 10×10 grid from Barratt’s Dalston Square. They are sponsoring the event for Article 25 and doing this drawing binds their regeneration work around town into the personal views of myself and 99 others across the grid; coming together to make a ‘collective snapshot’ of the city; a moment in time.

5_A Moment in Time


It is a good view from the tallest tower. The deep cut of the railway leads the eye South, just beginning to veer East as the City rises. Trains move like toys and the bridge seems to hover over the cutting. It is a brown grey patchwork but one red light and one yellow for sale sign shine out. Green tree cushions billow like clouds amongst the blocks of De Beauvoir Town; rising like froth towards the wooded horizon far away.


131010_10 X 10 DALSTON JUNCTION_ TM SKETCH_coloured_email version

I watch a mother with a buggy crossing the road in slow motion. I see the London Eye but cannot see it moving. It is easier to see my pencil’s shadow move as the Earth spins, if I hold it still.




I was at Umm Salal recently, the farm of Mohamed bin Jassim; at dawn, looking down at the sand. It was bathed in dappled light, washing through the leaves of a tree, half shadows moving to and fro, on the dry ground.
I saw a seed pod, curled around upon itself, making the letter M in Arabic; one of the nicest I have found.
As I picked it up I felt something intangible inside – a texture sensed; overlaid with the tangible smoothness of its yellow surface.
It rattled. The seeds within were rattling, so slightly that I could feel but not hear them. The sound of the breeze in the leaves of the tree was masking the sound of the seeds.
I took the seedpod home and now it is in a box.
When it is very quiet, in the early mornings at the start of the day, I take it out of the box and shake it gently. If everything is silent, I can hear the rattling seeds.