Sunday, 13 January 2019


'Britain, a place where the priority is to find ever more space for the white van to move into ... street lights glowing in the daytime conform to the view that everything natural is redundant ... but nature fights back.'

These are Rod Mengham's comments on 'Traffic', the painting by Humphrey Ocean featured on the cover of the current issue of PN Review (Issue 245 Jan/Feb 2019).  The picture shows the rear of a white van, a row of lit street lamps, and in the background a strange shape that could be vegetation or perhaps a giant rat with its tongue out.

I live by a minor country road with potholes and grass growing through the tarmac in places, but every day at least one white van goes past, and before Christmas several white vans serving Amazon and our on-line shopping shuttled around the peninsula.

I think of T S Eliot's lines in 'East Coker':

'Now the light falls
Across the open field, leaving the deep lane
Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon,
Where you lean against a bank while a van passes.'

I've done this several times to wait while a white van passes.  In 'East Coker' the van is a brief intrusion of the present in a place where the past is so near it can be felt, seen and heard.  The van is transient in the cycle of life, death, renewal.

By contrast Rod Mengham comments on Humphrey Ocean's 'Traffic': 'This is the world we have made, the one that represents us - this is a true mirror of our times.'

To see 'Traffic' go to and click on paintings.

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