Sunday, July 29, 2007

Scenes from a Garden - Part Two

The second garden we visited was at Brodsworth Hall near Doncaster. Luckily the Hall was open as well as the gardens. Inside the Hall was really interesting; many of the upstairs rooms, like at Calke Abbey, had been left just as they had been found and not restored, so you could see what the old carpets, wallpaper, painted friezes and etc were like. There was one bedroom, complete with a huge French boat-style bed, that had wisteria painted all around the top of the walls; this would have been so pretty when originally done. It was, of course, a huge country estate, so animals including horses and dogs were venerated here, hence there were two of the dogs below at the bottom of every set of stone steps in the garden.

After a very tasty lunch we wandered around the gardens. There were some interesting features including, below, the Summer House, on its grassy mound.

I particularly liked the target house, now used for an exhibition on the history and development of the gardens, it was built originally for storing archery equipment for the ladies of the house to use for target practice on the lawns outside. You can see the practice area through the window.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Only a Dream

I had a dream last night that it rained and rained and rained non-stop for two or three years and that finally the sea took over. It came up the rivers and divided our country into small islands again. The water stretched from the Severn estuary to the Wash and there really was a north/south divide, a permanent, watery one. Beautiful buildings were lost, just church spires occasionally appearing above water and floating in the sea were books, teddy bears, cups, kettles and hair brushes. I was drifting up above it all powerless to stop it. I'm so glad I woke up but this morning I feel strangely detached from reality and am finding it really hard to get going.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Scenes from a Garden - Part One

There have been very few opportunities to get out and about just recently but last week we managed to find a couple of hours or so of dry, fairly sunny weather to visit a couple of gardens we'd been wanting to see for a long time. First up was Rennishaw Hall in Derbyshire. Family home of the Sitwell family. The Hall is still lived in by the family but the gardens are open for viewing, as are the family museums - mostly dedicated to the 'terrible trio' as they were known. Costume, books, photos and other mementos of Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell jostling for position with exotic costumes from opera and stage productions, ordinary but somehow spine chilling, everyday objects used by Hitler and Eva Braun and Mussolini and Clara Petacci, Gertrude Lawrence's letters and fur coat and Field Marshall Montgomery's pink pyjamas. The gardens were truly wonderful and outside I found this amazing sculpture.

It depicts the British cellist Amaryllis Fleming (half sister the writer Ian Fleming and illegitimate daughter of the artist Augustus John.) The work is by sculptor (or should I say sculptress?) Fiore de Henriques. Below is one of the many lovely seats - unfortunately all too wet to sit on - dotted around the gardens. This one just caught my eye, I'm not sure why.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Seaside Memories

I was thinking about the beach hut I mentioned in my last post. It belonged to the owners of the Guest House we used to stay in most summers when I was young. We used to alternate between Teignmouth in Devon or St Ives in Cornwall. In St. Ives we used to stay with an elderly lady who would sit us all round the shiny, polished breakfast table and bring out a huge - and I mean huge - blue and white china plate or charger filled with everything for a cooked breakfast and we used to help ourselves from it onto smaller plates. I loved St Ives with its winding streets, painted fisherman's cottages and soft,warm beaches; to a small child it was like wonderland.

The beach hut though was at Teignmouth in Devon, an equally loved place. We always stayed with a couple called Mr and Mrs Lofty and Mum and Dad knew them so well that Christmas cards were exchanged each year. The Loftys had the beach hut, not on the main sea front but on the back beach near where the ferry used to cross over to Shaldon. One year my aunt, uncle and cousin joined us for a holiday and the photo below is of me and my cousin John, enjoying ourselves on that holiday. I'm not sure how old we would be but there was only two weeks between us in age. The hut was shabby but comfortable and had the added bonus of being next door to an ice cream vendor.

I have absolutely no recollection of this photo being taken, where exactly it was or what we were doing. There is no one I can ask as I am the only one left to remember that happy holiday. It's strange, isn't it, the things you do remember from your childhood? Feelings and sensations rather than actual solid objects. The smell of breakfast, the sound of the gong to summon you all to an evening meal, the sound of the sea on an evening stroll, waking up to the sound of sea gulls, the wind in your face as you sailed into Brixham harbour, the hot warm sand between your toes. I don't think we ever feel these things quite so intensely as an adult.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Something Cheerful

My parents used to have a saying something along the lines of 'I wish I had a penny for every time I've heard that'. I was thinking today that I wish I had a penny for every time we've said over the last few weeks 'That will have to wait until it stops raining' or 'We need two or three dry days together to do that'. There are so may jobs that need to be done; things like mending the conservatory roof, painting windows and fences, pruning bushes, washing curtains and getting them dry outside in one day so they can be put back up again in the evening. All these things are on hold for the moment. The little gazebo we bought in April lies unused. We can't even cut the grass as it is under water at the top of the garden and the pond has overflowed - again. The white flowered Hebe has collapsed under the weight of rain on it's branches. In all this waiting I count my blessings as so many people have been flooded and have far worse to cope with, many are still homeless; but wouldn't it be wonderful to have just a few warm days together so we can actually 'feel' that it really is summer. We need things to cheer us up and something that has really cheered me up recently is the photograph below.

Isn't it wonderful? I have this photo courtesy of mrsnesbitt'splace as I was lucky enough to win the competition there. Do visit and look at her wonderful photos. I love the simplicity of this scene, the cool looking sea against the brightly coloured paint of the huts - they look fresh and modern. I have wonderful childhood memories of beach huts, though never as smartly painted as these; in my mind they are cream or green and faded by the sun and salt air. Filled with damp towels, buckets and spades and sand - everywhere! I can also smell the egg and tomato sandwiches and taste the hot tea made in a pan on a camping stove.

My friend Robert, a great beach hut connoisseur, will undoubtedly love them too.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Caught Knapping

This week is National Archaeology Week. To celebrate it we visited Cresswell Crags to see one of Paul's heroes in action.

Above is the well known flint knapper John Lord demonstrating the skill and precision needed to manufacture a hand axe. Later he and his son, William, demonstrated how to throw spears and how to use a bow and arrow. Great fun was had by all and the children loved it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Just Snoozing

Hurrah, today is National Siesta Day! I'm of the opinion that cats know how to do it best.

Just to show willing I'm off for a little ........zzzzzzzz

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Never Mind the Weather

Yesterday we went to visit friends in Nottingham. We set out in fairly dry and faintly sunny weather although we knew the forecast wasn't particularly good. We left home about 9.30a.m. and drove along the A50 as far as the turn off to Sawley and Long Eaton. We decided to have a 'comfort' break at the Trent Locks at Sawley and had a little walk along to where the River Trent meets with the canal. The air was fresh and the light slightly gloomy. The car park had evidence of flooding and the river was high and full. After a quick leg stretch we set off on the rest of our journey to Nottingham arriving in torrential rain.

Our friends, Susan and Robert, took us to Attenborough Nature Reserve for lunch and what a wonderful lunch it was. The food was all homemade and tasted wonderful. The cafe in the centre was full of visitors tucking into dishes of pasta, wonderful platters of salads, bowls of hot, steaming soup and huge plates of sandwiches. Our little party devoured three plates of salad and a bowl of soup all served with huge chunks of brown bread and butter. As we left the geese were out in force to see what leftovers were on offer. As it was raining quite hard again by the time we left the centre Robert suggested a visit to Wollaton Hall.

It is the most glorious building, Tudor outside, later influences inside. The stuffed and mounted birds in cases, reminded Susan and I of the collection of similar items in the museum we used to work in, we had a little shudder or two. I found myself wandering round looking at the building inside rather than the exhibits. We also visited the coach house and the industrial museum. Paul was able to take some really excellent photos of the deer in the park.

Afternoon tea, homemade cake and good conversation rounded off our visit nicely and all too soon it was time to say our farewells and set off back towards home our journey taking us through both sunshine and heavy showers. Thanks, dear friends, for a wonderful day.