Monday 30 September 2013

Literary Reading

I wonder if anyone spotted the howler in my last post about Reading. I had completely forgotten that Reading has two rivers, The Thames and The Kennet, as well as a bit of the Kennet and Avon Canal. The river behind the gaol is not The Thames but The Kennet, and the trees and path of Chestnut Walk meanders between the river and the back of the gaol. I was carefully checking all the signs for the Oscar Wilde quote, "Oh beautiful world," and had just given up when my companion noticed something strange about the railings that partition the Walk from the towpath. We went closer and found that the words had actually been incorporated into the design of the iron railings.

pic by George Evans

The other signs were all about the history of the amazing Abbey ruins that sit alongside the gaol. The photo shows  part of it with the gaol in the background.

The signs also referred to the nearby Forbury Gardens which were once the monks' gardens. These now contain The Maiwand Lion, a memorial to  the fallen from the 66th Regiment at the Battle of Maiwand in Afghanistan in 1880.

pic by Jim Linwood

I thought how incredible it is that we have troops in that country today and lives are still being lost in conflict.

At the excellent museum in Reading's Town Hall on Sunday morning, we saw a complete replica of the Bayeaux tapestry and decded that we don't have to go all the way to france to see the original now. We also heard how that rather beautiful grey brick Town Hall had recently been threatened with demolition to make way for a concrete ring road, but was saved by the local Civic Society. Then we were told that the prison is among the list of those that are to be closed very soon, as the government proposes building new and enormous ones to collect more of our criminal community together, presumably to to cut the cost of staffing so many of them. We wondered what was going to happen to that building. 

Apart from Oscar Wilde (left), the other literary connection we found in Reading was at our hotel. It was called the Great Expectations which, of course, is the name of a Charles Dickens novel. The hotel was an inn with the guest rooms above the bar, and the the manager told us that it is believed to have originally been a Reading Room opened by Dickens (below) who did readings of his work there. The ground floor was also a fascinating warren of little three sided rooms facing a long bar with the corridor in between named the Dickens Walk.

Friday 27 September 2013

Reading and Oscar Wilde

Tomorrow I’m off to meet some friends for an overnight in Reading, home of Reading Gaol, which acquired fame from Oscar Wilde’s long poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. He wrote the poem in France following a two year term served in the prison as his punishment for loving men. I’ll make a point of seeing the gaol and walking down the path beside it to the River Thames and the words “Oh, beautiful world” on a sign, because these are claimed to be what Wilde said there after his release.

The path is called Chestnut Walk because of the trees that line it. You can see their shadows on the high buttressed walls of the prison in the photo, which is by Andrew Smith

No other writing for me today – I proofed an article that I had to send off first thing, and spent the rest of the morning preparing a fish pie for tonight, and a curry for the lads to eat tomorrow when I’m not here. Jade will be taken care of over the weekend by my long suffering hubby, who is always invited on my jaunts with friends, but for some reason never accepts. Perhaps he thinks we should spend some time apart as absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Surrey, Polesden Lacey, Shakespeare and Dogs

I used to live in the small part of Surrey that is within Greater London and still remember it with affection. We had the best of all worlds there: twenty minutes to the city by train; a majestic length of the River Thames on our doorstep; royal parks all around us; and a short hop from some gorgeous countryside.

Fellow blogger, Jenny Woolf, recently published a post about Surrey, and has kindly allowed me to use one or two of her photographs.

This one makes me think of the bluebell woods on the Polesdon Lacey estate, where we sometimes walked Sam, the delightful Staffordshire bull terrier who shared our lives then. The woods were a sight for sore eyes if you could catch them when the blooms were out. 

Polesdon Lacey is a National Trust country house at Great Bookham near Dorking and Leatherhead. The NT displays inside focus mainly on the Edwardian era before the First World War when owner and society hostess, Mrs Greville, entertained there. Guests even occasionally included King George VI and his queen.

More recently, in my time as a Surrey resident, we used to attend outdoor theatre on the lawns beside the house.  I recall a particularly silly Shakespeare comedy competing with the tail end of noisy displays from the Farnborough Air Show one year. I think it might have been Much Ado About Nothing. Whatever, it was always great fun to enjoy a picnic, washed down with wine of course, and watch a play in the open air, even if we did have to huddle under blankets and even umbrellas as the evening wore on.

I'm repeating a picture of our lovely Sam to end this post. No Surrey reminiscences are complete without him and we still miss him, although we now have the comfort of our lovely Jade, whose pic is also easy to find on this blog. These two make a really good example of how different dogs have different characters. Sam was always raring to go, while Jade is a much more laid back little lady, who will often avoid play with other dogs and just likes to run alone to let off steam in places that are special to her.

Friday 20 September 2013

Prehistoric Guernsey

The island has a number of fascinating neolothic, or New Stone Age, earthworks, menhirs, dolmens and burial chambers. The one at Hougue de Dehus, is a 10 metre long passage grave, pictured in my last post, which experts believe was constructed in about 3,500 BC.

It is covered by a grass mound and could easily be overlooked. 

another pic by Unukomo

It was in fact saved from quarrying in 1775, but the chamber itself was not discovered until it was excavated in 1837. Later, in 1916, a face was discovered carved into one of the capstones you can see when you look up. The face has been nicknamed Le Guardien du Tombeau – Guardian of the Tomb, but it is not known how long the carving has been there.

Yet another reason for another longer visit to Guernsey to go on my bucket list.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Victor Hugo in Guernsey

In a previous post, I promised more about Guernsey. I can’t claim to be an expert on the island. My three visits have all been fleeting – two of them were just a few hours and the third a few days. I still haven’t managed to visit Victor Hugo’s House, which we passed when walking up and down the hill on the way to or from our hotel above the harbour when we stayed there.

Hugo, author of Les Misérables and many other famous works, was also a French politician. When he fell out with French President, Louis Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon, he fled the country ending up in Guernsey after spells in Belgium and Jersey. He bought 38 Hauteville, the house which is now open to the public in summer months, though sadly not while I was there with time to visit. Hugo lived there continuously for over ten years and sometimes after that. He wrote and/or published a number of his famous literary works there.

The photo of the interior is attributed to User:Hannes 2 at Wikimedia Commons. The description there  informs us that it is an 'interior of Victor Hugo's house in St Peter Port,' Hauteville House, and that 'Hugo designed the interior himself, (the) historic wooden panels and the play with light and darkness play an important role'. 

I shall just  have to go back again when the house is open to see all this.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Monday 9 September 2013

Clematis Problem

This photo was taken in our back garden in 2010. Since then only one of the clematis plants has flowered. We have the purple blooms that grow from the container below the right hand trellis, but none of the white ones that grow from the other side. I'd love to know what I'm doing wrong.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Day Trip to Christchurch

I took a day off on Thursday and met  my f riend at the bus station in Poole. The plan was to take a bus and get to Studland or Swanage on the far side of Poole Harbour. But after waiting for nearly half an hour we gave up on the buses going in that direction and took one heading the opposite way to Christchurch on the far side of Bournemouth. It took ages to get there but it was worth it. We walked through the gates in this picture which lead to the ancient Priory.

pic by Mike Faherty

pic by Chris Gunns

Then we walked down to the quay for which, sadly, I couldn't find a photo. But here's one of a part of Christchurch Harbour which is not far away from where we had our lunch. It shows some of the many swans that inhabit the harbour. There were lots of them on the quay which were really tame and took no notice of humans strolling close to them.

pic by Chris Talbot

My friend and I had a very pleasant few hours in Christchurch, with time to take in an art exhibition in an old mill, and to purchase some supplies for my friend's painting class. The bus rides home were exhausting, but it was a small price to pay. I will be finding out more about Christchurch that I can relay to you in a future post.

My thanks to the photographers from Wikimedia Commons who allow their pics to be used under Share Alike Licences.

Monday 2 September 2013

Sculptures in a Garden

The one comment on my last post refers to The Little Chapel, so I thought I’d point you to some more of my photos of it on this blog.

Going back to Guernsey reminded me how I love coming across works of art in a garden or park.  This is because on one trip there we visited the sculpture park at Sausmarez Manor, where hundreds of sculptures are displayed, and most are for sale.

I visited Wikimedia Commons to find free photos of outdoor sculptures and was reminded of the Musée Rodin in Paris, another of my favourite places, when I saw this picture of his masterpiece, The Thinker, which can be found there.

I also saw references to sculpture gardens all around the world. And, of course, you find statues in many parks and gardens which do not call themselves sculpture gardens. There are numerous public parks and historic house estates where you find outdoor art  in the UK alone. 

The delightful annual Mythic Garden Sculpture Exhibition at Stone Lane Gardens in Devon is particularly memorable for me. I could probably continue reminiscing about places like this all night, but had better stop now and get on with other things before it's bedtime and another day is over.

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