A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thanks Sweetie!

So many of the negatives of growing older are countered by positives if you just make the effort to find them.  At this point in my life, I have trouble remembering the names of people I don't know well or see very often.  However, I am also at the age where I can call anybody under the age of 40, male or female...Sweetie.  It works for me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tying It All Together

At this point in my life, I read fiction and non-fiction pretty much equally. I also listen to quite a few books as read on BBC4 and BBC4Extra.  It is such a lovely thing when they all come together.

One of the convenient things about reading is that we can read through an unknown reference without even realizing it was a reference.  For us ‘know-it-all’ types there is nothing more satisfying than catching a reference we assume most readers have missed.  This alone is a good reason for re-reading books after 20 or so years – of course this is on the assumption that you have learned something in that period of time.

So here is the set-up:  I have an abiding interest in the famous Shakespearean actress, Ellen Terry (1847 – 1928).  After having spent much too much time listening to me talk about her, my friends are always amazed at how often they come across references to her – someone they previously didn’t know existed.  Rarely, even in the age of Wikipedia, do we take the time to look up someone only briefly mentioned in a book.  In 1913, she wrote a book on the Russian Ballet.  I have always wondered how this subject came to be of such interest to her; something not really covered in her autobiography or the various other biographies I have read.

I just finished reading The Victorian Visitors: Culture Shock in Nineteenth-Century Britain by Rupert Christiansen.  The first half of the book was pretty slow reading.  I was surprised at how much was devoted to the life stories of the visitors: Theodore Gericault, Richard Wagner, Ralph Waldo Emerson - fully half of the book to these three, with precious little about their actual time in England.  The last three chapters were about an assortment of spiritualists, the early Australian and New Zealand cricket teams, and ballet dancers.  This was much more interesting to me as it delved into the changing tastes of Victorian and Edwardian society.  It’s always cheering to find that society a century ago was just as susceptible to hype, sham and glamour as we are today.

Now I understand.  The entire face of ballet in England changed after about 1880 and in 1911 the Ballet Russe arrived in London and completely took it by storm.  High society fought to entertain Nijinski, Pavlova, and even Bakst – the stage and costume designer. Even royalty attended the ballet, which until then had been very much a second class entertainment.  Ellen Terry, who traveled in the highest literary and artistic circles, would have been as caught up in this as everyone else.  And so, as she was pretty much retired from the stage at this point, she wrote the book.

There were two more enlightening bits.  Although I may have heard it before, in the chapter about cricket, the origin of the The Ashes was explained - I won’t spoil it for you, just in case you have any interest.  The first teams of natives from Australia and New Zealand also visited England at this point.  And so today, while listening to the newest chapter of Lord Peter Wimsey (Dorothy Sayers) on BBC4Extra, when Lord Peter begs off a boring chore by saying he was on his way to Lords to see the New Zealanders, I got it.  It was more than just a passing reference – it was a fully fleshed out reference to the sporting interest of the times and a perfectly good excuse.

We'll talk more about Ellen Terry at a later date............

Sunday, June 12, 2011

More Winchester

As promised, I'm going to revisit Winchester....

BUSKER WARS:  I'm an early riser, especially when traveling, so in Winchester I would get dressed and get out on the streets.  One morning, on my way back home, I sat down on a bench in High Street and watched a busker with his guitar settle in.  He was sitting on a bench across from the Butter Cross, close to the gate which came through from the Cathedral - a perfect location.  He was quite good, both as a guitarist and as a vocalist so I sat and listened for a while.  Just as I was about to leave, I looked up High Street and saw a young woman all in white walking toward us.  As she walked, she held up her long skirts with one hand, which displayed her red and white striped tights, and in the other hand she held a bouquet of sweet pea.  When she reached the Butter Cross, she climbed to the top step and struck a pose.  Ah, I thought, a mime, more street performance.  Oh no, thought the guitarist, competition.  While he called across to her, in no uncertain terms that she was poaching on his location, she tried to keep in character.  Clearly, he was not giving up, and so she tried peacemaking.  She walked down the steps, walked across to him and sweetly offered a stem of sweet pea from her bouquet.  He wasn't buying it and although he was quieter when he stated his position this time, he was no less emphatic.  And so she tucked the stem back in her bouquet, picked up her skirts and moved on down the street.

SMALL PLEASURES:  A punnet is a term used in Britain for a basket used for displaying produce, usually in a farmers market or grocery store.  It's usually one of those green plastic mesh baskets.  Because my reading leans so heavily on British authors, there are quite a few words that I read here, but can only use over there without sounding like an idiot (not that I let it stop me).  So I took great pleasure at the farmer's market in purchasing a punnet of small tomatoes.  I figure I managed to use the word punnet at least four times during the transaction...and several times more when I got home

DOOR TO THE PAST:  In England I take a great many photos of doors and windows.  I love the varied architecture and the rose climbing round the door.  But some doors and windows are very special because someone special walked through that door each day, or looked out that window to check the weather.  It is even more special when you can actually walk through that door, or stand and look out the window.  As we walked past Jane Austen's last home, someone approached, knocked on the door, introduced themselves, and was welcomed in.  Obviously, they had made special arrangements with the caretakers as the house was not open to visitors.  I watched enviously, and I saw someone pull the white curtain aside to peep out the window.  Looking out is so much different than looking in.

CHARACTERS: The week in Winchester was really lovely...and interesting...and sometimes very funny.  One early morning, after watching the Farmer's Market setting up, I sat on a bench at the entrace to the Cathedral Close.  A woman came up, sat down, and started talking.  She obviously was lonely, although she was very cheerful.  She didn't stop talking for at least twenty minutes.  She told me about her uncle that went to America, her son who rarely came to visit her, her upbringing in Manchester, what her bedsit looked like and finally about the surgery removing her right breast - including the fact that she usually wore her artificial breast but had decided not to bother on this morning.  At that time, my daughter arrived and joined the conversation - she also lit up a cigarette.  The old ladies eyes sparkled, "Oh" she said, "I am out of cigarettes, could I buy a couple from you?"  This was followed by the 'discovery' that she had left her purse at home and had no money with her.  Of course, she was given several cigarettes, and by the way she lit up and took that first drag, she had obviously been out of cigarettes for a good while.  I took her picture, we said goodbye, and walked back home.  Much later, looking at my photos, I saw quite clearly that she had indeed left something at home.

DETAILS:  They have such wonderful downspouts in England!  I have a nice little photo collection of them and this was one of my favorites.  But I can't help feeling a little sorry for the pigeons.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Flickr Mosaics - Winchester

I do love making photo mosaics on Flickr, I do mine on bighugelabs.com  Here are several I recently made from photos of my visit to Winchester, Hampshire in 2007.  We spent a week in Winchester, a really lovely small city with loads of history, architectural gems, lush gardens, and a cathedral.  It was June and everything was in bloom.

High Street, the photo in the center, is so beautifully preserved that you can't tell if it's 2007 or 1907 if it wasn't for the omnipresent trashcans...Winchester is very big on trashcans,

Even in a week there was not enough time to begin to capture all the lovely details.

These photos are from Queen Eleanor's Garden at the castle (home of King Arthur's supposed Round Table).  It was just coming into bloom, but was so lush and green and amazingly full of ideas for such a small garden.

All cathedrals are wonderful in their own way, but Winchester Cathedral has to be one of my favorites.
Bollards in the heart of the town were painted in the style of famous artists, it felt like a treasure hunt as wandered around town and stumbled on on of them.  It also felt like a pop quiz as the three of us sometimes struggled to identify the artist.
Looking back at these mosaics, several things come to mind that aren't represented here, but deserve to be mentioned in any conversation about Winchester.  I'll save them for a later post...maybe even tomorrow.