Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Ballroom Spy

Last night we went to the opening of an exhibition at the RWA Bristol called, 'The Ballroom Spy', with paintings by Jack Vettriano and photographs by Jeanette Jones. It was standing room only. What an occasion for people watching! Nobody had told me that it was fancy dress! I spent more time looking at the assortment of people than at the work on the walls.

Just a gigolo?

I loved the black and white photographs of ballroom dancers. Unfortunately my reflection in the glass interferes with the image.

No such problems with the paintings, but they didn't interest me, they lacked the tension and the beauty of the photographs. Jack Vettriano's work is best known in the form of greeting cards and prints. The paintings on display were for sale - if you happened to have around forty to a hundred thousand pounds!
This exhibition heralds a more populist approach by the RWA in order to attract a larger public and increase gallery income.

I saw this man wearing the most amazing tie, a dazzling affair of Swarovski crystals.

Jason Edwards is the director of Crystal Adonis, 'adding a little extra sparkle to everyday life.' He very obligingly came to stand before this enormous giclee print, called "Diamonds and Pearls." It has been embellished with Swarovski crystals by Jason, in a collaboration with the photographer, Jeanette Jones.


When people in the central galleries were ushered to the sides and the music started, I realised that the costumes were more than a walk on part.

The dancers were immaculately dressed and absolutely charming. The young man's face was from an other era entirely.
 Jack Vettriano can be spotted behind the dancer's shoulder wearing glasses and a striped tie.
Cuffs pulled into place and they were off!


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Charlton Farm, Children's Hospice South West.

Five years ago Charlton Farm was a tenanted farm with a number of derelict outbuildings, situated in a peaceful valley south of the city of Bristol. Today, thanks to the dedication of many people, it is an extremely beautiful place dedicated to the care of terminally ill children and their relatives.

We came to look at this tree, planted in memory of the children's author, Dick King-Smith. The title of the film, 'Babe,' based on his book, 'The Sheep-pig' was used for the fundraising appeal.

Peter made a carving to illustrate the story of the book. Here he is showing Dick the piece of wood  to be used for the project.

The carving retains the natural uneven edge of the wood, complete with the outer bark. The bump in the centre became a hill that was one of Dick's favourite local landmarks.

The finished carving has vignettes of specific events in the book. There are lots of small details for the children to find and the carving is set low on the wall in the sitting room where it can be touched and explored.

Lovely gardens and play areas now surround the buildings. See photos of the garden on sharemygarden

This new development shows accommodation on the ground floor for the children with  rooms for their relatives above. 
Eddie Farwell and Zona King-Smith walk past roses that were named after Eddie's late wife.
Eddie is the driving force behind the hospices in the South West of England, having lost a son and daughter to childhood illness. Planning has been approved for a third hospice in Cornwall.

These projects are supported by voluntary fundraising. Please visit their website at for information.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Summer pudding.

We went to friends for supper last night and I took this summer pudding. Steve smoked a trout with a smoker that he had ordered from America, a piece of equipment that is quite unusual to find in England but which produces wonderfully tasty food. We got home in the early hours, and when we woke up this morning  hurrah, summer had arrived!

Summer pudding to serve 6.

1lb raspberries
8oz redcurrants
4oz blackcurrants
5oz sugar
7-8 medium slices of white bread.

Lightly butter a 850ml pudding basin and line with bread slices, crusts removed.
Melt sugar with the fruit for a few minutes until the juices start to run then pour into the pudding basin and cover the top with bread slices. (I reserve some of the fruit and juice to pour over the inverted pudding before serving.)
Put a weighted saucer on top and leave in fridge overnight.
Invert into a dish to serve, and eat with thick cream or ice cream. 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Happy Birthday!

Wee One is thirty-three today, (and her sister will soon be forty.) Cripes! Does this mean that I am almost middle-aged?


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Father's Day food

We had a full house at the weekend, time to get the fish kettle from the outhouse and cook a sea trout. It was one of my father's favourite meals and I served it up on an old platter that had belonged to my parents.
It is the easiest thing possible to cook, just cover the fish with cold water, put on the kettle lid and bring slowly to the point of boil. Then take it off the heat and leave to cool. Drain and skin and it's ready to eat.
SOME family members were still eating breakfast at half past eleven, but they still managed a hearty lunch when we put a bowl of new potatoes, that had been freshly dug from the garden, onto the table!

There are copious amounts of red fruit to pick in the garden, a good time to make
 Linzer Torte. 

Pastry ( quantity for three 8 inch tarts)
Cream together 8 oz butter with 8 oz sugar
add the grated rind of an orange or lemon and a beaten egg.
Sift together 14 oz flour, 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, one teaspoon ground cloves.
Add 8 oz ground almonds and a pinch of salt.
Knead all well together and chill for at least an hour before rolling out. 

Filling for each tart
Spread half a pound of fruit, redcurrants, raspberries or a mixture of the two, over the pastry case and sprinkle with sugar.

Once cooked it looks rather nice on your dessert plate with a good blob of double cream!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Father's Day

When my father was de-mobbed from the army at the end of the 2nd World War he arrived home to a small daughter that he did not know. He thought that I was 'running wild' and in need of strict discipline. I was defiant; a total stranger had come to live in our house and was bossing me about. He had no right!
You've heard the story of David and Goliath - you know how it ends. It took my father a while to realise how similar we were, and, in spite of my diminutive  size, how evenly matched. 
He was a lively, interesting and loving father and my resentment soon disappeared. We became the closest of friends and stayed that way until his death at the age of ninety-one, at the start of the new millennium.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Friday, 17 June 2011

Have you Heard?

Have you Heard?

Have you heard how Jane became Ophelia?
She slipped
while gathering marigolds at the mill pool's edge.
Her nephew, cousin, call him what you will,
(a lively man, you know him well)
took her sad end,
making her noble, mad for unrequited love,
leading to further madness.
chilling in a bath,

Death upon death
for art.

In 1569 Jane Shaxspere, aged two and a half, lost her footing while picking corn marigolds and tumbled into the mill pond, where she drowned. She lived twenty miles from Shakespeare's childhood home in Stratford-upon-Avon and it is possible that they were relatives.

The coroner, Henry Feeld, gave a very detailed report:
"By reason of collecting and holding out certain flowers called 'yelowe boddles' growing on the bank of Upton myll pond the same Jane Shaxspere the said sixteenth day of June about the eighth hour after noon suddenly and by misfortune fell into the same small channel and was drowned and then and there she instantly died."
Then he added:
"And thus the aforesaid flowers were the cause of the death of the aforesaid Jane, and they are worth nothing."

Emma Smith of Oxford University states that "while Shakespeare's plays draw on well-attested literary sources, they often have roots in gossip and domestic detail." 

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Jane and Lance HATTATT wrote evocatively about the tower that they had built in their previous garden and I was reminded of Alain-Fournier's book, 'Le Grand Meaulnes.'
Then Cro, at Magnon's Meanderings, posted a photograph of the roof beams in the rather wonderful tower that he has been busy building at his home in France. I wonder if he has seen Montaine's tower where the roof beams are decorated with Latin sayings?  

Michel de Montaigne, (1533-1592) was the originator of the personal essay. He spoke Latin as his mother tongue and trained in law. After working as a counsellor in the Bordeaux Parliament he retired to his chateau in 1571 where he composed his first essays.
He wrote about anything and everything, from the art of conversation to smells!

The first time that we visited, some years ago, we were just handed a key and left to wander.
On our last visit, when these photographs were taken, we had to collect a ticket and look around in a group with a guide, a different and a less magical experience.

The only tower that I possess is a pencil drawing by the artist David Inshaw. Himself had seen it in David's studio. He thought that I would like it and described the drawing to me as illustrating Thomas Hardy's book, 'Two on a Tower' the love story of young astrologer Swithin St Cleeve and Lady Constantine.   I am a Hardy fan and we were married on St Swithin's Day, so I was very excited at the prospect of owning the drawing. Himself said that I should go and look at the work to be sure that I would like it. I had already drawn the picture in my head, an old, delicately decorated slender tower rising out of wooded ground. No, I didn't need to see the drawing, I knew what it would be like, a beautiful night-time scene with myriad stars. In the novel Hardy describes Lady Constantine as, 'sitting aloft on a lonely column, with a forest groaning under her feet.'

It is a large drawing, measuring 86 cm width in its frame. When Himself unwrapped it I didn't see the feminine tower of my imagination but a very masculine observatory tower. I'm afraid that my first response was, "You've bought a penis!"
Now I smile whenever I walk into the sitting room and see it.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Dear, dear.

No sooner does Maisie come back from a glorious walk in the woods or across the fields than she is subjected to a close inspection. Three deer ticks this week! I hate them and so does she.
When she sees me get the tweezers out she takes to her bed. I've told her she doesn't know how lucky she is, at least she doesn't have to have her leg shaved like poor Crusoe, the handsome fox-terrier who lives with Dash at thefrenchsampler. Crusoe came to blows with a goat and it looks as though he came off the worse.
Maisie doesn't want to know.  "Go away, I'm injured. I just want to sleep."

Sunday, 12 June 2011

'Another Op'Nin, Another Show'!

RWA Exhibition June 2011.

Himself has been beavering away in preparation for this exhibition.

The private view last Sunday afternoon was a happy affair.

Linda arrived colour-matched to one of the paintings. It is interesting how often this happens. On Tuesday evening another woman in a similar-coloured cardigan stood in front of the same painting.  I was also caught admiring a pink and black painting of Mary Fedden's whilst dressed in pink and black.

Linda with the artist Alf Stockham.

When the show was over a few of us sauntered down the road for a meal at Brown's .

Mary Fedden Exhibition, 'Celebration.'

On Tuesday evening we were back at the RWA for the private view of work by Mary Fedden OBE. She was born in Bristol in 1915 and studied in London at the Slade. From 1958 to 64 she taught at the Royal College of Art. She was the first female tutor in the painting school and David Hockney was one of her pupils.
From 1984-8 she was president of the RWA.
Her early work, above, gives suggestions of the stylization that was to follow.

She is a wonderful colourist, capable of both great subtlety and of vibrant juxtapositions. She handles velvety blacks to great effect.  
The paintings behind glass showed too many reflections to photograph very successfully, but it is possible to see how well framed her work is - something that is always of interest to fellow artists, as a frame can make or mar any piece of work.

The gallery was very busy, so I had to wait patiently for a space in which to take photographs.
Sometimes, as in the painting below, she uses a very thin, turps reduced paint, which runs freely down the canvas creating a grainy patina.

A couple of women came up behind me and said, "you are exactly colour-matched to that painting, we think that they should let you have it."
If only!

I loved this little monochrome watercolour of catching moths. Once again beautifully mounted and framed.

The good news for Himself and Neil was the amount of interest and activity that spilled through into their show.

Bath Society of Artists 106th Annual Exhibition.

On Friday evening we traveled to Bath for our third private view of the week. There has been an annual open exhibition in the city every year since 1904, bar one, during the second world war. The Victoria Gallery is a friendly, centrally placed gallery and on Friday night it was humming with activity, in spite of the weather.
We had difficulty parking and then made a dash, under our umbrellas, to join the throng.

David Inshaw is the current president, seen here with one of his paintings. I had earlier overheard a man who was looking at it say to his companion, "the cat's quite good."
How's that for high praise!

Himself has a painting in the show, the central image above.

A prizewinner being photographed while the mayor, in his mayoral chain, looks on.

It is interesting at an open exhibition to see not only the wide variety of work but also the responses to it. While Himself checks out the hanging of his painting people in the foregound are having a lot of fun studying a sculpture.

And what would my neighbour, he of the bee stings, make of this, I wonder?

There are always people from the past to meet when we go to exhibitions. Himself is having a conversation here with a student from a number of years ago, now an art teacher herself.