Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Oops!

Our wedding anniversary this week: our fifteenth.  Usually, we would have had a quiet lunch in a country restaurant to mark the event, but I thought that my husband would enjoy the view from the restaurant at Tate Modern - and the food.  I booked a table and tickets for the Barbara Hepworth exhibition, on-line.

We were enjoying a bit of sight -seeing in this unfamiliar part of London.  This is the house where Sir Christopher Wren lived while  St Paul's was being built just across the river.


 Over to the East, the skyline is both distinctive and improbable.  What can it be like to work in some of these buildings?


With plenty of time to spare, I went to the ticket desk to pick up the tickets for the exhibition before we went up for lunch.

"Ah, " said the young man.  "Just one problem.  The Barbara Hepworth exhibition is at the other Tate Gallery - Tate Britain." 

I guess I was just lucky it was not the one in St Ives....

Dessert -- note Millennium Bridge below.

Over lunch we agreed that the boat trip down the river would be fun, and so it proved to be. It was a wonderfully comfortable boat.  We passed right alongside the Palace of Westminster, arriving at the other Tate in twenty minutes.


The exhibition was well worth a visit too: streamlined shapes with complex voids and cool textures. 
 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Repeat visits



Lunch at the Court Restaurant at the British Museum, meeting up with old college friends.


Entering the Museum in these challenging times now entails queuing to have your bag searched in the courtyard outside.  The priority for many tourists seemed to be to deploy the selfie stick as often as possible.  For us, it is a civilised venue for lunch, although we passed on the Australian themed set menu.  An earlier exhibition had been Ice Age Art, and there was an accompanying menu for that, too.

 

Several more examples of the Gidday Baby cardigan - I've now knitted more than twenty.  The pattern is easy to memorise, very portable, and entails no sewing up at the end.  Each one probably takes about five hours knitting time all told, although scraps of time, in traffic-jams and on trains can be put to good use.


 
 
Here, the transition between one colour and the other made less stark by a two row stripe , then a four row.  Surprising how obvious that seems once it is done.
 
 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tate Modern



One or two queries from comments: There is a quilt Museum in York just now, but it is due to close this autumn - lack of footfall.  One issue is that quilts take up a lot of room.  The recent Kaffe Fassett exhibition showed twelve items from the historic collection and twelve designed by Kaffe. This took up all the display space.   Now, at a regular quilt fair the numbers would be hugely more than that, with more range and variety.  So hurry along there if you wish to see it.


The Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam does not have a core collection - it is an off-shoot of the one in St Petersburg.  The exhibitions are scheduled to change every six months.  It too, had very low foot-fall when we were there, which made a pleasant change for us.


Today to a part of London which was new to me: Bankside.  I have no idea why I have never visited Tate Modern, but there it is. 

St Pauls with the Millennium Bridge  -note poster for exhibition.

I met my younger sister and we took in the Sonia Delaunay exhibition.  How very refreshing to see a female artist given serious consideration, and to see textiles - a patchwork crib cover, curtains, rugs, swimsuits, fabric designs -  integrated into the display as part of the oeuvre. And Kate Davies on the audio-guide  - I'd never heard her accent before.

London busily rebuilding

We were mightily impressed by the views from the restaurant and, even more, the balcony outside the coffee-shop.

 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tewkesbury

Last weekend, to Tewkesbury for the family get-together of my husband's mother's family, and to celebrate the 80th birthdays of his uncle and aunt.  The weather had been blisteringly hot, but subsided a little for the event.


On the way over, we broke our journey at the Chedworth Roman Villa.  We look at NT properties differently now that we are Volunteers ourselves.  Perhaps the highlight for my husband was his first ever sighting of a fritillary butterfly.  The villa is in a sheltered valley with plenty of wild willow herb and nettles.


A full range of buildings is on display, underfloor heating and all.


Everywhere they had used these splendid mosaics, some more like floor rugs than others.


We were invited to imagine the cream of Roman British society, taking their ease in the sauna and plunge pool.  Given that we were not a million miles from the M4, deep in lush countryside, it was not hard to imagine the powerful at their weekend homes.


So, to Tewkesbury, a town in dire need of some sort of by-pass, as the traffic roars through it until late at night.  I counted nine charity shops as we walked from our hotel to the abbey, but also a fair number of interesting ancient buildings.

 
At the event we were happy to see all the older generation in good heart, and to catch up on the careers of those in their twenties, when anything still seems possible.  It was a good do, as they say up North.

On our return journey, we cut across country, calling at Waddesden Manor for lunch.  We were surprised to find a full-scale Park and Ride in operation - we remembered parking on the drive up to the house before.  At that time, there was a trained mynah bird in the aviary - called, I think, George.  He was very entertaining, but must be long gone.  However, we were delighted to find an exhibition of drawings by Henry Moore, including some of the sheep drawings we enjoy.  This was a lovely bonus.  Lunch was excellent too.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Miniatures



I don't know whether you have read "The Miniaturist" by Jessie Burton?  This is a novel set in Amsterdam, in the seventeenth century.  It starts very much in the vein of "The Girl in the Pearl Earring", but takes a turn towards magic realism.  The central character, Nella, is bought a dolls' house by her new husband, as a form of compensation for the fact that his own house is governed by his puritanical sister. Petronella makes contact with a miniaturist who provides her with  furnishings and figures for the house - items with prophetic significance.


As I was skimming through the Acknowledgements at the back, I came across a reference to a cabinet dolls' house in the Rijksmuseum, which had belonged to Petronella Oortman, the name of the central character.  So, of course, while in Amsterdam we had to visit Room 221 where the said cabinet dolls' house is on display.  It is veneered in tortoiseshell inlayed with pewter, and the little interiors give a very good impression of domestic life.  The motto of the book, however, is that "Things will change".  I won't reveal exactly how, as you may want to read the book yourself, but the motto is an understatement.

We explored some of what the Rijksmuseum had to offer, but by lunchtime were suffering from museum fatigue.


Another location featured in the novel is the Oude Kerk, the oldest building in Amsterdam.  We enjoyed these grotesque carvings on the misericords.

 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A bit of culture...




Our second day in Amsterdam started with a tram trip to the Hermitage Museum, an off-shoot of the one in St Petersburg.  There were two exhibitions, the first linking Napoleon and Josephine to Alexander of Russia.  Accounts of the retreat from Moscow made it clear that the Dutch were part of the French army at that point.  Dutch and Polish engineers worked through the night to construct bridges to cross the freezing rivers.  This sort of detail was curiously juxtaposed by the glittering artefacts- Alexander's ring, gold rimmed china and so on.  Most surprising was the family tree showing that Josephine's descendants - not Napoleon's -  now include most of the crowned heads of Northern Europe.


We enjoyed the civilised environment of this museum, once a home for the elderly.


The second exhibition could hardly have been more different: huge group portraits of the civic dignitaries of the guilds, dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  The commentaries surrounding these made them surprisingly interesting. 

After lunch, I took a stroll along a rather seedy street leading to this fairytale building, once the weigh station.  On my way back, along a more respectable street, to meet my husband, I spotted a yarn shop, something I can never resist.  Inside, skein after skein of well-known yarns on display. 


And upstairs, the joint owner, Stephen West. 


Remember this unusual scarf?  This is Spectra, one of his designs, quite a conventional concept compared to his current output.


As chance would have it, I had happened down that street on the very day that the shop opened, having relocated from another street in Amsterdam.  What are the odds on that?


Did I buy some yarn?  Of course I did.  This is Malabrigo Rios, and Tosh Merino Light.  The colours in these fairly make my heart sing.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Amsterdam




Visiting Amsterdam for a few days....   Almost forty years ago, I was in Amsterdam for a week, starting off as a solo traveller using the Youth Hostel, then teaming up with an art student and moving on to some dormitory hotels, at the budget end of the spectrum. 


This time we were staying in a family-run hotel in the museum district, which sounds sedate enough; in daylight, the street was a shady avenue.  In the middle of the night, though, it was a different story.


Arriving from the overnight ferry, we started as we meant to go on with the Van Gogh Museum.  Recent visits to exhibitions in London have been spoiled for us by the press of people; here, a version of "The Sunflowers" passed almost without remark, among the full range of his work from every phase of his career.  We learned a lot.

In the shop, I was amazed to see how far merchandising has gone.  Bike saddle bags featuring sunflowers? A dog-coat? Amazing.


We settled in to sightseeing mode with a canal-boat trip.  All along these canals, are the typical tall, narrow houses surmounted by the gable hoist.  Some of these date from the seventeenth century.


There are 700,000 bicycles in Amsterdam, a figure which may be an underestimate.  Yes, there are bike lanes, but these are also used by motor scooters and are part of the pavement, not the road.  At every crossing, you take your life into your hands.


More later.