shewhomust: (bibendum)
Friday you already know about: what next?

[ profile] durham_rambler had discovered that there was an exhibition about Topic Records at the Barbican library (this link explains more, and links to a video: 75 years of folk music in ten minutes). GirlBear was familiar with the space, and was able to warn us that it wouldn't be a very large exhibition, but even so, the three of us felt it was worth a visit. We allowed ourselves an hour to look round, and that was plenty, even allowing time for reading documents and reminiscing about the records. I'd have liked more about the field recordings, and less about the stars, but I'm already converted and don't need to be preached to: and I'm sad enough to get a buzz out of things like Davy Graham's first recording contract.

After lunch, GirlBear had an assignation with the Society of Recorder Players, and [ profile] durham_rambler and I visited the Museum of London. Where there are many splendid things, and I took many pictures. )

We dined that evening with [ profile] helenraven - or perhaps I should say with [ profile] kelpercomehome, since she lured us south of the river with promises of wines she had discovered on her travels. The journey was more exciting than it should have been, since the nearest tube station was closed (though we didn't find this out till the doors of the train were closing) and we had forgotten the number of her flat - which wouldn't have mattered if it weren't for the security gates fitted since our last visit. So we coulsn't simply proceed along the walkway until we recognised a friendly door. But we worked it out, we arrived, the wine was excellent and the company even better - and that was Saturday.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We are in London for the briefest of weekends, mostly for the Bears' carol evening - but there's always time to visit friends, and to have a look round, too.

Starting with a visit to King's Cross )

The day wasn't over yet: after a pause at home to recuperate, we set off again for Waltham Cross, to dine as we did last year with A and A ([ profile] durham_rambler remarked that the journey was a lot easier by train!) They've had various things happening in their lives, so there was plenty to talk about, and I was glad not to be trying to cram all the conversation in between carols. And the train got us home in time to make a serious attack on the Oldie prize crossword (in fact, BoyBear had finished it by the time I got up the next morning). So that was Friday...
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
The BBC has announced the death, aged 104, of E. R. Braithwaite, best known as author of To Sir, with Love, an autobiographical novel about his time as a teacher in the East End of London; the book, in turn, is best known as the basis for a film starring Sidney Poitier and Lulu (and how often do you get to join those names?). It's a long time since I read the book, but the assessment in this article in London Fictions matches my recollection: an interesting account of a particular place and time, not the greatest literature but well enough told, though the hero / narrator is perhaps a bit too good to be true (or sympathetic).

I had a particular reason to be interested, though. My mother always claimed that Braithwaite's job in the East End was as her maternity leave replacement, which made me in a way responsible for the book. We took this, as we took all my mother's stories, with a pinch of salt: she was a great myth-maker, and lived the post-truth life half a century before the term was invented. Nonetheless, it's not impossible. That London Fictions piece identifies the school as St George in the East, where I believe she taught (and which sounds like quite somewhere in itself), and a biography on the British Library site places it in 1951, which is right. So who knows?
shewhomust: (dandelion)
This post has been a Work in Progress for the last week, and meanwhile stuff keeps happening. Nonetheless, here it is at last. We were in London for a week, for reasons I explained on our way south. It was a busy week, and now it is over and we are returned to our regular programming, whatever that may be. Here's the compressed version of the last week: Further compressed by the cut! )

And then we came home. But that's another story.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Just leaving a wet and rainy Northallerton, and I have a large tumbler of sauvignon blanc ("they don't teach them about portion control," says [ profile] durham_rambler, and how right he is).

Anything we have left undone is going to have to stay undone - no, wait, I wish it were that simple. If there is anything the builders need us to have done which we have not done, they will either have to do without or do themselves. I wish I found this reassuring. Boss builder saw us off with a cheery "Don't worry about anything!" surely among the most alarming words in the English language, second only to "We are pleased to announce an upgrade!"

But we are on our way, and not sorry to be leaving building and decorating behind us for a bit. We have a week in London, with a curious double focus: it just so happens that GirlBear's birthday coincides with the anniversary of the Battle of Jutland. It always does, of course, but this year we will be celebrating a significant birthday and commemorating the centenary of the battle. Actually, the main activity around the Battle of Jutland will be taking place in Orkney, and I can't claim that I wasn't tempted, but it wasn't really possible, because, on the one hand, birthday! and on the other hand this is what we will be doing tomorrow.

There is a project to install a paving stone at or near the home of everybody who won a VC in World War One, and one of these is Jack Cornwell, who was [ profile] durham_rambler's grandfather's cousin. Wikipedia version here and Charles Causley's version of the story on Google Books. It's clear that the ceremony is going to be in patriotic mode, and any reflection of the 'Who puts a 16 year old boy in the line of fire?' will be kept strictly to ourselves.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
New Year's Day already - how did that happen?

And guests to play with, so no time to post now. But here's a half-written post left over from last year, so I can at least stop kidding myself I'm ever going to get caught up, and post that:

It starts with a news update: on Tuesday morning the garage who are to repair our car came and collected it, and left us a courtesy car in its place. We don't know how long the repair will take: the garage was running on half-staff over the holidays, and we are now in the middle of another bank holiday weekend. But in the meantime, we are mobile again. Not being able to use the car has been half frustrating, half an excuse to take things easy, but it had gone on quite long enough. We celebrated Tuesday with a visit to deliver a late Cheistmas present, some heavy duty supermarket shopping, and a jaunt to the seaside - to Seaham for a fish-and-chips lunch and the shortest possible walk along the front:

Seaside in December

Onther than that, what I wanted not to miss writing about was the Bears' Carol evening. Always the same, always different (as BoyBear says about another Christmas tradition). This year F. arrived just in time to add the final touches to the mulled wine, which I had started in his absence (I am sad to report that adding more honey than seems plausible really does make all the difference; I wish this weren't the magic ingredient, but it is). So he was there to overhear, and be baffled by, A. arriving and handing me a bag with the words "I've made one of all the kinds of dinosaur, including the 3D ones that you have to slot together." (One of my purchases while out shopping with GirlBear the previous Friday had been a set of dinosaur biscuit cutters for A., who has an extraordinary collection of cutters with which she bakes delicious and appropriate ginger biscuits for all occasions. She received the gift with every sign of delight, and the words "Oh, I don't have those kinds of dinosaut!"). P. was absent, because he works as a film extra background artiste, and had been at work from five that morning (leaving home at three) doing something highly secret in Lincoln's Inn, so the new arrangement of one of the carols (I've forgotten which one) featured neither his concertina solo nor R.'s fiddle (R. having forgotten to bring his fiddle). The other P. started a number of complicated discussions: there was one about the Sussex Carol really being from Derbyshire (Wikipedia knows nothing of this, and nor does R., who really is from Derbyshire), and one about how the wise men must have been travelling eastwards, if they came from the east and had seen the star in the east: we stopped short of drawing diagrams, but only just. And there was the traditional discussion about Here we come a-wassailing which, in the version we sing, maintains a strict rhyme scheme until the very last line, and then breaks it spectacularly. M. extemporised a revised version:
God bless the masters of this house:
Their names are Neil and Jan.
They give us Christmas carolling
And mulled wine in the pan.

We were having such a good time that we included two bonus carols, Shepherds, arise! and the Sans Day Carol, as previewed at the Islington Folk Club Christmas party.

Indeed, we had such a good time that the next day we accompanied GirlBear to the Whittington Hospital, where she was part of a recorder group playing half an hour of Christmas music in the foyer. What I learn from this is that I don't hate the Coverntry Carol at all, as a recorder piece I like it very much; but I do find it very tedious to sing.

Then, for a complete change from Christmas, [ profile] durham_rambler and I went to the Jewish Museum, and then to dinner with [ profile] helenraven, and both of these things were entirely satisfactory.

And the next day we came home.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Keeping busy. We had a dinner date on Friday, but a free afternoon, so GirlBear and I took the bus to Crouch End and shopped, for supplies and gifts, luxuries and necessities. For a while it looked as if we were going to have to report that only GirlBear had bought a book, but then I found one - Karen Maitland's latest, which was very satisfactory. I also bought soap, orange juice, artisan bread, sellotape, various cards, toothbrushes, vacuum packed chestnuts - a pleasingly random haul. I also took photographs of Hornsey Town Hall, which has some lovely decorative detail, some of it incorporating the motto Fortior quo Paratior: if I'm interpreting that correctly, it's very apt for these pre-Christmas days of preparation and planning!

We were just approaching our rendezvous point, when the car, with [ profile] durham_rambler and BoyBear in it, pulled alongside, and we jumped in with packages flying in all directions. The drive out to Waltham Cross went smoothly right up to the last moment, when we had a disagreement with a man in a white van (details redacted because reasons). No one was hurt, though the car now has an impressive dent at the back - luckily not breaking any lights, so we could drive on.

The evening recovered, we had a fun Christmas dinner with A. and A. at the local Wetherspoons, the Moon and Cross, and returned with them to their house for coffee and more chat: places, and civic planning, old friends and folk events we have known. I loved A.'s story about going to a sing around at a friendly but rather grand house, and been caught in a sudden downpour on the way: so there I was sitting with the dog's head in my lap, and the Siamese cat sitting on my shoulder, drinking the drips from my hair...

Yesterday [ profile] durham_rambler and I went out to Essex to visit his family; a busy, bustling time with Christmas shopping, football practice, changes of plan of a medical nature (not dramatic, not drastic and not my story to tell - but disruptive). There was time to admire the tree, and admire it even more when the malfunctioning string of fairy lights had been replaced with not one but two new ones; and there was time for a game of Lexicon, and to be shown the splendours of a football game on the X-box (football, not interesting, but the graphics are indeed impressive).

Then we came back to Tufnell Park for dinner and a start on the Chritmas crossword (so far, we are not impressed). And tonight there will be the Carol Evening, so I should go and do my share of preparation.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Last Saturday we missed a birthday party because there was so much snow last night we went to a Christmas party amid reports that this is the warmest December on record. We are in London: it's another country.

I've been too busy struggling to keep up with Christmas preparations to post about it as well. There's little to report: lussekater were baked, only a day late; Christmas cake baked, although 'soak fruit overnight' turned out to take three days, and next year I really am going to review the quantities; some presents have been bought, and some of those wrapped and dispatched - thoough some remain to be found, and there are some people who will not receive their presents until, if all goes well, the days between Christmas and the New Year; cards are done except those for neighbours; and we are in London for our annual pre-Christmas visit, so what has not been done will await our return. Time to party!

As usual, we would have liked to set off earlier than we did, but there was last minute wrapping, and we were watching the clock all the way, but arrived in time for a bowl of chili before the Islington Folk Club Christmas party. The club is upstairs at the Horseshoe pub, in Clerkenwell; one day I will visit Clerkenwell by daylight, but on a December night it's a fine Dickensian London scene, dark alleys and glittering lights, sacks of rubbish awaiting collection and bright cocktail bars.

The Christmas party, as BoyBear says, is always the same and always different. There was the Angel Band, the house band, complete with what we think was a bass clarinet (reaches to the floor, and you can tuck small items into the bell for safe keeping), Christmas tunes and morris tunes sometimes sliding from one to the other; there was pass the parcel, with the traditional forfeits (the solo mummers' play); there were floor spots, tending towards the seasonal.

Shepherds, awake!

Dorten Yonder sang Shepherds, Awake!, and later, as advertised on BoyBear's T-shirt, Holly, Holly; Amanda MacLean, whose book I posted about a while ago, sang a very funny Twelve Days of Christmas enumerating the traditional features of the club, the seven Swedish polskas, a very melodious five "Don't slam the door!" the four Angel Bands, and a book of Bernard Puckett's pub poetry. And we dispersed with a certain amount of "See you at the Carol Evening on Sunday..." so the fun has only just begun.

One thing, though, one conspicuous absence. Tomorrow would have been Phil Ochs's 75th birthday. I only know this because I stumbled, almost by chance, across an event at the People's Bookshop last Sunday. That would be a post of its own if only I had more time, but the condensed version is, regular event rebranded to remember Phil Ochs, but attended mainly by people who, with all good will, don't remember, haven't heard of. It was described as one of a number of events on this theme, but the internet only shows US events, and my informants on the London folk scene know nothing, either. Sad that so many great songs are so little known:

shewhomust: (mamoulian)
- much impact on the accummulated pile of newspapers (just as one wheelie bin per fortnight makes very little impact on the jungle that is my garden). Nonetheless:

  1. Other holiday cottages are also available. I don't suppose I'll ever rent one of these fabulous modernist houses on Cape Cod - unless I could persuade all my New England friends to come and share it with me! Nor do know why The Guardian feels the need to dress the article up with a come-on headline about Mad Men...

  2. Italy seems to be flavour of the month at The Guardian, and I can see why. How about Puglia, down in the heel of Italy's boot, where you can stay in one of the stone beehive 'trulli'? Or Ravenna, and up the coast to Venice, and then maybe beyond to Trieste? Well, maybe one day...

  3. Then there's London: Iain Sinclair walks the Ginger Line so we don't have to. At book length I find Sinclair unreadable, but half a page seems the right length for his blend of bile and lyricism: "The arches beneath the elevated tracks, oil pits dealing in MOT certificates, mysterious lock-ups and rehearsal spaces for bands without names, were being rapidly upgraded to fish farms offering meditational aids to keep money-market buccaneers on an even keel, Japanese restaurants and artisan bakeries operated by downsizing hedge-fund managers. The word 'artisan' signalled the change in demographic."

  4. Who is Henry Jeffries, and how has he persuaded The Guardian to give him a weekly column which is effectively an advertisement for his (forthcoming, self-published - via Unbound) book? It is, admittedly, tucked away in the increasingly pointless cookery supplement, but it appears under the title of the book, and is invariably followed by a plug for the book. To add insult to injury, it is often informative and always entertaining, even though is is usually about drinks in which I have no real interest. Here, for example, is what it has to say about vodka: he recommends Vestal Vodka from Poland, saying "Most of their vodkas are not only vintage (made from a single potato harvest), but also from a single variety of spud." Varietal vodkas - who knew?

  5. Today's news is full of the outcome of the Greek referendum. The problem seems to be that Greece may have taken the first step to leaving the euro while remaining in Europe, and this is a bad thing. The UK, of course, declines to enter the euro, while remaining in Europe, and this is a good thing. No doubt it's entirely different.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Although we had managed to scoop up an extra celebration by spending my birthday in London, the actual purpose of our visit was to celebrate the 70th birthday of two of my cousins - twins, not coincidence. So that's what we did on Sunday: a pleasant family occasion made livelier by the presence of a bonus set of twins, toddlers and the great nieces of the birthday boys. I can't have been the only one who was thinking what a delight it was to be gathered together for something that wasn't a funeral. The Bears are experts at picking the right combination of trains for the smoothest journey, so we arrived home with enough energy to make the final preparations for the arrival of Monday morning's builders (mainly spreading dust sheets around the kitchen and hoping for the best).

Monday in Kensington )

It was a good day, full of variety and interest: but I wish I had known about this Eric Ravilious exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
The Bears' house, as [ profile] helenraven remarked on Friday, has a strong family resemblance to our own: it's a big old terraced house, whose inhabitants do not regard home improvements as an entertaining pastime. BoyBear and my mother, Skip, bought it together, many years ago, selling a long lease on the basement flat to help finance the purchase. My mother had a self-contained flat on the ground floor, and since her death the Bears have let its large front room, with use of bathroom and kitchen, but kept the back room, which gives them access to the garden, space for GirlBear's art projects, and a sofa bed for guests.

Recent changes in the basement flat have revealed the presence of dry rot, and BoyBear has been working with the leaseholder to arrange for the necessary work. He should probably have realised that this was going to be disruptive not only in the basement but also in the wall immediately above, but for those of us who are not good at the stuff, words like "dry rot" tend to freeze the brain, and it wasn't until Thursday that a message left on the answering machine revealed quite how disruptive it was going to be. The company doing the work wanted to confirm that everything was clear to give them access on Monday. This is why BoyBear was left at home on Friday to wrangle telephones, and discover what access they needed, instead of walking along the Dollis Brook with us. We came home to discover that, despite a scary moment where it sounded as if we were going to have to rip out the entire kitchen, the preparation required was substantial but manageable. A professional had been booked to come on Monday and remove the gas cooker, and the rest of it - the back wall of the big room, on either side of the French windows - we could do ourselves.

So the entertainments planned for Saturday were replaced with much rearranging of Stuff: audio equipment taken well away from where builders would be generating dust, our cosy nest in the sofa-bed folded away, books stacked in the space this made available, and covered with a dustsheet, plants taken out into the garden, the spare glasses removed from the cabinet to the left of the French windows and taken upstairs (with the exception of half a dozen cocktail glasses, which were boxed up to go to a charity shop), likewise winter clothes removed from the wardrobe on the right. We gazed at the shelves of odds and ends which had belonged to my mother and decided that they were far enough from the area of work, and that while we appreciated the reminder that there were still belongings of Skip's waiting to be dealt with, it wasn't going to happen right now. Then we examined the furniture.

The cabinet that held the glasses was a pine dresser, the sort composed of a cupboard underneath, and a separate set of shelves (in this case with glass doors) standing on top of it. The shelves should be reasonably stable, but it's as well to secure them in some way. We could see that Skip had tackled this by screwing a hook into the top of the cabinet, and using wire to lash it to the decorative fitting which no longer supported the curtain rail (because the cabinet filled some of the space previously covered by the curtain). But unfastening the wire did not free the cabinet, and examination revealed it had also been nailed into the dado rail. [ profile] durham_rambler and BoyBear between them were able to free it, though this dislodged a length of the rail. "Typical Skippy workmanship!" we said, picturing her at the foot of the ladder giving instructions to her press-ganged 'volunteer'. Moving the base of the cupboard was easy, because it was another typical Skip item, Potemkin furniture with neither back nor base, so we were able to lift it bodily, leaving the tins of paint standing on the floor where it had been.

One down, one to go. The 'fitted wardrobe' looked like a handsome piece of furniture, with art deco door fittings (which didn't match) and one elegantly inlaid door: but it was obvious that a piece of that style could not have been fitted into the alcove, and besides, why just the one good door? So it was no surprise when we started to take it apart, to discover that it too had been bodged together from what was available - that one good door, a sheet of hardboard, the side of an old bed. These had been screwed, nailed and in places glued into position, with odd offcuts holding the different elements at the same height. It took some doing, but the four of us together, some pushing, some pulling, and [ profile] durham_rambler wielding the mallet, managed to remove it - all bar the clothes rail and the shelf above, which we left. We were asked to clear up to a height of 1.5 metres, and we had.

Duty done, we went out to the Cellar Upstairs for a couple of very enjoyable sets from Gail Williams and Jim Younger, a fine spot from the wonderful Tom Paley, and not enough from Dorten Yonder.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
For context: we are in London for a family event; some of our plans for the rest of the weekend have been rearranged to accommodate building work. Both of these things may be explained at a later time, if the opportunity arises.

Which is why yesterday GirlBear took me and [ profile] durham_rambler for a birthday walk along the Dollis Brook, leaving BoyBear at home with the telephone. It's not a big river, and it runs through a strip of parkland that is not very wide, but you find yourself walking for several miles through a London from which the city is surprisingly absent. Not completely so: there is traffic noise, and train noise - the tube follows the line of the river for much of the way - and constant glimpses of houses through the trees, but the immediate surroundings are green.

We took the tube to Totteridge and Whetstone (only a few stops beyond East Finchley, where we once lived, but not a station I have ever used before), so we started the walk doubling back the way we had come. Spring is more advanced than in the north: the blackthorn has shed most of its flowers, and is coming into leaf, the hawthorn shows tight little buds but is not yet in bloom - but there were many trees of a kind I couldn't identify heavy with white blossom. At times we had to cross roads which sliced through the greenway, and once we passed under a high viaduct. We sat on a bench to eat our lunch bagels and drink our coffee, and watched the children and the magpies.

Crossing a track, [ profile] durham_rambler was ahead of me and GirlBear, pointing and hushing us, because he had seen:

This is a very urban heron, living within yards of the A1, so perhaps it is accustomed to passers by. It paced slowly around, offering us first one profile then the other, and gave us time to point it out to the next couple who came along (they were as grateful as if we had provided the heron ourselves), before demonstrating its take-off. You couldn't top that, and we left the park at the next exit (just by a street called Crooked Usage) and caught a bus home.

GirlBear had very kindly invited some of our long-standing London friends to join us for the evening, so we picked up some shopping on the way home, and the rest of the day was preparation and then partying. It was a lovely evening, and although there's never as much time as I'd like to talk, I did, by jumping into a seat every time one was vacated, manage at least to say hello to everyone.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
For the last several years, the County Durham Plan has been a large part of our lives; and when I say 'our' I'm talking about [ profile] durham_rambler and myself, but also about various residents' groups and civic societies. Our friends and neighbours are either as deeply involved as we are, or have heard us talk about it so much for so long that they probably feel as if they are. We have attended County Council consultation sessions, we have made comments, we have submitted critiques, we have studied the Plan in detail and at length. [ profile] durham_rambler has collated population projections and mashed up maps, and he worked more or less full-time last summer to co-ordinate and complete the evidence of the City of Durham Trust: our holiday had to be squeezed in between the closing date for the submission of evidence and the opening of the Examination in Public, at which a Planning Inspector considers the Plan and decides whether it is sound (this is why we were in New England too early for the Fall foliage) - and on our return there was a month and a bit when he was spending several days a week at the Examination in Public.

So yes, the process has eaten our time and out lives, and it hasn't done our business any good either. But we considered it worthwhile, because this is important: the Plan is the structural plan which determines how the County is managed for the next ten or twenty years. A good Plan helps make County Durham a better place to live, but this - this was not a good plan. As I understand it, the Council's strategy is to use the City to attract businesses, and therefore jobs, to the County, by building lots of houses in the Green Belt. Not that I do understand it - or rather, I don't understand why the availability of housing for existing staff should tempt a business to move to Durham and take on people who already live here; nor do I see any good reason why that housing (supposing it to be needed) has to be in, rather than outside, Durham's very narrow Green Belt; and surely no-one now believes that you can reduce traffic congestion by building more roads, and...

Enough. You get the picture.

Ten days ago the Inspector issued his interim report. This found against the Council on a number of aspects of the Plan: it rejected the planned relief roads, the removal of land from Green Belt and the half-hearted policy on controlling studentification in the City. This is good news for us. But how is the Council to make a strategic policy for the future? The Inspector offers them three options: they can continue the process with the existing Plan (in which case he is likely to find the Plan unsound); they can suspend the Examination process and see what they can rescue from the Plan (though suspension would normally be for a maximum of six months, and they'd have their work cut out to get the work done in time); or they can withdraw the Plan (which leaves Durham with no strategic policy).

So what does the Council do? Does it sit down to examine the Plan in the light of the interim report, to see what it has left, and what it can patch up? You think?

First, it sets up a meeting of business men (and a woman) to act as cheerleaders. These - unlike us - are the people whose opinion matters.

At the next Council meeting, it complains that the Examination in Public process is unfair, and that the Inspector is "Bristol-based" (Bristol being where the Planning Inspectorate, a Government Department, has it offices; you might equally complain of the Durham-based passport office...).

Unofficially, you can see the level of debate in this Twitter exchange between a County Councillor (and member of the Planning Committee) and some Durham City residents.

I am beyond angry.

There's a rather more entertaining tirade about planning in The Guardian, where Ian Martin lets rip about London - The city that privatised itself to death: "The utter capitulation of London’s planning system in the face of serious money is detectable right there in that infantile, random collection of improbable sex toys poking gormlessly into the privatised air. Public access? Yeah, we’ll definitely put a public park at the top (by appointment only). Oh, absolutely, we are ALL about community engagement: members of the public are welcome to visit our viewing gallery in the sky, that’ll be 30 quid, madam."
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Via [ profile] makinglight, the story of Thomas J Cobden-Sanderson, bookbinder, printer, type designer and associate of William Morris. He established the Doves Bindery at Hammersmith, and later, with Emery Walker, the Doves Press, for which they designed a type face based on that of the 15th-century printer Nicolas Jenson. (There are sample pages here.) When the partners fell out, Cobden-Sanderson took the press's entire set of type to Hammersmith Bridge (it took him 170 trips and nine months), and threw it into the river; he wrote "To the bed of the River Thames, the River on whose banks I have printed all my printed books, I, the Doves Press, bequeath The Doves Press Fount of Type, – the punches, matrices and the type... And may the River, in its tides and flows, pass over them to and from the great sea for ever and ever, or until its tides and flow for ever cease... untouched of other use".

You can read this as tragedy or farce, or both. You can meditate on whether to respect the artist's wish that their work be destroyed, or you can try to recreate or rescue what has been lost. Designer Robert Green spent three years working on a digital version of the Doves type - and then he thought he couldn't regard the job as finished unless he at least tried to find the original type. So he went down onto the Thames foreshore and - story and pictures here.

Which naturally reminded me of this diary of a mudlark, passed on by [ profile] asakiyume.

And of Billy and Charley - but that's a whole other story...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
When I wrote about our day out in London, I said that our afternoon's walk needed a post of its own, with pictures. And now that I have sorted through the 108 photographs that I took in the course of that walk, I'm ready to write that post. Ready, too, after a dew days of snow and wind and rain, for a sunny afternoon's walk. Under a cut, because inordinately long, and many pictures. Not all 108 of them, but many... )
shewhomust: (dandelion)
The big Gothic exhibition at the British Library overshadows all else, but there is also, tucked away in the foyer, a small exhibition called Lines in the Ice: Seeking the Northwest Passage, which we visited while we were in London. It is a little random: the blurb promises to explore and examine various themes, which I would describe it rather as mentioning and illustrating - but it did tell me some things I hadn't known, and I enjoyed some of those illustrations very much.

The first section, in a side-room, is accompanied by an unexplained soundscape of groans and gurgling, as if the Library itself had indigestion. It looks at the early years of exploration, and mentions, almost in passing, the belief that the open sea does not freeze. I dont know the origin of this conviction (other than ignorance) but it does explain why people were so confident that there would be a navigable route to the north and west of all that known, frozen, territory. There was a volume of Hakluyt, open at an illustration of the crew on foot breaking a passage in the ice for their ship, observed by a very unimpressed polar bear. I would like to know more about Martin Frobisher; anyone who can label a geographical feature "the Mistaken Straightes" is worth investigating. There was a map of Thule (which doesn't seem to have made it into the BL's online gallery, though an image search turns up a variety of detailed maps of this entirely imaginary island). There were also some Inuit stick maps, wooden rods carved into a tactile representation of the coastline (these may not have been as old as their inclusion in this section sugests, but still, wonderful things).

The second section of the exhibition brought us into the nineteenth century, and inevitably to Sir John Franklin. The bee in my bonnet on this subject is always the treatment of John Rae, and on this occasion whoever wrote the captions has done him justice in describing his discovery of the fate of Franklin's exhibition, and the shabbiness of his treatment thereafter. They haven't, though, found either pictures or books to represent him in the exhibition itself (with the exception of one book, which may have been McClure's account, on whose title page his name appears, though smaller than those of the author and of Franklin). The Bookhunter's interesting and enthusiastic account of the exhibition manages to overlook Rae altogether, though it does include an image of my favourite thing from this section, William Scoresby's careful drawings of snowflakes (what is the BL thinking not offering this for purchase as a Christmas card? But they have precisely nothing available from this exhibition.) There was also a listening post, with audio from Martin Carthy, Stan Rogers and some Inuit players of a throat-singing game.

The bearded seals under the ice were in the next section, as was a map showing Inuit place names, and some material about Amundsen, but I found it a little incoherent. Blame my memory, since, as I said, no supporting material, no flyers to bring home...

Nonetheless, good exhibition, free entry, do look in if you're passing.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
It is the winter solstice and we are in London, to celebrate it with the singing of carols.

We arrived on Thursday, in time for the Islington Folk Club Christmas party, which is a jolly affair, with music and sandwiches and fun amd games. The game in question is Pass the Parcel, and there are forfeits, one of which ended up with the whole company singing Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll to the tune of Adeste Fideles.

On Friday [ profile] durham_rambler and I went to the William Morris exhibition at the Portrait Gallery, which was not quite what I had expected, but made more sense (I had wondered why it was at the NPG, because I had not realised how many portraits it included). Interesting, but I could have done with more depth. Afterwards we walked down to the river and along the South Bank, but that's a picture post in its own right. But one picture from Trafalgar Square:

London has come over all ecumenical, and in addition to the Norwegian Christmas tree, there is a giant menorah and a blue cockerel. Feel free to devise your own rituals involving these three items and as many pigeons as you please.
shewhomust: (puffin)
As I understand it - on the basis of having seen the trailer, plus whatever additional clips were included in the television programme which set me off on this journey - the film Saving Mr Banks argues that P.L. Travers was eventually won over to Walt Disney's version of Mary Poppins by its treatment of Mr Banks, the father of the family. Like her own father, George Banks works in a bank, and the film adds scenes in which he encounters problems there; but unlike her own father, he is ultimately rescued, redeemed. There is no basis for any of this in the chapter in the book in which the children are taken into the City to have tea with their father.

Mr Banks's request that Jane and Michael* call for him at the Office, and take him out to Tea and Shortbread Fingers, as a Treat. I am charmed the mixed registers of this invitation. On the one hand, the plaintive tone: "and it's not often I have a Treat." is typical of the depictions of Mr Banks as in some ways the youngest and most indulged of the Banks children; on the other, Shortbread Fingers are quite an adult treat - no raspberry jam cakes for Mr Banks. Perhaps it is simply kindness, to suggest that the outing is a treat for him, when he intends it as a treat for his children.

It is a treat for them, but this has nothing to do with tea and shortbread biscuits with their father; that is no more than a pretext to bring them into the City** where they can meet the real star of the chapter, the Bird Woman. The chapter opens with Michael's anxious words "Perhaps she won't be there," and Jane's reassurance that she will, "she's always there for ever and ever," and she is saying, as she always is, the magic words: she satisfies the children's desire for permanence and predictability which Mary Poppins will never indulge.

But then, this chapter isn't about Mary Poppins, either. She is present, of course, wearing her new hat and looking very distinguished, referring to the birds as 'sparrers' (a rare dialect pronunciation for her) because all birds are alike to her***. But she doesn't make the magic happen - if there is, indeed, any magic except in the telling; she doesn't lead the children into unfaniliar and enchanted territiory, for they know the Bird Woman already; and she doesn't get the last word. It is Jane who Michael asks for the story, and they tell it to each other; at the end, Michael asks if it is true, and Mary Poppins says no, because she always says no, but Jane says yes, and Jane always knew everything... The story, with its soothing description of the birds' bed-time ritual, ought to lead to the children asleep in the nursery, but they have not yet reached their father's Office, and their arrival there is never described.

In Mary Poppins Comes Back, Mary leads the children to a Park entrance they have never seen before, where they find the Balloon Woman, who urges them to choose carefully, because there are "Balloons and balloons" in Mary Poppins Opens the Door, Miss Caliuco sits by the Park railings with her peppermint horses. The Bird Woman foreshadows these street vendors, but their stories develop in a very different direction.

* This is one of those chapters in which Mary Poppins is accompanied only by the two elder children; who, if anyone, is looking after the Twins?

**The location is quite precise: they walk up Ludgate Hill to Saint Paul's "which was built a long time ago by a man with a bird's name", which is why it is home to so many birds, and to the Bird Woman. Travers may have disliked Disney's whimsy, but this is whimsical by any standards.

It also places Cherry Tree Lane, with its High Street shops and its small-town or suburban neighbourliness, very close to the City - not just the centre of London, but the business and financial centre (the map in the endpapers of Mary Poppins in the Park shows Cherry Tree Lane skirting one side of the Park, and St Paul's tucked into the far corner, at one end of the High Street.

***They are not sparrows, but doves and pigeons, in a variety of colours. An internet search on 'London' and 'pigeons' brings up mostly sites about pest control. And it is illegal to feed pigeons in Trafalgar Square.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
We are in Ely, with D. and [ profile] valydiarosada. Despite the warnings of the weather forecast, we did not in fact have too hard a coming of it: we avoided the tailback at Catterick (emergency gas leak) by cutting through the town, the rain was squally and the wind was gusty, but the worst problem was traffic on the Lincoln ring road. And we arrived and were soothed with tea and warming stew and comparative malbec tasting (Mendoza good, Cahors better) and television. This morning D. gave us a brief introduction to Ely (the river, the self-illuminating sluice gate, the cathedral, the ducks), then we drove through the fens in watery sunshine for lunch at the Maid's Head (I recomend the sweet potato wedges, pity about the accompanying dip). I am writing this as the afternoon slips away, and [ profile] valydiarosada is in the kitchen making apple pie to the accompaniment of carols from King's College.

I had expected to have written about our trip to London long before now: but I had expected to have done a number of things which somehow have remained undone. I had envisioned the days between our return from London and our departure for Ely as a little oasis of calm in which I could achieve a number of tasks in an orderly and unhurried manner: this did not happen. I know these are the shortest days, but they are supposed to have as many hours as other days - so where did they go?

Anyway, London: It's a big place, a long post and several pictures )

And on Monday, we returned home, and the rest you know. Except that on Saturday we had yet more seasonal music, this time from the Albion Christmas Band: we'd been uncertain about this, and maybe a little confused by a previous Sage concert from a second-generation Albion Band, but the Christmas Band turned out to be Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Kellie While and Simon Care - of whom Simon Care was the least familiar name, but the one whose CD we took home with us (having heard it playing during the interval). No reflection on the band, which provided a lively and various evening; we counted seven pieces we had sung the previous week, but in very different versions (the watchword appears to be 'boisterous', and I got the idea that the band felt there was something missing, and were trying to supply the stamping and ringing of the absent morris side). I'd happily go again next year.

Which brings me up to date, I think - Merry Christmas, everyone!

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