30 July 2009

More Blogs About Buildings and Food

This last week is flying by with plenty of plums to pick (this type is called Prolofics...very tasty!) and a trip to Oxford with Georgie. Oxford is one of my favorite towns on the planet and in spite of the rain, we had a great time. We walked around Trinity College, tried to go to The Ashmolean Museum (the oldest museum in Brtain, it was closed for renovation) and climbed the 1,000 year old Saxon Tower to get a view from above. The tower was where William Morris was wedded, Shakespeare stood as godfather to the Cornmarket gatekeeper's son and 3 Bishops were held before being burned at the stake because they wouldn't renounce their Catholic faith!
We spent a good deal of time at The Bodleian Library where we saw a great exhibition of bookbinding that dated back to 2,000BC! and a nice display of contemporary binding based on the theme of water. Later we took a tour of the Library which has it's beginnings in the early 15th century.
We also visited Oxford Union and it's wonderful oval library, decorated with murals of La Morte d'Artur painted by the Pre-Raphaelites. Also pictured is the Sheldonian Theater, the first building designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs. Of course, Lewis Carroll, Tolkein and Harry Potter all have a claim on this marvelous place as well.

27 July 2009

For Paul, Who Dared Me!

Here are a few photos from our 5 mile walk up to Parson's Folly or 'the tower' at the top of Bredon Hill. It Is customary to take a walk after Sunday lunch and in spite of the misty rain and the fresh breeze at the top, we forged on. We are looking west towards Tewkesbury and you can see the River Avon winding through the patchwork of fields. On a clear day you can supposedly see 5 counties. The tower was built on the site of an Iron Age (200 bc) hill fort and you can see the barrow and rampart that protected it. You will also see the 'elephant rock' that stands nearby and the peapickers that I traveled with. Bredon Hill stands at 930 feet and the tower makes it an even 1000 feet, which no doubt was inspired by some arcane idea of British one-upmanship. Our reward at the end of our journey was freshly made scones and jam with cups of tea. I'm hoping that this is the end of your challenges, Paul, as this wonderful journey wore me out! But it was totally worth it!

26 July 2009

Back From Uganda!

The Milways, not me. Since my Stratford post the days have been accelerating. Getting their house in order, shopping for a year's supply of tea, finishing up a few pots, walking around the hill, dinner parties with Ann and Steve Marchant and lunching in the pub with Ron and Lorna Wheeler. Ron wrote the wonderful Winchcombe book years ago and has been working very hard on the book for Eddie Hopkins which will debut this week. A bunch of us have been working on his memorial exhibition which will open next week at the Winds of Change Gallery in Winchcombe.
Eddie was a hugely important figure at the Winchcombe Pottery for 35 years and very sadly died in the dreadful floods that hit these parts two years ago. He was an incredible pot maker and and a totally charming rougue. I'll be writing much more about him later this week.

21 July 2009

My First Love...

...in the arts was theater and last night I treated myself to a production of The Winter's Tale at Stratford-on-Avon. It is one of Shakespeare's lesser plays for me as the tone is very strange. Dark and brooding in the first half and as light as a comedy after intermission.I have my Jesuit education to thank for introducing me to theater and it is always thrilling to be transported by beautiful language and performance. The staging perhaps outstripped the production this time, but it was still a wonderful evening. For some reason that is not in the text, books were the overarching decorative theme, with giant bookcases framing the stage that tipped out all the books to the floor at a particularly dramatic moment. They were rearranged in the second half to create the floor of a forest and during a dance piece the characters were all garbed in costumes made from pages of books. It was very effective. Sorry the photo is out of focus...I had to sneak a shot as it was forbidden!
The other photos are of Narrow Boats on the Avon...they are seen all over England on the canals and rivers.
Did my title grab you this time?

19 July 2009

Art in Action Scenes

One of the best art events I've ever visited is held near Oxford each summer. Called Art in Action it is a true art extravaganza with something like 150 artists and craftspeople exhibiting...and demonstrating as well as a hundreds of hands on classes, music, great food and a marketplace for more sales of fine art and craft. Each year also features a different country's work and this year it was Mexico. I just got back and the rain was a bit cruel but that doesn't really slow down the British and it's my favorite weather (instead of the steamy heat of Ol' Virginny). Lots of my friends were exhibiting and sales were excellent! Sue and Ashraf Hanna, Laurence and Jackie McGowan, Paul Jackson, Peter Hayes and Nic Collins (we've just met and he's a lovely guy). It was an inspiring day and makes me want to organize something like it back home.

17 July 2009

94 Year Old Potter!!!

Ray Finch has been inspiring me for more than 30 years and he's still doing so. I finally got over to Winchcombe yesterday and there was the old boy, making vases and cider jars with more clay than he's tackled in some time. The warm weather helps the feeling in his fingers (the winter is cruel for his circulation) and he was really pleased to be challenging himself with some bigger, vertical pots. When he's not feeling as well he makes platters and bowls, but it's great to report that he's still at it. I gave him a hard time about his electric hair drier that he's using to firm up a pot...he gave me a mischevious smile and carried on. We'll spend more time next week. They will be firing the wood kiln Monday so I'l be visiting then.

15 July 2009

Bredon Hill

Conderton is one of the villages sometimes referred to as a 'string of pearls' that encircle Bredon Hill. The hill rises to almost 1,000ft. and stands apart from the Cotswold range to the east, although it's geology is certainly related, and the Malvern Hills to the west. It has several 'standing stones' and Bronze Age barrows, three Iron Age forts, a Norman castle ruins and a 'folly'. It is a popular place to hike and if you go straight up the hill from here you will find the remains of a Roman hill fort. It's not unusual to find shards of Roman samian-ware, which was very finely made pottery. The views from the top are fantastic and I'll take some photos next time I go up. In the meantime, I took a drive around the hill a couple of evenings ago. It's a route that bicyclists often take. Here are a few of the sights along the way.

14 July 2009

La Bastille

Today is officially Bastille Day, France's version of our Independence Day. I was fortunate to be invited on Sunday to Marthe and James Gardner's for 'a L'aperitif et 'a Dejeuner at their elegant home, The Old Vicarage, in the nearby village of Beckford. The afternoon began with champagne on the lawn and then was followed by a magnificent meal in the old print shop. They are the proprietors of Beckford Silk, a world class silk printing business, and we ate in the original studio. They have since moved to a much grander space.
Marthe has lived her entire adult life in England, but her French heritage hasn't been diminished a bit. She and her son Charles preceded the meal with a rousing version of La Marseillaise, played on violin and squeeze box. You might remember that great scene in Casablanca when the free French sing it to drown out the Germans in Rick's Cafe...it was much like that!
These folks know to live...and eat. After the meal there were 6 or more 'puddings' (that's desserts for you Americans) followed by cheeses, just in case there was an empty space to fill.
This was a almost a 4 hour affair and it is yet another reason that I love the life here in these country villages.