Thursday, September 29, 2011

A walk and a swing

Last weekend we got up bright and early and tottered out to West London for a walking meet-up.
We went past sculptural trees against sunny skies.
Through scrubby industrial back-paths.

Past picturesque scenes of Sunday serenity.
And along the river.
Beth was there in luminous red, while Rachel led the way.
And I attempted to put together an outfit that could both walk by day and swing by night.

 It was such beautiful scenery. In fact, we went through the area where William Morris' Mill once stood. No wonder so many of his designs were based on the wonderful designs found in nature.
After walking almost 9 miles (!) I hurried over for a spot of swing dancing at Swing Pit.
But everyone danced so fast they couldn't be caught! Except the wonderfully glamorous DJ, who was so kind to pose for me. This was only the third time I have been out social dancing. Once I got over the sheer terror of trying to follow some incredibly impressive leads, I had a lot of fun! I still feel like a baby beginner swing dancer, but it seems the best way to learn, is to dive into the deep end!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


We're heading back in time just briefly - to last Sunday, when Gill and Mike took me to Chatsworth House. It is a spectacular stately home owned, lived in and preserved by the Duke of Devonshire. It has belonged to the family since 1549 and has been added to and altered with the most magnificent art and opulent ornament since then.
 The main entrance hall is completely overwhelming with gilding, carvings and paintings everywhere.
Here is Mike using one of the nifty little mirrors they provide for viewing the ceiling, so you don't have to strain your neck to see it. I can just imagine gaggles of gorgeous ladies subtly angling their compacts to have this effect back in the day. (When did mirror compacts first go into production anyway? Late 19thC?)
 Yep... that's the top of the stairwell folks!
 Totally mind-blowing wood carvings of flowers and trophies of the hunt.
I just adored this decorated screen - can't you just see a 16 year old girl carefully cutting flowers from books and magazines a century ago? Like 19thC Polyvore!
Japanese wall papers. My next apartment I want these... EVERYWHERE!
 Just one of the many stunning sculptures. I was terribly impressed with the drapery effect over the face. It hurts my brain to think that someone actually chipped this out of stone!
Ok kids, so you have about 10 months till my next birthday... one of these please!
 And then the grounds.... we didn't have long to explore - but they just seem to go on for days. In fact if anyone else is a fan of the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, they used parts of Chatsworth for scenes in and around Darcy's house.

Outfit details:
coat - vintage
skirt - charity shop and altered by me
blouse - London designer sample sale
cardigan - Lonon vintage fair
shoes - Dansko (new! And oh-so-comfy!)
As we were driving home, a riding school came trotting over the hill. It was wonderfully picturesque against this backdrop, particularly since the girls were all in traditional riding gear. Check out those tweed blazers and velvet-covered hats! Sure beats the dirty plastic things I used to wear on the occasional riding adventure.

Jane on the Moors

After my Bronte adventures last weekend, it seemed fitting to go and see Jane Eyre this weekend. So after a lovely day of market-wanderings (post to follow shortly), I whisked myself of to the cinema. The thing is, I have never been to the movies by myself before. It always seemed like a social thing, an excuse for an outing with friends. So off I went, on my own, to watch Jane Eyre.

It was stunning, completely beautiful - such magnificent photography. But the story is still sad! It is hear-breaking to watch poor Jane struggle through life, alone and lonely. When I got up to leave, rugged up in my shawl and out in the cold windy night, I could't help feel a little Jane-like, facing the Saturday night cinema crowd alone, then trudging up the hill, nose running in the night air. So when I got home, I rushed to my computer and skyped my 'Mr. Rochester'.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Guide to the Guides

Anyone who knows me well knows my unwavering love of museum audio guides, in fact, maybe just audio in general (Ira Glass you make my life complete!). While I am out and about being a tourist I get great joy from a museum visit and the accompanying audio tour. I love the cheesy music, or the special children's tracks, the atmospheric sound effects, or the imagined voices of the artists brought back to life through my headphones. But not all guides are equal. So here you have it, a new feature on the blog to help guide you through the guides.

The National Gallery (London)

This audio guide was my preferred type - it looks a bit like this - small and easy to wear, with headphones for easy hands-free listening. At first I really liked this guide. It is far more scholarly than most, offering an in-depth discussion of most works in the permanent collection. However, I quickly realised that listening to info on every work would make my visit into a week-long mission! So I started getting more selective, and just listened to a few tracks per room. But even then, I soon got sick of that too, because the first half of each tract simply described the image! The image in front of me. The image I can use my eyes to see, while I listen. I much prefer a guide that assumes you are able to see the basics in front of you, and offers background, contextual info, or interesting stories about the artist, patron or subject. So I guess all in all I was pretty disappointed with this one. I wouldn't recommend it folks - take your glasses and read the wall panels instead!
rating: 2 stars

Friday, September 23, 2011

Heathcliff! It's me!

After lunch in Saltaire - and also a visit to the most extraordinary David Hockney exhibition  of his new iPad art - we zoomed off to Howarth.
Howarth is home to the Bronte sister's Parsonage and great sprawling moors that characterise their work. It was the perfect Bronte day with sweeping winds and rain, then glimpses of sunshine. Their house is now a museum, where no photography was permitted - so here you have photos of the cemetery that surrounds it.
It was incredibly beautiful and terribly sad wandering around the graves. The village had terrible sanitation in the early 19thC (in fact the Revd. Patrick Bronte petitioned to have a health inspector visit and improve things). Most of the water that ran into the town came in through the earth of the graveyard.  Disease was rife.
There were long tomb stones filled up with the names of family members who had died in quick succession - the average life expectancy was only age 25! This grave was one of the many commemorating the life of a child. There is something terribly moving about such care and craftsmanship going into a work of art that commemorates such a tragedy. 

Can you imagine living in a house surrounded by this? It's no wonder many of their stories are filled with such sadness. The premature deaths of Anne and Emily are also testament to the terrible living conditions, particularly considering their house had a private well - so they were better off than most of the town folk.

This church was built in the late 19thC in place of the one the Bronte's would have attended. Their tomb is to the right of that stained glass window.

Howarth village is also so sweet! This shop has been preserved with its original fittings, but now sells bath salts and nik naks.
Apparently it once sold some harder stuff!
Even the sales assistant was dressed the part! (And very kind to put up with my photography request!)

Picturesque lane-ways and pubs (The Black Bull was Branwell's favourite watering hole)

Perfectly posed cats! And also a delightful vintage shop with a wonderful collection of hats - that I was so taken with, I forgot to snap any photos of the shop!

We then ate giant Yorkshire puddings at the pub and delicious caramel and custard for dessert. So sooo delicious.

To round up the day, we zipped over to Halifax to see the Northern Broadside's play by Blake Morrison, We are Three Sisters, based on the lives of the Brontes. It was really a perfectly Bronte day!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Streets of Saltaire

On Saturday we went on a little trip, first stopping in at Saltaire for lunch and wanderings. This little town was built and owned by a rather impressive man named Sir Titus Salt, who owned the town mill. He built all the houses, churches, schools, halls and shops to service his workers, so they entire place has a lovely sense of harmony and repetition. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

Gill has been super efficient and blogged about the whole weekend at her brand new blog!

There was a festival with live music and food, as well as hundreds of brave souls who were trudging around it in the rain. Only in Britain would rain be considered no obstacle to a festival outing!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Little John and a light from above

Well hello there time-travellers. I hope you enjoy this little leap into the present. I have heaps more to share from the rest of my time in America, but am bursting to share photos from the most wonderful weekend I have just had. I went up to Sheffield to stay with some friend's of Ian's mother. They took me to a few of the many local historic sites that were all stunningly beautiful.

After a delicious lunch in town, we took the scenic route home, stopping a charming little church in the countryside where Little John from Robin Hood is buried!!

I have so many photos I am splitting them up! So stay tuned for part II - Saltaire.

 Old church and cute little gargoyles.
 Wandering through the perfectly kept cemetery. I wore my new Pendlelton skirt from 'Decades of Fashion' in SF.
And on our drive we saw this ^ ! Clearly someone over in that field had done something miraculous!