Thursday, 29 January 2015

Durslade Farm


High flying Swiss couple Iwan Wirth, Manuela Hauser, and their four children have recently setup home in Somerset; a landscape steeped in Arthurian myths and site of the legendary 'Avalon'.
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Dealers in cutting edge art and design, they own contemporary art galleries in London, New York City, Zurich and Los Angeles. 
In 2012 they received planning permission to renovate a mid C18 century Somerset farmhouse and its outbuildings; the whole complex is now open to the public
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A version of the celebrated giant spider, Maman by the French-American Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) can be found lurking in one of the courtyards 

A giant stainless steel milk pail sculptured by Subodh Gupta is placed near the original 
 Granary sitting on staddle stones - is this Conceptual Art? 
Admission is free, but donations to their chosen charity the 'Somerset Wildlife Trust', are welcome. There is an ambitious arts centre with a gallery, bookshop, learning room, restaurant, farm shop and a 1.5 acre perennial meadow designed by the Dutch master landscape designer, Piet Oudolf.

Winter

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Summer
They have an artist in residence programme which encourages integration within the local community and the benefits accrued to them by living in idyllic surroundings. 
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The restaurant is in a former cowshed - in the dining area there is a vibrant neon central light by the late American Jason Rhoades (1965-2006) 
The 18th century farmhouse itself is used for visiting guests and artists, but can be rented for family holidays, wedding parties, etc.
Did you notice the white undergarments hanging on cables -  they light up the sky in the evening!
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There is a great buzz and a lively party atmosphere down on the farm

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sea Fever

Here in Britain we are an island people defined by our coastline and the silver seas around us. Over the centuries the sea has afforded us protection - she inhabits our souls. Her ever changing moods can be peaceful, gentle and calm, or tempestuous, malevolent and threatening. She has largely forged and dictated our history, shaped us, and made us who we are. Waves large and small have ebbed and flowed around our shores from eternity - time and tide wait for no man, but I will return again shortly.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

British Treasures No 3 - Wallpainting

In 2011 a couple living in a 16th century house in Somerset were removing wooden panelling from their drawing room wall with a view to restoring and painting the walls behind. As the panelling was removed they saw eyes appearing from beneath the flaking plaster, and restoration experts were called in to remove the layers of ancient plaster. Underneath the plaster was discovered an enormous 20 foot high mural dating to around 1530. The Somerset home had once been the summer residence of Thomas Cranmer and what is now the large drawing room had been his Great Hall. Cranmer was the Arch Deacon of Taunton, Somerset who eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas Cranmer was the man who set up the structure of the Church of England after helping Henry Vlll break away from the Catholic Church.
Thomas Cranmer - Portrait by Gerlach Flicke 1545 - National Portrait Gallery
As the mortar was carefully removed their shock deepened when a perfect vision of Henry Vlll complete with golden crown, a long-handled orb, and a sceptre stared back at them. The once hidden wall painting is now considered to be of great national importance.
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King Henry Vlll
By chance they recently discovered that the mural has a hidden message. A postcard the couple had commissioned of the mural fell to the floor falling with the king's head pointing towards them, thus revealing the portraits more sinister side. As they looked more closely, they realised that the devil was in the detail!
When viewed upside down or through a wine/ale glass, as it would have been in medieval days, the portrait of the king on his throne is transformed into a vision of Satan with goat's eyes and horns.
Whilst the portrait would have been an overt expression of loyalty, the hidden message suggests it was commissioned by someone with quite another view of the monarch who had made himself head of the Church of England in place of the Pope.
During the 15th and 16th century there was a great fascination with optical illusion and secret messages hidden within paintings. 
If you squint whilst looking at the bottom image Satan is clear to see.
British Treasure No.2 here 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Is Spring Around the Corner?

So far it's been a funny old winter. There will be a couple of wet, chilly, grey days followed by a day of brilliant blue skies when it actually feels quite mild in the sun.
Berries remain untouched by the birds
Garrya elliptica - Silk Tassel Bush makes a pleasing addition in my winter garden
Grow the male bush it has superior tassels up to 8 inches long which gently swing to and fro in the breeze
Snowdrops are in bud
  Hellebores emerge from their sleep
soft early morning frost rapidly disperses into sparkling clusters of crystals 
The January sun
invites brisk walks through the countryside
 but there is a cautionary message at this time of the year - snow could still be on its way!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

In praise of the lemon♥

l  for lemon  +  l  for love  = lemon love♥    
lemon trees - Sicily 2012
What could be better than the juice of a lemon added to salad dressings, drizzled over fish and pancakes too? Chop some tarragon add lemon juice and pour over chicken before roasting to enhance the flavour and
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  then imagine a delicious slice of lemon meringue pie? 
"When life gives you lemons" - make marmalade!
A bowl of lemon slices with Verbena leaves 
Top of my list in "duty free" is the fragrance of Citrus Verbena by L'Occitane en Provence. 
Picture a warm summer evening strolling in the hills of Provence surrounded by the aromatic scent of wild Verbena then add a twist of citrus from freshly picked lemons - a delicious summer fragrance all wrapped up in a bottle - spritz generously and enjoy.
(this is my personal choice I am not endorsing this product) 
 a refreshing glass of iced water topped off with lemon 
Small slices of sunshine
The three old copper engravings were done by Johann C. Volckamer published in Nuremberg during 1708-14. They are from Volckamer's Nurmbergische Hesperides.  Most of the engravings in the Hesperides are devoted to citrus fruits which are positioned above views of gardens and palaces in Germany, Austria and Italy. They are a unique and delightful combination of botanical illustration and landscape.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

British treasurers No.2

King Alfred 'The Great'
A line engraving c.1750 by George Vertue
In the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford there is a very special Anglo Saxon treasure approximately 1150 years old - the Alfred Jewel. It was discovered in 1693 by a labourer digging for peat at Newton Park in North Petherton, Somerset. North Petherton is near Athelney, where in 878 King Alfred the Great took refuge from the Vikings and later founded a monastery.
Sir Thomas Wrothe, owner of Newton Park, became the owner of the jewel. He later presented it to his uncle, Colonel Nathaniel Palmer, a former member of Trinity College, Oxford, who bequeathed it to the university in 1717. He intended that it should go to the Bodleian Library, but a year later his son Thomas, decided that it should be deposited in the Ashmolean Museum.
The Alfred Jewel
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The Alfred jewel is made of polished rock crystal. Below the crystal and crafted in cloisonné is a figure thought to represent one of the five senses 'sight'. The crystal is set in pure filigree gold, and has cut out lettering around the edge inscribed AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN - Alfred ordered me made.
Recent opinions have decided that it is an aestel or pointer used for following the text in a manuscript or gospel. The pointer would have been held within the mouth of the mythical dragon probably made of ivory, and kept in place by a rivet which is still in situ. 
King Alfred and his daughter Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians depicted on a 13th century genealogical chronicle in the British Library, London

British Treasure No.1 can be found here.
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Footnote
Over the Christmas period a group of amateur treasure hunters found
a hoard of more than 5,000 rare Anglo Saxon coins showing the heads of
King Ethelred 'The Unready' and King Canute. They are thought to have a
value of over one million pounds. The coins have been described as being in
mint condition with a 'mirror like' finish. They were found buried in a lead
container in a field in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. This is one of several 
large and exciting treasure trove finds that have been made during 2014.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Christmas Past

I was amused reading writer Cosmo Landesman's recent account in the Sunday Times of Christmas Day spent at his hippie parents home. His mother would invite strange people to join them all for Christmas dinner - people who had no family, no children and no friends.
It rang bells with me remembering Christmas Day when our sons were young and we would be joined by Miss Lambert-Lambert. She had tutored Latin and French to our eldest son in preparation for his entry exam to a new school. 
I discovered that this rather elderly lady would be completely alone at Christmas and invited her to join us. It wasn't a 'one off' - it became a regular date until she was too frail to join us anymore.
As H and I carried the Christmas dinner to the table Miss L-L regaled us with news that she had a tiny birdlike appetite and a very delicate constitution. During the meal youngest son's eyes grew wider and wider as he watched her eat a hearty meal and then proceed to fill up her plate yet again.
I would place silver Victorian three penny pieces in the Christmas pudding, which finders could then use to make a wish. These were carefully packed away for reuse at the next Christmas season. For some reason Miss L-L kept finding them in her portion and exclaimed "Oh! see what I have found" make a wish and pop them in her pocket. Tactfully, eldest son informed her "they are not keepers Miss Lambert-Lambert." 
Unbeknown to her the day would sometimes become strained as she would decide now was a good time to test the boys on their Latin conjugations and French conversational skills, not an ideal pursuit for young boys on Christmas Day.
She would make us all laugh telling us odd and strange stories about her life which were difficult to believe, but on investigation often had an element of truth.
One Christmas I recall showing her some photos of our walking adventures in the Austrian and Swiss Alps, she quickly remarked "did Kodak compliment you on your photos?" and assured me that they did on hers!!!  Much to our amusement, and in all seriousness, she asked if we had guides and ponies to assist us in the mountains. Much later, however, she would show me a photo of herself as a young women standing in the Alps. She was wearing jodhpurs, a couple of guides were in attendance armed with ropes slung across their chests together with ponies carrying her luggage.
When I was younger I had a habit of picking up and collecting waifs and strays big time, this would lead me into countless often strange situations. Sometimes they were highly amusing but at other times would put me in an uncomfortable place.
When we moved home and location 20 years ago I decided enough was enough, and consciously made a decision that my pick up days were at an end. There would be no more Miss L-L's, Mrs P's or for that matter anymore lost and lonely old men.
Thank you very much for your very kind comments left for me over the Christmas period. I appreciated them all and enjoyed reading them on my return