Wednesday 31 August 2011

An encounter with a US Senator

Before moving to the Cotswolds we used to come for long weekends. We are both interested in the Arts and Crafts movement, and Cheltenham with its National collection is an obvious place to visit. Chipping Camden is where C.R. Ashbee set up his Guild and School of Handicraft after moving from London in 1902.  The Barnsley Brothers - architects and designers, lived and worked in the area, and William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts movement had his Cotswold Tudor home, Kelmscott Manor, here.
We always stayed in a wonderful old stone mansion, parts of which dated from the 15th C.  It was there that we met and became friendly with an American couple, although they were considerably older than us. He was a maths Professor at New York University and she was an artist. We kept in touch with them, exchanging Christmas cards and letters for several years, and would meet them at the Cotswold mansion from time to time when they came over. We made an arrangement to meet them in 1990 to spend a few days together, but at the last moment they phoned to say would we mind if they brought another couple with them who were on their honeymoon.
We were surprised at our first meeting to learn that the honeymoon couple were 83 year old Senator Fulbright and his new wife, Harriet, who was the Executive Director of the Fulbright Association.  
He was a very lively companion and kept up with all of the activities we did visiting places of interest in the area.  He was also a great joker, particularly over his socks.  He told us that he had a habit of going out with odd socks on in different colours. Because of this, his grandchildren had given him a mixture of black and white socks, so that he would always be wearing the same colour. 
When they returned home, we had a letter from the wife of the other couple, thanking us for giving him such a fun time. She said she had never seen Bill so animated.  He was normally very shy and hard for people to talk to.  I do not know whether or not it was our company or his honeymoon!!!
This photo I took must be a collectors item.  Senator William Fulbright holding up his trouser legs to show off his socks.
Professor Monroe Donsker & Mary Donsker with Harriet Fulright & Senator William Fulbright
courtesy Hephaestos via Wikipedia
Senator Fulbright was a Southern Democrat and a staunch multilateralist who supported the creating of the United Nations. He opposed McCarthyism and later became known for his opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. His efforts to establish an international exchange program eventually resulted in the creation of a fellowship program which bears his name. 
Bill Clinton said "I admired him.  I liked him. On the occasions when we disagreed, I loved arguing with him. I never loved getting in an argument with anybody as much in my entire life as I loved fighting with Bill Fulbright.  I'm quite sure I always lost, and yet he managed to make me think I might have won."

Monday 29 August 2011

Marianne North - Botanical Artist

Marianne North was one of those intrepid Victorian women. She travelled the globe in her quest to seek out flora to satisfy her passion to paint them.  In 1871, and already aged 40, she spent the next 13 years travelling, and so began her incredible collection of nearly 900 paintings.
She visited America, Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, Tenerife, Japan, Singapore, Sarawak, Java, Sri Lanka, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Seychelles, Borneo and Chile. Often she was away for long periods at a time. She spent 18 months visiting various regions of India; in Brazil she spent 13 months travelling into the interior and making long and arduous journeys across very rough terrain. 
Her name is perhaps more familiar in Brazil than in the UK, where they often use her flower paintings to adorn their stamps.  Perhaps the main reason for her name being unknown to many here is because she painted for her own delight and pleasure. She was descended from Lord North, Prime Minister 1770 - 82, and she received a large legacy from her own father when he died.  Her paintings never appear on the market, she had no need to sell them, so she donated them to Kew Gardens. There they have a special Marianne North Gallery building in the grounds, which is full of her paintings. The building has recently been restored at a cost of over 3 million pounds, and is well worth a visit.
Interior of one of the gallery rooms before restoration.

Nepenthes northiana - named after Marianne
Olearia argophylla

images via Wikipedia

Saturday 27 August 2011

Our late summer garden

We are heading off to a BBQ. Hope that this warm balmy late August weather continues. For UK residents, enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend. 

Thursday 25 August 2011


Do you remember Kunzle Showboat cakes?  They were small chocolate shells in various shapes which were filled with sponge cake, topped with butter cream in pale shades of pink, lemon, green, vanilla, coffee etc.

My mother and I had a hidden vice regarding Showboats, which I have never divulged before.  If it was my birthday, or hers, she would buy four, and we would secretly enjoy them before the boys and my father came home.  I would be allowed to make the first choice, but it was so difficult to choose.  It all felt very naughty but nice.

About 8 years ago, Sarah Kennedy (radio and TV presenter) had a campaign to bring back Showboats, and eventually Waitrose Supermarket began selling them. However, somehow, they just did not seem to be the same, and the experiment only lasted months.

H and I actually met the grandson of the founder of Kunzle cakes and became very good friends.  We learnt that his grandfather, Christian, had founded the very successful cake, and eventually restaurant business in 1902.  He had come over from Switzerland at the age of 17 and worked for his uncle in his pastry cook business in Oxford.  He then went to work in the kitchens at the House of Commons, Westminster.  Eventually he returned to Switzerland where he raised enough money to establish the beginnings of his very prosperous business in Birmingham. 

He was a generous benefactor and in 1935 established a home for Sick People in Davos, Switzerland in his uncle’s old house.  Local Birmingham sick children and the infirm had holidays in the fresh alpine air.  The clean air and altitude was particularly helpful to children with lung disease.

Two years before he died in 1954, he generously gave his home and grounds to the people of Birmingham.  It is now a park and recreation ground.

The business continued after his death under his son Ernest, and then by our friend, his grandson, George.  However, George was an academic, and he eventually sold out the business to Lyons cakes.

P.S Henceforth Hubby will be known as H.  I don't know why I coined that term for him.  It is not one that I would use  when talking to him or referring to him, indeed, we always use our christian names.  Somehow it just doesn't sum him up. He is a serious academic kind of person with very strong principles of right and wrong. However, he does have a great sense of fun, is extremely generous, and is wonderful with the grandchildren, who think that he is the best thing ever.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

A small village in Surrey called Thursley

H's father was the only child of his family to work on their farm. His grandfather sold it, we presume to be fair to all of his children.
This, however, broke his father's heart, something which he never really got over.
The farmland stretched up to an area near the Devil's Punchbowl, a well known beauty spot.  There are many legends surrounding this large natural amphitheatre, one of which states that the Devil hurled lumps of earth at the god Thor to annoy him.  The hollow he scooped in the earth became the Punch Bowl. The village of Thursley means Thor's Place.
Hubby's father was fortunate to find himself a position as Farm Manager, still near their old farm, to a London city Stockbroker.  His name was Alfred Caro, he was a very wealthy but extremely kind man. Hubby's father built up a wonderful herd of prize winning Guernsey cows for Caro. Caro's son, Anthony became apprenticed to Henry Moore, and has subsequently gone on to be one of the UK's top figures in the world of sculpture during the 20th century, gathering the title of Sir and the Order of Merit on his journey.
Edwin Lutyens, the architect, also grew up in the same little village, and I believe that you can see the influence of the local Surrey vernacular architecture reflected in many of his designs.
The family farmhouse

H standing between his parents

The Devil's Punchbowl courtesy Keith Rose

Goddards by Lutyens courtesy BBC

Anthony Caro, Babylon at Jesus College, Cambridge. courtesy mira66
Anthony Caro, Black Cover Flat - courtesy talmoryair via Wikipedia

Monday 22 August 2011

Where they meet

Belted Galloway cows - called by local children 'Panda cows'
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its floral richness (SSSI), where cows and horses roam freely on commons and roads during the summer.  Here is a wide expanse of limestone grassland with breathtaking views over valleys and water to far distant hills.
Thirty species of butterfly including the Duke of Burgundy fritillary, the Chalk Hill Blue, and the rare Adonis Blue thrive.  Following a special breeding plan the Large Blue butterfly is flying nearby once again, for the first time in 50 years.  Wildflowers include Pasque flowers, Rockroses, and 13 different species of orchid.  There are small Juniper trees, a slow-growing native conifer which may live for up to 200 years.  
Inspired by the beauty of the area, W H Davies wrote the poem Leisure – What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.   Laurie Lee describes the countryside in Cider with Rosie thus  ‘I remember, too, the light on the slopes, long shadows in tufts and hollows, and cattle, brilliant as painted china, treading their echoing shapes’.
A large contribution to the countryside is man made, in the form of honey coloured dry stone walling, houses and cottages.  The roofs have an extremely steep pitch and are dressed in stone slate tiles.
Here is a timeless landscape of sheltered valleys, secluded woodland, open grassland, superb views, and beautiful architecture. 
Climb over the style and watch the evening sun go down
at the end of a perfect day 'where five valleys meet'.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Gone forever

Across our land, in our cities, towns, and even villages are monuments to a forgotten age.  Temples to commerce, business, banking and insurance, built by our Victorian and Edwardian forefathers.
These monolith giants gaze down on us as we rush around below, visiting the bistros, coffee houses, and boutiques.
They stand testament to a lost world, where they are long forgotten. However, look skywards and see their names forever etched, carved or painted on stone and brick.
During the Victorian/Edwardian eras and even up until fairly recently the Post Office was a central building in every town and city.  
This Co-operative Store is now a restaurant downstairs and The Youth Hostel Association upstairs - the carved stone between the upstairs windows shows the Co-op Bee Hive dated 1887 - the symbol of thrifty saving. Perhaps we should follow in the footsteps of our Victorian ancestors and save more. 
This is the Refuge Assurance building, a name long forgotten.
The poster in the window would suggest a new form of refuge!!!
I have no recollection of this banking company

Friday 19 August 2011

The Circus (No. 1)

Philip Astley brought the circus to England in the 1850s. Having served in the Fifteenth Light Dragoon Regiment during the Seven Years War, he was a brilliant horse rider. He performed great feats of horsemanship, and his reputation grew. He hired other equestrians, then musicians, clowns, jugglers, tumblers, and dancing dogs - the modern circus was created.
Once upon a time there was a young woman, a bright oxbridge scholar. Her world was turned upside down by a family tragedy.  She gave up her settled life, and ran away to join a circus.
She travelled the world
Eventually returning home, she met and fell in love with her Prince Charming.  Together they started their own circus with vintage travelling vans and tents.
With the Victorians love of menageries, the circus fed into their interest by introducing wild caged animals, and teaching them tricks. However, in the 1960s with the advent of TV, and the outrage at using wild animals in this way, the big top circuses declined and closed down.

The circus comes to town 
Accompanying the circus,  our young couple have a tent restaurant, called Circus Sauce. It uses recognisable pottery, especially made for the restaurant, by her sister.
This highly acclaimed circus, travels village greens and commons for 8 weeks in the summer, delighting and bringing magic moments to children,  and nostalgic memories for older generations.
Everyone joins in with the fun of the circus. 
A new chapter recently began when the young couple added twin babies to their circus family.
Courtesy two of my grandchildren -
click on the picture you can just make out the twins in their pram
Link here for The Circus (No.2)