Sunday 30 July 2017

The Ballad of Julie Cope - The Second Tapestry

Part one finished with Julie and her two children separating from husband Dave when their marriage finally came to an end - Grayson Perry's second tapestry deals with what happens next.

Life is hard for Julie but she has gained confidence and found her feet as a single women and mother.
This tranquil image, echoed by the peace signs on Julie's jumper, captures the new sense of harmony in her life after her divorce from Dave.
She holds her children Elaine and Daniel close as they wave to their father in the distance. 
Despite his flaws Dave turns out to be a good father to both his children - Daniel and Elaine are growing up quickly and soon they will be leaving home to pursue their own lives.
The children have left home, and now in her mid forties Julie attends the University of Essex, Colchester. There she meets Rob, an IT technician and divorcee, with whom she falls in love - they find profound happiness together. Rob takes Julie travelling to different parts of the world. Here they are happily embracing one another during a bird watching trip, a passion shared by both.
Life has changed dramatically for Julie - Daniel and Elaine are grown up, and she is now a Social Worker living in historic Colchester, the oldest recorded Roman town in Britain. Here she is walking down the street with her colleagues. She holds a file labelled "Casework 2003" which tells us that she is now 50 years old.
Julie is happy, she has a fulfilling job - she and Rob are now married and very much in love

Julie, now aged 61, is crossing a damp street in Colchester whilst going about her duties. Suddenly a motor scooter, driven by a youth delivering curries, comes hurtling around the corner knocking poor Julie down -
and she dies.
Julie, aged 61 years (1953 - 2014) - an everyday women from Essex
This is not the end of Grayson Perry's fictional story;
heartbroken Rob had promised that should Julie die before him, he would build a Taj Mahal – a place of pilgrimage, a shrine, a monument to Julie and to their love
To this end Rob kept his word - 'Julie's House' now sits on the banks of the River Stour in Essex.
To take a video walk around Rob's shrine click here.
There is also a Channel 4 programme here about Perry's Dream House - as far as I am aware this can only be viewed within the UK.

Monday 24 July 2017

The Ballad of Julie Cope - The First Tapestry

Grayson Perry enjoys an international reputation for his colourful and unusual pots, but is now gaining a name for his fantastical tapestries. His latest two tapestries present his own fictional story about an everyday Essex girl called Julie Cope. The tapestries represent the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life lived. Historically, large-scale tapestries provided insulation for grand domestic interiors; Perry has juxtaposed its associations of status, wealth and heritage with the current concerns of class, social aspirations and taste.
 Baby Julie arrived into the world on the 1st February during a great flood on Canvey Island in 1953 - she was the second born daughter of June and Norman Cope.
 Her father used a broken chair leg to breach the roof of their home so that he could hold newborn Julie aloft and save her from the ever rising flood.
Ho! Ho! Ho! here comes the local policeman to the rescue
All safe - mother, father, eldest daughter, and baby Julie escape the rising waters just in time 
Perry created this rich visual story on a computer. He then worked closely with a digital mediator and tapestry weavers to translate the vivid 1970s colour palette of his original digital drawings into a woven textile. Like an impressionist painter, he maintains the vibrancy of the palette through a combination of woven colours that are blended by the viewer's eye. 
Julie is now a teenager - 16 years of age. She lives in the new town of Basildon in a 1960s concrete tower block where rather strangely the street names are taken from Tolkien's 'Two Towers'. She has met and fallen madly in love with Dave. On her green t-shirt is the logo of Dr. Feelgood, a punk band from Canvey Island where she was born. 
Julie has married her teenage sweetheart Dave, and everyone agrees that they are the perfect match - but are they? This family portrait shows ominous signs as Julie and Dave look away from one another. 
Julie and Dave now have two children - a boy called Daniel, and a girl called Elaine
Julie named her first born child, Daniel, after a 1973 hit single by singer Elton John - her choice, not Daves - Elton John's music was not his taste.   
'I'm so sorry, D x' 
 Julie's bouquet bears an apolgetic note from her unfaithful husband Dave which points to the future breakdown of their marriage forever.
Next time, the second tapestry shows the story of what happened to Julie and her children in their new life without Dave     

Friday 21 July 2017

Enjoying Lilium Leichtlinii in our July garden

Consider the lilies of the field whose bloom is brief:- We are as they; like them we fade away as doth a leaf - Christina Rossetti
Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance - John Ruskin 

Friday 14 July 2017


Taking granddaughter home and returning back within a day is quite a long round trip. We took a picnic lunch to share on arrival, and then walked into the local town where all three of us had a delicious ice cream at an Italian galateria - we then bid our fond farewells.
To break the journey home we visited Ascott House and gardens in Buckinghamshire - a former c16th hunting lodge

Ascott was donated the the National Trust in 1949 by Anthony de Rothschild, a member of the same family who donated Waddesden - a French Renaissance style chateau. The property is filled with several outstanding collections including Oriental porcelain, c17th Dutch Master paintings and works by Gainsborough, Reynolds and Stubbs. The house also has some rare and exquisite items of c18th English and French furniture. Unfortunately photography is not permitted within the property as it is still lived in during the winter months by members of the Rothschild family.
The back of Ascott
Time was of the essence, we managed only a quick wander around the immediate garden before resuming our journey home
The south lawn takes in views across the landscape beyond

The topiary above is a sundial, but on that day the sun remained hidden in cloud
The sunken garden
Herbaceous Walk
We barely scratch the surface of the many different garden areas, but will call again.

Saturday 8 July 2017

Bath - UNESCO World Heritage City

We have just had our third born granddaughter staying for a few days. School days are firmly behind her as she anticipates her next journey which takes her to Edinburgh University in the Autumn.
One of the places we took her to was the city of Bath, which makes an interesting juxtaposition with our recent visit to Lecce in Italy. Both cities were built of honey coloured limestone - Bath's architecture being a glorious Georgian masterpiece as opposed to Lecce's bountiful feast of Baroque.
The Circus was designed in 1754 by architect John Wood shortly before he died, but his work continued and was carried on by his son, John Wood jnr.
As the name implies the buildings form a perfect circle with a grassy central island filled with large 300 year old trees
13 years later John Wood jnr designed The impressive Royal Crescent which enjoys an open aspect to the front taking in far reaching views across the city
Leaving the Royal Crescent behind there are many other impressive streets still to explore  

It pays to look carefully at the original ironwork - above can be seen a boot scrapper, and a torch extinquisher. 
There was no street lighting in Georgian Britain, but the rich would have their dark nights lit by flaming torches. These were carried by a 'link boy' running besides them as they were conveyed home in a sedan chair following a night out at the opera or theatre

Cross over Pulteney Bridge, built in 1774 - designed by Neoclassic/Palladian Architect, Robert Adams. 
There you can catch a boat or walk along the Avon's riverbank

  On the bridge you may enjoy sampling a delicious homemade cake in the tiny river view cafe, or visiting some of the little shops filled with interesting curios.
Jane Austen knew Bath as a thriving spa resort which in her day was extremely popular with fashionable society. Afternoon high tea would be taken in the elegant Pump Room with its glass chandeliers, perhaps followed by a musical soiree in the evening. There they would also imbibe a glass of spa water, which contains 43 different minerals, supposedly thought of as a cure-all for many ailments.
Take an extensive tour of the Roman Baths - one of the most historic sites from antiquity in northern Europe - the young people in this photo are not using mobile phones but they are listening to the included audioguides about the Romans, their life and their history.
Finally end your visit to the Roman baths with a glass of health giving Spa Water, which is free, and tastes unbelievable.

 Bath Abbey - the last of the great cathedrals built during the medieval period
The West Front is a 'tour de force' of carved stonework showing Jacob's Dream with a statue of an omnipresent God in a central position watching overall

The Abbey is dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul - each saint oversees the top of a ladder 
Worldwide there are countless artworks depicting Jacob's Dream - paintings, frescoes, prints, stained glass windows, but this is by far the largest    
"Jacob had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, its top reaching to heaven, with the angels of God ascending and descending on it".             

To see and admire this impressive stone sculpture carved over 500 years ago, I feel immense gratitude to those of our ancestors who left behind so many fine legacies for us all to appreciate and enjoy today.