Tuesday, 2 September 2014

To rest my eyes in shades of green

So here we are; the first day of the autumn term, the kids are back at school, and I have been sorting through the photos from our trip down to my sister's in Buckinghamshire.

We had a good day out in Oxford; we used to go reasonably often as kids, but I don't think I have visited the city for over 20 years.
Here I am admiring the view from the tower of the University church of St Mary the Virgin.

I know it's a cliche, but the panorama of honey-coloured Oxfordshire stone and dreaming spires really is beautiful.

We admired the Radcliffe Camera, observed that graffiti is not a modern-day phenomenon, and wondered if this gargoyle was the inspiration for Donkey in Shrek.

 We passed the Bodleian Library...

 the Sheldonian Theatre...

loved the Bridge of Sighs...

...and saw beautiful sights at every turn.

There is a Saxon tower at St Michael's church (dated 1040), the oldest building in Oxford...

and a memorial to the clerics Latimer and Ridley, and Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, burned as Protestant martyrs in the reign of Mary Tudor.

Christchurch College is impressive.

It contains the dining hall which was the inspiration for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films (please excuse the blurry photo, it was very dark)...

and the Alice in Wonderland window (Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll was both a student and teacher at Christchurch College.)

Oxford's cathedral has two beautiful stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones.

And I thought this was a touching tribute to a young officer.

I asked Claudia if she thought she would like to come to study at one of the Oxford colleges; she shrugged, and said it's a bit too posh. 

I know what she means; my teachers at school wanted me to apply, but I felt instinctively that I would be a fish out of water in these surroundings, and despite my grades being good enough, I doubted that I would pass the entrance exam or interview. 
Over 30 years later, and Oxford University still admits the lowest percentage of state-educated students (around 57%) of any UK university, and students from fee-paying schools continue to monopolise the places at elite universities.

If Claudia, or anyone else, wants to go, and is sufficiently talented and hard-working, I hope they don't let the mystique and the gilded gates put them off.

Now, in case you are worried that my poor children are dragged round historic cities without a thought for their entertainment, pleased don't fret; there was also plenty of this...

and a visit to the Bucks County Show.

Since the ban on hunting foxes and other animals with dogs came into force in 2005, country types who want to ride across fields with packs of foxhounds or beagles do so on drag hunting courses.
There were huge agricultural machines, a stunt quad bike display, and a fortune teller who proudly announces that she has been patronised by the elite (Shirley Bassey and The Brotherhood of Man?) as well as my favourite, the produce tent...
where the cabbages really were as big as your head!

Prize-winning veg, blooms, marmalade, and patchwork, clearly taken very seriously by the competitors;

this grower had obviously made a stand to display their very impressive produce.

We managed to time it well, so by the time the skies looked like this, we were heading for the car to go home.

Here's my mum, trying to help Nina with her times tables.
 A thankless task, one which I have pretty given up on, but Mum is made of more patient stuff.
The kids went off to school quite happily this morning; hopefully it will be a while before routine bites hard and the homework blues kick in...

Roll on half term!


Monday, 25 August 2014

Into the blue

We seem to have bid a hasty farewell to summer here in the UK and been plunged unceremoniously into autumn; wind, chill, rain and all.

I'm a little sad about that.

I am waiting in vaguely doom-laden anticipation for the nights to draw in, the temperatures to drop, and the imminent return of the relentless school routine. Getting up early is going to be a real shock to the system, for all of us.

There were still some lovely blue skies on Saturday as I went to see my hairdresser Kirsty; she worked her customary magic, amid plenty of coffee and chat.

I refused to be daunted by the rain this morning, and pottered into the garden as usual to take my photos. The shoes - wonderful though they are - were obviously a foolish choice, I just wanted to see how they looked with the dress.

1960s mini dress - Second to None, Walsall
1970s shoes and tights - charity shopped
Umbrella - gift
1960s bracelet - local vintage/retro shop

Well, I think they look pretty good, but you can hardly see for the montbretia.
That's the level of my professionalism - I've been photo bombed by a plant.

My sister Sabena gave me the Missoni umbrella for my birthday. I love it, it's the only modern designer item I own, but I am slightly worried that I'll leave it on the bus one day and be forever gutted.

The woolly hat came with some hand-me-downs for Claudia from a friend's daughter - she rejected it, so I swooped. I have a feeling I'll be needing it.

But we did have a lovely summer with plenty of sunshine.

 Here are some photos from a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last month which I didn't get around to posting. It's one of my very favourite places.

 One & Other - Anthony Gormley 
 I love this; it reminds me of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, but an Everyman version standing on a tree.

An exhibition of work by Ursula von Rydingsvard.

This is called mama build me a fence. It's huge, and beautiful.

Sitting - Sophie Ryder

Molecule Man 1+1+1 - Jonathan Borofsky

Ten Seated Figures - Magdalena Abakanowicz
(Plus one seated Nina.)

Buddha - Niki de Saint Phalle
I thought of Vix and Krista, must be the wonderful colours.
Large Owl - Thomas Houseago 

 There is something refreshingly accessible and unpretentious about sculpture in the open air...

and in such a beautiful setting.

An annual visit is good for the soul; in fact, I'd like to go more frequently, that would be even better.

And look, Henry Moore's Draped Seated Woman is still here. She hasn't moved back to Tower Hamlets in London after all, or been sold off (as I wrote about here) and I have to say I am very glad to see her.
It is, isn't it?
And I'll be connecting with Patti and co at Visible Monday as usual.
After that, I'm off to my sister's in Buckinghamshire for a last blast of holiday fun.
See you when I get back!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Blow and glow

The wanderers have returned from South Wales, everyone was delighted to be reunited (that rhymes), and we have the Bank Holiday weekend coming up - excellent!

In a last hurrah before the girls came home, Owen and I went out with friends to Bakewell, another of the Peak District's picturesque towns.

It's a lovely place, with plenty of attractive buildings and architectural details to catch your eye...

but the River Wye, with all its water fowl and fish, is the real star of the show.

The five arch bridge over the river was originally built in the 14th Century, though obviously it has required a little reconstruction since then.

 I feel rather autumnal in this outfit. which reflects the weather; there's a definite chill in the air.

 The sequins on my sheer top seem to echo the honesty seed pods, don't you think?

Or am I being fanciful?

1970s homemade maxi dress - Ebay
Sequin top - jumble sale
Shoes, bangles and pendant - charity shopped
Striped bangle - gift from Fiona

Charlie and Willow kept me company in the garden.

The cats line up in an organised row for their meals. They aren't as well behaved at other times.

On the way home from Bakewell, Joanne took us through a car wash. 

Cue singing (of course)...

 and maybe a bit of giggling.

And that, my friends, is how you accommodate Bakewell, cats, and 1970s disco in the same blog post.

Enjoy the weekend! xxx