Tuesday 1 March 2011

Umbrella weekend

River Cam from King's Back Gate

I'm always losing umbrellas. Three years ago I bought a cheap replacement just to take on holiday, secure in the knowledge that we would have parted company before the return flight. Oh, no - too cheap and useless to lose! I took it with me this weekend and it behaved disgracefully, turning inside out at the slightest gust of wind, stubborn to open, refusing to close and falling apart at the handle. Had it not been raining I would have left it in the nearest bin.
NEVER buy a CHEAP umbrella, that's my advice.

Saturday in Cambridge and umbrellas were essential for tourists and locals alike. It was bitterly cold and Toni wasn't selling any ices! 

Postcards show how it should look and crocuses flower in the quad at Gonville and Caius.

We escaped from the weather into King's College Chapel. The building is 289 feet long with the largest fan vaulted ceiling in the world. It was completed in 1515 and the glaziers then took thirty years to install twenty-six sets of stained glass windows, among the finest pre-Reformation stained glass in the country.

This window depicts Eve in the Garden of Eden, the first woman who listened to the snake and disobeyed God.

Mary, who listened to the angel and obeyed God.

King's College was founded by Henry 6th in 1441. The poet Rupert Brooke was a Fellow of the College and his name is on the list of the fallen in the memorial chapel.

The small green window is where Germaine Greer lived when she was a student at Cambridge. I thought that I had better point it out to you as, unlike other places, it has yet to receive a blue plaque!

The Saturday markets were busy and the shop windows tempting,

especially below the cooper's sign at the corner of Jesus Lane where there is Patisserie Valerie.
Time to stop for coffee and cake!

Kettle's Yard, Cambridge.

Kettle's Yard was the home of Jim and Helen Ede, converted from four old cottages in 1957 to house their collection of art, furnishings and natural objects. Jim said that he created it as a 'haven of rest in an overcomplicated life.' They opened their home to the public every weekday afternoon and lived there until 1973. They donated Kettle's Yard to the university who continue to open and use the property in the same way as the Edes, who had moved due to ill health. Their daughter Elizabeth said, 'my father grieved for the rest of his life, it was like loving a child.'

Beside the mirror there is a light switch, its innards displayed so that it looks like a small sculpture.

"Cineraria and Cyclamen', oil on canvas by Winifred Nicholson, 1927

House front seen from the top of the park and ride bus.

On the way home we visited the Cambridge American cemetery and memorial.

More than three million Americans came to Britain in World War Two and the names of over five thousand missing are inscribed on a 427 foot long wall of Portland stone. Statues guard the Tablets of the Missing and mosaics cover the ceiling and eastern wall in the chapel.

This is the only World War Two American military cemetery in the United Kingdom. The university donated the site and the government authorized its use in perpetuity without charge or taxation.
It is a beautiful place.

Sunday, London.

We drive across London to the Dulwich Picture Gallery where they are showing the first exhibition in Britain of the work of the American illustrator, Norman Rockwell. I really appreciate his work and visited his studio and permanent exhibition in New England several years ago.  There is a fair bit of snobbery in England about art versus illustration.  I studied fine art and worked in illustration, and find sniffy attitudes a bit annoying. The old, "But is it ART?" comments were out again in an article in the London Review of Books, but Andrew Graham-Dixon wrote an excellent piece in the Sunday Telegraph entitled, 'Dealing in Social Ideals'. He said that 
"Like Frank Capra in his cinematic masterpiece A Wonderful Life, Rockwell did not tell the whole truth about America. But he did preach a set of social ideals to and for it: mutual compassion, justice, a judicious reining-in of capitalism, freedom from want, freedom of worship, freedom of speech. What a decent set of ideals they remain."

Postcards of  'the critic', 'triple self portrait' and 'the most beloved American writer'.

I used to look not dissimilar to this!

Monday morning, London.

Whichever window I look out of it is wet and cold - another brolly day!

We go to Tate Britain, Himself to the permanent collection and me to the current watercolour exhibition which is set out thematically. It works well, there are some wonderful old maps in the travel and topography room, vacuous examples of emperor's new clothes in the 'Abstraction and Improvisation' room and rather dull, muddy coloured work elsewhere. But threaded throughout the show are enough glorious things to make what is now rather an eye-wateringly high entrance ticket price worthwhile.

After that we saunter up the road to the greasy spoon,

where nothing much has changed since it opened in the 1940's.

We choose and pay for the order and then wait at our table until chef bellows out,

"Bacon, egg, tom an' chips."

Just what is needed after crowded tube travel, battling with a brolly and looking at art.


Regency Cafe still life, homage to Kettles Yard?


  1. I see a good pair of candlesticks in Cambridge, and a half decent penny lick in London. I used to live in Cambridge - what a fantasy town, eh? I spent an extremely wet weekend in Oxford. The gowns were as wet as the town.

  2. I loved inhaling every word and picture. It sounds like a wonderful weekend in spite of the wet and cold.

  3. Oh, and the box decanters in the china cupboard, and the nice, 1780 folded-foot tazza with the shells on it - I had one from the same glassworks a while ago.

    Germain Greer pronounced herself to be an honorary American Indian at a party when I was there - silly cow.

  4. Sorry - it's me again, and I had to ask about the 'Alfred Wallis' ship paintings. I passed one by at auction recently and now regret it, even though it was a very skillful fake done by a famous forger in the 1980s - 2000s. Are those real? I'll shut up now.

  5. It's look like a wonderful weekend. Your Cambridge is especially beautiful. I totally rapt up in the little blue (surrealist?) painting above to two crystal decanters!

  6. I've spent many a wet weekend in Oxford, Tom, mostly caused by water from the punt pole dripping down my arm.
    I like my tazza photo because it looks so like a painting.
    Have to agree with your description of GG. And, yes, those are real Wallis paintings, he used to send them in bundles for Ede to choose and pay whatever he thought fit - he didn't pay much!

    The delicious blue painting is a Miro, Steve. Very covetable!

    Oh, Bonnie, but it was, and still is, so miserably cold. I am longing for a little bit of warmth.

  7. Wonderful sharing, great pictures, thank you!

  8. I was at school just outside Cambridge, and took advantage to visit as often as possible. Fabulous town.

    What a big posting; lots of my favourite things.

  9. Dear Connie, and a bit of American interest in this English posting for you!

    I took a load of photos, Cro, and this lengthy blog is the edited version! But, as you say, it is a fabulous town, even on a cold rainy day.
    (I've just treated myself to a new brolly.)

  10. You asked where the pub was in the Yorkshire Dales - it is in Wensleydale and is called The Queen's Head and is at the village of Finghall.
    If you come to this area then do let me know via my blog and perhaps you would have time to call in for a coffee.

  11. Dear Weaver, thank you for your reply. I know the pub well, it's next door to Lyndon the blacksmith, who made the railings for my garden. It used to be one of our favourite pubs until some time ago when the chef did a moonlight flit! (He used to make the most delicious puds.) Since then the food has been very hit and miss, so I'm delighted to hear that it is back on form.
    I shall be just over the hill in Coverdale before too long, so shall get in touch.

  12. Hello Rosemary! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment - always fun to meet new blog friends from home.

    Loved this post on Cambridge and London - and my dh was interested in the pics and facts of the American WWII Military Memorial. I haven't been to Cam. but spent much time in London when my brother and family lived there - he's now in France! I would love to have time to visit the wonderful galleries in London - unfortunately now it's just a hit and run stop on the way to Heathrow!

    Yes, hoping Devon will be warmer by mid-May when I'm home - it was perfect when there during that same month two years ago. I have friends in Somerset - Wellington - and of course we travel through your beautiful county on the way to Devon.

    Off now to look through your previous posts where I hope to spy some of your art. For many years I worked in commercial art and advertising so illustration is dear to my heart.

    Happy week -Mary

  13. Great post from the author much appreciated and love to get back soon for more knowledgeable content meanwhile, I wanted to share some good garden umbrellas for your beautiful places to protect yourself from extreme heat