Sunday, 26 May 2019

Chihuly at Kew

The 'Henriad' at the Globe didn't finish until late, so I made arrangements to stay over, and on Saturday morning  headed to Kew Gardens, which is currently hosting an exhibition of works by Dale Chihuly. 

I've loved his work since i first saw his glorious chandelier in the entrance to the V and A, but this is the first time I've had the chance to see an exhibition of his work.

photo of a round, tree shaped  Dale Chihuly glass sculpture - predominately  red , standing in front of a lake
Summer Sun
There are a dozen pieces scattered around the gardens, plus several in the Temperate House .
photo of Chihuly glass sculpture of red and yellow 'paintbrushes' or bullrushes, in a flowerbed
The exhibition is titled 'Reflections of Nature' and most of the sculptures do seem to be inspired by plants, and they do look at home at Kew. 

bright blue and purple glass 'reeds' and 'leaves' in a garden bed
Neodymium Reeds and Turquoise Marlins
I loved the contrast of the vivid colours against the more muted flower beds.

Chihuly sculpture - white glass lilies in a lily pond, with real lily leaves and flowers
Ethereal White Persian Pond 
And the way that the glass sculptures and the plants complemented one another - particularly in the Lily Pond!

Photo of Chihuly glass sculpture - re and orange glass reeds standing in long grass under trees
Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds
The 'Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds' were installed along both sides of a path up to another of the houses, beneath fruit trees, and mirroring the colour of the tulips  there. 

I'd love a few in my garden!
photo-  on left, Chihuly glass sculpture-  2 inverted conesmade up of white and yellow glass tentacles, on right, neo-classical white building (the temperate house at Kew Gardens)
Opal and Amber Towers

The 'Opal and Amber Towers' outside the Temperate House are less reminiscent of plants, but I do love the tentacles, and inside, we are back to plants again  ...

big blue glass flowers having from the roof  of a Victorian greenhouse (the temperate house at Kew)r

Green glass plant-like  sculpture among succulent green plants

As well as the sculptures in the gardens, there was also a small exhibition in one of the buildings, with lots of smaller pieces, and drawings and commentary.

photo of 6 large glass scupltures,like giant glass poppies in bright colours

 Then I went back out into the sunshine for the last of the sculptures.

Photo showing raked grey gravel (Japanese garden) dotted with large glass spheres
Niijama Floats
'Niijama Floats', a set of giant marbles, or miniature planets, in the Japanese garden, and finally, and,  I think,   my favourite - 'Sapphire Star', which is like a giant Allium flower.

Phto of a glass sculpture made of blue and white glass, in the shape of a starburst or allium flower
Sapphire Star
 It looked particularly beautiful when the sun came out and shone through the clear tips of the spikes.
sapphire star galss sculpture in foreground, greek style temple, and trees in the background
Sapphire Star, in front of the temple
As well as the Chihuly, my other reason for visiting the gardens was to see another sculpture, one which has been there longer,  artist Wolfgang Buttress's The Hive, which I have wanted to see ever since I first heard about it. 

Photo of 'the hive' sculpture at Kew -interlocking aluminium framework, against a cloudy sky

It is a big (17m tall) walk-in sculpture, made up of a honeycomb aluminium structure, and incorporating led lights which light up in response to activity inside one of Kew's beehives. 

photo of a spiral shaped structure, looking up to a hole to the sky
Looking up, inside the Hive
I went there first so had it to myself, although there weren't many lights, it was perhaps too cold for the bees to be very active, back in their hive! 

I enjoyed my visit, and I recommend it to anyone who is in London and has the time to go out to Kew. 

The Chihuly exhibition is on until 27th October. And of course, even without the sculptures, the gardens are rather nice!

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Henry IV and V, at Shakespeare's Globe

Months ago, my friend A suggested that we see the Globe Theatre's trilogy of History plays - Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II and Henry V. They are all on as part of the Globe's summer season, and if one is particularly keen or, some might suggest, masochistic, one can book to see all 3 plays in a day, with the first at noon, the second at 4 and the third at 8, meaning one spends around 7 hours in total sitting on the Globe's rather unforgiving wooden benches! 

The cast is relatively small  - 11 people for Henry IV Part 1, and 10 for Part 2 and Henry V, so most play more than one role. 

Henry IV Pt 1 was excellent  - Michelle Terry, who is the Globe's Artistic Director, played Hotspur (see amazing photo here ) and hers was a stand-out performance - her Hotspur was wonderfully angry, fiery, vibrant and funny, and her scenes, both with Hal (Sarah Amankwah) and with The Douglas (Nina Bowers) were highlights of the evening, and her scenes with Lady Percy (Leaphia Darko) were poignant, as Hotspur ignores her love and concern.

Pt 2 was a little less fun - partly as it isn't (in my view) as strong a play as either of the others, plus it has an awful lot of Falstaff in it, and for me, a little Falstaff goes a very long way! And in this case, I was still missing Hotspur!  

Then, that evening, we returned for Henry V.The flags of all the factions had been taken down, and replaced with the royal standard, 

And we were off to Agincourt!

I always enjoy Henry V, and this time was no exception. Sarah Amankwah was excellent - although her 'Upon the King' soliloquy was much angrier and less pensive than in many productions. 

Colin Hurley is not the obvious choice for Katherine, being a balding, middle aged man, but the casting worked surprisingly well, and he seemed to be having a lot of fun with the role (including giving Michelle Terry, who had joined the groundlings to watch this performance, a Very Hard Stare when she kicked a plastic cup someone had dropped, during  a quiet moment in the wooing scene...!)

I enjoyed all three plays, and seeing them all in one day was a really good experience.And I did enjoy how much of the humour (as opposed to the often rather laboured jokes) came through.

I think if I were only able to see one, I  would pick Henry IV Pt 1.

The plays are on as part of the Globe's season until 11th October .   

Monday, 13 May 2019

Gainsborough Old Hall, The Moon, and the Red Arrows (And some knitted churches)

One of the things I wanted to see while we were in Lincolnshire was artist Luke Jerram's  'Museum of the Moon' , which is a  1:500,000 scale representation of the Moon, 7 metres in diameter, made using NASA imagery of the Moon's surface.

photo of the Moon (art installation made of a photo composite of the Moon)
Luke Jerram's 'The Museum of the Moon'
It's rather impressive, although it must be even more so when presented in some of the other venues it has visited, such as Tintern Abbey and Liverpool Cathedral ! But  I was happy to have seen it! 

We also looked around the rest of the museum, which has various Roman and Viking artefacts discovered in the locality, and more up to date exhibits, including a Robot guide , which,  in response to  opinions chosen form its touch-screen, will lead museum visitors to a particular exhibit and provide information about it.

Red anthropomorphic robot with University of Lincoln logo on body
Lindsey the Robot
 After a visit to a second hand bookshop (always a high point for my family!) we the went to Sleaford, where we spent some time visiting a watermill and going for a walk by the river, where we found lots of adorable ducklings. I also spotted a water rat!.

photo of a group of very small brown and yellow ducklings, swimming

We also went to the National Centre for Craft and Design, which was, we found, between exhibitions, but did have a small collection of knitted churches, which were rather appealing.

photograph of a model of a church, crafted from grey wool

The knitted churches are a community project called 'Woolly Spires', which was based on the fact that the building of many of the impressive churches in Lincolnshire was funded by wealthy land owners who make their fortunes wholly or in part by wool, from a local breed, the Lincoln Long Wool. The models were made from that same wool, and are of local churches, and were knitted by groups of people from the respective parishes.

The following day, we went to  Gainsborough, to visit Gainsborough Old Hall, a wonderful survival of a medieval manor house

photograph of brick and half-timbered house

It was built in 1460, and was sold once, in 1596, then remained in the same family until it was given to English Heritage in the 1970s!  

It was visited by Richard III in 1483, and later by Henry VIII, (together with his 5th wife, Katherine Howard), in 1541. It also has connection with the Mayflower pilgrims, as the Hickman family, the second to own the hall, included Puritans and was a base for the Separatists, who went on to become the Mayflower pilgrims. 

Photograph of Great Hall of Gainsborough Old Hall, imposing room with half timbered walls, vaulted wood ceiling and banners hanging from the walls
The Great Hall - Gainsborough Old Hall
The Hall remains largely unchanged, and includes the magnificent Great Hall (where, while we were visiting, there was a school group enjoying dressing up and re-enacting a Tudor Royal visit) . There are also rooms with original panelling,and huge and very impressive kitchens. 

It's a stunning place, and I am surprised it isn't better known.

It was our last touristy outing, but not the last event of stay. 

The cottage we rented was very close to RAF Scampton, which is the home of the Red Arrows. 

While they clearly had some time off over the Easter weekend, they were back again, and rehearsing their performances, for the final 4 days of our break, which meant that we had a front row seat to watch their displays, from the kitchen window of the cottage.!

I imagine that permanent residents may find them rather noisy neighbours, but as visitors, they certianly added to our trip!

photo of vapour trials from the red arrows display team, against a blue sky

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Castles and Memorials and Planes

Not all the family was able to stay beyond Easter Weekend, so we were a smaller party by Tuesday

We started with a visit to the International Bomber Command Memorial, which is just outside Lincoln. 

During WW2, Lincolnshire was the home of  most of the air force's bombers, including 617 Squadron (The Dambusters), and the Bomber Command Centre, where the memorial stands, includes a small museum and details of all of the airfields.

The memorial itself references the planes which flew then -  it's height is 102', which is the wingspan of a Lancaster .

Surrounding it are walls of remembrance, recording the names of all of the airmen and ground and support staff staff who were killed during the war - almost 58,000 of them.  

It's austerely beautiful, and very moving.

From the site, there are excellent views over Lincoln, including the cathedral, and we also got to see the Red Arrows in the distance over the city. 

After visiting the memorial, we visited Tattersall Castle which is owned by the National Trust, having been acquired by Lord Curzon in 1910, to prevent it being torn down and sold to America, and passed on by him to the Trust on his death. (There was not a great amount left, much of the castle was destroyed in the Civil War, so all that is left is the main tower and the gate house) 

The Castle dates back to 1231, the current one was built in around 1440. It is unusual in being built of brick rather than stone.

photo of red brick castle tower with turrets on each corner
Tattersall Castle
It was a ruin when Lord Curzon bought it, and he arranged for renovations and installed a lot of stained glass, showing the coats of arms of various families associated with the castle.

It has a good deal of graffiti, showing that people have been writing their names on walls for hundreds of years! 

Stone with carved graffiti  reading 'J Smith 1766'

As well as the castle, Tattersall has a set of Bedeshouses (Almshouses,connected to a church, whose inhabitants would be expected to pray for the souls of the benefactor) the original almshouses were built in the 15th Century by Lord Cromwell, who also built the Castle.(According to the information boards, he decided to erect them in thankfulness for having returned safely from Agincourt)

There is also a rather beautiful church, which was built between 1465 and 1485, and which is tall and light and airy. (apparently it is an excellent example of Perpendicular Gothic architecture, for those who are into such things)

Most of the windows are now plain glass (which enhances the lightness of the church) but there is some medieval glass in the chancel, although it isn't in its original configuration.

Medieval stained glass including angels and a dragon
Tattersall Church - Stained Glass
The church also features the grave of Tom Thumb, who was a resident of the town and died in 1620 at the age of 101. 

Stone with carved inscription reading 'T.Thumb Aged 101, Died 1620'

Having watched a number of  Typhoon planes flying upside down, and flying loops and things, we then went to the viewing area of RAF Conigsby and watched them taking off for a little while, then went off to Old Bolingbroke Castle,    which is a proper ruin! 

As the name suggests, it was owned by John f Gaunt and was the birthplace of Henry Bolingbroke, later King Henry IV - it  then fell into disrepair, was re-fortified during the Civil War, as a Royalist Stronghold, and was destroyed during a siege and never repaired.  

Now, it's a peaceful site, with bits of the moat remaining, full of rushes and  (currently) ducklings!

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

More Travels in Lincolnshire

On Bank Holiday Monday we took a  trip down memory lane, visiting the village where my mother grew up, and the church there where she and my father were married, which was nice. 

We then went to Gunby Hall, a property now owned by the National Trust, nearby.

The estate was owned by the Massingberd family, and the current house was built in 1700, (Now with a Victorian extension),

Gunby Hall 
It has quite extensive gardens, with orchards and beehives, and a wood with lots of bluebells

Bluebell Wood

Inside the house, there was a small exhibit about one of the last of the Massingberds to live there, a successful soldier who was friends with Rudyard Kipling - the exhibition included studies for 'The cat who walked by itself' drawn by Kipling, which was nice.

After leaving the Hall, we then took a trip to the beach, because really, there are some things that you really have to do on a Bank Holiday Monday. Although in a break with tradition, it was warm and sunny, whereas of course traditionally, a Bank Holiday visit to the seaside includes rain, wind, and mild hypothermia!

It was a good day

Monday, 6 May 2019

Lincoln - Castle and Cathedral

My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this spring, so we booked a cottage near Lincoln so that the whole family could spend some time together, as they wanted that, rather than a big party. 

We were very lucky with the weather, with Easter weekend being gloriously sunny.

We spent one day in Lincoln itself , where we visited the castle. 

It has a long and varied history. The original castle was one of those put up by William the Conqueror, to make the point that he was, in fact, the conqueror, and intended to stay that way. Later, King Stephen was captured here, and the Castle was  in the midst of battles between those loyal to Richard I, and those to King John, and it now holds one of the remaining copies of Magna Carta, (Which was signed in 1215, and has remained in Lincoln ever since, mostly in the Cathedral but more recently in the Castle) and it also saw action during the Civil War, when it was successfully besieged and over run by Parliamentarian forces in 1644.

More recently, in the 1840s, a 'modern' prison was built within the castle walls, and some of the cells remain, as does the chapel, which followed the 'Separate System', where the priosoners were prevented from seeing or contacting one another, so in the chapel each had an individual box, allowing them to see the vicar, but not one another. 

It's a depressing place. 

Although very little of the original castle buildings remain, other than the gate house, the walls remain, and you can walk round them, and from them, see excellent views across the city, to the cathedral and beyond. 

The  West Front of the cathedral is covered with scaffolding at present, but it is still pretty impressive.

The cathedral was another Norman construction, originally completed in 1092, although subsequent fires and earthquakes in the 1100s resulted in lots of rebuilding. Bishop (later Saint) Hugh of Avalon, oversaw the new cathedral in  1192, and it has remained much the same since, albeit with some changes or decor and addition of lots of stained glass.

There is a wonderful vaulted ceiling, and some glorious stained glass, including some beautiful Rose Windows.

There is also modern glass -  the cathedral is home to chapels for each of the 3 services, with appropriate stained glass in each.
Detail from Air Force window
I was glad to have visited.