Saturday 31 May 2014

Remaindered Stock

Being a selection of items which I have been unable to find room for and which are now offered to you at the astonishingly reasonable rate of Buy One Get Four Free!

A Very Private Place

Narford Hall in Norfolk looks as though it would be interesting to visit. Although it's part of Britain's heritage it's a bit that you're never likely to see close up. This is the domain of the Fountaine family; it's never open to the public and very few get to look inside. Even the architectural historian, Nikolaus Pevsner, couldn't gain access to complete his great work on British architecture. The most famous inhabitant in recent years was Andrew Fountaine whose extreme right-wing politics endeared him to few outside of a small band of like-minded fanatics - and he eventually managed to fall out with them too. In later life he contented himself with planting trees on his estate.
The few who have been inside report that it's not that grand, much of the furnishings having been sold off over the years.

More Heritage

I spent much of my youth (and a good part of my adult life, if truth be told) in places like this. But in this digital age they are rapidly disappearing from our city streets. This one is in King's Lynn and there will be those who say that they're always a bit behind the times up there! But just check out some of these for a bit of nostalgia...

A Little Colour

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love medieval church paintings and wish that our churches retained more of this ancient tradition. So I was pleased, and not a little surprised, to find this modern embellishment on the screen in Bassingbourn church. I'm not quite sure about the colour-scheme but I welcome the general idea.


In Hatfield House there is displayed this remarkable scroll. It was completed in the time of Elizabeth l and purportedly traces her lineage back to Adam and Eve and therefore, it is said, establishes her right to reign (though my logic suggests that it merely establishes that she was a human being!)  In the roundel in the centre of the picture can be seen William the Conqueror mounted on his steed. 

Anyone For Tennis?

The latest addition to the public amenities in a park in Cambridge is this table-tennis table, free for anyone to use - just bring bats and balls. The park in question goes by the name of Christ's Pieces, which intrigues visitors, including the writer Bill Bryson. But to long-time residents of Cambridge it merely means the pieces of land belonging to Christ's College.

Take care.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Let Me Explain

My last post about images found in railway stations raised a few questions - and probably a few eyebrows too! The trouble is that once I start taking photos I find it difficult to stop, even in such seemingly un-photogenic places as stations. When I get home I wonder what to do with these photos......

 I've been looking at this worn paintwork for some time but I'm always in a hurry to go somewhere else - because it's the door of the Gentlemen's toilet on Cambridge station! With the re-vamping of the station it's due to disappear any day so I thought it preserve its distressed beauty in a picture. The white border was added to make it look more like a work of art, other than that all I did was brighten up the colours a little on the computer.

The next one is another fascinating pattern of rather mundane provenance. You've probably seen something very like it. All it is is vertical blinds seen through dimpled glass in the windows of the station-master's office at Cambridge station. All I did apart from cropping the image was boost the contrast to give nice clean blacks and whites.

 A bit more trickery involved in this one. It's taken through a scratched and defaced plastic-glass window of a shelter. The whole picture was very grey so I started fiddling about to enrich the colour. Once I got started I had to see how far I could push it. Colours began to emerge through the gloom until the final colourful result was obtained. I quite like it and I hope Tasha does too - whoever she is.

This was done a long time ago and all I can recall is that it was originally a snap of some shiny metal plates next to Waterbeach station.
It looks to me as if it's probably a composite image of two identical shots, one of which is upside down.
Why I did that I can't imagine!
You're probably getting the hang of this by now so I hardly need tell you that it's dimpled glass again. All this one needed was a little extra contrast and it came out resembling a woodcut.
This is just a straight shot with no tinkering needed. It's just some blistered paintwork seen at Bayford station.

Another picture that was predominantly grey. But in the depths of greyness there always lurks a hint of colour. Here as the colour was boosted it became clear that the different sheets of plastic-glass through which the image is seen have slightly different qualities which became more pronounced as the colour was pushed to near the limit.

The photo enhancement programme I use - Corel Paintshop Pro Photo X2 - doesn't have many instant, one-click effects that I like, but by combining them and tinkering around you can sometimes turn a rather plain picture into something a little more interesting. 
The more I think about it the more convinced I become that this photo doesn't belong with the others in this series. Too late now!

And the interest of gender equality...I give you - the Ladies' toilet door at Cambridge station!

Take care.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

The Crossing House At Shepreth

When I was little I sometimes was taken to see my Nan in London. We went on the train which greatly added to the excitement for a small boy. Now, (before one of my witty readership asks if it was on a steam train) it was on a steam train. As we chugged through the green countryside I always looked out for the Flowers Beside The Tracks. 

This was a stretch of line which had been planted up with garden flowers alongside railway - it seemed to go on forever. It was the work, I was told, of the level-crossing keeper, who was employed to open and close the gates where the road crossed the rails. When not performing this arduous task he tended his plants. And when he ran out of space in his garden he spread his activities along the line.

It seemed an idyllic existence but one which was doomed; automatic gates were soon to replace the crossing-keeper.

It became clear that I would have to seek alternative employment. I could draw neatly and had a head full of useless facts so, a few years later, they sent me up to university to study geography. That meant travelling up to London by train again.

Although the crossing-keeper had been made redundant I was pleased to see that his flowers lived on, seeding themselves by the trackside.

Twenty-one years ago I moved to the village of Meldreth, just a mile or two from the flowery level-crossing of yesteryear. There was the house, right beside the railway, with a little sign on the gate which read "Plant-lovers are welcome to wander around this garden".

The house and garden had been sold but the garden was still being cared for and added to.
Well, it was only a matter of time before I had to go and investigate. So today, twenty-one years after moving so close to it, I passed through the little garden gate for the first time!

Although the site can't be much more than a quarter of an acre in size it's crammed full of plants, both traditional and the more unusual. What's more it's only a five minute stroll from Docwra's Manor gardens which are open regularly throughout the summer, so ideal to visit on the same day. 

Amazingly, in this day and age, there's no charge for entry - not even a box for donations as far as I could see - and it's open from dawn till dusk every day of the year! They obviously just like to share their garden with the world.

Oh, and those self-seeding plants are still surviving by the tracks. 

                                                                                                                  Take care.

Monday 19 May 2014

Oh, Did I Mention....?

Some things that slipped by me earlier.

A Special Sort Of Gardener

Among all the rich carving on the staircase at Hatfield House it would be easy to overlook this particular example. The man in the extravagant pantaloons and impractical hat is John Tradescant the Elder, who was Robert Cecil's gardener at Hatfield in the early seventeenth century. He became one of the first "plant-hunters", that varied and eccentric band of Englishmen who travelled abroad in search of plants to enrich the gardens of their masters.

He went on to create other gardens, finishing up as the Keeper of his Majesty's Gardens, Vines and Silkworms. In between times he voyaged to Archangel in Arctic Russia and on campaigns against Barbary pirates. Obviously he was rather more than a humble gardener and his close friendship with the scheming Robert Cecil suggests he may have used his post as gardener as a cover for other dealings.

As if this wasn't enough, he also found time to amass a collection of curiosities which became Britain's first museum. The collection is now housed in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum. You can also see the tools of his trade illustrated on the stairs at Hatfield.

Hidden Masterpiece?

Just inside Cambridge University's Downing Site are these two cast-iron feet set in the pavement. It is called "Earthbound" and is the work of the sculptor Anthony Gormley. Allegedly it is a life-size statue of a man buried upside down with only the soles of his feet showing. What do you make of that? 

Craft Barn

While at Thriplow Daffodil Weekend I went into the craft barn where many artsy-crafty items were being sold. But I wonder how many looked about them to view the craftsmanship which fashioned this ancient barn.

Austin A35

Also at Thriplow was this fine little car dating from the 1950s. What makes it special to me is that it's the same model and even the same colour as my Dad's first car when he learned to drive at the rather advanced age of 45. I checked the registration but it wasn't dear old TUL277.

Rotten Bricklaying

A lesson in how not to lay bricks! Hatfield House was largely constructed of bricks salvaged from the earlier palace which stood on the site. Maybe this nearby dwelling was made from leftovers from that project.

Double Parking - Cambridge Style

No further comment necessary !

Take care.

Friday 16 May 2014

More Delights From The Garden

A few more of the exhibits from the Great British Sculpture Show at Hatfield House. It's on till September 30.

Three Children
 by Etienne Millner
(bronze resin)

Highland Cow,
Highland Calf
both by Tessa Cambell-Fraser
(bronze resin)

The Escapologist,
Thinking Inside The Box
both by Judy Boyt
(mild steel)
(bronze and steel)

Iron Stag
by Dido Crosby
(cast iron)

Small Ferryman 5
by David Goode

White Donkey
by Dido Crosby
(cold cast stone)

Venus Moderna
by Dorothy Brook
(stainless steel)

Sitting Boar
by Dido Crosby

Female Nude
by Etienne Millner
(bronze resin)

by David Meredith

Gnome Hunter
by David Goode

Homage To Matisse
by Eddie Powell and Wilfred Pritchard

Take care.