Monday, 4 August 2014

Lights Out

As we remember 100 years since the UK entered WWI, I thought I would share with my readers the war memorial from King's Cross Station. The 11 stones, engraved with the names of the men from the Great Northern Railway who lost their lives in the conflict, were relocated during the recent refurbishment of the station. The new arrangement reflects Sargent's painting, Gassed, which depicts soldiers injured in a mustard gas attack. And it is beautifully poignant.

Gassed, John Singer Sargent (1919)

All over the country tonight, people and organisations will be marking the beginning of the UK's involvement in the Great War by switching out their lights, leaving a single light or candle glowing. The act is in reference to the British Foreign Secretary's statement in August 1914: "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime". It is hoped that the collective gesture will encourage reflection on the lives lost and changed during the four years of the war.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Rainy Day Gardens

When I visited the deer park at Knole last summer, I noted with some sense of regret that the walled gardens at the property are open on Tuesdays only over the late spring and summer. I love an historic garden, but when does one ever have a free Tuesday when one works full time in an office? If you have a Tuesday off, it's generally because you also happen to be abroad as part of a longer break.

However, I was delighted to discover that my new place of work has a few extra bonus days off each year in additional to the usual ones, one of which is the Tuesday following the late May Bank Holiday. So I knew immediately what I was going to do with my day, come rain or shine. And boy, did it rain! But that's okay, because I had my brand new wellies.

My new wellies were just one part of my incredibly generous parting gift from my former workmates. One of my friends took note of my comment that I was in need of a pair of fit, respectable, good wellies. My new job is likely to require walking around a fair few churchyards, which can be very wet underfoot, so it was thought that furnishing me with wellies would be a good idea for seeing me off on my way.

So when I knew what the weather was to be for my Knole visit, I dressed from the wellies up. I went with a fitted green jacket (part of a 1940s suit) and shirt for a respectable country look, but coupled with a denim skirt to keep it from being too dressy for a muddy, puddly garden romp.

And I had a delightful time in the garden in the rain. Yes, I couldn't sit down and enjoy a book or anything like that but I marched through with my wellies and umbrellas, unhindered. What a wonderful, extensive gardens, full of many hidden treats within the 'Wilderness' and all around.

Because my wander around the gardens was naturally slightly inhibited by the weather, I also had plenty of time to explore the house, which I missed on my last visit as I was too busy enjoying the fine summery day. No photography was allowed inside, but sometimes that's kind of preferable, because you can just look without feeling as though you have to capture...

The house was itself wonderful, and I would definitely recommend a visit. The spaces were amazing, the stories fascinating and the collection full of fabulous and exquisite objects, furniture and paintings. I enjoyed hearing about the Spangle Bedroom, which takes its name from a bed with curtains which, in their Elizabethan heyday, would have shimmered and sparkled with the firelight reflecting off the thousands of spangles or sequins that formed part of the decorative embroidery.

The Spangle Bed (Image source: Knole Conservation Team Blog)

So, all up, a rather satisfying day of rainy day walking, historic interiors... and a perfectly warm and delicious toasted cheese and bacon bagel bought at a bargain price from a local bagel shop on the way back to the station... Bliss!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Go Right at Buckingham Palace...

It was a beautiful day in London today for Bank Holiday Sunday (though tomorrow's forecast is not so ideal... Never mind!). In an appropriately leisurely fashion, I therefore took the time to smell the roses in Hyde Park. To get there, I hopped on my trusty bicycle. As I was looking up my route from Islington before I headed off, I was saying the instructions out loud to help them stick in my head. And as I did so, I was struck how much it sounded like something from a children's book about London...

"Along the Strand and through Trafalgar Square...

... up The Mall (through Admiralty Arch)...

... then right at Buckingham Palace..."

I love how a commute through London can be so iconic and take in such sites and more without even trying!

Although it was a perfect day to be outside, I spent a few hours in the V&A before getting to Hyde Park. It's been quite some time since I was last there and I've been looking for an opportunity to get there for the past few weeks. It didn't seem like a waste to be inside a museum, especially after my lovely cycle (it's so much more relaxed cycling on a weekend then during weekday rush hour!).

Some of the contemporary display in the silver gallery at the V&A

But after a couple of hours, the sunshine was calling me, so I headed back out and to Hyde Park. I was enticed into the rose gardens there, where I stopped to stroll, admire and inhale... and to take some pictures.

Pink roses for my pink outfit!

Hope that you've all had a lovely weekend, and that those in the UK who get a bonus day off tomorrow have a good one.