Sunday, 29 April 2012

Everybody Must Get Stones?

We were reviving ourselves with a strong Americano in York Art Gallery's excellent cafe the other day when I decided to view the latest exhibition, "Gordon Baldwin - Objects for a Landscape" previously dismissed by Mr N for being "Too modern!", though clearly Mr Baldwin is an artist-craftsman inspired by nature, in particular a beach on the Lleyn Peninsula, which he has christened "the place of stones".

As a child of the pebbly shore, feet hardened by barefoot seaside summers,  how could I neglect to have a look at this distinctly beachy-looking show? 

Mr N was (literally) unmoved - I put on a serious art-appreciation face and did my best, but I soon realised what was missing for me. There was so little colour in these objects. A stoneware graveyard, too black, white and grey. Another person's view of stone in all its forms, so different to my own.

Kentish Hag Stones, hung by the door to keep witches out (ineffective in this case).

                              Budleigh Salterton, pebble-lover's paradise.


Sunday, 22 April 2012


Last week we ventured out on one of our occasional forays into the world of Fine Art. In the Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in Bradford we found Anthony Earnshaw 1924-2001, The Imp of Surrealism. I was already acquainted with this artist; '60s art students who were in the know were well aware of the  whimsical group of English Surrealists who flourished in Leeds and were friends of the Liverpool Poets.
Anthony had no formal training, but he was an original and witty thinker, able to translate his ideas into two and three dimensions. He invented secret alphabets and a cartoon character - a strutting, two wheeled mutant toy called WOKKER.

Later in his career he made wooden boxes, containing whimsical groups of objects, all with surprising connections. One box contains a shoe with a caster for a heel and a heart-shaped mirror - a bit like this...

In an accompanying film he explains that the shoe is in love with the caster and the mirror is in love with them both...

The gallery is running several other exhibitions concurrently, all calculated to surprise the mind and delight the eye.

Paula Rego's unromantic and subversive take on Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre - see below.

It's always more fun to visit with friends...

Cartwright Hall is also notable for a brief appearance in the 1983 Monty Python film "The Meaning of Life", during a very naughty song.


Saturday, 21 April 2012

That's the Way To Do It !

Punch & Judy are a rather sinister and disturbing couple, but puppet shows do have a certain magic appeal and I do love folk art, so I was thrilled to find a collection of old glove puppets this week, at a fair in Manchester, quite intricately made and probably originally from a seaside booth...

                                          , for your delectation, are Mr Punch, Judy, the Baby, the Policeman and the String of Sausages.

They remind me of seaside holidays, years ago, when little JJ and I spent happy hours on the beach at Southwold, watching very special puppet shows. Two lovely ladies, helped by their children who drifted about with cut-out waves to symbolise the sea, told the story of a pirate, a mermaid, some rubbish and the "last herring left alive in the North Sea". (You see, even in  the early 1980s, we were aware of looming ecological disasters.)
This wonderful show was created by Meg Amsden of the Nutmeg Puppet Company, still flourishing after nearly 30 years.

                         And here is a film of Meg and her puppets in action.


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Get Your Glad Rags On - It's Newark Again!

Hooray! The Newark International Antiques & Collector's Fair took place again this week - this Spring event was dazzling, with something for everyone...

Sparkly stuff

Leathery things

Sporting goods

Serious pursuits

Vintage style (the indefatigable Bizzie Lizzie of course)

And pure whimsy!

Someone even found love...

...see below, the object of his affections, courtesy of Bargain Hunt!


Tuesday, 10 April 2012


We sometimes buy antiques with a sorrowful or gloomy theme - our forebears did not shrink from reminding each other and themselves that life was often a vale of tears, so they are not uncommon. At the Lincolnshire Showground antiques fair this week, one of our finds was an early mourning sampler.

A survivor of this depleted family recorded its sad history in the 1830s.

Sometimes a sampler remembers the death of an infant or small child...

...while others proclaim love for dear, departed grandparents.

This handsome young man's memory was saved in this soulful portrait, mounted in a mourning jewel 

with his hair, still golden and unfaded.


We sometimes find snuff boxes in the shape of coffins...

...and wonder how well a gift in this form would be received today, perhaps as a nice new lunch box for Dad? I'm sure our good friend John (who has been known to drive a hearse to the seaside for a jolly summer outing) would appreciate one of those.

I found this small coffin-shaped oak box recently and have been puzzling over its use. Was it fashioned as a final resting place for a favourite hamster? Its lid screws down so perhaps it was a secret hidey hole for a treasure, its shape a warning to "Keep Out"...

...or maybe not.



Sunday, 1 April 2012

A Sailor's Lot

Mr N has a very salty family background; one of his direct ancestors from the North East of England was a ship's captain, two direct ancestors met their deaths in shipwrecks and at least five other close relatives from the past were sailors or master mariners, most of whom were lost at sea. It was a very risky business.

If you wish to listen to an appropriate musical accompaniment to this tragic tale please click on the arrow on the picture above.

John Foulstone was the above mentioned ship's captain and here is an account of the night he drowned, almost 213 years ago to the day, on April 5th 1799, bad weather for April...

                                                The coast at Seaham

Lord Byron was married at Seaham in January 1815 - it bored him (and so did his new wife). He wrote to a friend:
"Upon this dreary coast we have nothing but county meetings and shipwrecks; and I have this day dined upon fish, which probably dined upon the crews of several colliers lost in the late gales."
We do hope he choked on a fish bone.
Captain Foulstone's gravestone can be found propped up in an untidy corner of St Thomas's churchyard, Stockton upon Tees. 
His daughter Priscilla lost her father, two brothers and two sons to the sea so we feel it is not by chance that her youngest son, Mr N's Great Great Grandfather, became a sailmaker by trade.

Despite the sadness of this family history, or perhaps because of it, we love to find little antique mementoes of a life on the ocean wave. Small items, carved by sailors for loved ones, from animal bones saved from the stew-pot, are known as scrimshaw.

                       A delicate bodkin or stiletto for making holes in fabric.

              A combined pipe tamper and seal in the form of a shapely leg.