Sunday, 23 March 2014

LITTLE BONEY THINGS - NAPOLEONIC CRAFTS

 
 
There are things about Peterborough which you may not know, for instance, it hosts a huge antiques fair twice a year on the East of England Showground. This is always a good hunting ground and one of my finds at the fair last week was this Prisoner of War work domino set.
 
 
The French officer painted on the box looks very like Napoleon Bonaparte or "Little Boney" as seen in the print above and, as it turns out, during the Napoleonic Wars Peterborough was home to the world's first purpose-built POW camp at nearby Norman Cross.

 

 
The prisoners were well fed, humanely treated and permitted to make beautiful toys and decorative items from waste materials like bones from their beef ration (1 lb. each per day!). These were then sold on market day.

 


 

 

 
 
Peterborough Museum has a large collection of these pieces and, though it may be fancy on my part, the most delicate of these could have been inspired by the fine Gothic detail on Peterborough Cathedral.
 

 


 
 
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Wednesday, 12 March 2014

TAKE A CLOSER LOOK

 
We fetched up recently in Wakefield for an antiques fair and thought it would be a good opportunity to visit the excellent Hepworth Gallery for the first time. We found it easily, close to the town centre, an angular, grey building overlooking the Calder and Hebble Navigation and set in an atmospheric, semi-industrial landscape.
 


 
 
We'd come to the Hepworth to see a brilliant new exhibition of work by the American photographer, Philip-Lorca diCorcia - photographs taken between 1975 - 2012. Here's what has been said about the exhibition:
 
"If you have never seen these images in person, I urge you to make the journey to Wakefield." The Guardian.
 
"The Hepworth Wakefield refers to diCorcia as one of America's greatest photographers, and for once it doesn't sound like puff." The Independent.
 
"Already giving the big London Galleries a run for their money, the Hepworth Wakefield has pulled off another major coup." The Yorkshire Post. Well, they would say that!
 
It's worth watching this film of diCorcia explaining the ideas behind his intriguing photographs - here.
They can appear to be quite random and informal, but are often elaborately staged. They seem meaningful but mysterious, prompting questions; "Are they who we think they are?" "What is their relationship?" "What just happened?"
We were not permitted to take our own photos in the gallery so here are a few of Mr N's own photos which I think, probably by chance, have a similar feel.



 
 
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I think he's sulking - this time he forgot to bring HIS camera!
 
 
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Monday, 3 March 2014

I RECAPTURE THE CASTLE

 

While we were in East Kent recently we revisited Dover Castle. I lived with its comforting presence for the whole of my youth - it watched over me as I was pushed in my pram, was just behind me on my first day at school and in the summer holidays it was always there, in the background. 


It is situated high on the cliffs so that almost every part of the town possesses its own personal and spectacular view. We hadn't been inside the castle's square keep since its English Heritage makeover (E.H. has renamed the keep - it is now The Great Tower!) I was eager to see whether the new, brightly coloured furnishings were a distraction or if they helped tell the castle's history in a more realistic way than the empty stone halls and secret passageways that, when I was a child, I could explore at any time with my friends. I'm not sure there was even an entry fee for children, though perhaps it was 6d.

  

                            The views are still amazing and inside...





... there are still mysterious nooks and crannies to explore.

But, hang on, I don't remember this.
 
 

Who's eating here tonight?

 

 
"Where's my banquet?"
 
 
It's Richard II, well known for being a little difficult in his final years.
 
 
What did we think of Richard's colourful new d├ęcor?
 

 
The bright furnishings are restricted to the main chambers of the keep and are surprisingly authentic and beautifully handcrafted. Contemporary illuminated manuscripts were the inspiration...

 
..and we thought they worked well!
 
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Back down to earth in the shockingly sad old town that is present day Dover, we found a very good restaurant called The Allotment.
 
 
Once a traditional wine-merchants shop (I remember visiting with my parents to stock up for Christmas) it still has its original stained glass window.
 
 
It faces Dover Town Hall and, as I looked out, the years rolled back to when, along with grand, banner-bedecked town council chambers, it housed a small dusty Museum and held prestigious events like my school speech day where I once provoked a sharp intake of collective breath by wearing the shortest mini dress in the place onto the stage. But, as you walk through the town, the landscape becomes more depressing...
 

..until just behind the seafront a menacing hulk, Burlington House, comes into view, with its accompanying multi-story car park. Both buildings, constructed in the late 1970s, were condemned 7 years ago and have been empty since then.


 
A few yards further on, in what used to be the prestigious heart of pre-World War II Dover, we came across this shocking scene.
 
 
No longer the "Gateway to Britain" but a bit of a dump. Heartbreaking.
 
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