200 grams better off

Monday, October 20th 2014

Today was the day for Freya’s follow-up visit to the vet (see Freya under the knife). I wasn’t looking forward to this because I thought  that if Freya suspected she was about to be put in the basket, not only would she run away and hide but would become stressed.

In the event, it all went smoothly. I managed to fetch the cage down and open it ready without her seeing or hearing anything suspicious. Then I just swept her up in my arms and deposited her inside it. To my surprise, there were no complaints, no yowls of alarm during the 10-minute walk to the vet’s.

The vet examined Freya carefully and pronounced himself satisfied with her condition. The next job was to weigh her. He plonked her on the scales and she promptly walked off them again. I put her back and tried to distract her so that she stood still long enough for the vet to get a reading.

“She’s gained 200 grams,” said he. Jubilation all round.

One of the symptoms of the thyroid problem was that, though Freya was eating heartily, she was steadily losing weight. Now, just 6 days after the operation, she has gained 200 grams, a cause for celebration.

“At this rate, we’ll be having to put you on a diet,” I told her…

In theory, now her metabolism isn’t running in overdrive, Freya should be eating less. So far, though, I see no sign of a decrease in appetite. She eats everything I give her, and then Oliver-Twists me for more.

Contrary to what many people think, cats do have facial expressions. Freya is capable of looking smug, puzzled, nervous and a few other things as well. This afternoon, sitting with her, I saw she was wearing her “wide” face. I realized I hadn’t seen this expression for some time. It means she is calm and contented. I take the return of this expression to mean that she is well on the way to recovery.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Freya | Leave a comment

Freya under the knife

Tuesday, October 14th 2014

8:45 am

I am just back from taking Freya to the vet for her thyroid operation. It marks the end of one sort of stress – the stress of anticipation – and the beginning of another sort – stress concerning the outcome.

I was instructed that Freya must fast from 9 pm yesterday evening. This is uncomfortable to manage because Freya doesn’t wolf her food down in one go as many cats do but eats it a little and often, including during the night. What must be done must be done, however. During the day I gave her a good ration of a food she particularly likes, hoping it would fill her up and make her less hungry later. Did it work? Only Freya can tell you.

Tigger gets up up 6 am to go to work and I usually get up at the same time. If I did this today, though, how would Freya react to my refusing to feed her? To solve that problem, instead of getting up with Tigger, I stayed in bed as though having a weekend lie-in. Freya was happy to stay with me, curled up beside me and purring. I had to lie there for two hours until it was time to make my move.

At 8:17 I got up, dressed and prepared to go out. Freya went and sat patiently beside the mat where we put her food bowl, obviously expecting – at last! – to be fed. This gave me the chance to go into the bedroom, take down the carrying cage and open it ready to receive her. If she heard or saw me do this, she would dive under the bed where it is impossible to reach her. I was able to go back into the other room, pick Freya up and put her in the cage. I can only imagine that must have been an unpleasant surprise for her.

We now took a 5-minute walk through cold, damp morning streets to the vet’s. Freya was surprisingly quiet and did not complain about this unmannerly treatment. I had to sign a consent form and then watch her being carried in her cage away to the treatment room. There was nothing more I could do, but return home without her.

I will now restart the day as though I have just got out of bed and will engage in my usual activities until 2 pm when I am to call the vet for for status report. I will find things to do to try to distract me from thinking about Freya and the operation.

2:00 pm

I spent the morning working on a blog post and exchanging messages with my son who is currently in Michigan doing research. I had lunch and had to remember not to put out Freya’s “bickies” – cat snacks that she has at lunchtime. When 2 pm arrived I dialled the vet’s number.

The response was short: Freya is in surgery now; call back in an hour.

The wait goes on…

3:00 pm

I phoned the vet again and they told me that all was well. Freya had had tumours on both sides so they had needed to do a double thyroidectomy. The patient is currently under observation as she recovers from the anaesthetic. However, they say that they think she would recover better at home than in the hospital and that I may therefore be able to bring her home this evening. I have to ring again at 5:30 to check.

That is surprisingly good news. Though some cats do go home soon after the surgery I was warned that Freya might have to stay in for a day or two and I had pessimistically assumed that this would be the case. To have her back so soon will be a relief and a pleasure.

The next critical stage, then, is that of the 5:30 phone call. I shall get ready first so that I can leave for the vet’s immediately if the news is good.

5:30 pm

I call the vet’s and they say yes, Freya can come home but that I should come and collect her between 6:15 and 6:30. So I must wait a little longer…

6:15 pm

The receptionist says she will go down and fetch Freya for me. A few minutes later she reappears, empty-handed and I assume I misheard her. The vet comes out and tells me that everything went well and there are unlikely to be any complications. He then says, tellingly, that some cats can be kept in for a while but that as Freya is an “angry cat”, it’s best for her to go home. The penny drops: they want me to take her home because she is being “difficult”. I have been told by cattery managers that Freya can be hard to handle.

They invite me to go down and collect her myself. As we approach the cage, Freya growls. Yes, she is indeed an angry cat.

“Can you get her out?” asks the nurse nervously. “Will she let you do that?”  She seems to think Freya will attack me.

First I let Freya sniff my hand so she is sure it’s me then I reach in to pick her up. She grumbles but doesn’t resist. I lift her out and pop her in her carrying cage. I pay the bill and we set off for home.

At home, I raise the lid of the cage, intending to lift Freya out but before I can do so, she decides to jump out. She stumbles and ends up with her front end lying on the carpet and her hind feet in the cage: she is still woozy from the anaesthetic. We stroke her and make much of her. She responds but pointedly does not purr. She does at least nudge my hand with her nose.

The vet gave me some easy-to-eat food for Freya but she only nibbles at it despite not having eaten for 24 hours. I expect her appetite will return when she calms down and finally recovers from the effects of the anaesthetic. After all, this has been a traumatic day for her and we cannot be surprised if she is upset and angry.

I thought Freya would be kept by the vet for at least a day or two and so having her home already is a cause for celebration, whatever her mood.

Later in the evening

After spending some time in the bedroom by herself, Freya comes to find us and curls up on Tigger’s lap. Nice to have you back, Freya!

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Freya | Tagged | 4 Comments

Trouble ahead for Freya

Thursday, October 9th 2014

Freya, our tabby cat, is the third member of our small family, as I described in my brief introduction, Freya. She is our companion and we want the best for her, as is only natural.

Freya’s health has always been robust and she loves her food. At one time she was overweight and I had to struggle to bring her down to the proper weight for her size. Every year in July, I take her to the vet for her annual flu jab and he gives her the “once over” and weighs her. For the last few years, her weight has remained steady and at a reasonable level for her size. This year, the vet told me that she had lost weight by a small but significant amount. He proposed bringing her back in a month to check again. On that occasion, her weight had increased slightly so we decided to wait and weigh her again later.

Last week I took her in and we found that her weight had again decreased and the vet proposed that we should have blood samples analysed. For this Freya needed to be sedated and I remained with her while this was done. Later I collected her from the vet and took her home. She was still affected by the sedative and when she tried to walk, she rolled about like a drunkard. Gradually, she recovered and became her old self.

The results of the blood test confirmed what we had feared. Freya is suffering from hyperthyroidism and needs to be treated as this is ultimately a fatal condition. Briefly, hyperthyroidism is a disease of the thyroid gland which produces hormones to regulate the cat’s metabolism. The disease causes the thyroid to produce too much hormone, pushing the cat’s metabolism into overdrive. One of the symptoms is that the cat eats a lot of food but still loses weight.

There are a number of ways to treat hyperthyroidism which, if successful, return the cat to equilibrium. We have to decide which of these treatments to choose. The guiding principle for me is obviously to decide which is best for Freya. As a rescue cat, she had an uncomfortable start to her life and I vowed to make the rest of her life as happy as possible in compensation.

There are three approaches to treatment, medication, radiation and surgery. Each has its merits, its disadvantages and its risks. We have to make our best guess as to likely outcomes and choose accordingly.

Medication would be in the form of a daily tablet to swallow or gel to be put in the cat’s ears. The pill cannot be crushed and given in food but has to be “popped” via the mouth. Knowing Freya, I believe she would dislike and resist medication in either form. In any case, medication doesn’t solve the problem but merely palliates it.

Radiation is said to be effective, though a second dose may be necessary. The main disadvantage is that in the UK (I believe the rules are different in the US), a radiated cat has to remain in isolation for 4 weeks and cannot be handled in the meantime, even if she becomes ill. The thought of imposing such an inimical regime on Freya is enough to make me discard that idea.

Surgery to remove the thyroid also resolves the problem though there does remain a possibility that thyroid tissue may grow back and the problem therefore return. The operation is delicate because the thyroid gland is closely associated with the parathyroid glands that control the use of calcium in the body and must not be damaged. After surgery, the cat remains with the vet for a few days while recovering.

While I am obviously reluctant to put Freya through the trauma of surgery, this approach seems to me “the least bad”. It should cure the problem and she will be away from us for a relatively short time, less than the time she often spends at the cattery.

Medication costs around £30 a month and the cost of surgery has been estimated at £800 to £900. Considering that medication would continue throughout Freya’s life, its cost would soon catch up with, and then exceed, the once-only cost of surgery. Freya does have health insurance which will pay some of the cost though there is, as usual, an “excess”, meaning that I have to pay a proportion myself. As far as I am concerned, if treatment deals with the problem and procures Freya a few more years of happy life, then I consider it money well spent.

In between writing this, I phoned the vet and made the appointment. It is for next Tuesday. Freya, of course, is blissfully unaware of what lies ahead but I am not. I shall be in a nervous state until things return to normal, assuming that they do. Freya is family, we love her and we want her to be well and happy.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Freya | Tagged | 10 Comments

Visiting the Tate Liverpool

Saturday, October 4th 2014

Liverpool Lime Street Station
Liverpool Lime Street Station

Here we are arriving at Liverpool’s Lime Street railway station. The journey from London’s Euston Station takes about two and a half hours so the journey there and back takes a chunk out of your day but this doesn’t matter too much if the goal is worthwhile and we expected that it would be.

Tate Liverpool
Tate Liverpool

In the interests of saving time and our feet (we knew we were going to do a lot of walking) we took a cab to our first destination, the Tate Liverpool art gallery.

The Albert Dock, Liverpool
The Albert Dock, Liverpool

The Tate Liverpool is picturesquely situated in the old Albert Dock, a place that is worth visiting on its own account.

We had come to see an exhibition here entitled Mondrian and his Studios. I have to say that the typical works of Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), all horizontal and vertical black lines with rectangular fillings in primary colours, don’t do a lot for me but Tigger finds him interesting and wanted to see this exhibition which included a mock-up of one of his studios. Mondrian lived and worked in his studio and decorated it with coloured rectangles of the sort that appear in his paintings to create an environment in which he could work. He felt that the studio played an important part in the creation of his paintings. If you are not familiar with Mondrian there is a short biography and some examples of his works on this Tate Web page.

A view of the Mersey
A view of the Mersey
Seen through a window in the Tate

Unsurprisingly, we were not allowed to take photos of any part of the exhibition but there were notices positively encouraging us to take photos of the views through the gallery windows. These certainly were spectacular. In some ways, I liked them better than the Mondrians inside…

The windows were covered with a bluish filter to protect the art works from the sunlight and this coloured the photos. I have corrected for this to a certain extent.

One of the galleries
One of the galleries

After visiting the Mondrian exhibition, including the studio mock-up, we took a tour of the other galleries. In the general galleries, photography was allowed. There was plenty to see, of course, and I can only show a few samples.

Lady in Niche
Lady in Niche
Ivor Abrahams, 1963

I’m not sure what to make of Lady in Niche. Does it perhaps represent a shrine carved out in the face of a rock?

This semi-abstract painting (below), based on architecture (you can probably make out parts of an arch and a stair)…

Side Entrance
Side Entrance
Lucy McKenzie, 2011

…inspired me to make my own architecture-based “painting” of a doorway:

Art Gallery Doorway
Art Gallery Doorway
SilverTiger, 2014

Maybe there’s also a touch of Mondrian in there too…

Albert Dock
Albert Dock
Gallery window view

While much of the art was abstract, there was the occasional figurative work to act as a relief,

Return from the Market (Retour du Marché)
Return from the Market (Retour du Marché)
André Fougeron, 1953

such as this striking piece, Return from the Market, by André Fougeron.

Infinite Structure
Infinite Structure
Saloua Raouda Choucair, 1963-5
Click for slideshow

There were sculptures as well as paintings, of course, such as this one, Infinite Structure, by Saloua Raouda Choucair, made of tufa stone. I was able to walk around it (one of the things I enjoy about sculpture) and photograph it from different angles. Click to see more pictures of it.

View across the docks into town
View across the docks into town

The weather was cloudy with sunny intervals and pictures taken through the windows of the Tate had wonderfully dramatic cloudscapes.

Inversions
Inversions
Mary Martin, 1966

This sculpture, Inversions by Mary Martin, intrigued me. For one thing, it’s 24 feet (7.3 m) long. It is made largely of aluminium and the various surfaces reflect the scene but break it up and reassemble it somewhat like a Cubist painting.

Inversions
Inversions
Detail

This close-up of a part of it shows something of how it is constructed.

Reclining Figure
Reclining Figure
Henry Moore, 1939

My last example from inside the gallery is by that stalwart of galleries, campuses and sculpture parks, Henry Moore. He returned ever and again to representations of reclining figures but this early one, it seems to me, is more delicately styled than his later more massy productions.

Another view of the docks
Another view of the docks

We left the Tate and had a look around the docks area. A couple of items particularly caught my attention.

Waiting
Waiting
Judy Boyt, unveiled 2010

The first was the fine naturalistic sculpture of a carthorse by Judy Boyt, erected as a monument commemorating 250 years of service of Liverpool’s working horses. It is such a beautiful piece of work and a fitting memorial to those patient animals who spent their lives working to supply the needs of the city and the wider community.

Dazzle Ship
Dazzle Ship
Carlos Cruz-Diez

The second was Liverpool’s ‘Dazzle Ship’. I wrote about ‘dazzle ships’ in Blackfriars dozen where I showed a photo of the London one. “Dazzling” was an innovative scheme of camouflage for ships intended, not to make them invisible, but to make it difficult to determine their distance and speed. As part of the commemoration of the First World War, two ships have been “dazzled” by artists Tobias Rehberger (the London ship) and Carlos Cruz-Diez (the Liverpool ship). For more information, see here. Owing to the dock being closed off, I couldn’t obtain and side-on view of the ship and had to be content with this angle.

The Three Graces
The Three Graces

We walked a little way along the Mersey in an area known as Pier Head. It is here that are to be  found a trio of buildings now collectively known by the poetic epithet the Three Graces. Despite being considered a group, they were built at different times.

Port of Liverpool Building
Port of Liverpool Building, 1907

The first to appear was the one on the right in 1907. This Italianate and domed structure was the head office of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, now renamed the Port of Liverpool Building. On its left is the last to be built, the Cunard Building of 1916.

The Royal Liver Building The Royal Liver Building
The Royal Liver Building, 1911
A symbol of Liverpool

The youngest, though most famous, member of the group is the Royal Liver Building of 1911. For a while the tallest building in Europe, it was built for the Royal Liver Assurance Group and carries on its roof two 18-foot bronze figures, the iconic Liver Birds (‘liver’ is pronounced to rhyme with ‘driver’). According to some, these are stylized cormorants but according to others, they are mythical birds, the very symbol of the city whose loss would cause the city to fail. (Every city must have its myths and its tall tales.)

Monument to Sir Alfred Lewis Jones
Monument to Sir Alfred Lewis Jones, 1913
Ship owner and
founder of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Near here stands a monument where there occurred an amusing incident as we were photographing it. Erected in 1913, the memorial commemorates Sir Alfred Lewis Jones, ship owner, philanthropist and founder of the Liverpool School of Tropical medicine.

Figure representing Research
Figure representing Research

The monument carries a plaque with a profile of Sir Alfred. On top is a crowned female figure holding a ship and on the sides two allegorical figures representing the Fruits of Commerce and Research, respectively. Research is shown above. The incident concerned two youths who were using the monument to practise their skateboarding techniques. As is often the case with public sculptures and monuments, we had to work around them to secure our pictures. As I was about to leave, I heard the elder youth, who had watched us at work, say to his companion

“I don’t think we should be doing this here.”

“Why not?” asked the other but received no answer. However, the two moved off and found another spot with enough walls and steps to serve as a practice ground. I say the incident is amusing, which it is, but it is also promising as it shows that at least some young people take note of what is happening in the environment and are thoughtful about their own relationship to it.

George's Dock Ventilation and Central Station of the Mersey Road Tunnel 1931-1934
George’s Dock Ventilation and
Central Station of the Mersey Road Tunnel 1931-1934

This Art Deco building  comprises a ventilation shaft for the Mersey Road Tunnel with offices around the base. Its design was influenced by contemporary archaeological discoveries in Egypt but also includes futuristic stylized figures in Art Deco style.

Former North Western Hotel
Former North Western Hotel
Alfred Waterhouse, 1871

On returning to Lime Street Station, we admired the splendid French Renaissance style old North Western Hotel built in 1871 by Alfred Waterhouse for the North Western Railway Company. I was, however looking forward to photographing another piece of work, this time a sculpture.

Liverpool Resurgent Liverpool Resurgent
Liverpool Resurgent
Jacob Epstein, 1956

When the rebuilding of Liverpool began after the Second World War, Lewis’s created a new department store and commissioned Jacob Epstein to provide a sculpture for it and some relief panels. The result was the figure Liverpool Resurgent, an exultant nude male standing in the prow of a ship, and a set of panels in a rather more “domestic” mood. Epstein is now regarded as a revolutionary figure in 20th-century sculpture and like all innovators, was at first attacked and his works sometimes mutilated in the name of “good taste”. In this sculpture, I think we see both Liverpool and Epstein triumphing at last.

Relief panel

Relief panel

Relief panel
Panels by Jacob Epstein for Lewis’s Department Store

Jacob Epstein is something of a hero of mine and visiting this work of his that stands as a monument to the city and its re-emergence from the horrors of war and as a monument to the artist himself, was a fitting end to our trip to Liverpool and a reminder of the treasures that it offers to visitors. This is by no means are last visit!

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , | 2 Comments

A town of sculptures, Harlow

Saturday, September 27th 2014

The name ‘Harlow’ has come down from ancient times but when it is mentioned today, people usually think of Harlow New Town in Essex. There is also a Harlow Old Town, but that doesn’t enter into the present narrative. It was the New Town (“new” in the sense of having been built from scratch after the Second World War) that we had come to see.

Domesday Book refers to Herlaua and mentions an Abbey of St Edmunds and two or three farm properties. Where the name comes from is uncertain and while there are theories, there are no hard facts to go by.

Harlow Station (1960)
Harlow Station (1960)
Replaced an earlier one called Burnt Mill

I said we had come to see Harlow New Town but that is not quite correct. We had come to see some things that are in the town. When Harlow started collecting pieces of sculpture by important sculptors, I think this was largely fortuitous but then the collecting gathered momentum and the town today possesses an impressive set of works, many of them by prestigious artists. Sculptures adorn the squares and parks and are accessible by all as everyday life proceeds around them. Harlow has rebranded itself as ‘Harlow Sculpture Town’.

There are reckoned to be over one hundred sculptures on view, far more than one can comfortably visit, let along photograph, on one short visit. Not all are easy to photograph, depending on location and the state of the light – low sun interfered in a few cases. What follows below is a selection of those I photographed during our tour.

Walking to the town centre
Walking to the town centre
Fifth Avenue or Allende Avenue?

We arrived at Harlow Station (see above) which, like all things in Harlow, was built as part of the development of this new town. Completed in 1960, it replaced an earlier 1842 station called Burnt Mill. I was surprised to discover that this station is Grade II listed, as it didn’t seem anything special to me. We set off on foot for the town’s centre and found ourselves walking along a broad carriageway which seems to possess two names, Fifth Avenue and Allende Avenue, respectively. I don’t think we chose the optimum way to reach the centre but it did at least lead us to our first sculpture.

Ports of Call
Ports of Call
Jonathan Clarke
Click for slide show

Sculpture is the art of objects that occupy space, either alone or in groups. You can walk around a sculpture, interact with it and see it from different angles and in different conditions. Whereas a painting contains its environment within it, a sculpture exists in the environment where it is placed and you cannot see it without also seeing its surroundings. I like to photograph a sculpture from several different angles because no one single viewpoint can adequately defines it. When we look at a sculpture, the brain fuses the many views into a composite impression. The camera, of course, cannot do that. All it can do is show different views of the sculpture and leave us to integrate them as best we can. Where I have been able to take several photos, I have arranged them as a slide show which you can see by clicking on the still image.

Harlow Market
Harlow Market

Tigger’s “inner pigeon” seemed not to be its usual efficient self at this point and I was beginning to think that we were lost and going in the wrong direction but, happily, we eventually arrived at a large open space surrounded by shops and partially occupied by market stalls. I believe this square is called Harlow Market. Here we found our next sculpture which I immediately recognized.

Meat Porters
Meat Porters
Ralph Brown
Click for slideshow

I said I recognized Meat Porters by Ralph Brown, though that is not quite accurate. My first encounter with it was at King’s Place in London, a visit that I described in a post entitled Meeting the Irish. When I saw it then, I did not know its title or the name of the artist but have now added an update to that post. It seems that the original sculpture is this one in Harlow and that the near-lookalike at King’s Place was a copy reworked by the sculptor. How it differs, I do not know – see if you can spot any differences.

Street scene in Harlow
Street scene in Harlow

I don’t wish to be rude about Harlow and, for all I know, perhaps it is a place “where time is pleasant”, as is claimed for Christchurch (see “Where time is pleasant”). We did speak to one inhabitant who said he liked living in Harlow so it obviously has its fans. To me, though, it seemed a pretty ordinary sort of place, like so many others that have been built or rebuilt in the latter part of the 20th century, much of a muchness. It no doubt has everything that you need in a town but were it not for the sculpture, I don’t think it would occur to me to come here. I do have one complaint that I will come to at the end. I will say no more about the town and concentrate on the sculpture and a visit that we made to a church. If you think I am being unfair to Harlow, feel free to take me to task and tell me about its delights.

Monument to the building of the New Town
Monument to the building of the New Town

Not a sculpture in the accepted sense, this obelisk has an importance of its own.  It was erected by Harlow Development Corporation to commemorate the building of the New Town 1947-80. I don’t know whether the similarity to an Ancient Egyptian stela is deliberate but it is fitting in that it too is seen as recording deeds of historic importance, albeit carried out by a corporation rather than by a pharaoh.

Vertex
Vertex
Paul Mason, 1979
Click for slideshow

This piece in the Broad Walk is made of grey Bardolino marble from Carrara and the sculptor is Paul Mason. Some of Harlow’s sculptures are old and have found their way here as gifts or purchases but this one was, I believe, specially commissioned.

Trigon
Trigon
Lynn Chadwick, 1961
Click for slideshow

Also in the Broad Walk is this bronze entitled Trigon by Lynn Chadwick. He seems to be quite a popular artist and I have discovered several works by him around London, for example see West India Quay Plus 1 and Sculpture in the City 2014 (Part 1). Other sculptures of his that I have seen have a figurative element to them but this one is abstract.

Returning from Work
Returning from Work
Carl Heinz Müller (date unknown)

On the outside wall of the library is a sculpture that is ascribed to Carl Heinz Müller. If you have never heard of this sculptor, then neither have I, nor can I find out anything about him. The date of the work is unknown and the piece is only “assumed” to be by him, providing us with a nice little mystery for further investigation. The sculpture, though outside, is in a covered area and is not very well lit – hence the shadows. (I could have used flash but using flash with sculpture usually produces poor results as well as adding shadows of its own.)

Cat
Cat
Malcolm Woodward
Click for slideshow

This intriguing piece of sculpture is inside the Central Library and is indicated as being on loan from Harlow Arts Council. If you come to it face on (see slideshow), it’s hard to tell what it might represent. It looks purely abstract. When it is seen from the side, however, its title, Cat, suddenly makes sense! According to the plate beside it, the sculptor is Malcolm Woodward (1943-2014). However, I have also seen this work ascribed to Henry Moore. The reason for this may be that Woodward worked for a number of years as Moore’s assistant and helped prepare and finish many of his works. Personally, I think this amusing and unusual figure properly belongs to Woodward.

St Paul's Church
St Paul’s Church

We were passing St Paul’s Church, of which I took the above panoramic view, and Tigger suggested taking a look inside. When we arrived at the door, they were just closing up but the vicar invited us in. Tigger and he were soon in conversation about this 1950s church and churches in general while I rudely left them to it and went off to take photos. So, by way of a distraction from the main topic, here are some views inside St Paul’s.

Looking down the main aisle to the altar
St Paul’s
Looking down the main aisle to the altar

The design of this church shouts “1950s!” at you. This is Festival of Britain vintage, the era of angular-shaped furniture painted in primary colours and evincing an almost painful yen to be different. On the plus side, the interior of this church is certainly light and airy.

Plenty of windows
Plenty of windows

This is why the church is so light, at least during daylight hours: the upper two thirds of the walls are all windows.

Pulpit Bishop's Chair
Furnishings
Pulpit or lectern and Bishop’s Chair

The fixtures and fittings are as “modern” (to the 1950s) as the general design. The bishop’s chair or throne looks uncomfortable – imagine sitting through a service on that. I also noticed that the pews have been cleverly designed with a ridge running along the top so that if you lean back in your seat, it digs into your back. Sit up straight and pay attention, eh?

Virgin and Child
Virgin and Child
Age and provenance unknown

Something that is definitely not of the 1950s is this intriguing sculpture of the Virgin and Child. It looks old but there is something odd about it which leaves its origin and date in doubt. I think I can do no better than quote the church’s own history page:

The statue on the wall of the Baptistery is believed to be either an inaccurate 18th century reproduction, of Michaelangelo’s Virgin of Bruge (1501) or it is suggested by some authorities that it is a 16th century sculpture from Northern Italy but due to a stylistic discrepancy between the head of the child and the rest of the work it is thought that the head is an English 18th century replacement for the original.

Either way, it makes an interesting contrast with the styling of the rest of the church and takes us nicely back to the sculptures.

The Philosopher
The Philosopher
Keith Goodwin, 1961-2

At a quick glance you might think this sculpture was carved in stone but it is in fact made of fibreglass. It’s also in a bad state and it unless repaired I think it will be lost. It is called The Philosopher and is by Keith Goodwin. The subject looks as if something has just startled him and he is about to jump out of his chair. Is this work meant to be an imitation of Classical sculpture or a parody of it?

Harlow Family Group
Harlow Family Group
Henry Moore, 1954

This sculpture currently resides inside the Civic Centre which is closed on Sundays and so I had to take the photo through the glass wall. Considering that, it hasn’t come out too badly. The Harlow Family Group is so called because it was specially commissioned by Harlow Art Trust. It is an early work by Henry Moore and unusually figurative for that artist.

Upright Motive No 2: Bronze Cross
Upright Motive No 2: Bronze Cross
Henry Moore, 1955-6
Click for slideshow

This work stands in the Water Garden and rejoices in the name Upright Motive No 2: Bronze Cross. This is more like the Henry Moore we know and love (or not). The two sculptures by Moore (Family Group and this one) are within sight of one another, allowing a comparison to be made, if you are so minded.

Unknown title
Unknown title
Unknown artist and date
Click for slideshow

At the other end of the Water Garden stands another upright bronze sculpture. Is this also by Moore or is it by some other artist? I don’t know. There was no plaque and I can find no mention of it in Harlow’s various information sources on its sculpture. According to the map of the Sculpture Trail, this should be Eve by Auguste Rodin, but it obviously is not that work because Eve looks like this. Information on the sculpture’s identity will no doubt emerge in due course.

Relief
Relief
William Mitchell, 1963

Contradicting what I said above, not all sculptures can be walked around. Some are flat and stuck to the wall of an ASDA supermarket, as is Relief by William Mitchell. We spent some time looking for this one and when we found it I wasn’t convinced that it was an actual sculpture but it is.

We have obviously seen only a small fraction of the sculptures that Harlow has on display. Seeing the others is the one thing that might tempt me to come back to Harlow. We now decided to return to the station and take a train home. This is where things became difficult.

Harlow Bus Station
Harlow Bus Station
Try getting a bus to the station. One second thoughts, don’t

We had walked into town from the station and after traipsing around town for several hours looking at sculpture, thought it would be a good idea to get a bus back. So we went to the town bus station.

You would think that from the town’s bus station you could get a bus to the town’s railway station, wouldn’t you? The bus timetables affixed to the walls said you could and when we asked a member of staff, we were directed to a bus stand where there would be a bus to take us there. Unfortunately, the bus that we had been told would stop here to take us to the station didn’t stop here but kept speeding past. When a bus did stop the driver said no, he didn’t go to the station, and sent us to another stand. We waited a long time but the supposed station bus didn’t come. When a bus did come, the driver said no, he didn’t go to the station and sent us to another stand. (Do you see a pattern forming here?) We waited there for a bus; waited a little longer; then waited some more. No bus.

Do buses ever go from the bus station to the railway station and, if so, are passengers ever allowed to know from which stand they depart? I cannot say because we gave up on the buses and took a taxi – a damp squib of an end to an otherwise interesting trip.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged | 2 Comments

Four open houses

Sunday, September 21st 2014

As usual we started off with breakfast at Pret (the relatively new branch in the N1 Centre) and then dragged the shopping trolley across the road to Sainsbury’s where we did the week’s shopping. Perhaps I am a little odd but I quite enjoy these breakfast-plus-shopping sessions and the chance to relax over breakfast and chat with Tigger about this, that and all sorts of other things.

The shopping done, we trundled it home in the trolley and rested from our labours while doing a little work on our respective collections of photos from yesterday. We were well into the afternoon when Tigger perked up and suggested we visit a few buildings which were open for this year’s Open House London. I was dubious as it was already a little late and I didn’t think we’d manage to see much. As usual I was wrong. Tigger set off at a cracking pace and I followed along… :)

Our first port of call was not far away, on a corner where Pentonville Road meets St John Street. It is called appropriately, if dully, the Angel Building. Knowing our predilections in architecture, you might think this is an historic, or at least old, building but it isn’t. It has existed in its present state only since 2011. What is particular about it is that it has been built around the core of an older building. This was stripped down to its concrete skeleton and a new exterior hung from this. Such a method apparently saves money, reduces carbon emissions and is generally good for the environment. Well, that’s what the designers claim.

The Atrium
The Atrium

Entering by the usual glass swing doors, you enter a large atrium that rises the height of the building and is covered with a glass roof. This forms a light well and acts as a public area for people to meet or dawdle – there is a coffee bar and some very deep armchairs!

Sculpture? Bench? Talking point?
Sculpture? Bench? Talking point?

The atrium is too large to get a photo showing the whole of it. At the centre is this tall, shiny black object. I have no idea what it is. You could sit (and even lie) on the flat part but I don’t think it’s intended as a seat. The “tail” rises up and up almost to the glass ceiling. Perhaps it is a sculpture or just an object to act as a talking point. It certainly does that!

Looking down from the top floor
Looking down from the top floor

Only part of the building was open to the public, including the atrium and the top floor and open-air terrace. The other floors are given over to offices and it is quite reasonable that visitors have no access to these. I’m not sure how many floors there are – five plus the terrace, at a guess – but each storey is quite tall so when we went up in the lift and I found we could down down into the atrium, I couldn’t resist taking this (for me) stomach-churning view. Oh, for the wings or a dove or even those of a humble pigeon…

Looking over Islington to the City
Looking over Islington to the City

The terrace provides views over the rooftops of  lesser buildings and you can see all the way to the City and its rash of tall buildings. The terrace is quite broad and I can imagine people who work in the building coming up here in fine weather to eat their lunch or take a coffee break.

Part of Islington with the tower of St Mark's Church
Part of Islington with the tower of St Mark’s Church
The BT Tower stands on the horizon

We spent a while enjoying the view and taking photos but, once we had done that, there was nothing to detain us and we started down again.

An area to relax in
An area to relax in

Either side of the atrium are areas where you can sit and relax or associate with others. Near the coffee bar are tables with chairs and on the other side deep settees and armchairs that, once you sink into them, you are most reluctant to get up again!

Leaving the Angel Building, we continued a little way down St John Street and turned right into Rosebery Avenue, named after Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929), Liberal statesman and sometime Prime Minister. Here we find another gem of a building but this time, one with full Victorian honours.

Finsbury Old Town Hall
Finsbury Old Town Hall

The Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury existed from 1900 to 1965, the year in which the London borough were reorganized and Finsbury was combined with the Metropolitan Borough of Islington to form the London Borough of Islington. Before the Borough of Finsbury came into existence, though, this area was administered by the Vestry of Clerkenwell, and it was this body that built the splendid Clerkenwell Town Hall that was opened by Lord Rosebery on June 14th 1895. When the Borough of Finsbury was formed, combining several of the local vestries, the building became its administrative centre and was renamed Finsbury Town Hall. That name can still be read emblazoned in the decorative glass around the canopy over the main door.

The Great Hall
The Great Hall

Just a few rooms was open to the public today, all of them used for various purposes by the Urdang Dance Academy that currently inhabits the building. Because these rooms now serve as dance studios, they have been stripped of furniture and left echoingly empty. For the visit, the dance studio equipment had been removed or pushed to one side.

Coat of Arms
Coat of Arms
Great Hall

While the other rooms were not without interest, it is the Great Hall that is the most splendid, reflecting the civic pride of the old Clerkenwell and Finsbury local administrations. This room would have been used for receptions and entertainments and one can imagine how glittering these occasions would have been.

Angel lamp holders
Angel lamp holders

Glitter is literally present in the lamps that line either side of the large room. They are in the form of (female) angels holding lamps above their heads.

Part of the ceiling
Part of the ceiling

The ceiling is of course as richly decorated as the rest of the room, with panels of intricate plaster work.

Here are some details from other parts of the building:

Stained glass window
Stained glass window

This is one of the windows in another of the larger rooms which I think may have been used as the council chamber.

Door with carved lintel
Door with carved lintel

It is unfortunate that this elegant door has to be spoiled because over-weaning health and safety regulation require “keep closed” discs to be affixed to it.

Stained glass window in a corridor
Stained glass window in a corridor

This was perhaps the most elaborate of the stained glass windows that we saw. Its purpose is, while being decorative in its own right, to allow light into the otherwise dark corridor from an external window that is on the other side of a staircase. To judge from this, and the original light fittings still in place, which would presumably have been fuelled with gas, our Victorian and Edwardian forebears were satisfied with a lower level of illumination than we consider necessary today, spoiled as we are by electricity.

Union Chapel
Union Chapel

We next took a bus to Highbury and Islington station and there visited the Union Chapel. This building with its strikingly tall clock tower is a Congregational church but also much more than that. It hosts all manner of events and provides a centre for the homeless and those in crisis.

Union Chapel interior
Union Chapel interior

The church was built in Victorian Gothic style between 1874 and 1877. On entering, I received a somewhat curious impression: it is huge and obviously a church but, on the other hand, quite different from other churches of this size that I have seen, which are either Anglican or Catholic. This one struck me as a cross between a church and a theatre. After all, the point of focus is a stage on which stands a pulpit.

Window Rose
Window Rose

There is a feeling of Protestant austerity to the place and yet it has stained glass windows, not least a striking window rose, the sort of thing you would expect to see in a cathedral or a principal Anglican or Catholic church. Then again, as an unbeliever, I am not an expert on church design and, for all I know, this may be quite a usual arrangement in a Congregational church.

Serried ranks of pews
Serried ranks of pews

I also noticed the serried ranks of pews or, rather, benches, for the congregation. They are tightly packed as though the original designers expected even a church as large as this to be packed out for services. The wooden benches with straight backs make no concession to the body and look very uncomfortable. I was glad I didn’t have to try them out.

Carved wooden ceiling
Carved wooden ceiling

Various activities and exhibitions were in progress for the Open Day, including what was described as a “Sound Installation” by James Mabbett. This did nothing to enhance the pleasure of my visit. It was just a rather unpleasant noise and I was glad to escape it by leaving the chapel.

We took a bus back to the Angel but got off at St Mary’s, the church that is such a landmark in Upper Street (see, for example, I stayed at home).

St Mary's, general view
St Mary’s, general view

No one is sure how long there have been churches on this site but it is thought that there was a Norman church here by the 12th century. This was replaced in the 15th century by a church that in its turn had become dangerously dilapidated by the mid-18th century. A new church was built between 1751 and 1754 and continued in use until 1940 when it fell victim to the Blitz. The whole church was destroyed except for the portico and the tower, both of which have been incorporated into today’s church, built between 1954 and 1956.

Eagle lectern
Eagle lectern

The interior of the church is light and airy. I don’t know what its Georgian forerunner was like but imagine it could have been something like the modern church. There is a “classical” simplicity to it and unlike traditional churches that have side aisles and side chapels, this one is virtually a plain rectangular space.

Rear of Church
Rear of Church

Looking towards the back of the church, we can see the organ pipes and a central painting entitled Christ the Judge by Brian Thomas, in a style which I think embraces both old and modern church painting traditions.

Coat of Arms rescued from the bombed church
Coat of Arms rescued from the bombed church

I have passed in front of St Mary’s many times and even walked in the grounds (see the previously cited blog post) but this is the first time I have been inside. As churches go, this one is pleasant enough and if you like the uncluttered “modern” look it will probably suit your tastes, but I found it somewhat lacking in character.

This was a rapid gallop around four buildings not normally open to the public, made possible by that notable and by now much loved tradition of Open House Weekends. Here’s looking forward to next year and another chance to see inside some famous and historically interesting buildings.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

A few pictures from Cambridge

Saturday, September 20th 2014

Today we paid a visit to the university city of Cambridge. We had no special goal in mind but wandered around taking photos, though I did make a couple of purchases, as I shall explain later. The weather was rather dull as you will see from the photos below.

Lloyds Bank Lloyds Bank
Lloyds Bank
Lloyds Bank now…
…but built as Foster’s Bank 1889-91

Today this building accommodates a branch of Lloyds Bank but was designed by the celebrated Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse and was built between 1889 and 1891 for a company called Foster, whose name still appears embossed above the doorway. A little more about the building and the Fosters will be found on this Victorian Web page.

Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church
Built and modified from the 12th to 19th century

The first Holy Trinity was a wooden structure with a thatched roof and it burnt down in 1174.  A more durable stone church was started in 1189 but was modified and added to several times during the ensuing centuries until 1887, when a stone chancel was completed. In front of the church is a cycle rack, quite a small one by Cambridge standards. The town is flat and the bicycle seems to be the preferred mode of transport for citizens, especially students belonging to the various colleges.

Great Gate of Trinity College Great Gate of Trinity College
Great Gate of Trinity College
Featuring Henry VIII and his chair leg

Another Trinity is Trinity College, founded by good old bad old Henry VIII in 1546. The college buildings were cobbled together from pre-existing ones and some are therefore older than the college’s foundation date. The main gate, for example dates from 1490. There is a little mystery attached to the statue of the founder on the gate’s façade. The standing figure originally held a sword and an orb, symbols of royalty, but at some point the sword was stolen and replaced with a chair leg. The usual version of the story has it that the substitution was effected as a student prank in the 19th (some say the 18th) century. An article in Varsity, however, posits a different explanation for the chair leg. Which, I wonder, is the true version?

Angels
Angels

This decorative motif of a pair of angels appears on the corner of a nearby building though I do not know its date. Throughout its history, the university has been in a close – some might say unhealthy – relationship with the established church and religious nomenclature and symbolism abound.

There are no doubt apocryphal stories of tourists wandering around Cambridge with puzzled looks on the faces trying to find the famed “university” and not being able to locate it among all these colleges. That’s a bit like someone wandering among sheep trying to find a thing called the herd. The sheep are the herd and the colleges are, collectively, the university. Distributed systems were invented long before computers came upon the scene.

St John's College
StJohn's College John Fisher
St John’s College
John Fisher, sometime Chancellor of the University

Passing along St John’s Street, I took some photos of this building that I think is part of St John’s College, though I don’t know which part or any details of its history. It is decorated with statues in niches of people important in the history of the university. This one, for example, is John Fisher (1469-1535), Catholic bishop and theologian and sometime Chancellor of the university. Though generally held in high esteem, Fisher managed to fall foul of Henry VIII (a not altogether difficult thing to do) and was consequently beheaded on Tower Hill on June 22nd 1535. He was later declared a martyr and canonised by the Catholic Church.

A glimpse through the gate of St John's College
A glimpse through the gate of St John’s College

The way into a college is usually through the gate, often style The Great Gate, which leads into a quadrangle or court. Colleges are private property and therefore can admit or exclude members of the public as they see fit. Today, St John’s College was closed to visitors but I managed to sneak a picture through the gate.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Also known as the Round Church

This is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is also known as the Round Church. I expect you can see why. It was originally built in 1130 and owes its shape to the fact that its designers , the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre, took their inspiration from the church of the same name in Jerusalem. As usual there have been some alterations and additions through the years. English Heritage awarded it a Grade I listing in 1950.

Punts on the Cam
Punts on the Cam
Magdalene Bridge

We paused on Magdalene Bridge to take a photo showing Cambridge as many people think of it, a place where folk idle away the sunny weather sailing up and down the river on punts, flat-keeled boats propelled by pushing with a pole against the river bed. (“Magdalene”, incidentally, is pronounced “Maudlin” in Cambridge, for reasons best known to those who say it thus.) Cambridge and its river are cited as a rare example of a town giving its name to the river, rather than the other way about. The river was originally known as the Granta and is in fact still called that above the town. The Anglo-Saxons called the town Grantebrycge, after the river, but in the fullness of time, this became simplified to Cambridge and, by reverse etymology, the river changed its name to the Cam.

Trinity Street
Trinity Street

Trinity Street is known for the beautiful old buildings that line it. Many of them are listed though this particular example is not. I don’t know its history but I think it’s a pretty fine piece of work.

Feeling peckish, we went down to King’s Parade where, situated in an alley, is the entrance to the Rainbow Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant. It is very good and very well known, so you need to choose the time of your visit carefully in order to be sure of getting a table. The menu is imaginative with recipes from all over the world and continually changes. It’s hard to make up your mind but whatever you choose, you know it’s vegetarian or even vegan.

Silver jewellery!
Nomads
Silver jewellery!

Also in King’s Parade is a shop called Nomads. What’s particular about it? It sells a lot of different things but, in particular, silver jewellery! I am drawn to silver jewellery like a pin to a magnet (I am not called SilverTiger for nothing!) and so, of course, I had to go in a take a look. Almost the first thing I saw was a lion! Not a real lion, naturally, but a silver ring with a lion on it.

The Lion Ring
The Lion Ring

I tried it on and it fitted and that was that, really. I obviously had to buy it. Lions are not quite on the same level as tigers but they come close, along with leopards, panthers, cheetahs, jaguars and so on, not forgetting the domestic moggy. So now I have a tiger on one hand and a lion on the other.

The Corpus Clock
The Corpus Clock
and the Chronophage

You can’t go to Cambridge and not take a photo of the Corpus Clock. It is famous but also interesting. It is called the Corpus Clock because it belongs to Corpus Christi College and occupies a window in the college’s Taylor Library. It was unveiled in 2008 by an eminent person well known for his interest in time, Stephen Hawking. The feature that everyone’s notices (while trying to work out how to tell the time from the clock) is the creature that sits on top of it. Is this a grasshopper?  (That would be appropriate because the clock uses a grasshopper escapement.) Or is it a locust? (That would be appropriate too as the idea here is of a valuable resource, time, being eaten up.) Whatever inspired its design, the creature has been dubbed the Chronophage (meaning “time eater”). Acting as the escapement, it rocks and releases the cogs of the wheel one by one. This is Cambridge, so of course, there has to be a religious motto in Latin: mundus transit et concupiscentia eius (“the world passeth away, and the lust thereof”,  1 John 2:17, Vulgate version).

Relief, Corn Exchange
Relief, Corn Exchange
Reliefs, Corn Exchange

Cambridge already had a Corn Exchange when in 1868 a new one was built. I don’t know whether corn was ever traded here but assume that other business was also transacted. These days, the old Corn Exchange is a concert venue and sometimes used, I believe, to hold university examinations. Two reliefs on the outside certainly fit the putative theme of the building, showing the cultivating and harvesting of corn.

Talos
Talos
Michael Ayrton
Click for slideshow

There is plenty of sculpture in Cambridge, of course, much of it ancient. There are also some modern pieces, such as this one by Michael Ayrton and called Talos. The description reads

Legendary man of bronze
was guardian of Minoan Crete
the first civilization
of Europe

If you click on the image you will see views from 7 different angles.

Cambridge Market
Cambridge Market
I bought a new handbag

Cambridge of course has a market, which has been going since the Middle Ages. Nor does it run on only one day a week but every day from Monday to Saturday. It sells a wide range of goods and I was here tempted into my second purchase of the day, a new handbag. (Click to see a wide angle version of the picture.)

Memorial to the South African War Memorial to the South African War
Two figures
Memorial to the South African War

Near the market is a memorial to the South African War, 1899-1902, and the men of Cambridgeshire who fought and died as members of the Suffolk Regiment.

Between the Lines
Between the Lines
Peter Randall-Page, 2007
Click for slideshow

On a happier note, we discovered a sculpture in Fisher Square. This somewhat abstract design has been carved on a glacial boulder formed of granite. It is entitled Between the Lines and the sculptor was Peter Randall-Page. Click on the image to see a slideshow of the sculpture from 4 angles. I managed only four because photography was rendered difficult, as it often is in public, by people using the topology of the setting to practice their skateboarding techniques. Pictures had to be taken as skaters shot out of frame and before they came back in. A bit like nature photography but in reverse, I suppose.

Like all ancient cities, Cambridge presents a complex picture to the visitor and does not reveal its secrets at the first glance. Every time we go there, we discover new things and new aspects of familiar things.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | 2 Comments