Another damp Saturday

Saturday, November 22nd 2014

We awoke to another dull, damp Saturday. This will probably be the trend now until the season changes. The Angel Crossroads presented a gloomy aspect.

The Angel Crossroad
The Angel Crossroad
Gloomy under dull skies

The air was charged with rain and the sky was dull and leaden – not good conditions in which to take photos!

We caught a bus to Islington Green. or Islington Memorial Green, as it has now been named, and found Gallipoli open, where we cheered ourselves up with a Turkish breakfast with grilled Halloumi and Turkish tea.

The War Memorial
The War Memorial
Replaced the War Shrine in 2006

The triangular open space, usually simply known as the Green or Islington Green, is now called Islington Memorial Green, presumably because part of it is occupied by the war memorial. Though commemorating the fallen in both World Wars, this structure dates only from 2006 when it replaced a previous monument called the War Shrine. This was erected in 1918 as a temporary memorial but survived 87 years or so until it was thought to be in sufficiently bad condition to need replacing. I did not manage to photograph the old memorial but found a short piece of film made at the time of its dedication and you can see it here.

This new monument by John Main, was controversial and some people referred to it (and still do) as “the doughnut”. I am not sure what it is intended to represent unless it is a slightly abstract wreath. Last year, repairs had to be made as the monument was sinking, a circumstance blamed on inadequate foundations. For a while it was supported by a steel frame that, ironically, took the form of the CND logo. You will find the Islington Tribune’s report on the matter, together with a photo, here. For now at least, the memorial seems to have recovered its aplomb.

Margaret Street in Fitzrovia
Margaret Street in Fitzrovia

Later we found ourselves in Fitzrovia where I took the above photo of Margaret Street. The street’s skyline is dominated by a church spire though, from this angle, the church itself is hard to spot.

All Saints Margaret Street
All Saints Margaret Street
Entrance and courtyard

The church is slotted in among other buildings in such a way that it presents a fairly modest entrance to the street. The gate leads to a small courtyard and thence to the church door. As well as the church, the complex includes a vicarage and a choir school. The church’s information board says the church is open daily from 7 am to 7 pm but we were unable to gain access.

The tower and spire
The tower and spire
Seen from the courtyard

Completed in 1859 and designed by William Butterfield, this church is regarded by Simon Thurley as one of the ten most important buildings in England (see here). Another admirer, poet laureate John Betjemen, credited All Saints with starting the revolution in church building that gave us so many Gothic Revival masterpieces.

Courtyard relief
Courtyard relief
Subtitle

Not being able to see the interior, which I hear is splendid, we made do with a few photos of exterior details such as this relief of an angelic visitation, which I imagine is a representation of the Annunciation.

The BT Tower
The BT Tower
A brooding presence in Fitzrovia

The 627 ft (191 m) tall BT Tower is a brooding presence in Fitzrovia, appearing again and again in street views. In the above photo we are viewing it along Berners Street. Completed in 1964 as the Post Office Tower, it later became known as the London Telecom Tower and, more recently, as the British Telecom or BT Tower. In 2003, it became a Grade II listed building.

Door and brass bell plate
Door and brass bell plate
York House, Berners Street

On a dull day, the bright red door and gleaming brasses of the entrance to York House added a welcome splash of colour and vivacity.

Sculpted horses Sculpted horses
Sculpted horses
Mr Brainwash

Just opposite in Berners Street is the Sanderson Hotel. This 1950s building takes it name from the original commissioning owners, Arthur Sanderson & Sons, manufacturers of wallpaper, fabrics and paint. The building itself is listed Grade II*, no doubt as much for its historic importance as for its aesthetic appeal which I failed to notice. The hotel is currently hosting a four-day event called the Frieze Festival with exhibits of modern art. Items include this pair of horses placed outside the hotel. They are by Mr Brainwash, aka Thierry Guetta, an artist said to have been born in Paris and to be now resident in Los Angeles. Others claim that he is in fact street artist Banksy engaging in an extended parody of himself. The horses, made of crockery shards, are quite lively and attractive.

Now for our “Last Chance to See” spot: three buildings that are about to disappear never to be seen again. Should we be sad about this? You be the judge.

Buildings to be demolished
Buildings to be demolished
Berners Street

The three buildings in question are shown in the photo above. The two on the right perhaps have their merits but the one that is attracting most attention is the one occupying the greater part of the photo and boasting a curvy roof canopy. It is known as Copyright House.

Copyright House
Copyright House
Impressively Nondescript

This office block was built in the 1950s by controversial architect Richard Seifert. Widely criticised for what were considered  ugly buildings, Seifert has more recently gained something of a following and increasing interest is being shown in his works. For example, I hear that the Twentieth Century Society has made a bid to have Copyright House listed and thus to save it from demolition. Why anyone would wish to have this impressively nondescript heap saved for future generations is not clear to me (unless it is the fear of something even worse being put in its place) but I will just quote the Latin maxim, De gustibus non est disputandum, and pass on.

Berners Mansion
Berners Mansion
A Victorian apartment block

I much preferred this pretty apartment block with shops on the ground floor. It is called Berners Mansion and was built in 1897 to a design by George Dennis Martin, who seems relatively little known. This building is not listed but as it resides within a conservation area, its immediate future seems assured. It replaced a previous 18th century building whose demolition possibly stirred up the same sort of resentment that we see today in the case of Copyright House. Plus ça change…

Sculpture of a bull
Sculpture of a bull
Engage with caution

Opposite Berners Mansion, on the terrace of a restaurant, is a fine life-size sculpture of a bull. I am sure it is a favourite with customers which perhaps goes some way to explaining the curious notice affixed to the wall beside it.

CUSTOMERS
ENGAGING WITH
THE BULL DO SO
ENTIRELY AT THEIR
OWN RISK.
FOR DISPLAY
PURPOSES ONLY.

I am not sure how one typically “engages” with a sculpted bull but to do so is obviously a risky business, especially (one might conjecture) if one has sampled the no doubt excellent wines served by the restaurant.

Post box with post office sign
Post box with post office sign

On the corner of Newman Street and Eastcastle Street is a pub called the Blue Posts. In front of it, this post box caught my eye. Some decades ago – in the 1950s, possibly – there was a concerted plan to place on top of every pillar box a sign pointing the direction to the nearest post office. These signs did not last very long and by now have virtually disappeared. Modern pillar boxes show no trace of them but older ones often display the remains of the bracket that once held the sign. The sign on this post box still survives, perhaps because it is of a robust design in metal whereas most were boards with metal brackets. So many post offices have closed down in recent years that even where such signs still exist, it is a matter of chance whether they actually do point to one.

Yumchaa
Yumchaa
A nice cup of tea on a dull day

Before turning for home, we decided that a warming beverage would be welcome. Tigger remembered that nearby was a branch of Yumchaa, the no-tea-bag tea house. Perhaps because of the weather, the place was packed and we were about to leave unrefreshed when a table became free. They had run out of Russian Caravan but I choose a fragrant Oolong instead. Just what you want to fortify you for the bus ride home!

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

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A quiet ramble

Saturday, November 15th 2014

We haven’t been out much lately. Both of use have had bad colds and, at the risk of you accusing me of being a “man flu” sufferer, I was quite unwell for a few days, spending most of my time in bed. Today we decided to make the effort to go out though we had no particular goal in view.

Gallipoli
Gallipoli
A good Turkish breakfast

We started by looking for breakfast. We strolled along Upper Street to see if Gallipoli was open. There are three Turkish cafe-bistros here with Gallipoli in the name (the other two are Gallipoli Again and Gallipoli Bazaar) but two don’t open until later in the day. Fortunately, this one was open and is the one we like most. It has a very pretty interior (see Anniversary and birthday) though I have to be careful not to bump the low hanging lamps with my head! They serve a very nice Turkish breakfast and happily swap the sausage for some slices of grilled Halloumi.

A bird among glass towers
A bird among glass towers
Warren Street

We next found ourselves, after a bus ride, at Warren Street tube station. Here, where Tottenham Court Road, Euston Road and Hampstead Road meet at a busy crossroads, there is a large painting of a bird posted on the side of one of the office blocks. I have no idea whether this is an attempt at public art or whether the bird has some other significance. It makes a colourful, and slightly bizarre, splash among the concrete and grey glass.

Yumchaa
Yumchaa
Proper tea (strictly no tea bags)

One of the things I like about the Turkish breakfast is that it is served with Turkish tea. The way the Turks make tea is to brew it very strong and serve it topped up with hot water. A special pair a kettles is used for this (see here for more details). The tea is drunk without milk (as it should be) and is very tasty. The only problem with that is that it is served in tiny glasses so you hardly feel you have had a good drink. Thus, by the time we came to Yumchaa in Tottenham Street, we were ready for a top-up.

No frills interior
No frills interior
Tea samples to sniff

Yumchaa has several branches. This one has a no frills interior and looks as though it was once a warehouse or a workshop. This is the place to come for a proper cup of tea. As the notice declaims, there are “NO TEA BAGS”! There is a whole range of teas to choose from, either to drink on the premises or to buy to take home. At one end of the counter is a set of small cups, each containing a sample of one of the teas on offer with a notice inviting you to sniff them. Along with the pure teas, such as Oolong and Lapsang, are blends, including my favourite, Russian Caravan. I noted with approval that the ingredients of the blend were stated (Oolong, Kemun and Lapsang Souchong), something that is rare in the tea trade these days1.

Pollock's Toy Museum
Pollock’s Toy Museum
And Theatre Printers

We were now in Fitzrovia, one of whose famous inhabitants is the local branch of Pollock’s Toy Museum and Theatre Printers. Of this establishment, its Website disarmingly says “Not a physical shop, not a museum.” Whatever it is, it is named after Benjamin Pollock, a Victorian theatre printer, which title I think designates a maker of toy theatres. Examples of these are to be seen in the Theatre Printers section of the premises. In Victorian times these model were considered not merely as toys but as a form of entertainment and Charles Dickens, actor manqué that he was, liked to play out scenes from his novels in one.

Pigeons
Pigeons
A proper diet for once

I stopped to photograph these pigeons because (apart from the fact that I like pigeons) I saw they were eating something closer to their proper food than they usually eat in the city. Whether by design or accident, someone had scattered a lot of seeds in the road and the pigeons were gobbling them up. I am glad to see that their usual diet of bread, chips and fast food hasn’t spoiled their appetite from more natural food.

18th century house
18th century house
with 1900 façade

I always admire this house in Percy Street because it stands out prettily among its neighbours. According to English Heritage, the house was built in the 1760s though what you see from the street is the façade, which is much later. It was probably done around 1900 and is decorated with beautiful patterning in faience. The ground floor has unfortunately been converted into a shop and one can only guess what it looked like when freshly restyled.

Victorian pub
Victorian pub
A shadow of its former glory

In a prime position on the corner of Rathbone Place with Rathbone Street stands what I take to be a Victorian pub. It has survived and looks to be in robust condition but has been anonymized  and stripped of its former no doubt fine decor. It presents – to my eyes, at least – a rather sad sight, like that of someone who has come down in the world, having known better times. This, of course, is the fate of many old, once popular pubs, and just to survive amid changing economic conditions is already a feat.

Strange structure
Strange structure
What will it be?

We worked our way down to Oxford Street where, on a corner, building work is proceeding on an edifice that is probably destined to be an office black or a store. On the roof appears a peculiar skeletal structure. What is it going to be? I have no idea but someone knows.

1900 building 1900 building
1900 building
Belonging to a vanished business

We waited for a bus and on the other side of the road I saw this neat little building with its birth date of 1900 proclaimed proudly on its façade. It was obviously once the premises of a business and probably a flourishing one able and willing to include a large clock in the design. A jeweller-clockmaker, perhaps? Dwarfed though it is by the larger buildings on either side, it stands out because of its unusual design and its character.

Centre Point
Centre Point
A controversial design by a controversial architect

Along the road, visible peering over smaller structures, Centre Point appears currently wearing a green apron, no doubt to protect it from the building work going on around it. This 33-storey block caused controversy when it was built in the 1960s by Richard Seifert, no stranger to controversy. An aggressive promoter of his buildings who liked to get his own way, Seifert was widely reviled in his own time but today opinions have shifted somewhat. It is recognized that though he did indeed design some dreadful buildings he also built others that are now coming to be appreciated, some even receiving the accolade of being listed. What does the future hold for Centre Point? I suspect they will still be asking that question several generations in the future.

Girdlers' Hall
Girdlers’ Hall
HQ of the Livery Company

In London Wall, we stopped to look at the Girdlers’ Hall. The Girdlers, makers of belts and suchlike accoutrements, are one of London’s livery companies that have existed since ancient times to protect the professions they represent and to ensure high standards of work. Today, the livery companies have largely invested their energies and funds into charitable works and foundations. Each has a hall which serves as the company’s headquarters.

The Girdlers received letters patent in 1327 and their royal charter in 1449. Their first hall, built 1431, burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. Disaster struck again in 1940 when its replacement was destroyed by bombing. The foundation stone of the present building was laid in May 1960.

Girdlers' Coat of Arms
Girdlers’ Coat of Arms
ST Lawrence and grid irons

The Girdlers were granted their coat of arms in 1454 and a fine exemplar of it appears over the door of the hall. The arms are topped by a representation of the Company’s patron saint, St Lawrence, and includes three gilded objects. What are these? The figure in fact represents a visual, and slightly gruesome, pun. The metal objects are grid irons, which are also known as griddle irons and girdle irons – hence the punning connection with the name of the Girdlers’ Company. According to legend, St Lawrence was martyred in AD 258 by being burnt to death on a grid iron. This, however, is disputed by some historians according to whom he was beheaded, as was the custom of the day2.

The Garden
The Garden
Girdlers’ Hall

Peering over the railings at the back of the hall, I was able to get a glimpse of the garden though this is, of course, not open to the public.

The Gardener The Gardener
The Gardener
Karin Jonzen, 1971

Near the Girdlers’ Hall is another hall, that of the Brewers’ Company. Beside this is a garden which I take to be a public as it is unenclosed. In it stands a sculpture by Kirin Jonzen entitled The Gardener. It shows a young lad crouching in a somewhat awkward posture, one knee to the ground and one hand on the soil as though he has just covered a seed or a bulb that he has planted.

Crow working a paper bag
Crow working a paper bag
Click for slideshow

We passed through the back streets on the way to Finsbury Square. In the City at weekends the streets are very quiet because most of the banks and offices are closed, as are the shops and pubs. This means that various species of birds are out in force scavenging. I photographed this crow who had found a paper bag containing something interesting and was busy pulling it open. Crows are clever enough to put one foot on an object to steady it while tearing it with their beak. Neither pigeons nor gulls seem to have learned this trick. (Click to see the slideshow.) The pictures have been cropped from distance shots so the images lack sharpness.

Reflections
Reflections

We passed through a sort of business campus of office blocks and passageways. Lights showed here and there in the windows but most of the offices were dark. Daylight penetrated through the glass roof high above and the windows, transparent here and opaque there acted like mirrors, reflecting one another until it was hard to tell what was real and what was reflection.

The colour is blue
The colour is blue
Weekend in the City

At weekends in the City, the doors are locked but the office blocks are manned by security guards. Every so often they patrol the building in their care and the rest of the time sit at the front desk. What do they do to pass the long hours of the weekend? Read? Listen to the radio? Dose with one eye open?

This entrance was lit in blue light and the people inside the atrium looked as though they were floating in an aquarium.

________

1Most tea merchants don’t say what they put in their Russian Caravan and this is why I buy the ingredients separately and mix them myself – to be sure I am getting what I think I am getting.

2One source, Pio Franchi de’ Cavalieri, suggests that the legend of the burning came about as a result of a mis-spelling in the announcement of the martyr’s death. In such announcements, the phrase passus est (“he suffered”, i.e. was martyred) was used and it is proposed (I don’t know on what evidence) that the scribe missed out the ‘p’, writing assus est, which would mean “he was roasted”.

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

Posted in Out and About | 4 Comments

A wet Saturday

Saturday, November 1st 2014

We awoke to rain. We looked at the forecast and it said rain all day. Well, we had some errands to run so we would do that and save our energies for a more propitious time.

Tigger had heard of a vegetarian restaurant in Eastcastle Street in Fitzrovia and proposed that we go there for breakfast.

Ethos
Ethos
Any good? We’ll never know…

The restaurant is called Ethos and we believed it opened at 9 am. The notice on the door said it opened at 9 am. When we went inside, however, they told us they opened only at 10 am. As it was now 9:05, we were not going to wait around.

Pret A Manger
Pret A Manger
Open and serving

Happily, there was a branch of Pret A Manger on the corner and they were open and serving. They are not vegetarian but there’s plenty of choice. This chain has spread rapidly in the last few years, despite the supposed recession, and is deservedly popular.

Street market
Street market
Portobello Road

Afterwards we took a bus to Portobello Road. On Saturdays there is a street market and it is a very lively area. There is a Spanish supermarket here where Tigger wanted to buy a particular item. (You have to give her credit for knowing what she wants and where to find it!)

As you can see from the photo, the sun had now come out, in defiance of the weather forecast, but we had done what we intended and so called it a day and went home.

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

Posted in Out and About | 4 Comments

A little update on Freya

Fr1day, October 31st 2014

I last reported on Freya‘s progress on October 20th (see 200 Grams better off), saying that she had gained a little weight. This was important because prior to her operation she had been steadily losing weight, despite eating well.

In the days that followed my post, Freya continued eating well, coming to find me unerringly at meal times as though she had an alarm clock in her tummy. Apart from that, though, she was rather quiet, spending most of her time curled up asleep. Though she responded to being stroked, she showed relatively little enthusiasm for anything outside meal times.

Gradually that has changed. Before the operation, I had got used to a “slimline” Freya, trying to convince myself that this was a sign of age rather than ill health. I also noticed that her coat seemed rather dry and wiry, more so than I remembered from times past. Since my last report, however, Freya has put on weight and now looks more like the cat she used to be. When I stroke her, I notice how soft and silky her fur now is. She is beginning to take an interest in things again. Sometimes, even when a meal isn’t due, she comes to find me at my desk and if I don’t notice her, she gives me a tap on my arm to announce her presence.

If you need further proof of her return to normal, here it is: Freya has started watching cat videos on Tigger’s iPad again. It’s nice to have her back :)

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

Posted in Freya | Tagged | 4 Comments

Some art in Bristol

Saturday, October 25th 2014

The purpose of our visit to the beautiful city of Bristol was to meet a cousin of Tigger’s and much of the visit was taken up with this. We met in Bristol’s Museum & Art Gallery and managed to have a look at some of the exhibits on show. Photography is permitted without flash and I show a selection of the works we saw, plus a few other things, below.

Main entrance
Main entrance
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

The Museum & Art Gallery building is very handsome. The exterior, with its columns, manage to be both Classical and modern at the same time. It was built between 1899 and 1904 in the period of transition from the Victorian to the Edwardian eras. It received a Grade II* listing in 1966.

Gifted by William Henry Wills
Gifted by Sir William Henry Wills

Beneath a finely carved coat of arms of Bristol, an inscription reminds us that this establishment is “The gift of Sir William Henry Wills, Bart, to his fellow citizens”, a magnanimous gesture for which I imagine, the citizens of Bristol still remain grateful. Sir William was a member of the Bristol tobacco importing family which formed the W.D. & H.O. Wills tobacco and cigarette company that eventually merged into the Imperial Tobacco Company.

Traditional swing-door entrance
Traditional swing-door entrance

The way in is through a pair of traditional swing doors in wood and glass. These are accessed up a flight of steps though there is a separate entrance for wheelchairs.

Flanked by telamones
Flanked by telamones

Inside the museum, the doors are flanked by a pair of telamones (the masculine analogue of female caryatids), supporting a balcony above them.

Telamon
Telamon
One of the pair flanking the doorway

While the building is of elegant proportions, the attention to detail and the careful finish (look at the veins on the telamon’s foot, for example) also impress, making this a building that you enjoy exploring for its own sake.

Sekhmet
Sekhmet
Lioness goddess of Ancient Egypt

Near the doors stand a couple of Ancient Egypt sculptures and I photographed this one because she is feline. It is Sekhmet, the lioness goddess, daughter of the sun god Re. This is actually not the original but a plaster cast of the statue that probably dates from the 18th dynasty and is therefore around 3,400 years old.

The second hall
The second hall
Damaged by a bomb but beautifully repaired

The ground floor plan comprises two halls of which this is the second. It is largely taken up with tables and chairs for use by customers of the cafe, though there are exhibits all around in the side aisles. In the evening of November 24th 1940, a bomb fell through the glass and metal roof and exploded in this hall. You would hardly guess that today, so excellent has the repair work been, though there remain some chips and scars on the pillars as reminders of that destructive event.

The Cafe
The Cafe

We had made an early start in order to get here for a reasonable hour and so it was pleasant to make a pause and take refreshment in the cafe.

After meeting with our people we went on a tour of the museum and art gallery. What follows is a purely capricious sampling of what we saw, without any order to it.

Porcelain flask
Porcelain flask
Ming Dynasty, 1426-35

Every self-respecting museum must have its Ming vase or, if not a vase, at least some beautiful artifact from that fabled Chinese era. Bristol has its piece of Ming, described as a flask (slip that into your hip pocket!) modelled on Middle Eastern designs. It is finely decorated with scrolls in underglaze blue.

This exhibit illustrates the main two problems associated with photographing museum objects. The first is reflection from the protective glass and the second is the illumination which is often narrowly focussed and creates over-bright highlights. In this case, the glass reflecting the vase made a nice counterbalance for the main image.

Portrait of a Man in a Beaver Hat
Portrait of a Man in a Beaver Hat
Samuel Colman, 1835

One of the pleasures of visiting art collections is the discovery of an artist I wasn’t previously aware of. I didn’t know Samuel Colman (1780-1845) but was rather taken with this portrait. The sitter is not named, which suggests this was not a commissioned portrait, and this fact has perhaps allowed the artist to be frank in his rendition of the man’s features. The man’s character shines through and you can imagine that he has made, or is about to make, some pithily humorous remark to the artist. (Apologies for the unwanted reflections on the glass.)

The Artist and her Mother
The Artist and her Mother
Rolinda Sharples, 1816

Another artist whose acquaintance I made here, so to speak, was Rolinda Sharples. A member of a family of artists, Rolinda (1793-1838) specialized in portraits and genre pieces. There were several of her paintings on display (see below, for another) and they show that she was an extremely competent painter with a eye for detail. The artist herself appears in several of her pictures, as above, and you soon begin to feel that you know her because her self-portraits vividly express her personality. While the picture above is a charming family piece, it is also carefully composed and finished and intended to display her prowess as an artist.

The Village Gossips
The Village Gossips
Rolinda Sharples, c. 1828

The above painting, representing two elderly ladies exchanging gossip, while a third listens covertly, risks being a cliché but I think the artist saves it from this fate with her accurate portrayal and humorous touches (the eavesdropper, the cat running past unnoticed with a bird in his mouth). To our eyes, this is a period piece, a scene from a costume drama, but to the artist, this was something immediate and real.

The Mountains of Thermopylae
The Mountains of Thermopylae
Edward Lear, 1852

We now remember Edward Lear (1812-88) principally for his humorous verse but he was as much a painter as a poet and specialized in ornithological pictures. I find that there is a dreamy quality to his paintings of the landscape of Greece and Egypt but, at the same time, there is the realism of an artist who knows the land and feels at one with it. The costumed figures may date the work but the painting itself has a timeless quality.

The Temple of Dendera, Upper Egypt
The Temple of Dendera, Upper Egypt
David Roberts, 1841

I was attracted to this painting by the subject (Ancient Egypt!) and the grandeur both of the subject and of the painting itself. The reduced size of the image here present does not do justice to it, so please click on it to see a larger (though still inadequate) version. The artist liked architectural subjects and undertook a tour of the Middle East to broaden his portfolio. He uses human figures to show the scale of the temple though he cheats a little – the state of preservation of the sculpted faces is not as good as he makes it out to be here!

The Bristol Boxkite
The Bristol Boxkite
British & Colonial Aeroplane Company, 1910-4

One of the largest exhibits is the suspended Bristol Biplane. Nicknamed the ‘Bristol Boxkite’, these planes were made in the years 1910 to 1914 in Bristol by the British & Colonial Aeroplane Company. This one is actually a model, created for the film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, 1963.

Alfred the Gorilla
Alfred the Gorilla
Bristol Zoo 1930-48

The museum has a collection of preserved birds and animals. As a child I loved visiting the animals in Brighton Museum but these days I am less keen on them, though I recognize that some collections have proved their value to scientific research. This portrait shot is of Alfred the Gorilla who became famous nationally and internationally from his arrival in Bristol Zoo in 1930. At his death in 1948 he was the world’s longest living gorilla in captivity.

Daedalus Equiping Icarus
Daedalus Equiping Icarus
Francis Derwent Wood, 1895
Click for slideshow

In a corner by a staircase, in somewhat cramped conditions, stands this bronze sculpture by Francis Derwent Wood (1871-1926). It is referred to variously as Daedalus and Icarus or Daedalus Equiping Icarus. The story of the father and son pair who escape imprisonment by flying on artificial wings created by the inventive Daedalus and which ends tragically when the son exultantly flies too near the sun, causing the wax to melt and the wings to disintegrate, is well known. We know the exploit to be a legend and the feat to be physically impossible but the story continues to intrigue us and the sculpture, with its realistic scaled up birds’ wings makes it seem almost possible. It is a beautiful piece and rightly secured for the young sculptor a gold medal and a travelling scholarship of £200 from the Royal Academy Schools.

Truth
Truth
Francis Derwent Wood, 1913

The same artist also made the bronze figure of a young woman holding a lamp and entitle Truth.

Eve at the Fountain
Eve at the Fountain
Edward Hodges Baily, 1821
Click for slideshow

This beautiful sculpture in white marble presented a puzzle when I first saw it as I could not find the artist’s name or any details. Looking it up on the Web, I was hampered by not knowing its name. In the end, I emailed the museum and asked for information which they kindly supplied. I was then able to find further details online. The sculpture, done (I believe) in 1821, is by Edward Hodges Baily, famous for his statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson that stands atop Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. Quoting from the museum’s email, “The figure illustrates the passage in [Milton’s] Paradise Lost after Eve has eaten the apple and become aware of her own reflection in the pool.” Baily was born in Bristol and this piece was one of the first of the museum’s art acquisitions.

Kathleen
Kathleen
Sir Jacob Epstein, 1935
Click for slideshow

To round off our tour what better way than to discover a bronze by my favourite sculptor, Jacob Epstein (1880-1959). Epstein’s sculpture covers a dizzyingly broad range of styles and techniques and he is the key figure in modern sculpture. He produced many portrait busts and heads, both of famous people and of members of his family. The Kathleen portrayed here is Kathleen Garman, Epstein’s long-term mistress whom he eventually married after the death of his wife. Epstein made several portraits of his muse Kathleen and these tend to be known by their number in the sequence. Thus this is the fifth portrait of Kathleen.

Staircase Lion
Staircase Lion

I started the sculpture tour with a lioness, so I will end it with a lion! Lions, sitting bolt upright, adorn the ends of the balustrades on the staircases. They have a slightly dreamy air to them. They are no longer the fierce, proud lions of the Victorian age of Empire, but softer, more reflective creatures, seemingly aware that they sit on the brink of great changes.

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

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , | 2 Comments

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.

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Angels and elephants

Saturday, October 18th 2014

The city we visited today began as an Anglo-Saxon village called Coffan Treo, meaning ‘Coffa’s Tree’. Perhaps the said tree was used as a meeting place and became associated with Coffa because he lived nearby. In the fullness of time, the name evolved into the one by which we know it today, Coventry. As far as I am aware, the ‘o’ in Coventry is pronounced like the ‘o’ in ‘bother’ and ‘hover’ but I also hear people pronounce the name as though the first two syllables rhyme with ‘oven’. I see no reason why they would do this and dismiss it as an affectation.

Coventry is an ancient city and its Cathedral dates from the 14th century. Because of its industrial importance, Coventry suffered badly during the Second World War from bombing. The Cathedral was one of the Luftwaffe’s victims. While Coventry has been largely rebuilt, much remains of its historic past and we saw – and photographed – so much during our visit that I had a hard task selecting which images to include. What follows is merely a sample of what the city has to offer.

James Starley Memorial
James Starley Memorial James Starley Memorial
James Starley Memorial
James Whitehead & Sons, 1884

On leaving the station, we debated whether to take a cab into town or to walk. In the end we decided to walk. This unfortunately took us through some of the less prepossessing parts of the city, rebuilt after the war. We did, however, see the memorial to James Starley, erected in 1884. The memorial is slightly unusual in having a pair of line drawings depicted on two of its sides. The allegorical female figure on the top is Fame. A profile of James Starley, sadly un-nosed, occupies one side of the column and the drawings represent his inventions in the field of bicycle engineering. The inscription claims that Starley is the “Inventor of the Bicycle”. Alas, no. Various viable designs of bicycle were in existence before Starley began his illustrious career, though it can be said that he created the bicycle manufacturing industry for which Coventry became famous and improved the design of the bicycle with his inventions.

Elephant topped bollards Elephant topped bollards
Elephant-topped bollards
The elephant is a heraldic symbol of Coventry

Passing through Bull Yard, I spotted these bollards topped with elephants. This unusual design for the humble bollard is owing to the fact that the elephant is the heraldic beast of Coventry, as we shall see later.

The Phoenix
The Phoenix
George Wagstaffe, 1962
Click for slideshow

Nearly stands the first of today’s sculptures, The Phoenix by George Wagstaffe. Unveiled in 1962 by the late Princess Margaret, this sculpture  symbolises the rebuilding of Coventry from the fiery ruins of the war. (The soft toy is a later and, I assume, temporary addition.)

Lady Godiva
Lady Godiva
Sir William Reid Dick, 1949

In the town’s centre stands this imposing and, I think, beautiful equestrian sculpture by Sir William Reid Dick. Now Grade II listed, it represents a myth of Coventry that continues, rightly or wrongly, to be much emphasised in the city still today. The story is well known but here is an outline.

Lady Godiva was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia in the 11th century. She repeatedly tried to persuade her husband to reduce the punitive taxes he imposed on his tenants until, faced with his continuing obduracy, she proposed to ride naked through the streets of Coventry in return for the granting of her wish. The bargain was struck, but the citizens were warned not to look upon Lady Godiva as she passed by. A later addition to the story has it that the blacksmith Tom, called “Peeping Tom” for his misdeed, disobeyed the injunction and covertly spied upon her, whereupon he was struck blind.

The story, which was not attested before the 13th century is clearly a fiction. Attempts have been made to “explain” it as a fanciful elaboration of real events but in the absence of supporting evidence they remain mere speculation. For obvious reasons, the story remains popular and Coventry seems determine to extract full value from it.

Godiva clock Kitsch Godiva
Godiva Clock and kitsch Lady Godiva

In the square is the now (in)famous Godiva Clock. This would be nothing more than a run-of-the-mill public clock but for what happens when the hour is struck. Two doors then open in the façade and a figure emerges from one door to “ride” through the other. The figure is a kitsch representation of Lady Godiva upon her horse but, whereas the bronze sculpture in the square is noble, this effigy is grotesque, resembling an inflatable doll.

Lychgate Cottages
Lychgate Cottages
Part of the old Priory

Happily, there are nicer things to see not too far away in Priory Row. There was once the Priory of St Mary here but precious little of it remains today. This building was perhaps part of the complex. I say “perhaps” because there seems to be some disagreement between English Heritage, whose Grade I listing dates it to the 17th century, and the city’s plaque which gives it an older date, assigning what are now three separate dwellings, called Lychgate Cottages, to the early 15th century, citing tree-ring data as evidence. Either way, it is a handsome building.

Blue Coat School
Blue Coat School
Victorian Gothic, 1856-7

Nearby, and poised above the old Priory sunken gardens which are in the process of restoration, stands this extravagantly styled Blue Coat School. The school was founded in 1714 but this building dates from 1856-7. It is in the Victorian Gothic manner but is styled like a French chateau and its towers take as their foundations those of the original towers of the monastic church. The school itself closed in 1940.

Tower and spire of Holy Trinity
Tower and spire of Holy Trinity
13th and 15th century church

Just the other side of Priory Row is what I consider one of the highlights of our visit. This is Holy Trinity Church. It was originally built in the 13th and 15th centuries, though there are some later additions and restoration work, and the spire, 237 feet (72 m) tall, was raised in 1667 after the original had been blown down. What captured my attention, however, was the interior of the church.

Holy Trinity
Holy Trinity
Looking along the nave to the altar

Restoration work on the building was carried out in the 1840s and Gilbert Scott redid the interior in 1855. The result is a building of great beauty and soaring proportions. The decoration is elaborate but tasteful with exquisite attention to detail. The church is not a time capsule, however, and some of its most beautiful features are relatively modern.

Great West Window
Great West Window
Hugh Easton, dedicated 1955

One of these is the Great East Window showing Christ in Majesty, accompanied by a vast array of people who are all identified in an information panel nearby. Whatever one’s religious beliefs, of lack thereof, one must recognize the splendour of the conception and the luminous beauty of the finished work.

Stained glass windows
Stained glass windows
Click for slide show

One of the treasures of the church is its collection of stained glass windows. There are too many to show each separately, so I have made a slide show of some of them. Click the above still to see it.

Examples of church decor
Examples of church decor
Click for slideshow

This second slideshow from Holy Trinity shows examples of church decor, including the alter piece, sections of the ceiling and another stained glass window.

Looking down the nave to the Great West Window
Looking down the nave to the Great West Window

There was a grand piano in the nave just before the choir stalls and a pianist was practising. One of the pieces he played was the first Gymnopédie by Erik Satie which in this ancient and yet modern interior seemed entirely appropriate.

The Coventry Boy
The Coventry Boy
Philip Bentham, 1966
Click for slideshow

We made our way to the Cathedral but before we quite arrived, I spotted this sculpture. It is by Philip Bentham and was unveiled in 1966. On the base is the following inscription:

COVENTRY BOY
THIS BOY HAS NO NAME
BUT REPRESENTS ALL BOYS OF
ALL TIME WHO ARE PROUD TO
BELONG HERE REACHING OUT AS
ALWAYS FROM ROUGH SPUN TO CLOSE
WEAVE FOR FAMILY AND FOR CITY

In harmony with this, the boy wears one shoe and has one foot bare, has one sleeve rolled up and one fastened with a cuff-link and holds a scroll in one hand while in the other a spanner, resting on a model of a factory.

Coventry Cathedral
Coventry Cathedral

Across the road is Coventry Cathedral or perhaps I should say Coventry Cathedrals (plural) because we have both the third and most recent one (shown in part above) and the remains of the second. Starting with the above, it was designed by Sir Basil Spence, which may be why it looks more like a power station than a church. It was built between 1951 and 1962 and is dedicated, as were the preceding two, to St Michael. The one relieving feature on the blocky exterior is the sculpture by Jacob Epstein.

St Michael subduing the Devil
St Michael subduing the Devil
Jacob Epstein, 1958

This huge and powerful sculpture was made by Jacob Epstein shortly before his death. It shows the martial angel St Michael triumphing over the Devil who lies subdued before him with hands and feet bound with chains. This represents the Day of Judgement and the much anticipated final triumph of Good over Evil.

The Devil in chains
The Devil in chains

This is not the only work by Epstein on this theme. I have seen several other versions of St Michael triumphing over the Devil though whether this was a favourite theme of the sculptor or he did it merely because he was commissioned to do so, I do not know. I admire the sculpture while disliking the theme, though the result is highly dramatic.

St Michael subduing the Devil

We could have visited the new Cathedral and perhaps we will another time. You have to pay £6 each for admission which, though not exorbitant, nonetheless gives one pause.

The old beside the new
The old beside the new

 

The new Cathedral has been built beside the old one and is attached to it by a tall but simple arch which, though modern, manages to look as if it is part of the ruin. The old Cathedral, of course, can be visited free of charge.

Looking along the nave to the altar
Looking along the nave to the altar

Once inside I was struck by the vast size of the building. This impression is partly caused by the emptiness of it, of course. If it were furnished and roofed and the side aisles were still in place, the size might be less striking.

Where the altar once stood
Where the altar once stood

What was to become Coventry’s Cathedral in 1918 was built in 1300 as a parish church and survived into the 20th century when an air raid on November 14th 1940 destroyed it almost completely, though the tower and spire survived. (There are a number of other cases where this apparently counterintuitive situation – destruction of the body of the church and survival of the spire – has occurred including, for example, St Mary’s Church, Islington.)

The tower and spire
The tower and spire

The tower was completed in 1374 and the spire was added in 1433, the total height being 295 feet (90 m). It was built on the ground, not in the body of the church as is most common, but this ground, near a quarry, provided a poor foundation, leading to deterioration of the tower over the centuries, and requiring a full restoration in 1855. A peculiarity of the design is that the tower is not situated in the centre of the west façade, as might be expected, but is offset towards the south. It was greatly admired by such figures as Ruskin and Christopher Wren who described it as a masterpiece in the art of Gothic building.

Ecce Homo
Ecce Homo
Jacob Epstein, 1934-5

Within this torn precinct stands Ecce Homo, a sculpture by Jacob Epstein. The sculptor worked on it between 1934 and 1935 and, as you might expect. when first exhibited, it met with controversy. It is designed to be seen from the front and shows the influence of Toltec art. Epstein himself wrote of this work as follows:

I wished to make in “Ecce Homo” a symbol of a man, bound, crowned with thorns and facing with a relentless and overmastering gaze of pity and prescience on our unhappy world. Because of the hardness of the material I treated the work in a large way, with a juxtaposition of flat planes, always with a view to retaining the impression of the original work.

Old Cathedral Tower
Old Cathedral Tower
Viewed from Bayley Lane

We continued are explorations for a while in the streets around the Cathedral. Here there are a number of historic buildings that demand more attention than we could afford in the time available.

Golden Angel holding a clock
Golden Angel holding a clock

One such attention grabber was a golden angel with its body and wings framing a large clock. We soon discovered that this belonged to the Council House.

The Council House
The Council House
Front façade

The Council House (Grade II listed) is a striking and, I think, unique building. Dating from the period of the First World War (it was built between 1913 and 1917) it is designed in the Elizabethan manner in red sandstone and decorated with heraldic figures.

Main entrance
Main entrance

Above the door are heraldic devices including (on the lintel) a golden elephant. Of the three human figures, the top one is allegorical and labelled Justitia (Justice), while the others are that famous pair, Leofric and Godiva, the latter clothed this time.

Heraldic beast
Heraldic beast

At the base of each of a pair of columns of heraldic symbols, stalks a big cat, though I am not sure of its species. It probably refers to the cat on Coventry’s coat of arms.

Coat of Arms of Coventry
Coat of Arms of Coventry

On the entrance gate appears a fine representation of the coat of arms of Coventry. In the centre of the shield is the golden elephant that symbolises Coventry and on top a feline animal said to be a wildcat. The accompanying motto (not visible here) is the puzzling Camera Principis, usually translated as “The Prince’s Chamber”. It is thought that this refers to Edward, the Black Prince, who owned the nearby Manor of Cheylesmore. You will find more information on the coat of arms here.

Ford's Hospital Ford's Hospital
Ford’s Hospital
Early 16th century almshouses

Our last investigatory visit was to Ford’s Hospital, a picturesque and historic almshouse. The establishment was endowed by will of William Ford in 1509 though some additional work was done in 1517 by William Pisford. Sadly, this beautiful building was badly damaged in the air raid that destroyed the Cathedral but not too badly to be rebuilt using the original timbers in 1951-3. Such careful attention has earned it a Grade I listing.

The Courtyard
The Courtyard

The establishment is also known as Greyfriar’s Hospital, not because of any religious connections, but because it resides in Greyfriars Lane. Inside the building is a fine courtyard.

Coventry is an ancient city which, despite the series of bombing raids that it suffered, still retains much that is of both historic and aesthetic interest. As usual, our visit merely dipped into its treasures without exhausting them. While the fanciful story of Lady Godiva’s naked ride add a touch of amusement, Coventry has far more than this to recommend it to the visitor.

Angel's head
Angel’s head, Coventry Old Cathedral

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