The day we didn’t go to Cheltenham

Strange art
Strange art

I had business in Amwell Street this morning and on the way I took a look at the antiques shop. It’s never open and I imagine that you can visit it only by appointment. Even so, the window display changes from time to time, perhaps as items are sold and replaced. This morning, however, the sight awaiting my enquiring eye was quite unexpected. The window was completely dominated by a set of paintings, apparently all by the same artist.

I looked in vain for any description or the name of the painter. Nor do I know what period the pictures belong to, though to my inexpert eye they look fairly modern. I was tempted to dismiss them as abstract brush-strokes on the canvas, though the big one at first sight resembles a giant pair of fully open scissors.

Then I noticed a certain familiarity in the shapes and finally I realized what it was. Each painting is a highly impressionistic representation of a motor cycle, seen sideways on. Even the big painting expresses the theme though the seat and the handlebars have been transformed into a symmetrical pair of shapes.*

Are the small paintings sketches in preparation for the big one? Or is it a set of essays by the painter, variations on a theme, as it were? I have no idea. The pictures are interesting but are not the sort of thing I would want hanging on a wall near me.

It was an unusually fine day today, as if we had magically slipped back into summer. The sun shone and warmth filled the streets. It was a day to be out and about. All the more sad, then, that we didn’t go to Cheltenham.

Yes, we might almost have gone to this ancient spa town in Gloucestershire. Tigger was asked to go there on a courier run and, as we see, the weather would have been perfect for it. Unfortunately, a colleague was absent and Tigger could not be spared. It would have made a pleasant change, a town that we haven’t managed to visit previously.

The attraction for me is that I used to live there. Well, not in Cheltenham itself but in a village outside it called Bishops Cleeve. I doubt whether anyone calls it a village now, though, as it has been massively extended by new housing. At the risk of being accused of old-fogeyism I could honestly say, standing in the midst of new housing estates, “I remember when it was all fields round here.” The farm and the fields I remember, where my sister walked her dogs, have all gone, submerged forever under concrete, brick and tarmac.

I haven’t been back for quite a while and the Cheltenham I remember will have been transformed as has Bishops Cleeve. I remember it as a quiet and quietly elegant spa town, so flat that practically everyone had a bicycle and even very elderly people would be seen pedalling along its streets. I expect the traffic has put paid to that.

We might have gone to Cheltenham but we didn’t. Oh well, I expect we’ll get another chance or go under our own steam one day.

Instead, it was business as usual which, on Fridays of course, means Omelette Day. We went around the corner to the Italian cafe to be greeted like friends by the owners and asked if we had enjoyed our holiday. They too are feeling the pressures of the economic down-turn. The “young man”, as I always call him, an elderly Italian gent who waited on table, has been laid off, replaced by family members. I only wish I had studied Italian as I would get the opportunity to practise my linguistic skills because although they all speak English, it is in some cases as a halting runner-up to their first language.

Profiting from the warm weather, on the way home from work this evening we visited a few shops and then repaired to the Tinderbox for coffee, consuming this in a tiny booth resembling a Wendy house. I had to bend nearly double in order to get in and out of it.

As I write this, around 7:30 in the evening, the temperature is sliding downwards and it feels like autumn again. We may even have to turn on the heating for a while before it becomes too uncomfortable. But perhaps we shouldn’t grumble. A friend of mine once spent some time in Oman, her husband being employed there. She said that she came to miss the changing seasons. Would I miss them, I wonder? Hating the cold as I do, I cannot imagine missing winter, though autumn always brings back poignant and not unpleasant memories.

*Note added on 02/10/09

It appears the I was completely mistaken in my interpretation of the paintings. Today I saw a notice affixed to the shop door explaining the subject matter. To see this, click here. Well, if you say so…


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to The day we didn’t go to Cheltenham

  1. Great title ! You could do something every day about the place you didn’t go.

    The photo of the antique shop reminds me of a shop I often pass when I am in Monchengladbach (Germany). It always has untitled, unpriced paintings in the window – and it is never open. Maybe the same person owns both shops and commutes. or maybe resides in another country. Weird.

  2. SilverTiger says:

    True, but the rules of the game require that we might plausibly have visited the place in question but for some intervening circumstance. Today that eliminated all possible destinations except Cheltenham 😉

    I think the problem faced by antiques dealers is that they cannot survive by sitting in their shops all day. They have to get out and about, going to fairs and markets, as well as operating online. If they can afford an assistant, the latter can open the shop, but otherwise, the shop stays closed while the owner does the running around.

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