Viewing Manet at Narch

Saturday, April 4th 2015

We undertook today’s trip to a Norfolk city in order to see the exhibition dedicated to the painter Manet that was being held there. Unfortunately (though not unexpectedly), photography was not allowed in the exhibition and so I am unable to show you any of the works that we saw. If you are wondering about the mysterious “Narch” cited in the title, this is how Tigger and I refer to the fine old town of Norwich since our stay there in September 2010. To know why we call it that, just listen to the name as pronounced by some of the locals. The exhibition was entitled Homage to Manet and was held in the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, itself a picturesque setting.

Norwich Station
Norwich Station
Opened 1886

We reached Norwich (or “Narch”, if you prefer) by railway, emerging from the rather fine Victorian station. I understand that Norwich originally had three stations of which one was called Norwich Thorpe. Only the latter now survives and is today called simply “Norwich”. It opened for business in 1886 and is a beautiful example of its kind.

Norwich is on the Wensum
Norwich is on the Wensum

The River Wensum runs through Norwich, adding appeal to the city as well as being navigable and therefore useful. Various small craft are to be seen sailing along it or moored along the banks. The name is said to derive from Old English wandsum or wendsum, meaning “wandering”, in reference to its winding nature. (Compare this with the name of the Wantsum, a tributary of the Stour in Kent.) From the station, we crossed into the main part of town via the Foundry Bridge from which I took the above photo.

Victorian pillar box
Victorian pillar box
On the corner of St Faith’s Lane

We started up the long, sloping Prince of Wales Road, which contains a number of interesting old buildings, not least this pillar box that bears the royal cipher of Queen Victoria. It is situated on the corner of St Faith’s Lane and, for all I know, has sat there patiently since the days when that queen was on the throne. I don’t know when this model was made but it must be at least 114 years old. It is a tribute to the quality of Victorian manufacture that so many of these boxes are still in use.

The Railway Mission
The Railway Mission
Built 1901-3

This striking little building is the Norwich Railway Mission or, rather, the former Railway Mission. “Railway Mission” is the name of both the individual mission halls and of the organization which supports them. The Railway Mission was founded in 1881 to serve the railway industry and still exists today (see here for more information) but the Norwich Mission Hall today belongs to the Norwich Evangelical Free Church. The building itself, happily, is now Grade II listed.

Hardwick House
Hardwick House
From bank to Post Office to estate agent

Further up the road is another Grade II listed building with an impressive set of pillars in the front. It is a little hard to photograph because of the continual flow of traffic and pedestrians along the street but it is worth the effort. It is called Hardwick House after the architect who designed it, P.C. Hardwick. It was completed in 1866 as a bank, though I don’t know which one. It later became a Post Office, as declared at the top of the building just below the garlanded crown. At a date unknown to me it came down in the world and is now an estate agent’s office. It remains a handsome building of character.

Anglia House
Anglia House
Previously the Agricultural Hall

Further up the road is a substantial structure called Anglia House for no better reason than that it has been for some time the home of Anglia Television. Completed in 1882 and designed by J.B. Pearse, it was the city’s agricultural Hall and has received a Grade II listing.

Approaching the Castle
Approaching the Castle

We took a refreshment break at the Castle Mall shopping centre and then, faithful to our original purpose walked up to the castle. In the above photo you see our first glimpse of it and, on the left, the glass skylights of the Mall which is built into the castle hill so that, even though it is several storeys high, its roof appears here, apparently at ground level. The castle is Norman and was originally built by William the Conqueror between 1066 and 1075 as a base for his campaign to subdue East Anglia.

The castle keep
The castle keep

The castle was a traditional motte and bailey structure and the castle keep – the part that survives today – stood atop a truly massive motte or hill. It too is huge. Today it has been turned very successfully into a museum and an art gallery has been added. This houses Norwich’s own collection of art and also hosts special exhibitions, such as the Homage to Manet that we had come to see.

One of the galleries
One of the galleries

There was an admission charge for the exhibition (£8.35 for an adult) but we were admitted on production of our National Art Passes. I have mentioned these before but it is worth reiterating that they allow you admission to many galleries and exhibitions either free or at reduced price so that if, like us, you pay a number of visits each year, they save you money.

As mentioned, photography was not allowed in the Manet exhibition but was allowed in the permanent collection. I am not all that keen on photographing paintings unless I find something particularly interesting and, to be honest, there was little here to really excite me. Instead, I concentrated on the sculpture and present a few examples here.

Bust of Lord Nelson
Bust of Lord Nelson
Peter Turnerelli c.1805

First is everyone’s favourite admiral (OK, not Napoleon’s favourite admiral, perhaps…), Lord Nelson. It is by the Irish-born sculptor Peter Turnrelli (c.1772-1839), a son of Italian refugees who made a successful career in his chosen profession. If you think that “Turnerelli” sounds a bit like a joke name concocted from English, you would be right. The family’s original name was Tognarelli but this was soon corrupted into the semi-anglicized form by which the artist is now known.

Jeremiah James Colman
Jeremiah James Colman
Thomas Brock, 1898

The name Colman immediately evokes that favourite hot, yellow condiment called mustard. Colman’s mustard began to be made in Norwich and its progenitor was Jeremiah Colman (1830-98) whose bust, by Thomas Brock, is shown above. As well as producing his tongue-tingling sauce, Jeremiah was a philanthropist, pioneer in social welfare and a generally good egg, fully deserving of a permanent remembrance in bronze.

The Babes in the Wood
The Babes in the Wood
John Bell, c.1842

This rather sentimental piece illustrates the end of the story of the Babes in the Wood who, far from living happily ever after, died and were buried in leaves by a compassionate robin. It is by the Norfolk sculptor John Bell who was very popular in the Victorian era. Indeed, Queen Victoria herself bought a copy of this sculpture.

Meleager the Hunter Meleager the Hunter
Meleager the Hunter
John Gibson, c.1847

This sculpture by John Gibson represents an adventure of the mythical Greek hero, Meleager the Hunter. He chased and killed a wild boar that had been damaging crops and being a general nuisance, but only after it had been wounded by Atalanta the Huntress. There’s a lot more to the story than that, of course, and if you really want to know the details you can look here. John Gibson (1790-1866) specialized in classical subjects and studied under Canova in Rome. An inscription incised into the base of Meleager the Hunter tells us (in Latin) that he sculpted it in Rome.

William Pitt the Younger
William Pitt the Younger
Joseph Nollekens, 1807

William Pitt the Younger is well known (at least to historians) but Joseph Nollekens (1737-1823) is today a less familiar name though he was greatly admired as a sculptor during his life. With regard to his bust of William Pitt the Younger, I think I can do no better than quote from the gallery’s label:

Pitt refused to sit for Nollekens when alive: as soon as Pitt died, Nollekens took a death mask from the Prime Minister’s face. Over the next decade his studio produced some eighty marble busts of Pitt.

Revenge is not only sweet but sometimes also lucrative…

A view from the castle keep
A view from the castle keep

The roof of the castle keep is accessible to visitors and from there you have splendid views over the town. I was tempted to make a complete panorama but that would probably have been overkill. I will include just two of the views I photographed, the photo above and the one below.

Another view from the castle keep
Another view from the castle keep

We had previously visited the castle museum which explains the castle’s history and gives insights into the Norman occupation so we skipped that this time. (See pictures and text in Norwich 2010.)

Viewing the keep from below
Viewing the keep from below

The quick way down to ground level is by taking the lift. The top of the lift is the glass cylinder you see on the right in the above photo. This piece of modern styling makes a delicious contrast with that of the 900-odd year old castle building. From here it glowers down at you, giving some hint of the menacing feeling that the Normans intended the castle to convey.

Gaol Hill
Gaol Hill

We walked to the centre and of course took a few photos along the way, including this view of Gaol Hill with the 15th-century guildhall in the centre, veiled by trees.

Wild Thyme vegetarian restaurant
Wild Thyme vegetarian restaurant

What we had in mind at this point was lunch. Happily, we knew a good place to go. It is a pure vegetarian restaurant called Wild Thyme. It has a good selection of dishes on the menu, with daily ‘specials’, and courteous table service. It is very popular and was crowded but we managed to find a table.

Wild Thyme
Wild Thyme in Labour in Vain Yard

Wild Thyme occupies the first floor of a building above the Rainbow wholefood retail outlet on the ground floor. It is situated in the picturesquely named Labour in Vain Yard. This yard has existed since at least the 16th century and possibly before. At one time a pub resided here which, after trying several names, adopted that of the Labour in Vain. The pub was leased to a succession of tenants by the Council but the latter came to regard the establishment as a nuisance. Accordingly, it ceased operating as a pub sometime in the later 19th century. The origin of the name of the yard seems not to be known.

Market and St Peter Mancroft
Market and St Peter Mancroft

This wide-angle view shows the market nestling in Market Place under the wing, so to speak, of the parish church. The market comprises about 200 permanent stalls (more like lightweight shops than stalls) and is open for business every day except Sunday. Like many ancient markets, this one grew up in the shadow of the Norman castle, part of the community that sprang up around  it.

Curch of St Peter Mancroft
Church of St Peter Mancroft
Dating “only” from the 15th century

The church above the market is known as St Peter Mancroft. It is a large and elaborate church that has attracted a Grade I listing for its architectural and historical importance. Compared with the market which dates from the 11th century, St Peter Mancroft is an upstart dating “only” from the 15th.

The Forum
The Forum
Norwich’s multipurpose centre

Facing the church with an intriguing contrast of styles is the Forum, opened in 2001 as a multipurpose centre which includes the public library among other facilities.

Before leaving the area, I wanted to visit my two favourite inhabitants.

Heraldic Lion
Heraldic Lion
One of a pair by Alfred Hardiman, 1936-8

The City Hall, with its impressive clock tower, was opened in 1938. Then as now, the steps leading to the entrance are flanked by a pair of bronze heraldic lions sculpted by Alfred Hardiman. I give a range of dates for their making because one is known to have been exhibited in 1936 though the pair appeared in their present position in 1938. It is said that the lions reflect the lion in the city’s coat of arms (see, for example, Heraldry of the World) but whereas that is boringly conventional, these are startlingly modern. Though stylized, they are elegant, proud and vigorous. The left forefoot posed upon a rock reminds me of the traditional pair of Chinese guardian lions which, male and female, each hold an object under a forefoot (see, for example, here).

It was time for us to return to the station and take the train back to London. My final photo was from the Foundry Bridge, this time looking north-east along the Wensum. The day had revealed some of Norwich’s treasures, though not all of them. More remain to be found on subsequent visits.

River Wensum from the Foundry Bridge
River Wensum from the Foundry Bridge

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Where am I?

Sunday, March 29th 2015

When I awoke this morning, for a moment I didn’t know where I was. I floated for a few seconds in what seemed to be a non-geographical space, an unidentified place… somewhere. This lasted only a few seconds before I knew I was at home in bed with the big window of our bedroom dimly outlined by morning light seeping around the heavy curtains. Everything was familiar but there was something missing – the slight weight of a sleeping cat against my ankles. That would be the first job of the day, to bring Freya home.

The Eurostar had slid into St Pancras Station at 16:39 yesterday afternoon and a few minutes later we had boarded a number 73 bus to complete the journey home. We had spent the rest of the day at home, unpacking, uploading photos and unwinding. Today we would have to get back into the groove of our usual life.

Tigger said she would accompany me as far as Liverpool Street Station. If we left in good time, we could have breakfast there before I took the train to Chingford. Disruption to bus services owing to building work for the Crossrail project has had one benefit: on its altered route, the number 205 bus takes us from a stop a few yards from our front door to a stop just opposite the station. That is especially useful on the return trip when I am carrying a heavy cat in a basket.

Right next to the station is a Wetherspoons pub that opens in the morning to serve breakfast. That is where Tigger was hoping to go because they serve a full cooked vegetarian breakfast. Unfortunately, it turned out that on Sundays they opened too late for us so, instead, we went back across the road to the Polo 24-Hour Bar and had breakfast there. It is a tiny cafe and was quite busy but we managed to find a table.

I was going to take the 10:33 train to Chingford and by the time we had eaten and paid the bill, there was still about an hour to go. What should we do in the meantime? In the end, we took the lazy way out and went to Starbuck’s! It’s as good a place as any to spend a little time waiting as long as you choose your drink carefully. Some time ago Starbuck’s coffee changed for the worse – in my opinion, at least – and I therefore prefer to drink something else, usually hot chocolate. Unfortunately, the name is a misnomer: it is never actually hot. It’s lukewarm at best. I don’t know why this is so but it spoils what could be a pleasantly warming drink on a cold day.

At the appointed time, I went to catch my train, leaving Tigger in Starbuck’s where we would meet her on the way back. The Chingford train is a shuttle service that runs every 15 minutes. The train is usually composed of old rolling stock and there are no toilets on board as the entire journey takes less than half an hour and there are eight stops along the way. The sixth one is called Wood Street and when we arrive here I call the cattery which then sends a car to meet me at Chingford station. The time it takes for the train to travel from Wood Street to Chingford is about the same as it takes a car to run from the cattery to Chingford Station.

When the car arrives, either Freya is aboard or she is not. If she is not, it means that she is in a bad temper and in that case they prefer to not handle her lest she react violently. It’s hard for me imagine the affectionate, docile creature that I know being violent but the cattery people are honest folk who care about their charges and I therefore believe what they say. Today was such a day and so I packed myself as best I could into the passenger set of the Smart Car (unless you are less than average height, getting into a Smart Car feels like getting into a coffin a couple of sizes too small for you) and was ferried to the house.

I arrived at the cattery and found Freya curled up in a basket. When she saw me, she clicked at me. This has become her personal greeting to me, a sound like the gee-up tongue-click people make to horses. My previous cat would get into the basket of her own accord to go home but Freya doesn’t do this. She just lies there looking balefully around, perhaps to let me know how much she dislikes being there. I scooped her up and plonked her in the carrying cage. We squeezed into the Smart Car – and this time I had a cat basket on my lap – for the return to Chingford Station.

Unfortunately, a cat in a basket acts like a magnet for self-styled cat lovers. They have to come and poke their fingers between the bars, telling you how much they love cats and how many they have a home. Tell them they are making the cat nervous and they ignore you. They don’t listen or, if they do, tell you they “have a way with cats”. For this reason, I usually sit right at the back of the last carriage on the train because I have worked out that on this route, most people get on at the front and in the middle of the train. Today, however, I got into the front carriage to be near the exit at Liverpool Street. I assumed that on a Sunday, there wouldn’t be many people boarding the train.

Mistake.

At the second stop, some people entered our carriage and I soon noticed a woman sitting across from us. She was staring at Freya in between trying to make eye contact with me. After a few minutes, she came and sat next to me and from then on engaged in an endless dialogue about cats – how she loved them, how she had one, how pretty Freya was, etc – while poking her fingers into the cage and showing me photos of her own cat. If this attention had distressed Freya, I would have moved elsewhere or got off the train but Freya ignored the woman, apparently considering her no threat. At last, the intruder left the train and between Bethnal Green and Liverpool Street, we could relax and recover our aplomb.

At Liverpool Street Station we were reunited with Tigger and made our way to the bus stop where we caught a 205 for home.

When we arrive home, I always put the cage on the floor and open it, leaving Freya to come out of her own accord. She must know that she is home by the sight and smell of the place but even so she always hesitates. She looks around carefully, rather like a tank commander cautiously raising his head out of a tank turret, before finally jumping out and taking possession of her domain.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Strasbourg 2015 – Last day

Saturday, March 28th 2015

The main business of today is returning to London. Our tickets are for the TGV leaving Strasbourg Station at 10:46 and so, though we do not need to hurry, there is little time to do any sightseeing.

We found a cafe for breakfast and then went to the station where we could leave our bags in a locker. Then we jumped on a tram to see where it would take us and how long we dared stay aboard until nervousness about missing the train caused us to return!

View along the Ill from Avenue de la Marseillaise
View along the Ill from Avenue de la Marseillaise

The tipping point came when the tram stopped on the bridge that carries Avenue de la Marseillaise across the Ill. I don’t know whether this road bridge has a name because I haven’t been able to find one. While waiting for a tram back in the opposite direction, we took a couple of photographs. Above is a general scene along the river.

Eglise Saint Paul
Eglise Saint Paul

This photo shows the prettily sited Church of Saint Paul which stands on a headland where the river divides, meaning that the church is clearly visible and not obstructed by buildings around it. In front of it is a bridge called the Pont d’Auvergne but that adds to the view rather than detracting from it.

If this were Britain, we could say that this was a Victorian church. It was, after all, built between 1892 and 1897 in the standard Victorian neo-Gothic style. But this is Strasbourg, where history took a different course. This church was raised during the period known as L’Annexion, when Alsace-Lorraine were taken back into the German fold. This might also explain why such a splendid church is Protestant and not Catholic, as you might expect.

Reluctantly, we took the next tram back to the station, reclaimed our bags and sought our train. The journey to Paris was uneventful and we disembarked at the Gare de l’Est. Travel may broaden the mind, it also seems to stimulate the appetite and by the time we reached Paris, breakfast was long forgotten so, as soon as we left the Gare de l’Est, we looked around for somewhere where we could have lunch.

Bistro Lorrain
Bistro Lorrain

We found a suitable menu at the Bistro Lorrain and had an enjoyable lunch before walking the rest of the way to the Gare du Nord and the Eurostar. We duly found our train, climbed aboard, stowed our bags and settled down for what we hoped would be a speedy and trouble-free passage to London. And it was, though a surprise awaited us.

You may recall me recounting that on leaving London aboard the Eurostar we, as Standard Premier ticket holders, had been served breakfast, despite our having already breakfasted on the station. Now, you would have thought that we had learnt the lesson but apparently we had not. We had lunched between trains as I mentioned above but now, barely had the Eurostar got under way when they came along and – yes, you’ve guessed – served us lunch! We could have saved the expense of the meal at the Bistro Lorrain but I don’t regret it. Let’s just hope we remember for next time.

Soon the Eurostar was pulling into St Pancras and the announcer was admonishing us, in French and English, to take all our personal belongings with us. As the crow flies (assuming a crow can fly through brick and stone walls) the distance from the train to the street is only a few yards but disembarking Eurostar travellers are sent on a long journey down escalators and along passages and through doors until they at last emerge into the noise and bustle of the main concourse. We shouldered our bags and walked down the road to King’s Cross Station and the bus stop. In a very few minutes we were at home and the kettle was boiling water for tea.

Our trip to Strasbourg went well and I enjoyed seeing the city again. I had not been back for some years, though, and had therefore seen it almost as I would a place I had not visited before. We only scratched the surface of Strasbourg, of course, because you cannot see the whole of a city of that size, let alone come to feel that you know it, after three days. Perhaps we shall return one of these days and when we do, there will still be new things to see and do.

Tomorrow I am off to Chingford to fetch Freya home and make the family complete once more.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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