Saturday, 28 June 2014


So said St Aelred of Rievaulx Abbey.
The view above was my first glimpse of the ruins last year, from the terrace and temples of the 18th century pleasure gardens that look down upon it.

This week, after a disappointingly fruitless hunt round the antiques shops of the Vale of Pickering (one Georgian perfume bottle and some Lidl Extra Virgin Olive Oil), we decided to explore the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey at ground level, before having a picnic.

The weather wasn't too bad...

...and the ruins were divertingly romantic, so at first...

...I didn't take too much notice of what was happening.

The skies darkened - the theme for this blog post was going to be "Peace and Serenity", but the atmosphere changed, like the weather.
"I think I'm doing what they call reportage," I said.
"I can do better than that with MY camera." replied Mr N. (See his film below.)

I hear that English Heritage wishes to offer sincere apologies to St Aelred.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


Today, it was my turn for a Birthday Treat !

Sadly, the regeneration of Bradford is taking a long time and it could be said to have lost much of it's Northern, gritty, smoke-stained charm, along with many Victorian buildings and shops, a fact be-moaned by one of its most famous sons, J.B. Priestley.

Mr Priestley now stands outside the National Media Museum, one very good reason not to give up on Bradford...
...and the scene of my seriously good birthday treat, a visit to Only In England, an exhibition of black and white photography by Tony Ray Jones (1941 - 1972) ...
 ...and Martin Parr, whose 1970's black and white photographs show life among the Non-Conformist chapel-goers of deepest West Yorkshire.
What a diverse and delightfully eccentric bunch we English are!
The Museum's Media Café was one of the best we've come across, with surprisingly good lunches...
...or should I just say...
...very SURPRISING food? (He only ordered a burger.)

Monday, 9 June 2014


Yesterday was Mr N's birthday and, of course, I'd planned a few surprises for him. One of these also happened to be a trip down memory lane for me. Many years ago I did a degree in fine art at Canterbury College of Art. The new degree course had only just been created and was run by a posse of tutors from the Jacob Kramer College of Art in Leeds, an establishment with a modest reputation for embracing the avant-garde. The first Mr N, let's call him General G, arrived with them from Leeds to join the course and was already a follower of Dada and Surrealism. He believed that the idea was the important thing - not the finished art work. Yes - conceptual art had arrived in the 1960s!
I've recreated one of his works here. The original landscape was drawn whilst travelling on a coach down to Victoria, at the start of a new term.


Another representation of this landscape was drawn by placing a pencil on a piece of tissue held against the coach window and moving the pencil up and down, as the fields rose and fell. The resulting drawing looked very much like this...


Bedfordshire is very flat!
General G was keen to use imagery that was impersonal - the art work was to convey the idea, without any sensual brush strokes and the resulting distraction of an emotional response. To this end he began to use the graphic style of vintage comics.
At this point in the story we met Glen Baxter, a young artist from Leeds, come down to Canterbury as a visiting lecturer. I can't remember what he taught us but he and General G got on like a house on fire and, later, when we visited his London flat, I was very impressed by a Victorian chest of drawers painted in rainbow colours, rather like the one below.
I let them talk about Dada poetry and the like, while I admired the décor.
All this is why, when I found that Glen Baxter was giving a talk about his work at the Cartwright Hall, Bradford, yesterday, I thought it would be a bit of birthday fun to go along. You probably know his work through his comic greetings cards, appealing to those of us with a taste for bizarre humour.
It was an entertaining talk, with Colonel Baxter, as he likes to be known, a youthful 70 year old, still with the shy charm and twinkling eye that I remember so well. He gave us his potted life history and talked of how his career in art had developed. One seminal moment was his first ever sale - to the American writer and illustrator, Edward Gorey. Respect!
An Edward Gorey illustration.
I was a little disappointed that he did not seem to recall his meeting with two young artists in the late '60s - no mention of his visits to Canterbury - and he was a bit dismissive of his time as a student in Leeds. I did not dare to remind him of how much I liked his painted furniture.
But, no matter - cartoon humour was our theme of the day and Mr N's favourite birthday present was his new Bart Simpson T shirt...


Tuesday, 3 June 2014


There is a small village quite near to us, close to major roads and large conurbations, yet oddly remote and hard to reach, down narrow winding lanes. It's name, Bolton Percy, for some reason makes Mr N laugh. Something to do with tools, I think. Tittering aside (which could be the name of another sleepy English hamlet) Bolton Percy is worth finding for All Saints Church ...

...and the neighbouring 15th century gatehouse, now an idyllic holiday let ("for the hard of hearing," said Mr N. The bells chime on the hour, every hour.)
The church is in the Perpendicular Gothic style and was consecrated in 1424, but inside the prevailing atmosphere is solidly Jacobean, simple and puritanical, with stark, unsentimental stones commemorating the children of the local gentry. 
But Bolton Percy's secret treasure is its churchyard garden.
Through the lychgate and across the lane is the unique creation of horticulturalist Roger Brook. Mr Brook, a down-to-earth sort of gardener (excuse the pun) was initially asked only to rid the graveyard of weeds, but he was inspired to plant shrubs and perennials of a hardy, undemanding kind thus providing a peaceful place for all to enjoy, throughout the seasons.
It might all be a little too natural and informal for some, but I think it would be perfectly fine to lie here for eternity pushing up daisies, roses, alchemilla, Solomon's seal, nigella, forget-me-nots...
Roger Brook writes a very good gardening blog here and blogger Barbara has also written about Bolton Percy here.