A Foretaste of Spring

This morning we made a supreme effort and managed to drag our weary bodies out of bed early. After a brief breakfast, we headed off to Rufford Abbey and country park.

 

All week there have been up to ten hawfinches in the trees surrounding the car park and we wanted to see these birds. We crossed the city in record time and found ourselves getting out of the car less than 45 minutes after we had set out. Following the know of birdwatchers in the car park gave us directions to nine hawfinches obligingly perched high in a tree.

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They remained in full view for approximately 15 minutes. It was the best view of hawfinches I have ever had. Around us, blue tits great tits nuthatches and chaffinches all sang at the top of their voices. We had limited time due to an appointment at 11am so we headed for the lake. 

Although the weather was cold four degrees it was bright and sunny and we found our first snowdrops in flower. You may not be able to feel spring is around the corner. You may not be able to see it but these small signs are the foretastes and promises of the spring and they always make me happy.

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Hazel trees were full of catkins and we saw wild arum just poking above the soil. Great tits, robins, and blackbirds have been shouting all week about how sexy they are and proclaiming territory. Indeed earlier this week a blackbird was still singing well after dark just near the library

Our diligence was rewarded with four goosanders two males and two females on the lake. Some species of birds were obviously accustomed to being fed regularly by visitors. A crowd of robins followed us hopefully whilst blue tits and great tits hovered nearby. At a bridge, we were treated to sights of a coal tit a few feet away from us great tits and blue tits were everywhere as were dunnocks robins and an occasional wren. A goldcrest hovered at the edge of a yew completely oblivious to our presence.

 

 

Our pleasure was increased by a flock of approximately fifty siskins who flew into the trees at the edge of the lake. One of two of us were sure there was redpoll amongst them but your father refuses to be convinced. None of those I saw had the red forehead but they did have the streaky pattern and buff wing bars of immature redpolls. 

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We headed back to the car seeing treecreeper, nuthatch and two great spotted woodpeckers on the way. We missed the brief flash of a kingfisher as it shot past. However, despite this disappointment, we saw three new species for the year Hawfinch, siskin and treecreeper. The drive home took twice as long as the early morning drive. For a short trip, we picked up four new species for the year, had wonderful views and had a lovely walk in the sunshine. A really lovely morning. As you can see the close-up shots of birds courtesy of Nottinghamshire birdwatchers are far superior to anything our camera can achieve. Hope everything is going well.

Love Mum 

 

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The Big Garden Bird Watch

This morning we carried out the big garden bird watch. Well more accurately your father carried out the bird watch whilst I enjoyed edited highlights.

(I have had my paper accepted for publication. The proofs came through on Thursday and had to be returned within three days. Consequently I spent this morning carefully checking the text and figures for errors and we posted the corrections back before midday.)

As you know we have been putting out mixed seed, fat balls, Niger seed, meal worms and sometimes fruit. We lay this on the ground as well as on the feeders. This has encouraged both more species to visit the garden in addition to greater numbers of each species. The ground feeding birds have particularly enjoyed our generosity.

Six wood pigeons have taken up residence around the garden waiting for free hand outs.

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Whilst a pair of collared doves fed on the seed feeders balancing precariously on the platform.

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As a result of all the free food on the path we had five blackbirds in the garden at once. The territorial rules have apparently been suspended  in the quest for food. A flock of nine goldfinches landed on the feeders and proceeded to feed. Over the course of the hour there was not a moment when there were not goldfinches on the Niger seed. However, since the dramatic decline in the numbers of Greenfinches  a few years ago, we rarely see these birds in the garden.

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The chaffinches are prospering and we had seven of these on the seeds. They appear to prefer to feed on the ground, and, since we have spread seed on the path, the numbers of these birds has increased.

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Likewise the pair of Dunnocks and the house sparrows have taken to visiting the garden daily.

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The fat balls were host to a pair of blue tits and a pair of great tits. These birds also search the current bushes and roses looking for invertebrates to scoff. A wren was searching these bushes this morning. A magpie watched from the damson tree at the bottom of the garden.

A few days ago a coal tit was seen on the currant bushes, today it was on the apple tree. We have also seen the odd Goldcrest on the bushes.

Unfortunately the over-wintering male Blackcap did not visit during the alloted hour.

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With so many of these birds in pairs I suspect that various species are already pairing up ready for the breeding season.  So one hour 12 species and good numbers of most of them. The only usual ones absent this morning were the robin, the goldcrest, the coal tit and the blackcap.

Most of the photos are from either the wikipedia website or the RSPB  and many thanks for these.

Tundra Bean goose and Whooper Swans

Dear Lads,

Well it is almost the end of the month and a twelfth of the year has nearly passed. I have not lost any of the extra kilos I gained over Christmas, the house is no tidier and I am struggling to keep up with everything ( i.e. the swimming, the reading, the languages, the housework as well as work and trying to slim).

Anyway we are healthy and not too badly off which is much better then many people in this world. Accordingly we decided after a morning of chores to head out to look for Whooper swans at Thumpton just off the A453 near the power station. We had distant views at first but having negotiated the back roads we found a whole flock of geese and swans in a field near Thrumpton.

There were four whooper swans  among over 23 Egyptian geese, approximately 35 mute swans Some were hiding in hollows a few Greylag geese and a few Canada geese.

Thank you to Clifton grove birds for this photo again  the birds were too distant to obtain a good clear image

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We were very pleased when amongst them but out on its own we found a tundra Bean goose. a very obliging bird that gave us excellent views as we noted all its salient features.

Thanks to Sean Browne for this photograph it was too far away for us to photograph

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Encouraged by our success we decided to Head for Attenborough where a starling murmuration had been reported. Unfortunately this is where our luck ran out as we exited the car the rain hurled down and we got soaked so no murmuration for us. The result of all this rain was that the car park cleared faster than usual the only busy place was the cafe where families sought to dry out and warm up with drinks and food. We had a very cheeky Egyptian goose approach us just above the sign advertising bird food. You can see how wet it was.

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At the bottom of the ramp a pair of mandarin ducks were loitering in the hope of obtaining food. There were no rings on their legs nor were their wings clipped so I concluded that these were part of the increasing feral population of these ducks. Whilst we have seen female Mandarins here before we had never seen a male. As he was obviously strutting about to attract the female I wondered if this was why he had turned up at this location.

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Before the telescopes and binoculars were full of water we decided to abandon the starling flock and return home.

We hope you are both well and happy. We had a very enjoyable weekend last weekend and we are eagerly anticipating another visit sometime. Please can you let me know dates when you will be free around Easter so we can plan a trip to see you.

Lots of love

Your mother

 

 

A walk on the cold side

Hi

As you aware this week was my birthday. I had planned for us to go away for the weekend do a couple of walks enjoy a pub meal and visit the odd tea shop and potter home in tie for an early night before work on Monday. However when the weather reports forecast high tides, snow and gales and people on the coast started to be evacuated I reconsidered.

Despite the worst predictions of the weather forecasters today started off dry if rather cloudy. We decided to use the time to catch up on a bit of bird watching so we drove to Nottingham looking for waxwings. These rather endearing birds arrive in the UK from Scandinavia every few years when their numbers rise. They spend the winters here feeding on berries alongside the redwings, fieldfares thrushes and blackbirds. These four had chosen to Station themselves alongside a busy road in the suburb of Carrington in Nottingham where a row of trees full of berries were just ready to be eaten. They really were this clear

(Your father didn’t take his camera so this is one from LentonCliftongrove Birds – official website Cliftongrove Birds – official website534 × 640Search by image

Waxwing – Lenton)

 

waxwing2aWe also found a number of redwings enjoying the berries not to mention blackbirds and a mistle thrush.

(You can see the author of the image in the top)

redwingWe became a bit cold and decided to drive to Eyebrook Reservoir. We parked at the edge of the reservoir and found at least three male smew with attendant females.

Smew – Mergus albellus | NatureSpot NatureSpot773 × 563Search by image

Mergus albellus – Chris Lythall – Eyebrook Reservoir

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canstock13875012There was a shoot over the far side of the reservoir but we did manage to find a kingfisher at the dam . It was an excellent sighting of a male as it didn’t move for quite a few minutes. I also saw a great spotted woodpecker unfortunately it flew off before I could share it.

(owls about that then!: November 2015 Owl’s about that then!700 × 626Search by image

Kingfisher No 2)

kingfisherThe little owl was sitting in the sunshine against the tree but on the side out of the wind.  For once it looked more sleepy than grumpy.

(Rod’s Birding: A afternoon’s birding in Leicestershire and Rutland …Rod’s Birding800 × 450Search by image)

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We had a lovely few of fields of fieldfare and redwings.  Before we headed to Rutland Water. We were welcomed to the car park by the sight of a red Kite soaring above our heads.

Rod’s Birding: A day’s birding at Rutland Water, Rutland …Rod’s Birding800 × 450Search by image

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We found goosander on the main lagoon but instead of walking round we headed off to the North arm to see if we could find the black necked and slavonian grebes that have been about.

As we parked the car we found this bird in the edge of a lagoon along with grey heron and little egret just for comparison.

David Gray on Twitter: “One of the Great White Egrets on Lagoon 3 …Twitter1200 × 900Search by image

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We found both the slavonian grebe and black necked grebe 2 of each.

Slavonian Grebe – Podiceps auritus | NatureSpotNatureSpot1024 × 720Search by image

Podiceps auritus – Steve Mathers –

We heard that there was a red necked grebe on the Hamilton peninsula so we ended our day with seeing this bird.

Moysie’s Birding Blogmoysiesbirdtrips.blogspot.com400 × 296Search by image

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We found quite a few canny red legged partridge that had escaped the slaughter.  All in all we saw sixteeen new species had a lovely day out and were home before it got too dark

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Thank you to everyone whose images I have used to illustrate this narrative.

 

Books I read over the Christmas holidays

As I mentioned in an earlier post my Christmas holidays included the following activities

A walk every day

We managed a walk most days but with our visitor in his eightieth year the walks were sometimes quite short ones.  However we did get to connect with the natural environment every day.

Lots of board games

We played scrabble, whist, dominoes, rummikub, trionimos, charades, settlers of Catan, zombicide and plague (a brand new game). The last three were my son’s games.  I approached them as a duty, but found all three really good fun and would recommend them to anyone not put off by the titles. I bought a set of pick up sticks for a few pounds, as a stocking filler and these proved to be very popular. We also tried charades but the three of us understand each other so well there is not much mystery. I also bought some wooden puzzles that kept us occupied on Christmas morning.

Reading a long list of books

I have read a blog (Dovegreyreader Scribbles if you are interested) recommending Robert Macfarlane’s Book ‘Landscapes’ and had bought a copy. After the first sentence I was hooked and ordered all the other books by this author I could find from the library.

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My favourite book so far by this author is ‘The Old Ways’ where he explores ancient ways on foot looking at the landscape, natural history, archaeology, and history. I was completely mesmerised by the language, and the mental images they engendered.

 

The smallest book by Robert Macfarlane is ‘Holloway’ an exploration of the hollow lanes of South Dorset. Written in memory of Roger Deakin another great writer of natural history, it had all the beauty of lyrical poetry. The artwork was stunningly beautiful. Of all these books it is the one I would most like to own. I still have ‘Mountains of the Mind’ and ‘Wild Places’ to read. I also need to order ‘Underland’ an exploration of the world beneath our feet. I cannot express how much pleasure these books have given me my mind traveled to all these wonderful places and I could picture them so clearly thanks to the excellent writing.

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Dovegrey reader scribbles also recommended a publisher porsephone books. Accordingly I searched the library catalogue for books from this publisher and came across ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ by Winifred Watson. This proved to be a real Cinderella story set in the 1930s. Some of the scenes resembled a French Farce but it was charming and light. I loved seeing this very moral and repressed spinster gradually softening and becoming more human.  Who could not like a frothy book for the winter when outside the rain is lashing the windows and the wind is howling.

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From the same publisher came Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd. An elderly spinster is rescued from a desert island where she has been marooned for four years and arrives home in the middle of the second world war. Her struggles to re adjust are both funny and poignant. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The end papers are truly lovely.

‘Saplings’ By Noel Streatfeild was also on the list. Most famous for the childrens’ novel ‘Ballet Shoes’, this novel examines the effect of the disturbance and uncertainty of the second would war on the lives of children. More specifically the children of a seemingly perfect middle class family. It was rather long but very moving. The trouble is it is hard to get too emotional about the trauma of a perfectly nice middle class family, when at that time people including children were literally starving and being murdered. Despite this it was thought provoking.

I read ‘The Miniaturist’ by Jessie Burton. This was gripping and as a thriller quite a page turner.It is beautifully written and the denouement is quite a condemnation of the Calvinistic attitude prevalent in Amsterdam at the time. At this time a similar intolerance is present in the world and the parallels were quite startling. It has the distinction of making me cry something very few novels manage to do these days.

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I also read ‘Various Pets Alive and Dead’ by Marina Lewycka. her first novel “A Short History on Tractors in Ukrainian” was a fantastic book. I had forgotten so much of my childhood and that book brought it all back from the pet words, to the mind set of the father and the attitude of Ukrainian women of that era. the clash between Ukrainians now and then is sympathetically protrayed. Her next two books I found disappointing. However in this latest novel the clash of attitudes and lifestyles is again explored and her voice is back as clear as ever. This novel is the story of a group of adult children, of a couple of hippies. Having grown up in a sort of commune in the 1970’s, the adult children rebel or reinvent themselves or try to move on. Their troubles and conflicts were both funny and sad. I couldn’t put the book down and finished it in a day. So what a wonderful fortnight of reading.

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Swimming wherever possible. I managed this on several occasions revelling in being nearly the only person in the pool. Despite the cool temperature of the water I find the joy of swimming and having the time to meditate at the same time delightful. Some people sit to meditate others run, however I swim and as I pace the lengths of the pool I reflect on my day, my life and any problems I have. I clamber out tired but refreshed.

Good meals

I cooked any number of roast dinners and desserts, not to mention all the bottles of wine we drank. All were eaten by my family and friends. As always, it took hours to cook everything and a matter of minutes for them to be devoured. Still we didn’t eat too much rubbish food, as a result we are facing the new year feeling a lot healthier than we usually do.

Playing some music every day I managed 2 days when I played so an abject failure there. I did manage to play a Haydn sonata this afternoon. I bought myself a book of Haydn piano sonatas as a treat and have just commenced playing the easiest ones.

So this was my Christmas and New Year. New Years day was rounded off by the first of the new season of Sherlock. Pure escapism but very enjoyable all the same. I hope that you have all had an equally pleasant Christmas Holiday and I wish you all a very happy New Year

 

A reflection on 2016

So the old year has fled and the new year is entered as the song goes. It has been a turbulent year. Some events I found hard to believe and at the risk of sounding like Victor Meldrew I found myself amazed. Yet I still find myself believing that somehow through all the disasters and mistakes of the last 12 months things will sort themselves out.

 

I couldn’t believe that we voted to leave the EU and though I am resolved that when the majority of people vote we should follow their decision I still worry about what will happen in this country.  Perhaps if we succeed in those things that we excel at and improve in those things we are worse at, it will not be too bad. I seems that I am not alone in believing this.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/748918/britain-brexit-eu-referendum-positive-opinion-france-italy-netherlands

I couldn’t believe that the Americans voted for Donald Trump. This frightens me more than our own situation. However as there is nothing to be done about it it is a waste of time bemoaning the decision. There are enough people predicting doom and disaster. I prefer to concentrate on the positive things in our lives.

Finishing off the negative events

Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen are so awful they are beyond words.  I dare not dwell on the things that happen in these countries lest I despair.

This year we lost some of my favourite public figures Alan Rickman  was my favourite along with  Victoria Wood but I also liked Andrew Sachs, Jimmy Perry, Gene Wilder and Caroline Aherne, not to mention Ronnie Corbett and Terry Wogan. I all seems very sad. The list is available here. I always thought Alan Rickman was a very attractive man and Victoria Wood made me cry with laughing.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/celebrity-deaths-2016-debbie-reynolds-7797848

Finally there were the natural events earthquakes and floods. These also wrung our hearts.

The positive things

These have to be excavated from the general negativity of news. British athletes did incredibly well in Brazil as did the Para-Olympians.

Closer to home we live in a country where we can say what we want as long as we don’t  incite hatred and violence. We can do what we want unless we break the law . We can believe what we want and worship freely. Political debate is open and fair.

We have one of the best broadcasters in the world the BBC is renowned throughout the world.

We have a free education, free healthcare and a benefits system however overstretched these facilities are. Many countries do not possess these things.

The police and armed services work very hard to protect us from terrorists.

We have more top universities that most other countries, we have excellent schools. We have extraordinary museums, art galleries and libraries.

We have some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.

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We are never too far from the sea. We cherish our wildlife and our access to the countryside as few other nations do.

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We have a rich and diverse history that we celebrate and we produce some of the best scientists, engineers, actors, musicians, writers, and poets in the world.

Above all, despite the constant negativity of much of the media, I have found most people to be kind and courteous, welcoming and friendly.

I think on reflection that we have much to be proud and thankful for and that for us our lives have fallen in a good land.

I am facing this year with optimism in the belief that we will survive and prosper.

Happy new year

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Holidays

School finished for the Christmas holidays today. Concerts have been performed, presents given, the annual Christmas exhortation from the headmaster delivered, a mince pie consumed and with hugs and good wishes exchanged, off we went in our cars. I am going in over the holidays to sort some things out so the new term does not find me unprepared.

Meanwhile in another part of the city a young man covered in blood staggered about the street crying for help. When police found him he directed them to a house where a woman had been murdered. In a related incident another man stepped in front of a lorry on the M1. It certainly puts things into perspective.

Not that we were aware of any of this as we crawled home through the gridlock of the city caused by this incident. The long queues of traffic still very much in evidence this evening.

As there is nothing I can do about any of this becoming upset will merely weaken me whilst not helping anyone else, consequently time to move to another topic.

Just over two whole weeks of holiday what a luxury.

I made a few resolutions to keep myself from getting carried away. Meals at certain times so I don’t spend all holiday n the kitchen.

A walk every day so I get to see some trees and bushes and retain my sanity.

Beside my bed a pile of books is waiting. the anticipation of pleasure is often as great as the pleasure itself. Thus I am currently in the happy position of anticipating a full two weeks filled with reading, walks, sewing, music and good food.

We have visitors so I will clean and tidy initially and then relax.  The house is full of food and decorated for Christmas, there is plenty alcohol for my visitors ( I rarely drink).

Nevertheless a few chores await me. A visit to the vet with the elderly cat, currently on antibiotics and painkillers, a trip to collect my new winter pyjamas. Younger women may gloat over a new dress but I love a new warm pair of pyjamas to snuggle in clean sheets on the bed and a good book to read.

So I started to read Robert Macfarlane’s book Landscape about the terms used to describe our landscape. This is a fascinating read, many of the terms being archaic have fallen out of use.

I was disappointed to learn that many of the words for nature that I had taken for granted in my childhood were no longer part of the Junior Oxford English Dictionary. These are not unusual words but acorn, buttercup, almond, blackberry as a fruit, crocus etc.

This is a lesser celandine however just to remind me how much I look forward to spring

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All these words are connected with nature and have been dropped whilst blog, chatroom, cut and paste, block graph have been added. I have no problem with the additions. However I can’t help thinking that removing so many words related to nature reflects the increasing impoverishment of the lives of many children.

Are our urban areas so depleted of plants that children no longer recognise acorns and conkers or many wild flowers?

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Or is it that many children live in an urban environment they play indoors and spend many hours in front of a screen of one sort or another. Even when outside their phones go with them. Basically to summarise they live lives completed separated from the external environment ?

Since research has demonstrated that a connection to the natural world is beneficial for our mental well being will the next generation be more inclined to suffer from depression in addition to being deprived of some evocative names?

I read Nature Cure some years ago and was impressed with the account of how reconnecting with the natural environment enabled Richard Mabey to recover from severe depression. The articles below reinforce those arguments.

Here are the articles I read to research these phenomena

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/13/oxford-junior-dictionary-replacement-natural-word

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/healing-green/201212/biophilia-our-connection-the-natural-world

https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/environment/nature-and-us/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4157607/

What do you think? Am I deluded or nostalgic for a past age where life was simpler? The problem with this is that I am too close to this subject to be truly impartial. I just wondered. I leave you with a picture of snowdrops as a foretaste of what is coming in the new year.

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Cardiff art collection landscapes

Hi,

Once again I am here telling you about our weekend in Cardiff. The meeting of BWARS was on at the museum in Cardiff so I accompanied your father down for a break. When we arranged it I wasn’t aware that one of you would be coming home for a wedding. However by the time I found out the hotel was booked. In the end as you only passed through briefly on Friday night and Sunday evening I didn’t feel I was neglecting you.

We arrived early for the first meeting and parked in the long stay parking. The entomology department has been reduced considerably  due to cuts and they operate on a skeleton staff.

In spite of this there were several younger people at the meeting. After eating lunch, I skipped the ID session not wanting to spend hours looking at insects down a microscope. I signed up for the free art tour and we were shown around by a volunteer who took us to see the landscapes.

The first landscapes were from the early seventeenth century and appeared more as architect plans for a house and garden than paintings. They were  designed to show off how wealthy the owners were and thus how much land they possessed.  Of course now that the house and gardens no longer exist it is invaluable to historians who want to find out how these houses were laid out and how the gardens of the time were designed. On painting is of the front of the house and gardens and one of the rear. On the right you can see the sea in the background

We were lead on a whistle stop tour through some Poussin landscapes where we were shown how the story of the picture had diminished over time and the landscape had come to dominate the canvas.

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The story of this particular landscape is of a general who had been falsely accused forces to commit suicide and here his body is being taken out of the city of Athens for disposal elsewhere. Late in the story he is pardoned so his grieving widow brings his ashes back for a proper burial in the city.  The other painting in this pair shows the widow of the general gathering up his ashes so that she can return them to the city.

Well that’s all right then unless you are the dead general. Anyway this particular painting was bought by Clive of India who had similar problems to the general in the painting without (thankfully) the forced suicide.  Perhaps he empathised with the plight of public humiliation of someone who had worked so hard for their country, perhaps he thought that his reputation would be cleared?

In the Nether;ands in the 17th century the merchant class grew after the end of the wars with Spain and as a result artists flourished as wealthy patrons looked for something to spend all that money on and show how wealthy they were. In this picture the scene is painted from a boat anchored on the water.

I expect if you were a merchant the last thing you would want on the wall sis a storm at sea, reminding you off all that investment perilously sailing to your customers. Consequently here it is very calm and the water is barely moving. Again for historians this provides a great deal of detail on costumes or ordinary sailors at the time and how the boats were designed. The sailing boat with the bent mast is a sail that is opened downwards under gravity rather than being hoisted. The operation requires fewer sailors and such sails were used on London barges of the time.

Then the pastoral movement provided bucolic scenes of plenty and contentment from artists that were removed from the daily privations. No mud, no toil, no smells, no poverty, no exploitation, just happy shepherds and milkmaids.

Here is a Gainsborough.

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This soldiers farewell was one of my  favourites, although the sentiments are maudlin and very Victorian the picture is almost photographic in the portrayal of the scene and so sharp. I felt I could touch the scene. (Of course I didn’t try). Fanciful I may be but not deluded.

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At the end of the nineteenth century came the impressionists and here the landscapes have an unfocused dreamlike quality. thanks to the generosity of two sisters who bequeathed their collection to the museum there are many impressionist paintings.

The bottom painting on the right reminded me of lake Anguilara although it is London.

 

These next paintings were painted by  Alfred Sisely and are a couple of views of the coast of Wales. He  was born and lived in France, but was a british citizen. He had a French mistress with whom he had a number of children. However it was the law that if you were not married neither your partner nor your children could inherit. So his mistress put her foot down and they came to the UK and to Wales presumably to keep things quiet in case of a scandal and they were married in Cardiff.  Once married there was no problem about the inheritance. During their honeymoon he went out painting every day and the result are these charming landscapes. He was one of the impressionists who believed in painting in the open air  “en plein air”. The museum has two lovely paintings of the Welsh coast that he painted at this time.

 

It is curious to think that had the railway not been developed artists would have found it much more difficult to travel to out of the way places to paint. In addition paint was produced in tubes making more portable, no more grinding pigments and mixing them every time you wanted to paint. Canvases were pre-prepared so they could be carried around . Do you agree? This impressionist painting reminded me of those intense dreamlike landscapes of Van Gogh.

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These tiny landscapes were lovely  despite being over 200 years old they appear curiously modern. I think it is to do with their  brightness, clean lines and clear colours. Again they had that photographic quality.  I liked them.

 

Finally here are the last few landscapes the first in a John Singer Sargent known for his portraits but here he paints a tyrolean landscape with two figures reclining. Almost photographic it draws you in.

 

Here are a couple of twentieth century paintings one of men making hay more modern happy peasants and the other cute children by the seaside. Both were utterly charming and portray an ideal world. After horrific wars perhaps people wanted to believe that the world would become a better place or perhaps they were harking back to an earlier more leisurely romantic time. What do you think?

 

 

 

Liverpool The Walker Art Gallery

When We visited Liverpool we had not got an agenda for the afternoon so there we were at the Albert Dock with three and a half hours before we would be picked up again. It was raining the sort of rain that doesn’t seem that heavy, but before you know it you are soaked and getting very chilled  so our first priority was to keep dry.

Here is a rainy Liverpool. It is difficult for anywhere to look appealing when it is wet.

We visited the tourist information office for a map and a look at the bus timetables but the centre was so crowded we decided to walk to the Walker Art Gallery. I know the Liverpool Tate was closer but I don’t really understand most modern art and some of it irritates me. I wanted to enjoy my time in this city so we headed out to the gallery. So here we are outside the gallery.

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It was free which is always a lovely surprise with a great high ceiling and central space downstairs. As you can see the building is reminiscent of the Natural History Museum and Science Museum in London and not too different from The Natural History Museum in Oxford. Perhaps they built all these buildings from a common template.

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I really wanted to see the Pre-raphaelites so we made our way to the 19th Century gallery.

Here is Echo and Narcissus

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And here is a cross dressing page

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When I find out how to rotate this I will. This is from the story of Dante and Beatrice. In this painting she is ignoring him, but her friend is quite obviously checking him out.

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This is Isabelle from the Prom Isabella and the pot of basil by Keats. If you don’t mind growing your basil in a pot containing your dead lover’s head it is a fine tail. Looking at the picture and the expressions of her brothers it isn’t really difficult to tell who is responsible for the loss of his head.  I did think if you were to wear tights that are that close fitting you shouldn’t try to kick the dog IMAG3286

I rather liked these two women of Phoenicia. They look more substantial that the picture above more like real women that the fantasy of some anaemic idealised figure. I also like the fact they are not looking out at the observer. I think this was painted for the drapery.

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This is earlier and more idealised but still she appeared more real than many of the figures.

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Another picture painted for the drapery. Her face is totally closed and expressionless.

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This isn’t a great photo despite not using flash the lighting bounced off the picture . I liked that they were all playing music.

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More angelic musicians here. Is it me or do they look a bit pallid and unhealthy?

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Finally one that puzzled me. Any ideas?

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I found a few Dutch old Masters the old man is by Carl Fabritius and he young man is  a Rembrant self portrait. There is such calm and poise and space in these paintings. I hadn’t expected to find 17th century Dutch masterpieces her so it was a lovely surprise.

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Here is the famous Hans Holbein portrait of Henry VIII. Those little piggy eyes and huge jowls just make me shiver. I heard last week on a history programme that 72,000 people were executed during his reign.

The final portrait I photographed is an impressionist painting of a poor woman ironing. No posh clothes or fine jewels but I felt closer to her than the grand beauties. Isn’t it always the case that behind the scenes there is some impoverished woman cleaning or ironing or cooking unnoticed and unrecorded for the most part.

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This is a modern work of two girls dancing. There is such an expression of abandon and movement and excitement I had to photograph it.

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When we emerged it had stopped raining and look how much more attractive it suddenly becomes.

 

This was a wooden installation in the middle of the streets and shops. Isn’t it fun.

 

Back at the docks we took yet more pictures. The swans are a species unique to this area apparently.

 

 

Ice hockey

Dear Sons,

In an attempt to try new experiences and expand my comfort zone I went with my friend Angela to a Nottingham Panthers home game at the ice stadium on saturday.

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We started with a drive into town and parked in hockley. I like Hockley the eclectic mixture of shops and restaurants the slightly offbeat industrial nature of many of the buildings the jumble of styles. There was a real buzz in the air and it was so busy. Lots of families, all kitted out in panthers shirts. We had half price pizzas and a drink at pizza express. They were real Roman pizzas with the thin crispy crust and the fresh fillings, indeed it was one of the best pizzas I have had outside Italy.Even the mozarella tasted as it does in Rome.

So thoroughly stuffed we made our way to the ice ring and found our seats at the very back of the stadium. Oxygen masks were not provided so I had to gasp for a few minutes.

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The match was exciting even for me who does not do spectating sport. Three twenty minute bouts with a fifteen minute break in between each bout. There was a lot of showmanship and hype but it was all good natured. Five players and a goalie from each team attempt to get the puck into the net with the hockey sticks. The panthers were in black and yellow.

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Whereas the Cardiff Devils were in red and white

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It was pleasantly free from bad language and aggression. Indeed small children and elderly people were present in numbers and many families had come to see the game. There was even a newborn in a pram, although the baby hadn’t come on its own.

There was chanting and singing and gestures to accompany the chanting and singing. The supporters were very partisan towards the Panthers and when the Panthers scored their first goal, everyone stood up and cheered and chanted.

There was no violence or intimidation as there is at football and it was an extremely pleasant evening. On the pitch however there was quite a bit of pushing and shoving mainly to gain possession of the puck, but there was definitely more aggression on the pitch than off it.  Such antics were described by the bloke sitting behind me as ‘love taps’. Presumbly just as a Glasgow kiss is a headbut.

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The players in their gear looked huge but apparently without the protective clothing they are all quite slim and nimble. They could certainly move quickly and were very agile. Occassionally one would collide or be shoved into the side of the ring or there was a hiss as they turned their skates to change direction suddenly. The puck flew into the barrier around the ring fairly regularly and I found myself grateful for the barrier.

Players were sent off for various infractions of the rules and they would sit beside the ring for a couple of minutes. I didn’t understand enough of the rules to understand what the infractions were so I can’t comment. Every so often players would leave the ice and other players from the team would substitute. Therefore though only a few players at a time were on the ice the teams were much larger than those few players.

 

After each bout a young child would come onto the ice and perform a figure skating routine with jumps and turns and whirls. As they were under ten years old this was impressive. The mascot, in a puma costume walked around the stands giving out flowers and goody bags to people.

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The console flashed with messages for birthdays and anniversaries and reminded the audience when to chant and sing.   The Panthers scored two goals and managed to prevent the Cardiff Devils from scoring which was a tribute to their defensive skills as the Devils were on good form.

In the intervals a machine was driven around the ring to clean the ice. I would like to have driven this machine.

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The whole thing had finished by half past nine and I was home for ten o clock.

I felt as if I had been to a fair or  circus without the sick feeling from being thrown around and eating junk food. Just the light feeling of having been out with lots of people and the lights and shared songs and being part of something tribal.

Anyway I hope you like the pictures I took.

Your loving mother

 

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