Sunday, 26 September 2010

There are unhappy robins


Managed to sneak off to Northumberland on Thursday for a couple of nights, as partner working in the area. This translates into a regular set of experiences, such as fish and chips in Seahouses:

a bracing walk by the sea:

(special photo effects courtesy of Hipstamatic for the iphone, by the way). And, in addition, a visit to a country pile or castle in the vecinity - the place is littered with history. So this time we went to Belsay Hall and the last day of an exhibition in the house and gardens called Extraordinary Measures. The Middleton family, bored after 600 years (give or take) of living in their own castle,

decided to move into a newly built Hellenic inspired mansion carved out of the quarry in their own backyard - which promply became a sublime landscaped garden - in the early nineteenth century.The mansion or hall was devastated by dry rot, but although there are no furnishings some of the old wallpaper survives:

So, why, might you ask, do I refer to unhappy robbins in my title? The exhibition had artists playing on myths and fairy tales, in a way, and some exhibits were funny, and others spooky, and others ... naked! Yup, it was fun to walk into the Hellenic mansion followed by families with young kids in tow who gasped and giggled at the sight of a naked woman (and a naked man in the next room) sculpted by Ron Mueck. His work is extraordinary, hyper real, and disturbing: see this blog entry for more pics. But what I really loved was this knitted version of myth of Theseus by Freddie Robins:

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Pity There's Only One A Year !

Sonata :

Lille was huge fun . We had a marvellous time !

Thanks to judicious consumption of moulles frites and gigantic sandwiches , not to mention the very nice breakfast buffet at our hotel we walked our socks off and were even to be seen on Saturday night bouncing about to a fabulous band outside La Maison De Batterie in the center of town .
On Saturday , the Braderie not beginning till around 3 o 'clock-ish , we went to La Piscine , a beautiful museum in Roubaix which has a lovely collection of 20th century paintings and sculpture housed in a stunning Art Deco swimming pool . Well worth a visit if you can . The Friends of the museum's blog , le file de l'eau is worth a visit too , even if you don't read French .

But then we got down to business and joined tout Lille in a hunt for something pretty , rare or downright strange in street after street of elbow to elbow people .

We soon learnt that you had to be quick . This was whisked from under our noses while we admired it

And though there was plenty of tat to be had ( or not ! )

there were lots of affordable and pretty treasures to be found , while hours could be spent wandering in and out of side streets admiring picturesque corners , lovely shop windows and buskers ( it took us a while to identify a rendition of "Chiquitita" played by a Peruvian duo on the pan-pipes . I must say , it improved it no end .) And , above all , people-watching .
On Sunday morning we went to Wazemmes , a little further out , and after eating yet more moulles in a workman's cafe ( though I'm going back one day for their cous-cous ) we worked our way back to the center through serious stalls , full of eminently collectible delights .

We finally staggered onto the train and , despite having to stand between Antwerp and Rotterdam , clutching two baguettes , a leatherbound volume of sheet music

two kilos of buttons

and bobbins

I got home ready to do it all over again at the first opportunity .

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Thames River Festival


Although I had to stop off at the local farmer's market first (because the mushroom season is in full swing... who could resist these? I bought some yellow chanterelles to add to a chicken caserole and some tasty field mushrooms).

We were on our way to the Thames River Festival, lured by the idea that Southwark Bridge had been made into the longest outdoor dining area. Although not a lot of crafting appears to be going on in this household, food remains - as you can see - a priority!

Not only were there tables on either side, with a delightful table cloth printed for the ocassion...

there were also stalls with information on composting, bees, cocoa beans, and how to milk cows... there was even a cow! And, of course, food stalls

One big surprise was the stall selling London wine - that is right! Urban Wine Company members grow vines within London and make their own rose... it was so surprisingly tasty, I simply had to have a couple of glasses to support 'localism' (any excuse!).

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A Bargain And Some Moulles And I'll Feel Grownup Again

Sonata ;

I'm off to Lille tomorrow and their annual Braderie . The whole city becomes a giant Flea Market , running nonstop from Saturday afternoon till Sunday evening . About a million visitors roll up in town , treasure-hunting their way through thousands of stalls and eating huge quantities of mussels to keep them going .

And Friend and I , not having had a Day Out for a while , thought we'd join them .

We took the precaution of booking an hotel room months ago and checking the booking this week , we've got stout shoes and layers of clothes , umbrellas and spare specs . Our train itinerary , tickets , sandwiches and passports for the journey . Maps and unflagging energy . And I've been before , three years ago with Smitonius , so even know how the Lille Metro works .

So why am I feeling about eleven again , baggy school uniform and all ?

Madame Colette , that's why . A ferocious little nun , who ruled the junior boarders with a rod of iron and no visible liking for children , she came from Lille . When I first went off to school at eleven , she terrified me and , if I'm honest , she'd probably still make me nervous now .

The fact that it's more than fifty years later and she's probably long gone doesn't quite convince me that a knuckle won't come cracking smartly down on my skull when I'm not expecting it !

Never mind , it's nothing that a good meal ( or three) won't cure . And who knows what we'll stagger back with ?

P.S. By the way , that's not me in that photo but some tiny camera-shy dot from a Dutch photo album from the '20s .