As we trundle inevitably towards our new school year next week amid threats of redundancy, more cut backs and an ever shrinking national curriculum, here’s a reminder of why we do what we do.

Queuing up in our corner shop the other day, I recognised the young man in front of me as one of our ex students. He bought a couple of cans of coke and a pack of cigarettes.

“Still smoking then Danny, I see,” I said smiling, but trying to force a look of disapproval.

He turned and grinned at me. “Orright, Miss? Hey, do you remember when….?”

We reminisced a little before he left the shop. I watched him drive away in smart little car.

Do I remember? How could I forget? Eight years ago Danny (not his real name) was a student in a class of sixteen listless, under-achieving kids with bad attitude. I supported their English GCSE lessons alongside a young teacher who has since become a firm friend. I shall refer to her throughout as TF (Teacher Friend). She was patient, innovative and determined to get the best from this rabble who were not overjoyed to be in school at all, let alone have to struggle with Shakespeare or, heaven forbid, visit the library and select a book. I admired her enthusiasm but worried that she was being overly idealistic.

Nevertheless, we took them on for two years from the age of fourteen and from the outset they were a challenge. Their target levels were understandably rock bottom. They never produced homework. A detention was not a deterrent – they never turned up for one anyway. Their reading wasn’t fluent; none of them could spell or at least, didn’t bother. They would arrive in the classroom without their exercise books or even a pen. Because they were such a small class and they had most of all their other lessons together as well, they formed a tight bond: they worked and moved as a pack. TF wasn’t having any of this – she set about finding the pack leader and working on him. She wisely reckoned that with him on side, the others might eventually follow.

(I ought to point out now that it was not Danny who was leader; if anything, he presented as slightly anxious. He was content to follow the crowd, take the path of least resistance).

And follow the others did. Amid much groaning and sprawling on desks, we started studying “Much Ado About Nothing.”  Instead of making them write reams and unpick unintelligible quotes, TF got the students acting the play out. Pack Leader was Benedict; our feistiest female played Beatrice. The others took turns in having a go at the other parts; they began to understand the play and, dare I say, enjoy it.

When we finished with that, we moved to a modern text by Willy Russell called “Our Day Out” – chosen because it is a short play about a load of dysfunctional kids going on a school outing. The irony did not pass over their heads: they thought it was hilarious. We began to love these kids: as hard as they found this subject, they had a sense of fun: they began to work for TF and produce essays of sorts. It was more than we had hoped for.

During one lesson, one of the pupils mentioned that she had never been on a school outing. Most of the others agreed. I was appalled. TF and I exchanged glances and before I knew what I was doing I had suggested that we take them to the theatre to see Willy Russell’s musical play, “Blood Brothers” – at that time showing in London.

Well, what can I say – we had opened the floodgates – the kids were thrilled with the prospect. A few of them had never even visited our capital city. They were nervous. To them, London represented a terrorist target.

Of course, we hit massive resistance as well as disbelief in the staff room.

“Take that lot out – you must be mad!”

“You’ll never get the risk assessment passed,”

“Of course you can’t take them by train – far too dangerous!”

“Imagine them in a theatre -they’ll disrupt the performance! You’ll get the school a bad name …”

 And so on…

TF dug her heels in. Management suggested she team up with the Drama department who were running the trip later in the year but she politely refused. She didn’t want our little band of oddballs mixed in with a lot of high achieving students who regarded a theatre trip an everyday occurrence. She wanted this to be an occasion for them.

I dug my heels in. I don’t like being told I can’t do something either, surprisingly. I filled in a lengthy risk assessment form, got it begrudgingly signed and then I set about ordering subsidised tickets, checking out the school minibus schedule and acquiring a driver. My heart sank when I saw the state of the minibus. Used virtually exclusively by the PE department, it was filthy and smelled of unwashed bodies and football boots. Not suitable for a theatre trip to London. I called in a favour from an old ex-colleague who had started running her own hire company. She provided us with a vehicle and driver at minimal cost. Our trip was on – hurrah!

The kids were uncharacteristically enthusiastic. They all paid their fees within a couple of days. We finished “Our Day Out” and started on the poetry, expecting some opposition. There was none. The class continued to work well.

A couple of days before our outing, Danny dropped a bombshell. We were rounding up a lesson when he stood up, said he hated English and wouldn’t be coming on the trip. He stormed out. We were mystified. Nothing appeared to have provoked this outburst.

Pack Leader took me aside and explained conspiratorially that Danny couldn’t come because he wouldn’t be able to smoke. I almost laughed, but not quite. Pack Leader went on to explain knowingly that Danny was addicted to nicotine and “got the shakes” if he didn’t have a cigarette. When I realised that PL wasn’t winding me up, I was horrified. Apparently Danny had been smoking regularly since about the age of ten – with his parents. I thanked PL for his honesty and told him to leave it with me.

I managed to get Danny on his own for a quiet word. I asked him to explain his reason for the outburst. With a little coercing, his reason bore out what PL had told me. I asked Danny if he ever managed to go to the cinema and sit through a film. He had, many times. I told him that a theatre performance was just about the same length as anything at the cinema. It wasn’t the theatre he was worried about, however. We had suggested to the kids that because we would have to leave school in the late afternoon and they’d probably be hungry, we’d go for a burger before the show. Danny told me that after food especially, he needed a ‘fag,’ otherwise he got the shakes and started sweating. I told him that no way was he missing this trip and I’d sort something.

I mulled it over and discussed it with TF. I hatched a plan of which she wanted no part as it might compromise her professional position but she agreed to turn a blind eye.

Can you guess what my plan was? And what would you have done given the circumstance?

Here’s what happened.

At last our much anticipated evening arrived. The students met us back at school having gone home to change into their ‘smart-casual’ clothes. The girls teetered on impossible heels, looked a few shades of deeper orange and carried huge handbags filled with goodness knows what. The boys wore nicely pressed shirts and jeans. Because it was coming up to Easter, TF put little bags of chocolate eggs on each minibus seat which were scoffed down as we drove the forty odd miles to London’s West End. Any affectation of being ‘cool’ dissipated within the confines of that bus. As we crossed the river their excitement grew as they spotted Big Ben and then Nelson’s Column.

Our driver dropped us at Leicester Square and arranged a rendez-vous point for later on. We trooped off to Burger King where the kids were at home ordering their meals. TF and I withdrew a little with a bag of fries and a coffee. I kept a surreptitious eye on Danny, who was having a whale of a time with the others but who was, I noticed, unusually fidgety. When they’d finished, he was definitely looking sickly; I wasn’t imagining it. I nudged TF who, in her teacherly fashion, grouped the kids together and suggested we move across the street to Frankie and Benny’s for ice cream. This was our pre-arranged cue. I stayed behind to make sure the rubbish had been cleared by our party, and Danny stayed to ‘help.’ Then he and I sauntered off in the opposite direction, into the Square, and he (self-consciously, I have to say) lit up. I stood by the gate while he wandered up and down dragging on his horrible cigarette.

Eventually I was joined by PL who had cottoned onto what was happening and didn’t want to miss out, so he had a quick couple of drags too. Understandably, we received a few disapproving stares. I turned a blind eye to that one and, as we walked back to meet the others, while I impressed on them that I thought smoking was a disgusting habit and that it would affect their health this occasion was not to be discussed or mentioned back at school. They promised me that the incident would go no further – and it never has.

Having met up with the others again we walked crocodile fashion along Charing Cross Road to the theatre, our students keeping to a tight, nervous formation. It was interesting to see a bunch of supposed streetwise kids so far out of their comfort zone.

Their amazement and appreciation of the old theatre was gratifying. They gazed about them in wonderment at the old Victorian building. They were awestruck. We had fantastic seats along the front row of the dress circle. TF had grilled into them the need for excellent behaviour as the other theatre-goers had paid top dollar for their seats. We told them there’d be time for sweets in the interval. They were as good as gold, and as the music began, they leaned forward in their seats and became absorbed.

As the play came to its final heart-wrenching scenes, the sound of muffled sobbing came from along our row. Feisty Girl left the theatre with black mascara tracks coursing through her powdered orange face. Our party was buzzing. Danny gave me the thumbs up as we waited for the bus – he looked calm and chatted to the others about the performance. When our driver saw how much the kids had enjoyed themselves he suggested taking them on a short tour of the sites before we left the capital. So they took in Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament to round off their evening. We arrived back at school after midnight and we dared any of them to bunk off the next day. None of them did. It was business as usual and back to poetry in the classroom.

On my desk I found a scribbled note which said simply ‘thanks for last night.’ It wasn’t signed, but I recognised the writing.

I’ve just had another run in at our doctor’s surgery. You might remember that back in May I was unfortunate enough to have to visit the doctor to get something for a cough.  I know I’m an impatient patient – I wrote about it – but honestly, this latest brush takes the proverbial biscuit.

Let me back track slightly. Several months ago, we received in the post three brown envelopes, addressed to each one of us. The envelopes had CONFIDENTIAL: ADDRESSEE ONLY stamped across them. Inside were two sheets of A4 paper onto which was printed a lengthy notification from our healthcare authority that after a certain date in the not too distant future, we would no longer be able to collect our medicine from the dispensary at our local surgery. It went on to explain that because we lived within a mile of another local pharmacy, we would not be allowed to collect meds from the surgery – it would be expected that we would use the pharmacy instead. However, before we could use said pharmacy, we would have to collect a signed prescription from the surgery for any medications needed.

Because three of us received the same notification (hardly confidential, in my view), that seems like an awful lot of wasted time and effort not to mention paper by our continually cost cutting National Health Service. What’s wrong with a leaflet stuffed through the door? I was outraged. I sent an email to our local MP, the Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt who at the time was Secretary of State for Health and whose election flyer had co-incidentally hit the mat at the same time as these missives from the NHS. I waited weeks for a reply, which to be fair, I received (albeit from a likely internee), thanking me for the points I had raised and that wastage was always a cause for concern. I still didn’t vote for him.

So there we are – progress – we now have to visit two establishments to eventually acquire our medicines. After the last debacle with my unwanted antibiotics, I’ve made up my mind that unless I’m at death’s door I won’t be troubling the doctor again but our son suffers from seasonal hay fever, for which a prescribed treatment is required. 9iz7Gg9iE[1]The over the counter stuff doesn’t come close, neither do any of the natural or herbal remedies – he’s tried them all. So for six months of the year he’s on high dose anti-histamine. Which is fine – it works.

Getting it is now the problem: we have reached that date in the not too distant future.

Anyway, back to the latest brush …

The surgery is of course, only open during working hours – when guess what – most people – including Son – are working or commuting home. Because I have endless time at the moment, I offered to collect his paper script and take it to be processed elsewhere. I won’t use our local pharmacy because it is frankly grimy and twice I have returned over the counter meds for being out of date, only realising this infuriation when on close inspection at home, with the aid of my reading specs, I made this unfortunate (for the pharmacy) discovery.

Off I go, first thing, round to the surgery where I have to fill in a form requesting a repeat prescription. I’m then told that it will take two days to process. TWO DAYS! All they’ve got to do is print the damn thing off and get it signed by one of the four or five doctors who work there. I fix the pharmacist with my best steely glare and tell her that I need the meds today, that Son has run out and that I will wait. I notice that on the shelf beyond the pharmacist’s left shoulder, tantalisingly out of reach, is a large package containing the anti-histamines we need. But I know I can’t have those; I remember that extensive letter.

She tells me the best she can do is to have the script ready for me after five that afternoon and turns slowly to attend to wiping a ring of coffee cup from the Formica. I spin on my heels and march swiftly out of there before an expletive escapes my lips.

Five o’clock arrives and I gaily return to the surgery, all thoughts of the morning forgotten as I’m not one to hold a grudge. The waiting room is full of the sick and ailing so I wade through them to the dispensary desk and ask for my script. With a smile.

Can you guess the next bit? Tell me you can’t. Well, ok then, you’re right.

The script isn’t ready. It’s joined a pile of others to be signed. I suppose I should be thankful that at least it’s been printed off. I see a different person. She takes my script to get it signed. I’m still waiting twenty minutes later, sitting with the sick and ailing.  I’ve had enough. I leave and tear my hair out on the way home.

Having spent considerable time over the last few years accompanying my mother to routine hospital appointments I have come to the conclusion that a pre-requisite for working in the healthcare profession is to lack a sense of urgency or any kind of people skills whatsoever.

Just how difficult is it for someone to say “good morning” or “won’t keep you long” or even, “sorry, we’re running a bit late with appointments today, we’ll be with you as soon as we can.”

Apparently, very. They meander past, eyes averted, carrying clipboards, chatting amongst themselves, ignoring the rash of anxious patients lined up in their waiting rooms. Hospital dramas on TV are nothing like the real thing. No-one really rushes anywhere, or seems at all concerned for their patients welfare like they are on the telly – caring is a thing of the past. Two of my current colleagues at school are ex-nurses, who left the profession because of just that. They signed up and trained to care back in the day, but they saw the way things in the health service were going and got out when they could.  The employees at our surgery certainly aren’t letting the professional side down from the current institutionalised attitude-to-the-poorly perspective.

I eventually got my hands on the script and the meds this morning – but not without a battle and not without being told that there is now no such thing as a repeat prescription.

Ready for round two? I will be.

 

Lest we Forget …

Motoring through the sleepy ruralness of France’s Limousin region with its gently rolling hills, mile upon mile of wheat fields, crops of sunflowers interspersed with oak and beech woodland you’d be forgiven for thinking that life here has been much the same for hundreds of years.

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And to a certain extent it probably has but an occasion in its recent history has left a scar so deep that is unlikely to ever recover. For a small town just north-west of Limoges memories from seventy years ago are still raw; events shouldered alone while the attention of the allied world was focussed on the major battle raging in the north of the country meant that no-one shared the agony of this small, tight-knit community.

On the 10th June 1944, just four days after the Normandy landings Oradour-sur-Glane, a prosperous little market town, was razed to the ground by the German S.S, its inhabitants brutally massacred.

Women and children were rounded up and locked into the church which was then set alight; men were rounded up into smaller groups, machine-gunned down, covered with hay and fuel and their bodies burned. Some were burned alive.

 There were very few survivors. On that fateful day, 642 inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane lost their lives.

After the war, a new Oradour-sur-Glane was built nearby but, on the orders of General de Gaulle, the original town was to remain exactly as it had been left after the atrocity as a memorial to its fallen.

Today there is a sombre visitor’s centre which leads you through a tunnel under the road to the original town where you are free to roam along the streets and view the devastation. There is no charge.

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Rusted cars remain exactly where they were torched seventy years ago; tram lines are still visible, running the length of the main street; an old sewing machine, battered yet still recognisable, has been left in the charred ruins of the tailor’s shop. Patterned ceramic tiles, fallen from the wall of the butcher’s store lay heaped on the floor while where the old garage was, an enamel placard advertising Renault Cars is still just visible.

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The butcher’s shop

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The Girl’s School

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The Church

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The Post Office with tram lines in front

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The main street leading up to the cemetery

At the top of the town, you cross a grassy flower meadow to the old cemetery. Only here is there evidence of human intervention – the place is kept respectfully neat and tidy while the ornate headstones provide testament to the truly shocking reality that so many families perished on the same day. There is a newly built underground memorial hall to the inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane. Every name of those who died is engraved on its walls while encased in modern, light-filled  vitrines are some of the artefacts taken from the victims or discovered amongst the wreckage. Spectacles, pocket watches (with the hands stopped between the hours of five and six in the evening – the time of the massacre), pots, ceramics and the metal handles of handbags – all serve as reminders that this atrocity happened to ordinary people just like us.

As you pick your way carefully back towards the visitor’s tunnel along the cobbles separated by mosses and self-seeded wild flowers the atmosphere in the ruined town is one of reverence – people walk quietly around the shattered buildings each with their own thoughts, taking a few poignant photographs.

The preserved wreckage of Oradour-sur-Glane is a very powerful memorial.

For further reading, click here.

Just to say …

As we race towards the sharp end of the summer term with the dreaded sports day and activities week safely out of the way, the long summer break looms ahead and my postings are likely to be more erratic than usual. Without the daily routine that term time requires I fear that my time will merge into a summery haze although I have every intention of concentrating on some story writing and editing. beach-scene120412[1]

However, if last summer was anything to go by I managed to fail miserably on both of those counts, so I’m not promising anything or indeed setting a deadline that I will feel obliged to fulfil. I shall keep up with reading as many blogs as I can so won’t have evaporated completely from the stratosphere and I shall hopefully find some interesting places during August that will be worth blogging about later.

Before I go though, I must just share this with you.

The autistic son of an acquaintance of mine was recently banned from his school bus for a few days apparently for causing damage to said vehicle. He sat down next to a sign which clearly stated:

TAKE HAMMER AND BREAK THE GLASS.

So he did.

Enjoy your summers!

 

You know those things that you’ve always meant to do or wanted to do but you’ve either never been in a situation to do them or just never got around to it? Well, last year, while on holiday in the south of France, we took the opportunity to get around to visiting something we had wanted to see for a long time: The Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence. This simple little church, also known as the Matisse Chapel is easy to miss if you aren’t specifically looking for it – the signs are a bit hap-hazard – but we were on a mission.

Vence, a fairly large town, is situated some twenty-five kilometres north-west of Nice, slightly further on than the picturesque St Paul de Vence which is where we stopped for lunch. Full of steep cobbled streets, galleries and antique shops, St Paul de Vence siphons off the tourists and provides ample photographic opportunities as well as a plethora of small restaurants.

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Cobbles in St Paul de Vence

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Typical French style, St Paul de Vence

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A lunch time view, St Paul de Vence

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Simple al fresco lunch – seared tuna and a glass of Provencal Rose – dee-lish!

The artist, Henri Matisse designed the Rosaire Chapel between 1947 and 1951 for Dominican nuns in Vence after his nurse, Monique Bourgeois, entered the religious order and asked him to help. He was seventy-seven and in failing health when he took on the project; it was to be, by his own admission, his finest work.

We found the Chapel, perched as it is over-looking the main town, and parked fairly easily on the side of the road. Descending the steep steps down to the entrance we noticed sadly that photography is forbidden. Such a shame, although I’m not sure a still photograph could convey the audible gasp that goes up as you enter through an unprepossessing little doorway. The place is simple, white-washed and flooded with south-facing light – and that light creates magic as it beams through Matisse’s stained glass windows, throwing shapes and colours onto the cool stone floor and across the simple altar. Here’s a short video showing the interior of La Chapelle du Rosaire.

So, having seen this little wonder, nestling on its hillside in Provence, when Tate Modern announced its major exhibition this summer was to be the Matisse Cut-Outs, I booked tickets immediately. We went last week and were not disappointed. Our tickets were timed for 3.00pm and I’m pleased to report that the gallery was less crowded at this time of day than it possibly had been earlier on. Henri Matisse, in the last seventeen years of his life, turned to a new approach to making work, cutting shapes from painted paper – shapes similar to those he used for his stained glass window designs. With his health declining, his mobility limited, his scale, ambition and out-put increased with his new cut-out method. The exhibition at the Tate explores the development of his technique and is well worth visiting – if you can still buy a ticket.

On route to the Tate we stopped off for lunch at the Oxo Tower where you can enjoy far-reaching views across the Thames. Our association with Matisse seems to be connected to food and views.

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Sunlight on St Paul’s Cathedral, from the Oxo Tower

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Starter of smoked duck’s breast with lavender figs. The few salad leaves were undressed.

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Spot the langoustine

However, although the meal was good it was not outstanding and to be frank, there wasn’t much of it. The service lacked the finesse you’d expect from a London restaurant with high self-esteem. Our aperitif cocktails, for instance, although very nice, were served without mats; no sign either of a complimentary bowl of nuts or olives (something we have grown used to when in France or Italy at even the most ordinary of establishments); no receptacle was available in which to put the olive stones from our drained Martini’s. Should we flick them over the balcony, we wondered. The bill when it arrived was at least four times as expensive as the lunch we’d had in St Paul de Vence. Was it worth it? No way. Was the Oxo Tower buzzing with guests, as had that café been in the south of France? No, of course it wasn’t.

Some places in London just aren’t worth a second visit. The Oxo Tower is one of them.

Can’t win ‘em all, can you?

 

 

Well, not so much a mystery actually, but it was a little magical. Last week Sea-Sick Friend and I took the day off and headed for The Smoke to pose as tourists again. You may remember that SSF valiantly accompanied me on a trip last year down the Thames to see the Barrier, dosed up to the eyeballs with tablets to quell her queasiness on the water. This time though we were on dry land lurching along with the wind and the sun on our faces aboard an open-topped bus, taking a tour of our capital city.

All aboard! This is how we whizzed around London for the day …

You might think it odd that a pair of once hardened London commuters would want to voluntarily spend time on public transport – even I find it hard to believe – however, we found out that we’d both harboured a desire to take one of these tours one day, so we did. I maybe should add here that I first met SSF on a broken-down train at Waterloo Station some twenty-six years ago. You must understand that there is a golden rule amongst London bound workers: commuters never speak to one another unless there is a problem with the transport. That evening there was so we struck up a whinging conversation about British Rail and have been friends ever since.

There are several companies running tours – we chose The Original Tour only because they seemed to run a more extensive route around the City of London, and that was the bit that we particularly wanted to see. There are three colour-coded routes to choose from and once you’ve bought your 24 hour day pass (£29 – or slightly cheaper on-line), you are allowed to hop on and off the bus as often as you like and swap between the routes. The buses are frequent – around every ten minutes, so there’s no real hanging around if you do alight. There is a “live” guide on every bus – that is, a real person in a very smart uniform as opposed to a recorded commentary accessed through ear-phones – another reason to avoid other tours as far as I’m concerned: I can’t bear ear-phones.

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The London Eye, seen from Westminster Bridge

We picked up our first bus near Waterloo Station, in front of the London Eye, chose the yellow route and headed straight for the City. Now, my memories of the rumbling old Route Master buses I used in my commuting life was that they were full of folk desperate to get to their destination in as little time as possible and being frequently disappointed. We should have all joined a tour bus. Ours set off at a cracking pace which we were to discover would be the default speed of the day. We simply WHIZZED around London. I’ve never seen the streets so traffic-free. There’s something to be said for this Congestion Charge malarkey we all moan about.

Even with the quick pace of the bus, the yellow route would take us around two and a half hours to complete. The calibre of guides differed from bus to bus – they were all pretty knowledgeable given that they were probably working from a script and some were definitely more theatrical than others but we were impressed that they all regularly reminded us passengers that a walking tour would be starting from the next official stop (for instance – The Jack the Ripper Tour would be commencing at Tower Hill) or that to swap routes we’d need to change buses in two stops time. The linking up of all the different sight-seeing opportunities was very well organised.

We decided fairly early on that we’d stick to the one route and that any walking tours would be another excuse to spend the day in London.

Because of the bus’s velocity and bearing in mind that I was on the top deck swaying around, I was not able to snap away taking as many pictures as I’d hoped. Here are a few, taken either from the ground during a hop-off spot or when the bus slowed slightly to allow pedestrians to use a crossing.

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A fleeting glimpse of St Paul’s Cathedral

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View of Tower Bridge with HMS Belfast in the foreground

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The Shard – London’s tallest building and Europe’s first ‘vertical city.’

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A coffee and hand-made chocolate shop in Borough Market near London Bridge. What’s not to like?

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The Tower of London with the Shard in the background. If I was being earnestly pretentious I might use the word juxtaposition somewhere in this caption.

As we left the City and headed for Westminster, we decided to hop off at Big Ben,  walk up Whitehall for some lunch and meet the bus again in Trafalgar Square.

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Well, you can’t go to London and not take a picture of this, can you?

I was interested to see the Monument to the Women of World War Two just north of the Cenotaph on Whitehall. Sculpted by John W Mills, it was unveiled in 2005 by Queen Elizabeth, two days after the 7/7 bombings.

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I wonder if those young ladies in the background realised the significance of what they were walking past …

Feeling replete after a couple of Panini’s (not each), we re-joined the bus and toured around the city of Westminster. This is familiar territory to me; nevertheless, it was fun to view it from on high. As we hit Piccadilly Circus SSF spied a celebrity being interviewed by a film crew. She’s good at that. See if you can spot who on earth she’s talking about. I was none the wiser.

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Spot the celeb in Piccadilly Circus. Answer at the bottom of the post. Clue: It’s not Bruno Mars or Prince Harry.

 We shot along Piccadilly, around Hyde Park Corner, up Park Lane and around Marble Arch, which we sailed around like Ben Ainslie sniffing a gold medal. Back in the day, this circumnavigation alone could take up to half an hour.

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Marble Arch – traffic used to crawl around here, nose to tail …

As we looped back past the Houses of Parliament, I couldn’t resist this final snap of a Henry Moore sculpture, ‘Knife Edge Two Piece’ on the lawn opposite the House of Commons and often used as a back drop for interviewing our politicians on the BBC news.

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Henry Moore’s Knife Edge Two Piece. Good grief – is that Cameron and Clegg in the background? How could we tell – they all look the same.

Our bus swiftly dropped us back at the London Eye and we called it a day, anxious to head for home before the main crush. Was it worth it? Yes, it was – and would have been more so if we had stayed for longer and joined the blue route which takes in all the Kensington Museums or the red route which goes to Regent’s Park.

Watch this space for a possible walking tour at some point – for now I’m content that I’ve crossed the bus tour off my list.

Celebrity Answer: Olly Murs

More Original Tour information here.

 

Last weekend we popped down to West Sussex to take a look at some outside art at the Cass Sculpture Foundation, part of the Goodwood Estate. The Foundation was established twenty years ago by Wilfred and Jeanette Cass. Their vision was to create a charity to support both emerging and recognised artists, allowing the public to engage with contemporary sculpture as well as providing a venue for displaying large-scale works. Originally established to promote British artists, the Foundation now includes work from across the globe.

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“Janus Head” by Peter Burke. I liked this because it made me think of Easter Egg hunts – it looks like moulded chocolate, although actually it’s bronze.

The twenty six acres of ground are enclosed by an impressive Sussex flint wall inside which the woodland has been left to its own devices; the floor is carpeted with coarse grass interspersed with nettles and the odd weedy flower struggling for light. The Foundation does not appear to employ much in the way of horticultural management. There’s allowing for natural planting and there’s leaving a place to go to seed…

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Stairway to Heaven? No, just “Stairway” by Danny Lane, made from glass and steel

From the park, there are far reaching views to Chichester and the south coast.

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“Peregrine” by Stephen Cox. This appealed because of the reflections bouncing off the polished Indian Granite.

The sculptures are placed randomly around a rough trail which you can follow on the map picked up at the visitor’s centre when you pay your £12 entry fee. I’m pleased to say that my Art Pass allowed me a fifty percent discount. Most of the sculptures are massive and one wonders who, other than large corporate bodies, would purchase such things. I can’t see any of them in your average domestic garden.

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“Passages and Circumstances” by John Isherwood, carved from Pennsylvanian Granite. This invites you to squeeze between the uprights to view from different angles.

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I loved this smoke and mirror illusory piece in stainless steel by Rob Ward. He calls it “Gate” which I think is suitably cryptic.

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Another one by Peter Burke, this is called “Host.” Conjured up creepy images of a Dr Who set.

Now, as you probably know, I am a fan of sculpture but I have to say, I found it difficult to pick out works here that were worth a photograph. Some of them were hideous (in my view) so I didn’t bother. Some of them were untitled, so I didn’t bother. Why do artists do that? Leave something untitled? It bugs me. Giving something a heading or a title gives it credibility. Thinking up inventive headlines is part of the creative process. If artists can’t express what or how they were inspired by giving the viewing public some sort of clue then I’ll be darned if I’m going to give the work to which they’ve doubtlessly slaved over for months a second thought. Even the wonderful Henry Moore is guilty of this but in his case I can probably forgive. There’s always an exception.

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This collection of copper tents was my favourite of the day. By Diana Maclean it is called “Encampment.” I might’ve been tempted to name it ‘Tepee or not Tepee’ or ‘Reservation’ – plenty of connotations to that one – but at least she titled her work.

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