Posts Tagged ‘art’

I went to Woking recently. It’s not far by car and I’d read that there was a Henry Moore exhibition showing there. Now, Woking isn’t a place one immediately associates with culture – it has a mediocre shopping mall, expensive parking and a horribly stressful one-way system currently exacerbated  by complicated roadworks. There is, however, a decent theatre and cinema complex but you have to wade through a phalanx of overly large folk eating their way through super-sized meals in a ‘food court’ full of fast food outlets. It always strikes me as odd that these bulky types, noshing their way through zillions of calories, tend to favour sports clothing: tracksuits, leggings and t-shirts that must surely contain a Lycra percentage, so tight are they stretched across their ample stomachs. Why is that? I’m fairly certain that the sportswear isn’t fulfilling its intended function.

Sorry, I’m straying off topic.

I was headed for the Lightbox. This is Woking’s arts venue and it occurred to me that I’d been there once before, years ago, when I took Son (aged about twelve) to an exhibition about Surrey during WW2. Why I haven’t been back since is a mystery…the place is a light and lively proactive three story area stuffed full of ever changing exhibitions and workshops for school parties with a very acceptable looking cafe area in the foyer where any suggestion of chips with Lycra is thankfully absent.


I was amazed that entry to the Henry Moore cost me just £3 – which also allows me entry into any exhibitions at the Lightbox FOR A WHOLE YEAR. While I couldn’t believe this my gob was even more smacked when the young lady behind the till mentioned apologetically that if I lost the entry card she had just given me, I’d have to pay £5 to replace it. This must be the best value exhibition centre IN THE WORLD.

The Henry Moore show ‘Sculpting from Nature’ concentrated on inspiration he drew from his surroundings– studies of shells, feathers and bones. The collection included drawings, maquettes, studio materials and working models plus three or four of his monumental sculptures, all loaned by the Henry Moore Foundation.


From a very young age, Henry Moore was an avid collector of natural things and at the Lightbox show there is a central cabinet filled with some of his precious finds. It’s easy to spot how these organic shapes – from driftwood and shells to shards of flint – were transformed into his iconic work that is so distinguishable today.


An informative archive black and white film, playing on a loop looks into the work of one of Britain’s most famous contemporary sculptors and there are shots of Henry walking around his garden at Perry Green – a place I visited several years ago with WF1 and which I think now requires a return.

But my tour of Woking’s Lightbox was far from over, for on the third floor was another fascinating exhibition. The Ingram Collection of Modern British Art was commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the artist John Minton (a new name to me) who was inspired by the British Neo-Romanticism movement of which John Piper and Graham Sutherland were major figureheads. Alongside Minton’s works were those of his contemporaries, John Craxton, Julian Trevelyan and Alan Reynolds, none of which I was familiar. I love discovering new things.

img_2172 Two Fishermen, 1949 by John Minton (1917-1957)
img_2167 Thames Houseboats, The Weir 1963, by Julian Trevelyan (1910-1988)
img_2162 I am With Child, 2008, by John Craxton (1922-2009)

According to Art Fund’s director, Stephen Deuchar, Chris Ingram is one of the most active and thoughtful collectors of modern British art today. Well, I’ll agree with that – I had a bonus hour wandering around a virtually empty gallery, enjoying the work of many painters I’d never heard of. Thanks to Chris Ingram, I say.

And thank you, Lightbox. As I left, I snapped this statue outside the main entrance. It shows author HG Wells, who moved to Woking in 1895 and wrote his most famous novel ‘War of the Worlds’ while living in a house on Maybury Road.


On the journey home I cogitated over other famous Woking residents and it came to me that the Modfather, Paul Weller, hails from here. If you’re in the dark as to who I’m talking about – remember The Jam from the early eighties? Remember one of their hit singles,  Town Called Malice? Paul Weller wrote that song about Woking, his childhood home.

Just how diverse can one town be?


Henry Moore Sculpting from Nature runs until 7 May

Ingram Collection runs until 26 March

Lightbox, Woking.




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First up, those curious to know the outcome of the wanton littering of my area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with preformed brightly-coloured bovines, here are the details: The first auction to sell off the psychedelic Surrey cows took place last week at Sandown Park. Forty-one of them went – goodness knows where – but a spectacular total of £79,800 was raised. Even by my maths’ appalling standards I make that just under £2000 per cow (or £500 a leg: that’s food for thought…). Many charities will benefit from the sales which can only be a good thing.


There’s another auction coming up next month at Hampton Court Palace where the aforementioned Peter Blake design will be up for grabs.



And now (as goes the catchphrase), for something completely different.

The Department of Education, now thankfully without Michael Gove but sadly still lacking anyone who actually has any notion of teaching and learning has dropped the History of Art from the A level syllabus.


To study art from ancient civilisations through to the present day is to put some kind of sense and time line into life as we know it today. Art is about expression but it is also provides valuable social documentation. Have we become so superior in this crazed technological world that we think we don’t need to consult the past? As if eradicating this subject isn’t bad enough, there are others that have suffered the same fate: Archaeology. And Creative Writing. And Media Studies. And Humanities. And Home Economics; Economics with Business Studies; Statisitcs; Critical Thinking…and the list* goes on. It might be easier to list the subjects that will still be available.

This of course is the legacy that Gove left after his departure – sadly his presence will be felt for many years to come unless someone with a bit of vision is allowed to take control. Bearing in mind that students now have to remain in education until they are eighteen, what are the majority going to be studying? Where are all these government promised apprenticeship opportunities that will lead to real jobs? Where is the enhanced programme of vocational studies needed to spur on the creators and innovators of the future? Where are those with practical ability going to hone their skills? Certainly not at Mrs May’s proposed grammar schools.

By expecting that every student will end up at university is madness. Yes, everyone has a right to the same opportunities but if those opportunities are so narrow, so academically focussed then we are not catering to the wider skill base our country will desperately need in the future because a slim majority voted to go it alone.

Some of the students I support struggle big-time with academic subjects. With the best will in the world they will not achieve decent grades. They are being forced to take exams at fifteen/sixteen that will propel them towards A levels when something more appropriate to their needs should be readily available. Alternative programmes are few and far between because without academic recognition, schools are deemed to have failed.

It’s going to be a dismal future world without craftsmen and women, without artisans and trades. I don’t see how it’s going to work. Can anyone out there enlighten me?

*Read the full list of culled subjects here.



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And with ever increasing speed, so the years whizz around. It certainly doesn’t feel like twelve months ago that I visited the Royal Academy in London’s Piccadilly for its annual Summer Exhibition. I returned this week to check out this year’s selection.

As I explained in my post last year, the Summer Exhibition is the largest open submission exhibition in the world and provides a platform for both well-known and emerging artists to display and sell their work. The work of the hopeful is put through an arduous submission process, the final say being had by a select panel of established Royal Academicians.

I arrived at my allotted time – 1.30pm – and discovered that this was an excellent time to have chosen. The gallery wasn’t crowded! I was able to move easily around the rooms, take pictures without folk getting in the way (or me getting in the way of them), and generally have a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I do, of course, start backwards. I traversed the thirteen rooms in an anti-clockwise manner and I think a few others were doing the same. Perhaps we were all left-handers, I don’t know, but there was no sense of a shuffling queue which so often happens at big events when you are shepherded along in a continuous and aggravated line.


Look! Whoopee! A relatively empty gallery!

So once again, I’ve taken snaps of artworks that caught my eye for one reason or another. Most of the exhibits are for sale. I’ll leave the prices and artist’s names out of the description and leave you guessing. See if you can pick out the most and least expensive. As last year, I’ll reveal the answers in my next post.


I thought this display of vase-shaped sculptures was rather fun – set against a mirrored background they have been created using foam and coloured pins.


This next work has been made using copper wire, bandages, silk and pigment. Set in a black frame it’s about ten feet wide and perhaps eighteen inches high. It is very striking and looks somehow ancient.


I’m not really sure what drew me to this oil on canvas other than the size – it’s enormous, commanding a central position in gallery six. I like the depth and choice of colours.


These two works are independent of each other but obviously by the same artist. Worked in corroded pewter, I wondered why these specific items had been chosen.


This oil triptych caught my eye as it depicts a view I know well.  I like the way the panels are disjointed; how they don’t quite match up.


Another oil painting. The colours of a suburban frosty morning appealed for some reason. Odd really, because in reality I don’t like being cold and much prefer the countryside.


How very odd – another cold scene – again in oil and depicting Hyde Park. Definitely a Christmas card in the making…


This was the most astonishing exhibit I saw. Hung in the small, dimly lit number two gallery this had several people gasping.  Close-ups below (look closely!) will reveal that this has been created using all sorts of different bottle tops and wire closures from everyday products. Amazing.  It puts me in mind of a ceremonial tribal cloak.




You can see in these details how painstaking the making of this piece must have been.


This is a watercolour. There’s something about this that I find restful although the colours used would probably suggest otherwise.


And lastly, here is the eye-catching piece that greets the visitor on arrival through the gates of Burlington House on Piccadilly. Entitled ‘Spyre’ it is a 16 metre tall Cor-Ten steel kinetic sculpture by Ron Arad who is a Royal Academician architect, designer and sculptor. It moves slowly round, its segments also twisting and turning at varying speeds. On the head there is an ‘eye’ – which is a camera, recording whatever it sees in the courtyard below. This is then beamed onto the huge screen hung behind it on the front of the building. Visitors are filmed entering and walking across the courtyard thereby becoming part of the artwork. If people should object to this, they are guided around the perimeter, out of range of the Spyre’s eye. It’s actually quite fascinating to watch and reminded me of a charmed snake.

So there we have it: this year’s Summer Exhibition which runs until 21 August. Worth a look, definitely. Galleries open at 10.00am until 6.00pm, late evenings till 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

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Half term last week and a chance to catch up with a few things such as visiting an exhibition I’ve been meaning to see for a while. Performing Sculpture at Tate Modern is a look at the work of the American Alexander Calder (1898-1976), widely recognised as the creator of the ‘mobile’ as we know it today. I had an added reason to be curious – Calder is the great grand Uncle of fellow blogger, Robin Cochran.

Now, although the route along the Thames path from Waterloo to Tate Modern is one of my favourite walks, I have to admit to Tate Modern being my least preferred London art gallery. Not because of the work it displays but because it’s always far too busy (alright, I know that’s a good thing) and the coffee shops are a disgrace. The escalators are confusing because they traverse two floors at a time so ending up where you actually want to go is a bit of a lottery. However, the bookshop is fantastic and there is always something interesting going on once you work out the geography. And to be fair, the whole place is having a makeover at the moment which will, by June of this year, include more space and more art: so that’s a good thing too.

Performing Sculpture is on the third floor and once inside the individual gallery, the crowds have dispersed so viewing is a little more comfortable and conducive. We are immediately introduced to Calder’s wire sculptures and the first impression is one of fun. Apparently in 1926 he began constructing his own miniature circus performers using wire, cork and buttons.


Simple little dog created from wire, wood and a clothes peg. Fun and effective

He would stage live shows for a small audience of esteemed friends which included Jean Cocteau, Joan Miro and Piet Mondrian. I managed to snap a couple of examples before politely being told to refrain from photography which surprised me as usually at Tate Mod they don’t mind.


Wire sculpture of tennis player, Helen Wills.



Tumblers or acrobats. I liked how this wire sculpture cast shadows on the white wall.


Fish tank. This was my favourite. Looks so simple but a great idea for the art room, maybe?


It was Mondrian who inspired Calder to experiment with moving shapes after Calder saw some coloured cardboard rectangles attached to the wall in Mondrian’s studio. The artist was using them as compositional aids but Calder thought it would be interesting to make them move (Mondrian didn’t share his enthusiasm!) so he began experimenting with shapes and wire, balance and suspension. His metal sculptures are wired together with the precision of an engineer, creating equilibrium and movement. Some parts of one sculpture will move independently from its main body which provides fascination for the viewer. The mobiles float ethereally in the white painted gallery under their own steam, the power of air flow caused by human movement around the exhibits. Each piece is so delicate now that any enforced movement – by blowing on them for instance, is forbidden.

To get an idea of the type of mobiles on display, and because I’m nothing if not law-abiding (I put my camera away before getting to the mobiles gallery), here is a video I discovered on good old You Tube from a Christie’s catalogue a few years ago. Enjoy!

And finally, as I had to refrain from taking pictures, this last one is taken from the mini guide that the Tate provides with your ticket. (Half price, by the way, with the National Art Pass. Marvellous).


Black Widow

Called Black Widow it is the last exhibit in the show and hangs forlornly, its pieces moving at odds with each other. I thought this was a rather gloomy end to an otherwise weirdly interesting exhibition that could fire up the creativity for anyone let loose with some wire, flat metal plates and some spray paint. I can see much mileage in these ideas in a school art room because the construction of them would involve a bit of physics – and that would provide a perfect opportunity for cross-curricular activities as well as proving to our short-sighted Department of Education that the recent down-grading of Design and Technology subjects for GCSE is just downright wrong. Rant over. (For now).




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If, as a child, I wasn’t roaming around outside I’d be endlessly inventing stories and scribbling them down in my red Silvine notebooks bought from Woolworths or I’d be drawing or painting. Dad would wander past, look over my shoulder and tell me that I must take after his cousin, Wally.

Cousin Wally was a couple of decades older than my father: they were never close and we children never met him but Dad would often remark on Wally’s talent.

Well, it turns out that Cousin Wally (Walter Steggles 1908-1997) had considerable talent. Prolific talent which culminated in him having work exhibited at the 1936 Venice Biennale alongside such luminaries as Duncan Grant and Barbara Hepworth. He and his younger brother Harold belonged to the East London Art Club, whose artists collectively became known as the East London Group.

Talk about hiding one’s familial light under the proverbial bushel.

In the last couple of years the little known or even recognised East London Group have had something of a renaissance – interest within the indiscernible world of art dealing has increased, helped along by David Buckman’s publication of a very comprehensive history of the group, ‘From Bow to Biennale.’ This fairly weighty tome is based on correspondence and interviews with the last, now deceased, (Wally was the last surviving member) Group members as well as primary and secondary archival research.

Both Wally and Harold have extensive biographies along with colour reproductions of their work.

Harold Steggles (1911-1971) achieved some commercial success by designing posters for the Shell Petroleum Company but it seems that his older brother was the more artistically driven of the two. However, both brothers had work displayed at the Lefevre Gallery in London.

Wally painted all his life – he never married and lived mostly with his parents who moved around quite a bit. When he lived in Cookham he became acquainted with the artist Stanley Spencer and the two would visit each other’s studios. His paintings reflect areas of the country he knew – landscapes of East Anglia and Wiltshire as well as industrial scenes of East London.

The canal, Mile End by Walter Steggles

The canal, Mile End by Walter Steggles

It is the latter which most appeal to me and I was fascinated to learn that as Wally became interested in photography he would take his photos, “square” them up into grid formation and then use them to create a painting.

Without wanting to recount Wally’s life story here it’s important to mention that his passion and undoubted ability for art grew from attending evening classes in Bow, East London as a very young man. These classes were taken by one John Cooper who inspired Wally and who invited prominent figures from the art world to come and talk to his pupils. One of these visiting artists, Walter Sickert, left a lasting impression on Wally:

“Sickert’s advice has been constantly with me. I did not, however, wish to be an obvious follower as a number of artists have.”

So when I saw that the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester was holding an exhibition of Walter Sickert’s work I suggested that we take a look. Once we’d secured a parking space – which isn’t easy in Chichester but worth persevering  – we found the gallery pleasantly uncrowded. The current Sickert exhibition concentrates on the artist’s time in Dieppe, where he lived for a number of years. Often lauded as the English Impressionist, Sickert (1860-1942) was inspired by Monet and Pissarro and his work definitely reflects their influence although his method of sketching his subjects first and then work on his paintings back in his studio is much removed from the French Impressionists who worked ‘en plein air.’ I was intrigued to see that Sickert used the grid method to translate his drawings to the canvas and wondered if this was where Wally got the idea from for his photographs.



Shop in Dieppe by Walter Sickert

All in all, I’m sorry to report that we were underwhelmed by this particular collection. Sickert’s paintings have a flat, unfinished quality to them. I found it difficult to pick out any one painting that had the wow factor although this one appealed because, I think, of its storytelling potential.

It’s not just the tenuous family link that creates my bias towards Wally’s pictures – his colours are vibrant and I prefer his style. His paintings are now fetching respectable sums at auction. According to family folklore, when Wally’s Uncle Henry died and his wife moved home, she threw out one of Wally’s paintings: it wasn’t to her taste, apparently. That woman was my grandmother.

Families, eh? So near yet so far…

This post forms the second part of a challenge thrown down by Sherri, over at her Summerhouse.  As Sherri herself has already changed the rules of the challenge which originally was to post five pictures and five stories on consecutive days (ha! not a chance!), I shall be taking a more relaxed attitude towards the rules myself. I’m supposed to nominate someone to take up the challenge after each of my next five posts but I’m not going to do that. Suffice to say, if you feel the urge to challenge yourself to five pictures/five stories (fact or fiction) then please feel free.









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This is a short post following on from my last one where I left you on tenterhooks just waiting to know if you can spot an expensive piece of art work, so without further ado, here are the details.

Colony – January in acrylic and mixed media is byimage Royal Academician Barbara Rae and for sale at a mere £57,000.





The Old House Dreams it is Still There imagein egg tempura is by Peter Messer and is priced at £4,850.






Mississippi River Blues image

is a carborundum relief in titanium white ink on paper painted with a mars black wash created by Royal Academician Richard Long. As one of an edition of two, it will set you back £80,000. (I’ve suddenly gone off this one although I think it looks very striking against the pink wall).



Flower Window,image an oil, is a tiny painting in a modest wooden frame by David Barrow and very affordable at £200.






Afternoon Skaters is an oil painting by Bill Jacklin,

imageanother Royal Academician. This one retails at £40,000.






Stolen Thunder III by Cornelia Parkerimage is a digital print which will cost you £850.






So, what price art? What would you buy and why. Enjoyment or investment? Who decides on the value of modern art? I’ll leave that open to discussion. It’s far too big a subject for me to pontificate alone.

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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.


“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…


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.


“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.


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


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


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.


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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With the sharp freshness of autumn now in the air, the long summer break is all but a hazy memory but I can’t let it fade away completely without sharing the delights of my last holiday outing courtesy of my wonderful National Art Pass.

Driving a round trip of nearly a hundred miles to somewhere in south-east London, most of which is on the M25, surprisingly doesn’t hold much appeal, but I had heard such great things about this place that I set off early one morning and arrived as the gates opened.

Eltham Palace

Approaching Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace, now under the stewardship of English Heritage, is tucked away in a delightful backwater between the triangle that is Bromley, Sidcup and Lewisham. Anyone familiar with this particular part of London will know how incongruous the adjective ‘delightful’ is when used to describe the area but Eltham Palace is more than delightful – it’s a marvel.

This bridge across the moat is 14th century

This bridge across the moat is 14th century

With distant views across to the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, Eltham is one of the few medieval royal palaces to survive with considerable remains intact.  Originally it was a moated manor house acquired in 1305 for the future Edward ll. In the 1470’s a great hall was added which still stands today. The Palace went into decline after other royal Palaces rose to prominence – noteably Hampton Court and Greenwich – and for two hundred years after the civil wars it was used as a farm.


Portrait of the Courtaulds by Campbell Taylor
© English Heritage Photo Library

Now let’s fast forward to the 1930’s when fabulously wealthy couple, Stephen and Virginia Courtauld (part of the Courtauld Textiles family), were looking for somewhere within easy reach of central London where they could entertain their friends. The couple, although very different in personality – Virginia, a divorcee, was flamboyant, bordering on the eccentric (she had a pet ring-tailed lemur called Mah Jong) and Stephen, a quieter, more reserved man who had served in the First World War and suffered periods of depression as a consequence – were very much a part of the London social scene. They commissioned architects Seely and Paget to build a house for them on the site of the old palace; leading designers and craftsmen were employed to create lavish interiors in the art deco style incorporating the latest modern technology.

The stunning entrance hall showing marquetry panelling and faithful reproductions of the carpet and furniture  © English Heritage

The stunning entrance hall showing marquetry panelling and faithful reproductions of the carpet and furniture
© English Heritage

The dining room. The central part of the ceiling is covered in aluminium leaf. ©English Heritage

The dining room.
The central part of the ceiling is covered in aluminium leaf.
©English Heritage

There were synchronous clocks in most rooms as well as a loudspeaker system so that music could be broadcast everywhere. A centralised vacuum cleaning system in the basement was linked to sockets all over the house and Seimens installed a private internal telephone exchange. To say that Eltham Palace was, in the 1930’s, at the forefront of cutting edge technology would be an understatement.

The Courtaulds lived at Eltham Palace until 1944, briefly moving to Scotland before emigrating  to Rhodesia, (now Zimbabwe) in 1951 where they stayed until Stephen’s death in 1967.   The British Army education unit moved in to Eltham in 1945 and stayed until 1992. English Heritage took the Palace on in 1995 and completed a major programme of repairs and restoration by 1999 of both the house and gardens. The result is an amazing display of authentic art deco decoration and a glimpse into the world of an extraordinary couple.

West facing  herbaceous border

South moat wall
herbaceous border

This little tunnel leads out to the south garden - I felt like Alice in Wonderland

This little tunnel leads out to the south garden – I felt like Alice in Wonderland

I visited on a Wednesday, which is when there are guided tours of the house. I would thoroughly recommend this as a way to make the most of a visit – the young man who took us round was so knowledgeable and passionate about his subject that I’m pleased to say he made our tour over-run by almost an hour. There are two cafes on site – one providing home-made hot and cold dishes and the other for takeaway sandwiches where you can sit on the lawn and admire the gardens.

Moat and part of the Japanese garden

Moat and part of the Japanese garden

The moat teems with friendly carp

The moat teems with friendly carp

English Heritage have done a fabulous job in restoring the place to its former glory – for anyone with a penchant for art deco, Eltham Palace is well worth the trip.

All interior photographs – English Heritage; exterior photographs – mine.

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Living close to places of interest often means we pass them by, assuming we’ll get round to visiting some time or another, which is what has happened with me and Chichester Cathedral. I had never been inside, until this week when, after meeting friends for lunch in the town, I remedied this oversight. On first impression, the interior is very much like any other cathedral – except that there is a rather stunning altar piece tapestry designed by John Piper, paintings by Patrick Procktor and Graham Sutherland and a beautiful stained glass window by Marc Chagall.

Depiction of Psalm 150, Marc Chagall, Chichester Cathedral

Depiction of Psalm 150, Marc Chagall, Chichester Cathedral

This immediately brought to mind an outing I took last year with my mother – on her suggestion that she and I visit a tiny church in the Kent village of Tudeley. She had been before, and thought I’d be interested.

I was. I was astonished.

All Saints' Tudeley

All Saints’ Tudeley

Views across the Weald of Kent

Views across the Weald of Kent

All Saints’ Tudeley sits nestled in beautiful countryside, overlooking the Weald. From the outside, although pretty, it looks similar to many other small churches in this area, but inside…well, the inside is unbelievable.

The walls are whitewashed which complements the stonework and instantly this evokes an airy atmosphere of meditative calm.

Light through the windows onto white walls and honeyed stonework

Light through the windows onto white walls and honeyed stonework

The windows, all twelve of them, were designed by Marc Chagall. It is the only church in the world to have all its windows decorated by the Russian artist – and it’s only here in the UK and in Chichester where his stained glass can be appreciated.

Chagall was originally commissioned to design the east window at Tudeley in 1963 for Sir Henry and Lady d’Avigdor-Goldsmid in memory of their daughter.

Window commissioned as a memorial to a drowned daughter

Window commissioned as a memorial to a drowned daughter

He had been searching for a place of worship in which to display his stained glass since being disappointed at his artificially lit windows, depicting the Twelve Tribes of Israel, at the synagogue of the Hassadah Medical Centre in Jerusalem. When he arrived at Tudeley for the inauguration in 1967, he was so taken by its simplicity and natural light that he agreed to decorate all the windows.

An abstraction of butterflies

An abstraction of butterflies

The final windows to be installed, those of the chancel, were fitted in 1985 – the year of Chagall’s death.

Find out more about the church at Tudeley here.

Churches seem to house the most unexpected works of art which, unless you visit on the off chance and discover them for yourself or you hear by word of mouth, these treasures are likely to remain hidden forever.

John Piper's tapestry at the altar, Chichester Cathedral

John Piper’s tapestry at the altar, Chichester Cathedral

Noli me Tangere, by Graham Sutherland, tucked away in Chichester Cathedral

Noli me Tangere, by Graham Sutherland, tucked away in Chichester Cathedral

Read more about Chichester Cathedral here.

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I spent last weekend lurching from chair to sofa to kitchen to deckchair and reading in between which was wonderful and not something I get the chance to do very often. Apart from acquiring sore, square eyes, it felt like I had achieved quite a bit, although of that I’ve absolutely no proof whatsoever.  I got through a book and a half, so have lowered my reading pile a smidge and caught up with blogs I follow, most of which caused me to deviate somewhere or other. (I now know a little about Galileo’s Paradox – impressed? I know – I amaze myself sometimes).

However, one funny account of early driving experiences, on Rod’s blog, jogged a distant memory which in turn, reminded me of a recent four hour car journey my sister and I took where we talked nonstop, all the way to beyond Liverpool.  ?????????????

The purpose of our overnight trip was to view Another Place, sculptor Antony Gormley’s iron men, spread out along the soft sand at Crosby, staring out to sea, as if waiting for a sign from some alien force. There are one hundred of them, all the same, although several years of salt water washing over them has given each his own patina, and in some cases, a clothing of crustaceans. It is an eerie place: windy, with a power station and cranes in the distance adding to the bleak atmosphere. Over the years, some of the men have become half buried in the sand while others stand upright, hands by their side, waiting, waiting…

But where was I? Oh yes, driving.  I mentioned above that my sister and I talked nonstop during our drive up north. So what, nothing surprising about that, I hear you mutter. Two women incarcerated in a tin box for hours – what else would you expect. Well, I know, but actually, for us to talk in a car at all is a bit of a novelty, as we acknowledged more than once during our four hour marathon.

We have fond memories of being bundled into the back of the family car on a Sunday afternoon, aged six and three, and told to be very quiet while Dad taught Mum to drive. We’d sit there scarcely daring to breathe as Mum crunched around the Kent countryside with Dad tutting as he managed to find impossible gradients for unsuccessful hill starts.  Now, whether the insistence of absolute quietness came at a crucial stage in our childhood development, I don’t know, but neither my sister nor I ever talked much in the family car ever again, apart from asking, before we’d even passed Guildford, if we were ‘nearly there yet’ on our annual holiday to the west country.

Mum eventually passed her test but not before bearing the good-natured brunt of many a joke about women drivers, culminating in Dad buying her the record of Bob Newhart’s The Driving Instructor.  So for Mum and for Rod, who I think will appreciate this – here is Bob Newhart, taken from that original record.

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