The countryside in March

Yesterday we drove to Bampton in the Cotswolds to see Joanne Dalston. A beautiful early spring day, the blossoms were all beginning to sprout and daffodils lined the verges. Just last weekend Downton Abbey - the very popular television series – was filming the society wedding at this church there.

And I glimpsed these cottages through the churchyard, the wonderful mellow colours of Cotswold stone bright in the afternoon sunshine.

Earlier we’d enjoyed a hearty (enormous helpings – I think they thought we were hungry farming folk) lunch at the Clanfield Tavern.

Here are Val and Joanne standing by the entrance.

It’s been a very busy week as far as painting is concerned, and I’ve managed to complete two miniatures of a pair of delightful little sisters. They were commissions I’ve been looking forward to doing and are my first miniatures of the year. Also on the art subject, here I am contemplating the sculptured head I’m attempting to make of Rolf Harris,

I rashly thought that as I’ve been painting portraits all my life modelling a head in clay would be relatively easy. But no way – I have a long way to go.

On Saturday morning I went for a CT scan at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. The oncologist won’t have the result until later this week, so I’m crossing my fingers that all is well.
Later in the morning my young friend and I drove to Birmingham to visit the University there for a nostalgic trip down memory lane. (She’d studied there for seven years). I had no idea how extensive it was. The red brick buildings were a beautiful colour, and the clock tower reaching high into the sky was easily the tallest I’ve ever seen.

We had a look around the university’s Barber Gallery. Described as ‘One of the finest small galleries in Europe’ it certainly lived up to this description. So many old master painters were represented there including Monet, Manet and Magritte, Renoir, Rubens, Rosetti and Rodin, Degas, Delacroix and van Dyck – not to mention Botticelli, Turner, Gainsborough, Gaugin, van Gogh and Picasso! The I spied a beautiful pastel portrait by Rosalba Carriera. She was also a talented miniature painter and was the first person to discover the delights of painting miniature portraits on ivory at the end of the 16th century. Prior to this date all miniatures had been painted on vellum, but the luminosity of ivory over vellum, especially with the use of transparent watercolour, soon became the norm.

On Wednesday the River and Rowing Museum staged an exhibition of John Piper’s paintings and I was invited to the Private View. Felicity came with me, and afterwards we went to the Regal cinema to see ‘Lady in Black’.- A really dark and scary film, and a total contrast to the film I’d seen the previous evening. This was ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ What an enjoyable film that was – great acting, marvellous script, and the setting in Jaipur was even more colourful than I remember it when I visited during my advertising days.