Windy Weather

Twas a very cold and windy morning yesterday. My young friend and I were hoping to row up to the venue of the Hennerton Backwater AGM, but the river was just too fast and the wind horrendous. (We may have been in danger of being swept over the weir on the way back with the strong current!). Only one couple arrived by boat – and they were swirled around a bit in the current as they tried to moor up. This is the view from the driveway before we walked down to the garden.

And the ‘Riparians’ huddling in the cold as John Halsam talks about the Green Belt.

Later in the day we paid a visit to Nuffield Place in Huntercombe, near Henley.

Now acquired by the National Trust, it used to belong to William Morris, who later became Lord Nuffield. He designed his first car – the Bull Nosed Morris – in 1912. Between the two World Wars Morris, with Austin, Rootes Group and Ford, dominated the market for popular cars and really brought motoring within the reach of the man in the street. However he was equally, if not more famous for giving away much of the money he made – at least £30 million in his lifetime (the equivalent of at least £600 million at today’s values.) We had a good look around the house and garden. I was intrigued by the enormous tool cupboard within his bedroom. (One of the little jars on the shelf in this photograph contains his pickled appendix!)

At the Diamond Jubilee Concert on the Queen Victoria Monument fronting Buckingham Palace last weekend Rolf Harris had just finished the first verse of ‘Two Little Boys’ when Lenny Henry interrupted him to bring on the next act. Apparently not Lenny’s fault. The voice in his earphones gave him instructions.   Rolf carried on later – a real trouper. And a man of infinite parts – songwriter, artist, entertainer, TV star, animal lover, you name it Rolf’s done it – and is universally loved and admired by everyone from the very young to the very oldl. So when I called in to see him last Saturday morning I was eager to see the BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award he’d been given the previous week. So well deserved.

It weighs a ton – and is nearly an inch thick. My young friend had bought me a ‘Rolf Harris’ party disguise as a surprise present, so I put it on when I arrived and greeted him with the words “Can you tell who it is yet?”

On Tuesday I drove to Stanfield in Norfolk to my old friend Vic Granger’s funeral. A really sad occasion. Both his children, Sylvia May and Peter Paul, have been a great comfort to Christine since Vic died, and Paul gave an inspiring Eulogy in the crowded old Stanfield church. (On my many visits to Vic and Christine in Norfolk, whenever Vic and I passed by the churchyard he always said ’That’s where I want to be buried – it’s the most peaceful place I know in the world’. And so he was – in a shady spot under a lovely old tree, right outside the main entrance to the church. Here is Vic as I remember him

I mentioned in a previous blog what a wonderful animal painter he was. This is a painting he did in acrylics of his four whippets I bought from him a few years ago.

Well, I finally finished my painting of the Royal Flueologist. Here’s Kevin Giddings with his old Victorian chimney sweep’s brushes over his shoulder.

I’ve just started a miniature of Paul Ludwig – the Royal Bargemaster. I hope to finish it by next week. Then I’ll start working out how to design a large Diamond Jubilee Pageant painting. Roughly based on the idea of Canaletto’s magnificent Lord Mayor’s River Pageant painting done at the end of the 18th Century. I aim to include most of my favourite craft that took part. I’ll be relying on a number of friends who actually took part in the pageant for reference photographs, but I’m sure it will be a monumental task to try and evoke the atmosphere – and I expect the final project will take about 4 to 5 months to complete!

It’s now Sunday, and – hooray – the sun has come out, so I think I’ll go to the Harpsden Fete this afternoon. But to end this blog here’s a photograph my young friend took of a heron in my garden yesterday. I think she’s got her eye on the little fleet of new sygnets swimming around in the Mill Stream. (The heron, that is.)