Nuclear Alert!

Last Thursday I went to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford for a pet scan. After spending 90 minutes in a cupboard while two nurses injected me with radioactive material from a gun-metal canister (it set off a loud alert on one of them!) I was placed in the centre of a large room with all sorts of nuclear notices plastered around it. There I had to lie in a big metal tunnel with my arms above my head for 35 minutes with the noise of the machine as it whirred around my body as my only companion. When I finally escaped I was too radioactive to be near children or pregnant women for 6 to 10 hours! As my young friend was neither, she drove me home.

We’ve just returned from a weekend in Norfolk. I like steam trains so we took a trip on the North Norfolk Railway between Holt and Sheringham.

We were staying with Christine at her cottage in the hamlet of Stanfield, and she came with us. Sitting in a very luxurious first-class compartment at the front of the train it took me back to my younger days (not that I ever travelled first-class then) when I always went around by train in corridor coaches. Here comes the ticket collector. Nice to have an old-fashioned cardboard ticket to be clipped,

When we got back to Holt I clambered up to the driver’s cabin. It was very hot in there.

Down the lane from Christine’s house lives an old farmer called Joe. Here he is with a couple of his dogs.

He owns 8 dogs, chickens, lots of noisy geese, and eight or so shire horses. One of them tried to eat my young friend’s jacket.

Joe ploughs his fields with a team of shire horses, and I gave him a DVD I’d made of him with his horses on an earlier visit.

We went to nearby Castle Acre Priory the following morning.

This must have been a very impressive collection of buildings during the Norman conquest. The castle and priory were built in the early 1070’s by the family of William de Warenne, a Norman knight and was a combination of fortress and aristocratic residence. Although Castle Acre priory closed in 1537 it is remarkably preserved, and although abandoned in the middle ages, remains one of the most comprehensive Norman earthworks in the country. As we wandered around we took a whole series of photographs.

On the way back home we had to make way for a whole caravan of tractors on their way to some sort of rustic rally. (Wonder what a collection of tractors is called?)

Every time I go to Norfolk there’s a cold wind blowing, and this time was no exception. These two seagulls didn’t seem bothered as they perched high above the harbour in Wells-next-the-sea.

On Monday we decided to drive the 150 miles home by avoiding motorways. (The M25 is always congested and very boring.) Our first destination was Oxburgh Hall in southwest Norfolk. This stately home was built in about 1482 at the height of the War of the Roses,

Beautifully preserved, it’s surrounded by a wide moat. We entered the house via the gatehouse. Inside I came across this gold relief carving.

We climbed up to the roof via a very precarious spiral staircase as you can see, and the other photo shows the view from the top.

Right next to the Hall is a small chapel and here is one of the stained glass windows inside

To break our journey we called in to Woburn Abbey – the home of the Duke of Bedford. I remember the last time I came to Woburn was in 1963 while on leave from Singapore. Then I photographed my friend’s little blonde, blue-eyed daughter sitting down and dwarfed amid hundreds of daffodils. Subsequently the picture won a gold medal in a pan-Asian photographic competition. I called it ‘Barbie in Wonderland’.
At Woburn in its vast 3,000 acres of parkland they look after about 8 species of deer. As we drove around in the bright sunshine we took a few pictures. Here’s a couple.

This morning I finished my miniature of the Past Master of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. I won’t be showing it on my blog until he’s received the painting, but he’s already given permission for it to be shown there, so probably next week I’ll include it.

Now I’m spending a lot of time on preparations for my exhibition. My friend, David, has made me a scale model of the exhibition venue, and today I’ve started working out exactly where the hundred or so paintings will hang. Should be fun.