Sunday, 28 July 2013

DIY Dunce

My young friend has just bought her first new house. Which means there's lots of things to do - including putting up bathroom cabinets, curtain rails, pictures etc. and as the garden is one rectangular plot that needs to be designed and worked on. (I'm making a scale model of all the existing things like patio, steps, shed, etc so am paying lots of visits to Hobbycraft - dolls house section!)
But back to our DIY disasters. We tried to install a fairly substantial bathroom cabinet. All went fine - I drilled the 4 holes in the right places, inserted raw plugs and eventually screwed it on to the wall. (We used piles of magazines to position it at the correct height.) Proudly stepping back to admire our handiwork the whole thing fell off the wall! No damage luckily as I was partly prepared for failure and was ready. It was later we found out that as the walls were plasterboard we should have used special expanding things. (The cabinet is still on the floor!) Ditto the curtain rail in the master bedroom - we drilled the holes one inch too low! At least we successfully hung three pictures yesterday and stuck number labels on the bins. We're now looking for a man. (Never thought I'd say that.)

The River and Rowing Museum in Henley are currently staging a really good exhibition about the Swan Uppers. Here's one of my latest paintings on exhibition there. It shows David Barber, the Queen's Swanmarker together with Her Majesty.

Talking of Swanupping, it was that time of year last Wednesday. They always stop at the River and Rowing Museum for a hearty lunch before proceeding upstream via Marsh Lock. Which is where I met them. Here they are transferring some of the swans they caught from the skiff to a larger boat for marking .

As I am painting another watercolour of David Barber in his skiff I needed to take a series of photographs while they were in the lock. Difficult because of the very bright sunlight behind him and interrupted for a long time while a TV crew interviewed him. Here's a general view of the Swanuppers as they crowded into the lock.

And this is one of the pictures I took of David.

Now we are in the middle of the boating season, and blessed with gloriously hot sunny days, I ventured down to the Traditional Boat Rally last Sunday afternoon. My young friend and I had taken our first boat trip of the season the previous afternoon along past the site of the rally (I'd not recovered my strength enough to venture out on the boat before) where she photographed this view of some of the little Dunkirk ships, a lovely view of Temple Island bordered by a profusion of Lavender bushes, and a sneaky one of me with a glass of Pimms at the ready.

Back to Sunday - after a stroll down the riverbank, meeting friends and eyeing up the great variety of wooden and traditional craft on display, I finally settled on board L'Orage- one of the little ships now owned by John Calvert. Here he is.

Many a time I've helped bring this boat back from its voyages to Dunkirk when Raymond Baxter owned it. (I only crewed on the UK part of the voyages). It was in 1965, to mark the 25th anniversary of "Operation Dynamo" that Raymond organised and assembled a fleet of 43 of the original Little Ships of Dunkirk to return to Dunkirk to commemorate the epic of evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 in which they played a significant role. During eleven days between May 26th and June 5th in that year no less than 338,000 British and Allied troops were snatched from certain death or captivity. This photograph shows some of the brass plaques (behind the wooden steps) commemorating the many times L'Orage has made the voyage to Dunkirk.

The next return is planned for 2015 - the 75th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation. On my return stroll along the riverbank here are some of the sights - including preparations for a vintage bicycle rally.

It's not all been play. I managed to finish this little miniature of my favourite boatman's granddaughter, Lucy.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A glimpse into the past

On a hauntingly beautiful 255 acre estate with far reaching views over the river Deben is home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. It's called Sutton Hoo. My young friend and I paid a visit to this magical place on Sunday afternoon. The photograph I took above shows the famous helmet unearthed in 1939. Sutton Hoo kept its secret for more than 1300 years until, on the very brink of war in 1939, an incomparable buried treasure was discovered there. Sutton Hoo was a symbol. In the early 7th century, about 200 years after the Roman government withdrew from Britain, this place was chosen to make a great monument to a new kind of English Power. For over 50 years an aristocratic group was buried there. In about AD 625, in a pagan consecration, the military - perhaps royal - master of a mighty household was buried at Sutton Hoo.
What a fascinating place it was. Really worth a visit. The house where the owner of the site lived and all the finds were given to the National Trust in 1998. The house is also open to the public and, unusually, visitors are allowed to sit in any of the armchairs there. While my young friend and her mother visited the actual mounds I sprawled in a very comfortable armchair whilst listening to a recording by one of the original workers who uncovered the treasure. Here are some of the other photographs I took on our visit.

Later we drove further north to eat fish and chips on Southwold Pier. This was the view from the pier.

Such a nice little town - it quite reminded me of my boyhood where once a year we would travel by charabang to a seaside resort paid for by the farthings we'd contributed every week at Sunday School.
As the weather has been so hot lately we went over to The Swan at Streately one evening last week for an alfresco dinner by the river. This was the view from our table.

Last week the Henley Music Festival staged its last 5 day post regatta event at its present location. Next year it moves down river to the site of the Henley Management College. We 'promenaded' last Thursday evening. Again we were blessed with glorious weather. The main event of the evening was Jamie Cullum. We didn't have grandstand or special deckchair seats but could still see and hear the performers well. Soon after we arrived we called in to the Salon to hear a young pianist - Oliver Poole - play Gershwin. What a great performer. His hands literary flew across the piano. But part of the Festival is taken up with art exhibits and assorted 'acts'. These girls on stilts for example.

And I'm not sure what to make of these.

Or these rather haughty 'horsemen'.

And if you fancy having your hair restyled why not try this hairdresser?

Just a few more of the sights.

The ambiance of the evening was great. This is looking towards the stage with many of the boats moored close by.

After a tasty meal at the Spice Merchant restaurant we moved along to see the short, but spectacular, firework display.

And finally ended the evening in the Salon Marquee with the TV performer Alexander Armstrong.

I was invited to dinner last Monday evening by my friends Brian and Jane. We sat outside on the verandah overlooking their lovely garden.

Then later Brian took us all on the river. We cruised down to the Management College and back round Temple Island. I'll be so pleased when my health allows me to use my boat again.
A lot of the past few weeks has been spent helping my young friend move house. She's just bought her first house of her own. It's very sweet and not too far away so she's finding it very exciting (but quite tiring in this heat with all the packing and unpacking).
Last Wednesday I had an appointment with Mr Ladas, the surgeon who performed my latest lung operation, at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London. My young friend (caring as ever) came with me. We caught the early (standing room only) train to Paddington. First thing I did at the hospital was to have a chest x-ray and then in to have the consultation. Mr Ladas was very pleased with my progress and the x-ray was positive. (When he refers the results to my oncologist I may need further treatment however) This I'll know when I see him. I mentioned before that I'd painted a miniature of Mr Ladas as a thank you for 'keeping me going' so I gave it to him. He was delighted and wanted to have this photo taken of us together with him holding the miniature.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

"It ain't half hot, mum!"

Today the temperature has topped 30 degrees Celsius - the hottest day of the year. And as I'm well on the way to full health it's great to be alive to enjoy this fabulous sunshine. It's the finals day of Henley Regatta too. Last night was firework night where I usually take a small group of friends on my boat to moor on the booms and watch the spectacle. But as I'm still not quite fit enough to handle the boat we could only listen to the fireworks from afar. Nevertheless on Friday eight of us met up for a great day at Phyllis Court. The day started by picking up Paul and Debbie at their riverside home in Wargrave. My young friend took this picture.

As we walked over the humped back bridge to enter the grounds of the club picnickers were setting up their tables and chairs. This is a view looking down the creek from the bridge.
To get the best view of the course I'd reserved the 8 deck chairs nearest the winning post from which we could see all the different craft as they glided by - from 'Southern Comfort' to some sort of weird fun filled raft.

This is 'Janthea' one of the famous 'little boats' which came to our rescue during the Dunkirk evacuation at the beginning of World War Two

And 'Alaska' the beautiful steam launch that carried the Queen to her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Henley last summer.

Looking towards Leander Club at the end of the course I can see the Queen's barge 'Gloriana' which has been moored there for the past week. At 4 o'clock this afternoon a whole bevy of Olympic oarsmen and women will row the barge down the course in front of the thousands lining the riverbanks. I'll show you the view from my chair and then zoom in to the gold of the boat.

We all met up on the lawns in front of the verandah and sipped Pimms. (I had to content myself with ginger beer as the vast amounts of pain killers I'm still on won't allow alcohol! Drat it as Henley regatta IS Pimms!) Here's Paul solving the world's problems

And Brian with Debbie

Jane and Anne-Marie

After the Pimms were consumed we made our way to the dining room for a sumptuous lunch before promenading around a bit before returning to our cool and shady chairs by the river's edge. What a lovely day - a perfect English afternoon.
I'm now going to put my iPad down for a while as I watch the men's final at Wimbledon on television. And the commentator has just announced that the temperature on the centre court has reached the forties! Wow.
The match is still going on but if I don't finish writing this today I'll not post the blog for a while as things are very busy at the moment. My young friend has just bought her very first house so we've been spending the past two days packing countless boxes. The removal men are coming tomorrow. I've grown a real liking for B&Q as we've visited the store quite a few times lately. What a helpful lot of people they are there.
On Wednesday I have an early appointment in London for a consultation with my surgeon, Mr Ladas. Crossing everything that all is OK and I don't need any further treatment I'll sign off now.