Saturday, 19 April 2014

"Bugger Bognor"

Those were the supposed last words uttered by King George V on his deathbed when his physician suggested he might return to Bognor to continue his convalescence.


So we thought we'd give it a try last Saturday. There must have been a complete pier there in his days, but sadly now it looks as if most of it is missing.


Nevertheless we had a nice fish and chip lunch in a hotel on the seafront - my freshly line-caught cod was especially delicious. Now what have we here? it's the resident fortune teller.


Not wanting to have our futures revealed by Gypsy Lee, even though she purports to help people over troubled waters (I could have done with her powers when my boat became waterlogged) we decided to give her a miss and play a round of golf at the nearby 18 hole mini golf course.


It was a close run contest, but my young friend beat me by a very small margin - well she is closer to the ground after all! So eventually, having savoured most of what the resort had to offer - including a few deck chairs flapping away in the brisk sea breeze .....


.... I said "Bugger Bognor, let's go somewhere else". Looking at the National Trust guide we decided to visit the nearby 'House of Art'. That was how the painter John Constable described Petworth in West Sussex. Petworth probably contains one of the best collections of art in Britain. A real treasure trove of masterpieces - from dazzling portraits by Anthony Van Dyck to golden landscapes by Turner. Here's one of Van Dyke's beautiful portraits.


And a view of the Grand Stairs with a statue in the foreground depicting Silenus nursing the infant Bacchus.


The first version of this room was gutted by fire in 1714 so when the 2nd Earl of Egremont came to rebuild he commissioned Louis Laguerre, the most celebrated mural painter of the time, to decorate the walls with a classical story that alludes to the earlier disaster.
Grinling Gibbons means wood-carving to most of us. He transformed blocks of like wood into miraculously realistic representations of delicate fur, feathers and flower petals. When we went into the Carved Room - created in 1690 by the proud Duke to show off Grinling Gibbons carvings, the most intricate designs were everywhere. Here's an example of his work.


Everywhere we looked were paintings and carvings by old masters. I've never seen so many all in one place. Knowing that the original Holbein Portrait of King Henry VIII in this classic pose had been destroyed it was nice to see this depiction of the King at the age of 46. He looks younger and his widely planted legs have been artificially elongated to make him appear even more swaggeringly impressive.


As you can see. the portrait is surrounded by more Grinling Gibbons carvings. Before leaving Petworth we took a brief stroll around the park. Designed by Capability Brown it's a supreme example of his 'natural' style. This is the rotunda, nestling comfortably in the spring sunshine.


The other day as I was painting I heard an enormous noise that sounded like a collection of gunshots right outside my window. Looking out I saw a great big tree had fallen from the woodland opposite and had completely blocked the road. Together with my neighbour Guy, we armed ourselves with secaters and started to cut away at the smaller branches so we could clear at least one side of the road. Eventually with other neighbours directing the traffic, cars managed to get through with the occasional idiot going past at high speed. Although we rang the police to help direct the traffic, they never came. But Wokingham council were pretty speedy and within half an hour two lorries arrived. One of the men laughed as he saw my little secaters and quickly attacked the tree with his chain saw.

On Monday evening my young friend and I went to the Hexagon in Reading to see Alice in Wonderland - the pantomime. Paul and Debbie were topping the bill - as The King of Hearts and the White Rabbit.


We had great seats in the stalls. The costumes were fabulous, and the singers very good. The children in the audience thoroughly enjoyed the show - especially the ventriloquist. All in all a very colourful evening.


My wooden jigsaw of the painting 'Spitfire over Henley' is almost covering my dining room table and is proving quite difficult - but that's how I like it. I ordered a 1,000 piece puzzle and intend to frame it when completed. Almost as soon as I finished the actual painting it sold so it's never hung on my walls.

Now I'm back to work on miniature portraits.

I have a new computer. Being equipped with the latest version of Microsoft - Windows 8 it's going to take a lot of getting used to, as it's completely different to my previous Windows XP. And as I'd lost the original Paint Shop Pro CD I needed to buy the latest version. And that's even more complicated! Luckily I have an expert computer Guru to guide and teach me. She goes by the name of MYF. The computer has lots of storage - in fact I'm very excited to own a machine thats
capacity is measured in terabytes! The very word sounds menacing but in fact is a thousand billion bytes, or a thousand gigabytes. And it's amazing to realise that the average toaster today contains more electronics than the Apollo spaceship had that went to the moon 40 years ago. In fact my iPhone is so advanced compared to the computer used in the Apollo's guidance system that it's hard to believe they came from the same planet. So here starts a big learning curve as I tackle the future with a two terabyte monster machine.

Throughout the centuries and in many countries, performances telling the story of the crucifixion of Christ have been acted out on Good Friday as part of traditional Easter celebrations. However this year, in Oxford, the organisers of the event were told that new rules meant that a crucifixion needed a council license. The vicar said the church had contacted the police earlier this month to inform them the Passion play was going ahead as in previous years but were told they would be committing an offence if they did not get a formal licence to hold a public event. However, with just days to go before the performance, this was declined. So the church had to cancel it at short notice. Apparently an 'official' at the local Labour council refused to rubber stamp the event. Why? Because the worker in question did not know that a Passion play is a religious affair and just assumed it was an obscene sex production! Julian Allison, licensing team leader at Oxford City Council apologised. Hopefully with a great amount of grovelling.

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