Well, the Henley Literary a Festival is over. I only managed to go to half a dozen events but enjoyed them all. My young friend came with me on Saturday morning to the Kenton Theatre where we were to hear Ralph Steadman talk about his life and work. (I got a bit mixed up when I told her we'd be seeing Gerald Scarfe). In the end the event was quite different to what it was meant to be. Ralph Steadman couldn't make it to Henley for some reason, at the last moment, so the theatre rigged up a live Skype conversation with him.
It became more interesting than it would have been because we were able to roam around his studio as he talked and see a whole load of cartoons and other drawings.
He also started making a painting for auction there and then for the audience in the Kenton to bid for. His method of working is usually to fling paint or ink at the paper and then see what the splurge looks like before he embellishes it. Such an interesting hour. Quite a number of people startied the bidding as it went up by just tens of pounds, but soon the bidders were reduced to two obvious fans. By now the bids were going up by hundreds of pounds and finally reached £2,000. A really enjoyable morning.
The previous evening, again at the Kenton, we enjoyed a frenetic and thoroughly enjoyable talk by Sue Perkins - one of the presenters of the currently most watched TV programmes 'The Great British Bake-off'. All the audience - and the theatre was completely full - were given a copy of her latest book "Spectacles". If it's anything like her talk it'll be a real hoot. I also heard Sir Ranulph Fiennes ( England's most famous explorer) give a rousing talk about all the hot places he's travelled to in the world.
And being an ex National Serviceman I was intrigued with Max Hastings talk. It was entitled 'The End of Empire' and described his time as a National Serviceman in Cyprus during the fifties - the same time as I did my service in Singapore and Malaya. I bought his book and he signed it "To Sapper Bill Mundy from a fellow conscript Martin Bell".
I went to London on Monday to help select the entries for this year's Royal Society of Miniature Painters annual exhibition. Also I had the pleasant duty of selecting the prize I give every year to the artist I consider to have painted the best portrait in the exhibition. The award is entitled "The Mundy Sovereign" and consists of a framed calligraphed certificate enclosing a gold sovereign. It's always a very busy day and by the time I reached Paddington Station on the way home in the evening I was quite knackered. So it was lovely to find a nice quiet window seat on the train. Until, that is, a woman with a noisy child sat opposite me and as soon as the train started unwrapped a very smelly bag of fish and chips - which they noisily stuffed into their mouths for twenty minutes or so. Am I being unreasonable to find this objectionable? And to cap it all the other person in our little section talked (loudly) on the phone for the entire hour long journey!
On Sunday morning we drove over to Binfield Heath to attend the Henley and District Agricultural Association's annual ploughing match. The entrants worked with vintage tractors and horse-drawn ploughs. They were judged on criteria including straightness, uniformity and 'burying the track', which means ploughing over the marks left by the tractor's wheels. Here are two of the heavy horses taking part in the competition.
Unfortunately we arrived too late to see any of the actual matches! Lots of other things to see anyway.
Today (Sunday) we paid a visit to Blenheim Palace.
It has such vast grounds that we walked nearly a mile from the car park to the entrance. And as we'd planned to take a ride all around the grounds on a buggy we were lucky to find one starting its journey just as we arrived at the entrance. On the way we passed the site where Winston Churchill proposed to Clemmie. (He had intended to propose in the rose garden that morning but got up too late so met her as she returned. This is the spot.
A little further on is an enormous bust of Churchill and a stone pathway outlining all the most important milestones in the great man's life.
And on to a small waterfall which is called 'The Cascade'.
At one time this little carving of cherubs was intended to be either demolished or moved. However someone came up with the idea of adding a number of water streams. And here is a close view of the end result. Quite charming.
When we first entered the Palace we spent forty minutes or so listening to the history of the illustrious inhabitants of the Palace through the eyes of the first Duchess's maid. Achieved through cleverly made holograms and sound effects it was an enlightening experience,
A light lunch in the cafe and then on for a tour around the Palace. Many stately rooms to see - and currently a special Churchill exhibition.
This is the bedroom that Winston Churchill was born in.
On the way home we called into nearby Blaydon churchyard to see Sir Winston and Lady Churchill's grave.