Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Traditional Boat Festival

In 1977 a small group of enthusiasts from the River Thames Society held a small rally at Shepperton with a view to gathering together like-minded people to encourage the restoration and preservation of traditionally built craft. They felt that traditional boat building was dying out. From that start the Thames  Traditional Boat Rally steadily grew to become the pre-eminent display of classic craft in the country. This year the event has changed its title from Rally to Festival. 

My young friend and I called in to the Festival last Saturday afternoon. So much to see - 22 little Dunkirk boats, who this year are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the evacuation; Bluebird K3, Sir Malcolm Cambell's world speed record boat; the Queen's Row Barge 'Gloriana'; MTB 102, the Royal Navy's fastest warship in World War Two; and a staggering variety of other traditional craft. This is Papillion - one of the Dunkirk Veterans.

And L'Orage - once owned by The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships Commodore, Raymond Baxter, and now lovingly looked after by John Calvert. 

Here's Aquabelle ( being overtaken by a car.) Car?

In 1938 Bluebird K3 reached a speed of 130 mph and it's making it's first ever appearance at the Festival. 

Unfortunately it didn't make the 'speed' run as proposed due to a fire in the engine compartment. They even restricted river traffic between Marsh and Hambleden locks in preparation for the run. Another first at the Festival was the Queen's Row Barge - the 'Gloriana'.

The barge was built by a team led by traditional boat builder Mark Edwards to celebrate her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. It's nice to know that there are still craftsmen (and women) with the skills to construct this magnificent craft.

And you meet many colourful chapters as you stroll along the river front.

In 1944 MTB 102 carried Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower on their review of ships assembled on the south coast for the D Day landings.

MTB 102 played a significant part in Operation Dynamo in 1940, crossing the channel 8 times. After the war she was refurbished and starred in the film 'The Eagle Has Landed', starring. Michael Caine. 

So many lovely boats on display. 

We went to see Boeing Boeing at the Mill at Sonning on Tuesday evening.

Although my young friend only booked on Monday evening we found ourselves sitting in the front row. right in the middle. And as the front of the stage was only a few inches away from my feet I had to be careful not to trip any of the actors up when they came near. A really funny play. So colourful as well with the bright red, blue, and yellow uniforms of the TWA, Lufthansa, and Alitalia air hostesses. (Gretchen from Lufthansa quite frightened me!). 

On the work front I'm over the 200 hour mark with my large painting of Venice. I think I might call it 'The Three Gondoliers'. Set against the facade of the Basilica San Marco it's quite a complicated painting - especially as there are eight mosaic paintings to reproduce.

On Monday afternoon I was asked to make a 45 minute Power Point presentation at the Greys Village Hall to about 50 Volunteers who work at The National Trust's Greys Court in Henley. I called it "Sultans, Sweeps, Soldiers and SwanUppers" where I related a few of the more interesting encounters during my painting sessions with such diverse people as Mother Teresa and Spike Milligan. And as happens from time to time, although the audience seemed happy, I became a bit frustrated with the equipment. Only having two hands it would have been impossible to turn the pages of the presentation, operate the computer, and hold the mike. So my young friend ordered a tie-mike on Thursday to be delivered by first class post on the following day. It arrived the day after the presentation! And when Tess from Greys Court set everything up the image on the screen became distorted by squeezing it to half the width. But eventually it worked by using my own laptop. The video clip wouldn't play and the sounds I'd inserted within the presentation were a bit faint. We got over my lack of a third hand by Tess operating the laptop and advancing the almost 100 images. 

Last Friday evening Paul and Debbie came over to my young friend's house to see her garden. (Debbie hosts the BBC gardening programme with Colin each Sunday and she'd appeared there a couple of months ago). Of course it rained all day! But they had a short tour of the garden anyway. It's looking really good right now. Here's the 'jungle' part. 

At last the airconditioning in my car has been mended. It took three sessions at the garage, but they finally found the cause of the problem. Apart from a tiny relay switch (which had to be sent from Japan) a couple of leads to the compressor had become loose. Not that I know what a compressor or relay switch does! 

This is a silhouette made by Charles Burns. Last night, together with Paul and Debbie, I went to a preview of his film 'Silhouette Secrets' at Mays Barn in Reading. A very talented man, Charles is the top silhouettist in England. The film lasted about an hour and ranged from a New Year's Eve party to a history of the art. I was amazed how quickly he cuts his silhouettes. Part of the film showed him visiting Texas to challenge America's most famous and record breaking silhouettist. She holds the record of cutting 130 portrait silhouettes in one hour! The event was filmed and although the actual result wasn't announced it appeared to me that they both bettered her record. The film also spotlighted several of the most famous silhouettists from the past centuries. For example this is a silhouette by William Hubbard (1800 - 1862)

And this one by Elizabeth Baverstock (1923 - 2002)

It was such a fascinating evening and I enjoyed meeting the director of the film and a Bavarian sculptor. At the end of the film the audience was asked to give their reactions and suggestions. There were many and we were all asked to fill in a questionnaire regarding the editing, production, music, direction etc. To see Charles work is amazing. His fingers move at such a speed with his scissors it's impossible to follow. I wish I could make a portrait in 30 seconds or so. But I did make a painted silhouette a few years ago. It's of William Stone - my old 108 year old friend. 

Last Sunday morning heralded the Henley Bowling Club's annual 'Yardstick' competition. When my turn in the draw took place I noticed that most of the eyes present gave me pitying glances. I soon found out why. I had been drawn against the Club's top player Barrie Davies. Sure enough he beat me - by 21 to 12 which, in fact, is not too bad considering my inexperience.  And there's always another year. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

Musical Evenings

The sun shone and the weather was warm, and Henley's Music Festival went with a swing. Together with my young friend, my cousin Paul, and his friend 'M' - ( no, not the 'M' from the James Bond films) we spent Friday evening by the banks of the river listening to George Gerswin melodies and soaking up the sights. Some were bizarre

But others were nicely artistic. I particularly liked these lovely little bronze sea horses and small birds.

We were serenaded from the river by this boatload of thespians 

I've never seen so many boats on the river before - you could almost walk across them from bank to bank.

'M' is not really this tiny - the deck chair is very big.

We wandered around, had a meal at the Crooked Billet and savoured the sights. 

And then the evening entertainment started with a watery exhibitionist spouting from various parts of his body in time with the music, followed by a troupe of dancers.

And ended with a musical firework display from across the river. 

Now spending the weekend in Suffolk with my young friend and her parents to celebrate her birthday. On Saturday we visited Anglesey Abbey. This is a place that changes with the seasons -especially the 'winter walk'. 

There's a little corner of the garden buzzing with bees enjoying the lavender bushes and sharing them with the butterflies

We had a tour of the abbey, making sure we donned the bright blue overshoes before venturing inside.

This is the dining room

The abbey is full of good paintings - some of them old masters. This picture is made up of thousands of tiny pieces of mosaic.

Yesterday we took a trip to Bressingham Steam Museum and went on a couple of steam train rides. 

My young friend and her mother had a ride on the carousel. 

And later we had a tour of the train sheds 

We went on board one of the postal carriages. Very interesting to see how the post office transport arrangements were organised in times gone by - when things were much more efficient.

Yesterday evening we all had dinner at the Wheel House restaurant at Woolverstone to celebrate my young friend's birthday. This is the view - pity it was cloudy or we would have had prime position to see the sunset. 

Today we watched the big container ships arriving and leaving Felixtowe docks. Apparently the largest container ship in the world docked there today - although we didn't catch a glimpse of it. This one - the newest of the Maersk Line - was pretty big. 

In the afternoon we took a trip on a ferry across to Harwich and back, passing close by a number of ships loading and unloading their cargoes. 

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Heat and Hampton Court

We went to the Hampton Court Flower Show yesterday. It was a scorching hot day - 28 degrees. And that was the day my airconditioner in the car decided to pack up! So we sweltered. However the show was good. My young friend wanted to buy some cannas. She bought three, and today will plant them in her 'jungle' part of the garden. This is a view of cannas in the flower garden marquee. 

Wandering through the special garden section we came across this enormous revolver. 

And here's a lawn I'd probably have difficulty in trying to mow it. 

The mad hatters tea party - topiary version.

Here's the custodian of the canon. He told me if it was in working order someone would have to sleep with it overnight.

This was an interesting sight. The flowers are growing in a mirrored box embedded in a leafy surround.

This is the Macmillan Legacy Garden and is a contemporary interpretation of an edge of woodland space.

The large pod-like structure offers a relaxing space to sit and to look over the garden and contemplate life's journey. It was created to encourage people to consider leaving a legacy or gift in their will to support the work of Macmillan Cancer Support.
This year celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Hampton Court Flower Show. This massive verigarden celebration cake dominated the entrance.

It is made up of 3,500 plants - mostly begonias and other annual foliage plants. 
I love leaves, especially acers and maples, so we'll make our way home in the stifling heat with memories of these cool and lovely leaves.

It's Henley Regatta time again. Can it really be a year already? Friday was my day to entertain at Phyllis Court Club. I always prefer to be this side of the river. It is less crowded than Stewards and so elegant. The ladies in their summer dresses and the men in blazers and ties - some managing to squeeze into their Blazers (caps) from their old schools. Cousin Paul came over at ten o'clock to drive us there. We were meeting Jane and Brian, second cousin (twice removed) Jane, and Sir John, accompanied by yet another Jane. A jug of Pimms to start the day as we were serenaded by the strolling jazz band.

But it's a regatta, and as I'd arranged for eight deck chairs right by the river we sat there for a while. Here are three Jane's and a (Sir) John.

We watched some of the more interesting boats go by. (Yes, I know it's a rowing event )

Lunch in the dining room is always a treat. I managed to arrange for our table to be right next to the window. 

And so ends another regatta. 

I haven't been idle either during the past couple of weeks and am about 200 hours in to a large painting of a couple of gondoliers in Venice set against a background of the Basilica in St. Marks Square. This was the progress at the beginning of last week.

A way to go - especially the intricacies of the eight mosaic arcs on the Basilica.

Every six months I go to the Spire Dunedin Hospital in Reading for a CT scan and blood test. Then a few days later to the Oncologist for the results. I always suffer a few days of apprehension before this worried that the cancer has returned to my lungs. So last Monday my young friend and I went to see him. He greeted us with a great big smile (not always indicative of the outcome, as about 3 years ago when tumours appeared in my lung necessitating a PET Scan he still greeted us with a smile). Anyway the result this time was very good. No trace of cancer reappearing and one of the blood tests which could herald a return of a cancerous growth showed negative. We left his surgery with a spring in our steps and joy in our hearts. 

This shows a corner of my garden balcony with a life-size realistic rendering of the little miniature schnauzer I had when living in Singapore. 

His name was Mr Chips. So every time I left for the office in the morning I said "Goodbye Mr Chips" - one of my very favourite films.