The Massacre of the Innocents

My young friend and I went to a very interesting lecture and dinner at Phyllis Court Club last Tuesday evening. Siobhan Clarke and Jacquie Clemson were talking about paintings in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, and art in the Tudor period. Most fascinating was the description of Pieter Bruegel’s ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ where we saw x-ray pictures showing how all the dead or captured children had been over painted to resemble animals or other objects.

Amongst several other portraits from the period we were also shown Van Dyck’s triple portrait of King Charles Ist. Painted in three aspects, it was intended to be used as the basis for a sculptured head.
What a good evening that was as both lecturers knew their subjects well. The meal was very nice too.

The weekend dawned bright and gloriously sunny and as I had planned to visit my old friend Vic Granger and his wife Christine in Norfolk for a couple of days, I decided to spend a few hours at Duxford on Friday as it was on the way. Duxford, in Cambridgeshire, is a branch of The Imperial War Museum and during its 40 years as an operational RAF station was home to thousands of young servicemen and women. There’s so much to see there with its world-renowned collection of aircraft and vehicles, and as they were preparing for the big air show on Sunday I saw a lot of the practice flights and aeronautics. The Spitfire is my favourite plane, and Duxford owns several.(I’m hoping to make a three-foot wooden model of a Spitfire this winter).

One of the large hangars contains the iconic Concorde 101, another favourite of mine. Sadly I never flew with it but on this occasion went on board.
Wandering around the many hangars I took photographs of several of the marvellous aircraft and the wartime control room. Here’s just a few:

During the war my mother used to take us to her bedroom window from time to time where we saw a VI rocket, or Doodlebug as we called them, on its way to bomb London. They have a couple at Duxford. Here’s one on its launch pad.

One of the largest and most famous aircraft to operate from Duxford is the Boeing B17 Flying Fortress, Sally B, star of the film Memphis Belle.
As you can see this stunning aircraft has a rather saucy (well I expect it was when it was painted) picture of a naked lady adorning the fuselage.

Later this year I’m intending to paint my own version of Sally B but depicting the charms of my very favourite model, Joceline.

Soon after I arrived at Vic and Christine’s home I pottered down the lane to see old Joe. Joe owns a very rustic farm full of turkeys, ducks, chickens and nine dogs. He also has a number of large Shire horses. When he called them by name they all came ambling towards the barn.
Joe ploughs his fields sitting behind four of these magnificent beasts and often gives demonstrations. However six months ago he became a victim of his own machinery. He offered a young lad the chance to sit with him while he worked a field with the horses. It seems that when they stopped to unhitch the team one of them suddenly pulled back, catapulting Joe off his seat. He tried to grab the reigns, but the young lad (no fault of his) had left them dangling over the other side, and not where Joe always leaves them when they unhitch. Consequently Joe was dragged under this evil looking piece of equipment as the horses moved forward.

His leg snapped at the thigh and his arm was almost torn off. But after many weeks in hospital and a number of skin grafts Joe recovered. Here he is now.

Unfortunately it was the left arm which was mutilated – the arm that Joe paints with. Joe is an artist too. He paints what he knows best – horses. This is a print from one of his paintings. The reflection from a studio light doesn’t help, but you can see what a good artist he is. I’m amazed at his method. He paints in oils and when he starts a picture has no real idea of what the end result will be. He just invents the layout as he goes along.

On Saturday Vic, Christine and I visited Blickling Hall.
In the fifteenth century Blickling Hall was in the possession of Sir John Fastoff of Caister who made his fortune in The Hundred Years War. Later it was bought by the Boleyn family. Born at Blickling Hall, the couple’s most famous child Anne Boleyn  married King Henry the Eighth in 1533. The marriage only lasted three years and she was beheaded in 1536 by a single swift stroke administered by an expert swordsman brought over from Calais rather than by the usual blunter method.

In Blickling there is a long gallery where, I was told, the ladies would promenade most days for hours on end. This was their exercise it seems. If it was sunny they wouldn’t venture out of doors for fear of getting a tan (which would class them as peasants or outdoor workers) and if it was raining the rain would ruin their expensive clothing. So they endlessly promenaded, looking up at the Jacobean ceiling for inspiration as they deciphered the many and various carvings above their heads.

On Sunday we went to Holkham Beach. Voted the Best British Beach this year, it was also memorably the setting for the ending of the film ‘Shakespeare in Love’.
It is vast and stretches for miles. We walked for nearly an hour and took Vic’s whippets, Cleo and Tilly, out for a run. Here’s Cleo

What a wonderful beach to go for a horse ride. I drove home later in the afternoon, and as Vic had shown me a better route, I avoided most of the M25 roadworks.