The Artist's House

Yesterday afternoon my young friend, her mother, and I visited Thomas Gainsborough's house in Sudbury, Suffolk. This is a view of the house from the garden.

And from the front.

Thomas Gainsborough was the leading English portrait painter in the mid eighteenth century. His only real rival was Sir Joshua Reynolds. Equally at home with landscape painting, Gainsborough was the undisputed master of combining both landscape and portraits within a single painting. We really enjoyed our time in his house. This is his self-portrait. It was left to the Royal Academy by his daughter but now is on display at his house. It was originally painted for his great friend Abel. 

Here's another of the portraits we saw in his house.

However, later in his life, he wrote "I'm sick of portraits, and wish very much to take my viol-da-gam  and walk off to some sweet village, where I can paint landscapes and enjoy the fag-end of life in quietness and ease".

I often order presents from the catalogue 'The Owl Barn' so was keen to visit its actual sanctuary in Suffolk on Saturday. There were scores of all sorts of owl to be seen but as my photographs didn't come out too well I'll only show this picture of one of the many birds of prey we encountered. 

Further on in the extensive grounds was an open enclosure containing a large number of meerkats frolicking around. I'd really only been aware of their elongated shape when standing on their hind legs so was quite surprised when I saw them scuttling around looking much fatter. 

Just before we left the sanctuary we came across this rather frightening Santa Claus substitute leading a pair of polar bears over the snow. (i think Santa had been eaten by a lion!) Christmas must be approaching I think. 

Talking of Christmas I'm well on the way with present wrapping. This is a corner of my living room today.

We frequently visit Bletchley Park - famous for the code breakers during the Second World War who solved the secret of the German enigma machine. This is a beautiful full sized slate rendering of Alan Turing - the man mainly responsible for the ultimate decryption. 

I mention this because we went to see the film 'The Imitation Game' the other day which tells the story of Alan Turing. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Turing and I thoroughly recommend this film. One of the best I've seen for a very long time. 

I had a CT scan and comprehensive blood test at Dunedin Hospital in Reading about ten days ago - not my favourite activities. They were in preparation for my appointment with Doctor Gildersleve, my oncologist, to be given the results. I'd felt the Sword of Damocles had been hanging over me for a while... 

... so was mightily relieved when he gave me the results. It's been eighteen months since my last cancer operation and now there is no trace of cancer in either my lung, liver, or bowel. And my blood (which it seems can detect cancer in its infancy) showed nothing abnormal. I never really take in what the doctors say on these occasions, but my young friend, who always comes with me, remembers everything. And that evening she took me out for a lovely dinner at a very posh restaurant - my favourite - The French Horn at Sonning-on-Thames.