Saturday, 21 November 2009

The bell chimes again

The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford

Firstly, apologies for my absence. The past two weeks have flown by and I have not had a minute to spare and any seconds that I have found have, of course, been spent reading. Once I was over the flu, work and life took off and I am currently doing two part-time courses at City University which are enjoyable but with a full time job, blog, friends and family something is going to be neglected and sadly, it has been Bloomsbury Bell.

In the midst of the chaos I did manage to go away to Oxfordshire for the weekend for flu recovery and an escape from the madness of my diary at the moment. We visited the new Ashmolean which, was truly stunning and the perfect escape from the driving wind and rain which greeted us on the morning of our trip. The museum does not only provide a refuge from the weather but from the hustle and milieu of the Oxford shopping streets which, on a Saturday, were heaving.

The new galleries are light, spacious and full of the Ashmolean's wonderful collection which spans centuries of archaeology and art. Instead of a warren of gloomy galleries all leading further into the bowels and depths of the building, the new galleries invite panoramic views, space and light so you can stand in a gallery and see into many rooms at the same time as this photo shows.

Walkways pepper the building so you catch glimpses of other visitors in various parts of the space.

I particularly liked the paintings galleries as they have a great collection of medieval art and also a room dedicated to the Pre-Raphaelite movement which included this stunning portrait of Jane Morris, entitled Reverie, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

The muted, autumnal colours and thoughtful pose of Jane Morris make this portrait utterly enchanting. I have always wanted pre-raphaelite hair, but sadly I have poker strait, boring hair which refuses to conform to any sort of style. So, standing in front of this beautiful portrait in the Ashmolean my mind did not soar to higher plains - I was thinking about my hair.

Once I had moved on from my vain navel-gazing I found The Hunt in the Forest by Paolo Uccello which is an extraordinary study in perspective as it completely draws the viewer in to the centre of the action. The colours are still so vibrant considering it was painted in 1470.

During the trip I found a rival for my favourite library - previously written about
here - as we discovered the village of Bampton which has the prettiest little library that I have ever seen.

I can easily imagine spending hours in there with the rain pattering on the window and the cosy cardigan wearing librarian stamping and cataloguing books. The library was closed when we arrived but I had a good look in through the windows and saw comfy reading chairs and a delightful childrens area. Paradise.


  1. ooh, I've not been to Bampton but that library makes it definitely a place that I should visit.

    The streets are heaving today again - I made the mistake of trying to go from the Bodleian to M and S in a half hour lunch break. I won't be doing that again!

    Really looking forward to going to the new Ashmo.

  2. I cannot articulate how much I adore the Bodleian - the new Ashmolean is fantastic do pop in but maybe wait for a bit as it was packed in there when we went.
    Bampton is a delightful place - couldn't find a tea shop though!

  3. I can't wait to visit the revamped Ashmolean, although perhaps I'll take your advice and wait for the initial crowds to disperse! I must say my mind often drifts in a similar way to yours when I'm looking at paintings -- I'm glad I'm not the only one whose thoughts are triggered along the lines of clothes and hair when I look at portraits...

    Glad you enjoyed your trip to Oxfordshire; Bampton's library looks lovely. Shame about the lack of teashop though -- a village always needs one of those, I think! ;)

  4. I would happily trade my modern library for one with so much character. You made me laugh with your story about Reverie and your hair!

  5. It is really hard not to look at a pre-raphaelite image and not envy the glorious hair. Sounds like a great trip and the new Ashmolean looks awesome.

  6. Just visited Oxford (and the Ashmolean) for the first time last week! Loved The Hunt in the Forest.

    My other favourite spot of the day was the Pitt Rivers museum. Instead of everything being displayed on stark white walls, it was all crammed together in a darkish room. And there was even more stuff to be discovered in little drawers (although you never knew which ones were going to open). Made me feel like I was actually snooping around in someone's incredibly well-stocked attic.

  7. Sophie - a village does always need a teashop!

    Thomas - was a very fun trip, less field and more me tottering about in really inappropriate shoes in the country trying not to look stupid but not managing.

    Darlene - it is the perfect library but some modern ones are ok as at least the books don't smell musty.

    Book Pusher - Yes - the Pre-Raphaelites were good on hair!

    Writerspet - Glad you enjoyed your first visit. I am ashamed to say I still haven't made it to the Pitt Rivers museum which I absolutely must rectify. I like the sound of snooping in attics!

  8. I'd say I've missed you, but that would be a lie, as I see you every day!

    Lovely post. I can't wait to go to Oxford! And to come and stay with you when you're in your cottage in Bampton and living the middle aged life of our collective DREAMS.

  9. That is my idea of the perfect library!