Friday, 22 October 2010

Saving Lambert Barnard

Tudor Paintings in Chichester Cathedral

Ever since I was a tiny child I have loved Chichester Cathedral. Not only is it a beacon for home but it is a beautiful building containing a Chagall window an uncovered Roman mosaic floor and a myriad of other delights. The Cathedral has long been an advocate for the arts and alongside medieval stone carvings there are many contemporary pieces, mostly commissioned by Dean Walter Hussey who was a great patron to musicians and artists. The Arundel Tomb inspired Philip Larkin to write the famous poem of the same name and the composer Leonard Bernstein (who wrote West Side Story) composed the Chichester Psalms. It is a cliche to use the term 'treasure trove' but the Cathedral really is just that, especially to a child on the lookout for the carved mice on the wooden furniture or the monkey in the Tudor painting.

Lambert Barnard (what a name) was an English Renaissance painter during the early 16th century and was Court Painter to Bishop Sherburne for twenty years. During this time, Barnard painted a series of works on wooden panels which are displayed in Chichester Cathedral and which are currently in desperate need of repair and conservation work. Last night's Culture Show on BBC2 features the paintings and has some lovely shots of the Cathedral, you can watch it here. There is much more information about the campaign to save the paintings and about their relevance to English history, on this website here. The image below of Henry VIII is believed to be the only secular image of the King remaining in the Country thereby giving an indication of the way that he was seen by ordinary people.

I was so pleased to see these paintings being shown on the Culture Show as they are not in a gallery so do not always get the notice that they deserve. They hang on cold grey walls during christenings, marriages, funerals and watch over the general bustle of Cathedral life. The painting pictured at the top hangs in the South Transept which is where Coffee is served after a service. I like to look at it and think of all the eyes before mine which have done the same. The paintings are a constant presence, silently soaking in history as transient human activity takes place below. If only they could tell us all that they have seen.

Monday, 18 October 2010

A new blogging adventure!

To my dear Bloomsbury Bell readers, some of you may already know that I have landed a new blogging gig for The Lady magazine's website. I am hoping that it will give me a more structured approach to my writing as I now have a copy deadline once a fortnight! Essentially, it will be more about my move to Oxford and the challenge and adventure that living here is turning out to be after being in London for eight years. You can read it here and all feedback is welcome so let me know what you think!

But, Bloomsbury Bell will very much remain alive and will retain its focus on books and general literary bits and bobs. The last few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind - I went home to Chichester at the weekend for my mother's mouthwatering roast dinner (and to see friends and family of course!) which was lovely. It's funny that even though I haven't lived there for a decade I still feel a sense of homecoming when we arrive in the city. I know every tree, every road, every building and the familiarity is so strong that it induces a sense of ownership. I see it as mine somehow and I feel comforted every time I return. It's a similar feeling to revisiting a book that had a massive impact upon you when you read it for the first time. In my head I connect the feeling with reading Howards End. Perhaps because the feeling that Mrs Wilcox has for the house is exactly my feeling towards Chichester. Are there any places or books that inspire these feelings within you?

As the nights are drawing in I have been stockpiling books and I bought a new hotwater bottle as I am planning to stay in and spend the winter reading. I have fallen behind my reading target for this year as moving and all sorts of things have got in the way. But, wintry evenings are the perfect motivation for cosying up and hiding away from the world with a good book.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Thou hast thy music too

The Thames at Iffley Lock

Yesterday I walked along the Thames towards Iffley Lock. The golden autumn light lit the trees and church tower and rowers gently slid past as I trundled along. I felt a world away from my life of a few months ago and then I suddenly realised that I live as close to the Thames now as I did in London. So, I haven't moved away I have merely moved upriver!

Autumn always feels like a good time of year for being busy. Winter is still curled up, waiting to unfurl and swathe its darkness over the land. So, there is time to quickly busy ourselves and get things done before the long months of waiting for spring. As I write this, I can see a squirrel dashing about in our garden, no doubt planning where to hide his food before hibernation starts. In the last of the sun people come out and bask as they stroll along - the river yesterday was a hive of activity as families were making the most of the weakening rays. I stopped for a drink in the Isis Farmhouse and sat in their orchard watching the people around me. Families chattered, students were alight with finding out all the summer activities of their peers and apples plopped from the over-laden boughs. Autumn is full of smells and sounds - it has its music too.

The day brought the following poem by Keats into my mind. I love autumn and I also love Keats so the two combined is a perfect marriage.

To Autumn

John Keats (1820)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

On A Slope of Orchard

Another holiday snap - food stalls in Bologna

The food shops in Bologna are incredible. We gorged ourselves on bread, olives, pecorino cheese and the sausage Mortadella which is a speciality of the area. We were spoilt for choice as we went from one deli to the next, our eyes increasing to three times the size of our stomachs, and we bought bag fulls of food to eat on the train to the coast. I have never had such a feast on public transport before - as we looked out of the train windows we saw endless olive groves and vineyards speeding by so even though we were not quite on the slope of an orchard we had a picnic that I am sure Francis would have been proud of!

On A Slope Of Orchard

There on a slope of orchard, Francis laid
A damask napkin wrought with horse and hound,
brought out a dusky loaf that smelt of home,
And cut down, a pasty costly made,
Where quail and pigeon, lark and leveret, lay
Like fossils of the rock, with golden yolks
Imbedded and in jellied.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Saturday, 9 October 2010

The Italian Riviera


To say that I have come crashing back to earth with a bump is an understatement. Mr Bell and I spent just under a week in Italy. First stop was Bologna where we indulged in pistachio ice cream from what is apparently Umberto Eco's favourite ice cream shop. And it was heavenly.
We then caught a train, armed with enough food to feed the Roman Army, for a 4 hour journey to the Cinque Terre or five towns. We spent days walking the coastal path and having our breath taken away by the views.

We swam in the sea, found ancient churches up in the hills and spent our evenings watching the incredible sunsets.

We stayed in Riomaggiore and as you can see in the photo, bunting has been strung between buildings in the harbour. I am a huge fan of bunting so was thrilled to turn a corner and see it festooned over the boats.

We stumbled upon an old monastery above Monterosso that has a statue of St Francis at the entrance, to protect the bay. The evening light was incredible, as you can see from the photo, and we wandered around the cemetery accompanied by the sound of the waves far below us. An idyllic resting place.
We met this cat on a path up in the hills, in the middle of nowhere. I was very tempted to put him in my rucksack and bring him home. But, he scurried off into some nearby olive groves. After all, who would want to leave such a haven?

We spent hours watching the light play on the sea.
The view of Vernazza from the coastal path.
Bologna was lit by golden evening light which I always think of when I think of Italy.

On our last day in Italy I made Mr Bell accompany me on a 3 hour train journey to Florence as I just had to pop into my favourite paper shop for bookbinding supplies. I spent a vast sum of money on many sheets of hand marbled paper which I had to transport back on a rather packed Ryan Air flight. I managed to get them home without any creases and they are now waiting for me to turn them into notebooks.