Tennis in Bath


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

When the Fed Cup, the women’s equivalent of the Davis Cup, comes to the UK for the first time in 26 years, and it takes place at the Bath University Sports Training Village, just a (theoretical, but we won’t dwell on that) hour’s drive away from me, well I have to go for at least one day, don’t I? I did so yesterday, 6th February, for the first day.

Having allowed an enormous amount to time to get there, I arrived at my seat on the Centre Court, my re-usable travel cup filled with coffee, just as the first singles players, from Georgia and Serbia, were warming up. There followed in the ‘morning’ session, which finished at 3.30 pm, another singles match and a doubles between the two countries.

Many others seem to have had travel problems. The stands gradually became more occupied, but they were not entirely full at this session.
This young woman lost.
This young woman from Georgia had attitude – but she also lost, …
… to this one from Serbia, in two sets.
For the doubles, the first Georgian singles loser – right – was joined by a much more powerful player, who took a nasty fall in the second game.

Her ankle was strapped up, and the pair went on to win in two sets, taking the overall score to 2-1 in Serbia’s favour.

The ‘afternoon’ session started at 4.30 pm. I took a few photos on my way back to the courts.

This is how it works. No, I haven’t fully understood it either. Suffice it to say that what I was watching was Group 1, Europe/Africa, Zone B, Group B, and the results of this round robin, which will be finally determined on Saturday, (GB play Hungary and Greece meanwhile) will help settle country placings for the 2020 Fed Cup.
A gaggle of ball boys watches events on Number 1 Court. (The ball girls on the whole were more on the ball than the boys.)

Many more camera operators in this session, because it was between Great Britain and Slovenia.

Katie Boulter arrives, followed by coach Anne Keovathong
The coin toss
A familiar face passes in front of me after first set
Many, including myself, responded to the organisers’ request to dress in red. The stands were full for the afternoon session.
I wish I’d taken more close-ups.
A big hug from the GB coach after Katie wins in two sets.
Post-match interview with Clare Balding.
Next up was Johanna Konta for her singles.
My goodness she had us worried in the first set. So many times she looked as if she was going to lose it. My heart was thumping, and I had to make myself take long slow breaths. I didn’t know I cared so much!
Phew! She pulled through, and the second set came more easily to her.
The doubles match was played by young Katie Swan and Harriet Dart. They raced away to 5-0 in the first set, but were held to 6-2.
And in the second set they again raced off, this time to a 4-0 lead.

But the Slovenians again managed to hold them to 6-2. So overall Great Britain won 3-0.

I rushed off, not staying for the media interview. It was 10.10 pm. And I was home in 55 minutes. Some people go for all four days. I don’t think my heart could cope with the stress, especially if Jo Konta were to do that again!

PS, 4 days later. Great Britain went on to come top out of all eight of the countries in this group, and a play-off in April will determine whether they are promoted to the next tier.

Moving freely in Europe and in London


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Less than a month after the last time, I was in London again two days ago. The purpose this time was to join (mainly professional) singers and instrumentalists to sing and play – over and over again – the European Union anthem, the Ode to Joy by Beethoven, outside Parliament, to protest the need for musicians to have freedom of movement within the EU.  On my way to a meet up point in Smith Square, I went past the media village that has been camped there for weeks.  This is only part of it, and it has recently been fenced off to the public, which now means that protesters can not easily be seen behind presenters.  We were going to do our best and loudest.

Difficult to estimate our numbers, but I reckon we were some 200 or so. Here’s a part of us.

In the middle is Simon Wallfisch, singing lustily in his fine baritone, and at the same time playing his cello, its case on his back.
Surrounded by professionals. (Photo Helen, Olive’s sister)
I’m behind the singer, Dame Sarah Connolly, the originator of this protest. (Photo Chris Mercer)
With my singer friend, Olive Simpson, thanks to whom I knew about this event. She has just brought out a book, ‘Molly’s Musings’.  Wit and whimsy. (Photo Helen, Olive’s sister)
Father Christmas has his opinion.

Apparently we were covered in German TV news bulletins, Reuters also took a story, and we could be seen on Sky News.  I watched the BBC 1 o’clock news on catch up when I got home, and certainly we could be seen and heard, very faintly, if you knew to look and listen for us.  (The banner ‘Musicians depend on freedom of movement’ was far too far away to be read though.)

But I didn’t go straight home. There were several hours before my coach back to Somerset was due to leave.  So I walked along the Embankment, and up Savoy Street to Covent Garden, and the London Transport Museum. This is housed in the old Covent Garden flower market. It would be more accurately, but cumbersomely, named the Transport in London Museum, not least because it starts in 1800.

I tried very hard not to take photos, especially as I didn’t have my camera with me, and my tablet, on which I had taken the earlier photos, was in the Museum’s cloakroom. But I didn’t succeed. I had my tiny phone on me and took lots of pictures. Fortunately the quality of the results was such that my selection here was easy to make!

A replica.  The originals will not have stayed this shiny for long, and maybe never were, given the quality of today’s paints!
Wonderful ironwork
Inside this Metropolitan Railway carriage was just like the mainline carriages I remember from childhood. Indeed the whole visit was an exercise in nostalgia.
I remember these ticket machines!
But my memory does not go quite as far back as this bus and tram! The former was used in the First World War for troops.
I do remember the trolley man putting the pole back on the catenary though.

There was a temporary exhibition of works by women poster artists.  Women were welcome to put forward their art from the outset.  I could have spent a very long time indeed in this part of the Museum, so was delighted to find that there was one copy left of the accompanying book when I asked at the end. 

Fans of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ will understand that I was delighted to find there had been an artist called Dora Batty.
People get nostalgic about the Routemaster (left) , but I get nostalgic about the model of London double-decker red bus before that, the Regent III (centre). We used to catch the 120 as the first stage of a trip to my grandmother’s in Staines.

A final look at the lovely ironwork, before meeting Mary in the café for a cuppa, family catch-up, and lots and lots of political talk, (as by now the  Commons Brexit Withdrawal Vote had been withdrawn.)

I would hope to return to this museum in the future. I could easily have spent the double the time I did there.

A London miscellany


, , , , , , , , ,

After visiting the Fashioned from Nature exhibition, I made my way to Westminster and walked up Whitehall, stopping at the Cenotaph which had been the scene just four days previously of the remembrance service, 100 years to the day after the ending of the First World War.

My father served in the RAF during WW2

I was particularly moved by the text of this African wreath: 

“Be quiet and calm, my countrymen, for what is taking place is exactly what you came to do. You are going to die….. but that is what you came to do…. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers.  Swazis, Pondos, Basutos, we die like brothers. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war cries, brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais in the kraal, our voices are left with or bodies.” Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha – Address to the doomed men of the SANLO, aboard the SS Mendi, sunk on its way to France 21 February 2017.  

In fact she sunk in thick fog, struck by a Royal Mail ship.

Continuing up Whitehall, I was pleased to see that this gathering of Brexit supporters standing opposite the Cabinet Office, where (yet another) crucial Cabinet meeting was about to takes place, was nothing like as numerous as 700,000.

I was aiming for Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery 

where I met Mary for lunch.  Afterwards we went to the Lorenzo Lotto (c1480 – 1556) – no, I hadn’t heard of him – portraits exhibition there.  

I had been pleased that the Fashioned from Nature exhibition had not restricted photography, (it was my failure to ensure there was a memory card in my camera that had) but was reprimanded after I had taken a few at this one, so I shall content myself with sharing just these pictures I took during an introductory video.

This really gave me a desire to visit the north Italian countryside…

In the evening I went to a very interesting talk at the offices of The Guardian, where one of the newspaper’s editors interviewed William Davies, Reader in Political Economy at Goldsmith’s College, University of London. He had just published a book, Nervous States – how feeling took over the world

William Davies is on the right

His explanations around the rise of populism and fake news in politics were extremely interesting. 

The next two days were spent at the O2 watching the tennis, so I was not looking for too much activity in the hours remaining on Saturday.  Mary and I went for a gentle walk in Regent’s Park.

Then we joined four of her tennis club friends for a coffee in the club’s café in the Park.

My London visit was completed by watching, with Mary, the first of the ATP tennis semi-finals on television.  Then it was time for me to make my way to Hammersmith for my long-distance bus home.  Somehow I managed to stay awake all the way, catching up on downloaded radio programmes through headphones. That had been quite some four days!

‘Fashioned from Nature’

This is the name of an exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, on until 27th January. I made my way direct to it when I arrived in London last Wednesday, passing some excited schoolchildren on the way. 

I went into the V and A by the new Sackler entrance

and have been rather alarmed, just today, to read in today’s paper that the philanthropic family is being heavily criticised for pushing opiates – legally – and possibly prosecuted in the States for fraud and racketeering.

I had a few minutes before my timed ticket was due, so I wandered a little aimlessly in the fashion gallery nearby. 

This is the aim of the exhibition I was headed for. 

I took just a couple of pictures in the exhibition 

and then my camera told me that storage space had run out – there was no memory card in it!  I had to force myself set aside that disappointment, and the knowledge that my forthcoming trip to the ATP tennis finals would be all the less pleasurable were I not able to take photos there, and concentrate on the exhibition. (I managed of course to buy a memory card within ten minutes of leaving it.)

What a contrast between the beautiful garments and the horrible means of obtaining them.  Animals slaughtered by the million, natives of the originating countries exploited and mistreated, and the health and wellbeing of workers in the UK likewise damaged and threatened.  Not to mention the increasing harm to the environment by processing.  

The exhibition resonated with a book I am, quite coincidentally, reading currently, Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather, by Tessa Boase, purportedly an account of the founding of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds by late 19th century women appalled at the trade in bird feathers, whole birds, and other animals, for hats and other clothing.  But it is of much wider interest than that, a social history of the position of women of all classes at the time, and the Women’s Vote campaign figures large as well.  It’s only in recent decades* that wearing animal fur has become unfashionable, and environmental harm persists to this day, on an even larger scale, through mass-produced, ‘fast fashion’ in today’s throw-away society.  Here’s an extract from a letter to The Times in 1897 from the illustrator Eleanor Vere Boyle, who had just given up the fight. ‘I have been forced to the conclusion that, where fashion in concerned, the world of women are utterly and entirely callous and blind to every consideration excepting their own selfish vanity.’ 1897 was particularly bad because of the fashionable balls held to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.

The same did not happen in celebration of the present Queen’s 60th anniversary on the throne, but environmental damage is now much greater because of the chemicals used to treat clothes, synthetic microfibres escaping into the seas, and the sheer volume of waste. 

In the absence of many photos from me, here is a link to the V and A’s rather bland – they don’t want to deter people from visiting obviously – description of the exhibition. 

Apparently some top designers are using less damaging methods of producing clothes, but I was left with two thoughts – they aren’t telling people just to buy fewer clothes, which would solve many of the problems, and the sorts of shops I can afford to buy from are certainly not stocking such clothing. I really shall try to clothes shop even less from now on, and if I can limit even more the synthetics…  

*I’m not going to spell it out here, but this is the  horrendous way that astrakhan fur is – still – produced.

Tennis, ATP finals


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Less than four weeks from my previous visit, I was up in London again, this time the principal object of my visit being to attend two days of the ATP (that is, mens’) world tennis finals.  I had been for one day (which means two session) in 2017, but failed to see Roger Federer. So this time I booked for the last two consecutive days of the round robin stage, Thursday and Friday.  All that RF had previously to do was to qualify in the top eight ranked in the world, which of course he did easily.  And keep fit, which he also did.

That said, he had had played abysmally on the Sunday in his first round robin match, and lost to the bottom seed of the eight, Kei Nishikori.  I started to worry about my investment in the expensive tickets.  However, he did better and won his match on Tuesday against Dominic Thiem on Tuesday, leaving himself with a chance of reaching the semi-finals. Even if he won his round robin match against Anderson (who had stormed through his first two matches) on Thursday, it could still depend on how the remaining match, Nishikori/Thiem, worked out.


Approaching the O2 in Greenwich, London

Before I took my seat in the front row of level 4 on Thursday, I was offered an upgrade to level 1. (Levels 2 and 3 are hospitality boxes, from which, annoyingly, more party noise than was acceptable sometimes emerged.  The umpire tried his best to reduce it, but of course the culprits were not listening.) I declined the upgrade for the first match, a doubles involving Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, but was fortunate still to be able to change before the singles match of that first session, as I preferred not to have my nose assailed by the fatty fast-food smell wafting in from the concourse surrounding this level.


From the front row of Level 4, waiting for it all to start


Murray and Soares


Murray has just served

The singles match was between Nishikori and Thiem.  The fact that the latter won meant that Federer only had to win one set in his against Anderson later in the day to qualify for the semi-finals.  Or so I was informed by a neighbour who understood the round robin scoring system much better than I did.


Nishikori  arrives, with young mascot


View from my Level 1 seat.  The ring of lights goes off during play!


Up there, in the front row, was where I had been for the first match






Ooh look, directly opposite, there’s Sue Barker, presenting for the BBC

The evening session started with a match involving two Frenchmen, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, seeded eighth of eight pairs, but who made it through eventually to the finals. Then came the Federer/Anderson match, the one I had paid all that money for eight matches sessions to be sure of seeing.  I took an awful lot of photos of Federer.  Those here is just a small selection from the match…


Anderson arrives


Federer arrives


The coin toss


Federer is 6ft 1in (1.85m) Anderson 6ft 8in (2.03m)

P1010187001P1010191001P1010201001P1010211001You could almost hear the sigh of relief round the vast arena as Federer won his first set against Anderson, fairly convincingly.  P1010221001P1010226001P1010257001P1010261001P1010266001P1010283001


Acknowledging the crowd after winning in two sets

Not only was Federer through to the semi-finals, along with Anderson, the scoring system meant that he would be the top-ranked of the two.

Before moving on a brief account of the two Friday sessions, this is what you see, accompanied by a great deal of noise from the amplification system, at various points in the proceedings.


Entertainment between the games





Measuring crowd noise and egging it on


Also ‘set point’, ‘match point’,  and, in doubles matches, ‘deciding point’ at deuce, all accompanied by a thunder clap.

On Friday I was again able to have an upgrade for the first session, but not for the second.


The doubles match


Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev (German, of Russian parents) arrives


Zverev is 6ft 6in (1,98m), John Isner 6ft 10in (2,08m)



I was back up in Level 4 for the evening session.  The singles match was between Marin Cilic and Novak Djokovic

P1010371001P1010376001Being on the spot, one is more aware of what else is going on around the court, and I was just full of admiration for the ball kids. (Sorry, that is what they are called these days.)


Spotlights on them as they arrive

P1010308001I was amused to see this ‘ball kid cam‘ recording on Facebook later.

So I have now achieved my ambition of seeing the GOAT, Roger Federer, in the flesh.  I shan’t book for these world finals again, though we are privileged to have them in London for at least two more years, on top of the ten we have had them already.  But I shall buy myself an annual subscription to Tennis TV to be able to watch them all and many other matches in the comfort of my armchair.  Which is how my host, Mary, and I watched the Federer/Zverev semi-final on the BBC the next day, sadly seeing the 37-year-old Roger go out to the 21-year-old, a win well merited, though it was a narrow thing. P1010397001 Djokovic not surprisingly beat Anderson 6-2,6-2 later in the day, while I was travelling home, and I am expecting, but not wanting, him to beat Zverev later on today in the final.

PS Zverev won, 6-4 6-3!

Marseille 2


, , , , , , , ,

Another lovely sunny day.  We decided to make for the basilica, Notre Dame de la Garde, on foot from our lodgings. The guide book said 45 minutes on foot for the courageous from the Vieux Port, but we were starting from nearer.  Firstly past the Prefecture, then the Palais de Justice, P1000915001and along the noisy Cours Pierre Puget.  On the map it looked as if this road had greenery, but that just proved to be an avenue of trees sheltering the traffic. From the end of it there was quiet – but upward and upward.  At one, surprisingly speedily reached point, it looked as if we were almost there, P1000917001but it proved that there were many more steps to go.  P1000919001We walked anti-clockwise round the basilica. P1000921001P1000922001




Close-up of the Vieux Port


There was a corner turret with several boards in ceramic like this with explanations, but I spent no time there.  Dozens of people leaning back taking selfies obscured them for the most part, and this was the best I could do.  The Chateau d’If can be made out.

I had mixed feelings about not being able to go up the tower, but Harvey clearly did not, as he was feeling poorly again.  He had done very well to make it all that way. We went down again by a different route P1000935001 to the centre, and sat for a short while in the Jardin Pierre Puget.  We had hoped to find somewhere really to stretch out and relax, but the park proved to be rocky and steep.  Continuing on to the Vieux Port, we eventually selected from among the many restaurants one which pleased, and had a main meal.


Salade nordiste for Teresa, salade sudiste for me and a burger for Harvey

After lunch, after another wander looking in vain for somewhere for Harvey to relax, he went back to the mas for a rest. Teresa and I decided to walk around the Vieux Port, which is now only for leisure craft, in order to visit part of the present-day commercial port. P1000941001


We had seen this glide in during our lunch.  It had no commercial name attached, so we speculated as to which billionaire it might belong.


The name Sherakhan enabled us to check her out later.  For a little less than half a million US dollars – plus expenses, which I take to be fuel and provisions – you can charter her and her 19-strong crew, and her jet skis, and her jacuzzi, etc, etc, for a week, sleeping up to 26 people in 13 cabins. 


Past the cathedral again.  A visit inside is on the list for another time…

We saw just the part of the harbour serving the ferries for the Mediterranean, though there was a lot more of it further on.

It was Teresa who spotted this sculpture first – I was looking through and past it!  P1000948001P1000949001As we stopped to examine the sculpture, a local couple – well, the man – entered into conversation with us.  He had lived in Sicily – I decided not to reveal that I had been there quite recently or we would never have got away –  then lived in North Africa for quite a while, and had retired to where he was born. Well, I think that was it.  The wife didn’t say a word, but the man sadly demonstrated some racist views on the large immigrant population of the city. However, he did recommend that we stop at the ‘wonderful’ Les Terrasses and go up two floors to take in the view.  Wondering what was so wonderful about Les Terrasses, I asked what was there, and he just said ‘De tout !‘ ‘Everything’ turned out to be a very large shopping centre with all the usual suspects, which didn’t interest us at all.  But without his recommendation we would not have gone up to the viewing platform. P1000953001P1000955001P1000958001A coffee on the ground floor, and a wander back through commercial roads, brought us back to the Vieux Port, to the health food store, and in due course to our lodgings. Teresa’s phone told us we had done more than 19,000 steps in the day, if I remember correctly.

So much had we enjoyed our soup the previous evening that we returned to the Japanese restaurant, to sin again (as the French say – récivider).  It was just as good the second time.


The next morning our hosts kindly served us a breakfast an hour earlier than they normally start, and it was at this stage that we learned the story of the building.  I did indeed take the metro back to the main line station, while the youngsters walked.  Both main line trains were on time, and, with a few hours to kill in London before my coach would leave for Somerset, I had the pleasure of meeting up for tea and a pastry with an old (in the sense that we sang together in the 1970s) friend.

Oh dear, Marseille is added to the growing list of places to which I want to return to explore further!

Marseille 1


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

After the excitement of the London March for a People’s Vote the day before, on Sunday 21st October I met up with my cousin Teresa, and her teenage son Harvey, at St Pancras station to take Eurostar to Paris, and from there to travel onwards by train to Marseille, for just three nights. With the exception of problems at the Gare du Nord, (trying to buy metro tickets for the Gare de Lyon from a machine that was only taking coins, and then forcing those tickets through the unco-operative ticket barriers), the journey went entirely to plan, and we emerged on the classic (I’d say ‘iconic’ but the word is so over-used) very long flight of steps at Marseille St-Charles station late afternoon. P1000769001We decided to walk the kilometre plus to our lodgings, which, in addition to the steps, proved to include lots of ups and downs. With more luggage than the other two, I resolved there and then that I would return by the metro on Wednesday morning!

We knew in advance that our chambre d’hôtes, Un Mas en Ville,  was not in the chic-est part of the city, but it was very near the heart of it.  It was an amazing old building, entirely renovated about ten years ago in the style of a Provencal mas, or farm.  Having settled in our rooms, single ones aligned with each other on the first to third floors, P1000781001each with its own teensy private bathroom on the landing, P1000776001we went out to find a meal, and chose the first open restaurant we could find having headed towards the centre of the city. This turned out to be a popular Chinese one, where we enjoyed a good meal. Or rather Teresa and I did, as Harvey was feeling under the weather, and not up to eating much, a state in which he sadly remained, though improving, for the rest of our short stay.

Breakfast the next day was taken in a room semi-open to the small but perfectly formed swimming pool, an addition to the original building.  P1000774001P1000772001P1000773001What fun the designers must have had in creating this, and converting the original building! All the transformational work had been done by local stone masons, though the stone they used came from Normandy, as we learnt in due course. (As the water in the pool was unheated, there was absolutely no question of my trying it, neither did the others.)

We set off on foot for the Vieux Port, via the tourist information office, and over a coffee made plans for the day.


The church of Notre Dame du Mont, which gives its name to the quartier where we lodged


The Prefecture

P1000788001P1000795001It being Monday, we could not, as we had hoped, go by boat to the Château d’If, so we booked instead to do the three-hour trip with the same company along the coastline of the Calanques national park. Before this we had time to follow one of the tourist office’s suggested walks.


Hotel de Ville/City Hall


Taken from the Fort Saint-Jean


This lace-clad building was so new that it appeared on neither of the maps we were using.


From it, the Cathedral, and two very modern buildings, each of which was completed within the last few months.  (They featured in this article in the French national newspaper, Le Figaro, two days after our return!)  The right-hand one changes colour depending on whether it is in sunlight or not.


Having crossed the footbridge to the top of the building, we found a café on the next floor down, but didn’t stop.


We continued on down via slopes and steps.  The building appeared to house and be about to house offices and meeting rooms.


With time running out before the boat was due to leave, we didn’t hang around as we returned, past the Cathedral front and the Hotel de Ville to the port, but I did notice this on the side of one of the old buildings near it.  Subject to correction, I think it means that all citizens of a given commune are collectively liable for damage done to people and property of that commune.

The serendipitous discovery of an organic sandwich bar near the port provided our lunch, which we started eating as the boat set off. It was a very enjoyable trip in very pleasant weather.


Ours was the green circuit (no stops).



The lacy building and the Fort Saint-Jean


Close-up of the Château d’If


The basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, which we had first seen from the steps of the station, dominates the city.



The limestone is very fossiliferous, as we had seen on paving stones and other buildings in the old town.


This is a close-up, but…


… this is not, and the size of the people gives an idea of the scale of these cliffs.


There were a few little villages along the coastline.  In WWII, according to the commentary, these hills provided hiding places for the resistance.


I snuck this photo of Teresa


and she got her revenge



For geologists – evidence of karst formation, I believe


Just turn left…



…for turn round point – Port-Miou


The old quarries, which provided stone for most of the monumental buildings in Marseille

In the evening, Harvey, again not feeling like a proper meal, stayed behind at our lodgings, snacking on provisions we had bought at a health food store near the tourist office. Teresa and I this time turned in the opposite direction from that we had chosen the night before to find something to eat.  We ended up in a Japanese restaurant in the Place Notre Dame du Mont, which had particularly advertised its vegan dishes.  Having ordered the soup and a main dish, when the soup arrived we saw that it was a meal in itself, and were able to cancel the rest of the order.  The huge bowl of soup was delicious and filling!




This is how many were with us in London today, marching for a People’s Vote. I met up with two friends from Somerset to take part in only my second demonstration ever, so strongly do I feel that we should be given the chance to express our views again, now that the facts are so much better known. Here is a selection of the photographs I  took, most of them in Park Lane, since it took us about 2 hours 20 minutes to get from Marble Arch to Hyde Park Corner, so many people were taking part. (Some of these pictures are not in quite the right order. Right now I don’t have the facilities of my home computer to correct things on.)P1000636P1000663Police helicopters accompanied the route, but on the ground the police were very discreet.P1000630Jean and Liz,  my Somerset companions. Many more Somersetters were there, but we did not see any of them.P1000657P1000665P1000685I did not take photos of smutty or ad hominem placards – with this very mild exception!P1000659P1000695P1000679P1000699P1000696P1000702P1000731P1000705P1000706After well over two hours we emerged from Park Lane, the starting point,  into Piccadilly. P1000707P1000741P1000713P1000736P1000734P1000738

When we got to Trafalgar Square, via St James’s Street and Pall Mall, after about four hours, we decided to to go into the National Gallery for a cup of tea, because this was the view down Whitehall, a solid, unmoving block of people. The speeches in Parliament Square were meant to have started over an hour previously, so we had missed most of them and had no hope of hearing any remaining.P1000748P1000752View from the National Gallery cafe. While there we looked to see what the BBC was saying about the march, and I was delighted to see that they were featuring the best placard I saw, ‘Eton Mess’. P1000758P1000756


We completed the march afterwards. Most people were walking back up Whitehall, but some were still partying


H M Treasury where I worked aeons ago. I was actually in the Europe section on the day we joined, 1.1.73.


The Houses of Parliament, barely recognisable


Very proud and very happy to have taken part.



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Killerton, Broadclyst, Devon.   With nothing in my diary for the day, and having noted long ago that I wanted to catch an exhibition there before it closed, I took myself on Friday to this National Trust property a few miles north-east of Exeter.  It is one of the county’s largest estates.  The house was originally intended to be temporary, but the grandiose mansion planned was never built. The late 1780s Georgian property was extended twice, early in the nineteenth century and again a hundred years or so later.  I came across this description of the estate at one point.


It was donated to the National Trust in 1944.  P1000236001After the obligatory coffee on arrival, I left the elegant Georgian stable block, which now houses café, shop and plant sales, and took a backward glance at it.

At the end of the drive lay the house itself, presently housing three exhibitions relating to the long campaigns for votes for women. A stark reminder of how the campaign could divide members of the same family, aunt and niece in this case, each living on the estate, greeted visitors. P1000243001The first exhibition was a collaboration between the NT and the National Portrait Gallery, London. P1000245001P1000247001P1000249001


Octavia Hill.  Octavia Hill! Against! Social reformer! She who had so much to do with the founding of the National Trust!


Ellen Terry – pro women’s suffrage

I had not previously realised just how strongly some women felt that they should not get the vote, and I felt uneasy all the time I was in this small exhibition, very conscious how another political debate today, on which I feel so strongly, is dividing households and friends. (My cats are totally apathetic on the matter, so my household is tranquil.)

The other two exhibitions, fashion related to the suffragette/suffragist movement, and more about the two Acland women, left me less emotionally troubled. I could not have been a suffragette, but am equally sure that I would have been out there marching with the non-violent suffragist movement.


The music room



I was very tempted to sing this out loud, but I didn’t quite dare.  I’m pretty sure though that onlookers and volunteers would have been delighted!


A set of playing cards laid out on the console table, with pro and anti themes


A House of Commons with not a woman in sight …


The drawing room


The Pastor’s Fireside, by Henry Singleton, the 19th Baronet Acland reading to his family


The library, somewhat spoiled in my view by all the panels of quotations



The dining room



The movement had a long history

P1000285001None looked like achieving anything, until the World War I when women proved their worth in ‘men’s’ jobs. I actually got a little angry inside as I looked at the changing pictures , some of which are in the slideshow below, showing just what work they had done. P1000296001


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Why did they have to do ‘men’s’ jobs to prove they were sufficiently responsible to vote?


This map showed that New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote (1893), and Saudi Arabia (2015) has been the latest


A delightful respite in one of the bedrooms from all that politics

On emerging from the house, I went looking for a snack in the Dairy Café. P1000313001P1000317001But it was closed, so I went back to the entrance café, not wishing to take a meal in the main restaurant in the house. After having my soup, I went off in search of the old 1950s Post Office, but reading the notice saved me the tramp over there, though the path looked enticing.


I’m glad the fence was strong!


This was Friday

So I went back to the house and started exploring the gardens, which, as this slideshow proves, still had plenty of colour, this early October day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From there I went further into the grounds.  P1000342001I came across a granite cross, which I have since learned was erected in 1873 in memory of the 10th Baronet who did so much to develop the estate, by 40 of his friends. But for me the main interest was that it was swarming with harlequin (i.e.  non-native) ladybirds, scurrying about, never still and occasionally flying off and returning.  P1000347001


Harlequins come in many colours

Were they enjoying the warmth that the granite had absorbed during the morning?  Were they preparing to swarm together to find a place to hibernate?  My researches have not got me very far… But some of them came far with me.  It was a good fifteen minutes and several hundred metres away before the last one emerged from my hair.

I was keen to leave Killerton in time to avoid Friday evening traffic, but still had time for a gentle stroll in a small part of the parkland, where I met scarcely a soul.  P1000370001P1000374001P1000382001P1000386001P1000387001P1000388001P1000389001


A glimpse of the Victorian chapel


Lovely spot for a romantic picnic


Autumn rolls on

This post has been very long, but here is a slideshow for any reader with stamina for 12 more pictures with details.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Forde Abbey


, , , , , , ,

Forde Abbey.  Until a few weeks ago, when friends took me to a most enjoyable summer fair there, I had never heard of this lovely house and gardens complex on the Somerset/Dorset border, I immediately decided to return before too long to see the place in more peaceful circumstances, and it seemed the ideal focus for my friend, Mary’s, recent visit to the west country from London.

The Abbey was founded by Cistercian monks in the 12th century, and, because at the dissolution the Abbot went quietly, many of the original buildings remain (though, curiously, no longer the abbey church, which is the reverse of what usually happens). In 1529, the house and grounds were initially leased by the Crown, for the princely sum of £49 6s 6d a year. Most of the subsequent occupiers have looked after the buildings extremely well, and some developed them. The same goes for the gardens.  The ancestors of the current owners moved in in 1905. The family celebrated their first 100 years there by installing  the Centenary Fountain in the Mermaid Pond. It is the highest powered fountain in the country, and it plays for 15 minutes three times a day.  One room in the house is entirely devoted to the remarkably well-preserved Mortlake Tapestries, based on the Raphael Cartoons in the V and A.

Photography is not allowed inside the house, which is perhaps as well for the length of this post. First, here are some angles on the beautiful Ham-type stone buildings. P1000171001

P1000122 copie001

The café is in a vaulted room in this oldest part of the house.

P1000134001P1000137001P1000135 copie001P1000203 copie001P1000138001P1000213001Details. P1000207001P1000204001P1000205001You could see the house from nearly everywhere in the extensive gardens. P1000164001And this was a view from the kitchen garden (of which more later). P1000221001Now some views of the beautiful gardens.  P1000127001P1000141001P1000146001


The Long Pond



The Great Pond is the only monastic structure remaining in the gardens. It was used to power a mill.


The Rock Garden



The Spiral Garden



The Centenary Fountain in the Mermaid Pond

A closer look at some of the flowers P1000142001P1000144001P1000145001


The choice was under- or over-exposure, and the camera chose the latter. No doubt manipulation in Photoshop beyond my capacity would deepen the pink to reflect it more truly.

P1000153001P1000158001P1000168001P1000176001P1000178001P1000214001Exit was through the kitchen gardens, bordered by flower beds. P1000216001


Getting ready for Hallowe’en

P1000219001P1000220001P1000222001And even the plant sale area was a feast for the eyes.  I resisted this time.  P1000223001I’m told the gardens are wonderful in spring, at snowdrop and crocus time…