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

I was ridiculously excited on Sunday, feeling as if I were going on holiday the following day, not just out for a few hours in a beautiful city. I had clear plans and was slightly worried that I would be disappointed as I drove home, so much I was looking forward to living them. But no, all worked out perfectly. (Except that I took far too many photos and have had great difficulty in cutting down their number.)

Actually, it wasn’t even a full day. I left home at 1 o’clock, after an early lunch, and drove trouble-free to the Odd Down Park and Ride in Bath. In the few minutes I had to wait for a bus, I browsed the map in the shelter.

As we drew near to the turn-round point near Bath Spa station, from my upstairs front seat I snapped the car park I planned to use later. (I thought my evening activity might well end too late for the last bus back to Odd Down.)

Conscious that the evening’s entertainment was to be at a venue nearby, I recce’d as I got off the bus, and there it was, the Forum.

I made my way northwards, and slightly east.

The Abbey, the Roman Baths, and a restaurant
Round the back of the Abbey, there are no more crowds. On the right, the small Alkmaar Garden, celebrating the friendship between Bath and Alkmaar, liberated on 5th May 1945.

Behind me was Parade Garden of and from which I took the next few photos.

Bath is quite proud of its floral competition success!

Back up from the garden, a better view of the celebrated Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon.

I used it to cross over the river, and looked back having done so, but you can’t tell that you are actually on a bridge.

I arrived at Laura Place, and could see the length of Great Pulteney Street, with the Holburne Museum, my destination, at the end.

A ‘VR’ pillar box, with sadly the key letters in shade. This is a Penfold pillar box, a model cast between 1866 and 1879. (You can buy one for £1200, though I imagine it is a modern reproduction.)

I arrived at the Holburne Museum. Yes, I know. It’s part of one of their exhibitions called ‘Old Ghosts‘ which ‘invites visitors to engage with and challenge the perceived notions of power and authority that sit at the heart of many museum collections’ So now you know.

But it was not that exhibition which I was there to see. I was visiting ‘The Tudors: Passion, Power & Politics’. A small room, with not many pictures – all portraits, I think, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery – and probably all the better for that. The room was fairly dark, and my camera makes these selected photos look brighter than my eyes saw them, but not brighter than they really are.

Henry VIII, aged about 30, and Katherine of Aragon. Both painted around 1630 and both by unknown artists.
Henry VIII of course, about 17 years later, after Hans Holbein
Anne Boleyn – I failed to note the artist. Now, does the expression on those pursed lips not remind of the same on a certain present-day female British politician?
Sir Philip Sidney, described as the ideal Renaissance courtier. Unidentified artist, c 1576.
Elizabeth I, the ‘Darnley’ portrait, c. 1575. Reds have faded over the years, ‘making the queen appear paler than originally intended’.
Mary, Queen of Scots, 1578, after Nicholas Hilliard.
Elizabeth I, one of the ‘Armada’ portraits, c. 1588

It had not taken me long to go round the exhibition, which had portraits also of Henry VII, Edward VI, Mary I and Lady Jane Grey, the other wives, and other contemporary politicians, courtiers and explorers. I had a brief look around this room

with exhibits by staff volunteers and visitors to the museum, including

I had not visited the Holburne Museum before. It is centred on the vast collection amassed by Sir William Holburne (1793-1874) and left to the City of Bath on his death. I visited all the other rooms, briefly, and realised I could not do them justice in the time and energy I had available.

On the way, pictures along the stairs caught my eye for various reasons.

The Dead Soldier, Joseph Wright, c.1789. I could not help thinking of all the mothers and children, Ukrainian and Russian, grieving their husbands and fathers right now.
Garton Orme at the Spinet, Jonathan Richardson the Elder, c. 1707-8. The young man ‘failed to live up to the charm of this early portrait. He is said to have murdered his wife, incurred considerable debts, and sold half the family property.’
Still Life with Fruit and Shellfish, Cornelis Bryer, fl. 1634-1671. Here just because I liked it.

In another room I saw more Old Ghosts, but there were interesting things on the walls and in cabinets also.

I was particularly pleased by this ‘Marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne’ by Pierre-Jacques Cazes, (1676-1754). Two days previously I had seen at my local cinema, livestreamed from the Met(ropolitan Opera, New York), Richard Strauss’s ‘Ariadne auf Naxos‘. The libretto ends with the meeting and falling in love of the pair, after Ariadne has been abandoned on the island by her former lover, Theseus. This painting ends the story nicely.

Incidentally, I had been impressed that, as the camera panned round the Met’s audience, every single person was wearing a mask – it is presumably the law still in the USA. Not only that, all members of the orchestra did as well, except those playing wind instruments. I was in a small minority of visitors in the museum wearing one – a trusty FFP3 mask. And at the cinema where I had seen the livestream. No wonder, as I read, cases are going down in the States and rising sharply here.

A volunteer insisted that I look at this ‘gruesome’ dish. As I learned, when I mentioned my interest in the previous picture, that he had heard the same livestream on Radio 3 on the Saturday, I indulged him.

The Beheading of John the Baptist, French, probably Fontainebleau, between 1580 and 1620.
Tripartite bell salt, English silver-gilt, 1613-14.
Pieta, Italian, Patanazzi workshop, 1580-1600, (An inkstand!)
Meissen, lady’s chamberpot

From now on I just wandered without noting what things were. The next room was the most spectacular, and really needs revisiting to do justice to all its contents. These were Holburne’s treasures.

It was time for the coffee and cake I had promised myself, to fill in the time until the museum closed at 5 o’clock. And then a gentle walk back, a longer way round, to the bus stop for the Park and Ride.

As I retuned over Pulteney Bridge, I thought it no wonder that the shop was closing down, if it relied on sales of fly-fishing dogs.

On my longer way back, I saw these in quick succession. Hardly surprising in a city known for its healing waters.

This however was the name of a different kind of watering – or rather eating – place.

I arrived at the Theatre Royal, and was disappointed to find that its street level was marred by works. (Note, not so much the gull in the air and on the edge, but the rather more ferocious birds at the windows on the right.)

My longer way round took me to a less eye-pleasing area, but the old industrial building on the other side of the Avon was interesting – zooming in shows that it is now converted into flats, including a no doubt very prized and pricey penthouse apartment.

On the bus, I again had an upstairs front seat.

A packed meal waited me in my car. Rather than try to be imaginative as to where I could eat it, consuming it in my car in the Park and Ride car park, watching the sun go down through the trees, seemed as practical as any.

I arrived back in the Forum, a converted cinema, in very good time. The concert I was to attend was under the auspices of the Bristol Beacon, the new name of the former Colston Hall, and currently closed for ‘transformation’, except for its foyer which remains open for smaller scale events.

After a quick drink in the rather crowded entrance area, I went into the hall as soon as I could, perused the (free!) programme, and admired all the art deco work. I had selected a seat which I hoped would be fairly well away from the most popular area, and was pleased that it had remained so after later bookings.

Members of the London Symphony Orchestra made their way in gradually. (Like the Met’s orchestra, they were masked except for wind players – and unlike two-thirds of the audience.) I had not heard this orchestra live since I left London in 1975. I wondered if any of them were in the orchestra then. And I realised that most of them hadn’t even been born at that time!

And the maestro came in. Sir Simon Rattle, whom I had never seen in the flesh. The programme gives a fairly conventional biography. But I remember when he hit the musical scene back in the 70s, aged barely 20, a se most attractive young man with a huge talent, and clearly going places!

A most enjoyable concert, which was livestreamed, and can be for a month , to care homes throughout the UK: Hannah Kendall, ‘The Spark Catchers’ (which was sparky but not spiky); Dvorak, ‘American Suite; and Schumann, Symphony No 2, of which I particularly liked the third movement.

I was home by 10.00. A lovely day’s holiday.