Our first Friday walk was postponed for a couple of weeks so that we could go to an exhibition, not open yet on 7th January, in nearly Somerton. My friend Zoe was delayed arriving at my place because of a traffic diversion, and I filled in time wandering around my icy garden, where I saw:
two last roses of summer, and some new shoots,
part of the hedge I have had cut right back, the future of which is pending discussions with neighbours yet to move in (both sides of it having been much neglected for the last three years),
a few starlings at the top of a further neighbour’s silver birch (some of the dozens which invade my garden when I have put out the day’s food),
last year’s water lily trapped under the ice of my pond,
and some heather.
Our short walk was for Zoe to see a nearby view which I have only quite recently discovered.
And from the bottom a look back at Glastonbury Tor across a field which had been very boggy, with streams of melted frost.
We then went on to the ACE Arts centre in Somerton to see The Red Dress. I cannot explain the project better than the first four paragraphs of the home page of the Project’s website.
“The Red Dress Project, conceived by British artist Kirstie Macleod, provides an artistic platform for women around the world, many of whom are marginalized and live in poverty, to tell their personal stories through embroidery.
“During 12 years, from 2009 to 2022, pieces of the Red Dress have travelled the globe being continuously embroidered onto. Constructed out of 73 pieces of burgundy silk dupion, the garment has been worked on by 259 women and 5 men, from 29 countries, with all 136 commissioned artisans paid for their work. The rest of the embroidery was added by 128 willing participants /audience at various groups/exhibitions/events.
“Embroiderers include women refugees from Palestine; victims of war in Kosovo, Rwanda, and DR Congo; impoverished women in South Africa, Mexico, and Egypt; women in Kenya, Japan, Paris, Sweden, Peru, Czech Republic, Dubai, Afghanistan, Australia, Argentina, Switzerland, Canada, Tobago, USA, Russia, Pakistan, Wales, Colombia, and the UK, as well as upmarket embroidery studios in India and Saudi Arabia.
“Many of the women are established embroiderers, but there are also many pieces created by first time embroiderers. The artisans were encouraged to tell a personal story they would like to share, expressing their own identities and adding their own cultural and traditional experience. Some chose to create using a specific style of embroidery practiced for hundreds of years in their family, village, or town.”
Kirstie Macleod and another woman were working on it while we were there. We wished we could have seen it more spread out, but that would have left insufficient room for visitors, especially given the need to keep a distance. I took an awful lots of pictures. Here are some.
Towards the end of our visit I was beginning to be quite moved, thinking of all the women who had worked on the Dress.
At one point I turned to Zoe and remarked that you’d need a week to study it all in detail. Kirstie was in earshot, and said, ‘A year. I know this work intimately, and I’m still discovering new things.’
I might go back. It’s at Somerton until 29th January, and continues its tour around the world for another ten years.
This was my choice for Monday morning, 9th September, the third day of my holiday in the far tip of Cornwall. I thought the walk would probably stretch me, but I had a reason for choosing it, from my other ‘walks’ book, by the Ordnance Survey.
It started at Perranuthnoe, the sun having cleared the heavy sea mist which prevailed just 20 minutes earlier as I had set off eastwards from Penzance.
For about half of its distance the walk would be through fields and lanes.
After half an hour I realised that I had failed to take my walking pole from my boot. Too far in now, I would have to manage without, something I was not looking forward to for the second part of the walk, along the South-west Coastal Path, up and down, up and down, cliff and cove, where my pole would, I thought, make all the difference to the ‘down’ bits.
I was most surprised to see this beehive to my right at one point, though further from me than this photo makes it appear.
Just metres further on I saw this shack, clearly party of a homestead. For the next couple of hundred metres, well spaced out, there were more dwellings, rather less ‘shacky’.
The last section of the inland part of the walk went north-south, along a path with, to me, a vertiginous descent, and very slippery because of little pebbles and soil. How I missed my walking pole to steady me, balance not being my strongest point. I grew increasingly fearful of the coastal path to come. At points down this steep path I used the method toddlers use when going down stairs…
As I neared the end of this descent, I could see Porth-en-Alls House, which took me back to 1973, though I had not seen it from this angle before. But I did recall seeing from the House the waves crashing onto the rocks of the promontory.
Where inland met coast was my reason for wanting to do this walk. When I was in this tip of Cornwall for the only previous time, in 1973, I had stayed for three weeks at Prussia Cove, near Marazion. This was, and still is, an estate of holiday cottages on the coast, and mine was one of the Coastguard Cottages, which I had all to myself. I was there, on unpaid leave from H M Treasury, as secretary to the International Musicians Seminar, founded just the year earlier by the celebrated Hungarian violinist, Sandor Vegh, and by Hilary Tunstall-Behrens. It still runs, and still takes place at Prussia Cove, based on Porth-en-Alls House. (I had no knowledge of H T-B’s exploits when I was introduced to him on taking the job!)
Two longer term consequences of my involvement in this event arose for me personally. The broadcaster and music critic John Amis, and radio presenter Natalie Wheen, visited for a couple days on behalf of the BBC. I found myself singing 4-part music with them once or twice. We remained in touch and had few further sessions, this time with five singers, back in London, once in my flat in Kentish Town.
The other consequence arose because it was my task, on the eve of Sandor Vegh’s arrival, to visit the cottage where he was to stay to check on, (or was it to light?), a fire to warm the place. (I think this was April.) The ‘cottages’ on the estate are well spread out, and a black and white cat was hanging around one of them. I can never resist talking to a cat, and I was a little embarrassed that she followed me all the way back to my own cottage. Free to leave if she wanted, she adopted me, and my reward was to find a dead mouse by my slippers nearly every morning when I woke up. I was informed, by the estate owners I think, that they thought she had been left behind by some previous holiday makers. Missy, as she became, virtually jumped in my car as I left Prussia Cove to return to London, my lovely companion for the next 12 years.
After 15 minutes or so, I arrived at Porth-en-Alls House. From that angle it did not seem at all familiar to me. But I was delighted to hear string chamber music emerging from this building, stopping and starting as if learning/rehearsing was going on – for these concerts perhaps?
I snuck this photo, in which a violinist can just been seen. One of these presumably.
I failed to see the Coastguard Cottages, and I had neither the energy nor the time to go searching for them. It was very hot, not a cloud in the sky all day.
My dread of the Coastal Path was unnecessary. That descent to the coastal path had been much worse than anything I encountered from then on. That said, this climb was steep!
Reached the top, I sat down on the narrow path, rested and took this photo. Fortunately no-one wanted to get by in either direction while I was there.
I arrived at Cudden Point.
This was the view as I passed over it, with Perranuthnoe in the far distance.
Brief exchanges with people coming in the other direction, or just resting, added to the pleasure of the walk. Footsore and very weary, I could see Perranurthnoe was getting nearer,
and then as I rounded every headland, it came nearer and nearer (as it were).
Three hours and 15 minutes after setting off, I arrived at the Beach Cabin Café, where a cheese sandwich and some apple juice refreshed. And I hadn’t even had to queue, despite the staff shortages in hospitality venues announced everywhere.
My ‘sandwich’ half eaten (it was a doorstep with copious filling, salad and crisps, much more than I wanted) I walked the few paces down to the beach to see what was attracting those going by, before climbing wearily back to my car.
It was only 2 pm, so the day’s entertainment could not end there.
For the afternoon of Sunday 5th September I had booked a National Trust visit, and I had received a few days earlier an email from them saying to allow more time to arrive because the Tour of Britain would be passing nearby, which could disrupt traffic. On looking into it further, I could see that the very start of Stage 1, eastwards along the Western Promenade, was to be just two minutes’ from my BnB in Penzance, and also that, because it would be looping round to go westwards, there would be an opportunity for me to see it going by just ten minutes’ walk from where I was staying. Having been knocked off my bike on the way to school by a careless motorist at the age of 15, and walked to school thereafter, I haven’t cycled since. (As a result?) I’m sadly not interested in cycling as either a spectator or a participant, but I could see that there might be some good photo opps.
It was diversions already in place which had given me the tour of Penzance (I exaggerate a little) the previous afternoon, and investigating the start area which had been the subject of my brief photographic excursion in the evening:
After a good breakfast on the Sunday, I made my way, double-masked – very few had any sort of mask on at all, – down to the front, to be there an hour before the start. There were already many people, both milling and static.
Twenty minutes later I left, and masses of people were streaming in. I was thinking to go up the hill to where I would be able to see the riders actually going by, instead of just launching themselves. I had time to return to my room and had a chat with Alan, my landlord. As I walked up to the top road, among the many people streaming down hill was a very familiar face, a man I recognised as a presenter on the telly, with a woman, presumably his wife, and twins in a buggy. Only later could I place him – Steve Backshall the naturalist, and his wife, Olympic champion rower, Helen Glover (whom I now know is from Penzance, and went to the public school near where I live on a sports scholarship).
I was up on the top road by 10.40, (the race due to start at 11.00), and there were so few people there that I checked that with one of the police officers (not these!) that the race would indeed be passing along that road in due course.
I found myself an excellent vantage point. A few more people had the same idea as I as the minutes passed.
At about 10.45 the children’s race came by.
Then a few more, not sure what category.
Was this nurse prudently hanging on, before crossing to the care home behind me, or positively interested in the race?
At 11.04, came the main peloton. I was shooting on burst, at 5 pictures a second. My camera took 20 pictures – which means the whole thing went past in four seconds!
The follow-up support took much, much longer.
After all that excitement, I wandered on into the centre of the town, then down to the front, and back along the Western Promenade from which my car had been barred the previous afternoon.
I thought perhaps that this was an ecclesiastical building turned to Mammon, but in fact it has always been secular. It’s the Market Building, Grade I listed.
I was pleased to see all the granite paving stones.
Back to the start, nearly deserted.
Taking down the dais, to be erected at the next day’s start point?
There was still a small crowd at one point. As I approached the screen I could see why.
As I returned to my BnB, I was pleased to see that I would be able to drive away from the area in the afternoon with no hindrance. And I further reckoned that the cavalcade would all be well past the NT attraction I had booked on to for the afternoon.
I am somewhat behind with my blog posts, so here is just a brief account of, in effect, Part 3 of the trilogy on this hospital, which I visited – now converted into luxury dwellings – on Christmas Day last year, and whose cemetery I visited a few weeks ago. This third part concerns the Wells Museum exhibition, now over, but due to open at the Wells Bishop’s Palace shortly, about the inmates/patients/residents, whom I shall henceforth refer to as residents.
Most of the exhibits were principally typed text, not ideal for a blog intended mainly for photographs, nor indeed for the visitor. I do hope the Friends of the Mendip Hospital Cemetery , whose work goes so much further than just the cemetery, will find the means of putting it all online. It is all on members’ computers, and just needs someone with the know-how to be found (and probably paid for) to convert it into a web site. The material is fascinating.
Doctor Robert Boyd was the first Resident Physician and Superintendent of what opened as the Somerset and Bath Pauper Lunatic Asylum, became the Wells Mental Hospital, and ended up being called the Mendip Hospital.
When I read this I was reminded how Covid-19 had prevented me, since February 2020, from making my monthly visits to a local nursing home to sing bygone popular songs to the residents.
Once photography came in, an image was taken of very resident on arrival.
There were many, many accounts of individuals. It would be good to be able to sit down and read more of them at leisure, each one a story to be told.
The following photos are of various members of staff and their families.
I did read the whole of this large panel, a very sad tale of Mary Ann Norman, 1833-1913, a homeless woman living on the streets, on prostitution, and on drink, in and out of of both Shepton Mallet Prison and the Asylum. No-one wanted to know her then, but we can give her attention now.
A talk given by Dr Morag Hervey in 2000 on the history of the hospital is here.
It is so good that the Friends of the Cemetery are not just maintaining the grounds but reviving the stories of the residents of the hospital itself.
Going out just once a fortnight for my Click and Collect shopping and any other essential bits and pieces, there hasn’t been much to blog about since Christmas. How I long for restrictions to be lifted and to visit a garden or some such!
But I did have an extra outing yesterday, late afternoon Friday. I went for my first Covid-19 vaccination at the local Minor Injury Unit, the West Mendip Hospital, a few minutes’ drive away in north Glastonbury. My doctors’ surgery had called me three days previously and gave me not only this appointment, but that for my second jab, 12 weeks forward – to the very minute. (Then on Thursday I received a letter from the NHS inviting me to book an appointed online, to be ignored if I was already fixed up.)
I thought people might object to my taking photos, but not at all. The atmosphere was great, the many volunteers all very cheerful, and the one professional I met, a nurse from a surgery in Street, likewise.
told me where to park, a task taken up a few yards on by Rob.
Then this lady, whose name I didn’t get, directed my reversing into the very nearest spot to the hospital entrance.
She told me I could go straight in. (Twelve days earlier a neighbour had had to park a long way away and was told to wait in the car until she was collected, and that they were running 15 minutes behind.)
I had arrived early deliberately because I had unrelated business with the normal hospital reception. This lady told me to explain that to the specially set-up desk.
I did so, had my hands sanitised, carried out my task, and returning to that special desk took this photo.
I was given a form and directed along this corridor This cheery gentleman is not blocking but welcoming me!
He made sure I turned right, and that I went along a corridor, where there was a row of about ten socially distanced chairs. My neighbour had had to sit on the nearest, and gradually move up, a chair at a time, each chair being sanitised after each movement. (The organiser in me would have done that bit differently, but in my case only the first (= furthest away) was occupied, and I sat on the second.)
I had just started reading the form,
when Nurse Emma came up to me and invited me into her cubicle.
She went through the form with me, and left the cubicle for a few seconds.
I’m kicking myself for not taking a photo of her actually drawing the vaccine from the vial when she came back, but I was too engrossed in asking her how much liquid she was going to put into me. The answer was 0.3 millilitres. ‘Is that all?’ I said, thinking of Tony Hancock in a reverse situation.
Having done the necessary (another photo-op missed) she gave me a very detailed leaflet, from which I later learned that I had been given COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT 162b2. I left a box of chocolates with her, and she directed me to a waiting area, where I restored my left arm’s clothing, and took this photo. All were (unsurprisingly) intrigued as to why I would want such a thing, but they gave their permission.
15 minutes later I was on my way out.
This lot at the entrance insisted (well, it was the man on the right again) that for completeness’ sake I should record them as I left in both directions,
and that was that.
Today the top of my arm is quite sore but not at all red, and that tells me that the antibodies are getting on with their work nicely. In 11 weeks and 6 days’ time, to the minute, I shall, all being well, be back there again.
Friday 31st May. On offer this morning was a walk in the local woods, led by Simon, one of the experts on hand in the hotel. With three other residents, I availed myself of it. We started at the local golf course,
where we saw nothing of interest, though Simon did his best to convince us that this was a rare Scottish wild cat.
The Anagach Woods were established in 1766 by James Grant of Grant (more later), but they look very natural, and provide excellent habitat for local fauna.
As we walked through the woods, for much of the time to the right was acidic boggy land with stunted trees that could be 200 years old.
To our left, classic Caledonian forest, (the BBC’s ‘Springwatch’ is currently coming from just a few miles away) allowing lots of light through to nourish berry-bearing plants, good food for native species.
We emerged from forest into more open land, and I learned that this native tree was called bird cherry.
We reached the River Spey, and went on to a bridge. (Of which, annoyingly, I did not think to take a photo when we later went down to the path on the right hand side.)
You don’t often get the chance to see a mallard’s orange feet so clearly.
On the far side of the bridge I was able to see this bird, identified for me as a spotted flycatcher.
I said that I couldn’t see any spots, even when it obligingly turned round for me.
But spotted flycatcher it was, I was assured.
From the bridge I was also able to wonder at these wild lupins, through which we were to wander minutes later. We also saw a very newly fledged grey wagtail.
Once down there, along the bank we watched a fledged pied wagtail being fed. Its parent was too quick for me.
Further along was a dipper, again it was thought, newly fledged, not least because it was showing a marked reluctance to dip.
And then there were two, sibling fledglings. Believe it or not.
As we started to walk back, completing a loop, it started to spit. I was able to notice and admire these patriotic finials.
By the time we were back at the hotel, via the Post Office in my case, it was pouring.
And still was in the afternoon, so instead of pursuing my rural intentions, I did that standby of wet afternoons, the local museum.
Which was small and perfectly formed. I learned that the Clan Grant had been around for a few centuries when Sir James Grant of Grant, he of the Anagach Woods, and known as ‘the good Sir James’, decided, in the mid-eighteenth century, to create a town on the River Spey. It didn’t become quite the boom town he had hoped, because it was too distant from anywhere, but it throve nevertheless, especially once it had become such a sought after place for holidays and leisure a hundred years later.
I learned about the superclan (that’s my word) Chattan, and its motto ‘Touch not the cat bot [without] a glove’, meaning that they were fierce fighters. This was a confederation of clans and large families with origins at least as far back as the fourteenth century. The wild cats engraved on this large 1600s brooch, the Cromdale brooch, suggest it may have a connection to the Clan Chattan.
Alone in the museum, for 15 minutes I got quite emotional as I took up the invitation, below, to try the clàrsach, which was perfectly in tune, picking out tunes and even singing with it. (In the evening, I spent some time researching the cost of and how to play the instrument, I had been so moved by the experience, but have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I am unlikely to be any more successful with this instrument than I have been with any requiring the co-ordination of more than two fingers!)
Tearing myself away – I felt I could have stayed there for hours – I perused the rest of the museum, which featured various professions and achievements of the town’s residents, including the inventor of the flush toilet. (No pictures!)
I was fascinated by these next two images when I came to see them on screen. The light was flickering a little on the display of the curling stone, but my eyes did not see the complete darkness the camera did as it took the photos on burst.
Finally, the 1970s are clearly history to some, though I can remember the day we converted to decimal coins as if it were yesterday. Ironically, I was working in H M Treasury in Whitehall at the time. The lady on the sandwich kiosk was having a terrible time with the new coinage, and the queue was very long indeed!
Thursday, 28th February. Before sunrise, all the others went off, after a coffee, for a bird-watching walk around the grounds of the Lodge. Being rather birded out, I allowed myself a few more minutes in bed, though still had had my breakfast pretty early, well before the others got back to have theirs. I filled in time by wandering round the grounds on my own in non-birdwatching mode, and then visiting the ‘Reptile Walk’ of the lodge, which had sadly seen better days.
We covered a lot of ground this day, 430 km/267 miles. It was pretty hot (35 degrees C max) , and thunderstorms threatened, never amounting to much though.
Our lunch was taken at a Roy’s Rest Camp, whose proprietors have a wacky sense of humour!
Once we got going again, there was little time to stop for wildlife photographs, and I snatched such pictures of Namibian rural life as I could through the windows of the vehicle.
Shortly afterwards, we arrived at Kaisosi River Lodge on the Okavango River, with Angola on the other side.
But the dining room was not – yet – for us. After settling in, we went out to visit ….. a sewage works.
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.
The ‘afternoon’ session started at 4.30 pm. I took a few photos on my way back to the courts.
Many more camera operators in this session, because it was between Great Britain and Slovenia.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.