Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gargoyle Hunting in Oxford

Mr EB and I just spent a wonderful weekend in Oxford pottering around the city and colleges and hunting for gargoyles. We stayed at a totally fabulous small hotel called The Old Parsonage dating from 1660 and I can't recommend it enough! Not only was the whole hotel beautifully furnished but their attention to detail was just lovely.  From the gorgeous toiletries and lovely rooms to the amazing breakfasts I could not fault it.  Clearly, as an English person the tea and coffee making facilities are naturally the most important criteria for judging hotels and even here the Old Parsonage triumphs!  The selection of hot beverages was excellent and you just had to call the reception and fresh milk arrived in the twinkling of an eye-so no horrible UHT milk to ruin your tea! The walled garden where you can take afternoon tea is also lovely and the building itself retains all its period charm, I'm starting to sound like a glossy mag now so I will stop wittering on and let this picture show the lovely flowers and elegant mini hedges-
Anyway back to the gargoyles! I've always had rather a soft spot for gargoyles and grotesques and any sort of architectural witticisms, and Oxford is a goldmine of them. Technically gargoyles incorporated a waterspout to drain water off the building to prevent damage to the stone, and a grotesque is purely decorative and clearly there was a vogue for both during the period they built many of the colleges, as the place is covered with them! They come in all shapes, sizes and forms from fish to human and bizarre amalgams of creatures, often pulling faces...

One of my absolute favorite finds was this restored grotesque of Tweedledum and Tweedledee that is on the Bodleian library next to this very fetching wild boar. 
This rather more modern and daft grotesque was found above the entrance to Brasenose Chapel and I sincerely hope that it is someones idea of a joke and not a serious addition to the grotesques and gargoyles of the college!
I rather like this pigeon who clearly thinks that he is a gargoyle on Brasenose College!
And finally a rather more modern interpretation of gargoyleness by Anthony Gormley on top of Blackwell's Art and Print shop-

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Dress for Liz

I've worked with Miss Elizabeth Fleming on several CHOG (Cambridge Handel Opera Group, for those not in the know!) over the past decade or so. I've even dressed her in a couple, once as a Grecian maiden and once as an 18th Century man... So the chance to actually make her a concert dress made a welcome change!  As Liz has never been one for big sparkly over the top clothes it was always going to be a simple and elegant design-so no feathers/beads/clashing colours/sequins/large bows etc etc! So curbing my natural shiny thing enthusiasm, I came up with a simple empire line design in this gorgeous shot blue/green taffeta.  The fabric is from John Lewis and is just gorgeous, from different angles and in different lights it can look any colour from dark green, through purple to dark blue with occasional hints of grey. Sadly my photos of the dress on the stand in my messy workroom doesn't really do it justice... but I do think that the result is rather lovely even if the photos are rather dull-
Liz wore it for the first of a series of concerts she is performing in with fellow singer Christina Sampson at Emmanuel Reform Church in Cambridge on April 16th, which I went to.  It was a truly lovely concert including some of my favorite aria's and duets from Le Nozze di Figaro, some Benjamin Britten songs and a  couple of new Rossini arias that I'd never heard before and will be attempting to locate on itunes! In fact you can still get to one of these concerts if you happen to be in Bristol on Saturday the 1st of May, and I thoroughly recommend that you do. They will be performing at Henleaze Reform Church at 7.30pm.  There is even a Facebook event-

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sewing by candlelight...

For some unknown reason we spent the whole of Sunday with no electricity. I know it was off from about 4 am as I woke up to one of my coughing fits to find myself in the pitch dark with no light coming in from the streetlights.  The power finally came back at about 4.30am this morning when its return set the burglar alarm off.... so after two nights of rubbish sleep I am feeling a bit rough around the edges. Luckily I do have a lot of beading to do on the current dress I am working on, which has to be done by hand so the lack of sewing machine was not too disruptive to my work plan. But MY GOD it is difficult sewing by candlelight! Even with about five candles, a plate of tea lights and a torch rigged up with gaffa tape, I still could barely distinguish the beads and stitches and I had to give up after my eyes started watering all over the place.

It is a bit worrying how reliant we all are on the old electricity.  Luckily whoever designed my nebuliser has obviously put a lot of thought into it and it comes with battery sockets to power it, a set of rechargeable batteries and a charger for them. Unfortunately, my tobramycin neb has to be kept refrigerated, so our very kind next door neighbor (who still had power) kept it cold for me, so the entire months supply of very expensive medication did not have to be chucked out. 

One nice thing about no power is using candles.  This is probably because I am a repressed pyromaniac at heart and can't help but play with them! I used to actually make candles (not very successfully!) and love playing with the wax and seeing how you can make it dribble in ever more fantastic shapes. If you can get the wax to run slowly down the sides of the candle you can get some rather lovely dribbly effects. By the time I'd finished with them I think these two would definitely be worthy of any vampires castle and any Igor would not be ashamed of using them for dramatic effect!

I rather like the two tone effect caused by melting red wax onto a white candle, but I think that the plain white one is definitely my favorite with a ridiculous amount of contrived dribbly wax!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Green thumbs...

I've always been very lucky to live in houses with large gardens, lovlingly cared for by my parents that I could play in to my hearts content and occasionally try a bit of green fingered helping of said parents.  Usually my helpful efforts amounted to pulling up the wrong plants or cutting things back so hard they promptly died; definitely more green thumbs than fingers!  I have got better since then and do try and help to keep our garden under control by doing exaclty what my parents tell me to do... However, I don't really have the physical strength these days to do much, but I do like to potter about and make helpful suggestions as well as drinking tea on the lawn! 

Mr EB's house in Cambridge has a very tiny garden, much more the kind of size a gardening weakling like me could try and be helpful with.  The garden is a classic shape found behind most Victorian terraced houses- a courtyard with a sort of corridor down the side of the kitchen extension. It faces east and is quite shady as a result and quite frankly it was a bit dull, even in this sunny picture that Mr EB took last year there is not much too it apart from paving, ivy and the ugly garage-
You can see the strawberry plants that Mr EB had great success with last year (at the back in the big pot and trough), but Mr EB knows even less about plants and gardening than I do, so having read some useful books of my Dad's we decided to improve things a bit.  Over the last few weekends we've done quite a lot, Mr EB has spent lots of time digging and planting whilst I directed and provided encouragement!  First thing to do was plant out all the strawberry runners that had spread themsleves all over the available soil and then get some nice new plants to put in the empty pots. I also managed to get a bargain strawberry pot for all the runners (one of those with all the little openings) which came with a free mini herb pot (at the front similar idea). So with a bit of work it now looks like this-
To try and cope with the shade we've gone for things like hostas (above), grasses, violas and some climbers that can cope with partial shade but that will cover the ugly grey fences. We've also got Mr EB an espaliered apple tree to add to the productive side of the graden. We've nicknamed  it 'Stu' as its a Discovery apple (sometimes the name is shortened to Disco, hence Disco can guess who came up with the name!) 
It was an incredibly tight squeeze getting Stu in the back of my car, even with both the back seats down we had to remove the bamboo support to get him in, and then drive back with him poking over our shoulders! It was also a tight squeeze getting the tree into the hole we dug for him between the fence and the pavings stones, but we got him in eventually and hopefully with a bit of TLC he'll put out some flowers and maybe even some fruit later in the year.  As things progress I will try and update our success or failure... (All the pictures in this post were taken by Mr EB, hence the artistic angles of some and the better quality of all the images!)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A Wet Weekend in Wales!

This year is going to be a pretty busy one celebration wise.  Not only has my Dad had his 70th birthday but my parents are celebrating their 40th anniversary in August, it'll be Sophie's first birthday and also my 30th (but we don't talk about that!) To celebrate Dad's birthday we toddled off to Wales to celebrate with the welsh half of the family. We went on Good Friday and the traffic was abysmal, and as it was the easter bank holiday the weather was also pretty foul.  Porthcawl, where Dad's brother and sister live was incredibly windy and grey, although Dad claims it was actually not that windy by Porthcawl standards, I beg to differ...  I managed to get a few pictures of the coast and the rather nice waves smashing on the rocks before I totally froze-
The other reason for going to Wales was to meet another new Evans baby, my cousin Rhodri and his wife Annette's new son, Harri.  He is only a couple of months old and is tiny and gorgeous. Almost all the Welsh family got together for a birthday lunch in Cardiff as this is where Rhod and Nettie live so little Harri would not have to go too far, although having said that they are all off to Australia for Nettie's sister's wedding so he'll be a very well travelled baby soon! This is him with his lovely Mum, (shame about my rubbish photo and odd white balance!)-
Here are the two proud Grandads with respective grandchildren, Sophie has got so much bigger since I last saw her, she is a proper little person now.  You can see the Evans family resemblance between my Dad and my Uncle John, what makes me laugh is that when he chats with him for a while my Dad even starts to sound welsh again!  And just to finish another picture of lovely Sophie with her Dad.