Saturday 30 May 2020

We are the World Blogfest # 37: Be thoughtful, be wise, be considerate …

There are so many extraordinary people going above and beyond … but I would like us to be thinking how we can help ourselves, and our world, be fairer, be easier …

 Many will be exhausted, shattered with the experiences they are journeying through … for some there is no let-up, no relief …

The Kind Angel of Peace,
Donetsk, Ukraine

… let’s be prepared, even with our limited knowledge, to think ahead and be leaders … we are wise, we need to forget our doubts and uncertainties …

Puck cartoon 1903 -
Andrew Carnegie's philanthropy
… by showing a common resolve, being pro-active with novel ideas, encourage and help others who are anxious …

Let’s be leaders … think forward for our grandchildren … do all we can today, while planning for tomorrow thus taking that worry away … we’ll be occupied and engaged, not brooding on things we cannot change …

Van Gogh's Wheatfields -
let's leave the land
as we would like it ...
Do unto others as you would like them do unto you … seems an appropriate idea at the moment … thinking forward, not for what’s in it for us today, but how we can lay foundations of care and comfort for humanity’s future …

… we all can be philanthropic, wise and inclusive …

… be peaceful by being prepared …

We are the World Blogfest
In Darkness, Be Light

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 26 May 2020

The King’s Observatory, Old Deer Park, Richmond …

This was just an amazing outing … to what is now a private residence ... 

The King's Observatory southern entrance
(on a coolish autumn day)
Richmond Palace of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I’s days (16th century) had been demolished … 

... but the hunting grounds were still in existence surrounding the remains of the Carthusian Monastery, built on the orders of Henry V in 1414.

A model of Richmond Palace ... only vestigial
traces remain - notably the Gate House, which I walked
through on my way home

King George III (1738 – 1820), who had always been fascinated with the science of his time, used to visit Richmond Lodge, his country retreat ... 

The telescope cupola
seen from the roof

... it was here that he would construct an observatory … to view the heavens and, in particular, the 1769 Transit of Venus. 

An image of the sun captured in the last
Transit of Venus 2012 ...
Venus is the black dot upper right

This rare astronomical event permitted scientists to gain the first realistic estimates of the size of the Solar System and the distance between Earth and Sun. 

Account of George III's observations

King George, his wife, Queen Charlotte and guests were in attendance, thenceforth the King regularly used the Observatory for various purposes, storing of his instruments, educating his children … while staying at the Lodge.

The River Thames loops round
Richmond Park

The architect, Sir William Chambers (1723 - 1796), completed the building, raising it above the floodplain, with its first entrance from the north side near the River Thames … the waterway connecting early royal residences - Greenwich, the Tower of London, Whitehall, Richmond and on to Windsor.

the grounds are now part of
a golf course - so have
significantly changed.

Sir William also loved Chinese landscape and had on a few occasions travelled to Canton to study it more thoroughly … which he then incorporated into the more formal Italianate style of the parkland at that time.  He was responsible for the recently renovated famous ten storey Kew Pagoda in Kew Gardens nearby …

… this put him at odds with Lancelot Brown, the ‘great English 18th century gardener’ known as ‘Capability Brown’ who favoured open parkland.

The magnetic huts, seen here across the lawn,
have been moved and are now together
The Observatory passed from royal hands in 1840, via the Royal Society, to the Meteorological Office, and eventually handed back in to the Crown Estate Commissioners … reverting to its name of The King’s Observatory.

Looking down from the roof

It was then leased as a commercial office building in 1981 … the lessees didn’t give the building much respect … but thankfully in 2011 permission was requested to change the use of the building to residential, which was granted in 2014.

Not the original telescope

The present owner has restored and renovated this incredible building to Grade 1 building standards, including its telescope cupola, which opened for private tours in 2019 when I was able to visit.  Thank goodness I went … I so enjoyed it. 

Also getting the tube across from Victoria Station, rather than travelling by barge, or taking a horse and cart from central London is considerably easier and quicker!

Custom built library table,
with this beautiful carpet
The interior has been restored to exceptionally high standards … the present owners having connections with Hong Kong and Canton.

The building contains pairs of connected octagonal rooms … this has been painstakenly highlighted using this superb carpet under the equally special library table.

Looking through from the library
to the dining room

The glass cabinets in the original construction were used to house the king’s ‘treasures’ – which are now safely stored in appropriate scientific institutions in London.

The restored glass cabinets

When the cabinets (they are also Grade 1 listed status) were stripped back for restoration and repainting – it was found there were 18 layers of paint … the first colour has been faithfully reproduced (the duck egg blue as seen looking through from the library to the dining room in the photo above).

The drawing room

The early Prime Meridian at Kew goes through the drawing room … and then was used to co-ordinate triangulation points for the official meridian (0 degrees Longitude) at Greenwich (Greenwich Mean Time - the mean solar time at the Observatory in east London at Greenwich).

The “magnetic huts” erected in 1854 and 1912 contain no metallic nails and were used for scientific experiments … while in WWII weather balloons were dispatched from them to check the winds in the upper stratosphere. 

One wall - the rest of the walls
are covered in a series of
panoramic views
Fromental Company of London and Hong Kong designed and created the exquisite wallpaper in the dining room, working closely with the owners on this unique project.

The traditional hand painted silk wallpaper of a Canton River Scene, depicted the foreign factories in China, c 1772, being roughly the same age as the Observatory.

Fromental make these hand painted silk wallcoverings in the long-established Chinese painting style using traditional materials.

Another Fromental scene,
incorporating the porthole
window of the original building

This delicate wallpaper took over 4,300 hours (getting on for six months) of hand painting the fine details in Chinese water colours onto silk, that is then mounted onto traditional rice paper backing before the final more European elements, such as the clouds and western figures, were add by  a UK based artist.

I still cannot believe I was able to walk and wander around this amazing home – led by the owner, who was a fount of knowledge with impeccable style.  I could have spent hours talking to him.

Walking back to the tube and home ... 

It was a wonderful outing and then I had an autumnal walk back to the river before finding my way to the station and eventually home.

The King’s Observatory official site – with full details, photos and its history …

Fromental Company’s web site explaining how they work … and showing other projects …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday 18 May 2020

Shingle, Prospect Cottage, Kettle’s Yard Museum … and Pebbles …

We all love to be by the seaside … walking in the soft sand, if one is lucky, or dropping to one’s knees to pick up pebbles … we’ve all come home with them … either with pockets filled up by the kids, or just by ‘us’ enamoured with a pebble’s charm …

2012 The Garden ... sculptures
and plantings on the shingle
I’m sure you’ll see this links with my recent posts about Eastbourne with its shingle beach, engineered groynes, which while attempting to stop the town flooding, curtail the easterly tidal drift … here’s yet another of this eclectic non-series …

Selection of pebbles
As I’m listening to the radio more in these lock-down times … my thoughts wander off – and this programme was about pebbles … art, gardens, geology, museums … so cometh this post!

Chicago's cuspate foreland

The pebbles find their way eastwards to Dungeness, a headland formed largely of a shingle beach in the form of a cuspate foreland, created primarily by longshore drift. 

Dungeness from the air
 There can be little development in that unstable coastal setting, but there is a part- decommissioned Nuclear Power Station, an old runway, a necessary intermittent railway terminus, subsequent limited housing, beach cottages for the fishermen … 

... and Prospect Cottage … the ecological site has protected and international conservation status across a number of disciplines … including geomorphological … a place of natural value to many a scientist …

Prospect Cottage - 2007

Derek Jarman (1942 – 1994), seriously ill with HIV, purchased the cottage to escape London and set about creating a retreat, a shingle garden … 

... he was a talented film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener, and author … this landscape offered him consolation during his latter years.

An earlier view in 2004

His home has recently been purchased by the Art Fund so that the whole can be conserved and maintained for the future … the building, its contents and garden …

During the ‘pebble radio programme’ a sedimentary geologist discussed various rocks with resultant stones which find their way into our world of today …

The book the radio programme was based on
… one was a pebble surrounded by another aggregation … it was mentioned that this had ‘popped out’ from an iceberg almost a billion years ago … it wasn’t found in England! – but off the Alaskan/Canadian coast …

… that pebble is held in scientific splendour in Cambridge - then mention was made of Jim Ede’s Kettle’s Yard ... 

Kettle's Yard - was four cottages ...
now with an extension to
hold Jim Ede's various collections
... described as one of the country’s most intimate and spellbinding museums, the collection of one man and his unerring eye; restorative, homely yet life-changing …

Jim Ede spent time in Cornwall collaborating with artists in the studios at Newlyn and St Ives … after his work at the Tate Gallery, London proved too tedious to carry on … ‘fighting the conservative establishment’ … he set out on his (professional) itinerant life …

Alfred Wallis (1932)
The Hold  House Port Mear Square Island
Port Mear beach
I know that was another link-jump … to St Ives, Cornwall and the na├»ve artist Alfred Wallis (1855 – 1942), who worked all his life as a mariner, before turning fisherman-artist … Jim Ede encouraged him, while collecting some of his works …

Alfred Wallis (1942) - Noah's Ark
I have mentioned Wallis before when I wrote about Cornwall … and when I set up an Easter family tour of art at the Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, postponed til next year …

… I spotted that the gallery holds works by Alfred Wallis … and so he is one of the artists I specified we would be shown.

Longshore drift showing spit build up
Surprisingly this life of pebble art has come full circle back to my home … after starting life billions of years ago, rolling into an ocean, drifting with the tides …

Blake's entry in his
Songs of Innocence and Experience
1794 collection of poems

… to perhaps be found in a garden, as an art piece, a photograph, or recorded in words … as the lines in Blake’s The Clod and the Pebble mete out:

‘But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet: …’

courtesy of Kettle's Yard Museum
one of Jim Ede's artistic works
I have long wanted to visit Cambridge and almost went before lock-down … so I will add Kettle’s Yard to my list … and see the Cornish, Sussex connections with art …

May you roll gently on as the pebbles are doing in this time of challenge …

Kettle’s Yard Museum, Cambridge …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday 7 May 2020

Books, another Eastbourne fire and an update …

Some vagrants set fire to our last second-hand bookshop in the town (just as the lock-down started) – revered by authors, collectors, actors, artists etc whenever they visited our South coast …

Postcard I hadn't realised was for sale
It was packed to the gunwales with books, books and more books … here I noted today, that they are clearing out, sorting out the remnants – in due course I’ll find out how much they’ve had to do …

The doors had been taken off -
and clearing up was going on:
I'm quite glad to see that ...

I went down to grab a picture of the outside of the shop, when I realised they were working … but – as is the way - unfortunately a car pulled up, and it is next to a doctor’s surgery – so this is the not very good result!

(Also they'd removed the books and shelves that normally sit outside the shop, also the awnings; but the books can be seen in the 

Interior of the British Library foyer -
with the King's Library in the background
Books of an older nature have recently been featured in the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts blog … the notes below are courtesy of their blog post (see link at end) ... 

Papyrus Sedge

Books carved in stone – all of 5,600 years ago …a hymn to Osiris …

Books inked on pottery - appeared about 2,300 years ago … a Greek receipt acknowledging the payment of a fishing tax …

Papyrus - an early document
Books written on scrolls – papyrus allowed prolific writers to express their thoughts, or set out their stories in rolls that could reach 30 metres in length.  Papyrus came from the reed marshes of Egypt.

Booklets of tablets – wooden tablets covered in beeswax … recorded day to day records not worthy enough to be put onto the expensive papyrus, but necessary in the day to day living 2,000 years ago.

Showing tablet on a decorated vase

These tablets were the precursor of erasers, correction tape – and were reusable … back then: especially popular in schools!

A composite: booklets of papyri … probably coming into being with the arrival of Christianity … about 1,800 years ago.

Goatskin parchment

Parchment – came from Pergamon, Turkey … called by the librarians, who had started to use animal skin to copy their books: as Egypt had embargoed the export of papyrus 2,000 years ago.

Finally … comes the arrival of the book, which we know today, but started life probably as ‘a codex (an ancient manuscript text) dating back 1,700 years. 

From the Codex Sinaiticus
Codex Sinaiticus probably had 730 parchment leaves, carefully prepared from 365 sheep – and bound between two wooden covers.

Library books
This article by the British Library makes for a fascinating read into the history of a book … and links to other articles on manuscripts, a history of writing and many more …

We may be released (a little) soon – but I can see we’ll still have plenty of reading time; however I’ll be posting on various things I haven’t written up, referring back to previous posts, and drafting up odds and ends under ‘my bran tub’ theme … i.e. whatever comes to mind and thus to the ‘blog page’. 

Book bag - love the colour
I do have a lot to tell you about … as the restrictions suit me for a while longer – then release me!!

Let’s hope we have no more fires in the town, vagrancy or unnecessary vandalism … but your columnist from Eastbourne will be around to guide you through her eclectic, eccentric world of thought.  Take care and stay safe …

Camilla's bookshop - a good read, some videos ... generally interesting ... Archie their Amazonian parrot survived the fire ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories