Friday, 1 March 2019

Winter: Shortchanged again...

A light cover of snow on the field immediately below Frensham Heights School
(photo taken in early February 2019)

Greetings, Readers! 

Please do enjoy the snowy photos in the first part of this blog, as you're unlikely to get any others this year.

Yes, once again I'm staring down the barrel of a lengthy period of dissatisfyingly warm weather, after a very lacklustre winter. Only a couple of days of snow, and very intermittent frost. Not to mention the *goddamned* actual summer temperatures the UK has been experiencing during February - at least 10 degrees above what it should be, for a whole week. Truly this is scary stuff. It's just... wrong.

I can tell you that it definitely hit 20 degrees here in Surrey, on a couple of days
[Graphic courtesy this BBC article]

This sculpture by Anna Gillespie has appeared in another of my posts - it's across
the street from our house at Frensham Heights School,
and looks particularly goose-pimply under its dusting of snow

Our garden terrace transformed by winter

Kevin topping up the bird feeders in our garden.
Every day we are entertained by a constant stream of birds taking turns at
the seed, peanuts and fat-balls we provide

The Treehouse at Frensham Heights School

Hoar frost on top of snow - a garden bench at my workplace in Tadworth, Surrey

The question remains: when are we going to get serious about climate change? Most scientists are already agreed it's too late to prevent permanent change to our world - and the issue now is how we minimise that damage so that we cling onto some kind of sustainable environment. Those of us who have been bleating on about climate change for decades (yes, decades) can only wonder at the refusal of the rest of you to face facts. Honestly, people - it is not some great socialist conspiracy to dupe the world into turning its back on capitalism. It is REAL. You can no longer pretend it's not happening.

And so on to more cheery things.

Last month I drove to Bath for a couple of days, revisiting this beautiful Georgian city. I had some annual leave to use up, and it being the quietest time of year for tourists, I was able to get two nights in an Air B&B self-contained tiny apartment at a very modest price.

It doesn't matter how many times I visit Bath - I'm always shocked anew at that vast expanse of preserved Georgian architecture lining the hills around the city's natural amphitheatre shape.

The Royal Crescent, a gorgeous arc of 30 Grade 1 listed terrace houses,
constructed between 1767-1775

The glorious magnolia adorning the 5-star Royal Crescent Hotel

The trunk of the magnolia tree, at basement level

My slightly unsuccessful attempt at a panorama shot
- just missed the top corner of the building in the foreground *drat*
Still, you get to see the whole, incredible sweep of this Georgian architectural wonder

One of the things I love best about the Bath architecture is the 'secret' basement world.
I am forever peering down below street level to see what people have done with
their subterranean spaces

Yet another shot of a basement level courtyard in The Royal Crescent

The weather during my jaunt to Bath was what most people would call foul - and I'll admit that being out-of-doors all day was at times quite challenging, with gale force winds and intermittent downpours. We even had hail. Still, those of you acquainted with me will appreciate that such things do not daunt Maree!

Thankfully, Bath provides ample opportunity for ducking out of the weather to swoon over gorgeous things created by local artisans, and sample wonderful food. I was remarkably restrained, only returning home with some beautiful cards.

After spending 10 minutes poring over items in this teensy-weensy boutique,
I marched up to the proprietor and told her I loved just about everything in her beautiful store!
How fab are those retro lampshades?!

Bath has a branch of an actual French patisserie chain - Maison Georges Larnicol.
It is a place of decadent wonder!

Bath's unique horseshoe-shaped Pulteney Weir on the River Avon,
constructed around 1600 to prevent flooding in the town
(looking back towards Pulteney Bridge) 

One of the boutiques lining the Pulteney Bridge

Mural painted over a bricked-up window in Grove Street.
Bricking up of windows was quite common in the 17th and 18th centuries as a tax was introduced on glazed windows
(the jury is out on whether this was the origin of the phrase 'daylight robbery')

Bath Abbey, founded in about the 7th century but this building
is the result of rebuilding in the 12th and 16th centuries

Imagine living in this little wonder, perched on a hillside - its views over Bath are sublime

One of the many beautiful interiors stores in Bath

Despite having visited Bath several times previously, I did take the opportunity of patronising some of the most popular tourist attractions, in the knowledge that during dark, grey February there would be far fewer crowds. And, indeed, it was very pleasant to stroll around The Assembly Rooms and The Roman Baths without having to jostle the usual hordes taking selfies.

A brief moment of stormy sunshine illuminates the Bath skyline above The Roman Baths.
2,000-year-old Roman engineering - incredible

The gilt-bronze head of Minerva, discovered during an excavation in 1727.
Gilded bronze statues are extremely rare in Roman Britain, and this indicates the Bath
ruins were not your typical Roman settlement

The Pump Room, where Jane Austen took the waters for health.
You can still taste them today *ick*

Chandelier at The Assembly Rooms, Bath
(another of Jane Austen's haunts)

The Angel of Peace, which stands above Parade Gardens

This is somebody's unassuming little front gate!

In recent weeks Kevin and I have continued in our determination to fully explore the local environs. Will the south-east of England ever run out of interesting places for us to visit? I think not. We are constantly surprised at the vast number of cute villages and history-laden buildings awaiting our discovery.

On a Saturday in late January, with no particular plans in place, we nipped over to Brookwood Cemetery (est. 1854), which at one time was the largest cemetery in the world. It's still the largest cemetery in Western Europe.

I particularly wanted to visit to see the memorial to William and Evelyn de Morgan, whose gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite associated ceramics and artworks I very much admire.

The cemetery really is vast and very interesting.

This is the de Morgan memorial - so very beautiful

Yes, that is a dog you can see behind that gate at the entrance to the
Monastery of the St Edward the Martyr Orthodox Brotherhood!
Two dogs have the run of the monastery and gardens

After a decade of visiting The Watts Gallery in nearby Compton (about 20 minutes drive away from home), I finally woke up to the fact that if I joined as a 'Friend' I would probably save a reasonable amount of money. The nearby Watts Chapel, which is just a short stroll away and forms part of the 'artists' village' in this area, is my favourite building in Surrey and I take most of our visitors there.

So on a gloriously sunny winter day I nipped over there to start making the most of my membership fees.

Limnerslease, the home of Victorian artist G F Watts and his equally talented wife, Mary Watts

Panels designed by Mary Watts during the First World War to decorate the chapel of Cambridge Military Hospital at Aldershot 

Bronze jointly created by G F and Mary Watts

Celtic-style cross, made from local terracotta by Mary Watts

Aaah... winter sunlight, winter shadows

Cottage in the village of Compton

St Nicholas' Church in Compton - the tower and chancel pre-date 1066!

Rconstructed anchorite's cell at St Nicholas' Church in Compton.
You can read about the history of this here.

As much as I favour older, more historic houses, if somebody wanted to give me
this new-build, I would happily take it!

On the recommendation of dear friend and regular UK visitor, Lesley, last weekend we drove just over an hour south-east - over the border into West Sussex - to take a look at several small South Downs villages.

In the space of a few hours we tramped around Easebourne, Storrington, Steyning and Bramber. We were spoilt for choice when it came to tea-rooms, interiors and antiques stores, cute cottages and of course fascinating history.

The White Horse pub in the village of Easebourne, West Sussex.
Here you can pick up hay for your livestock while you sink a pint!

Much of the tiny village of Easebourne belongs to the Cowdray Estate,
and all of the associated buildings have their window frames, doors and gates
painted bright yellow - particularly striking on a day with heavy fog

Crocuses in flower in the churchyard of St Mary's Church, Easebourne

Gorgeous monuments to Sir Anthony Browne's two wives, inside St Mary's Church

Brotherhood Hall in Steyning, West Sussex - this building has been used continuously
as a school since 1584!

Thatched cottage in Steyning

The church of St Andrew & St Cuthman in Steyning, West Sussex.
The church was founded in the 8th century - but this incarnation of the building
was begun in the 12th century

How I dream of living in a house with a portico like this.
Not to mention the exterior dentil mouldings *sigh*

Steyning is choc-a-block with cute and seriously old cottages

Stone House, one of the oldest houses in the lovely South Downs (Sussex) village
of Steyning. It dates from the 15th century

The last remaining wall of the tower of Bramber Castle - constructed in 1073,
as was St Nicholas Church (which you can just see in the bottom of the photo below)

Bramber Castle towers over the glorious South Downs of West Sussex.
Just visible is the tower of St Nicholas Church, the oldest Norman church in Sussex

Cottage in Bramber

St Mary's House - constructed in 1470 but still lived in as a functioning home!
Though privately owned, you can visit the house and gardens during the summer months

It hasn't all been beer and skittles chez Persen-Joy in recent days. Some of you may be aware that I am occasionally plagued with very minor patches of psoriasis. Most of the time I wouldn't even be aware of it, but in the past 18 months I've had a couple of stress-related outbreaks around my eyes, which have then become infected (probably from rubbing my eyes in my sleep). 

The latest episode turned into a horror show last weekend, having been prescribed some ointment by a GP which effected a severe allergic reaction, and there we were at Frimley Hospital A&E at 2am on Monday morning - me with a face so puffed up I could barely open my eyes. This was followed by a visit to another GP later that morning, and since that time I have been swallowing handfuls of drugs - steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines - and squirting (a different key of) ointment into my eyes. Happily, once more I resemble myself.

I won't share publicly the pictures of me doing a very sound impersonation of Joseph Merrick (aka The Elephant Man), but if you have a burning desire to see me as you've never seen me before, contact me privately and I'll be happy to share!

The unfailing sign that winter is over and spring is beginning - snowdrops abound in Surrey

I have another week or annual leave to use up this month, so I'm heading to Portugal for five days. It's unusual for me to travel anywhere that's likely to be warmer than home, but I've wanted to visit Lisbon for some years and wouldn't dream of doing so in the hotter months - so now is the time, particularly as airfares during non school holidays are very cheap.

Stay tuned for what I hope will be a visually appealing blog post on that trip.

Until next time,
- Maree  xo