Wednesday, December 7, 2016

a pictorial trip to Britain

Click on the links for the pictures; there's more than I want to upload here.

At the feet of the statue of Dorothy L. Sayers is a statue of her cat. (This is in Witham, Essex, the town where she lived in her later years, and the first of many I visited that had no mobile phone stores. I even visited the town tourist office which told me, "We used to have one, but it closed.")

The village of Dedham, also in Essex, often considered one of the most beautiful in England. Where Constable painted. More. More.

Benjamin Britten's house, in Suffolk. His concert hall, nearby. The rather astonishing all-wooden interior (not by me).

Tolkien's Kortirion, alias Warwick: the town centre, the ancient church of St. Mary's, a glimpse of the castle.

Stratford-upon-Avon is a neat, bright, clean town (and where I finally found a phone store), with only one dilapidated Elizabethan building, on the left here: Shakespeare's purported birthplace.

This factory-like edifice is actually the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre, where I saw The Two Noble Kinsmen.

The Swan of Avon.

My faithful rental car, parked by the village green of Brill - alias Bree Hill - Buckinghamshire, near Oxford.

A place-name nearby, appropriated by Tolkien for Farmer Giles of Ham.

The grave of CSL and WHL and the church by which it lies. Also present, Mrs. Moore. (There are actually two Mrs. Moores in this grave; she's the second one.)

The tower of St. Peter's College, Oxford, a truly strange attempt at imitating "Cotswold domestic architecture" by an architect with the iron of modernism in his soul; a possible model for CSL's Dark Tower.

Just to illustrate what a wonderful place Blackwell's is, here's less than half of its sheet music department.

I just happened across this pub and recognized the name: The Jolly Farmers. This is the pub where Oxford student Richard Adams, later the author of Watership Down, gave his 20th birthday party in 1940. Despite it also being the day the Germans invaded France, it was a great success. "No one had ever thought of giving a party in a pub before," Adams writes in his memoirs. "I can't think why not: it was the easiest way imaginable to give a party. You simply handed the landlord a capital sum and told him to serve the company free until it was exhausted."

In the village of Sutton Courtenay, south of Oxford, you may find the tomb of H.H. Asquith, notable British Prime Minister in 1908-16. And, to make this one churchyard doubly notable, just behind those trees in the background is the stone marking the grave of Eric Arthur Blair. Oh, come on, you know who he was, yes you do.

Out in deepest Sussex, somewhere near Cold Comfort Farm no doubt, is the grave of Mervyn Peake. Its church. The Sussex downs that overlook it.

A bookcase in Jane Austen's house in Hampshire. The dye garden. The resident cat. (Lives across the road, the staff told me, but spends its time over here.)

Ty Newydd Country Hotel, at the foot of the Brecon Beacons, where I stayed in Wales. The head of the long road leading up to it. The view out my window. Despite the age and isolation, a nice room, with a huge wardrobe and a functional bathroom. One warning: Dim ysmygu!

You gotta love Aberdare, the upper valleys town just below: the only town I know where the statue in the middle of the town square is of a choral conductor. Details. This is also where you can ask, why did the hedgehog cross the road?

On to Bristol: steepholm at the Clifton Suspension Bridge. (I hope some day to have her photo at the Golden Gate Bridge.) Me at Mrs Moore's house where CSL spent his leave during WW1. Various attempts at photographing steepholm's cat.

And then we decamped to Oxford for a special treat: a talk by scholars Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins on Tolkien's "A Secret Vice" paper on language creation, given on the 85th anniversary of the paper's presentation in the place - Pembroke College - where Tolkien gave it, date and place established by Fimi and Higgins themselves and discussed in their recent book containing the essay and associated papers. My own photos did not come out well, so here's the noble scholars, the rapt audience (I'm in front of the door opposite), the aftermath, and the seething celebration from the website that also has the video of the talk.

My favorite tourist site in London on this trip was an Inigo Jones monument, the Banqueting House, site of most state occasions in the 17th century, and the only surviving part of Whitehall Palace, then the monarch's principal home. What made it so great was the ingenious tourist aids visible in this photo I found online: the beanbag chairs and mirror-topped tables (on wheels, so you can move them around) for the better viewing of Rubens' allegorical ceiling paintings. A truly clever idea (though no cleverer than allowing Rubens to paint in his studio and hoisting the paintings up after he was finished, instead of making him hang from the scaffolding like Michelangelo). I told the staff they should write to the Vatican and suggest the same accoutrements to the Sistine Chapel; I got such a crick in my neck in there.

Also in London, Old Abe in Parliament Square. I'm not sure what he's doing there, but I was glad to see him. Churchill taking a ride on the top of a van. Monty, looking insufferably pleased with himself. Theresa, and Larry the cat, hang out in here. Monument to the women of WW2. Lastly, I came across this in the heart of the City: he's everywhere.

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