Friday, 16 December 2011

The Royal Hospital Carol Service 2011

The Royal Hospital Carol Service was held in the glorious Wren chapel on 15th December and was as usual packed out. The chapel choir under Ian Curror is one of the finest in London and they performed flawlessly, especially in the singing of the extraordinary medley of carols by John Willcocks - A Christmas Pudding - which got a round of applause. Click here for some photos from the event.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Thomas Miller Carol Service 2011

The Thomas Miller carol service was held at St Katherine Cree Church on 14th December and was very well attended by current and former staff. The firm has contributed to the restoration of the church as it has been connected with it for many years from the days when the firm was at 14-20 St Mary Axe (the site of the Gherkin today), Mitre Square and is still close by at 90 Fenchurch St.

The history of the church is interesting as it dates back to 1108. The present building was put up in 1631 and is the only Jacobean and Neoclassical church in London. The organ was built in 1686 by 'Father' Smith and rebuilt by Henry Wills at the end of the C19th and has been played by Handel, Purcell and Wesley. The bells were originally placed in the tower in 1754 and had been silent for over 100 years until they were restored in 2007. They are referred to in the song 'Oranges and Lemons' as the 'Maids in White Aprons'.

After the Great Fire the church remained standing and was used by the Livery Companies to serve food to the workers as the livery halls were rebuilt. Coats of arms representing the then seventeen Livery Companies can be seen on the ceiling. 'Paradise Lost' was printed in a room off the nave at about the same time.

A previous post recalls some additional history.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Wellbeing of Women Christmas Fair 2011

The Wellbeing of Women Christmas Fair was held at the Drapers' Hall on 5th December, where more than 50 stalls sold cakes, clothes, silver, china, belts and gloves, chocolate, scents, jewellery, books and gifts of all kinds, to the accompaniment of carols from The Treblemakers. Champagne, coffee and sandwiches were available for those who needed a break. The event was even more splendid and better attend than in previous years and raised significant sums for the charity, the Drapers donating their premises for free.  Click here for some photos and here for a video of the carol singing.

Friday, 25 November 2011

In Praise of Cats - “For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry”

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For First he looks upon his fore-paws to see if they are clean.
For Secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For Thirdly he works it upon stretch with the fore-paws extended.
For Fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For Fifthly he washes himself.
For Sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For Seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For Eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For Ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For Tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incompleat without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his fore-paws of any quadrupede.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord’s poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually – Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in compleat cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in musick.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is affraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly,
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroaking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.
For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadrupede.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the musick.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

Christopher Smart (1722-71)

With acknowledgement to my favourite blog: Spitalfields Life

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Favourite Corners of London - Victoria

Gastronomia Italia

One of my favourite corners of London is Victoria, round the back of the station, centred on Wilton Road and Warwick Way These streets form a village where you will find three of my favourite shops and cafes, Rippon Cheese and Gastronomia Italia in Tachbrook St and Delicias de Portugal in Warwick Way, all of them introduced to me by my old friend Francis. Rippon really is just a cheese shop. It has a small entrance hall in which cheeses are wrapped and money taken, but all the cheeses are displayed in a cold room behind reached through a heavy hanging plastic curtain. One needs to know what you buy as the selection is so great, and one can't take long because of the cold, but each cheese is in perfect condition and invariably delicious. As well as a very fine selection of English artisanal cheeses, France and Spain are fully represented, and unexpected  places like Finland provide extra interest.

Next to Rippon is an iconic Italian deli, Gastronomia Italia (pictured above) where one can find every shape of Italian delicacy. I go there principally for their gorgeous crispy and salty cheese biscuits (Barilla Sfoglia di Grano) - and a quick macchiato. Then on to Delicias de Portugal in Warwick Way where one can select a famous and delectable cheese (Terra Nostra - like an Edam, in a red wax sleeve) and some other unusual delicacies, like very finely cut smoked pork loin. There are tables outside where one can nibble a piece of Portugese cake with a cup of their delicious milky coffee.

Service is of course from people from the region who know their stock and are happy to talk and advise. Everything here is authentic and things are always offered in slivers to try first. One doubts that even 1% could be found in a supermarket.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Heaver Estate, Balham

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Much of 18C Balham was owned by the Duke of Bedford, including 150 acres of prime farmland known as 'Charringtons'. A century later, with farming in decline, the Bedford family sold the land to Richardson Borradaile, a wealthily merchant and MP, who built Bedford Hill House - a beautiful ivy-clad mansion situated where Veronica Road is now, roughly between Nos 12 and 18.

1i 1843 the house and its estate were sold to William Cubitt, brother of the builder Thomas Cubitt. Together they improved the house and grounds, adding an ornamental lake which lay by Elmbourne Road - between Manville and Huron. The family enjoyed uninterrupted views towards Balham until 1855 when a railway embankment was built along Balham High Road and Bedford Hill. A year later Balham Station opened and landowners were put under pressurev to release land for much-needed homes.

Alfred Heaver was an ambitious and visionary house builder when he acquired the now empty house and parkland. Ritherdon Road was the first to be laid out in 1888 and was to be the main access to the estate. That same year Heaver applied to construct Streathbourne, Drakefield and Louisville Roads across the grounds of Elms Farm and the nearby mansion Streatham Elms, and by the time they were completed in 1892, he was already building more roads running north off Ritherdon Road. With around twelve different styles of property, the Heaver Estate had now reached the neglected gardens around Bedford Hill House and when Veronica Road was built in 1897, it was demolished.

On 4th August 1901, at the age of 60, Alfred Heaver was shot in the back and head as he walked to church with his wife in the village of Wescott near Dorking. The assailant, who turned the gun on himself, was his sisters's husband James Young. The inquest stated that had had a grudge against his brother-in-law for many years and had even filed down the ends of the bullets to cause him maximum injury.

Although Heaver did not live to see the completion of his estate, it is considered to be one of the finest examples of 19C suburban development and was made a conservation area in 1978.

Sullivan Thomas

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Rev Hamilton Lloyd 1919 - 2011

Ham Lloyd at home

A very dear friend, Hamilton 'Ham' Lloyd, the vicar of Litchfield, died on 29th October 2011, aged 92. Ham was finest of men, noble, erudite and open-hearted. A fine cricketer and raconteur and a man of deep faith as well as love of country, he treated everyone the same - from the bishop and the squire to parishioners of every rank - and was equally loved by all.

This short obituary has appeared in the Whitchurch and Litchfield Parish Magazine:

The Reverend Hamilton Lloyd
9th July 1919 –  29th October 2011
in memoriam
Hamilton Lloyd, “Ham” died on 29th October 2011.   His life spanned 92 years.  He was born just after the end of the First World War in Birchgrove, Swansea and was educated at Cardiff High School before going up to Oxford to read history.  He was the only child of William and Hilda Lloyd.

Whilst at Oxford the Second World War broke out and he joined the University Air Squadron and thence the Royal Air Force.  He flew spitfires and hurricanes.

Owing to the development of an eyesight problem he could not continue to fly for the duration of the War and decided to train for ordination in the Church of England.  He attended Ripon Hall Theological College, Oxford in 1942 and married Suzanne Moon.  It was to be wonderfully happy marriage that lasted for over 65 years.  They had one son, Christopher.

Hamilton was ordained in 1944 and served as curate at St. Charles the Martyr, Falmouth, Cornwall.  In 1947 he became Rector of St. Gerrans with St. Anthony in Roseland.  After four years he left the Diocese of Truro and joined the Diocese of Winchester.  The family moved to Bournemouth where Hamilton oversaw the building of a new church, Holy Epiphany.

The move from Holy Epiphany to All Hallows, Whitchurch came in 1960.  At that time the united benefice was made up of Whitchurch and Tufton.  During his tenure Litchfield was added. After many happy years, including many games of cricket, Hamilton and Suzanne moved to the parish of St. Michael and All Angels, Lyndhurst and stayed there until he reached the retirement age of 65.

But retirement was not for him and he gladly accepted the invitation to look after the little church of St. James the Less at Litchfield.   This he continued to do until he died – some 28 years.  The last service he took was Harvest Festival on 2nd October this year.

His second wife, Cecilia, survives him as does his son, Christopher, four grandsons and five great grandchildren.

He will be sadly missed - as will his monthly musings from Litchfield which he penned for the parish magazine.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fine Cell Work at the Glaziers' Hall

Help For Heroes tapestry commissioned from Fine Cell

Following the success of previous livery hall exhibitions - at Drapers' Hall in 2008 and the Leathersellers' in 2009, Fine Cell held their autumn 2011 livery company selling exhibition at the Glaziers' Hall, on the south bank of the Thames beside London Bridge where the principal rooms have a stunning view of the City.
London Bridge and the Fishmongers' Hall from the Glaziers

The exhibition was hugely well attended and raised significant sums for the charity, which teaches prisoners to sew cushions and tapestries in their cells.  Fine Cell aims to 'train prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework undertaken in the long hours spent in their cells to foster hope, discipline and self esteem. This helps them to connect to society and to leave prison with the confidence and financial means to stop offending'.

Click here for some photos of the event. 

Monday, 24 October 2011

Shades of the Past

When I was a child, my father sometimes took me for a walk in the late afternoon. We would wander down through the pasture, not hurrying. He would tell me the names of the trees, point out a bird's nest so well hidden that the careless eye would never see it. Sometime, if the day was uncommonly warm, he would say to me 'Walk in my shadow, I'll be your shade'.

Even now, I recall how good it was to be a child, becoming aware of the natural order of life, watching the miracles of the changing seasons, marvelling at the mysteries that even my father couldn't explain. I walked with his safe in his shadow, protected by the shade he provided me.

One day we discovered that I had grown too tall to fit into his shadow. We didn't speak of it. We just both knew that the time had come for use to walk side by side - each casting his own shadow.

Later, I came to understand that the shadow of my father was as it was because of who he was: big enough, wise enough, strong enough to be my shelter till I was sufficiently strong to step outside and walk my own way.

My father gave me the best of himself - his shadow and his substance

JB via SW

Monday, 3 October 2011

Early Autumn Morning

The water meadows beside the Test at Whitchurch on a spectacular October morning. Click here for some more photos

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Favourite Poetry - October

Dew and sun beside the Test

The green elm with the one great bough of gold
Lets leaves into the grass slip, one by one , – 
The short hill grass, the mushrooms small milk-white,
Harebell and scabious and tormentil,
That blackberry and gorse, in dew and sun,
Bow down to; and the wind travels too light
To shake the fallen birch leaves from the fern;
The gossamers wander at their own will.
At heavier steps than birds’ the squirrels scold.
The rich scene has grown fresh again and new
As Spring and to the touch is not more cool
Than it is warm to the gaze; and now I might
As happy be as earth is beautiful,
Were I some other or with earth could turn
In alternation of violet and rose,
Harebell and snowdrop, at their season due,
And gorse that has no time not to be gay.
But if this be not happiness,—who knows?
Some day I shall think this a happy day,
And this mood by the name of melancholy
Shall no more blackened and obscured be.

 Edward Thomas

Monday, 12 September 2011

Favourite Poetry - Hiawatha

I had forgotten how much I used to like Longfellow's Hiawatha (full text behind the link)

 Downward through the evening twilight,
 In the days that are forgotten,
 In the unremembered ages,
 From the full moon fell Nokomis,
 Fell the beautiful Nokomis,
 She a wife, but not a mother.

 By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
 By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
 Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
 Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
 Dark behind it rose the forest...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Favourite Places - Mudeford

Mudeford is a charming old fishing village at the narrow entrance to Christchurch Harbour distinguished by a having its main beach (the Spit) separated by the harbour channel and reachable only by ferry. Over the years a superb collection of colourful beach houses have been constructed on the Spit and are now highly sought after. From them one can have a clear view of the Needles at the western end of the Isle of Wight. Click here for some more photos

Lots Road Power Station

Lots Road Power Station, Chelsea, which once supplied the electricity for the Underground, seen across a muddy Thames from the Battersea side. Click the photo for a larger view

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Favourite Places - Lainston House

Lainston is a classic late C17th country house outside Winchester, for many years the home of the Craig-Harvey family. Now an hotel, it retains all the old house's beautiful features but one can now eat outside on the tented terrace and enjoy the superb view of the lime avenue and parkland below. Click here for some more photos

Friday, 5 August 2011

Favourite Places - A Hampshire Garden

The summerhouse
I am not going to reveal where this enchanting place is as it's of course a private house - except that it lies in my beloved county of Hampshire. But you can click below for some more photos and dream of the peace and beauty that lies among these fields. Favourite Places - A Hampshire Garden

Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Velveteen Rabbit

Illustration by William Nicholson

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

THE Velveteen Rabbit


by Margery Williams

This has strong echoes of my favourite piece from Le Petit Prince - the Story of the Fox

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Joy of Cricket


Ok, this one's going to be a tough sell. Cricket is probably the least known and understood of the major games played internationally. And those who play it are only countries with long ties to Britain such as India and Australia (though not the US or Canada) and as with football and rugby, it is a game which owes its development and spread to being part of the unvarying curriculum of the the British public schools.

I have just been lucky enough to be asked by a member of the MCC to visit Lords for the third day of the Test Match between England and India. It was an enthralling spectacle for one who understands the game; a crashing bore for anyone that doesn't. For one, each game is played over five days and a single innings by one side can last two or three days. And a single innings by one batsman can also last as long, though it rarely does.

Hurstbourne Priors Cricket Ground, Hampshire
By chance, I grew up a few miles away from the ground where cricket was supposed to have first been played in about 1750 - Broadhapenny Down in Hampshire, beside which is a pub, The Bat and Ball, dedicated to the game. And when young my brother and I played endless games of cricket on the lawn at home, with straw bales behind the wicket to stop the ball.

Its appeal has been endlessly evoked in literature; from the classic description of a village cricket match in 'England Their England' to the dry prose of the almanack of cricket, Wisden. But this short piece from an Australian summarises its appeal concisely:

'Cricket invokes passion among the one billion people who play it. And Test cricket is the most passionate of all, with national pride bubbling close to the surface of the match.
International relations can be soured by controversy; in the 1930's Bodyline Test, the English captain's tactic to play the man led directly to serious calls for Australia's secession from the Commonwealth. Prime ministers and the king intervened.
The passion grows from the spirit of the game, its beauty, complexity and subtlety. One has to plan, to have a sense of strategy and exercise skill. It is not about might, but about psychological confrontation and domination.'

See also John Updike on Baseball

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Driving Movie

Driving down Sheep Pond Lane from Corhampton Down towards Droxford and across the A32 at Merington's Garage. Then on over the Meon towards Soberton. Music by The Poges

View Driving Movie - Droxford in a larger map

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Favourite Poetry - Poesie mondane, Bestemmia 619

                                                             Assisi, originally uploaded by HerryLawford.

I am a force of the past.
Tradition is my only love.
I come from the ruins, and churches,
and altarpieces, the abandoned
villages on the Appennines or on the Prealps,
where brothers have lived.
Like a madman I wander on the Tuscolana,
On the Appia like a dog without a master.
Or I observe the twilights, and the mornings
over Rome, and Ciociaria, and the world,
as the first acts of the After-History,
which I partake of, by chronological privilege,
from the extreme border of some
buried age.

"Poesie mondane, Bestemmia 619” - Pier Paolo Pasolini

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

India the Cradle of Language, Astronomy and Science

Whitefield, Bangalore. Click for large
India was preeminent at unveiling knowledge in the ancient world. The Sanskrit language, which is the mother of all languages, is the oldest, most systematic language in the world. Its numerous verb roots and affixes produce words that give precise expression to diverse ideas - from mythology and philosophy to science and mathematics, from poetry and prose to astronomy and anatomy.

Sanskrit's vast array of words gives it an incredible wealth of expression. There are 65 words for 'earth' and 70 for 'water' alone. By applying various suffixes, the word for 'water' can be multiplied into 280 words to describe specific types of rain.

'The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of wonderful structure - more perfect than Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either'.  Sir William Jones, British Orientalist (1746-1794)

The world's first university existed at Takshashila, in the north-west of ancient India, as early as 700 BC. The minmum entrance age was 16 and there were 10,500 students - not only Indians, but people from Arabia, China, Babylonia, Greece and Syria came to study. 68 streams of study were offered, including Vedic literature, logic, grammar, philosophy, medicine, surgery, archery, politics, military strategy, astronomy, astrology, accounting, commerce, documentation, music and dance.

In mathematics, India has always been pre-eminent, inventing the both zero and the decimal system. The earliest records of the zero in writing include an inscription on the Sankheda Copper Plate found in Gujarat dated 585-586 BC. The concept of 'zero' can also be found in Sanskrit texts of the 4th Century BC and is clearly explained in Pingala's Chandah Sutra of the 2nd Century BC. The Brahama-Phuta-Siddhanta of Brahamagupta (7th Century) also contains a lucid explanation of the zero. From here is is said to have been rendered into Arabic books around 770 AD which were then carried into Europe in the 8th Century.

'It was India that gave us the ingenious method of expressing all numbers by means of ten symbols (the Decimal System)....a profound and important idea which escaped the genius of Appolonius and Archimedes, two of the greatest men produced by antiquity.' Pierre-Simon Laplace, French mathematician (1749-1827)

The highest prefix used for raising 10 to a power in today's mathematics is 'D' for 1030. As early as 100 BC, Indian mathematicians had specific names for numbers up to 1053. In the Anuyogdwara Sutra, written in 100 BC, one numeral is raised to 10140.

The word 'geometry' seems to have emerged from the Sanskrit word 'gyaamiti' meaning to measure the earth. And the word 'trigonometry' is similar to 'trikonamiti' meaning measuring triangular forms. Euclid is credited with the invention of geometry isn 300 BC but the concept of geometry emerged in India in 1000 BC from the practice of making fire altars in triangular and rectangular shapes.  The Surya Siddhantha treatise of the 4th Century describes detailed applications of trigonometry which were not introduced into Europe until the 16th Century.

The value of Pi was known in India by the 6th Century BC. It is given in the Sanskrit text Baudhayana Shulba Sutra as being approximately equal to 3. Aryanhatta in 499 BC calculated its value as 3.1416.  In 825 AD the Arabian mathematician Mohammed Ibna Musa affirmed: 'This value has been given by the Hindus'.

The Baudhayana Shulba Sutra shows that Pythagoras's famous theorem was in fact formulated by Baudhayana in the 6th century. He states: 'The area produced by the diagonal of a rectangle is equal to the area produced by it on two sides.'

1000 years before Copernicus published his theory of the revolution of the earth in 1543, Aryabhatta stated that the earth revolved around the sun. 'Just as a person traveling on a boat feels that the trees in the bank are moving, people on the earth feel that the sun is moving.' In his treatise Aryabhatteeyam, he states that the earth is round, it rotates on its axis, orbits the sun and is suspended in space. He further explains that lunar and solar eclipses occur by the interplay of the sun, moon and Earth.  

1200 years before Newton, the law of gravity was known to the Indian astronomer Bhaskaracharya. In his Surya Siddhanta he notes: 'Objects fall on Earth due to a force of attraction by the Earth. Therefore the Earth, planets, constellations, moon and sun are held in orbit due to this attraction'.

In Surya Siddhanta, Bhaskaracharya calculates the time taken for the earth to orbit the sun to nine decimal places. The difference between this measurement and a modern measurement is only 0.0002%

Indian astronomers had words for calculations of time as small as 34,000th of a second and as large as 4.32 billion years.

Shushruta, known as the Father of Surgery, practiced his skill as early as 600 BC. He used cheek skin to perform plastic surgery or reshape the nose, ears and lips with incredible results. Modern surgery acknowledges his contribution by referring to this method of rhinoplasty as the 'Indian Method'. The early surgeons had over 125 types of surgical instrument and were so advanced that they could cut a hair longitudinally. Shushruta describes the details of over 300 operations and 42 surgical processes. Ancient texts show that the Indians were among the first to perform amputations, caesarean and cranial surgery. They used medicated cotton pads to heal wounds.

'In India, I found a race of mortals living upon the earth but not adhereing to it, inhabiting cities but not being fixed to them, possessing everything but being possessed by nothing' Apollonius Tyanaeus (Greek traveller, 1st Century)

'If there is one place on the face of this earth where all the dream of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it in India'. Romain Rolland (French philosopher 1886 - 1944)

'The ancient civilization of India differs from those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece in that its traditions have been preserved without break down to the present day.' Arthur Basham (Australian historian 1914-1986)

'In religion, India is the only millionaire....the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen it once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.' Mark Twain (1835-1910)

From the 'Understanding Hinduism' Exhibition at the Sri Swaminarayan Mandir in North London

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London

 Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, north London, is an incredible edifice. It was designed and constructed entirely according to ancient Vedic architectural texts and no structural steel was used. Almost 5000 tons of marble and limestone were shipped to India and carved by 1500 artisans and then shipped on to London. In all more than 26,300 carved pieces, including intricate designs made with Indian Ambaji marble, were assembled like a jigsaw all within three years. The construction of the mandir was a labour of love for over 3000 volunteers. The ground floor contains an exhibition - 'Understanding Hinduism' - which provides an insight into the Hindu faith. A later post will set out some of the elements of that exhibition.

From the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Exhibition Booklet

Glorious Gardens in the National Gardens Scheme

No 6, Compton Road, Winchester

I have written before about our glorious gardens, and posted photos of some of the best that I know of, like Adwell, but there is great joy also in more modest gardens. Our National Gardens Scheme allows one to visit these all over the country, often only on one specific day in the year when an otherwise private garden is made available to view, with the proceeds of the small entrance fee going to charity. Click the heading for the photos of two such gardens in Winchester, open only over one weekend in early July.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Adwell Fair

Adwell House and St Mary's Church

Adwell Fair was held to raise money for the Footsteps Foundation, which provides intensive physiotherapy for children with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, other neuro-motor and undiagnosed genetic disorders. The gardens at Adwell have long been the joy of the family that has lived there for many generations, and although the weather was very changeable, the changing light and skies provided a fine dramatic backdrop to the walled gardens, river walks, woodland, lakes and beautiful trees.  Click the heading for a selection of photos. 

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Early June Morning

The Orangery
The Orangery garden early on a June Morning
I still can't find a way of capturing the immediate and present beauty of a June morning as one comes out of the house for the first time into warm sunlight amid the soft buzzing of bees.

Freya Stark's wonderful lines are before me; they are placed on the first page of this journal to remind us that even a writer as gifted as she can't capture the nowThis photo - a snapshot with an iPhone - only hints at our immediate experience

'No medium has yet been devised for the translation of life into language, nor can any words recall the dazzling fluidity of days. Single yet fixed in sequence, they fall like the shaft of a cataract into time and through it'.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Favourite Places - St James' Park

I have posted photos of St James' Park before. It's arguably the prettiest park in London and the fine buildings around it allow some unmatched vistas, like this one of the extraordinary architecture of the Horseguards' Building offset by the towers of the Foreign Office overtopped in turn by the London Eye.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Favourite Places - Chilcomb, Winchester

Morestead Views
Chilcomb, Winchester

I have been spending a lot of time in Winchester lately. It's such a beautiful city, and as someone said yesterday on Twitter, the walk from the Square through the Cathedral Close out to the College and Kingsgate St and then on though the water meadows (where Keats composed his 'Ode To Autumn') to St Cross must be one of the finest in the country.  But Winchester is also blessed as it lies in glorious Hampshire countryside and is watered by the clear chalk streams of the Itchen. The little village of Chilcomb is closest to the city. It's also the site of an Army firing range and so is curiously peaceful.

Click the heading for more photos  and here for a report on the Drapers' Almshouse outing to Winchester in 2009

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Drapers' Almshouses

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The Drapers' Livery Company maintain some 180 almshouses on three sites around London, continuing a tradition initiated by bequests from wealthy members of the company in previous centuries. The almshouses at Edmanson's Close, Tottenham are a fine example of Victorian philanthropy, and are co-incidentally only short distance from my great-grandfather's house at Downhills (He was also a liveryman. The house was torn down in 1901).

Downhills, Tottenham, once the home of John Lawford

The almshouses, though seemingly old fashioned by modern standards, provide perfect sheltered accommodation for some 80 elderly residents in extraordinarily tranquil setting, surrounded by grass and trees although in the middle of a busy suburb. Click the heading for some photos of the almshouses and their garden.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Chelsea Flower Show 2011

The Chelsea Flower Show this year was held at the end of the sunniest and driest spring anyone could remember and the exhibitors struggled to keep their plants from flowering too early. Nevertheless the show gardens were superb and the artisan gardens - like the one shown above - as enticing as ever.  My favourite designer, Ishihara Kazuyuki, almost withdrew following the Japanese earthquake but decided to come with a more conventional design.

Click the heading for a selection of photos from the show.

Chelsea Flower Show 2010
Chelsea Flower Show 2008
Chelsea Flower Show 2007

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Favourite Poetry - Tall Nettles - Edward Thomas

Tall Nettles

TALL nettles cover up, as they have done
These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plough
Long worn out, and the roller made of stone:
Only the elm butt tops the nettles now.

This corner of the farmyard I like most:
As well as any bloom upon a flower
I like the dust on the nettles, never lost
Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.

Edward Thomas 

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Favourite Flowers - Banksian Rose

I rarely post photos of flowers - apart from the bluebells in my favourite wood in Wiltshire - as they are so difficult to photograph well, but the Banksian rose in the garden is looking so fine this year that I have made a special effort to capture it.

Those who would like to see some really good photographs of flowers - usually in their natural garden settings - should look at Nigel Burkitt's photos on Flickr.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Wandle Road Royal Wedding Party

The residents of Wandle Road, including some who had moved away but retained close friends in the street, held a party to celebrate the Royal Wedding on 29th April, beginning immediately after the Palace balcony scenes and going on late into the night. The road was closed and cleared of parked cars and tables set up along the middle of the street with stalls on the pavement and in driveways, with food being laid out and barbecued in the playground of Finton House. Many of the houses were hung with flags  and the street decorated with bunting. There was face painting and pavement drawing, table tennis and welly throwing and a tug of war (won by the girls!). The local fire engine paid us a visit and allowed the children to investigate its mysteries and a well stocked tombola was complemented by a raffle of decent prizes, such as commissioned paintings, a dinner for six cooked at one's home and many gifts donated by local businesses, with the proceeds going to the SMA Trust for research into spinal muscular atrophy.

At the end of the day, after prizegiving and superb rock guitar performance by Mark Fiddes and the Wandling Minstrels, our resident opera singer, Friederike Krum, sang a selection of songs from the steps of her house, ending with the most moving of all hymns, 'I Vow To Thee My Country', before the release of a mass of red, white and blue balloons into the sunset. And although some party-loving souls later relit the barbecues and returned to the street for supper, most treated that ceremony as the perfect finale of a most memorable street party.

Click the heading for some photos from the event.

Friday, 29 April 2011

The History of Battersea and Wandsworth Common

Spencer Park

Until 1850, only about 300 people lived in the area known as South Battersea. The land had originally belonged to the St John family as Lords of the Manor of Battersea. Henry St John became the first Viscount Bolingbroke after purchasing the title in 1712 and the family are commemorated by a number of streets bearing their name. The land was then purchased by Earl Spencer in the 18th Century and their name also lives in in many road and pub names as well as in Spencer Park, where Earl Spencer built a substantial house.

A banker, Robert Dent, bought a significant portion of the Spencer's land at the end of the 18th Century and began an ambitious building programme including several large estates and five grand houses facing the Common on 'Five Houses Lane' - now Bolingbroke Grove. Only one of the houses - the former Bolingbroke Hospital - remains today. One of the five houses was lived in by a successful wine merchant, Matthew Charlie. His granddaughter, Marianne, married a Spanish count and became Countess of Morella. Morella Road is named after her. Dent himself lived in the largest and most impressive of the five houses, Old Park. The horseshoe shaped Dents Road took his name in 1881, though one half was later named Gorst Road after Sir John Gorst, a lawyer and Conservative MP, who lived there.

The opening of the Clapham Junction Railway Station in 1863 made the City accessible and the area became a target for developers. Broomwood House and its substantial grounds gave rise to Broomwood, Montholme, Gayville, Devereux and Hiller Roads. The house, which William Wilberforce lived in for several years, was demolished in 1904.

For more than sixty years 24 Morella Road was home to Ida and Louise Cook, two opera-mad spinsters, who helped to rescue dozens of Jews from Hitler's Germany. Their mission was financed by Ida's career as Mills & Boon's most prolific author, writing 130 novels over 50 years. The sisters were posthumously honoured for their bravery in a ceremony at Downing St in 2009.

Some of this history can be found at the reopened Wandsworth Museum. Click here for some photos

[With thanks for Sullivan Thomas]

Friday, 22 April 2011

Russia: The Wild East

Martin Sixsmith's  Russia: the Wild East - explores the history of this great land and for the first time for me explains why Russia's political attitudes and responses seem often threatening and even hostile to habits of thought that we take for granted, being almost inscrutable to those brought up in Western European (and American) society. Even Winston Churchill called Russia 'A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma'.

The most recent episode deals with their terrible 240 years of slavery under the yoke of the unbelievably cruel and barbaric Tartars (led by a descendant of Ghengis Khan) who laid waste to their beautiful capital, then Kiev, while butchering and burning their way across the country in what was a dark age version of 'total war'. Russia lived under the Tartars' autocratic rule for nearly three centuries during the crucial era in which Europe discovered of the Enlightenment and the Renaissance. Russia not only missed out on those great and civilizing influences, but additionally became attached to the arbitrary and autocratic exercise of power and the subjugation of the judicial process to dictatorial whim - as still pertains today. As Sixsmith says "She would never fully catch up with its intellectual, cultural and social values. Instead, a profound admiration for the Mongol model of an autocratic, militarised state began to enter the Russian psyche.This legacy was so deeply assimilated that its influence has marked the way the country is governed right down to the present day."

Click here for a recent review from the Guardian

Click here for some of Ahkatomova's poems which deal with the fear and cruelty of the now slightly more familiar Stalin terror.

This excellent history reminds me of the even finer America: Empire of Liberty by David Reynolds

Favourite Photographers

Jean Shrimpton at the Dolls' House Museum by Terry O'Neill

I was lucky enough to see two photographic exhibitions in London this week, one of Terry O'Neill's work, and the other of Wim Wenders called Places, Strange and Quiet. Both were fascinating - the Wenders for his vast and atmospheric landscape shots and O'Neill for his wonderful black & white portraits. His photographs had the most immediate impact, as they were all of people well-known to my generation - mostly actors, as well as my favourite model, Jean Shrimpton. Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Paul Newman, Frank Sianatra, the Beatles and the Stones taken informally, Marianne Faithful, Brigitte Bardot, Monica Vitti, Sean Connery, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood - all the old favourites, beautifully captured.

Click here for my photos from the Terry O'Neill exhibition and here for the Wim Wenders.

Hampshire in Spring

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Favourite Sculpture

Wanting, Liking, Doing by Luke Dickinson, originally uploaded by onform. Click the heading for his website

See also photos from Barbara Hepworth's Museum here

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Great Churches of the City of London

Most people probably think of the City of London as a grey place of enormous office buildings. Not so; at least it's only partly true. The City is also very beautiful, and its wealth ensures that it stays that way. It's scrupulously clean and well-ordered, partly because so few tourists go there, and if one doesn't care for modern office buildings, one can marvel at the 35 glorious churches. They are mostly by Sir Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke and Nicholas Hawksmoor who rebuilt them after the Great Fire of London destroyed no less than 86 of them. These churches and their often hidden churchyards are the gems of the City, beautifully maintained through their association with one or more of the wealthy Livery Companies. Yesterday I visited St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield, one of the oldest, and was astonished at its near perfect survival since the C13th - in recent centuries through support with the Butchers' Livery company and others. My Livery Company, the Drapers' has had the advowson (right to appoint the priest) of St Michael's Cornhill, since 1503. And on another glorious spring day, I visited St Paul's and was astonished at its scale and magnificence. Click the heading for some photos of St Bartholomew the Great and here for photos of St Paul's.

Favourite Poems - Sowing - Edward Thomas

One of the visitors to this Journal has suggested this spring-time poem by Edward Thomas.

IT was a perfect day
For sowing; just
As sweet and dry was the ground
As tobacco-dust.

I tasted deep the hour
Between the far
Owl's chuckling first soft cry
And the first star.

A long stretched hour it was;
Nothing undone
Remained; the early seeds
All safely sown.

And now, hark at the rain,
Windless and light,
Half a kiss, half a tear,
Saying good-night.

Edward Thomas - Sowing