Walking and Talking on Hampstead Heath : The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

Walking Book Group

This post is not a discussion or review of the book in question: Emily does that so much better than I could.

https://emilybooks.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/the-garden-of-the-finzi-continis/

Rather, I’d like to tell you about how a Walking Book Club works.

Daunt Shop

 Inside Daunt Books South End Road

You may remember that I mentioned  Daunt Books‘ Walking Book Group in a previous post. Well, at last I have managed to coincide my visit to London with a Sunday meeting of the group. Only a couple of weeks ago did I discover that the group was back in action after Emily’s baby, Vita, was born just 4 months ago.

A group of about a dozen or so keen walker-readers gathered together at the shop on Sunday 22 February to walk on Hampstead Heath to talk about the chosen book – The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani. As I’d only discovered this about a week before and as it wasn’t available from my library ordered a copy directly from Daunts. I just managed to finish reading it on the train down from Leeds. This was good as it meant that the book was fresh in my mind. Also, the evening before I had just watched the dvd version of the 1970 film.

Finzi-Continis

At 11.30 we left the shop, crossed the road and before setting off Emily introduced herself : some of the group were regular reader-walkers, some occasional and others, like me, were there for the first time. The only man was later joined by a couple more; we were delighted to have two Italian nationals amongst us who had read the book in its original and were able to offer us other insights into Italian life and culture relevant to our discussions.

Emily Left

Book talk with Emily [left]

We set off walking and talking in pairs or small groups and every ten minutes or so Emily would bring us all together to sum up, ask questions, provide answers and suggest further topics for conversation. We would then find we started discussion with someone else. The formula works very well. At the highest point of the walk, with long views over London, Emily shared her home-baked cake with us.

Highgate

Highgate from The Heath

London from Heath

View from the Heath

Somehow after about an hour we found ourselves back where we started and Emily summed up the discussion, distributed copies of the 2015 2nd Daunt Books Festival programme (there’ll be a walking book group from the Marylebone shop on 20 March) and told the group the next date and book for the regular Sunday Heath walk : 19th April “the Living Mountain” by Nan Shepherd :

“Shepherd wrote a short nonfiction book, The Living Mountain, during the 1940s. The Living Mountain is a reflection her experiences walking in the Cairngorm Mountains. Having completed it, Shepherd chose not to publish the book until 1977.” (Source)

If you’d like to hear a Walking Book Club session in progress you can listen here to Clare Balding who joined Emily on one of her walks in February two years ago.

Writers’ Gardens

In these the dull, grey February days it’s been a great pleasure for me to read two coffee table-style books back-to-back with glorious photographs but also very informative text. VW's Garden The first was Virginia Woolf’s Garden by Caroline Zoob. There’s lots of nice background information about Leonard and Virginia Woolf but also about the author. Caroline Zoob and her husband were the National Trust tenants in the house for about 10 years. They also took responsibility for the garden. Endpaper VW's

Endpaper Collage

Really the book should be called Leonard Woolf’s Garden since it was almost entirely his creation and Virginia admits to doing little more than a bit of dead-heading and, of course, being inspired by gardens in general for her writing.

VW Bedroom Garden
VW bedroom garden
Virginia Woolf’s Bedroom Garden May 2014
Reading it and studying the lovely photos I was reminded of my visit to Monk’s House last May. I preferred it to Charleston as it had a very much more relaxed atmosphere. I’ve written here already about my visit to Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s home and garden at Rodmell in East Sussex.
The writer's garden
The Writer’s Garden : how gardens inspired our best-loved authors is by Jackie Bennett.
Writer's garden
Title Page – Near Sawrey in the Lake District with Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top in the Bottom Left Corner
Contents Page
Contents Page
Many of the gardens mentioned I have already visited – Jane Austen’s in Chawton in Hampshire long before the digital photography; same goes for Ruskin’s Brantwood which we approached from Lake Coniston by Gondola; Agatha Christie’s Greenway in 2009; Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top in 2005 or 2006; Laurence Sterne’s Shandy Hall the topic of one my first posts here and, of course, Virginia Woolf’s garden mentioned above.  I do hope I can get to the ones I haven’t visited some time as all were inspiring, not to say, beautiful.
Greenway
Agatha Christie’s Greenway overlooking the Dart Estuary in Devon
I borrowed both books from the library but also by coincidence my current audio listen is Christina Hardyment’s The Pleasures of the Garden: an anthology. It’s selected and introduced by Christina and includes passages by Pliny The Younger, Francis Bacon, Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden, of course), Thomas Jeffereson, Jane Austen and Gertrude Jekyll.
51KTun4xj8L._SL300_
Having said all this – I am not, myself, a gardener! I love to visit gardens and read about them but I know nothing at all about plants and their care.
unnamed
My title for this photo on Flickr is “You won’t catch me gardening!”

Germany : Memories of a Nation

Over the last couple of days I’ve been reading the book of this title that accompanied the British Museum exhibition of the same name and the series of BBC Radio 4 talks by its author (and British Museum director), Neil MacGregor.

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/past_exhibitions/2014/germany_memories_of_a_nation.aspx

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04dwbwz

Memories of a nation

It’s a weighty hardback book, nearly six hundred pages long and with masses of photos and maps. There are 30 chapters. This is no conventional history of Germany. Instead, MacGregor chooses to focus (as he did in his ground-breaking History of the World in 100 Objects exhibition, talks and book which  has generated umpteen spin-offs) on objects and pictures which he feels relate to a “German history [which] may be inherently fragmented, but … contains a large number of widely shared memories, awarenesses and experiences”. Quotations here are all taken from the book.

8 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Each of the chapters was absorbing but several held particular interest for me. I studied German for four years at school to A-level and have visited Germany a few times. So when I read the chapter “One Nation under Goethe” I was straightaway reminded of his “Urfaust” (the earliest form of his Faust work) which we studied for A-level. But most of the chapter presented a picture of the German equivalent of William Shakespeare which I did not recognise.

Goethe and Faust

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe by Johann Tischbein and my 1968 edition of Faust Part One

The object  MacGregor focuses on is the Tischbein portrait of Goethe (1786-7) which shows the playwright (and polymath) in a classical setting “out of these survivors of a dead culture, Goethe will make something living”. Interestingly, for his fourth birthday Goethe was given, by his father, a toy puppet theatre which can still be seen today in his birthplace museum in Frankfurt. Goethe later wrote that this gift was to change his life. He was to become especially interested in Shakespeare and it was the influence of his (Shakespeare’s) writing that led Goethe to write his first work “The Sorrows of Young Werther“. MacGregor declares “Werther established German for the first time as a European literary language”.

17 An artist for all Germans

Durer self portrait

Self-Portrait – Albrecht Durer (1500)

The artist Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) created the first and possibly the most celebrated logo of all German logos. I remembered visiting the British Museum as a student to see The Graphic Work of Albrecht Durer in late 1971 or early 1972. This was an exhibition of Durer’s prints and drawings in celebration of the 500th anniversary of his birth. I remember seeing his Praying Hands drawing and Young Hare etching in a beautiful dark room where only the pictures were lit. More recently I visited a show of his work at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight on Merseyside, ‘Durer and Italy’, in the summer of 2010.

knight in armour

20 Cradle of Modernism

weimar_bauhaus_bassinet_large

 [source]

The cradle in question was designed by Peter Keler in 1922 and is still in production today and the modernist movement with which chapter 20 is concerned is Bauhaus. Elegant and simple sums up Bauhaus design established in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius. Inspired by historic German values it was to “combine the medieval-guild traditions of communal working with the most rigorous principles of modern design and the enormous potential of industrial production”. Funding for the Bauhaus was cut in 1924 when the Social Democrats lost power in Thuringia. In 1925 it moved to Dessau. Although intending to be apolitical, when the Nazis took control of Dessau the Bauhaus moved again and to Berlin but was finally closed in 1933 when it had been “condemned by the Nazis as a centre of cultural Bolshevism”. There is now a Bauhaus Archive in Berlin which I have seen from a tour boat but not yet visited (it’s on my list!).

bauhaus archive

 Bauhaus Archive, Berlin

22 The Suffering Witness

Neue Wache

Here is my photo (2009) of the Neue Wache or “New Guard House” built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in Berlin. The sculpture is an enlarged version of “Mother with her dead son” by Kaethe Kollwitz. The light is from the oculus in the roof. The memorial to the fallen of the war lies directly under the oculus exposed to all the Berlin weather.

mother and son

In this chapter MacGregor talks about the life and work of the sculptor and printmaker Kaethe Kollwitz (1867-1945). The sculpture above, within the Neue Wache, was chosen by Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1993 as a “memorial to the Victims of War and Tyranny” to be placed in this “austere neo-classical building in the heart of Berlin”.

I also recommend the chapters on Gutenberg (16 In the Beginning was the Printer); on the Hanseatic city-states (13 The Baltic Brothers) and on beer and sausages (10 One People, Many Sausages)!

Christmas in Black and White and Colour

2014 tree

Compliments of the Season to Everyone.

Two weeks ago I slipped on black ice and fractured my right wrist. This is severely limiting my typing ability and posts will be very intermittent for a while.

However, I’d like to share pictures of the lovely gifts I received this Christmas. As often happens they fall into themes. Each gift has been especially and thoughtfully chosen with ME in mind. I could not have chosen better myself.

black and white

Black and White Gifts

tea tray

Tea Related Gifts (although someone thinks I’d rather be drinking wine!)

london books

London Books, DVDs and Walk Map

I enjoy London walks and exploring the Hampstead and Belsize Park areas when I’m walking my son’s dog. I have the original Quiet London book and it has now spawned three more. I’m happy to spend the next weeks planning future explorations in London.

I’ve read W G Sebald‘s ‘The Rings of Saturn’ and seen this film. I’m looking forward to watching ‘Patience (after Sebald)’ again. Much of it is filmed in East Anglia where ‘Max’ Sebald lived and was professor at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Sadly, when his very original writing was taking he off, he was killed in a motor accident near his home in 2001.

patience

Moi and MA

A story about a Pug called Moi set at Versailles

Alfie at Gif

Alfie at Gif-Sur-Yvette

We took my son’s pug with us when we stayed at the Windsor’s place near Versailles in 2012. In addition I had other smellies; plus a box of cards for me to write my thank you notes – if I can manage that this year!

smellies

smythson

My thanks to everyone for these special gifts!

“One of the Loveliest Places Possible – Endsleigh” : an introduction

House closer

Today the original Endsleigh Cottage is a 16 bedroom luxury hotel.

“We saw yesterday one of the loveliest places possible – Endsleigh – the Duke of Bedford’s, about twenty miles from here”. Thus wrote Queen Victoria in her diary on 14 August 1856.

The result of the work of Humphry Repton and Jeffry Wyattville this truly beautiful estate on Devon’s border with Cornwall is still lovely today. It’s a private and secluded place which has been remarkably well-documented in the estate accounts still kept at Woburn Abbey home the Dukes of Bedford the original developers of Endsleigh.

The  Picturesque taste was popular in England between 1790 and 1840 and Endsleigh is one of its prime examples.

Repton first visited Endsleigh in 1809 and he encouraged the development of a more ‘natural landscape’ than the formality of Capability Brown. Repton proposed the buildings and Wyattville designed them. The main ‘cottage’ dates from 1810 and the subsidiary buildings 1812-1816.  Endsleigh was his first large scale work which was a collaboration with Georgina second wife of the 6th Duke of Bedford.

Whilst at Endsleigh I read her fascinating story in the book “Mistress of the Arts: The Passionate Life of Georgina, Duchess of Bedford” by Rachel Trethewey (Headline Review, 2003).

Endsleigh map

Within limits as a guest I could walk within the estate, down to the Tamar River and in the formal gardens close to the house. I also took tea one afternoon and enjoyed inspecting the various manmade features of the landscape which include a Swiss Chalet, a Shell Grotto and a Dairy. More about the Chalet and the Dairy in future posts.

Endsleigh map close-up

Stepping down the track from the house to the river a stream and muddy path made it impossible to go beyond the former swimming pool so I headed to the river bank and followed it downstream as far as possible. Eventually a notice on a gate prevents you going any further.

Former swimming pool

 The Former Swimming Pool

River Tamar

The peaceful River Tamar

 

Tamar path

River Tamar and Path heading downstream

I returned along the path until I found a track leading up, up, up the valley side to a footpath which I hoped might lead to the Swiss Cottage. It didn’t; but I did find the memorial stone commemorating the spot where the 12th Duke was found dead in 1953.

Memorial to 12th Duke of B

Memorial wording

I’d read about this tragedy in another book “Endsleigh: the memoirs of a riverkeeper” by Horace Adams and edited by Clive Murphy [Braunton : Merlin Books, 1994]. I had the impression that Adams spoke or answered questions about his long life working first for various Dukes of Bedford and later for the Fshing Syndicate that took over the ‘cottage’ when the Bedfords needed to raise Death Duties. Murphy just transliterated Adams’s words to the page.

Fishery Cottage

Fishery Cottage overlooking the Tamar Valley

I didn’t manage to get more than a glimpse of the Swiss Cottage but nearby is Fishery Cottage at one time the estate home of Horace Adams. It’s now up for sale. Horace would be staggered – by the price and by the elegance!

From the main drive it’s possible to go into the formal gardens that surround the Hotel. They are now still beautifully maintained by about half a dozen full- and part-time staff. I didn’t make a note of the numbers of gardeners during the Bedfords’ tenure but there were probably around 5o.

Shell Grotto

A rough path leads to The Shell Grotto set on a cliff high above the river.

The grotto

The Shell Grotto

House view

View of Endsleigh from Shell Grotto

With the rise of the Romantic Movement in the 18th century and the return of the great explorers, building grottoes became increasingly fashionable … Some took the form of artificial underground caves;  others were built above ground in some picturesque spot deep in the woods or overlooking a beautiful view. The chief ingredients remained the same. They must be dark, have water, preferably a cascade or spring and be decorated with shells and minerals. … The grotto at Endsleigh is a rather late example … It is believed that the original intention was for it to be decorated with shells and minerals from Devon and Cornwall. … Obviously this scheme was not carried out as the grotto is full of tropical shells and corals. … It has been lately carefully restored and other shells and minerals have filled the gaps where the originals had crumbled away.” Patricia, Viscountess Boyd, October 1984 [Adapted from the description in the grotto]

Garden bower

Tamar Valley from the Grotto

From the Grotto and formal gardens I returned to the main drive and behind the house are the former stables.

Stables

There’s a plaque in the stables commemorating the laying of the foundation stone by her four eldest sons.

Foundation stone

The Foundation Stone above the arch is nearly covered with ivy

Foundation stone words

There is an arboretum with little bridges crossing streams and which contains unusual trees from around the world. But after further garden exploration in the damp weather and on slippery footpaths with the light beginning to fade even in the early October afternoon it was a relief to take tea in the library at Endsleigh Hotel.

Time for tea

Time for Afternoon Tea

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House and Home

GH Blue Plaque

In the 28 September Arts and Books supplement to The Independent on Sunday I was pleased to read about the imminent opening in Manchester of the former home of Elizabeth Gaskell – more commonly known as the novelist Mrs Gaskell. Her Cranford books have been serialised on TV recently. But there is much much more to Mrs Gaskell and her writing than this rather cosy drama portrays. I recently read “Ruth” and for a novel written by the respectable wife of a Unitarian Minister it is really quite an eye-opener but an excellent read. Read a resumé here. In addition two excellent miniseries of her books ‘North and South‘ and ‘Wives and Daughters‘ were first broadcast on BBC TV in 2004 and 1999 respectively.

I straightaway headed to the house website and read this :

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 – 14:30 to 16:00

Book Launch: Carolyn Lambert ‘The Meanings of Home in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Fiction”

Book

Join us for the launch of Carolyn Lambert’s new book ‘The Meanings of Home in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Fiction’. Lambert explores how Gaskell challenges the convention of the Victorian home as a place of safety in her novels. In particular she illustrates her theme through the importance of homelessness in Gaskell’s work. Lambert’s book draws not only on the novels but also Gaskell’s letters and non-fiction writings and has recently been shortlisted for the Sonia Rudikoff Prize for the best Victorian book by a first time author.

A tour of the house and refreshments are included in the ticket price. Copies of the book will be on sale at a special price.

Gaskell House

84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester

So I booked a ticket for the talk and for the train and yesterday set off for Manchester. I’m afraid I don’t find Manchester any easy city to get around. Perhaps I don’t know it well enough. I eventually found a bus that would take me to Plymouth Grove and which  dropped me off outside number 84.

Welcome to Gaskell House

Carolyn’s talk took place in the Gaskell’s sitting room – yes, the very room in which Charlotte Bronte hid behind the curtains in order to avoid being seen by guests! Photography is allowed and we could sit on the comfy chairs, sofas and chaise longues. I was told that items covered in perspex were original to the house and had been gifted or lent by various donors or galleries and the rest of the furnishings and fittings were either of the period and style of the house during the time when the Gaskells had lived there or were reproductions.

Sitting room

The comfortable, relaxed sitting room

Carolyn began her talk with a resumé of Mrs Gaskell’s life. I have lifted this from the House website :

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born in 1810 and lived at 84 Plymouth Grove with her family from 1850 until her death in 1865.

“To begin with the old rigmarole of childhood…” Wives and Daughters

She was born as Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson in London in 1810. A year later, on the death of her mother, she was taken to live in Knutsford, Cheshire, with her aunt, Hannah Lumb. The arrangement was a happy one – she was to refer to her aunt as “my more than mother” and was to use Knutsford as the inspiration for her fictitious town of Cranford. Knutsford also became ‘Hollingford’ in Wives and Daughters.

In 1832 Elizabeth married William Gaskell, the assistant minister at Cross Street Unitarian Chapel in Manchester. Their third home was a large house near open fields – 42 (now 84) Plymouth Grove. Here they grew flowers and vegetables, and kept a cow, pigs and poultry. The House was always bustling and the family entertained a stream of visitors, including many eminent people. Gaskell connections included such people as the Wedgwoods, the Darwins and the Nightingales, but girls from the Sunday School also came to the house regularly, as did William’s students and fellow clergy.”

She then went on to discuss some of the aspects of home touched upon in the Gaskell novels as well as in Mrs Gaskell’s own life. (Interestingly, she was a keen traveller and some years spent only half the year at home). The home in the novels symbolises security, it’s where relationships develop, it’s a place for creativity and self-expression. But she also wrote about homelessness and the role of servants. Elizabeth Gaskell was ambivalent about Manchester and was torn between family and a longing for the rural environment. Her large house looks rather incongruous these days amidst modern buildings and areas of wasteland on Plymouth Grove but when she was living and writing here it was rural area and the house had a long garden stretching back down Swinton Grove but now built upon by flats.

There wasn’t time in the end to do the full tour – so I will have to return on another occasion and make a more full report of the house but I did peep into ground floor rooms :

Dining Table

The Dining Room

Gaskell writing desk

Mrs Gaskell’s Desk at one end of the Dining Room

William's study

William Gaskell’s Study

William portrait in study

William Gaskell

and refreshments were served downstairs in the basement tea room and bookshop (new and secondhand).

Tea room

The Tea Room

Pertinent quotations from Mrs Gaskell add a touch of humour

Quote 1

 

Quote 2

And in the Ladies Loos :

Ladies' quote

As the instructions for finding a bus that would take me back to Piccadilly Station didn’t work out I was thankful for one thing about Manchester – taxis with lights were easy to hail and thus I made my way back to the train and thence to my own home in comfort.

GH Rear view

Rear of Gaskell House

 

 

 

The Dovegreyreader Tent at Port Eliot Festival

NB This post was prepared back in July during the Port Eliot Festival

Ready for the off

Welcome to the Dovegreyreader Tent at Port Eliot Festival!

It’s an Aladin’s Cave of quilted, patchwork and knitted hangings and of crocheted and sewn bunting: all stitched with love and care.

Quilt

 All Her Own Work

What writer could not feel relaxed in these surroundings, plumped down on the comfy couch with DGR (DoveGreyReader, alias Lynne) quietly and humourously encouraging them to speak about their work? It’s a far cry from the usual literary festival round of upright chairs, microphones, spotlighting and a hushed audience. We did have microphones and the spotlight (sun) shone all the time. We weren’t able to turn down the heating but we offered our guests a fresh cup of tea served in china teacups.

Table

The Festival itself is not all literary. There’s music and food and comedy and a Flower and Fodder Show. The FFS is open to all attendees and beyond. We were encouraged to make a tea cosy for the Fortnum and Mason competition and ‘we’ submitted an entry to the Flower Show. Yes, I, even I, who can neither sew nor knit nor crochet made a tea cosy. And here it is:

The Cosy

My Tea Cosy … on a theme of Tea Sayings

And we had an entry in the Flower Show – the theme was One Lump or Two. Fran made this beautiful display with knitted contributions by Liz. Designer Jane Churchill awarded it Second Prize. Well done, Fran!

P1140344

Each of our guests received a well thought-out gift for taking part. Needless to say it was handmade with care and relevant to the topics discussed. Our Knit Angel, Liz, produced the knitted or crocheted gifts. In addition the ladies received a quilt block again in a design connected with their topic and made by Lynne.

P1140293

Helen Rappaport (author of Four Sisters) received Sister’s Choice Design

P1140292

Helen also received Four Sisters of her own

Comfortable, informal, relaxed  and inspiring – and all in glorious colour!