Time

It is my daughter’s birthday today, a fitting opportunity to look back over time and see how we both have changed.

Happily I see only good things when I pore over her old photos ~ from babyhood to now she has always been a gentle beauty with a strong mind.  She has an independent and adventurous personality, a big heart, a deep love of all animals (well maybe not sheep at the moment but that’s a long story), and the courage to follow her dreams and make them come true.

She’s living her dream in California now, an American citizen after 20 years working and living in Vermont.  But she is happy and visits us in England 2 or 3 times a year so I am very blessed.

I love her dearly and wish her a Very Happy Birthday.

I then got to looking over my old photos as this week’s theme is Time.  My life has not been as adventurous as Lisa’s but I have lived it to the full so far.  I loved my career and adore my family.  I have travelled a great deal ~ in Africa, Russia,  Switzerland, America, Canada, Spain, France, Norway, Austria, Finland, Karelia, Poland and Germany, so I have some wonderful experiences in my memory bank.  On the whole, life has been good to me and I hope it continues for long enough to see my children enjoy their lives and watch my wonderful grandchildren grow up.

Age of Kings

Age of Kings

Age of Kings Tibor Reich Red

Age of Kings Red

This is one of the most vibrant pieces of printed cotton I have ever seen.  It was made by Tibor Reich and I have one of the original panels, which were made for the opening of the Shakespeare Centre at Stratford on Avon in 1964.  The Centre was opened to commemorate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth.

Tibor Reich was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1916.  His father was a wealthy businessman who had a factory making decorative braids, ribbons and haberdashery for military ceremonial uniforms and folk costumes.  Here, the young Tibor learnt about textiles and colour.   As a child he visited the factory and was spellbound.  He once said, “Here I noticed cerise, kingfisher, very bright emeralds, flame reds and deep oranges…”

Following his parents’ divorce, Tibor went to live with his grandmother and immersed himself in drawing, painting and photography.  Until, in 1933 at the age of 17, Tibor went to Vienna to continue his studies.   Already artistic, his talents blossomed in the creative atmosphere of pre-war Vienna.  He studied textile design and technology as well as architecture and poster design.  But as Nazism spread, Tibor left Vienna for England, where he went to Leeds University to continue his studies in textile technology and woven design.

Tibor brought the vibrancy and colour of his homeland, of Hungarian folk music and peasant costumes, as well as the beauty of nature, to the UK in his work.  And, not long after leaving Leeds, he moved to Warwickshire and set up his own woven textile design business in Cliffords Mill using old hand looms that he repaired and renovated.

Being totally original, he quickly established a good reputation, and worked on the highest profile contracts.  In fact it is true to say he revolutionised textiles in post war Britain with his use of colour, pattern and texture.  By the 1950s Tibor’s textile weaving business was well established and he expanded into printed designs.  His projects included the Royal Yacht Britannia, Concorde, The Festival of Britain and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre as it was then called.  Here he designed and created curtains, wall hangings and carpets each named after a Shakespearean character.

He also produced his own range of pottery called Tigo ware and designed a most unusual house for his family which was very innovative and modern.  I visited him here in the 60s as a teenager, with my mum who was in Stratford art circle and seemed to know everybody!   I was amazed by the huge onion shaped open fire which stood in the centre of the room and went right up through the house to the roof.  I had certainly never seen anything like it.  I visited again last week and took some photos.  I believe the house has been renovated and I didn’t see inside, but the garden with its earthen embankment is established now and the fir trees are huge, providing a very useful privacy screen.  Tibor did not like the idea of fences and walls, preferring natural boundaries.

In 1964 he helped to furnish the brand new Shakespeare Centre, which is in Henley Street adjoining Shakespeare’s birthplace, for its opening to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth.  And this is where our paths crossed.

I have written before about the 1964 celebrations, which were undoubtedly one of the highlights of my life.  I worked at the Shakespeare Centre and the sights and sounds produced there I will never forget.  Shakespeare’s plays on a loop, pomanders and dried petals creating the perfumes of the Tudor age, all brought Shakespeare to life.  Added to that was the music of the age and Tibor Reich’s exquisite carpets, curtains, textile panels and wall hangings, some of which are still there today.

The tapestries and wall hangings evoked so brilliantly the scenes from the plays I loved, especially the Age of Kings panel.  This material, showing the kings from Shakespeare’s plays, was produced as stage curtains.  Panels of it were created in several vibrant colours, red, gold, orange, blue etc.  I am lucky enough to have the original red version as a wall hanging.  It was designed by Pamela Kay and made by Tibor Reich in 1964.  I also have a detail from A Tournament and an original of “garrick Jubilee”.

Recently, a new gold curtain was put up in the historic Becket chapel at Holy Trinity Church.  The chapel is dedicated to the martyred Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, who was assassinated in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.

I went to see it last week.  The golden fabric was commissioned for the chapel by The Friends of Holy Trinity Church and comes from the Tibor archive of 20th century design stored in Stratford and in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

If you would like to see Tibor’s textile and pottery work for yourself there is a retrospective exhibition on from 29 January – August at the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER.  www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk

And you can even see a clip of Tibor Reich and see him at work here.

More of his work is on display at the Gordon Russell Design Museum in Broadway until 12 October, and at the V&A Museum in London.  The Tibor Reich family, son Alex and Grandson, Sam hold an archive too which they are currently using to relaunch the Tibor Ltd brand.  They are lucky enough to still live at Tibor House in Avenue Road, Stratford on Avon.  It is a beautiful tree lined road near the open countryside on the way to Warwick.

This year, 2016, marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.  I know that the whole town of Stratford on Avon is busy preparing for the massive celebrations in April.  I can’t wait to be there to join in the festivities and see what Stratford can do to match or better the celebrations of 1964.

 

 

 

Catching up

Reunited Arthur Beadle, Hugh Bradley and Me, 2015

I have never been to a reunion before but this gathering was one I could not miss.  It was to celebrate the 40 years that St Thomas More Primary School has been open.

Having worked there for 16 happy years, I was keen to meet up with old colleagues and past pupils.  I left in 2001 so I was also interested to see how much the building had changed to accommodate all the educational innovations that have taken place.

And change it had!  The entrance hall which used to be a small library, is now like a hotel lobby with a rather swish curved desk where the secretary works in an open plan office.  The hall and kitchen have not changed at all, but the classrooms were very different.  There seemed to be fewer desks and chairs for pupils and no large desk for the teacher.  But the biggest change for me was NO BLACKBOARD!  On the walls were white screens/boards, which presumable are linked to the bank of keyboards below.  No huge computers now either, just small tablets (of the electronic kind) for every child.  What a transition!

I was flooded with nostalgia at the memories of chalkdust, board rubbers and metre long board rulers, protractors etc.

In the corridor, there used to be a small special needs area for individuals or group who were struggling to keep up, or needed to be stretched.  Now, that area is used by language specialists to help the many children for whom English is not their first language.

Of course most of the old team who worked at the school still get together now and again for coffee mornings, walks and meals out.  But we don’t often get to see past pupils.  It was a revelation and a joy to see so many of them there.   Most of those who attended are now in their 30’s with careers and children of their own.  Without exception they all had many happy memories.

The highlight of the evening for me was being back together with the A team ~ The first Headteacher, Arthur Beadle, his deputy, Hugh Bradley, and myself, who made a great trio even if I say so myself. I followed Arthur to become the second Headteacher in the school.  Other highlights included seeing old photos on display, and being hugged by a tall handsome 36 year old man carrying his child.  He, who shall be nameless, apologized for being such a naughty boy when he was a pupil.  He remembered spending a lot of time outside the Head’s office door!  He now has his own business and is very successful so he must have learned something!

 

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Victory

 

Oh my goodness I know I should be writing a learned and worthy post on the theme of remembrance for this week’s victory prompt, but I just have to diverge.  I beg your forgiveness for the poor quality of my photos but I was laughing so much as I took them.

This sequence took place on Tuesday morning as I looked after my adorable one year old granddaughter.   The lounge, hall and bedrooms were filled with toys for her to play with, but now that she can walk the kitchen is her favourite place.   For the kitchen is where my little dog hides in her bed when grandchildren appear.

There truly can be nothing more amusing than watching a one year old negotiate with a dachsund.  It was clear the poor dog had no chance of winning and eventually she had to give up her bed, which she did very reluctantly.  Then it was blankets out as soft toys and granddaughter moved in.

If there is such a thing as a saintly dog, my little dachsund truly is one!  She is so good natured and patient under severe provocation.

 

 

A fruitful season

A fruitful season

My apple and pear harvest 2015

My apple and pear harvest 2015

In the UK Autumn is well underway.  The trees have been turning all shades of gold, orange, amber and red for some time.  But now that the rain and wind has come, the leaves are blowing horizontally off their branches to cover the pavements, fields and gardens.

My precious Japanese maple tree, sheltered from the weather between the wall and the fence outside my window, is absolutely aflame with red leaves. While those at Westonbirt Arboretum are sensational as always.

But my fruit trees are now just skeletons of their former selves.  The apple trees look so ordinary and drab there is no hint that 2015 was the best apple season for 20 years or more!  We had perfect conditions for them due to the mild winter and warm spring.  Spring was followed by gentle rains then a gorgeous hot early summer.  This weather combination produced masses of blossom very early and with plenty of bees around to pollinate the seeds, an abundance of fruits developed.

In my garden the apple trees are trained in the ancient way, horizontally along wires beside a fence.  It’s called Espalier and makes picking the fruit very easy.  It also helps with pruning which I do quite drastically each year because the best fruit grows on the older branches.

I think these apple trees must be over 40 years old.  The thick trunks are gnarled and misshapen, but the fruit is fabulous.  One of the trees is a local early eating variety called Worcester Pearmain.  The apples are small, crisp and wonderfully juicy.   They taste sweet but not cloying, almost with a strawberry flavour.   I haven’t managed to store them well so I use them all up in desserts, cakes and picnic boxes.  The grandchildren love them and eat them straight from the tree.  When I have a glut of apples, like this year, I put a big basket outside on the garden wall with a sign saying ‘help yourself’.   It would grieve me if any were truly wasted, but of course there are always damaged windfalls.  The birds and squirrels love those and feast on them.

My other tree is a Bramley apple tree.  This is by far the best cooking apple around.  It has been grown commercially in the UK for over 200 years but probably a lot longer in orchards and country gardens.  The fruits grow really big, firm and juicy.  They are tart to taste but when cooked they have a sensational flavour.  I make lots of Dorset Apple Cakes, Blackberry and Apple Crumbles and Apple Charlotte.  For my Charlotte I just slice up the apples then drizzle them with lemon and lay them in a deep ovenproof dish.  I then melt some butter, and whizz up some breadcrumbs in my grinder.  I mix brown sugar into the breadcrumbs and maybe a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg.  Then I just sprinkle the breadcrumbs and sugar over the lemony apples, and drizzle them with melted butter (quite generously!)  I repeat these layers a couple of times and finish by sprinkling lemon rind and brown sugar on top of the last layer of breadcrumbs.   Pop this in the oven until it looks golden brown and the smell is mouth-watering.   Then eat it with loads of cream or custard or icecream.  That’s a real treat!

The apples that are left over, I cook down and freeze for apple pies or apple sauce, which will keep us healthy over the winter.  Enjoy the life cycle of my apple trees through my photos ~