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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Stumpwork Sheep and Daisies at the Royal School of Needlework

 My day began with breakfast in the hotel dining room overlooking the river. Breakfast on Sundays doesn't begin until 8 am, so I was first there.

It was dull and raining so I left myself plenty of time to get to the class meeting room - Barrack Room 3- in Hampton Court at 9.30. I had slipped over yesterday while doing a test run of finding the meeting place and did not want to repeat that in the wet.

All went well and 12 of us were there to be met, given our Palace passes and guided through the maze of back stairs and corridors to our classroom, on the second floor.

I teamed up with Elizabeth, a woman from Cornwall and a member of the West Country Embroiderers,  who was also cautious with her knees! We enjoyed each other's company and hung out together.

It was a good group and the tutor, Heather Lewis, was attentive and clear. The room was an oddly cluttered space with a tiny area for morning tea. There were several levels up and down short sets of stairs.

The view through the round windows was great.

We got down to work quickly and learned a series of stump work techniques.

The RSN provided sitting hoops, magnifiers and most tools we needed. The tutor provided a kit.

The photo does not do justice to the graded colour with which we filled the daisy leaf. The leaves are worked on a white cotton and will be cut out and attached to the background of our piece.

We made a needle-lace leaf. I made a mistake with mine and will need to work out if I can rescue it.

We created a stem using detached ladder stem stitch. I was more successful here.

The piece de resistance was a sheep made of French knots. Using six strands of cotton in two different colours made all the difference here - a great effect.

None of us got anywhere near finished, but we have the techniques to finish the stitching and construct the final piece. I'm not sure how much of this I will be able to do while away. It is demanding on the eyes and the small travel hoop I have with me may not be up to the job. I will, however, show the final product on my embroidery blog when it's done.

At lunchtime we competed with the public for food and were free to move around the Palace.

Elizabeth and I popped briefly into the Chapel Royal and caught a few minutes of an organ concert.

We finished at four, by which time it had stopped raining, but was still overcast.

On many fronts this is a good thing to have done. I learned several techniques of stump work, met an interesting group of women, saw the Palace from a working perspective and had first-hand experience of the Royal School of Needlework. A pretty satisfying experience.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Hampton Court

This morning I bade farewell to the Radisson Blu Bloomsberry Hotel. It had been a good choice. The contrast at Hampton Court is considerable. How quickly the inner city bustle and landscape gave way to suburbia and finally to the river.

There is a sense of tranquillity. My room - obligingly cleaned and made available for me at 11.30 am- opens on to a small inner courtyard, sunny, quiet, pleasant - and featuring a Bottle Brush!


I brewed myself a pot of (extremely weak)coffee and sat by the window to stitch and write for a bit

In the afternoon I walked over to the Palace to find the meeting point for my class tomorrow. It is at most a 10 minute walk from the hotel at the end of the walkway..

There were lots of people out visiting the Palace - locals rather than tourists.

It has a lot of charm. I walked a while along the river path, bought one of the ubiquitous soft-serve ice-creams and ate  it in the sun.

The wifi connection in the hotel is lousy so I spent a couple of hours on the computer in the Library, occasionally looking up to admire the tapestries.

I had dinner in the Brasserie by the river  
- at least one wedding and two celebrations involving crowns and sashes for the guest of honour were being celebrated in the three eateries in the hotel.

Back in my room it is quiet and comfortable. Early start tomorrow for my RSN class - very pleased to be so close.

Friday, 29 May 2015

British Museum

My last day in Bloomsbury was , after an initial setback, spent happily at the British Museum.

The minor setback was the result of my discovery of a few more of the withdrawn bank notes I brought with me from Australia. So this morning I visited the bank that had changed 3 identical notes on Wednesday. Today, however, the branch's policy is that it can't change withdrawn notes and I need to change them at the Post Office. Following instruction to find the nearest post office I ventured into a different bank - who gave me the same post office story.  Eventually I found a Post Office, cleverly disguised as a Smith's bookshop, waited for it to open, presented my notes, to be told that the only place I could change them was the Bank of England. At this point I cut my losses and headed to the British Museum (getting, I admit, mildly lost on the way). To finish the saga of the bank notes, the Bank of England website says I can mail the notes to them - so I am now in email communication with the Bank of England. 

Back at the Museum I was totally overwhelmed. It is school holidays and there were literally thousands of adults and children at the museum. A seething crowd, constantly moving, took me by surprise - as did the sheer volume of merchandise available for purchase. 

In the end I reverted to the familiar. I headed to the Rosetta Stone and paid homage from behind the four-deep crowd, then wandered the Egyptian reliefs.
They still engage and move me. It is the same concept of narrative, whether in stone, or photography, or embroidery. The medium both is, and is not, the message. 

 I still, too, find myself drawn to heiroglyphs, signs and symbols - the communication codes that have an edge of magic. 

There are so many things to get interested in - these huge cameos, for example.

I then headed to the European collection and stopped for a while with the Lewis chess men.
These monastery tiles were lovely 
and I was fascinated by this series which depicted a local monk's idea of stories of Jesus's childhood -  events that MIGHT have happened. 
I had some lunch and observed the extraordinary crowds - supplemented by those driven from the parks by rain.  I have talked and written about globalisation - but this week has driven home to me the reality of mobility and global culture for large numbers of people - especially, but by no means only, Europeans. The museum today was mediating between cultures and contributing to a global, life-long curriculum. The Museum belongs to the world - if possession is any guide.  The extent to which this is a good or bad thing - or whether it is any different to Medieval pilgrimages is too big a question for this blog.

I finished my day with the Sutton Hoo treasures, the Vikings, Anglo-Saxons and Vandals. I still find them beautiful and awesome.
I liked these Vandal beads 

and these pieced-together Anglo-Saxon beakers from Buckinghamshire.
The depiction of a hare caught my eye - reminded me of the crewel work rabbit I have just finished embroidering!

I didn't, in the end, visit the Australian Indigenous a exhibit. In the foyer was an installation constructed by families visiting the museum after seeing the Indigenous Australian Exhibit. They were asked to use who they had learned from the exhibition to draw their favourite object from the museum - using a colour based on the form of transport they used to reach the Museum. I found this really exciting - a way of intellectually grasping some of the significance of the art and culture. 

When I left just after 6pm people were still arriving - the Museum opens till 8.30 pm.

As a child, my father truanted from school and spent much of his time in the British Museum. I couldn't help but wonder how that child would see it today - and how the Museum would see that child.

Tomorrow I leave Bloomsbury for Hampton Court and different sorts of adventures.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Bloomsbury and St Paul's

I decided this morning to take advantage of the improved state of my knees to walk around Bloomsbury and Covent Garden. I have decided to spend my limited time locally rather than heading for major attractions. I regret missing the Natiinal Gallery and Tate Modern this time - but I can't do it all and it's a shame not to explore the precinct.

My walk took me around the British Museum to Russell Square, down Bury St, where I stopped briefly at the impressive London Review Bookshop (no, didn't indulge, I'm travelling light with ebooks!). Its attached foodcourt was full of hopeful Cordon Bleu chefs.

This area has several Scottish outfitters. I loved this patchwork tartan bag.

I was hoping to visit St George's Church, but it doesn't open until afternoons. It's interesting to see the interfaith support declared by churches in this area.

I headed down Drury Lane, with its barber shops, of varying degrees of sophistication.

A few costume shops have survived the invasion of eateries 
along with regalia shops.
Around the corner in Queen Street is the monumental and seemingly impenetrable Masonic Building
and not far away, Aviation House, with its odd injunction to "Enter, Rest, Pray" over the door. Perhaps that could also be inscribed over the doors on long haul planes!

A fashionable hat
and a ceramics display caught my eye before I took a rest in Bloomsbury Square and headed back to put my feet up for a bit.
In the afternoon I caught a bus to St Paul's. As the bus stop was outside the now open St George's Church, I popped in to have a look. It is a lovely square shape with a new chandelier acquired from the Netherlands and an interesting lectern.
Many readers are aware that today is the first anniversary of Jim's death. I'm grateful for and sustained by all the messages of support.

We both liked St Paul's and attended the choral Evensong there last time we were in London. I spent a bit of time time today walking around St Paul's.
I lit quite a lot of candles - enough for all of us -in front of the Holman Hunt painting "Behold I stand at the door and knock". Jim was one for opening doors, so it seemed fitting. The candles made steady and bright light for a long time.

I had a drink and ice cream in the cafe, then sat under the dome and stitched for about 45 minutes until Evensong - still, I think, my favourite Anglican service.

Photos are not allowed so I don't have a lot to show. The music was lovely. I'd have preferred more chance to join in the singing of the responses, but I understand the notion of a choir responding on our behalf - and it fits with the statement of the architecture - the colour of the mosaics,  the gold, the words, the music and the depicted stories lifting our spirits to the light. I'm very glad I went. It worked for me. 
When I returned to my hotel the bar music was loud, so to preserve my centeredness I ate at a pleasant local Greek Taverna. I hope others were as blessed today.