Friday, July 25, 2008

The weather has turned completely beautiful in the last 2 days. Yesterday was even a bit too hot. We went to the rather boring Lydd-on-Sea to see the WW2 Sound Mirrors, which are quite amazing:

Sound Mirrors 1

Unfortunately, you can't get too close to them as they are on an island. Later on in the day, we found this somewhat sordid-looking toy in a playpark:


The mind boggles when you consider that this had to have been passed by a design team somewhere. I can't believe that not one person said, "Guys, doesn't this remind anyone of anything?".

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mixed Feelings

Leaded Window 1447 - 1947

Me, Dingo and Jane all set off on Sunday to go to Wye in Kent, the place where I met Jane and where I studied for my degree. We met up with Harriet and Kunar, who are also friends from college. When we got there, I discovered that the college had shut down.

Wye College, as can be seen from the picture above, celebrated, in 1947, 500 years as an educational establishment. 60 years later, it is gone. The buildings are all there, but emptied, to be boarded up, unused, at the end of September.

Seeing the place unused, falling apart, the village round it succumbing to the inevitable decay that removing a vibrant student population from it has wrought, brought me some very mixed feelings. On the most immediate level, it was sad. There can be no denying that the degree I achieved was a good one. I have fond memories of some marvellous lecturers: Mike Copland and his inspirational Entomology lectures; the bumbling but lovely Tom Wright; the frighteningly intellectual Alison Burell... I have some lovely memories of friends - some of whom I am still in touch with after 25 years. I have some horrible memories of drunken arrogant slobs, sexism, racism and homophobia; of bullying and fear. (Over 80% of the students came from private schools and didn't quite realise that the college was the first step into the world, not another level of school.) As Harriet accurately surmised "It wasn't the happiest place for you", yet I still feel sad at the loss of the place.

The weekend was great fun. It was lovely to see Harriet and Kumar and to see how their children, Daisy and Molly, have grown since I last saw them about 8 years ago. They've turned into very charming, well-adjusted young women. The only downside was the AWFUL hotel we stayed in. During my time in Wye, we frequently went to the King's Head pub. It was always a fairly ordinary place with good beer, so I thought it would be OK to stay overnight there. How wrong I was.

The Most Horrible Hotel We've Stayed In

Under no circumstances should you make the mistake of staying here. Especially not if you plan staying in a double room with your same-sex partner. The hotel is horrible: the rooms are furnished with chipped and broken MFI type furniture; the carpets look as if the Rug Doctor might pronounce them DOA; the bed was like a blancmange with lumps; the bedding smelled of excess of cheap washing powder; the single bedside lamp had a 20w bulb in it; the shower had no hot water and a surfeit of pubic hair; and even the TV remote control was broken. We hardly slept at all, it was so nasty. Breakfast continued the horror, with piss-weak coffee, one small glass of orange-juice, white supermarket-bread toast and boiled eggs which were so soft that the whites were still liquid. For the privilege of such contemptuous treatment, we were charged £55. A Travel-Lodge would have charged the same and would have been comfortable, if a little bland. I know which I prefer.

After Wye, we went on to Sissinghurst Castle to see the Vita Sackville-West gardens there. They were lovely though a little bit too busy to enjoy properly. And as with all National Trust properties in the UK, solidly white, middle-class and very overpriced. Still, we enjoyed ourselves and Jane "acquired" some seeds for her garden at home!

Hopefully off to see some sound-mirrors at Dungeness tomorrow.

Friday, July 18, 2008

We've been to Charleston, the "Bloomsbury Set" house in West Sussex, owned by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell:

Charlestone Cottage and Pond

It is a very ordinary English farmhouse which has been completely decorated internally (and in the gardens) by the artists and which hosted many of the luminaries of the group - Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes - steeped in history. Unfortunately, it was a guided tour and we weren't free to wander around at our leisure. Additionally, photography inside the house is forbidden, so the picture above is all you can see here!

Afterwards we went to the sick-makingly pretty Berwick, where there is a church also decorated by the artists:

Berwick Church

Not much else to report. Glad I brought my "shop" with me as loads of stuff has been selling on Etsy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rather as I have managed to reach middle-age without learning to swim, Dingo has managed to get to his early thirties without learning to ride a bike. We remedied that today!

Dingo on Bike 1
Looking aprehensive!

No need for concern. He got it in about five minutes:

Dingo on Bike 2
Looking confident!

I'm so proud!
What a day it was yesterday. We went to Pagham harbour, which is a nature reserve in West Sussex:

View Larger Map

The weather was by far the best we've seen all summer: warm, dry and with a light breeze to keep it all moderate and pleasant. Having accidentally taken the wrong bus (with the most obnoxious driver, but what can you expect from the vile "Stagecoach"?) we ended up on the wrong side of the harbour and had to walk all the way round to the other side, which took about 4 hours. I went for a run at the end but it was all a bit too much in the sun and I only managed 5km.
By the time we arrived back in Brighton, it was too much of an effort to even speak!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The weather forecasters have been a bit rubbish over the last few days: every time they forecast rain, we had sun. So no complaints there.

Yesterday, we met up with my friend Jane, of many, many years' standing, taking advantage of the only forecast fine day of the week to head off to the beautiful gardens at Sissinghurst, Kent. I was last there in the very early 1980s and have a vague memory of Vita Sackville-West's famous white garden and a very strong memory of disapproving attendants who sniffed at me and my friend Luke laughing at mediaeval eroticism. Sadly, my memories were not to be refreshed as, unmentioned on the website, the gardens were closed. It seems that they close every Wednesday and Thursday. We went to the local pub instead to have some lunch (where the landlady told us that people had come by public transport from as far away as Norfolk to find the gardens closed on these days) and where we were childishly delighted by some tame ducks:


Here you can see Dingo feeding lettuce to a duck. They like it. He doesn't.
After lunch, we headed off to the sadly-changed Canterbury, which, like all too many places in the UK, has become corporate bland, with the usual gamut of "Gap" etc. and a hideous new shopping centre invading the heart of the mediaeval city. We wandered around a bit and had a cream tea by the river:

Jane and Dingo

Today we went on a walk along the river from Cuckmere Haven to Alfriston, which was great. It was meant to have been raining all day, but it didn't. We experienced only one shower and the rest of the time was sunny, though a little windy. On the way to the very quaint Alfriston, we stopped by at the tiny village of Littlington (yes, that really is it's name!) where there is a beautiful church with one lovely stained glass window:

Stained Glass
Littlington Church

There is also the most over-priced teashop I have ever encountered in the garden centre there. Never go!
Go instead to the marvellous "Badgers" tearoom in Alfriston, where you can enjoy the Sett menu. I am NOT kidding. Actually, the tea and cakes there were very good:

Dingo and Tea

I can be very serious about afternoon tea:

Serious Tea Time

Friday, July 04, 2008

Holidays at last!
As usual, I'm in Brighton with Dingo, doing all the holiday things like eating cakes, going for walks and taking loads of photographs. The weather here has been great, which it hasn't been elsewhere in the country: we keep planning for things based on the weather forecast (rain) which never then happens (sun). Not that I'm complaining.

Drove down last weekend by way of Birmingham and went for an Ethiopian meal with James. The vegetarian meal was delicious but James had the non-vegetarian meal and there was rather too much meat in it for him.

Bought a new folding bike. Not one of those poofy little Brompton efforts, but a proper, full-sized, fully-specified mountain-bike by Montague Bikes. I'll get some pictures posted soon.