Just returned from 3 days based in Thorpeness in glorious sunshine, walking and lazing on an empty stretch of the beach, plus a visit to Raveningham Sculpture Trail. We fitted in 3 early morning walks before it got too hot and before anyone was around. One walk was around the village, with its interesting history, written about in a previous post. A second one was doing a previous walk in reverse, to Sizewell and back, written about in the same post. The final walk was to Aldeburgh and back, written about in this post in the reverse direction. There are other posts too about these quintessenailly English seaside towns with Southwold just up the road and Dunwich. We stayed on for an extra day as we were enjoying it so much and it was much cooler than London. What was lovely on this trip was to see the early morning and evening light as we usually day trip to the area and miss out on it.

Due to a punctured tyre on a very busy dual carriageway at the beginning of a day out, we ended up in Gravesend waiting for our timed slot at Quick Fit. Long story but the day out was just that, returning home 7 hours later but we did get to see the statue of Pocahontas in Gravesend which, given my blogposts on statues of women, saved the day from being a total washout.

I knew the basics about her story, or so I thought but looked her up on Wikipedia. This is not the great romantic story of love between Pocahontas, daughter of the Powhatan tribe leader, and Captain John Smith with her saving his life and turning her back on her own family and culture to ally with the English, although she certainly knew him and was friendly enough with him. She may also have warned the colonists of a pending ambush which did save several lives. Doubt has been cast on the veracity of Smith’s writings in later years after her death.

What we do know is that Matoaka was renamed Pocahontas after she was captured in Virginia and held for ransom by English colonists in 1613 before being converted to Christianity. Now called Rebecca, she married John Rolfe and had a son when she was 17 or 18. This marriage contributed to the peace between both sides as long as her father lived. The family travelled to London in 1616 to try to get investment in the Virginia Company, where she was used as an example of a “civilised savage” and introduced into society, before dying in Gravesend when embarking on the return journey in 1617, aged 21. Her story is still much debated.

The statue commemorates her short life which ended in a country far from home. Not quite the Disney version we’ve been brought up on!

Went to see Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre recently. This production, directed by Simon Godwin, was set in the Hotel Messina on the Italian Riviera with wonderful sets and costumes that were lavish art deco with sequins and feathers and a swing band on a balcony. Katherine Parkinson and John Heffernan play Beatrice and Benedick who love to hate each other and are tricked by their friends into falling for each other. My memory of seeing this in the past is that the couple are the beating heart of the play but this time I felt there were many strong scenes which balanced out the play. The plot line around Hero and Claudio, Ioanna Kimbook and Eben Figueiredo, when he turns on her was quite shocking given their relationship up until then and the light-hearted comedy enhanced by Figueiredo’s delivery in a strong London accent which seemed out of place at first.

The slapstick and comedy is such fun in this production. The scenes where Beatrice and Benedick overhear their friends talking about them where well executed with them shuffling around in changing room pods and hiding in the ice cream carts. Dogberry and the Watch were very funny in scenes that have left me cold in the past. Maybe it was the mood I was in that night but all I wanted was an evening of high-class entertainment, laughter and wonderful staging and I got all of that. On until 10th September.

Whilst walking the Sculpture in the City trail 2022, we came across several sculptures that were not part of the trail. It always pays to look up, look down and peer through railings in London to find the hidden stories.

The dachshund, spotted through railings, is in very long and immortalised in a stone bench in Jubilee Gardens. It was created for the London Festival of Architecture in 2018 and was designed by Patrick McEvoy in memory of Geoffrey Barkington, a dachshund. The alien looking statue is placed within the ruins of a medieval charnel house, the oldest building in Spitalfields, which is preserved by the market with steps running down to it. There is an excellent blog post on this area and the ruins on Flickering Lamps. The statues, Choosing the Losing Side by David Teager-Portman, to me looked like an alien coming across an ancient civilisation. The final exhibit we discovered was Absent by Nicholas Dimbleby, a moving memorial to those who die or suffer as a result of war.

Sculpture in the City 2022

Every year we walk the Sculpture in the City trail on a weekend, this year with friends, which always gives you a different angle on the relatively empty part of London. I also seem to take as many pictures of the buildings as I do of the sculptures as the reflections in the glass windows are fantastic. Here are my favourites of this year’s new installations.

I loved the neon sign We by Emma Smith that blinked on and off and read both We are all one and We are alone. The Granary, Jesse Pollock, which looked like a huge orange quality street patched together with scraps of metal. Earthing by Jocelyn Mc Gregor was getting a lot of attention by passers by with its Bosch like limbs protuding from snail shells. The wooden benches, In Loving Memory by Oliver Bragg, added humour with made up people and places. Star of the show is the City itself.

Last year I blogged about our first visit to Raveningham Sculpture Trail which we loved. We bought 2 pieces from the show, very small ones, which are now in our garden. As we were in Thorpeness for a few days of glorious sunshine recently, we drove over to this summer’s show which was themed Journey. The earlier post talks more about the place itself and how the artists pick their own sites to exhibit so this one is just focussed on what I was particularly struck by on this visit.

The sculptures were completely different to last year’s which was lovely. My favourites were the resin casts of bricks with photos embedded suspended from the tree, slowly turning around. They were haunting. Fern Spray’s glass and wood sculptures were beautiful, particularly the glass set into the tree rings. Louise Severyn’s Leshy, with clothes hanging from the trees were striking. Mike Challis’ Sounding Stones – no photo – had us stepping from stone to stone to hear the different woodland sounds. But my favourite this year, Zoe Rubens and her intricate sculptures made from metal and ceramics. The outdoor ones were wonderful; the indoor ones were intricate with watch faces meshed into the wiring. Lovely. Hopefully, we will be back next year – on until 4th September.

Finally got to use my leaving present theatre vouchers from last summer to see My Fair Lady. This was a musical I’d loved as a child, particularly the songs Street Where You Live and Wouldn’t It Be Loverly and the Ascot scene, the Ascot Gavotte. These were all fantastic, living up to expectations and very close to the film with the Ascot costumes and the horses thundering by and great comedy. This award-winning production has moved to London Coliseum from the Lincoln Center Theater in NY with a few changes to the film, adapting a little to #MeToo era.

Amara Okereke plays Eliza Doolittle, the first time a black actor has done so. Harry Hadden-Paton plays Henry Higgins, much younger and younger looking than Rex Harrison so the latter part of the play is not quite as creepy. And Eliza does not stay with him in the end scene. However, the language used about Eliza and songs such as Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man do not get any laughs which I suspect they did in 1964 in a film set in 1912. Great set, wonderful singing and acting, Vanessa Redgrave and Stephen K Amos also very good. Just left with a feeling that it’s a difficult musical to update for a new generation. On until end of August.

Back in June I posted about a visit to Football: Designing the Beautiful Game at the Design Museum. I was fascinated by the story of women’s game and amazed to see a poster for The First Ladies Football Match, North v South, played at Crouch End Athletic Ground on my doorstep.

I had not got around to the blog post but given this week’s amazing performance by Lionesses, the timing felt right.  Women’s football was very popular in Victorian times and then faded away, building back over a very long time to where it is right now. And there was diversity within the team back then, an issue being discussed right now.

I looked into that game in more detail and the history unfolded but a disputed history. Amazingly, 1895 gave us the 1st black female footballer – Emma Clarke from Bootle – or did it? 

And it gave us the captain, Nettie Honeyball – fab name – who was quoted in an interview with Daily Graphic on 2nd March 1895 a saying she saw no reason, “why women should be excluded from athletic sport.”  Quite so Nettie. (Hornsey Historical Society)

Loved this quote about the game; sounds unmissable to me: “There was a lot of violent elbow action, and they had a tendency to dance around the ball a little unsure what to do with it. They forgot the rules and forgot to change ends at half time. Nevertheless, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle with much shouting and cries of encouragement from the crowd.” (Hornsey Historical Society)

Back to Emma Clarke.  If you want to find out more about the disputed history, click this link. There is a view that Emma from Bootle, which felt right to me given the footballing history in that area, may be Emma from Plumstead in the East End of London.  And there is now a debate over her identity which has a scandal in the background.  As someone from the NW, I would like to believe that Emma Clarke was from Bootle and was the 1st black female footballer and go with the blue plaque outside Campsbourne School in my local area. Whatever the truth, Emma was a football pioneer.

No-one is quite sure where the game took place as the Athletic Ground no longer exists in Crouch End. But I did the reading and took my best guess as it being around Nightingale Lane. The blue plaque is currently hidden behind scaffolding but just visible, inspiring youngsters to get involved in the beautiful game.

Too lemony lemon cake!!

Headed to Rye Harbour the other weekend to check it out, having been to Rye but never venturing there. It was busy around the visitor centre but we soon left people behind and found ourselves alone. We had a lovely walk in the wind and sun, out towards the sea where we could see Dungeness in the distance. The beach here is very like Dungeness with pebbles and bright plants.

Turning inland, we walked through lovely fields and past inlets with birds, ending at a wonderful cafe by the William the Conqueror pub with the most enormous piece of lemon drizzle cake. Apparently, there’d been a complaint it was too lemony – who complains about that!! We sat outside in the sunshine eating the cake out of a paper bag as the seagulls have been known to swoop down and peck the patterns off the plates if they are left out – no doubt with tempting lemon cake that another person has left! After lunch and a pootle round Rye we headed for Hastings. We will return for that cake if nothing else!

Stopped off in Hastings, after Rye Harbour, to visit the Hastings Contemporary. There were 3 interesting exhibitions. Firstly, Lakwena Maciver’s Jump, abstract brightly painted portraits of inspiring basketball players which cover both the floor and the walls of the ground floor gallery. Posted about her work on the roof of Temple Station last year. There is also a small exhibition of imaginary, cross hatched portraits in biro by Sir Quentin Blake to celebrate 10 years of the gallery, with the wonderful title Birthday Biro and Bic!

On the 1st floor is an exhibition Seafaring with 50 plus paintings/prints from 1820 tothe present day, an eclectic mix featuring the known (to me) Cecily Brown, Eric Ravilious, Elizabeth Frank, Maggi Hambling, Edward Burne-Jones amongst others. And the unknown. Wide ranging, interesting with great information cards. Really enjoyed it. All are on until late September.

Avoiding rush hour, we finally made it up the UK’s steepest funicular in an old Victorian style carriage, to take in the amazing views of the Hastings Pier and beyond, before walking back down. Rye Harbour and Hastings together make a long but great day trip.