Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A Carpenters' Point of View

During my first month or so at Harlaxton my Godparents and their kids came 'round to see the Manor House. We had a great time touring the Manor, and I set up a treasure hunt for the kids with cryptic clues 'from Sherlock Holmes' leading to goody bags...

Run to the Lions!

Anyway, one of the things that struck me was the fact that my godfather, a skilled carpenter, was amazed by the doors and shutters more than anything else in the building. The curved doors in the Gold Room were a particular delight to him, thinking of how those 19th century carpenters managed to make something so precise. He told me that, even with all the modern advances in technology, even with electrical tools and digital measures and access to the best of natures' resources, he wouldn't know where to begin to create curved doors, balanced shutters and intricate panels like the ones in the Manor.

Gold Room

So if you're lucky enough to come to Harlaxton, enjoy the state rooms for what they are: a feat of human creativity, detail and craftmanship. I think with modern factory goods and supermarket lifestyles sometimes we forget that every item, from the steak on your plate to the shoes on your feet, has an origin or creator. Our technology develops but few people are trained to produce these features today: even the smallest details at Harlaxton are, and will probably remain, totally unique.

Great Hall


Monday, 11 July 2011

A Quick Trip to London

London Eye

When you come to England you'll learn very quickly that you can get a train to almost anywhere, for a fairly reasonable price. If you're below 25 you can apply for a railcard that will make each ticket price 1/3 cheaper, so if you book in advance you can easily get to London for about £20 return (once I managed £11 return!): I just came back from there and my ticket cost £25 purely because I fancied travelling back First Class: you get free drinks and snacks, big comfy chairs and a complimentary newspaper too, so why not?

Natural History Museum

Anyway, the reason I went down to London was to go to two new exhibits at the Natural History Museum (above), which houses one of the best biological collections in the world. One thing you should definitely take advantage of: most Museums in the UK are free entry unlike the ones I visited in America: most are run off of voluntary donations (not like the Natural History Museum in New York: voluntary contribution but you have to queue and make one before they let you in!). Even the building itself is pretty cool: all the decorative columns and gargoyles are animals or plants, from a school of architectural thought that says you should know what a building contains before you read the name over the door. The theme continues inside the entrance hall (look at the pillars and tiles in the photo below), with a statue of Charles Darwin now presiding over it all.

Gibbons in the Natural History Museum

The two new exhibits were photography free sadly, but I can highly recommend them: especially the 'Age of the Dinosaurs' which features anamatronic dinosaurs: when the Museum first opened its original robotic attractions when I was little there were day long queues just to see the model Tyrannosaurus rex which not only moved, but focused on audience movement and reacted to people, sniffing them and breathing smelly dinosaur breath on them!

Beach Huts on the South Bank

After leaving the exhibit we wandered down the Thames, where part of the South Bank has been turned into a beach complete with Brighton style beach huts (above) and sand. We even got to meet William and Kate: sadly they were carousel horses though!

William and Kate Carousel Horses

Sadly it did storm when we hit Covent Garden for shopping, but not before we'd visited some of my favourite shops (Cath Kidston for kitch 50's style clothes and accessories: you can't go wrong) and restaurants (Wagamama's for Japanese food... mmmmm). Thankfully in London it's always warmer than the rest of the UK so a quick shower was actually nice: not cold at all.

Before I knew it it was 8.30pm and I was back on the train, heading towards Grantham (albeit in my fancy First Class seat!). It's not really possible to get all of London in on a day trip, but at least you can be assured that the fare is reasonable, the trains are easy to manage and you can always go back while you're here: that's what weekends at Harlaxton are for!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Photo Friday: Bob the Swan

Bob the Swan

A slightly more glamorous photo of Bob the Swan for you. There's new swans on the front lake but only Geese have colonised the back one where Bob lived...

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Month of July

Mahe at Henley

Henley Regatta
began in 1839 with a single afternoon of rowing races on the Thames in Oxfordshire, but now the event lasts several days. It's an event that's attended in large numbers as a social occasion with a strict dress code: in the Stewards enclosure women must wear long dresses and straw hats, and men have to wear a blazer.

Swan Upping 2009-Swan taking off with skiffs back

The Swan Upping is a count of all the swans on a 70 mile stretch of the River Thames, and takes place in July. Of course it's well known that the Royal family owns the swans on the Thames, so on this day they are counted and ringed to keep a record of the population.

On the 15th falls St. Swithins day, which predicts the weather for the next forty days:

St Swithin's Day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain.
St Swithin's Day. if thou be fair,
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair'

Whitstable Oysters

Finally, on the 25th is the Whitstable Oyster Festival. Popular legend holds that Julius Ceaser was lured to England by the Whitstable Oysters: it's a thanksgiving celebration for the fishermen themselves in hope of a continuing good harvest.