Thursday, 28 October 2010

Staycation, days 10-11

Largely pottering days. More garden / house tidying in preparation for the arrival of my parents on the afternoon of day 11. Essentially, nothing interesting doing, but seeing as I'm now obsessionally documenting our staycation, a placeholder entry is required at least.

Oh, we did get our chimney cleaned ...


Photograph courtesy of C.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Staycation, day 9

Up to London today to meet Annie, and to check out the Tate Modern's current exhibitions. The main one being a career-wide retrospective of the 19th century French artist Paul Gauguin.


This turned out pretty well, although I'm still not especially gushing about his work. As is not uncommonly the case, a more interesting part of the exhibition was its contextualising of his work within history, particularly that of European colonialism. On this score, Gauguin has a bit of a reputation for exploitation, evidenced by his paintings of, and affairs with, local women on his various travels through the colonies. But the exhibition also brought out his conflicts with the colonial authorities (including the church), and gave the impression of nascent anti-colonial feelings in Gauguin. Although that might be just down to me skim-reading and misinterpreting the various presented documents.

We also spun around a surrealism exhibition, always fun, and a long-standing one on cubism, futurism and one other -ism that I can't now recall. As with much modern art, something of a mixed bag. Some excellent, some impenetrable, some pants (= unappealing to my aesthetic). And we took in the current Turbine Hall exhibit, Sunflower seeds, of 100 million life-like, well, sunflower seeds.


Of which, C made her own work with a handful of seeds. A different handful from the one she stole, needless to say.


We had a nice long chat with Annie along the way, including a dissection of her recent book group meeting that trashed a book C and I liked (which I'm long overdue writing up).

And then it was a long journey home, standing room only, on the train. Not the best way to top off a day spent standing around staring at art.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Staycation, day 8

Out today to Portsmouth to visit Barbara and Alan in the PM. To make something more out of the short hop eastwards, we stopped off along the way in Portchester. Though it's hardly a fair way to judge a city and its surrounds, because of Portsmouth's relatively high population density, I've always tended to write-off anything within spitting distance of it. Including the across-the-water Portchester. How wrong could I have been?

2010-10-25 Portchester walk

Very, as it turns out. Though the town itself is not a whole lot to write home about (or even write blog about), it's got a great seafront, which includes the excellent Portchester Castle. The map above shows the short (5.3 km) walk that we did around and through it.


This shot shows the most intact part of the castle, its keep (in the NW corner of the map), but the remainder is in pretty fair shape too, at least relative to more tumbledown affairs like St. Andrews. Including some great walls. The castle grounds also include a church, St. Marys, and both external and internal moats (the latter around the keep).

DSC06227 panorama v2

As the above panorama hopefully shows, the castle also affords great sea views over to Portsmouth itself. Seen from this distance the city actually looks appealing! ;-)

Anyway, a pleasingly surprising trip out east. And another great day for it - the weather could not have been better (cf. the deep blue sky above). And followed up with a nice catch-up in Portsmouth itself. In particular, Alan was in great form.

More photos over at Flickr.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Staycation, day 7

Out to Romsey today for the annual pre-Christmas fair at Broadlands country house. We didn't do terribly well getting presents for anyone else, but did much better getting ourselves new hats and gloves for the winter.

The afternoon was spent faffing around at home doing various odd jobs in the house and the garden. In freeing up the camera, however, it did allow an opportunity to create a time-lapse of Pushkin in action (well, what passes for action with her) ...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Staycation, day 6

More shopping chores around Southampton this morning. It's frankly embarrassing that it took a holiday for me to drag myself to Staples to replace our printer's toner cartridges, but there it is.

Out in the afternoon with John and Meriel. Just a walk along Weston Shore to the playground there followed by cake. And, yes, I did have a go on the swings. I don't know whether it's the warm memory of a childhood activity, or just the physical pleasure of building up a head of steam against gravity, but it's always fun.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Staycation, day 5

With our cat in for a check-up at the vets in the afternoon, we didn't have as long for a walk today. Hoping to catch some autumn colour, we headed out to Boldrewood in the New Forest, which an article in a newspaper claimed was suitable ...

2010-10-22 Boldrewood walk

While it was certainly a nice day out in the forest (albeit a very short walk; 5.7 km), it wasn't particularly autumnal. Though the portion of the forest we visited had more than a few evergreens, there were enough deciduous to have made a show in principle, but they weren't playing ball. The closest we got was with the bracken on the forest floor ...


We also rediscovered just how difficult it is to find decent vegetarian options in rural pubs. After trying about four different places on the route back to Southampton, we gave up and had a sulky lunch back at home.

In passing, Pushkin checked out largely OK on her visit to the vet. Thyroid still shot to pieces, but acceptably aberrant for 18.5 years of age.

A few more photographs over at Flickr.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Staycation, day 4

One of the disadvantages of a staycation is being based at home and, thus, acutely aware of household chores that need doing. Consequently, today we felt obliged to have a kitchen sort-out, and to give the garden its last blast before the onset of winter. Au revoir Thursday.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Staycation, day 3

Out today to the north of Hampshire to visit, first, a craft centre up in Andover, and then on for a hike in nearby Harewood Forest.


Our first stop was an old fairground just to the west of Andover that's been converted into a series of arts and crafts shops (actually, they looked more like former stables). A few interesting bits and bobs to see, but not a whole heap to buy. One or two of the shops were actually pretty specialist, and very much at the pricey end of the crafts places we've visited. Just down the road, we came across the colourful bovine pictured above, the mascot for a local farm shop, but one we first mistook for a Cow Parade escapee.

2010-10-20 Middleton walk

Our hike was a fairly easygoing circular trek through 13.1 km of Harewood Forest just to the east of Andover. The weather was just about perfect, with nearly constant sunshine keeping the temperature (and, latterly, our spirits) up. We did get distracted by a futile wild goose chase to find some ancient monument deep in the woods, but otherwise the hike went more or less according to plan (= as per our walk book).

The trail itself was a mix of farmland and forest, so was a little more varied than many of the walks we do in Hampshire. It actually took in a portion of the Test Way, so it was also more straightforward to navigate. And, oddly, we had it completely to ourselves - we never met, or even saw, anyone else on it. Not an especially photogenic walk, but there were some nice vistas across rolling fields, and (I presume) the high chalk content of the soil made for a nice range of browns across the ploughed fields ...


As usual, photos over at Flickr.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Staycation, day 2

Out today to visit the Cass Sculpture Foundation in Goodwood, just to the north of Chichester.

While it's an outdoor sculpture park much like another we visited earlier this year, it very much caters to the larger (and more expensive) sculpture demographic. Even the smallest were still quite large, but I see this as a definite advantage for outdoor "galleries", where the scale of the environment can diminish conventionally-sized works. Little chance of that here (see, especially, "Alfa" below), and the works are further helped by sympathetic positioning within some lovely grounds.


This one, "Woman", was definitely one of my favourites (and not just because of the sculpture abuse possibilities). From a distance it first appeared to be a visitor to the park, but as we got closer its scale became more obviously alien. It should have been a little representational for my tastes, but the quality of the representation, as well as its intrinsically otherworldly size, made it stand out to me.


"Alfa" is the biggest and best example of giantism in the sculpture at the Cass park. A bright orange loop of steel tubing, it towers above all of the neighbouring sculptures and even the trees that fill the park. So it's immediately impressive, if rather difficult to photograph.


Another attractive one, almost like a child's mobile, is "Sun and Moon", a big-scale (though not up to that of "Alfa") work representing, obviously enough, the sun (background) and the moon (foreground). Doubling up as our lunch site, this got more scrutiny that many of the others.


After finishing up at the park, we headed down to nearby Chichester for a trawl around the shops and a visit to the city's impressive cathedral. The latter visit also drew in a great coffee and cake stop - a theologically perplexing use of the Lord's House. Was this a watering of the attendant faithful, or an angling for the attention of the faithless using lemon cake as bait? Either way, the cathedral was an excellent stop.

As ever, there's a full set of photographs over at Flickr.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Staycation, day 1

We're having a staycation this autumn, largely so that we can keep an eye on the recently-ailing Pushkin (though the prospect of losing our jobs through the imminent cuts hasn't gone unnoticed). Anyway, because I've been away over the weekend, Day 1 strongly emphasised the "stay" part of our staycation so that we can do chores.

That said, we did manage out to see The Social Network in a late-afternoon screening that amassed an impressive 5 cinema-goers (including us). And it turned out to be a surprisingly good film. Perhaps not surprising given the writer and director, but the latter was most recently responsible for a true stinker. Anyhow, I understand that its relationship to reality may be a tad hazy in places, but it's a pretty good stab at turning a dot-com success story into a credible and engaging story. Though I won't be rushing to up my visit-rate to Facebook.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Big Four-Zero

Up to Oxfordshire this past weekend, to a small town called Burford (not to be confused with Burwash), for Dr. M's 40th birthday party. On my own this time though as, unfortunately, C had to stay home for this one to nurse an ailing cat (though Pushkin appears to be making a recovery).

We were staying in a place called Wysdom Hall, an extremely quaint 16th century guest house which doubled up as our canteen for the weekend. It was a truly strange concoction of a building in which every bedroom was different in proportion and layout from the last, that had a plethora of interconnected lounges, and which felt like it had been grown rather than built. So an excellently sprawling venue for a typically sprawling event, and attended by frequently sprawled guests. Though it was a little too late in the year to be making full use of it, the hall also sat in some great "cottage garden" grounds that afforded, needless to say, many Kodak-moments.


The order of ceremony was: arrive → late dinner → drinks → crash → unruly breakfast → moderately long but easy walk → extended dinner preparation → extended dinner → drinks and games → crash → kitchen cleanup → unruly breakfast → gradual sloping off of attendees. As ever, alcohol was freely flowing, language was the traditional mix of in-jokes and profanity, dinner was served at length in extremely generous portions, and it was all topped off with a hard-fought tournament of the Name Game[*].


The walk was an enjoyable 10.1 km jaunt through the countryside around Burford. While it did occasionally take in terrain that wasn't entirely appropriate for the in-buggy 11 month old who accompanied us, on the whole the going was pretty straightforward. And it was long enough for each of us to gradually chat our way through the whole walking party which, given that I've not seen many of the crew for quite some time, was very enjoyable. There have been a few changes in jobs and locations since last time, but generally things remain fairly similar. In a couple of cases, there was a lot to report (e.g. Chris' various travels), but it's still a little surprising, and comforting, at how things also stay the same.


As ever, I came away feeling rather privileged at being included in the event. My connection to the group is more peripheral than the bond between the core, but I'm always made welcome, and I always enjoy the chance to shoot the breeze with such a diverse group of friends. This time particularly, since Dr. M's brother and sister were able to join us, and they're always excellent value.

Anyway, as usual, more photos over at Flickr.

[*] The Name Game: Assemble two equal-sized teams; distribute paper and pens; tear paper into small, equal-sized pieces; write the name of a famous (either generally, or specific to the group playing) personage on each piece of paper; fold the papers and place them in a holding vessel; round 1: allow 30-60 seconds for a member of each team to draw paper from the vessel and attempt to describe the person with naming them; round 2: as round 1, but players can only use a single word to describe the person; round 3: as round 1, but players can only use the medium of mime; round 4+: typically unsuccessful (and drunken) rounds that involve successively restrictive modes of communication, e.g. hands-only, staring. "Famous" names typically include: figures currently in the news (e.g. Ed/David Miliband); semi-celebrities with comedy names (e.g. Christopher Lillicrap); sportsmen or women known only to the person who wrote them down (e.g. David Gower); friends not present at the party (e.g. Martin West); celebrities with dubious (but describable in a single word) sexual history (e.g. Gillian Taylforth); and occasional wild-cards (e.g. this weekend's was Goat Peter, immortalised in an adaptation of Heidi most of us remembered from our school years). Repeat playings of the game with the same group of people invariably leads to the selection of "favourites" who recur every time, and by the inclusion of former players as subjects whose faults (or otherwise) can be discussed at length in round 1 (e.g. Alistair Cockwank). These features can make it difficult to introduce new players to the game, and should be guarded against.