Walking in the World

Monthly Archives: November 2016

A Taste of Italy

italian_food_market

We couldn’t resist. The Italian Food Market came back to Rayleigh yesterday, and we wanted to soak up the feast of food, accents, and conviviality. We’ll be back in Italy in a few weeks, so we saw this as an appetizer, a little sampling to whet our appetites for the real thing.

A calzone for Jeff’s lunch, some salami and olives for our pre-pizza nibbling, and some longing glances at the torrone and pastries… Maybe I should move to Italy…

20 Nov 2016

Lest We Forget

thundersley_remembrance

At the end of this difficult week, we are remembering our war heroes and the difficult times that led up to their becoming heroes. We are thinking of ultimate sacrifices and life-changing injuries. We are thinking of broken societies past and present, and looking into our own hearts for courage and a moral compass. And as we remember the past, we should be asking ourselves hard questions about the future. Britain does not shirk from remembering, weaving ritual and tradition into the fabric of modern life.

I was at the pub with the Bitter Knitters on Wednesday evening and happened to notice this memorial above the fireplace.

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When I looked more closely, I found family:

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I’ve told you a bit about the story of Bert Louis Saward in an earlier post, and I’ll say more next spring when we commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death at Flanders. As I stood in silence at our Thundersley village service this morning, I found myself thinking of Bert, wondering who he might have become and how the Sawards of today might have been different had he lived. Remembrance is as personal as it is collective.

When you go home
tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
we gave our today.

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Thundersley’s memorial is new this year; thank you to the committee who made it happen!

Photo by Martin Hayhurst(Photo © Martin Hayhurst)

 

13 Nov 2016

We Will Remember

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The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. We will remember.

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(Button memorial in St. Martin’s Church, Little Waltham, Essex)

11 Nov 2016

Raiders of the Lost Carp

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He sits in the tree at the bottom of the garden like an angel on top of a Christmas tree, right at the top, watching. His prey is our neighbour’s koi carp, so his menace is real – but it’s still kind of exciting to see this huge Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) fly in every morning. He’s only a youngster, but he’s clearly already learnt where to find an easy breakfast.

Jeff calls him Jones.

10 Nov 2016

Pantsuit Nation

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I’m with Her! I had tears in my eyes when I marked my ballot and voted for an immensely qualified woman for president of the United States. I did that way back in September, the day my overseas ballot arrived in my inbox, and since then the election (as everyone knows) has really heated up. It was nearly unbearable until last Wednesday when a friend added me to the secret Facebook group, Pantsuit Nation – back then there were less than 200,000 members and that seemed immense, but this morning, the total is over two and half million and still growing. The stories and images posted in that group this week have been overwhelmingly positive and poignant, and have gone a long way toward restoring some of my faith in humanity.

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As I said yesterday, I’m favouring dresses and leggings these days (after years of wearing jeans and sweaters), but today I’m wearing a makeshift pantsuit and a homemade I Voted sticker to stand in symbolic soldarity with my candidate and her community. As an added protest, we’ll be eating tacos for dinner tonight – take that, Mr. Trump! I stand in support of the diversity that has already made America great.

And my thanks go to the Overseas Vote initiative that has done so much to make voting both possible and straightforward for expats like me!

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08 Nov 2016

My Inner Gudrun

gudrun_sjoden

After a morning of immersion into the artistry of the medieval world at the V&A on Saturday, Jeff and I re-entered modern London and went our separate ways for the afternoon. I have recently been taking a new interest in the fashion world, carefully considering the way I show up in the world. Where do I conform, comfortably or not? Where do I rebel? Who do I want to be when I grow up? Because we work from home and most of our ventures out into the world are of a casual nature (and because I’m always cold), I tend to wear a standard uniform of jeans and sweaters. I think I clean up pretty well, but I don’t show up with the character and verve that I admire in others. I’m lucky enough to be living into old(er) age, so I’m thinking I might as well show up in colour!

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This all started when I was walking through Covent Garden with a friend last year and stumbled onto a colourful storefront that drew me like a magnet. Gudrun Sjoden. We went in and tried on a few things, but I was overwhelmed by the character and choice. And then the same thing happened in Stockholm in September. Same store, same experience, different country. The moment I crossed the threshold, I knew it was Gudrun. Again, I tried things on, but couldn’t decide… so I came home and studied my Gudrun catalogues carefully.

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I looked at women wherever I went, and I experimented with my existing wardrobe. Biding my time, I designated Saturday afternoon as my style pilgrimage. I went back to Gudrun’s Covent Garden store alone, tried on piles of clothes in varying styles and colours (to the point of exhaustion), squinted at my reflection with what I hoped was a lovingly critical eye. For hours. I probably drove the saleswomen nuts…. but in the end I had a good sense of my Gudrun profile, and I bought a couple of pieces that feel both edgy and perfectly right for me. For once, I didn’t settle, didn’t listen to anyone… I chose.

Gudrun has taught me some things: 1) it’s ok to be true to ourselves, even when we’re past 60. Or maybe especially when we’re past 60! One of her models has long grey hair… 2) Style can be playful and fun; 3) I can wear dresses and leggings; 4) it’s fun to show up in the world; 5) I really look best in darker clothes with colourful accessories; 6) I look best in clothes with a little shaping (who knew?); 7) I like my colour and style to be a bit coordinated, with an elegantly funky undertone; 8) I don’t like frills and ruffles; 8) layering is a life-altering experience.

Although my body has some sags and bumps, it tells my story. It’s a good strong body and I have a creative spirit who wants to play with colour and style, now more than ever!

07 Nov 2016

Opus Anglicanum

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We were lured into London yesterday by a wonderful exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery. We arrived when the doors opened yesterday, hoping to beat any crowds later in the day. Even though it is a ticketed event, we knew we’d want time to linger and press our noses up against the glass cases for a closer look. Interestingly, most of our fellow visitors were male – I’d expected to be crowded in with an audience of primarily female stitchers.

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No photography is allowed, presumably to protect the fragile fabrics, but there is an enormous book available in the gift shop – we ordered one to be shipped directly to our doorstep so we wouldn’t have to lug it with us for the rest of the day. (The photos above are from advertisements on the museum website.)

The wonderfully curated collection features exquisitely stitched items from around Europe, some of which have not been seen in Britain since they were produced many centuries ago. Most of the stitchers were professional craftsmen, primarily men, though some women also worked on them. Many of the items were copes and other religious vestments that were commissioned by Europeans seeking the best embroidery available.

The detail was truly remarkable. Not only did we enjoy searching out familiar religious symbols and motifs, but we also marveled at the accuracy with which people and animals were depicted. Jeff could actually identify the species of the stitched birds,still completely recognizable today. And I was delighted to see that the depictions of my pilgrim saint, St. James, were complete with tiny cockleshells and pilgrim attire.

It would be impossible for me to choose a favourite. I loved the many and varied depictions of Mary, each a miniature masterpiece that introduced me to the artist’s vision of the Virgin. But the contents of the last case really took my breath away – a stitched coffin pall loaned by the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers. Adorned with sea creatures, including double-tailed mermaids, it is a stunning dimensional piece of embroidery, and truly representational of the thriving fish industry in London, then as now.

Then, too, there were the little Green Man faces on a cope that was later re-purposed and made into several smaller objects when religious copes fell out of favour during the Reformation, and actually became quite dangerous to own. Reunited but not resewn, and illustrated with modern digital imaging, the pieces now tell a bigger story of English history.

It truly pains me not to be able to show you photos from the exhibit, but perhaps my words will inspire you to visit them for yourself – and that is always the best way to experience such beauty and craftsmanship. If you’ll be in London before mid-February, don’t miss it! At the very least, go linger on the Opus Anglicanum webpage to admire some close-ups of featured items. If you’re interested in embroidery, you’ll love this video on The Making of Medieval Embroidery.

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Afterwards, we wandered the V&A’s labyrinth of halls and stairways (which are beautiful in their own right) to navigate our way to a favourite piece of Gothic Revival furniture way up on the 4th level.

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Fortunately, photography is allowed in that part of the museum, and there was a helpful guard available to shut off the alarm when the camera got too close.

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It just wouldn’t seem right to leave without seeing it one more time!

06 Nov 2016

Southend After Dark

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The nights are drawing in but the weather has been dry, so we’ve wanted to be out and about. Last night we had a wander along Southend seafront to enjoy the lights without the crowds.

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Never Never Land was a popular children’s park back when Jeff was a child – he remembers going with his parents some 50 years ago. People tell me about the model train and the animated characters that were as scary as they were fascinating, especially to young children.

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It’s been closed for some years now, but it’s never been forgotten – the only part that remains is the fairy castle.

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Still, it was fun to see it standing humbly in the moonlight, below the Royal Terrace where Princess Caroline visited in 1803, and just along from the modern arcades and attractions, a faded memory caught between the pages of time.

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If you’d like to see some vintage footage of the seafront as it was in the late 1950’s, this video is worth watching. Never Never Land appears at the 20 minute mark.

 

04 Nov 2016

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