Friday, 28 September 2012

Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill House is opulent & ostentatious. An amazing summer house that has survived more than 250 years of ownership. I couldn’t have been disappointed, not now that this gorgeous home has been loving refurbished and lavishly restored back to it original hedonistic days of the late 1790’s!

This Georgian jewel shines brightly despite the gloomth! A flamboyant Gothic revival house that exudes the charm of a gingerbread cottage-cum-castle. All delicately frosted and deliciously decorated, like a Christmas cake, complete with ornate baubles and over the top.

The strength of colours chosen, the imaginative stained glass work, the ornate ceilings and embossed doors and intricately carved locks are quite magnificent.

Horace Walpole designed the hallways to be deliberately dark and gloomy so that when his visitors entered the ornate decorated rooms they were overcome with awe at the bright gaiety of the light. He even produced his own guide book of his summer home. Usually the housekeeper took the visitors about the place but if the guests were posh enough then Walpole would be their personal guide.

If you haven’t been to visit Strawberry Hill yet then I would suggest you book a trip soon. It’s very easy to book 'timed entry tickets' on line and its right in the heart of Twickenham. Easily accessible via road or rail or river.

I found it impossible to pick one room as my favourite because there were too many temptations!

And to think that Walpole’s own Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto, inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein !

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Nostalgic thoughts

The nostalgia for passed eras is invoked at Goodwood Revival with spectacular success. The event is extremely well staged and on occasion it feels as if you have wandered onto a film set as an extra!
Spectators go to enormous lengths to ensure that their period outfit is correct in every detail. Sometimes it’s hard to photograph them in amongst the crowd and often people approach and ask to that a photo. This is how we end up with an array of individuals who have dresses splendidly and sometimes I worry that my photographs don’t do them justice.
There was no time to shop this year. Can you believe that? Well it’s true. There wasn’t. We walked. And I mean walked miles, back and forth, with the crowd and alone. Often at a casual stroll taking in all the sights especially the cars.

If there’s one thing you need for Goodwood, apart from stamina, it is comfortable shoes.

Last year I sat and watched the racing. This year I devoured the site and explored all the areas which resulted in me missing the racing! (Shame on me) and not seeing the expensive crashes!! Motor racing is dangerous but that is part of the attraction.

Tea was in short supply; queues were lengthy, sustenance was required to revive my flagging stamina.

Next year it has to be a three day pass. With a grandstand seat too. So that I can break down this enormous event into manageable sections, with one day dedicated to photography. The cars are really the stars!

And I think I’d like a few more shots with a few less spectators, unless there are in period dress.

I’ve no idea how I managed to drive home after the event. I was exhausted. Happy. Can’t wait for next year... not that I’m wishing away time.

Basking in Reflected Glory

Charlie & I set out to Goodwood, for the Revival, dressed to the nines under uncertain and gloomy skies. I drove the long way there, via Midhurst, chasing the sun and hoping that the inclement weather would improve.

Luckily by the time we arrived the skies brightened.

The atmosphere was electric. Swing & jive on full tempo blasted out and biker boys, both greasers and teddy boys swarmed in groups. Outfits inspired by the 40’s & 50’s & 60’s eras abounded. Some original, others a modern take with a twist.

There were land army girls on leave, and shoe shine ladies too.

Charlie looked stunning in her period dress, recently purchased at Marmadukes in Midhurst. A jumble sale of a junk shop that requires tenacity to find the gorgeous items amongst a whole hill of stuff.

I watched, filled with amusement, as photographers; paparazzi style chased after her to get her photograph. Snaps taken perhaps they hoped she was someone famous. She certainly turned a few heads. In the brightening afternoon sun her dress shone.

This glamorous outfit made in heavy peach satin certainly made her stand out from the crowd, especially with her nipped in waist. It’s tiny!

Out the blue a lovely lady approached us: Sarah Bradley and told Charlie how beautiful she was dressed. Charlie was handed a certificate and asked to be photographed for the 'Best Dressed Competition.'

Neither of us knew what to expect but I made certain her photograph was taken by the accredited photographer. Little did I know until further investigation that she was photographed by Matt Hind!

Later that afternoon I can’t tell you how proud I felt as Charlie joined the line up for the Best Dressed at Goodwood in the Veuve Clicquot tent. I think I have inkling now of how mothers launching debutantes must have felt back in the 50’s…

Charlie was nervous, her hands shook visibly. She is not used to this level of attention. There was stiff competition. Women far more experienced won the day but this was Charlie first time dressed in period style. And somehow I don’t think it will be the last although she did discover the limitations this dress imposed on her body. One of the winners wore an original 1947 Dior outfit. Her lifestyle choice and she dresses like this every day!

Harry the Gent

Goodwood Revival is over for another and I’m uncertain whether to laugh or cry. It was fabulous fun. And attention to detail at Goodwood is legendary.

Whilst Charlie & I sat down for a cup of tea at the ‘NAFFI’ café, we had the pleasure of meeting Harry Gent, local spiv and gentleman friend who could and would procure all manner of goodies.

"You never never forget when you've done business with a Gent!"

Surreptitiously he opened his battered briefcase to reveal a glimpse of black market stockings. This furtive gesture led us into a conversation about coupons for petrol and other valued items.

"...stockings, petrol coupons and real eggs...not powdered!"

I laughed so hard during this brief encounter that I’m not sure how I managed to hold the camera still to get this shot.

His cigarette lit up with every inward breath, quite a relief as no smoking is allowed at Goodwood.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Celebrating... My Dad...

Today is the anniversary of my father’s death, and just like that day three years ago it was a glorious sunny autumnal day, something like this morning. Time has passed and I thought I would celebrate my Dad’s life with one of his poems. This is the first time it has been published anywhere.


Pastel green, the valley’s shade – naïve
As virgin-grass shooting from the spring-sown-seed,
Misting in the distance with the purple haze
Of sombre broken mountains, almost varicose, foreboding.
Frail, reluctant clouds nestle on those barren peaks
Like unfurled haloes crowning some unsaintly god.
Yet from the heart of that hideous range
Rise innocent fountainlets, embryonic streams
Which prance alone, then, hand in hand
Dance down craggy slopes to the pastel valley;
And on, through tributary adolescence
To cascade, at my feet there to mature
In the swirling intensity of the rivers flow.

The half light searching for receptive minds
In which to implant impressions of the glistening morn,
Sweeps through those haloes and dominates in turn
Those granite monsters, which cringe and shrink
From the imminent spectral fury we call dawn.
Gradually the brightness sears the eyes, challenging
Those mortals who dare defy the dominant star
To a duel that they cannot win. I bow, as tears of pain
Fall silent on my cheek, seeking solace in the pastel valley
Radiant with glittering reflections in her myriad streams.
Yet my patient friend, caninely immune to this silent symphony,
Senses my mood and obediently follows, as sobered I turn
From the turbulent river, toward the beginning of my day.

By G. E. Phelps

Midsummer 1973