While in London, I had a lovely autumnal day in Greenwich, walking through the park from the top of Blackheath where I took this photo looking down toward the river (Canary Wharf in the background). As you can see the stands from the recent Olympics were still there and the Royal Naval College just behind.
Greenwich Park, looking down to Naval College
Greenwich has a great art and craft market which I enjoyed wandering around. There are also some interesting and quirky shops one of which you might like to visit here: lushdesigns which you can see below had some wonderful screen-printed lamp-shades and other home items – hope you like them as much as I did!
Gorgeous lampshades from lushdesigns
I am always amazed how we can live for so many years in one place, oblivious to what is on our doorstep. This was very evident to me on my recent UK trip. I grew up just a few miles away from Danson Park in Bexleyheath, Kent and always enjoyed visits there as a child as it was a great place for a picnic or feeding the ducks on the lake or even hiring a rowing boat on a couple of occasions. I went to firework shows there on winter nights and to visiting fair grounds as a teenager. The most fascinating thing about Danson Park, however, was the large house on the highest point in the middle of the park. It was dilapidated even when I was a child and I remember the only bit that was open was a back door where you could buy ice-creams and drinks in the summer.
It was closed up completely by the 1970’s and basically left to crumble. Every time I saw it, I couldn’t help wonder about its history and what it would have looked like in its heyday.
Fast forward to 2012 and I finally got to have a look around this magnificent house that has been lovingly brought back to life and restored to its former glory by English Heritage. In 1995 it was deemed ‘the most significant building at risk in London’ and after 10 years of restoration they opened the doors to the public in 2005.
I certainly wasn’t disappointed and would urge anyone in the area to try and get there for a visit as it is a beautiful example of Palladian architecture and gives you a lovely glimpse of Georgian life (for the wealthy of course)! The original building was completed in 1766 by Sir Robert Taylor for wealthy sugar merchant Sir John Boyd.
Unfortunately I can’t get the aroma that goes with the picture but take my word for it, the smell of home baked cakes wafting through the house was too much to resist!
Beautiful home baked cakes
On the second floor there was an art installation (I think called Yellow Dress) which is there until 29th October 2012. The artist is Tom Gallant who has designed wallpaper (Iris) which was inspired by an 1892 novella called the Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Here is a close-up of the wallpaper:
Following on from this theme was the yellow dress (Dress 09) which is a laser cut black dress by fashion designer Marios Schwab and artist Tom Gallant. It was really very beautiful and what looks like a shadow was actually stencilled onto floor and wall.
Finally there was a display on the walls by Fiona Curran called A Delicious Garden (2011) which was magnified 18th century floral patterns of icing sugar climbing up the walls of one room:
A Delicious Garden – Fiona Curran
Detail of A Delicious Garden
I feel like I’ve been away for so long, having visited family in London for the past three weeks. I must admit the jet-lag is still kicking in from time to time but I was keen to get back to it again so hopefully I won’t make too many slip-ups!
While I was away I read a book called The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney who wrote the Tenderness of Wolves which I really enjoyed. The story is set in England and based on Gypsy culture and centers around a girl who has gone missing from their community. Not a bad story but what was interesting was the reference made to the gypsy craft of carving flowers out of wood. It was something I had never heard of before and found it difficult to imagine what the finished article would look like. Imagine then my surprise, when a few days after finishing the book I found myself at a local apple festival and there was a man sitting whittling pieces of wood, making these very intricate chrysanthemums – it was weird to say the least!
Anyway I had a good chat with him, his name was Ivan and he was born in a horse drawn caravan down on the marshes, not far from where I grew up in Plumstead. He told me how traditionally they would get work at local farms throughout the spring, summer and autumn but in the winter there would be no work for them and this is how the craft of flower carving came about. It was a closely guarded skill and they would carve them out of off-cuts from the elder bushes during the winter and sell them for a small amount of money. Ivan even gave me a few words in his native Romany language which I have to say sounded like no other language I’ve ever heard before. He also told me he was 78 and on my way out the lady at the gate saw I had one of Ivan’s flowers in my hand and said “he’s a bit of a character isn’t he? – He told me he’s 92?!” Which left me wondering – perhaps he fancied his chances with me if he’d knocked off 14 years!!
Ivan the gypsy flower carver