Saturday, 31 October 2015

Mortimer Scarecrow Trail


If you read my Five on Friday post yesterday, you will have seen a couple of the fantastic scarecrows made by the residents of Mortimer village in Berkshire. This is the sixth year that the scarecrows have been on show, each year with a different theme. This year it's Walt's Wonders to celebrate 80 years of Walt Disney/Pixar films, last year Science Fiction and Fantasy.

There are 40 scarecrows to find which is easily done once you have purchased a map from Dad's Shop or Budgens for a £1. By the time I got home, I had clocked up 21,000 steps so bear that in mind if you have a couple of toddlers in tow!

There is also a competition to do as you go round and you can vote for your favourite scarecrow in the adult, children or funniest categories.

Here are some more photos, which one is your favourite?

It was absolutely packed here, everyone wanting to have a look at James and his giant peach.

This Monsters Inc exhibit was chatting to me as I walked down the driveway, telling me to press the red button . . .

. . . which I did and the door opened - boo!

There were even photos showing how it had all been made. 

You just can't resist these instructions, can you!

I had to wait ages here to wait for the children to move away!

My other photos didn't come out so well especially the ones in the shops behind the glass. Alice in Wonderland was also very popular but difficult to photograph.

I'm sure you'll agree that these and yesterday's look brilliant.

I wonder what the theme will be next year?

Bye for now.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Five on Friday Halloween Special oooooooh!


We're heading for Halloween this week oooooh.  Here are my Five to put you in a spooooky frame of mind.  Thanks Amy for linking us all together, I'm sure there will be a lot of other strange goings on, do have a look.

One Pumpkins

We grew up making lanterns out of turnips/swedes but nowdays pumpkins seem to be the lantern du jour. They flood in to make a big display at this time of the year. I found a few around Mortimer when I went to visit their scarecrow trail this week.

Scary snail lantern!

These two were trying to out do each other.

Waiting their turn in the shop.

Twoooo Trees

Part of the orange-i-ness of Halloween comes from the trees, look at this lovely road.

Mind you, you never know what may be hiding in the trees.

Eek watch out!

Three Scary Scarecrows

Dotted all around Mortimer in Berkshire this week are 40 extremely well made scarecrows, this year based on a Disney theme. Here are three of the spookiest but I'll put some more on the blog tomorrow so you can admire the villagers' handiwork.

Four Creepy Spiders and Bats

The garden has its fair share of spiders webs at the moment, works of great artistry. We've also got some bats that swoop and glide around the rooftops in the half light. They are just too fast to photograph though.

A BBC pipistrelle bat

Five Trick or Treat

With Halloween Strictly Come Dancing on this Saturday, I am reminded of Claudia Winkleman's nightmare last year when her daughter's costume caught on fire while she was out Trick or Treating with her friends. She has worked with supermarkets to ensure that they follow the same rigorous testing of their dressing up clothes that they give to nightwear. Here's an article with more information. That's great news.

Thanks for dropping in and your messages.

Have a great time, see you soon.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

National Portrait Gallery - Highlights


Have you been to the National Portrait Gallery in London?  There's a great view from their restaurant at the top of the building.

It was built in 1865 and has been extended twice with the ambition to display pictures of great men and women and be a focus for study and for understanding portraiture. It was the first gallery worldwide dedicated to portraits, which were a subject that this country particularly specialised in. It wasn't until 1969 that living figures were allowed.

Lord Ellesmore, one of the original Trustees donated the first picture to the gallery which was of William Shakespeare painted by John Taylor in the early 1600s although there are a lot of disputes over the portrait.

Hans Holbein was noted for his accurate portraits. On view is a cartoon of Henry VIII for a larger work for Whitehall, which has subsequently been destroyed,  which shows the Tudor Dynasty in a classical setting emphasising Henry VIII's prowess as a Renaissance prince, however his pose would have been considered vulgar throughout Europe.

Gerlach Flicke was considered a direct heir to Holbein's portraiture. His painting of Thomas Cranmer in 1545-6 shows him with very detailed items reflecting his life and work.

Hans Emworth's painting of Mary Neville, Lady Dacre and Gregory Fiennes, 10th Baron Dacre 1559 is rather unusual showing a mother and her second son. It was made to commemorate the struggle of regaining of their land and title following her husband's death as a punishment for killing a gamekeeper.

A favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Henry Lee painted in 1568 by Anthonis Mor is shown with her emblems on his shirt and a ring. After he lost her favour by living with his mistress and then making up again, he had the Ditchley portrait made by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger which is full of symbolism and a sonnet comparing her to the sun. Her feet rest on Oxfordshire where he had his home in Ditchley.

Anthony van Dyck painted Venetia, Lady Digby in 1633-34 for her husband following her mysterious death perhaps by poisoning at a young age following a rather notorious life. She is shown as Temperance in a random setting with a dress of beautiful fabric. Van Dyck was a pupil of Rubens and his influence would last for a hundred years. He used to work with Assistants who completed the straightforward parts of the portrait whilst he finished off the important bits.

Jonathan Richardson's portrait of Richard Boyle the 3rd Earl of Burlington who brought the Palladian style to Britain, reflects the fact that he was an Architect, Patron of the Arts, an intellectual but in an informal, relaxed way whereas Sir Godfrey Kneller's depiction of Sir Christopher Wren is a portrait in the grand manner as a commemoration of his design of St Paul's Cathedral.

The portrait of David Garrick by Thomas Gainsborough in 1770 captures a moment in time with good textures and an alive look.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was the first President of the Academy, elevated portraits by putting the subject in an historical setting and Sir William Beechey followed this. His painting of Sara Siddons in 1793 refers to antiquity as well as her acting roles.

The great court painter of the 1820s was Sir Thomas Lawrence, although his popularity waned after his death. His unfinished paintings of Sir William Wilberforce and Duke of Wellington show his skill and method of painting.

Queen Victoria's favourite, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer painted Sir Walter Scott in a more sketchy way whereas the Secret of England Greatness in 1863 by Thomas Jones Barker is an historical symbolic portrait of Queen Victoria, where she represents an Imperial Britain.

Jerry Barrett's The Mission of Mercy: Florence Nightingale receiving the Wounded at Scutari 1857 uses light to highlight Florence Nightingale and to show what she and her good works stood for.

A few more modern portraits to look out for:

Sir John Everett Millais - Benjamin Disraeli 1881

Dora Carrington - Lytton Strachey 1916
Duncan Grant - Vanessa Bell 1918
Georgina Agnes Brackenbury - Emmeline Pankhurst 1927
Walter Sickert - Winston Churchill 1927
Patrick Heron - T.S. Eliot 1949
Gerald Scarce - Denis Healey 1976
Maggi Gambling - Self Portrait 1977-8

Julian Opie - Portraits of the Band Blur 2000
Marc Quinn - Self 2006 - a blood filled head, the 8 pints of blood have to be replaced every few years

Notes taken from a lecture attended during the week.

So much to see and look out for on the next visit!


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Women's Institute


This year the Women's Institute is marking it's centenary. According to the WI website:

The Women's Institute (WI) was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then the organisation's aims have broadened and the WI is now the largest voluntary women's organisation in the UK. The WI will celebrate its centenary in 2015 and currently has 212,000 members in around 6,600 WIs.

The WI plays a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities.

I am not a member of the WI but decided to visit today to meet the ladies, have a piece of cake and a coffee and to watch a demonstration of how to make a gift bag. This is how to do it.

Take a piece of paper, wallpaper is a good thickness, wrap it around a box the size you require to make the bag big enough for your present and cut a rectangle to size allowing for overlapping.

Fold over about an inch on one of the long sides.

Wrap the paper  round your box so that it is a snug fit, with the folded edge next to the edge of the box. Ensure that you can see the sharp edges of the box marked on the paper when you unwrap it. Unfold the folded edge and using a hole punch, make holes in the front and back where the handles will be as above.

After making the holes, re-do the first fold you made so that the holes are on the inside. Glue the overlap on the side to form a snug tube round the box.

Remove the box and bring the side folds together on both sides to strengthen the bag by creating an inner fold as above.

Put the box back inside the tube with the folded edge level with the bottom of the box, resting on the table. Fold in the paper at the other end to form the bottom of the bag and glue securely. Cut a piece of cardboard the same size as the bottom of the bag. Remove the box and glue the cardboard inside at the bottom of the bag.

Cut two strips of cardboard the width of the bag and about half an inch long  to reinforce the top of the bag and glue in under the fold with the holes in on both sides of the bag.

With a pencil, carefully make a hole through the other layers by placing the pencil in the hole-punch holes. From the outside, put the pencil back into the holes to neaten them.

Cut two lengths of rope or shoe lace. Knot one end, thread through the hole from the inside and then back through the next hole and knot the end.

Make a gift tag and tie onto the bag.
Hopefully you've ended up with a very presentable gift bag!

We also saw how to recycle other packaging items - orange nets, serviettes, ribbons, hats from Christmas crackers - to make wrapping paper and decorations to wrap up those gifts in a stylish way.

About 40 ladies enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon. Lots of people helped - making the cakes and refreshments, running the raffle, providing prizes, checking people in, selling books, running a bring and buy, but even still the money raised was just about enough to cover the hire of the hall and any guest speakers.

If you have a WI near you, perhaps they might appreciate some help raising money to keep up the good work.