Rus et Urbe save our island
To Manorbier for the half term where I found Dame Emily ruminating about the castle exhibits, which after 40 years look weird and shabby. In a round tower room shop dummies have been dressed as the nativity, since circa 1970. The result was, behind bars, in semi darkness, a baffling tableaux , veering between a group of Palestinian refugees, the holy family and Norman nobles. They had to go.
Emily wrenched the iron grilles from the wall to free this desolate group and in so doing, a loose chunk of plaster fell off to reveal a seccho, a kind of medieval 'dry' fresco, were they mysterious spells by a medeval magus or medieval graffitti?
I said "we need to Hilary 'Mantelize' the castle so that one can smell, hear, taste ,feel and see the medeval ages, the catch phrase these days is an 'immersive' experience." . Emily had another buzz word ... "Its to be the interpretative room."
The castle's long and varied history has plenty draw from , and there a sense of genus loci here. In the 11th century Geraldus Cambrensis was born here and was the first travel writer of the medieval world; he recorded every muddy inch of the way through rivers and hills in Travels through Wales and Ireland to spread Christianity among the heathens . Then came the Bloomsberries ....Virginia Woolf had a damascene moment on the beach at Manobier when she decided to become a writer, Siegfried Sassoon penned a poem about the castle while staying with Walter de la Mare nearby. . After that the movies ...Bill Nighy starred in Dodie Smith's (of 101 Dalmations fame) I capture the castle and the BBC's Tales of Narnia were both filmed on location at the castle.
I painted a frieze in the round turret room, of courtiers, jesters, pilgrims, hawkers and sowers. Then Emily swooped in with her gilding gear and soon all the courtiers jousting bells and those on the jester's hoods were orbs of gold, taking on the appearance of a Sienese fresco worthy of a noble's solar.
I have high hopes of a mise en scene, transporting visitors to the age of chivalry with medieval banquets, mystery plays and maybe some wild gigs in the summer. Manorbier without the dead hand of the National Trust, rather Emily's light touch, she keeps her realm intact, where the past is ushered into the present. I fantasize about having a party there, and many do: wedding breakfasts, banquets and balls. www.manorbiercastle.co.uk.
Why is it all, that individuals love in the way of shopping in markets, are then dictated to by monstrous corperate companies setting up dreary franchised shops every where. Soon London is to be a succession of provincial looking high streets with the same shops. Is nowhere sacred? Now the lively and edgy Westway by Portobello Road, (where the new dreaded S supermarket has crept in ), is polyglotism at its best and vintage galore under a canopy, stalls of Siberian rabbitskin coats , new age stones and scented candles, old vinyl, cricket shoes, silly sloganed t-shirts, starched linen night gowns, and Manolo mules ; are to be swept away to make way in a vile scheme for a shopping mall retailing uniform badly made clothes in monchrome colours, and low quality goods for the gullible in crushingly dull chainstores .
The Westway Trust is the space under it, (around 23 acres), given to the community pro bono publico, in compensation for the motorway roaring overhead . Beginning at the stables up to the no fees Maxilla nursery, which has been forced to close, (my younger son loved it and learnt much there). Many more commmunity centres and pop up restaurants, cinemas etc, too numerous to list, are threatened too, in the wake of this new proposal , which needs to be thrown out fast. Does Portobello have to be another 'Covent Garden' for the Haute Bourgeoises?
Dear reader please go to this address and protest, protect , petition for the Westway to remain in private hands and stall holders firstname.lastname@example.org or https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-portobello-raod-from-the-portobello-village-westway-space-1?source=facebook-share-button&time=1426155970
The British prediliction for gardening continues apace with the publication of SECRET GARDENS OF THE COTSWOLDS; wwwfranceslincoln.com, photographed by Hugo Rittson Thomas, born and bred in the Cotswolds he is atuned to the husbandry of the land and its gardens; it is part of his DNA . Rittson Thomas is sensitive to the play of fleeting light and finding the right vistas thus the 'armchair gardener' can almost smell the hyacinths and roses amongst the grottos, temples and orangeries. The book includes cameo portraits of the owners; broad acred squires (but no belted earls,) and arrivistes, i.e the Bamfords of Daylesford and Elizabeth Murdoch's Priory. Come the revolution I would seize Sezincote, in Brighton pavilion style, its a Mogul palace set incongruously in the pastural idyll of the Cotswolds.
Oh to be in Elysian England, fast vanishing in an increasingly Bland Britain. Thank god that there are books such as this one; a testament to all that we must cherish on this sceptered isle.