Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 and the Rich Tapestry of Life

                                         Tapestry at Hampton Court Palace, Great Hall

I do not consider blogs enduring but this will not put me off sharing a few of my memories of 2012, not for posterity, but I hope to inspire others to record their own stories of 2012.  

I write on the theme of the “rich tapestry of life”. Real tapestry, as I now know, takes, like life, much patience, much determination and hard work.

Memory is fragile and life can seem a succession of days, very fragmentary, and, at its toughest, a "tale told by an idiot".  It is difficult to hold on to or make sense of individual events. One soon forgets any apparent sequence and “treasures” on which one would meditate in future years (if one is granted them) and particularly, if ever confined to a wheelchair.

Much that happens to people is not mentioned in such “diaries”. For example, here I do not mention ongoing studies and collections, minor events, work, politics, the state of the church, friends, bereavements, family or various contacts with continental Europe.  Clearly, much of what one feels one should try to “achieve” resides in these areas.

Summary of 2012
2012 was not, for me, about the public events such as the costly Olympics or the rainy Diamond Jubilee. It was about seeing more of the scenes of British cultural and everyday life, that rich life in this island, which gives easy access to two thousand years of culture and spiritual wealth, if one is fortunate enough to have sufficient income to enjoy it.  

Of course, the weather was very wet and sunless (the wettest year on record). A horrible memory of 2012 is running scared of slugs and stepping on a couple.  At one point in the late summer, it was like being invaded by “aliens”. Some were even crawling up our windows and they ate many of the flowers. The grass grew hardly at all, even in summer.

Life is also about being open to new experiences. For me for the first time in 2012

  • I saw a breathtaking falcon “stoop”
  • I did a tapestry
  • I drank port for the first time
  • I bought a beige suit in a sale...a “first” for me as a rarely go to the sales and never buy beige
  • I made an authentic French apricot tart
  • I painted a striped garden shed
  • I used a digital camera i.e. transferring to computer and mastering photos online
  • I bought a fountain pen, as an adult

These have made me for the first time draw up a list of “Things to Do in 2013” which might include:

  • Wearing beige 30s “driving” leather gloves and 30s hat
  • Crossing Newhaven to Dieppe for a very short French “foray”
  • Ordering (and sipping) a cocktail
  • Buying sherry, now and then...
  • Attending an Elizabethan costume event (in costume)
  • Making pasta, by hand
  • Having my own headed writing paper (using computer)
  • Making some kind of patchwork, to use up old materials
  • Buying a Victorian oil lamp
  • helping to grow organic vegetables and fruit on the communal allotment, with help and advice from the gardeners of our local sustainability group.
  • renting a car for a few hours via "Whip Car" (private car share)

I also determined to write in long hand in black fountain pen.

Recession and trial
For some people,  2012 was another very challenging year due to the global recession.  It has been painful to watch some we know struggling with unemployment, disability or illness. Many sat worrying and waiting for jobs which did not turn up, while they and others were counting every penny. Those in work were increasingly worked off their feet facing cuts in pensions and a frozen income diminishing due to inflation. No one of us knew if this will happen to us in the coming year. The fact is that most people enduring the worst of the recession did not cause it.  

We have seen others get small businesses going, make a new life, get awards and small bonuses. There are countless other initiatives that strengthen the social fabric, here and abroad. Many are still doing something new each year and widening their skills, even the elderly.  We know two ladies in their eighties learning the computer. How I admire this attitude!

For my own record, on a personal level, this was my 2012.

January was memorable for doing a tapestry, for the first time, though it is still unfinished. I also enjoyed a talk about local man Decimus Burton, famous architect and also reading Germaine Greer’s interesting reconstruction of the life of Ann Hathaway, “Shakespeare’s Wife”.  

In February, delivered a talk to a historical society at Otford on Whitehall Palace and  suddenly found myself with a suspected melanoma on the foot. I found out about the slowness of the NHS at first hand and I soon resorted to my private medical care package.  That was sorted out with a minor private operation and proved benign. We enjoyed a winter trip to Old Bexhill which I describe here

There were other talks and lectures in March. I discovered Liz Earle organic shampoo (Which Best Buy) through subscribing to Which?  My foot was healing.

April brought a couple of weeks of good weather and a lovely trip to Stratford and Warwick recorded here. We heard the almost deafening spring chorus of birds, singing for a mate, in the High Weald which backs onto our garden.  It is ancient woodland (shown below), never disturbed and sadly unmanaged as managing it would increase its abundance of wildlife.  However, birds love this garden and they think it wholly belongs to them.

Our “bird garden”: looking into the wild ancient woodland

In May, we joined the Historical Houses Association and visited Hever Castle, the first of two visits this year. We also attended a frightful, mangled Italian post-modern production of “Julius Caesar” at the Globe in which Caesar himself never appeared. Its “non-sense” would have made Shakespeare himself throw things at the stage.  

We set up a local sustainable group and I developed its website over the coming months. Below are members, coming from “Transition Tunbridge Wells” and our friend, Michael, from a local church.
We had an American visitor and had a delightful tour of Ightham Moat.  We were singing in the local Church Choir. I recall a couple of delightful weddings at which we sang a John Rutter anthem.    

We enjoyed the Diamond Jubilee in June, as described here.  I will always recall the number of flags flying everywhere across Kent and Sussex. Where did people get them from, along with flagpoles?

Flags for Jubilee and the Olympics on the old music gallery of Tunbridge Wells

We also had Paolo’s special birthday party lunch at beautiful Pashley Manor with friends, Monica and Frank.  

July brought discovery of North Wales and the poet R S Thomas and artist Elsie Eldridge whose nature prints now adorn our walls below.  

View from dining room into our herb garden with two Elsie Eldridge nature prints

I created this space outside below as a herb garden and installed a RSPB bird bath in which no bird has so far bathed. I also dug in all our leafmound visible below which will benefit this twisted wild and cherished thorn.....
We had more front gates installed to give us complete privacy. People can no longer just wander in - which some were doing, thinking “bird garden” was public space.

We then went to Cornwall as described here.  We were so lucky to enjoy whole day breaks in the largely rainy weather!

In August, I did three summer weeks work on our house to improve the gardens, which succeeded in reducing my waistline, through the sheer exercise of housework, gardening and painting including this shed...and decking.

I enjoyed the bookshops and quaint if rather expensive shops of Tunbridge Wells.
The Pantiles Tunbridge Wells - summer 2012

My favourite was Farrow and Ball paint shop -  and their advice.
In September my University friends and I met up in London for lunch and a short walking tour. We had an excellent late summer trip to Wakehurst Place, Kew Gardens in Sussex, was a delight.  We walked through our remote local valley in late summer fighting brambles to access rarely used public footpaths. We then really enjoyed another weekend with family described here.

In October, we bemoaned there were no sweet chestnuts due to heavy rains and lack of summer sun. I was taken up with investigating my uncle’s unknown war story in Italy. We visited his name on the renovated Sidcup war memorial, which had suffered vandalism.  

November brought the latest James Bond film “Skyfall”, the last scene of which took place on the roof of my office. As a community group, we tried to apply to get a show house for the Green Deal in our area to demonstrate to people how to lower the carbon footprint of one’s house, with up-front costs paid (available from late January on 0300 123 1234).  In November, too, I did not vote for a Police Commissioner.  

In December, I did two things which were both influenced by HRH Prince Charles.  First, I gave a presentation at the HRH’s Foundation in London and second, I took two days volunteering leave to draw up “40 ideas” for our area to lower its carbon footprint. HRH is a keen advocate of using “volunteering” leave.  

Early December was also spent with preparations for Christmas and a packed Whitehall Christmas Carol Service in Westminster Abbey.

The outstanding event was the Jane Austen Birthday Lecture in Tonbridge Church.

The year ended with two more thrills, both inspired by Shakespeare. First, a trip to a real discovery, beautiful Faversham in Kent where he was acting in August 1596 and my discovery of the house of “Arden of Faversham”.
The house of Arden of Faversham

Second, a visit to Hampton Court for its Christmas play, starring costumed Henry VIII and Katharine Parr. Shakespeare spent one Christmas season, at least, here, possibly performing in this very Hall.

We attended Evensong in the Hampton Court Chapel Royal, where the choir sang a Jubilate of Praetorius (born 1560).  I read the full Book of Common Prayer which contains among other things, the Order for the Churching of Women, the thanksgiving service for women after giving birth, mentioned by Germaine Greer as being relevant to' pious' Ann Hathaway, whose brother became Stratford's church warden. It also has the Catechism and Order for the Visitation of the Sick.

Paolo outside the Chapel Royal Hampton Court, under the royal arms

My year ended as it had begun - with tapestry-  admiring the sheer patience and skill of women over 500 years ago who made this hanging in the Great Hall at Hampton Court.
Wall hangings from 16th century at Hampton Court

My enduring images of 2012

  • A falcon in flight at Mary Arden’s farm (masterful)
  • Warwick Castle battlements from below in Mill Street (beetling)
  • Harlech Castle on a summer evening, half glimpsed and half identified (ominous)
  • Plas y Rhiw garden, Lleyn Peninsula (magical design)
  • Mary Arden’s farm - living room (astonishing that it has survived)
  • Henry VII and entourage in costume at Hampton Court Great Hall (like a painting)
  • The new hole our badger dug to get under our fence, the old one having been filed in with rubble.... (cheeky)
  • A striped garden shed (a risk)
  • The smells of Pembroke College Gardens, Cambridge and Wakehurst Place (odiferous)
  • Lanhydrock Library, Cornwall (grand and erudite)
  • Fowey and Polperro harbours (marine)

Best films in 2012

  • An Italian film about going to the beach in summer from Rome (1947)
  • Documentary on “You Tube” about the war in Italy and Anzio by Wicker called “Wicker’s War”

Special Books

  • “Elizabeth’s London” by Liza Picard
  • “Shakespeare’s Wife“ by Germaine Greer
  • “The Man Who Went to the West” (About R S Thomas)
  • “The Fighting Tenth” about the Tenth Battalion of the Royal Berkshires during World War Two
  • Book of Common Prayer (enlarged version) published by CUP
  • Story of John Calvin

Best Music

  • Welsh TV channel for Eisteddfod with Bryn Terfel
  • John Rutter and Catrin Finch : “Blessing”
  • The Proms on TV
  • Church music e.g. services at Rochester Cathedral and Chapel Royal

Best Lecture

  • Jane Austen Birthday Lecture, Tonbridge Church

Best Meals

  • (Budget) surprisingly, “Weatherspoons” in Leatherhead
  • Our Christmas lunch - Marks and Spencer with added homecooking.

Paolo at Weatherspoons December 2012

Alison - December 2012

1 comment:

  1. Love the Christmas hairstyle. You look splendid. What a great year. Every blessing for 2013.
    Alison G