24 May 2015

Wow! What a week of weather! Bright, sunny skies and reasonably pleasant temperatures interspersed with torrential downpours of rain, sleet and hail. The sound of the hail smattering against the Velux roof window was positively deafening.

Penelope and I had a spare moment or three early in the week so we made our way over to Compton Verney the other day to take in the Canaletto “Celebrating Britain” exhibition which was very enjoyable. Compton Verney is/was a stately Georgian mansion with landscaped grounds created by “Capability” Brown. It had fallen on hard times and was essentially derelict when purchased in 1993. It was “rescued” and, over several years, transformed into a “world-class” art gallery. We’ve been a few times in the past to take in some specific events they’ve had on and this time it was the Canaletto exhibition.

This is the first time that these magnificent paintings and drawings by Canaletto have been brought together to provide an overview of Canaletto’s work created between 1746 and 1755, whilst he was visiting Britain.

The exhibition had some wonderful paintings with the light and detail that Canaletto is known for including these two views of the Thames from the terrace at Somerset House. (Click for a larger version).

Canaletto - The Thames looking towards the City
Canaletto – The Thames looking towards the City

Canaletto - the Thames looking toward Westminster
Canaletto – the Thames looking toward Westminster

As well as the Canaletto exhibition, our tickets also provided entrance to a collection of black and white photographs by Martin Parr from the mid-70s.

The Non-Conformists features the first major body of work by celebrated documentary photographer and satirist Martin Parr.  These black-and-white photographs from the mid-1970s document the Yorkshire mill town of Hebden Bridge and the surrounding Calder Valley.  This remarkable series predates the colour photographs for which Parr was to become so well known in the following decade. Over a period of five years, Parr documented a community whose traditional way of life, organised around the church and hill-farming, were in decline. This affectionate portrait of the town’s coal miners, chapel-goers, gamekeepers, henpecked husbands and pigeon fanciers offers a unique perspective on a disappearing community.

Hen-pecked Husbands
AGM of the Ancient Order of Hen-Pecked Husbands

Naturally, on seeing the photograph of the annual general meeting of the Ancient Order of Henpecked Husbands I immediately went online to find out how to apply for membership.

I was sitting in the lounge watching television the other evening and, through the French doors, I watched five or six cats of differing colours, sizes and shapes wander along our back patio. Before Molly lost her hearing, eyesight and most of her mental capacities, her presence alone was sufficient to ensure that no cat ever ventured on to our property. Even though she has always cowered at the sight of them, the cats weren’t to know that she was utterly harmless and scared to death. Her vigorous barking, no doubt intended to warn us of the catastrophic danger associated with a cat on the premises, always seemed to be sufficient to keep them out of our hair. Now, however, they wander around imperviously as if they own the place.

Yesterday morning Molly barked to announce her request to be allowed out for her early morning venture into the garden at about 5.00. Since she is now slower than an alpine glacier, and now that the weather is not too cold, Pen has taken to leaving the front door slightly ajar so that she (Molly) can wander in and out as she pleases. So, there we were lying in bed at about 7.30, reading the morning’s news and sipping our respective cups of coffee when one of the neighbourhood cats presented itself in our bedroom. Not only is the dog powerless in keeping them out of the garden, she is also clearly incapable of keeping them out of the house! How demeaning it must be to be completely ignored. On the other hand, since she doesn’t see or hear them, perhaps she still feels that she’s just as powerful and omnipotent as ever.

I had not intended to share this news yet for fear of initiating a curse or jinx but Ms Playchute seems to have informed nearly everyone in the western hemisphere, so here goes. We have, touch wood, found a buyer for our current house and, touch wood twice, found a new house that we both like very much. Thank you to everyone who has diligently had their fingers and toes crossed on our behalf for the past several months. You’ll need to keep them crossed for another few weeks as we work through all the legal niceties of transferring ownership from one party to another.


The house we hope to purchase is in the nearby village of Moreton Pinkney which is much smaller and considerably quieter than Byfield. The house is somewhat smaller than this one so our objective of “downsizing” will be partly achieved and the garden is magnificent. Four bedrooms, one of which will become my study, a nice-sized sitting room/lounge, and a lovely snug where Ms Playchute and I anticipate hunkering down of a winter’s evening.

While we are relatively optimistic that everything will go through smoothly, there are multiple opportunities for things to go off the rails during these next few weeks so please keep your fingers, toes, arms and legs crossed for a few more weeks until I send you the “all clear!”

You can see it on RightMove as long as it remains relevant and you can also have a look at the estate agent’s particulars.

Can’t wait to welcome you all for a visit!

Much love to you all,