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Jane Austen: Mary Crawford’s Seductive Harp

Mary Crawford’s harp is more than just a fashionable early 19th century musical instrument, it has a number of important jobs to do in the unfolding of the Mansfield Park plot, not least in allowing the readers to see Mary’s character for themselves.

A Young Lady Playing the Harp ?exhibited 1814 James Northcote 1746-1831 Presented in memory of Frank Lloyd by his daughter Mrs Garwood 1927 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N04376

Young Lady Playing the Harp by James Northcote, 1816

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The Rose Beetle

Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals was a favourite teenage book, and it introduced me to the rose beetle. Soon after he arrived in Corfu in 1935, Gerry met the rose beetle man, an itinerant pedlar wearing a floppy hat covered in feathers, and a patched, pocketed coat, bulging with knick-knacks for sale. Bamboo cages holding a variety of birds bounced on his back, and he held ‘a number of lengths of cotton, to each of which was tied an almond-size rose-beetle, glistening golden green in the sun, all of them flying round his hat.’

 Durrell

My much loved copy of ‘My Family and Other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell

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The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

What is the Supreme Court? Where is it? What does it do? I have to confess that, until last Thursday, I had only the haziest idea. I knew it was the highest court in the land and I assumed it was somewhere near the Royal Courts of Justice. I felt I ought to know; after all, what the Supreme Court decides affects us all. So I booked in for a tour….

Supreme Ct exterior

Middlesex Guildhall: this is where it now is, opposite Westminster Abbey

I need to start with a bit of background. Please bear with me.

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The Regent’s Canal: All Human Life is Here

I often walk along the towpath of the King’s Cross to Islington Tunnel section of the Regent’s Canal. It takes ten to fifteen minutes and I love the walk for its interest and variety. It was built 1812-20 and that’s the period I’ve always been interested in.

1 Book boat

The second-hand bookshop boat

The first thing I see is the wonderful second-hand bookshop boat – my idea of heaven. There are books piled high everywhere –  this is definitely my kind of place.

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Kew Gardens: Stunning Summer Colour

In June this year, Kew Garden’s newly-designed summer herbaceous borders in the famous Broad Walk opened to the public, and they are sensational. There are more than 27,000 flowering plants on show.

Broad walk 1

Richard Wilford’s 2016 Broad Walk

At 320 metres long, it is the longest double herbaceous border in the country – and possibly in the world. Continue reading Kew Gardens: Stunning Summer Colour

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The Importance of Left-handed Mugs

When my children were living at home, I had a hotch-potch of mugs, and, sooner or later, they broke, as mugs do. Looking at my current row of mugs, I see, with some alarm, that I may have turned into a mug fanatic.

Avebury right

Avebury – front

Nowadays, my mugs have to fulfil certain criteria: first, they must be interesting (i.e. historical). Second, they must be equally patterned on both sides. I’m left-handed and I’m fed up with picking up a mug with my left hand and realizing that the actual picture is on the other side. No more right-handed mugs, then.

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J. E. Millais and the Seductive Mariana

This is Mariana – and she has a problem. She was betrothed to Angelo, a man she was passionately in love with, but, when her dowry was lost in a shipwreck, the rat Angelo repudiated her. She now lives a lonely life in a moated grange. But things are about to change…

Mariana brighter

Millais’s painting ‘Mariana’

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Buckingham Palace: 90 Years of Style

This year’s exhibition accompanying the summer opening of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace looks at 90 years of style from the Queen’s wardrobe. I always enjoy these Bloggers’ Breakfast occasions, from seeing who else has been invited (this time, the impressive Suzy Menkes of Vogue), the enthusiasm of the curator, and the welcome voucher for tea/coffee and our choice of cake afterwards.

For GR VIs coronation

Princesses’s dresses, robes and coronets for the coronation of King George VI, May 1937

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V & A: The Case of the Shocking Red Dress

This is the culprit – one of the items in the Undressed: a Brief History of Underwear exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The signage tells us that it is a cuirass bodice dress in silk satin and lace, dating from 1876 and adds that it was considered shocking at the time because….  I thought it might be fun to look more closely at why it was so shocking.

Cuirace dress close up

Cuirass bodice dress, 1876

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From Domitian’s Villa to the Papal Barberini Gardens

Ever since Roman times, the rich and powerful have built villas in the hills surrounding Rome to escape the summer’s heat. Some, like Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli, still survive. Others, like Castel Gandolfo, built in the 17th century for Pope Urban VIII as a summer palace, were built on top of Roman villa sites. And why not? The land was already levelled and useful top quality building material was there for the taking.

Castel Gondolfo Pope's palace

Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer palace

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