Monday, March 24, 2008

Bathed in Sunshine and Showers

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, was the occasion of a family outing to Bath. I'm still feeling really rough as the result of yet another flu-like virus, but I've been getting a little stir-crazy as the result of being so housebound, so I was determined to go. The weather looked threatening as we left the house, but mellowed into a fairly sunny, if bitterly cold, day.

We don't live so far from Bath as the crow flies, but it always seems to take forever to get there, due to the meanderings of the roads. It is, however, a pretty route, past the Blagdon and Chew Valley Lakes along the side of the Mendip Hills, through pretty little villages with duck ponds and beautiful parish churches, then cutting down to the lakeside near Chew Magna, where many waterfowl can be seen, before twisting uphill again through farmland and woodland. At this time of year, you can enjoy the structure of things, before leaf break. Down the road from us there is an orchard whose apple trees are so full of mistletoe that they appear to be already in leaf. Further on, a field of llamas is dissonant with the rural Englishness of it all. Fields of red earth, punctuated by stitch-like straw stubble fail to camouflage the colours of the pheasant and his mate, hunting for food. Mounds of primroses bloom below the naked roadside hedgerows, newly pruned and laid. In other places, daffodils and narcissi have naturalised in clumps along the grassy banks. Hillside fields are divided by lines of bare hedging, again ressembling stitching,this time untidy wheatsheaf clusters or long-legged cross. Because there has been so much rain recently, large puddles lie across the entrances to fields, attracting the attention of passing ducks. My favourite roadside tree has lost a large ivy-clad branch in the recent storms.

Our first objective in Bath took us along the south bank of the River Avon, through the old industrial part of the city, alongside the railway line, before we cut inwards to find parking between the Holburne Museum and Pulteney Bridge - as I have a blue badge which allows concessions for parking due to my mobility problems (otherwise we would have used the Park and Ride). As it was Easter Sunday, the shops were mostly shut, removing their usual tempotation to browse. We crossed the bridge and the road and entered the Victoria Art Gallery, where the final week of The Blue and White Show was commencing. This exhibition features work by Candace Bahouth (two different links) , Kaffe Fassett (again two links) and Carole Waller (again x2), inspired by the beautiful blue and white china collection of Tom Hickman's family. This was also displayed, in a magnificent, vast Georgian-style dresser. There are many fascinating pieces of work in this exhibition, by all three artists. I had not seen Carole Waller's work before and was fascinated, partially for her interesting palette of moody blues with other colours, and her use of fabrics, with fascinating glazing potential as well as clothing with delicate touches of embellishment.

Candace Bahouth's work was primarily mosaic, although there were also framed assemblages of articles linked by colour but which intrigued by hinting at other connections. There were mirrors of china mosaic with shells, beautiful little shrines of ceramic and mirror shards, a wonderful mirror mosaic egg, shoes, a bench, a table, an obelisk and an urn on a plinth as well as a portrait panel. Candace Bahouth was present, in fact, and we exchanged a few words with her and another visitor about cigarette cards, which she had included in assemblages.

Kaffe Fassett's work encompassed the range of his published creativity: patchwork, knitting, painting, ceramic decoration, and needlepoint, and he had certainly not limited himself to the blue and white, although there was a lovely blue and white Lady in the Lake quilt, another Round the World Quilt used as a table cover underneath his painted china pieces (blue on cream). There was also a blue beanie hat, which I think was crocheted, covered quite closely by vintage, mainly white buttons of different designs.

The display of blue and white china was almost overwhelming in its quantity and, indeed, the whole exhibition was so full of pieces that it was quite hard to see individual items. However, it was a joyful display of the pleasures of the Blue and White, and how different artists can run with a theme and take it in many different directions.

I was very good, and only bought some postcards of the show: I could easily have succumbed to temptation provided by books, fabrics, scarves and other delights, but I didn't. It did reinforce my love of blue and white china.

We left the exhibition and felt rather hungry, so went round the corner to take a light lunch at Garfunkel's before gazing at the weir below the Pulteney Bridge on the way back to the car. We were amused to see a couple of ducks descending from the upper to the lower level by way of (what else?) duck boards placed over a series of steps beside the weir. The water was rushing over the edge of the weir and it was fascinating to just stand and stare, but the bitter wind soon got us moving again.

I liked the frieze of waves on this sandstone building just off the bridge.

So back at the car, we set off for our second destination, Prior Park (I'm being so generous with links today!), as my son has had the ambition to return there for an Easter Egg Hunt for years. The three children (no longer, in the case of one or two) did the whole circuit around the valley to do the egg trail, while we oldies pottered in the relatively flat upper level before retiring to the warmth of the car and the Sunday paper for company (once again, disabled parking saved the day). It was interesting to see how the restoration of the garden is progressing, and I'd love to return later in the year when hopefully I will feel fitter and more mobile so I can do the whole trail, which is gorgeous. There were swift showers of rain and sleet while we were there, interspersed by sunny spells.

Eventually our chilly children returned triumphant, quiz completed and easter egg won, and we could drive back through the gorgeous countryside for home. Last evening I was exhausted and so I am today, with terrible pains in my joints and muscles; but a small price to pay for the joy of such an enjoyable outing.


Angelcat said...

I really enjoyed reading all about your day, Sue, you describe everything so poetically! I hope you get over your aches and pains quickly.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good time was had by all. I, too, enjoyed reading about your day in Bath. Thanks!