Thursday, 28 November 2013


Out through Banbury, past it’s cross, which now sits astride a roundabout.

Out west across an Oxfordshire top road, up and down through brown fields and golden trees. All polished by the November sun, low across the landscape.

Onward to Lower Brailes to meet up with good colleagues Wayne and Mark.

With work behind us they escort me  to St Georges Church, featured in Jenkins’ 1000 Best Churches. We are as one with its loveliness.

The pale gold gingerbread church tower reach up through the trees, visible for miles.

Higgledy Piggledy gravestones amongst unrestrained grass

Inside all is huge and calm and once a garrison for Royalist troops.
The Victorian restorers have been a work with little damage done.

This is the ‘cathedral of the Feldon, we are in Warwickshire.

Our investigation and my drawing of the Decorated font, complete we repair to The Gate public house in Upper Brailes. A sup of sound Hook Norton Ale, our backs to a warming fire, we contemplate richness of this world. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


This is short trip in and out for work, mere Tuesday back Thursday morning, leaving the hotel just before five in the morning. Tuesday a knuckle biting connection across Zagreb airport from Gate 13 to 2 and onward to Dubrovnik

Arrival into Dubrovnik: we shudder then plummet through deep mist and are on the tarmac. A howling gale and lashing winds the afternoon has immediately become night. At last, the Dubrovnik Palace Hotel, etched into the Cliffside.

Briefings and meetings for the next day take the evening and a solitary meal. I pass a restless night the now normal prelude for my workshop session the next morning.

All goes well. I wrestle twenty-six people to the ground with experience, expertise and entertainment.

An afternoon free; Brightest sunshine turns the sea outside my room and beneath the pool terrace a deep metallic blue. The horizon appears as a orange yellow line, the horizontal cross-hair in a rife sight of azure.  The wind occasional sends spray across my journal.  Two old men make their way down  the pool the pool steps the low cliffs where they set up like two cormorants with theirs poles, lines, floats and bait.

How quickly one can forget a meditterran sea and its attendant light. I luxuriate briefly before being whisked back to England’s natural greys.

Monday, 18 November 2013


A grey day, late October and an impulse to see my Father and visit two Essex Churches, part of several that are part of an ecclesiastical ribbon development in an area north of the A120, that Essex top road from Stanstead Airport to Colchester.

Churches here about, again nominated for wonderfulness by Simon Jenkins, have come about from the wool trade and closeness to the river. These churches build close to the monasteries’ were adorned further from the wealth of local families, exemplified by the Countess of Warwick’s connection with Tilty Church and her Coat of Arms on the cottages that lead up to the church.

Outside both churches the flint and stone echoes the autumn cloudiness. Inside there is a cool light. In Little Easton Church there is a memorial window to a USAAF bomber squadron stationed close by during WW2, a reminder that most of East Anglian was a patch work of airfields now almost gone and once more under the plough and furrow.

On entering each church the opening part of Phillip Larkin’s poem, Church Going chime a chord

Once I am sure there's nothing going on

I step inside, letting the door thud shut.

Another church: matting, seats, and stone,

And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut

For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff

Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;

And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,

Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off

My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

Friday, 15 November 2013


We resume our quest outside the railway station at Staines (on-Thames) having captured a bargain, a Group Return ticket from Windsor and Eton Riverside station.

It is the last day in October with melancholy skies of course but no rain. Now the cycle ways are now often tarmac. We swap the lumps and bumps made by cattle and horses hooves for local council speed bumps.

Across this stretch of the Thames Path are strewn the leftovers of Monday’s gales; up rooted poplar trees with great roundels of earth still attached, willows left low as if to sip from the river, we make a diversion through drab council flats to regain the path further down.

The riverbanks are now fringed with swanky dwellings, bungalows and pre-fabricated chalets. We pass through Classy-on-Thames: Chertsey and Weybridge. For £3 each we make our first ferry crossing at Weybridge, a fast buck for the Aussie ferryman.

Hampton Court Palace’s towers are hidden in polythene and the bridge is choked by traffic. We are more than consoled by a large and excellent ‘late breakfast’ at the Hampton Court Café.

After lunch Kingston Bridge confuses us with a cycle lane that carries us across four lanes of traffic. For a moment we are separated, I regain Mike and Dave using the lift down to John Lewis’s car park, by pressing the ‘R’ button, a lucky guess.

By two o’clock it almost feels dark. Out on the brown-grey water Eights and Single Sculls skim upstream. We peddle by their cavernous boat houses crammed with sleeping craft, oars and other paraphernalia associated with these human water boatman.

Richmond, Teddington, Twickenham, Kew, Chiswick and Barnes, under their bridges; often the river is hidden from view.

All of a sudden like some colossus, Hammersmith Bridge rears up in front of us. It pale green wrought iron appears to form the gates to London. To my mind we are certainly at the entrance to this river’s principal city.

So we leave the river, making our way through posh Putney terraces and twilight to the railway station.

Friday, 8 November 2013


September posted in November

A few weeks ago I made a second work trip to Amilly in France.

My colleague Andrew and I grabbed five minutes to visit the L'Atelier Du Hautbois - next door to our factory in the Rue Mar Juin on the outskirts of the village of Amilly.

We saw a group was a small group of lovely people at work, dedicated to making the Oboe.

Seated right Stephane who is in charge of production
From ebony wood, which they mature for three years, this group of craftsmen create beautiful traditionally made instruments, using a bewildering and impressive number of nickel silver parts (the keys), plates, and holes, laid out on their work benches.

Featured in the drawing is Stéphane Guillaume, Responsible de la Fabrication


The oboe double reed musical instrument of the woodwind family made from a wooden tube roughly 65 cm (25-1/2 inches) long, with metal keys
In English, prior to 1770, the instrument was called the hautbois, hoboy, or French hoboy (pronounced "HOE-boy", borrowed from the French name, a compound word made of haut ["high, loud"] and bois "wood, woodwind"

The spelling "oboe" was adopted into English c. 1770 from the Italian oboè, a transliteration in that language's orthography of the 17th-century pronunciation of the French name.

A magical, haunting tune for the oboe is Samuel Barber’s Canzonetta  - do listen to it. 

Friday, 1 November 2013


Mid October 
Only two weeks after our last cycle-walk we assemble at Marlow. I make a drawing looking into the pale autumn sun. Across the river on the Berkshire Bank is the Complete Angler and to one side the filigree of Marlow Bridge.

Along the path on the Buckinghamshire Bank we are again manoeuvring bikes through a series turnstile-kissing gates. After six such manipulations we are well practised again.

Bourne End with its marina and the Upper Thames Sailing Club, though Cookham a spot immortalised by Stanley Spencer’s Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta

Cross over to the Berkshire bank again and we look up to Cliveden House grounds, woodlands rise up and up the house, a playhouse for the Astor family.

WIKIPEDIA As home of Nancy Astor, the house was the meeting place of the Cliveden set of the 1920s and 1930s—a group of political intellectuals. Later, during the 1960s, it became the setting for key events of the notorious Profumo Affair.

We see across the river the cottage were John Profumo entertained Christine Keeler.

We make a splendid early lunch which is provided by Jenner’s Café near Boulter’s Lock, Maidenhead: Bacon, beans, toast and sausage and fried egg with a mug of tea all for £3.90. We push on to Windsor.

From half a mile up stream Windsor Castle’s turrets stand out against as grey sky. Very high up from the river this tourist bastion is almost Schloss-like in its position above the river. We leave the river through Eton town and cross the bridge to Windsor.

Then an hour or two through odd Thames side places; Old Windsor, Wraysbury and Datchet, Thames-side places in the never-never land outskirts of Heathrow.

The landscape opens up on Runneymede fields and meadows. This was the signing-place of the Magna Carter where the Baron’s forced the hand of King John in 1215.

We finish our day’s ride just downstream from Runneymede, at Staines. The town now likes to be addressed as Staines-on-Thames. Perhaps this is to counter balance it image as the home of Ali G.

WIKIPEDIA: Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen) is the leader of Da West Staines Massiv, a fictional gang composed of a group of wannabe gangsters from Staines (a suburban town in north Surrey, to the west of London); their chief rivals are Da East Staines Massiv.

A Southeastern train then whisks us back to Eton and Riverside station, after a cup of tea at BK’s tea bar on Platform 2, Staines railway station.