The 1951 Club

the 1951 club

I’ve read and blogged about quite a few books that were published in 1951 in recent years, so if you’re interested in my thoughts on them click on the titles.

A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

The Wooden Overcoat by Pamela Branch

The Willow Cabin by Pamela Frankau

Cork on the Water by Macdonald Hastings

The Catherine Wheel by Patricia Wentworth

The Duke’s Daughter by Angela Thirkell

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols

Duplicate Death by Georgette Heyer

School for Love by Olivia Manning

Of course 1951 was an important year in Britain as we had The Festival of Britain which went on for most of the year – or at least until the general election when Churchill became PM again and he saw the whole thing as being Socialist so he shut it all down – spoilsport!

But apparently the Festival was a life-saver for the people who had by then been suffering under austerity for years and years what with the war and even worse rationing post-war. It cheered people up no end to see the bright colours and modern designs, and was a great opportunity for artists, designers and makers.

Before I started blogging I read and enjoyed Festival at Farbridge by J.B. Priestley which was published in 1951 and has local events featuring the festival.

I blogged about the festival some years ago and if you’re interested you can see that post here.

Bridget Riley Exhibition

One day last week we went to Modern Art 1 in Edinburgh, this time to see the free Bridget Riley exhibition. Her canvases are massive, I must admit I’m not a huge fan of her Op Art work as some of it is just about guaranteed to bring on a migraine. I admire it though as I can’t really imagine how she managed to actually get it done so precisely as it has to be.

There’s information about her works on the walls and Riley says that she had to work her way through the black and white before going on to colour. You can see images of her work here.

It didn’t take us long to go around that exhibition, so as there was a blizzard going on outside we decided to look around the rest of the galleries. If you’re in Edinburgh and you like art it’s well worth taking the time to visit. You can see what else is on view here.

Most of downstairs has been taken over by Karla Black and Kishio Suga works. This is the sort of art that makes you think – I could do that! In fact anybody could do it, given a pile of cotton wool and powder paint, or some rocks from a beach and rope. I can’t tell you how unimpressed I am by that so called art.

In the old days whenever Jack and I saw something that made us almost speechless with disdain we would say – Oh my God Sadie in a sort of homage to a woman we knew who always said that when she was shocked at something. Nowadays though we seem to have updated it to – What would Freya say?! – an homage to a discerning twelve year old.

One thing that really impressed me was an early Francis Bacon painting. I’ve seen a lot of his work recently as when we went to The Guggenheim in Bilbao there was an exhibition on of his work, none of it really spoke to me, but the one below that I saw in Edinburgh did. The image below doesn’t do it justice as the actual painting is so detailed with the herringbone material of the coat really seeming three dimensional.

Francis Bacon

St Andrews Museum, Fife

If you’re looking for something to do in Fife and you’re interested in embroidery/textiles, you should take a look at Diamond Threads an exhibition of work by some members of Dundee Embroiderers’ Guild which is on at St Andrews Museum.

We saw the exhibition by chance as we were visiting the museum, just because we hadn’t been there for ages. I thought you might be interested to see the axe which was used for beheading people in mediaeval St Andrews. Apparently the short handle was ideal for the job as it was easier to get a good aim at the neck and it should have meant a clean swift chop. I’m not so sure about that, fancy having to stand right next to the person who you were beheading!!

Executioner's Axe, St Andrews Museum

An improved method of execution was thought up – The Maiden, which was an early type of guillotine. You can see an original Maiden at Edinburgh, but here’s a photo of it. I hope it doesn’t put you off your dinner!

Pittenweem Arts Festival, Fife

After so much rain – (we had to wade through mud to get to the newspaper shop this morning) when we saw blue sky this afternoon we decided to drive to the annual Pittenweem Arts Festival which is in full swing now.

Unfortunately everybody else seemed to have the same idea, I couldn’t believe how many cars there were parked in the playing field which had been commandeered for the purpose. The festival seems to expand with every year which comes around.

Pittenweem has always been popular with artists and quite a lot of them actually live there and they throw their homes open and turn them into a gallery for the ten days of the festival. Sometimes you have to walk through someone’s kitchen to reach where the artworks are being displayed. It makes it all very interesting, especially as the houses are all fairly old, for me it was just as good being able to see the usually hidden back gardens. Sometimes the galleries are in church halls. It would take the whole day to get around all of the venues, we probably managed to visit only about a quarter of them. We were both tempted by different paintings – so we ended up buying nothing, but I have my eye on a couple of pieces, so I might be tempted back.

If original paintings are beyond what you want to pay, some are really quite expensive, you can often buy limited edition prints or cards.

If you’re interested in what is on sale but can’t get yourself to Fife, have a look at the website here. The artists are listed in alphabetical order. The exhibition continues until 9th August.

British Library Crime Classics

I’ve recently been given a whole load of books, first by our friend Eric and then even more by Peggy from the US. I had decided that I wasn’t going to look at any books whenever we went out anywhere, just so that I could concentrate on whittling away at some of my book piles.

But there is no hope for me, just as I had said that to Jack he came up to me in a shop to give me the news that he had found two British Library Crime Classic books, of course it was the lovely 1930s covers which had attracted him. So it’s his fault entirely that I added those ones to the ever growing piles. Both of them by Mavis Doriel Hay, I don’t even recall ever hearing anything about her, but I couldn’t resist them. They are Death on the Cherwell and Murder Underground.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, in another charity shop today he spotted Mystery in White by J.Jefferson Farjeon, now I have heard only good things of this one so I couldn’t pass up the chance to buy it.

As luck would have it we were both feeling a bit under the weather over the last couple of weeks and indeed the actual weather was not helping our moods either, so we both sort of read our way out of it, whilst totally ignoring everything else. Luxury. It’s wonderful to be able to read a book in a day! So I’m fairly ploughing through the book piles.

On another bookish note, we’ve been using our local libraries a lot since moving to a more rural location last year. There are several small libraries in villages a short drive from us and we had been hoping that using those ones and pushing their lending statistics up would mean they would be safer from closure. Honestly we did our best! But there gas been an announcement to the effect that Fife Council intend to close 16 libraries! I honestly never thought that so many would be under threat.

Those small libraries are often a sort of local hub and the only place where some people can get access to a computer. Primary schools won’t be able to take the children to library visits and that means that for a lot of them they just will never see the inside of a library as their parents are either too busy to take them, or just don’t have the inclination to do so.

I feel a campaign coming on!

On a happier note, if you are in the Kirkcaldy area then do yourself a favour and get along to the library and museum where The Great Tapestry of Scotland is on exhibition. We saw it when it was at the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh but went again yesterday, really as we were just killing time but I think I enjoyed it even more on the second viewing. The exhibition is on until the 20th of September.

The Duke of Wellington in Glasgow

More often than not the statue of the Duke of Wellington at Royal Exchange Square in Glasgow has a traffic cone on his head. Apparently it was way back in the 1980s when someone decided that the addition of a cone would be an improvement and it’s the sort of irreverence which goes down well in Glasgow.

Wellington

But the powers that be feel the need to remove the cone, feeling that somehow it gives Glasgow a ‘bad name’. How out of touch can you be?! Everyone goes there especially to see the cone topped statue. Anyway, it’s never gone for long as some daredevil usually takes their life in their hands to replace the cone within 24 hours.

Just before Christmas Santa climbed up there and the police arrested him, much to the chagrin of the bystanders. You can see some photos of the incident here.

And following the horrific accident which occurred on December, 22nd a lovely Glaswegian changed the normal traffic cone for a black one. It was only fitting that Old Ironsides should be in mourning with the rest of us.

I took the above photo of the statue on Saturday when we were in Glasgow, amongst other things we visited GOMA which has an Alasdair Gray exhibition on at the moment.

Wellington

The Festival of Britain

It’s time for another Blast from the Past and this one is a quick wee keek at The Festival of Britain, which was obviously way back in 1951, so before my time. The festival was thought up by the Atlee government, partly because it was 100 years after The Great Exhibition, but also as a way of boosting industry and arts.

Britain was still suffering from rationing and everything had been very austere and colourless after the war, so the festival must have come as a fantastic burst of joyful colour to a population deprived of anything but the strictly utilitarian. You can read more about the FOB here.

I suppose that everyone who visited the festival wanted to take a souvenir back from it and spoons were popular and cheap mementoes. They come in an amazing number of different designs which is perfect for people who like collecting commemorative stuff. The middle thing is a propelling pencil.

Festival of Britain spoons and pencil

The photo below is of one of the many designs of badges which were made for sale at the festival. It’s a good one of the festival logo which obviously incorporated Britannia’s head in profile.

Festival of Britain badge

Below is a photo of what must be the blingiest badge which was designed, it’s quite difficult to find one which has all its bits of glass intact as this one has.

Festival of Britain Badge

Below is a booklet about the Festival Ship Campania, a converted aircraft carrier. You can see lots of images of the ship here.
Campania booklet

The ship toured around Britain’s coast to bring a flavour of the festival to people who couldn’t make it down to London to visit the main exhibition.

The festival must have come as a godsend for young designers such as Terence Conran and Robin and Lucienne Day, you can see some of their designs here.
You can see images of fabric which was designed for the festival here.

For collectors of FOB souvenirs there’s masses of stuff to buy. Some people concentrate on tins or teapots, but you can buy face powder compacts, cake stands, pressed glass, knives, purses, jigsaw puzzles and probably even knickers but I doubt that many of those will have survived. There’s a seemingly endless array of stuff to be corralled by those people who feel the need to complete collections, which is just what some folks live for!

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Willow Tearooms, Glasgow

Willow Tearooms  in Glasgow

On our recent stopover in Glasgow I had thought that we might have our lunch at one of The Willow Tearooms in the city. But we were too busy photographing the loads of gorgeous buildings nearby, so we ended up just having Cornish pasties – on the go. Next time we’ll be more organised.

Willow tea rooms

These tearooms were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh – as I’m sure you will have realised. The photos above are of the tearoom at the bottom of Buchanan Street. You can read about them here. The actual tearoom is upstairs I believe.

The photos below are of the tearooms at the top of Sauchiehall Street. These have only fairly recently been opened as a tearoom again as the building had been taken over by a jewellers for some years.

Willow Tearooms

I think the windows of this one are wonderful. You can see images of the tearooms here.

Willow Tearooms

It was Miss Cranston who commissioned C.R. Mackintosh to design her tearooms for her and you can see the original interior in the Kelvingrove Art Galleries in the west end of Glasgow. There are more images of The Miss Cranston interior in the gallery here.

Nowadays of course there are gift shops alongside the tearooms. There’s so much Mackintosh inspired ‘stuff’ around that we have taken to calling it Mockintosh.

In fact I couldn’t resist buying some Mackintosh inspired fabric from the nearby Manders shop. I got a couple of yards in their sale, at a seventh of the original price! I have no idea what I’m going to use it for though.

Mackintosh fabric

Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

For one night only – we were in Aberdeen recently. We went there mainly to visit Crathes Castle which is about 15 miles west of Aberdeen. Below is a photo of the castle from the front. It’s Scottish baronial in design as you can see and it’s pronounced Crath-es.

Crathes Castle 4

The castle was originally owned by the Burnett (pronounced Burn-it) family but it is now owned by the Scottish National Trust. As ever you are not allowed to take photos of the inside, it is about time they woke up and got rid of that rule as there is no possibility of damaging anything nowadays when you can turn the flash off in cameras. The SNT would get so much more publicity if there were images of the inside of their properties all over the internet.

Crathes Castle 1

Above is the back of the castle, not quite so attractive as the front.

Leaning out of one of the open windows in the castle I managed to get this photo of the autumn colour of one of the gardens. They are really well worth visiting, I’m planning to go back next spring or summer to see them at their best.

Crathes Castle Gardens

There’s a lot of yew topiary there some of which is hundreds of years old. What a job it must be to keep that lot looking good!

Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle Gardens

I loved the look of this teeny wee house too, I have no idea what it was for, maybe just for gardeners to hide from the rain in a downpour, or just to look pretty.

Crathes Castle

The next day we went into the city of Aberdeen itself, apparently the oil capital of Europe but I can’t say that it impressed me. I hate the greyness of it all, famously the buildings are mainly made of grey granite which is supposed to sparkle in the sun but it was a lovely bright day and Aberdeen still managed to look dreich. Granite’s one saving grace seems to be that it is hard wearing. You can see some images of Aberdeen here.

Aberdeen does have a good art gallery though and it was worthwhile going to the city to see that alone. You can see some of their treasures here.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland

Last week we went to the Scottish Parliament where The Great Tapestry of Scotland is on exhibition, it’s the longest tapestry in the world apparently. I meant to visit it this time last year but didn’t get around to it, due to pressure of house selling and too many people viewing our old place. It was my old family friend Isabel who recommended that I visit the exhibition, I knew that it must be good if she was impressed because she’s a really great embroiderer herself.

Of course it isn’t a tapestry it’s an embroidery, but then neither is the Bayeux Tapestry a tapestry, there seems to be a tradition of misnaming such things. I took quite a few photos of the panels which were of most interest to me, but I haven’t sorted them out yet. Meanwhile, you can see images of the panels here.

The tapestry has been wandering around Scotland for the past year or so and nobody seemed able to give it a permanent home but I just heard on the Scottish news tonight that it is going to be on permanant exhibition at Melrose eventually. I’m so glad I saw it in Edinburgh as Melrose isn’t exactly central.

The author Alexander McCall Smith was the chap who came up with the idea of a ‘tapestry’ depicting Scotland’s history and the artist Andrew Crummy designed it with the work being carried out by hundreds of embroiderers from all over Scotland.

Below you can see the first stitch being put into the design.