Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Friday 17 May 2024

Another day, another museum

On my list of places to visit for some years - Strawberry Hill House, a Gothic fantasy of Horace Walpole, politician (his father was our first and longest-serving Prime Minister), writer (he wrote the first Gothic novel and invented the word "serendipity"), connoisseur and collector. 

Surrounded now by the affluent commuter suburb of Strawberry Hill and its comfortable villas from the later 19th and early 20th century, and a university, the house when built was a summer rural retreat from London, with open views down to the Thames. 

Its design and decoration draw on mediaeval inspiration, but it has a lighter feel than the later idea of hefty Victorian Gothic we're much more familiar with, such as St Pancras station: painted wood, plaster and papier maché rather than solid stone and brick.

Starting in the hallway and stair case:

with its skylight drawing the eye to Tudor-style chimneys:

and its stained glass - some re-created as part of more recent restorations, but this Dutch picture of the prodigal son looks convincingly old:

the stairs take one up to the library (plenty of papier maché finials here):

and on to the gallery - Walpole's original collections were largely dispersed over subsequent generations, but suitable copies and replacements give the idea:

The vaulting is of course purely decorative:

Moving on and up, the more private rooms come next - a room intended to give the feel of a mediaeval chapel, though decorated with kings and queens and their heraldic badges, rather than saints and Bible stories:

and on up to Walpole's own bedroom, with windows designed to make the most of the then river view and plenty of fresh air:

And one last domestic item - this bowl was used to keep goldfish in, but sadly proved too tempting to Walpole's cat - it fell in and drowned.

Monday 6 May 2024

Those election results

In a London-wide election for a single post, where the winner ends up with a personal mandate of nearly two million votes, even the tiny percentages for the also-rans look like respectable totals. So the various independents and groupuscules ended up with votes in the tens of thousands. 

But at least the (let's be tactful) farthest right candidate came second to bottom, some 3700 votes short of Count Binface.

Sunday 5 May 2024

Seen around town




Friday 3 May 2024

From the Department of Wouldn't You Just Know It

It appears that our not-so-Beloved Former Mayor and Prime Minister turned up to vote without photoID, the requirement for which was put through Parliament by his own government

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Election day is coming

Time to look through the booklet telling us all about the Mayoralty and the London Assembly, the two page spread each mayoral candidate gets to boost themselves, and the lists of candidates for Assembly seats (no promo spots for them, which seems a biti mean, for candidates and voters alike).

 Diamondgeezer's given a concise thumbnail sketch of the mayoral candidates, so all I'll remark on is the number of candidates vying for the "Stop the world, I want to get off" tendency. Apart from the increasingly fissiparous pressure groups within the Conservatives and the ex-UKIP/ex-Brexit/Nigel Farage fanclub ReformUK that the Tories are so afraid of, there are the "I've run a business, so how hard is it to run a city" candidates, the "Social Democratic Party" that looks nothing like the original SDP I joined in - can it have been? - 1981, and the latest incarnation of what we tactfully call the far right. We'll draw a veil over - no, let's not - the actor Laurence Fox, whose name appears in the booklet without any further details, because his team messed up their nomination forms

 What pretty well all of those have in common is opposition to the zone where people are charged to drive cars that emit too much muck, despite the repeated legal judgements against the UK for missing international commitments on reducing air pollution - and more urgently, the death of a child from severe asthma brought on by the traffic pollution where she lived. Oh, and despite a £120 million scrappage fund to help people swap older polluting vehicles for newer, cleaner ones. 

 For the Assembly (basically a relatively small scrutiny committee), there's also the Heritage Party - yet another split-off from Reform. Elsewhere on the spectrum are the Communist Party ,(yes, there still is one), the Christian People's Alliance, and the perhaps over-hopeful RejoinEU. The Conservative candidate for Brent and Harrow might need to review the chances of his name being on everyone's lips in future, or at least of wear and tear on typesetters' nerves - Stefan Bucovineanul-Voliseniuc.