Saturday, November 9, 2013

Petworth House and Park

Petworth House is National Trust property the COG and I visited this week.  It has the largest collection of art of all the National Trust houses, so is sometimes called The Art House.  (picture from the National Trust site). The Park was designed by Capability Brown, of course.  Frankly we were a little disappointed in it, but that might have been because it was pouring down rain intermittently so we couldn't really enjoy it.

The house itself is probably the grandest interior I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of grand country homes. Only the downstairs rooms were open to the public, and so there were no bedrooms which was a little disappointing. And the downstairs rooms were mostly a gallery for the art.  Having said all that, both the COG and I gasped audibly when we entered the first room, of which this is only a small adjoining alcove:

Turner and Constable lived in residence there for a while and so there's lots of their work. And there are several things by William Blake. There's a lot of classical statuary, as well as some 18th century statuary. But there are also Titians and Van Dykes and a Lely and at least one Claude and many many many more.  There was also one of the earliest volumes of Canterbury Tales, hand copied and beautiful. And, perhaps, the oldest globe of the world from the 1500's.  So. Many. Treasures.

There is a room, called The Carved Room, with carvings by Grinling Gibbons. All of the carving is done to set off the paintings as if the entire room were the frame. The paintings themselves were amazing - I think they'd been recently cleaned because they were so bright and clear. The painting of Henry VIII looked almost 3D, really quite an effect.

As we arrived, the hunt was forming outside. I am against blood sports, but, it was still exciting to see all the beautiful people on beautiful horses. None of my pictures turned out, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Petworth is a lovely village with about a million antique stores and some lovely homes. The House is actually right next to the town - we entered right from the street into the servants quarters, where the shop, the cafe, and the old kitchens were. There was a cook baking there all day and it was truly interesting to see.  The staff had to take all the food through tunnels between the house and the kitchens/servants quarters.  The Trust has made a feature of the servants quarters, explaining a little about what happened Downstairs, how the servants lived etc. 

Petworth Village

I feel somehow that I should just mention that the house, in its oldest parts, is over 800 years old.  It belonged to the Percy family, who came over with the Normans and were one of the most powerful and richest families of England, and Europe for hundreds of years.  Maybe still are.  The current Lord Whatnot and family still live in the house, which was acquired by the National Trust in lieu of death duties, along with part of the art collection. Reading about the history of the family is like reading an historical novel. Someone in the family was there for every thing that happened since the Conquest. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally

Today was the London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally. We walked down to the Marine Parade, on the sea front, to see it.  It has grown very cold here with high winds and we are expecting heavy rain, so everyone was leaving a couple of hours early.  The COG might have gotten some pictures, but I've left it to the film Genevieve.  In the first few minutes of this clip, there are a couple of scenes of cars arriving in Brighton, with the pier in the background and the lacy metal arches in the foreground.  That's where we were - it's just down the road from our flat.

On Taking Public Transport

Yesterday we went to a National Trust property about 35 miles west and a little north of Brighton. The bus trip took 2 1/2 or 3 hours each way. That may seem like a lot of time to get such a short distance but we were happy with that.

We talked about hiring a car, but decided against it because we like traveling in buses. When you are in a bus, you get to see the countryside in a way you don't when you are driving, because you are worried about traffic and navigating and you have to keep your eyes on the road. In a bus, someone else does all of that. In a bus, you sit up a little higher than a car, so you can see over hedgerows and fences. And we always enjoy people-watching on buses.

Because we were on the bus, we could see over the beach toward the ocean along part of the drive; we saw a fruit tree blossoming out of season in someone's yard; we saw a huge tree, obviously felled by the storm on Monday and not yet cleared because it wasn't blocking the road; we saw some lovely houses hiding behind hedges or fences; and we had amazing views of the Arun valley and various other beautiful places along the way.

Cars are great when you have someplace specific to go that's difficult to get to by bus. I used to love having one when we came on visits the the COGs parents when the kids were small. In those days, the car became a kind of temporary haven our private space for the duration.  In a car, you can cover a lot of territory more quickly and you are free to deviate from the plan for the day.   We could, for example, have stopped at the Roman Villa we saw a sign for, if we'd had a car. Or because we had a car in Normandy last summer, we were able to stop at the various beaches which was not something we had planned for.  So there's definitely a place for cars. And, if we'd had a car yesterday, we wouldn't have had to wait for the 1 bus per hour, or figure out where to catch it.

On the other hand, while waiting for the bus,  we chatted to someone and looked around the charming old village, which we wouldn't have done if we'd been parked in the car park next to the main road that skirts the village.

So, that's why we like taking public transport - especially buses. It's because the getting there is half the fun. Sometimes more than half.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Spotted in our local supermarket. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, here called 'Finz'.