A Coot And A Folly


Another day of incessant rain led me to drafting the next section of my biography. I took some of the text from my posts ‘Holly’ and ‘Dunkirk’.

Since I am writing about the several eras of one man’s life, I have begun with what life was like in 1942. Since my blog has been about my own memories, and I don’t have any for the year of my birth, I have applied my knowledge of history and a little research. The draft itself will not appear in my posts. After all, the idea is that people don’t read it before it is finished.

Later, I scanned another batch of colour negatives, from June and July 1990.

Jessica 6.90 2Jessica and coot 6.90 3Coot 6.90

That June, our aptly named young neighbour, James Bird, came across a family of coots that had suffered a road accident. Just one scrawny little chick survived. James knew we had a small pond, so he brought the baby bird to Jessica to care for. She did  a good enough job for the creature to disappear after a few weeks. This made her rather sad.  The Newark Advertiser printed an article, vainly seeking the return of the pet.

Staunton Temple opening 7.90 4Staunton temple opening 7.90 1Staunton temple opening 7.90 4Staunton Temple Opening 7.90 2Staunton temple opening 7. 90 3

The following month we attended the grand opening of Edmund Staunton’s temple. This structure built by the gentleman farmer on his land at Staunton Manor maintains a long tradition of architectural structures, known as follies. Another I have featured on occasion is ‘Peterson’s Folly’, known as Sway Tower. Wikipedia has this to say about the genre:

‘In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but suggesting through its appearance some other purpose, or of such extravagant appearance that it transcends the range of garden ornaments usually associated with the class of buildings to which it belongs.

18th century English gardens and French landscape gardening often featured mock Roman temples, symbolising classical virtues. Other 18th century garden follies represented Chinese temples, Egyptian pyramids, ruined abbeys, or Tatar tents, to represent different continents or historical eras. Sometimes they represented rustic villages, mills, and cottages to symbolise rural virtues.[1]Many follies, particularly during times of famine, such as the Irish potato famine, were built as a form of poor relief, to provide employment for peasants and unemployed artisans.

In English, the term began as “a popular name for any costly structure considered to have shown folly in the builder”, the OED‘s definition,[2] and were often named after the individual who commissioned or designed the project. The connotations of silliness or madness in this definition is in accord with the general meaning of the French word “folie”; however, another older meaning of this word is “delight” or “favourite abode”[3] This sense included conventional, practical, buildings that were thought unduly large or expensive, such as Beckford’s Folly, an extremely expensive early Gothic Revival country house that collapsed under the weight of its tower in 1825, 12 years after completion. As a general term, “folly” is usually applied to a small building that appears to have no practical purpose, or the purpose of which appears less important than its striking and unusual design, but the term is ultimately subjective, so a precise definition is not possible.’

Helen and Bill visited for a pleasant couple of hours conversation, and departed with two trays of potted cuttings Jackie has prepared for their church sale.

We dined this evening on fish pie, cauliflower, and green beans, with which we both drank Wairau Cove Sauvignon Blanc 2016.

The Garden Of Delights


Garden of Delights, Les Petites Pannes 2.13

Yesterday afternoon I began reading ‘La femme au petit renard’ by Violette Leduc.

After this I watched ‘Changeling’, an excellent film based on a true story.  Brilliantly directed by Clint Eastwood, with Angelina Jolie a superb mother struggling against a corrupt police force, and John Malkovitch playing the priest who supports her, it is the story of a substituted boy.  Much more than this, it an exposure of police methods; appalling psychiatric treatment; and a serial killer brought to trial and executed.

But this was not my planned viewing.  I had hoped to watch ‘The Changeling’, a ghost story starring George C. Scott.  Unfortunately I could not play it on my laptop, so I too, had to make a substitution.  My DVD is one that was transferred from a Video recording when I was living in W2.  Matthew, who had never forgotten watching it on television with me when he was a small boy, had, a few years ago, got a friend to scour the Internet for a secondhand copy to give me for my birthday.  We have, of course watched it since, but I will have to wait for another viewing until I can use my home equipment.

rue St Jacques steps 2.13Steady drizzle descended this morning as I walked down then up rue St Jacques as far as the D933 and back.  Looking up towards No. 6, haphazard steps on the right hand side offer some aid to pedestrians.  Just after I turned back from the junction an unamiable Alsation exposed enormous fangs as it sharply warned me off.  Perhaps it saw me as its dinner.  Its awesome leaps, all four paws high in the air; its back level with the top of the protective wire fence, made me very grateful that it appeared to have no knowledge of the Fosbury flop.

By a bend in the road at Les Petite Planes is a garden that would delight my aforementioned son Matthew.  It is Mat who gains great amusement from spotting garden embellishments of various creatures modelled in stone, aggregate, or plastic.  Flo, when really quite little, incidentally demonstrated her inheritance of the family humour by calling Mat and his wife ‘Tat and Mess’.

Tree of shite 8.12I had thought such outdoor ornaments were a purely English obsession.  But then, the occupants of the said house may not be French.  English garden centres are well stocked with such creations.  As I learned from the owners of an ornamental cherry tree in Hillcross Avenue, Morden, you can even buy features to be pinned to the trunks providing you with your own benign Ent, one of Tolkien’s tree-people.

The municipal dump near The Firs in West End has a collonade of discarded gnomes and suchlike lining its entrance.  This affords ample entertainment whilst waiting in the queue to unload your own rubbish.  Although the staff there have a good line in selling off unwanted but serviceable items, they will not part with any from their splendid gallery.

The more upmarket architectural salvage outlets or antique shops stock stone statuary from a bygone age.  There is one at the corner of Church Street and Lisson Grove in Marylebone.

During the eighteenth century there was a fashion for follies.  Seeking a look of antiquity, owners of grand houses would employ landscapers to build what looked like ancient ruins.  Today’s viewer may well wonder what was in place originally, but there was nothing more.  A number of these constructions are to be found at Belvoir in Leicestershire.  The most recent folly I know of was not built to look like a ruin.  It is a perfectly proportioned and complete Palladian rotunda erected with his own hands by Edmund Staunton in the grounds of his Nottinghamshire Manor House not far from Belvoir.  Sometime in the 1990s Jessica and I, as friends of Edmund and his wife Liz, attended the grand opening of which the couple was justifiably proud.

Most more humble London homes wishing to furnish their small plots make do with such figures as I saw in Les Petites Planes.  The gnomes in particular are often painted in bright pigments offering a resplendence to otherwise less than colourful surroundings.  Mitcham has a few.

Graham was also sampling Le Code Bar lunch today.  His judgement was the same as mine.  Yesterday’s soup was followed by a large bacon omelette.  The sweet was a divine, decorated, S-shaped chocolate mousse confection with a sauce straight out of a modern art gallery.  There was no room for the meat on my platter of chips, so the superbly tender pork chops in their exquisitely tasty sauce occupied a separate bowl.  Fred seemed slightly the worse for wear after the staff night out last night.