Cherry Picking and 18 Years of Innocence

July 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

Words escape me when I want to describe the feeling of elation I felt picking cherries the other day. On the grounds of an exceptional nursery (Windrush Nursery for pre-school aged children), I was picking morello cherries in order to make cherry brandy and dried sour cherries.

In an age when most of our food comes from a supermarket, it was an amazing experience to go back to basics and forage for food, like our hunter-gatherer fore bearers. This seems to have satisfied a primeval gene of mine. Happy in the knowledge that I can feed my family when all else is lost! Let’s get real here, I am not harking back to time when I would have had to walk for miles and do back breaking work, in order to put food on the table. Also, there is not much sustenance in cherry brandy, even though it’s jolly nice to drink!

Making dried sour cherries is a laborious and messy process. First you pick the cherries and stone them. Then, in a slow oven (luckily, I have a Rayburn to do this) you dry them. This takes hours and hours, but at the end of it all, you have something that can be referred to as ‘free food’ (as my good friend Clare did not change me for picking them, she wouldn’t even dream of it). Once you have the dried cherries, use them in porridge or making granola or best of all in making Sour Cherry and Almond White Chocolate Chunks (see recipe at the end).

Both my children attended Windrush Nursery, which I cannot praise enough. Clare and her team provide a safe environment for children that is like a home from home, but in reality it is much better. The children learn through creative play and this is all done in a nurturing, caring and intelligent way. Clare is as welcoming to the parents who drop off their kids, as she and her team are to the care and attention they give to the children. Of course, I am totally biased, but I feel lucky that my kids spent the early stages of their lives in such a place. It seems that the kids who go there are a pretty creative bunch. Who knows how many children contributed to the creation of the ‘work of art’ that hangs in the kitchen wall? It’s aptly named ’18 Years of Innocence’!

18 Years of Innocence

In case this is beginning to sound like an advert for Windrush Nursey, I do have to admit to a little secret. The funny thing is that I cannot keep away, I still attend the annual Sports Day, even though my kids left 4 years ago and still take advantage of Clare’s hospitality!

Recipe for Sour Cherry and Almond White Chocolate Chunks

(taken from Waitrose Food Illustrated)

Melt 250g broken white chocolate in a bowl. Add a pinch of cinnamon, 75g roasted marcona almonds and 75g dried sour cherries. Stir well and pour into a small baking tin, lined with baking parchment. Chill until set. Turn out of the tray, breaking it into rough chunks. Yummy with coffee or just when you feel like having a bit of chocolate. Who needs an excuse!


1 week 3 exhibitions

July 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

I have been a very busy girl of late, I managed to cram 3 exhibitions in one week! First on the exhibition tour was Constable at Salisbury Museum. It was a gloriously sunny day, not a cloud in the sky to be seen over Salisbury.  Which is pretty unusual in this part of the country. Although, I am not sure whether we have more than our fair proportion of clouds than anywhere else but the thought of ‘clouds’ was heavily on my mind, as I was walking around the exhibition. Much has been written about Constable’s love for his wife Maria (a book came out last year ‘Constable in Love’ by Martin Gayford- I haven’t read it yet). However, as a romantic landscape painter, I think that he was as much in love with clouds as he was in love with his wife! And who can blame him?

Constable spent his honeymoon visiting his friend and patron the Bishop of Salisbury Rev. John Fisher. Consequently, came to visit Salisbury a number of times and painted Salisbury Cathedral, as well as other local landmarks. Amongst many of his paintings, the 2 that stand out the most for me are his watercolours of Old Sarum and Stonehenge. Both on loan from the V&A for the exhibition. Both have truly remarkably dramatic clouds. The Stonehenge watercolour was painted after the death of Constable’s wife Maria and his closest friend Fisher. The mood is surely one of melancholy and desolation, despite its double rainbow. Both of which he must have felt at the time. Stonehenge was shown at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1836. I was very suprised to find out that Constable only sold about 20 paintings during his lifetime in England and yet sold more than this number in France in only a couple of years.

Old Sarum (1834) John Constable © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Stonehenge (1834) John Constable © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Robin and Lucienne Day exhibition at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester was next on my tour. What an amazing building. Pallant House is a Queen Anne town house Grade 1 listed building, dating from 1712. It also has a very modern extension, dating from 2006. It houses modern art and has a good restaurant called Field & Fork. It’s small but the freshly baked rolls and food were great! There was a very aptly named installation at a stairwell, looking out to a well proportioned window: ‘The Evening Star and ‘Passing Cloud after Constable’ by the New York contemporary artist Spencer Finch.

The Evening Star, Spencer Finch, 2010

The exhibition itself was very interesting. Robin and Lucienne Day were a husband and wife design duo of the post war era. Robin designed furniture and Lucienne textiles. Both designed for the Festival of Britain in 1951, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this summer. Robin designed the chairs for the Royal Festival Hall, which had to be mass produced cheaply. His designs are very functional and served a purpose. He designed chairs for the orchestra and chairs for the public lounge areas. This meant that as well as style and function, the chairs needed to be mass produced cost effectively. Hence, the materials he used reflected these requirements.

Armchair for Royal Festival Hall 1951 by Robin Day

Hillestack Chair, 1950 by Robin Day

Lucienne’s abtract textile designs in the ealy part of her career were influenced by her love of modern art. In particular the paintings of Joan Miro and Paul Klee.  I particularly like her bold design in bright red and oranges and blues and greens. They feel pretty contemporary. Although her Calyx design for Heals was the one that brought her to prominence, I like some of her later designs, such as Magnetic (1957), Apollo (late 1950s), Apex (1961), High Noon (1965), Sunrise (1969), Petal (1971) and Parkland (1974). I can’t show you any of the fabrics here due to copyright but if you wish to see the fabrics go to Dwell, where you will find a slideshow of some of the fabrics mentioned above under the heading ‘Britain’s Mid Century Female Designers’.

You can purchase some of Lucienne Day’s fabrics from Classic Textiles and Twentytwentyone.

I have found a very good review of the exhibition at the Architects’ Journal, which will do it justice more than I can hope to. So, if you are interested please read this. Unfortunately, the exhibition is now closed. I just managed to get there in its final few days. Also, the Design Museum have a concise write up on Robin and Lucienne Day, as well as other prominent designers past and present.

Finally, The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. I get such a buzz from going to the RA, one visit is just not enough. There is so much to take in that another visit is definitely worth making. There were big installations and canvases that would look great in public places. As  we have limited wall space in our living areas, such big works of art are out of the question. We had acquired a Bill Jacklin ‘Skaters ‘ some years ago from the Summer Exhibition. I was very happy to see some of his new work that he submitted for this year. Once I visit again, I will be able to report back with more information.

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