Cumbria, Freud and a night on the Cam

February 2012

A ‘heads-down-with-books’ sort of month, but a few delicious excursions, too. At the beginning of the month, I went up to Whitehaven to lecture on Oliver Messel, a long train journey in the company of Sarah Woodcock the theatre expert; Messel designed the charming Rosehill Theatre, for Sir Nicholas Sekers, the silk manufacturer – it opened in 1959 and the current enterprising director of the theatre, Richard Elder has organised a splendid exhibition of designs by Oliver on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

There was a very jolly launch party with a good number present, including a number who could remember the glamorous performances at Rosehill in the 1960s. Local design students had come dressed in costumes inspired by his drawings. The lectures on the following day, went very well, and I enjoyed the long slow train journey home down the coastline to Lancaster, snow on the fields and storms out to sea.

After a morning’s research at the National Gallery, a couple of weeks back, I enjoyed a visit to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Lucian Freud exhibition, an excellent show curated by Sarah Howgate – who also curated the excellent Hockney portraits exhibition I reviewed some years ago. I became rather interested in Freud’s depiction of space, the rooms are shown as timeless, raw, and stripped back just as the people are.

On a more outdoor note, I was also very privileged to have my first chance to do some rowing with a more experienced rowing eight this month, it was one evening and in fact, after dark, which on a still spring night seemed entirely surreal. It was quite a challenge as I am still learning technique and especially endurance, (not sure if I will be asked to sub again!) but an unforgettable experience, quite difficult to describe in words.

Best Book Read this month: Arnold Bennett, Buried Alive

Best Exhibition: Lucian Freud at the National Portrait Gallery

Best Lectures heard: Paul Crossley, Slade Lectures on the Gothic Cathedral

Recent articles to note:

“Bricks and Mortar Link to Immortal Link”, a feature on Dickens and the English Country House, Country Life, February 22, 2012, pp.48-43

& an interview with Dr Michael Darby, beetle collector, in The Field March issue, last of my column in that magazine.

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