Thursday, September 29, 2022

So Long September

So the heady days of summer seem to be well and truly behind us.  We're layering up and stepping away from the thermostat, consuming damsons and apples in abundance and on our walks, observing distinctly autumnal landscapes as slowly, but surely, the trees reveal their skeletal frames.  Things are getting twisted.  Spooky season is almost upon us!

Born from the charcoal remains of one of the woodland casualties of the summer fires...

...this dragon emerges from his slumber.

After another manic week, I can confirm that the woodland elopement shoot went very well, but I'm afraid that's all I can say for now, as the shoot is scheduled to be featured in an industry blog next month, so for now, my lips are sealed, although there are a few permitted sneak peaks on my Instagram accounts.  

So what else have I been up to, other than editing photos and touting them around town?  Here's a brief rundown of people, places and consumption of media.

A couple of weeks ago, in the dying days of summer, I had a lovely visit from my oldest friend, Sarah.  We met at primary school, but don't get to see each other so often these days as Sarah lives in London and is a busy working actress/writer/mother to two young boys.  Shortly after her visit, my Mom discovered some old photos of the two of us.  

Here we are, having a Hot Fuzz moment in a model village somewhere in the Cotswolds.

And now.  Sadly, I can't share the photo of the two of us, as I was doing a slow blink and I don't want to scare you.  Mercifully, Sarah and my Mom are way more photogenic.


I've finished reading "And Away" Bob Mortimer's amusing and highly digestible autobiography. I'll shortly be moving on to either Victoria Hislop's Cartes Postales from Greece or My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl (two more differing reads you would struggle to find...the joy of charity shops!)

TV we've watched and enjoyed:

Trainwreck:  Woodstock '99, the Netflix documentary of the ill-fated 90s revival of the original peace and love festival of 1969.  

Bloodlands (BBC)

The first series of this crime drama set in Northern Ireland, contained one of the best plot twists I've seen and the second series is certainly living up to expectations and cranking up the tension.

Cunk on Earth (BBC)

For light relief, look no further.  Her spoof presenter is totally ill equipped to take on the hefty topics assigned to her and her interviews with various academics are priceless.  The writing is sharp and infinitely quotable.

Ka-De-Ve (BBC4) The German subtitled period drama about 4 friends coming of age in 1920s Berlin, centred around the luxury department store.  So far, so brilliant.


The Electrical World of Louis Wain a delightful, bittersweet film about the eccentric artist Louis Wain starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy.  

I confess I was unfamiliar with his work prior to watching, but now a convert to his psychedelic cat paintings.  It's a real must-watch for cat lovers with a cameo from Nick Cave too!

As for the places we've visited.  Last weekend we headed to the attractive Warwickshire town of Bideford-on-Avon for the RSVP VW BBQ - a meet for uber cool "rad ride" owners.  Oh my, there were some beauties.

This rare Brasilia, for example with its beautiful patina.

The editor of Hayburner Magazine (a bible for many VW owners) was hanging around this gorgeous Karmann Ghia, which is unsurprising.  What a beauty!

Not a VW, but how cute is this little Renault/caravan combo?

As for this splitscreen, the owner explained to me that it was rescued from New Mexico, where it had languished for years, in use only as target practise.  Its bullet hole scars have now been soldered up and embraced as part of the van's history.

After years of photographing VWs at festivals, nowadays, I tend to zoom in on the details.  I spotted a few familiar stickers...

and...rusty roof tops.

More rear windows, the latter containing some pretty bold statements and life advice.

I loved the contrast between the ageing paintwork and shiny new Porsche wheels on this old bus.

This windscreen was not an easy fit...third time lucky.

However, I have a tendency to glaze over when people take more than a cursory glance inside an engine or begin to discuss at length their restoration jobs.

I moved on and discovered this couple and their feathered friends.  I'm terrible with names, but what I can recall is that one was 6 years old and the other 22!  They "tolerate" each other apparently.

On Sunday, we headed to Harvington Hall with our friends Neil and Laura.

It's some months since our last visit to the grounds of the house (read about it here 
Winter Peach Photography: Horticulture, History and a Hint of Intrigue).  This time we headed inside to locate the seven priest holes hidden within its walls.  Harvington is known as an Elizabethan manor house and for its role during the period of catholic persecution, although its moat and artificial island date back to the 13th century.

We opted for free flow tickets and wafted through the atmospheric house, picking up little nuggets of information from the enthusiastic volunteers along the way.

The kitchen contained a well, which was extremely rare for this period.  The water was taken directly from the moat (certainly not safe to drink), but is given a clean bill of health once it reaches the well, courtesy of natural sandstone filtration. 

The stained glass on the ground floor depicts Sir (and Saint) Thomas More, English lawyer, judge, social philosopher, statesman and Lord High Chancellor for Henry VIII, who later executed him after he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy.  His parting words were:  "I die the King's good servant and God's first."

The custodians of the house had clearly heard I was visiting, as they had kindly laid out my big dress in readiness.

Framing Laura.

Under a layer of whitewash in 1936, this Elizabethan arabesque style two tailed mermaid wall painting was uncovered.  It has been speculated that this may have been the work of a Flemish artist brought to the Hall from London.

Many of the walls were decorated...

...including the impressive Nine Worthies Passage, decorated with almost life size paintings of nine famous men (the nine worthies).  In Elizabethan and Jacobean houses, this was a favourite decorative theme and the figures were characters that were considered important ideals of chivalry at the time.  The only other surviving depictions of the Nine Worthies still surviving are at Montacute House in Wiltshire (carvings over the main gate) and in Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost.  Only six of the nine remain at Harvington.  I managed to capture two with some clarity.


Julius Caesar

As for the priest holes, we found them all, but some are so cleverly concealed, accessed through attic space, reached via a fireplace for example, that they are impossible to photograph.

This one, hidden in plain view in the library, has to be my favourite.  At the top of the steps, you can see a dislodged timber (top right).  This is the opening to the priest hole.

Even more ingenious, is this hole, hidden beneath the staircase. The family would hide jewellery just inside the priest hole, so that if and when it was discovered by a soldier, the soldier would hastily pocket the jewels, assuming this to be nothing other than a clever hiding place for valuables.  He would then guard the hole (and unbeknownst to the soldier, the priests lurking way down inside) with his life to ensure his precious bounty remained a secret from the others.

In other news, I've bought some tulip bulbs and potted a few hyacinth bulbs in my newly acquired £5.00 charity shop find - a vintage 50s Sylvac clam shell planter.  

The waiting begins.  

That's all for now.  On Saturday, I'm off to Birmingham for a fix of Peaky Blinders; this time courtesy of the Rambert Dance ballet entitled "The Redemption of Thomas Shelby."

See you soon!


  1. I loved skeleton trees, twisted branches and spooky season, and I'm hoping that soon it will stay dry for long enough for me to indulge in it all.
    I'm glad to hear your woodland elopement shoot went well and have enjoyed the little snippets on Instagram!
    That childhood photo of you and Sarah is so sweet, and oh my, you don't half look like your Mum.
    The Louis Wain film sounds wonderful. I've always been a fan of his cat paintings.
    Enjoyed your photos of the RSVP VW meet-up and Harvington Hall does sound like my kind of place. xxx

    1. Thanks Ann. The weather has taken a sudden turn here, but yes, fingers crossed for some crisp Autumn days. Harvington Hall is a great deal smaller than it originally would have been, but well worth a visit. xxx

  2. I would have loved that vw meet up, what fantastic vehicles, the bullet ridden one being my favourite. Your photography is spectacular. Harvington Hall is fascinating, you focused on all the things I would have wanted to see - priest holes - fabulous and the one where the jewels were hidden as a deterrant to look any further. Thanks for a really interesting post :) Betty the wood fairy

    1. Lovely to hear from you Betty...and thank you! So glad you enjoyed reading. x

  3. What a clever idea with hiding the jewellery in the priest hole to trick soldiers! How lovely to have photos together with an old friend! Those trees are very spooky! The Woodstock 99 doco was great and I really want to see the Louis Wain film. I think it is on Amazon, might go watch it tonight.

    1. Hi Laura, Smart thinking eh? I really don't remember much about Woodstock '99 from the time, probably because it was in the US, but I couldn't believe how it unravelled! Hope you catch the film! x

    2. I don't remember hearing about Woodstock 99 but I was in my last year before high school then. I saw the Louis Wain film and it was really good!

  4. love the spooky trees and the awakening dragon!
    and all the cute old VW cars..... not long and ours is vintage too :-D
    so lovely to have still childhood friends - its a super cute pic of you both at the model village.
    the stately house with all the priest holes look picture perfect in all its ancient glory! sound as you had lots of fun hunting down all the hidden places - and smart move to trick the soldiers with jewelry back then :-D but my inner history nerd cringes by the look of that very bad replica of the dress from the painting behind.......
    very pretty shell planter!

    1. Ha! I should have guessed you would spot the replica dress. Even to my untrained eye, it's a little shiny! xxx

  5. That's the model village at Bourton-on-the-Water! What a fabulous photo of you and Sarah (and of she and your beautiful Mum!), how lovely to have a catch-up!
    The awakening dragon photo is fantastic as are your spooky ones. I'm not keen on this time of year, I've already had to deal with a huge spider in the bath, but your pictures definitely capture the best bits of the season.
    Harvington Hall looks right up my street and the VDub one would suit Jon down to a tee.
    Ta for the TV recommendations - I'd bookmarked the Woodstock one before we went away and we've just binged on season two of The Capture - so, so good. I loved the first series of Bloodlands so I'm delighted its back. I wasn't sure about Louis Wain - I've loved his stuff since I was a child but the reviews seemed awful, I trust your judgement more! xxx

    1. Well spotted! We had some huge spiders in late August, which was weird, but so far, I've managed to avoid them. I can't deal with them!
      We'll have to take you to Harvington at some point. You would love it!
      We really enjoyed The Capture too. It's such an original concept. Louis Wain is a weird little film and quite sad really, but I liked it. The sets are amazing! xxx

  6. Hello Claire, I'm here with a cuppa for a much needed catch up. I love the run up to Halloween - the spookier the better! And I don't mind the spiders much, but they do make me scream if they are fast running ones. I'm glad you're Woodlane shoot went well -I can't wait to see it.

  7. Ooops, I just hit 'publish' by accident :0 Anyhow... continuing....

    Monsieur & I watched the nastiness that was the Woodstock '99 festival documentary. I fancy 'Cunk on Earth', 'Ka-De-Ve' and the Bob Mortimer book. Love the bullet pitted van - how dramatic! If I were ever to design my own house, I would have to make sure there were seven priest holes in it... even if there were no nimble priest / priests to go with them ;) xXx

    1. Hello Lulu, I just can't seem to get over my fear of spiders. I find them truly terrifying.
      The shoot went really well, thanks. A few industry online magazines are going to run features on it, so I'll be able to share more then. Also, as soon as Lucy has finished her video, I'll send you the link!
      Apparently, all of the priests would travel around and visit these properties at the same time, hence all of the hiding places. Seems a bit daft to me given the level of persecution at the time. I wonder if those gatherings were anything like the ones depicted in Father Ted? xxx


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