Thursday, 28 April 2016

William Shakespeare - For all time

William Shakespeare detail from The Cobbe portrait
Known to be Shakespeare

"He was not of an age, but for all time."

William Shakespeare is a man for all seasons though in truth we barely know the man himself at all. Many of the images purported to be of him are not confirmed, and although we believe that he was born on the 23rd of April and also died on that date 52 years later, this too is only a best guess. It is amazing that so few details exist of a man whose words remain woven deeply within the tapestry of so many of our lives.

The Grafton Portrait,
possibly the young Shakespeare
Ralph Fiennes
how we see The Bard
Shakespeare In Love

We often quote him in our daily language, without even knowing it. Much of the art created to illustrate his characters is familar to us all. Artists continue to illustrate his words and writers to pay homage to his lines with new poems, plays and novels spun from fragments of him.

A best beloved Shakeseare painting
The ethereal Miranda from The Tempest
John William Waterhouse
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Arthur Rackham

Royal Doulton plate
Michael Fassbender and Marion Corillard in a magnificent version of MacBeth

Many are the actors who have graced the stage and screen as one of his players or paid tribute to his time in films about him.

Judi Dench, a magnificent Elizabeth I in Shakespeare In Love

So much has been written about his skill to conjure images with words that I doubt I can add anything to the tributes for him in this 400th anniversary of his death.

* copyright RSC and the BBC

There will be events throughout the year, both large and small to commemorate him and his work, some of which I am lucky enough to be attending. This special celebration, by the Royal Shakespeare Company, conceived and directed by Gregory Doran and hosted by David Tennant and Catherine Tate may remain my favourite. A wonderful cast of players took part, (with a surprise appearance from Prince Charles!) the content was inspiring, the stage imaginative and the costumes magical.

Ralph Fiennes at Shakespeare's house in Straford
* copyright RSC and the BBC

It was lovely to see that in an attempt to bring it to a wider audience than those who could be present at Stratford it was screened at cinemas around the world, shown live on the BBC and it will be available to buy on DVD shortly from the RSC Shop.
Fairy wings, glimmering
* copyright RSC and the BBC

To Be, or Not To Be
Hamlet with Judi Dench, Tim Minchin, Harriet Walker, David Tennant, Paapa Essiedu, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Kinnear & Sir Ian Mckellan.
* Photo by Helen Maybanks copyright RSC

It is splendid throughout with scenes from many of Shakespeare's most loved plays including Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, Twelth Night, Much Ado About Nothing and,  the Scottish Play. My own favourites are at the end when Dame Helen Mirren, David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Dame Judi Dench and David Suchet speak the parts of Prospero, Puck,  Titania and Oberon and bid us goodnight. Bravo to the whole company!

Dame Helen Mirren as Prospero
dressed all in black against a black starry stage
* copyright RSC and the BBC

Our revels now are ended.
These our actors, As I foretold you,
 were all spirits and
 Are melted into air, into thin air:

 And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers,
the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples,
 the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

We are such stuff As dreams are made on,
and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.

William Shakespeare From The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1

David Tennant as Puck
* copyright RSC and the BBC

Enter PUCK.

     Now the hungry lion roars,   
          And the wolf behowls the moon;   
        Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,   
          All with weary task fordon
        Now the wasted brands do glow,   
          Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud,   
        Puts the wretch that lies in woe   
          In remembrance of a shroud.
        Now it is the time of night           
          That the graves, all gaping wide,   
        Every one lets forth his sprite,   
          In the church-way paths to glide:
        And we fairies, that do run   
          By the triple Hecate’s team,           
        From the presence of the sun,   
          Following darkness like a dream,
    Now are frolic; not a mouse   
        Shall disturb this hallow’d house:
        I am sent with broom before,          
        To sweep the dust behind the door.

A Midsummer-Night’s Dream
 Act V. Scene II.

David Suchet & Judi Dench
Oberon & Titania
* copyright RSC and the BBC

Enter OBERON and TITANIA, with their Train
  Oberon.  Through the house give glimmering light   
          By the dead and drowsy fire;   
        Every elf and fairy sprite           
          Hop as light as bird from brier;   
        And this ditty after me   
        Sing and dance it trippingly.
  Titania.  First, rehearse your song by rote,   
        To each word a warbling note:           
        Hand in hand, with fairy grace,   
        Will we sing, and bless this place.
  Oberon.  Now, until the break of day,   
        Through this house each fairy stray.   
        To the best bride-bed will we,           
        Which by us shall blessed be;   
        And the issue there create   
        Ever shall be fortunate.   
        So shall all the couples three   
        Ever true in loving be;

With this field-dew consecrate,   
        Every fairy take his gait,   
        And each several chamber bless,   
        Through this palace, with sweet peace;           
        Ever shall in safety rest,   
        And the owner of it blest.   
            Trip away;   
            Make no stay;   
        Meet me all by break of day.

[Exeunt OBERON, TITANIA, and Train.

Oberon & Titania and a sea of fairy lights
* copyright RSC and the BBC

David Tennant and cast
* copyright RSC and the BBC

Puck.  If we shadows have offended,   
        Think but this, and all is mended,   
        That you have but slumber’d here   
        While these visions did appear.
        And this weak and idle theme,           
        No more yielding but a dream,   
        Gentles, do not reprehend:   
        If you pardon, we will mend.
        And, as I’m an honest Puck,   
        If we have unearned luck           
        Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,   
        We will make amends ere long;   
        Else the Puck a liar call:   
        So, good night unto you all.
        Give me your hands, if we be friends
        And Robin shall restore amends. 



Images marked by a * are copyright of the RSC and the BBC

Watch Again, Until the 23rd of May, you can watch it on the BBC iplayer,  Here:

Read more about the Royal Shakespeare Company, Here:

Read More about this tribute Here:

In the Daily Mail, Here:

Friday, 22 April 2016

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Resplendent Prince

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan 

Prince in his Little Red Corvette.

Growing up in California in a fairly poor family and a run down area I had to find entertainment which cost nothing. A favourite past time was walking to the Boulevard and watching cars go by. There was a well to do neighborhood nearby and I could always tell which cars came from there. One in particular which I loved. A Little Red Corvette.

The man pushed boundaries
but he sure could dress
We moved to another area where white girls were in the minority at school. Looking back it may be that this was where both music and fashion came into my life. The mixed race kids knew all the best songs and dance moves. They had little money and yet they oozed style. Although young, the girls wore a lot of make up, and the boys dressed. I think all their money, whatever that they had, was spent on clothes and records.

Life was hard and childhood was short. Even before a lot of them left school they had children to feed and too many bills to pay. Most of the kids who attended this school did not dream of other lives, or doing great things. They knew their reality and they just wanted to survive the best that they could. And have some fun. They lived life fast, as if they were scared that it would run out before they had used it all up. They taught me so much and imparted the most important lesson upon me - You have to dance, and love hard, while you can.

"What's missing from pop music is danger."
~ Prince

By the time that Prince came onto the scene I had been grown up for a very long time and was living in a different country. Listening to him brought back memories of those early days, how free it was when we danced. And when I first heard Little Red Corvette I was mesmerised. Those lyrics, at once risky and liberating. He was the Prince of one night stands. The love child of 'Will you still love me tomorrow' and Little Richard.

Prince and his magic wardrobe
Surely a boy was never better named than he. Who was this man with the magical wardrobe as fascinating as the one in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe?
All gold leaf, with serpent eyeliner, like a Jackie Morris painting
For such a small man, at just five foot 2 inches, he sure had a LOT of swagger. Like something out of Grimms he flaunted and teased and he delivered. Here was one who dreamed, and knew that he had other lives to live. He got out. I wonder if he knew that he played for those other people who could not and did not? I am pretty sure that he did.

bedecked, bejewelled, embellished

As news of his death was released shocked fans began to pay tribute. City Halls lit up with purple lights and twitter sang his story.

San Francisco City Hall illuminated for Prince

Hard Rock Cafe, New York

New York's Hard Rock cafe paid tribute to him by featuring his lyrics on the front of its restaurant in the heart of Times Square - in the city where he announced just last month that he would be writing a memoir.

Projected on a purple background the sign read:

I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain

RIP Prince

 "And just like that ... the world lost a lot of magic."
 Katy Perry on twitter


Tori Amos in concert in 2014. I love how she has combined her version of Little Red Corvette with Stay With Me, the torch song by Shakespeare's Sister.  The sound quality is not great, but close your eyes and listen. If only Prince could have stayed a little longer.

Tori Here:

Prince here

The idea to turn City Hall in San Francisco purple came from local writer Eve Batey, who made her request on Twitter.


Jack Hamilton writes

The story behind Little Red Corvette

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Queen Elizabeth II - 90th Birthday

The Queen Mother with the then Princess Elizabeth, 1937

Happy 90th Birthday to Queen Elizabeth II.

This week seems to be one of anniversaries, some good and some bad. The 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Bronte, the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare who is believed to have died on what would have been his 52nd birthday, and of course, the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest reigning monarch. Which is perhaps all the more remarkable because she was not born to be Queen.

In the beginning
Princess Elizabeth in her pram in 1929

I understand that not everyone believes that having a monarchy rather than a republic benefits ordinary people. But I do. Having been born in a country without monarchy and now lived more than half of my life in Britain I have seen what differences there are and I prefer the royals, for better or for worse. It is a misunderstanding to believe that getting rid of a monarchy will make it's citizens more equal. All that will happen is that the castles will fall down or be lived in by politicians without any sense of duty or history.

Princess Elizabeth aged 7, 1933
Philipe de Laszlo
Sure, they do live a privileged life and perhaps some of them do not live up to the expectations of what the public thinks a royal should be - but the Queen has devoted her life to her people and her country and she has worked hard and long making sacrifices.  I admire her greatly. I think that she has grace, something lacking in so many celebrities and politicians. I've seen many behind the scenes things which the royal family do for ordinary people that would not resonate as much if a politician carried out these deeds.

And anyway who wants a collection of political memorabilia when you can have a royal collection?

There is nothing like a crown, as I am certain William Shakespeare would agree.

Queen Elizabeth I,
Coronation portrait by unknown artist
National Gallery London
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
 Some of my favourite moments, and portraits in the long life of Queen Elizabeth II.

Formal portrait by William Dargie

By David Poole
The official Diamond Jubilee portrait
Riding down the course before racing
at Royal Ascot 1961
Riding in Windsor Great Park

Epsom Derby Meeting, with the Queen Mother.
"I told you that would win!"

Daniel Craig picks her up!
(under the watchful eyes of those Corgies)

The Queen's homebred fily Estimate wins the
Ascot Gold Cup for her.

If you enjoy the momarchy you might like to read two other posts about them.

The story of how we went to London to see the Queen on the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, 

And you can read about The Sport of Kings, Here:

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Gothic Wardrobe

The elaborate carvings at the top of The Gothic Wardrobe
of vine leaves, gothic arches and Tudor roses

I'm busy Spring cleaning and have just dusted the carvings on this Gothic Wardrobe. Which reminded me that I have yet to tell this tale. Being an Autumn child this season usually brings me interesting adventures and forays. Last Autumn we found ourselves making a very long drive to pick up a magical wardrobe which I found for sale on ebay.

This post could have been called 'the haunted dressing table', as the antiques dealer we bought this gorgeous and unusual cupboard from shared a very scary tale with us about a dressing table she had bought from a seller who insisted that it was haunted. A ticket which she found in a drawer led her to believe the story of the piece of furniture. But, this post is just about our wardrobe, which we love. Perhaps another time the storyteller may allow me to share her tale.

The Gothic Cottages
prettiest cottage of those in which we live

The workers cottages in which we live are known locally and on history pages as 'the gothic cottages'. They are rather simple, nothing elaborate, but they do echo some gothic design in their front doors, leaded windows and the garden paths of black stone bricks.

Mrs Black strikes a pose in a gothic leaded window
I have always loved the decadence of gothic revival and have a small collection of items which sit quite at home in the cottage.
An oak carving of a Queen's Head
My husband's gothic mantle clock
which strikes prettily at the hour

One of my gothic candlesticks
A little gothic Owl

But I longed for something larger. And then I found it!
Strawberry Hill by Johann Muntz

When we lived near London we were walking distance to Horace Walpole's famous Strawberry Hill, the fantastical gothic house which he had built in Georgian times. In those days it was in need of refurbishment but it has since been saved and is as resplendent as it was in his day.

The moment that I saw the wardrobe on ebay it reminded me of Strawberry Hill.

Strawberry Hill library bookcase detail

The Gothic Wardrobe carvings

A niche at Strawberry Hill

A carved gothic arch on our wardrobe
I did not mean to look for a wardrobe on ebay, and I certainly did not need one. I did not really mean to buy it either and it cost nearly a months wages. But everyday I continued to look at it in awe and worried that someone else might buy it before I had. I've never seen anything like it.

The Gothic Wardrobe in all it's glory

I love dark wood, especially oak,  and it had been painted, but the colours highlighted the carvings and the pale blue would go so well in the newly painted spare bedroom. There is a purity to pale blue shades, they seem to shine with an eerie ethereal light that is both haunting and illuminating. A bedroom has been painted in Farrow and Ball 'Borrowed Light' and if you saw how it reflects the light in the mornings and at dusk you would know that the name is perfect.

How many times have you seen something which really delighted you and which better judgement prevented you from having? These are some of mine.
Gothic looking Royal Albert roses teacup

Art Deco black cat brooch
This red velvet Opera coat on Etsy. Sigh.

Yes, me too, the long list of beautiful things forsaken, yet remembered. I had to have it.

The Gothic Wardrobe
We drove to Herfordshire to pick it up and had a wonderful rare day out visting Ledbury and Hampton Castle. It is a beautiful area of Britain. I love the black and white houses and can imagine how fabulous it would be to live in one.

Black & White with leaded windows in Ledbury

Hampton Court Castle

Being solid oak it took four of us to lift it into the back of our car. The seller did warn us, (while stiffling a giggle)  that it was extremely heavy when I mentioned that I hoped it would go upstairs in our spare bedroom. We had to remove the door to lift it into our cottage. I can laugh now, but it was definitely an adventure. Despite measuring we found that it would not go up our small winding stairs. It was just that bit too wide, and far too heavy. Sigh. It would have looked so beautiful in the bedroom.

One of our old galleon models sits on top of The Gothic Wardrobe.

It dwells in our garden room taking up a whole wall. The previous owner of our cottage loved blue and this room has pale bue/grey tiling and window blinds. We use this room as a dining room and have an old oak carved table and bench which are more Arts and Crafts, but goes well with the wardrobe.  Technically it will cease to be a wardrobe soon as we plan to add more shelves as storage for china and food items. An old model of Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind sits upon the top of it.

It's beautiful right down to the bottom
where a small heart is carved into the heavy oak

I've had to sell a very nice mid century, wallpapered kitchen cupboard to make room for this, but I think the old cupboard suits us better. Upon asking if there was any history for it the seller told us that she had bought it at a local sale but that her Mother had said that she had seen cupboards just like in churches by the confessionals where you would hang your coats. I'd love to know more about it and if anyone has ever come across one similar please leave me a comment.

So .... what am I going to put on that wall in the bedroom? Watch this space.

The website of Strawberry Hill is HERE:

Read and see sumptous photos of Strawberry Hill on Jacqueline@Home

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