A little staycation

We’re having a quiet homey weekend. In fact, the second one in a row. Paul is taking Monday and Tuesday off, so we have 4 days actually. We were all enthused to go somewhere out of town for that time but the weather forecast just wasn’t that great and we just decided to have a “staycation”.

We have come around to the realization that 2 years is going to be plenty of time to see the highlights and small spots of England, and we don’t have to be under pressure to go someplace significant every weekend or when Paul takes days off. I haven’t even been here two months and already feel that I have satiated my initial desires for sightseeing. We’ve got plenty of time to explore Europe as well.

A couple weeks ago we went into London for the first time during my stay here. First thing I had to do was go and say “hello” again to Whistlejacket in the National Gallery. I look at him every day in the poster I have on the wall in my studio at home, yet I learned once again there is just no comparison to seeing this life-sized painting in person. All printed reproductions fall completely flat. The lifelike shadings and highlights in the horse’s coat are just tremendous. Plus I was totally delighted to find that they had these sweet Whistlejacket bookmarks in the museum shop:

If anyone wants one of these, I’d be happy to pick them up next time I’m in the museum! (I confess I love museum shops almost more than I love the museums!)

We are learning that our local area is pretty great for a staycation. Lots of interesting places to check out within an hour’s drive or less. I have been amazed this past month at the number of drop-dead gorgeous small English towns that are just a few miles from here. Most of them are on the River Thames, which makes a large loop around Maidenhead. Here’s a page from the Thames Path website with great photos of these towns near us, like Henley and Marlow. Marlow is where our new tennis club is, on the grounds of an old Abbey right next to the river!

We just got a membership to the National Trust, so we’ll get free admission to all the properties and parks etc. that they manage. Yesterday I toured an estate house near Reading while Paul was at a tennis match over there. It is called Basildon Park.

It was not a huge house (compared to a massive one like Castle Howard) but a lovely example of a stately home; one that almost didn’t get rescued from decay and demolition! Its main claim to fame now is that they filmed many scenes in the most recent movie made of Pride and Prejudice, the one in 2004 starring Keira Knightly. So a lot of movie fans are visiting it. Must go see that movie, I guess!

Today on day 2 of the staycation, Paul and I and the Boyz went over to Cliveden, which is right next to Maidenhead on a cliff overlooking the Thames. It used to be the home of the USA’s Astor family. It is now used as an ultra-posh hotel so we couldn’t see much of the inside. But you can walk all over the estate with the dogs, right down to the riverbank. There were lovely woods and friendly horses in the pasture.

(I am teaching Kanab not to bark at horses, and today he did pretty well. There are 3 horses in the field nearest our house where we walk almost daily. Each day we work on not barking at them. By the way, one of them is a classic heavy English Cob, and I am now all stoked to do a sculpture of a horse like that big boy, in all his Roman-nosed roundness!)

I’m determined to get to as many places on the National Trust list as I can while here! I don’t think I will get tired of seeing the grounds and settings of these big estate houses. They often occupy the best lands in a given area with great vistas. At Basildon I was practically dying to sit down and do an oil painting right on the spot of the view from their back lawn!! It looked just like a Constable landscape. I wish I could take an oil painting course. In fact I even identified a local studio who offers two-day beginner workshops where you get introduced to techniques and how to go about building a painting. Just what I need. But… I keep telling myself I have so much else I want to accomplish artistically while here—none of which I have made much of a start on, there being so many other fun things to do at the moment—that I can NOT allow myself another artistic thing like landscape painting. Gaaaah!

Tomorrow we’ve booked tickets to the hottest new show in the West End, called War Horse. Everyone is raving about it. It takes place in World War I and the life size horses are played by these amazing sculptural puppets. I can’t wait to go. Check out this YouTube video clip. Horse lovers, you will be enthralled by these sculpture horses—I just can’t call them merely puppets. It gives me the shivers and I haven’t even gotten to the play yet.

For those of you wondering how it’s going with my earthenware Caprice, here is a photo of what he looks like now:

He is sporting a new mane and tail. Now I just have to clean up all the seams etc. When I let it dry out it should be fairly portable by car to a kiln. It will be fascinating to see if it survives firing into bisque. I picked up two gallons of earthenware slip a few weeks ago. I am ready to try pouring a mold all by myself after I’ve done all I can with this piece.