What I read in August 2016

This is the latest in my series of posts about books I have read.  One way to find my earlier posts about books is to scroll down until the categories appear in the sidebar and click on Books.  Or click here.

August seems to have flashed past.  I have spent more time gardening, knitting, playing the piano and going for walks.  Although most of my regular group activities are suspended for the holidays, I have not read as many books as in recent months.

The first book I finished reading was a beautiful library book, which I found on a display to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter.  I have now returned it and am writing from memory.   Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell is a lovely book in sections. There is a section about Beatrix Potter’s life and one about visiting some gardens, which have strong connections with her.  There are many illustrations including her paintings of plants.  This is a very well-produced, readable book by an American author, who has produced a similar book about Emily Dickinson.  (Emily Dickinson’s Gardens.)

The other book I read in August was a historical novel.  The Maid of Buttermere by Melvyn Bragg  tells a story, which was something of a sensation in its time.  Buttermere is a small village (and lake) in the English Lake District.  The maid of Buttermere was the beautiful daughter of the innkeeper.  I have read other books by Melvyn Bragg and found it difficult to keep track of all the characters.  Although this book includes a list of characters as an appendix, it does not give any further details about them.   The book paints a picture of life in remote rural communities in the time of the Lake Poets.

It is a racy tale, which takes a while to develop, but then has elements of suspense and adventure, which kept me reading to the end.

Kent and Cumbria

When people talk about the length of Great Britain, they often say, “From Land’s End to John o’ Groats”.  For the length of England they might say, “From Cumbria to Cornwall” or “From Cumbria to Kent”.  The alliteration seems to exclude Northumberland, which reaches farther north and is diagonally opposite Cornwall.

I have written before about some time I spent in Kent in the summers of 2014 and 2015.  The first time I stayed at Burrswood coincided with a flower festival.  I took a photo in less than ideal light just before leaving mid-morning.

Breakthrough cross

Breakthrough cross

The Breakthrough Cross is a piece of sculpture dating from 1966, which was made for Burrswood.  The person who made it was (Joan) Ophelia Gordon Bell.  Until I read her name on a card from Burrswood I had not heard of her.  Out of interest I looked her up on Wikipedia.  She was married to a well-known artist and lived in Cumbria.

In this age of mobile populations it is hardly surprising that some people from Kent move to Cumbria and some from Cumbria live in Kent.  Less surprising that artists and sculptors have work in far-flung locations.

Another place in Kent I have visited a few times in recent years is Bromley, which has a good shopping centre.  Last time I went (in October) I became aware of a heritage trail, which explored the town’s past.  Some famous people have lived there.  I cannot think of an obvious connection between HG Wells (an author, whose books I devoured in my teens) and Cumbria.  Nor between Charles Darwin and Cumbria.  However Wikipedia alerted me to the fact that a clergyman at a church in Bromley became the Bishop of Rochester (in Kent) before becoming Bishop of Carlisle (in Cumbria) in 1972 (until 1989).

The name of the county of Kent is the same as the name of the river, which flows through Kendal – a town in the south of Cumbria.  Cumbria became the name of the county in 1974.  It was a new administrative area formed from Cumberland, Westmorland and part of Lancashire.  It is best known for including some beautiful scenery known as the (English) Lake District.

A quick piece of detective work on Wikipedia (looking at the derivation of place names) leads me to believe that the connection between the name of the county and the name of the river could be that early residents of both areas were Celts.  Kent possibly means bright in an early language.  If I am not mistaken the name Kendal is a contraction of Kent-dale,  the valley of the river Kent.  Now, what have I heard about Wikipedia and newspapers, I will pass on to you – don’t believe everything you read!

If you’d like to see more of my pictures of Kent and Cumbria, please visit Sue’s words and pictures.

4

Tourist trap

For the first time on my blog, I am welcoming a guest blogger. Johanne is responding to today’s prompt from 365 Days of Writing Prompts.

My favourite place on the planet is Florence which I have been lucky enough to visit on two occasions.  It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what I love about it but I’ll try to explain why it means so much to me.

Arriving in Florence isn’t as straight forward as arriving in many major cities.  There is an airport there but most flights arrive in Pisa, 43 miles away.  The easiest way to make the trip is by train.  Pisa airport is typical of modern airports – large, glass and metal, impersonal.  On exiting through huge sliding glass doors you find yourself on the platform of the train station which is a dead-end and looks from a previous time.  There is a machine to dispense tickets and a few benches to perch on while waiting.

The train journey takes about an hour and the train rumbles sedately through a series of villages and towns on the way to Florence.   Cascina,  Pontedera, Empoli.  At each station a variety of people get on and off – students from the universities of Pisa and Florence, business people returning home, groups of shoppers laden with bags from markets and designer boutiques and, of course travellers like us heading to Florence.  As we pull in to each station I get a small thrill knowing that we are getting closer to our destination and that magical moment when I see the sign saying Firenze on the platform.

Santa Maria Novella station is a contrast to Pisa station.  It is a large bustling station with multiple platforms, booming announcements in rapid Italian and crowds of people rushing to their destinations.  On exiting you are in the wonderful city of Florence – well, perhaps not the most wonderful part but Florence nonetheless.

I don’t know the area of Santa Maria Novella well, we tend to rush through it on our way to central Florence butt here is a rather magnificent black and white façaded church there which I will have to visit one day, especially as it has frescos by one of my favourite Renaissance artists, Filippino Lippi.

We have been lucky enough to stay close to the Duomo on both our visits.  This masterpiece of Renaissance architecture dominates the city; there are few places in Florence where you can’t get a glimpse of Brunelleschi’s dome.  You can climb the dome and get a fantastic view across Florence – I admit that I haven’t done this but my husband has and the photographs are stunning.  I prefer to wander round the Duomo drinking in the wonderful works of art by Uccello, Donatello, Della Robbia, and Zuccaro.

File:Santa Maria del Fiore.jpg

(Photo credit  Enne at the Italian Wikipedia project http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Santa_Maria_del_Fiore.jpg)

Florence is a wonderful place for art lovers.  It’s practically impossible to turn a corner without bumping into a beautiful vista, a gorgeous sculpture or some stunning architecture.  I particularly love the Brancacci Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine.  It has the most stunning frescos by Masaccio and Lippi depicting Biblical scenes.  Now religious imagery isn’t for everyone and there is a lot of it in Florence but these frescos are truly wonderful.  The depiction of pain and loss on the faces of Adam and Eve on being expelled from the Garden of Eden is breathtaking.  The colours on these frescos, which are over 600 years old, are bright and vibrant and the faces are beautifully painted, obviously using contemporaries of the artists as models.  I often wonder how the model felt about being painted as St Peter or Jesus.

There are too many sights in Florence for me to write about here.  It is truly a stunning city which I plan to visit many more times in the future and I still won’t scratch its surface.  Now, where did I put the guide book to plan my next trip?

 

Thank you Johanne for telling us about Florence. Johanne has another blog here. Perhaps you’d like to follow one of her blogs.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Florence as much as I did.  Have you been to Florence?

The prompt from 365 Days of Writing Prompts was:-

Tourist trap

What’s your dream tourist destination — either a place you’ve been and loved, or a place you’d love to visit? What about it speaks to you?

Posts by others for this prompt.

http://chloemayward.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/tourist-trap/

http://melissa5551.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/tourist-trap/

http://dubmandeep.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/one-sticky-night-in-venice/