Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Oyster Catchers of Orkney

Where we stay in Orkney, every morning when I get up and step outside the cottage to gaze across the loch I am greeted by two oyster catchers.
Oliver and Owen investigate. Watercolour on paper.
Oliver and Owen.

Each day they are nosing around the ground that borders the narrow road that passes us. These birds are the sophisticated sparrows of Orkney. Everywhere and anywhere and often they fly or strut around in gangs of three or more. They are large, obvious and noisy!  their long red bills are perfect for smashing or prying open molluscs.

Millbrig our home in Orkney, from the 2014 sketchbook

Every morning I get up and step outside, to gaze across the loch, 2015 sketchbook

Saturday, 12 August 2017

In praise of Stevenage from Room 406

The Holiday Inn has been a prominent feature in my July! Flying back from the US and a twenty-four hour turn round found me in the Holiday Inn Stevenage for a week.

This time I was in room 406 and looking out on one of the most thrilling pieces of church architecture I have seen for a long time.

Like the I-95 highway snaking its way past me in Massachusetts, the church St Andrew & St George, Stevenage, with its cathedral-like aura provided visual a diversion each day as I looked out of my window. Its campanile was almost close enough to touch.

Again you can really get to become found of a hotel in a week. Again the meeting room facilities were perfect and every member of staff was a delight! So, I award 10/10 for the Holiday Inn organisation.

After I had finished my work at lunchtime on Friday I went to take a closer look at the Church of St Andrew and St George and was shown around inside the church by Vic Summerfield the self-appointed archivist. 

In various nooks and crannies Vic unearthed framed original architect drawings, photographs of HRH Elizabeth the Queen Mother laying the foundation stone on 14 July 1956 and another of her at the consecration in November 1960 when nearly a thousand people were present.

The whole church is a wonderful confection of pre-cast concrete, columns of it interlace with clerestory windows forming an almost continuous wall of glass.  The East window was originally plain stained glass with a single cross set into the design, this was moved to the west end of the church and new one (1966) with psychedelic sacred motifs put in it place; to conceal the large office block at the time – now my hotel!   

Tucked away in a room near the entrance another treasure. A Madonna, a bronze sculpted by Gwendolen Williams. Vic pointed out that given Gwendolen Williams (1870-1955;) specialised in small-scale, intimate sculptures, of which this one was atypical being of some size.



Sunday, 6 August 2017

Peabody MA. Living in room 408

Peabody MA. Room 406

Peabody is in Essex County, Massachusetts, not far from Boston. I was lucky enough to be there for a week. Anything with ‘Essex’ as part of it appellation always gets my attention.

Anyway, more accurately, I was staying in the Holiday Inn Hotel and Apartments Peabody

It was my home, arriving late one Sunday evening, and staying  through to Friday evening; July 9 through 14

Each day, from room 408, I looked out across the rooftop of the hotel’s ground floor ballroom below me, with the air conditioning units set out on this enormous roof like chessmen on an asphalt board.

And looking further, not much further, I enjoyed the uninterrupted pulse of traffic on the I-95. The Interstate 95 (I-95) is the main highway on the US East Coast and one of the oldest. It’s 1919 miles stretches Miami, Florida, to way up north on Houlton–Woodstock Border Crossing with New Brunswick, Canada!

No having a car, and the hotel having no bar. I bussed in a reasonable Chardonnay using Uber and a short stretch of the I-95 and stored this in the copious fridge in room 406. Thus at the end of a long day there was always a glass ready to enjoy, as I looked out across I-95 and it continuous current of metal.

One can really get to like a place in a week. Certainly our meeting room and all the staff who set this up for me each day were wonderful, as were the front desk team.

As I headed out to with colleagues to Logan airport we, and as we joined the I-95 to go south this red pick up was in front of us. Festooned with bumper stickers that on reading let me in doubt as to how the driver might have voted in in the last Presidential Election. My favourite sticker though, no doubt, Fox News… An alternate reality for the delusional

....this red pick up was in front of us. Festooned with bumper stickers...