Saturday 31 October 2020



LEVER HOUSE - now home to Kitty and Miffy


One of my favourite views in New York was looking down Park Avenue from the MetLife Building – oh lucky man. My NY correspondent, PJ Leher took a photograph looking up Park, with The Lever House building prominent. Out came my paint brush.


Lever House built for the Lever Soap built in the International style. It made its presence felt in 1948, completed in 1952. All glass and steel, its appearance caused a rumpus amongst its neighbours in their fine residential masonry! 


Sadly 30 year later its brilliant blue glass had deteriorated due to the harsh New York weather and some of the steel began to rust. The building expanded and contracted and popped; by the mid-1990's only one per cent of its original glass remained.


Towards the end of the 1990's enter a team of real estate magnates, lawyers and $25 million dollars to do the place up. New technology and energy codes made the building tip top and shiny-new again.

Oh and they shelled out on marble benches, adding Isamu Noguchi sculpture garden to the building's plaza.  


Result, blue loveliness again and its plaza and lobby have been used as a gallery for the Lever House art  collection which includes a Damien Hirst. Tom Sach’s Hello Kitty and Miffy sculptures are also displayed in the plaza, which presumably attached PJ to visit in the first place. 

Tuesday 27 October 2020



High seriousness was buried beneath an avalanche of toytown rustication


Boots, Sports Direct, Superdrug, Pret A Manger (closed) a second Pret A Manger (also closed) Costa, Boots, Piazza Express, another Costa: It was all here at Pavilion Shopping Centre all here to enjoy.


On a sunny Saturday afternoon people are milling around, mothers barely controlling pushchairs, the tune from of an out of tune busker floats comes across the square.


Outside Boots four guys in black T-shirts with the slogan “Jesus loves you” are busy preaching into a microphone. Their words of hope are quickly carried away in the fresh breeze.


This is Uxbridge town in Middlesex and the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Hillingdon a mere fifteen miles west-northwest of Charing Cross.


The real reason for being here was to seek out was has been described as ‘the architectural equivalent of Benny Hill or Sid James: course, matey, blokeish, undemanding, unthreatening, and accessible’. *


We found it. Hillingdon Civic Centre, lots of red brick that seems to rear up at you as if bumped into by accident. The whole thing is rather gloomy even in the sunshine. The building, which was designed by Andrew Derbyshire, was applauded as one of the most famous buildings in the British neo-vernacular style.


My current crush, Jonathan Meades, described the civic centre thus. 


‘Here in the wilds of suburban Middlesex was a suburban town hall composed apparently of several dozen suburban villas suburban bungalows which had through their keys into the centre of the room and which were now conjoined in cosily elephantine abandon.


Like any suburban orgy (think South Ruislip) it was more comical thank sexy it broke so many rules and way so wholly divergent from the precepts of canonical modernernism that it was revolutionary – in the snuggest homeliest most carpet- slippers way.  It was the architectural equivalent of Benny Hill or Sid James: course, matey, blokeish, undemanding, unthreatening, and accessible.  


High seriousness was buried beneath an avalanche of toytown rustication, inverted Diocletian windows and distended columns.’ 


*From Museum without Walls   Jonathan Meads Published by Unbound Books 2014, the book is a compulsive read for anyone who is fascinated by the ordinary and sees most places as extraordinary. For any topophilic a real treat

Thursday 22 October 2020



A flight of fancy?


There was something space age about the photographs my friend PJ Leher took when visiting what was left of the New York State’s exhibit of the 1964 World’s Fair. It was just one of over 140 pavilions and 110 restaurants; 80 nations took part. It opened on April 22 that year.


PJ wrote up her impressions on seeing what was left of the New York State’s pavilion in 2015, great photographs accompanied her short meaningful narrative; Link to her post. 


And she returned earlier this year and took a stunning series pictures here


What really attracted me to these pictures and want to tackle one in paint was the optimism of the age. The Beatles hit the number 1 spot in the US charts with I want to hold your hand, Clay beat Sonny Liston, the Civil Rights Act 1964 was signed by Lyndon Johnson. Martin Luther King Jr., became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.


It was also the year when at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco, U.S. presidential nominee Barry Goldwater declares that "extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice", and "moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue". Johnson was re-elected that November.

It seems a prescient declaration by Goldwater given we are now so close to the 3rd November 2020.

Sunday 18 October 2020


Welcoming and filled with grace

A couple of Sunday’s ago I received Holy Communion for the first time in almost six months. I went to St. Anne’s Dropmore a delightful church. Vicar and congregation were so welcoming and all the pandemic procedures were observed with good grace. 


As the Prayer of Preparation filled the church I was in tears: largely guilt, as I had been raging (to family and friends) against the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on their stoic mishandling of opening our churches in the summer. Ikea and Sainsburys had figured it out.


It was a special moment and this church had formed an important part of my life in this lock-down. It was the first place to which I cycled once the measures were announced on March 21.  Most Fridays across the Summer I’d meet up with cycling chum, Judge Ricardo, and we’d catch up over our homemade sandwiches, sitting in the porch of the church, the gap was almost two meters apart.


The history of this lovely church is here link

Thursday 15 October 2020


 Sailing above the Solent

There seems to be a distinct nautical favour through posts of late, Emsworth and Newtown IOW, now to add a bit of ‘aero’. 


The other day I was going to a 2017 sketchbook the couple of years back and rediscovered a series of six drawings I made from up in the air above the Solent.

My pilot was a good friend Chris SS, a pilot instructor, who’d offered up a jaunt and I could to pick the place over which we would fly (within reason and fuel capacity).

I'd chosen the Solent because having sailed across it several many times I really wanted to see it from the air. Off we hopped from Wycombe aerodrome and in no time at all we were over the Solent. 


Sketchbook out, pen uncapped, I had to work quickly, for, exasperatingly, the position of plane the landscape beneath us changed real quickly. Actual the drawing time started at about 11:15 and all over by 11:50 when it was time to land for lunch, on the Isle of Wight. 

It was a great trip and I stood the pilot lunch, the least I could do! You'll see from the timings on the drawings there was little time to get into detail. One was really trying to grab the most important shapes as surfaces and to in front of me as we sped along above the Solent.

Tuesday 13 October 2020


It was a bright September day, a Friday and the traffic was light when I headed south on the A3 to Emsworth. This small town lies on the north end of the Chichester Harbour. I was delivering some paintings to my dear friend Annie G. 


The place a haven for boats of all shapes and sizes, some vessels make a permanent home here, some are just passing through. I had, five years back, set out from an estuary mooring on Rag Doll, one of the prettiest boats on the Solent.  Passim blog post ‘Sailing the Solent’ August 28 2015



Annie lives out on a point of land, a slight way out of the town, by the main boat yard. Her house overlooks the estuary. At low water the landscape glows and sparkles!  This is a wonderful spot, boats beginning to ride up on their moorings as the tide returns.


Emsworth was a port from the 1300s. In the 18th and 19th century shipbuilding and rope making were the main trades. There was also a space for two flourmills run by the tides. At the end of World War II the area was a staging post a staging post for Canadian troops shipping out as part of the D-Day landings; a rich and varied history whose former residents include Albert Finney and PG Woodhouse. 


What a treat of a trip, catching  up with Annie and Tom the skipper of Rag Doll turned up to join us for lunch.

Sunday 11 October 2020


We rowed across to a point of land..

Newtown Creek is on the north side of the Isle of Wight.  It is a favourite stopping place for sailors is in need of a bit of a rest and some wonderful things on which to gaze. It was another wonderful warm September day when we set off from Lymington, under the orders of Skipper Pat and First Mate Jill. 
We sped across the Solent into Newtown Creek, strictly speaking Newtown Estuary. 

We soon tied up on a visitors’ mooring and rowed across to a point of land. A walk round a sheltered, low, headland was a good way to work up an appetite for lunch. 

The sky was deepest blue and the sun high. I’d been here several times before and remembered the place does dry out at low water: I recalled waking up during an overnight stay and finding boat at the steepest of angles. Getting out of one's bank was a precarious operation even when sober. 

See Sailing Round the Solent  - blog post July 28 2012 Link to story

Newtown has now been National Trussed up. And as you can walk around Newtown itself, there is evidence of its earlier importance; a salt works and old oyster beds. Little else now remains except some lovely views, trees bowed by prevailing winds and the recurrent songs of estuary birds; surely a place to tarry for a while.

Newtown Isle of Wight 

Saturday 10 October 2020


Each week I discover more exciting churches in High Wycombe. On busy Hatters Lane we find St Andrew's Church. The building is low, red brick confection, with a cross fixed to one wall. A skinny spire coyly protrudes from the roof (well they had include one). It was amusing to photograph St Andrew's through the traffic and paint it later in the studio.

St Andrew's Wrap and Pack   28 x 40 cm


Poking around, as I invariably do, I discovered that St Andrews built in 1967 and extended in 1986.


Now it seems that even more space is wanted, bigger foyer, kitchen, offices on site and meetings rooms and the flexibility to be able to use at least 4 large self-contained areas at the same time.  There will be real multi-dimensional spirituality with four large services happening concurrently.  

‘The answer has been to wrap it (the church) around with new rooms and facilities’ say JBKSArchitects and add


‘We are praying for the Lord to provide Planning Application favour and success, and finance. The bible says, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19.’


I bet.


Exciting visuals for the wrapper can be found here.


Thursday 8 October 2020


 Cousin Wendy who knows Oxfordshire and surrounding counties like the back of her hand can always be counted on for a good recommendation for a jaunt. She suggested a visit, to the church of Saint John the Baptist Inglesham and which is actually in Wiltshire. Only five minutes walk from the river Thames 


We met in Lechlade and walked across the fields, by the river, to the church. 


At first sight, the church is very small and a tad unprepossessing. However like all things real beauty is found when we look closer, including bell cot facing westwards and a lovely cross, freestanding, just to the east of the church amongst tipsy looking gravestones.


Inglesham village is now completely gone, submerge somewhere under fields and fences. However the church lives on in the kind and careful conservation of The Churches Conservation Trust.

Unusual for a church it is open daily and absolutely covered in wall paintings.

An overcast sky threw a grey light over this lovely Cotswold stone and once we went inside again that grey was fused with occasional sunshine, lighting up the whole place up. What you are enjoying at is the 13th century church that stands just above the water meadows near the Thames

There are within the church layer upon layer of paintings from the 13th to the 17thC, one painted over the other. It is a real puzzle trying to figure out one image from the next. This is, arguably, the way of all good art.

The completely free of Victorian artifice; William Morris himself, who lived down the road at Kelmscott, supervised the restoration of St John’s so the place is free of nasty ornament.


In this church you do not have to figure out what is ancient and what is modern. It is all early and beautifully cared for. As The Churches Conservation Trust website (Link) says what we are looking here is a church, as it would’ve been seen in Oliver Cromwell’s time.  
Essentially what you see is Saxon and later there are 17th century and 18th century pulpit and box pews throughout the entire church. 


And surprises: What caught my eye was a harmonium made in Chicago imported by an organ maker in Oxford.

Arguably this is one of the most exciting churches that I have ever visited. I would not have missed it for the world and would recommend it highly. I will enclose links with this post to give you more detail however if you are ever in the Lechlade area please do visit the church of Saint John the Baptist at Inglesham and bung a donation in the box.

Friday 2 October 2020





I have been exploring local churches, those built recently. And I kept the ‘survey’ local to the High Wycombe area; and discovered houses of God in all shapes and sizes and materials.


On the Geograph* website I noticed a picture of St Birinus Church in High Wycombe. Link


Excitedly I wrote to the person who took and contributed the picture, for his permission to making a painting from it. He gave permission and a couple of days later I sent him a jpeg of the finished piece.  He then pointed out that having been onto Google Street View the church was not there now. It had replaced by another. 


I cycled to the place, grid reference SU8491 and discovered the Church of Christ the Servant King. A sketch was made on the spot.


Intrigued I wrote to the church administrator to understand this nifty substitution; explaining that I am always most interested in why one church is built and then is replaced another.


The reply:

“The current church has been built on the foundations of the St Birinus church which was demolished in 2011 with the new building being opened in 2013 The old church, built in the 60s was poorly constructed and not suitable for extending or reconfiguring so it was decided to demolish and rebuild, changing the name as well!”


For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11




*The Geograph® Britain and Ireland project aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland,