Saturday, 30 November 2013

BATH - NOT JUST JANE AUSTEN

The leaves still copper and gold in Henrietta Park behind Great Pultney Street.  A chill in the air, and the light dwindling earlier each afternoon.  I’ve been spending a few brief autumn days in Bath, staying with my son in his top floor flat in one of Bath’s old Georgian houses.

On a bright frosty day we tramped round Dyrham Park and watched the fallow deer.  Some of the older males had magnificent antlers like elaborate headdresses.  We wondered if their heads felt unbalanced.

I checked out two of Bath’s indie bookshops:  Mr B’s Emporium (where I bought a novel) – great atmosphere and full of tempting marketing ideas, and Topping and Company – huge stock and an autumn literary festival in progress.  I was delighted to find (and buy) a signed copy of Philip Gross’s virtuoso sonnet sequence “I Spy Pinhole Eye”.

Just five minutes’ walk from the flat is the Holbourne Art Museum, where I discovered a micro-exhibition of Christmas engravings by Simon Brett.  One engraving particularly caught my imagination.  I jotted down a few ideas in my notebook.  A couple of hours later my Christmas poem emerged from the notes – not quite ready to fly but certainly drying its wings.  I had a brilliant idea – I could put a link with my poem to an image of the engraving on the internet.  Alas, I can’t find it anywhere on the internet.  No image, no ekphrasis.  No Christmas poem.

I met up with a friend who has moved down to Somerset.  We were thwarted in our attempt to visit the highly recommended Buildings of Bath Museum.  It was unexpectedly closed (possibly to rehearse Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead) so we went to the Fashion Museum instead.  Plenty of Jane Austen here of course but also, more unusually, an exhibition of 16th and 17th century courtiers' gloves.  They were exquisitely embroidered, some with religious iconography such as Jonah and the whale or the pelican feeding her young.  The oldest pair were contemporary with Shakespeare.  My friend told me about glove marriages.  And I thought of Larkin’s “Broadcast” with “One of your gloves unnoticed on the floor”.  That’s why pairs of gloves are such rare survivals.

 






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