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Posts tagged ‘England’

An Extraordinary British Summer, Part 2: Provençal luncheon, Sussex setting

Everyone dreams of those typical Provençal scenes – the rustic wooden table, set out under the dappled shade of a bounteous fig tree, chairs collected from all over the house set around the table as a miscellaneous collective of dissonant styles, and upon the table pitchers of wine, large bowls of salads and platters loaded with fruits and meats set down in waiting for a large family gathering…Such was the idyll we created last weekend, but not in Provence. In England, where the country’s best summer in decades continues to bring smiles of sun-inspired joy across all four corners of the Kingdom.

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For me, the heady mix of sunshine and a lush flower-filled English country garden, is one of the very best ways to enjoy the summer. My childhood memories are full of nostalgic reflections on summer picnics on the lawn, the feel of grass between my toes, the smell of lavender wafting in the wind, the sensation of stone paths baked by the sun (I think I must have deleted the memories of the rainfall which inevitably dogged other days – who needs to remember those?). So on those occasions when the English summer bears fruit, I head to my childhood garden where the flowers still grow abundantly, and the family can still gather despite the many years that have gone by.

So all things combined, and with my family now double the size what it was in my childhood, my homage to the English summer was a table laid under an iris tree, freshly cut flowers hung overhead so their perfume imbued the air during a lunch of barbecued meats and elaborate Mediterranean style salads. The wine, of course, was flowing, and as my birthday fast approaches, a first cake and early presents were enjoyed to mark an occasion perfectly fitting for this fine English summer. And as befits a luncheon more Mediterranean than British, our afternoon was spent at the seaside, where the waters of the South Coast are easily as warm as Spain’s.

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Vive the English summer! Long may it continue.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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An Extraordinary British Summer, Part 1: Glyndebourne

I have been to Glyndebourne, the wonderfully bucolic Sussex opera house, many times. Yet I have never, ever enjoyed the kind of idyllic summer weather which is promised by all the archetypal postcard shots. Many a year I have struggled to pin down a picnic blanket in ferocious blustery winds, cowered in marquees to avoid sudden rain showers, or taken refuse in the covered balconies of thered-bricked opera house building. This year couldn’t have been more different. For we are enjoying an exceptional summer in England, with a sustained period of heat the likes of which has not been seen for decades. Just reward, one might say, for a hellish winter that saw snow storms in March and a cancellation of Spring, but another sign that the world’s weather has all gone a bit mad.

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So finally this was the year for the sunny Glyndebourne picnic which I have long been pursuing like a Templar Knight seeking out the Holy Grail. While the concept of donning a dinner jacket in 30 degrees was far from pleasant, we were at least able to benefit from the shade of drooping willows and the light breeze rolling off green Sussex hillsides. In fact the weather was easily good enough to picnic in style, and we went all out – gone was the bobbled blanket in favour of foldable furniture, a Mallorquín tablecloth and fine china tea cups, all setting the scene for a lakeside picnic which beat the very best of Glyndebourne idylls.

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As for the opera – Pelleas et Mélisande by Debussy – it offered a suitably dreamlike fantasy whose imagery could have come straight out of a painting by the Pre-Raphaelites. Known for its highly symbolic qualities, the narrative was not always one which could be easily followed, but Debussy’s score – at times elegantly impressionistic and at others dramatically Wagnerian – was so exquisitely moving that all one had to do was sit back and enjoy the waves of rousing orchestral crescendo wash over you like water crashing over the eager Sussex shoreline.

Best of all was the the moment when the curtain fell, and we wandered out into gardens still lit by a sky tinged pink from a recently departed sunset. The heat of the sun was now dissipated and a fresher yet balmy breeze enticing us to enjoy the Sussex landscape in this most pleasant of summer hours. If only the British summer was always like this.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Windsor Weekend, Part I: The Castle

The myths and legends surrounding England’s valiant past are so intertwined with our history that it’s sometimes hard to remember what is fact and what is fiction. The tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a typical example of this, and while many have determined the magic surrounding Merlin to be the stuff of fairytales, the fable of King Arthur and his Knights certainly resonates as being a more realistic depiction of historical England. Whether or not the round table existed, the image it evokes – of brave knights, lion-emblazoned coats of arms, and of shiny coats of armour ridden into battle – very much captures a sense of the England of old. And if one place were to lift that image off the pages of legend and into the real light of day, it’s Windsor Castle.

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Grand, imposing and the very epitome of a medieval-style castle, Windsor is not only a historical monument worthy of legend itself. Rather it always has been, and continues to be a favourite royal residence, and today boasts the record as being the longest occupied palace in Europe, as well as the favourite weekend retreat and place of entertainment of the UK’s current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. With roots stretching right back to the Norman Conquest of 1066, Windsor Castle has been constantly remodelled and expanded to suit the tastes of each succeeding monarch, from the lavish baroque of Charles II to the Georgian flourishes of George IV and the modernisation of the Victorian and later eras.

While on the outside it appears as stark and imposing as a great stone castle should, on the inside it is very much a palace in the true sense of the word. While some rooms are emblazoned with sparkling armour, decorative weaponry and historical coats of arms, others are masterpieces in rococo and baroque, glistening with gold and chandeliers and filled with the most lavish of palatial furnishings. In 1992, much of this beauty was almost lost forever when a ferocious fire tore through the building and destroyed many of the most important State Rooms. But today, after an award winning restoration, Windsor is not only back to its beautiful self, but much improved, with many interim changes reversed to take the Castle design back to its early glory days.

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But Windsor is not just a single-building castle, but a complex with gardens, out-buildings and places of worship making up a mini town within a town. Chief amongst these ancillary sights is St George’s Chapel, which is probably one of the most beguilingly beautiful churches I have seen. Gleaming with light filtered through intricately conceived multi-coloured stained glass windows depicting the Kings and Queens of old, the chapel is a masterpiece of the perpendicular gothic. Its lattice stone-weaved ceiling is a work of genius, and in such a good condition that it is hard to think that for the most part, this is the work of 15th Century craftsmen. Its Quire (where the choir sing) is simply magical. The home of the Knights of the Garter, it is a true homage to all things Round Table, adding to the myth which surrounds British history and expressing in a stroke of true theatricality the historical importance of this preeminent body of royal knights. Meanwhile, peppered throughout the chapel are some of the most important monuments you are likely to see in any single one place in England: here lies Henry VIII, the Queen Mother, George V, George VI and Charles I to name but a few. And for those not buried here, monuments to the likes of Prince Albert and Princess Charlotte (who died in childbirth leading to the ascension of Queen Victoria) are masterpieces of pathos carved in stone and crafted in the suitably melodramatic Victorian aesthetic.

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Unfortunately the splendours of Windsor’s interiors are the preserve of the eyes only, as photography is banned throughout. I must therefore content myself with sharing with Daily Norm readers my photos of the joys of Windsor’s grounds, from the incredible exterior masonry and gothic façade of St George’s, to the beautiful moat gardens which, filled with roses, so perfectly soften the hard lines of this mighty castle beyond.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Comparing Seascapes: Sussex and Spain

Two Seascapes, one England, one Spain. In Sussex in England, the sea is a silvery shade of grey. No surprise there, as it is an inseparable reflection of the cloudy skies above, whose repressive covering is broken only by a single glimmer of hope as a glint of light shines through. The seas are active, but not rough, but the winds are sufficiently energetic to catapult the kite surfer across the waters. At the shore the sand is dank and wet, it’s lightening colour resaturated with each swift revolution of the waves. 

The only thing Marbella in Spain has in common is the sea. But its colour is a startling warm blue, glimmering almost independently from the yellowing evening skies above. Above the beach, a golden paseo maritimo is fringed with regal palms whose large canopy of leaves hang as silently still as the warm balmy calm air around them. Through the leaves, the multiple strata of a mountain layered landscape each deliver a different shade of soft pink, while in front the white harbour wall of Marbella’s port colours gently to cream in the face of the setting sun. 

Seascape III: Silver Surfer (2008 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Seascape III: Silver Surfer (2008 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Seascape IV: Marbella (2008 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Seascape IV: Marbella (2008 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

I painted these two seascapes in 2008 when I was making a more intentional transition from acrylic into oil. These were part of a series of studies I made as I tried out the medium for the first time. Today, they hang at my parents house in Sussex, and it was when I was there this weekend that I was given the opportunity to reflect upon them, and the marked difference between seaside landscapes.

It comes at a pertinent time: in just a few days I will leave England, including the Sussex seaside town where I grew up for 18 years and which is featured in the seascape above. I will then move to Palma de Mallorca, the archetypal Mediterranean city, fringed with glorious palms and benefitting from sunshine almost the whole year around. Yet despite the very obvious benefits of moving to such a paradise, there will always be a part of me that will miss the English coast – for in its silvery wind swept beauty, the sea in England is just as special as in the Med. It’s just that more often than not, you may need a scarf and some gloves in tow to appreciate it.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Wonderful Wimbledon: strawberries, cream and a place to be seen

I interrupt this ambrosial Amalfi story to sneak a peak at the sweet verdant lands and the rolling hills of summertime England, where far away from the sun-baked mountains of the mediterranean, different peaks are being climbed – peaks of physical fitness and sporting prowess when the world’s best tennis stars come together for the ultimate in tennis championships, the creme de la creme of all tournaments: Wimbledon.

Wednesday may have been a grey day for British tennis, when national hopeful Andy Murray was chased out of the championships in a depressing straight-set defeat, but above the perfectly manicured lawns of centre-court where I was lucky enough to be a spectator all day, the skies shone a vivid blue, and all around the many courts of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the glamourous and chic of high society perambulated in their finery, clutching glasses of lansen champagne in one hand and a tub of the traditional Wimbledon accompaniment of strawberries and cream in the other.

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For even those few who do not get caught up in the all-encompassing excitement of riveting rallies and tense tie-breakers, Wimbledon is an unmissable event of the season. With a ground filled with perfectly manicured floral blooms in the championship colours of green and purple, when styled summer frocks and panama hats get an airing, and some of the world’s best players and celebrity spectators gather together, Wimbledon is surely the high point of the British summer, when the tennis loving crowds include even the royals themselves – why yesterday the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (otherwise known as Wills and Kate) were in attendance.

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Naturally, while I rode the emotional wave of highs and lows that came with watching Murray’s defeat and Federer’s later quarter final victory, I also felt happily immersed in the high-flying excitement of the entire Wimbledon experience, and these photos are testament to the day we had. As with the good english weather, these two weeks of Wimbledon are a transient experience – so like me, I hope you will enjoy the brief interlude of Wonderful Wimbledon while you can.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Out and about with my iPhone – Part II

It was William Blake who wrote of England’s green and pleasant lands, words which have since been transposed into the rousing melody of “Jerusalem” by Hubert Parry.

I will not cease from mental fight, 
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, 
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land

Now, as I walk around my surroundings, down in suburban South London, I find the final bars of that great hymn circling relentlessly inside my head, as all around me, after a month of unseasonably consistent rainfall, England has literally burst into the most pleasant, lusciously green landscape I have seen in recent memory. The tree boughs are so heavily weighted by a cornucopia of vivid green leaves and fresh, unfurling buds that they almost touch the ground. The grass is rich and thick, full of daisies and dandelions, betraying not a single batch of earth in between its lustrous verdant carpet. And all around the air is full of blossom, as it is gently warmed by a balmy early-summer sun, bringing with it ripe rememberings of childhood summers past, when with my family I would enjoy effortless evenings amongst the thickly sheltered forests of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, picking bunches of wild flowers, and going to bed with a head full of fresh summer air and the imaginings of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

All this comes to mind as I revel in this newly revitalised greenery surrounding me, even here, on the outskirts of London. And freshly inspired, with an excellent camera phone in my pocket, I have roistered the benefits of having a camera continuously by my side, so that for every scene of early-summer beauty before me, I can capture it like the work of art it is, a still life framed forever, to share with you on The Daily Norm.

These photos are just a few from a mass I have taken while enjoying the unseasonably warm weather we have had recently in the UK, as finally we were given a break from months of rainy monotony, and gave the summer a brief chance to shine through. I hope you enjoy them.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.