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September 5th and 6th: Goodbye to Burghley   Leave a comment

Before I move on, I’d like to talk a little more about the last day of Burghley, show jumping day. It was rainy and our seats were in the second row of the grandstand, right next to the hard strip where they do the trotting up. Which I thought would be advantageous, and it would have been, but for the rain driving in upon us. If the grandstand roof had a two-foot overhang on it, we would have stayed dry; but it did not, and the rain made the first row actually uninhabitable except by people in comprehensive rain gear, and the second row pretty uncomfortable. However, we soldiered on!

This day started with the inspection of competitor horses, or the ‘trotting up’. Each horse was presented for inspection and trotted up and down a hard strip of ground (might even have been pavement) in front of a panel of three or four inspecting judges. This was to ensure that they had come through the cross country phase the day before without injury and were in good order for the show jumping.

It was heartening to see how many of the horses came out with fire in their bellies, even after such a run as they had the day before. Some pranced and fairly dragged their riders (the riders presented the horses) up and down the trotting strip. The crowd loved this and gave them a big hand of applause for their condition and overall sassiness. Others did their job quietly but well, and there were two that trotted too quietly. I couldn’t see any outright lameness, but the judges held those two horses for re-inspection, and only one was allowed to go on – so there was one elimination at the trotting-up.

The riders, presenting their horses, generally wore pretty smart clothes – the men in jackets and ties, the women in pantsuits or (believe it or not) dresses and heels. How they could run alongside their horses in that gear, I can’t comprehend. But they did it, and there were no wardrobe malfunctions.

On to the showjumping!

I have photos and video, and once I get it dumped off the camera, I’ll put it up here. There were few clear rounds at all. Some of the rider/horse combos that I expected to do well, had enough faults to keep them out of the running. The ground was very soft because of the rain, and several horses slipped on turns, but none went down. No rider falls or unanticipated dismounts. William Fox-Pitt was in the lead position going in, so the only way anyone else could win, even if they were perfect, was if he had any faults – but he had none; he and his horse, as I said, magically jumped the course clear (by over-jumping each element by almost a foot!) and within time, for a perfect double clear and a historic win. Fox-Pitt is the only person to have won Burghley six times, beating out Mark Todd, the only other competitor who has also had five wins at this venue.

We wound up our day by watching the young Event Pony trials – ponies aged 6 and under are shown first in dressage, then they instantly go from there into a showjumping ring, which has a series of three cross country jumps tacked on to the end – so they are shown in all three phases in a matter of minutes. These were probably the best-conformed, most gorgeous ponies I’d ever seen. It’s extremely good marketing to get your pony seen here, and if they win this, their price will jump considerably; so there’s a lot at stake. Junior riders compete the ponies and they ride extremely well – some of the green ponies really are not confirmed in the jumping and they need lots of guidance, and these kids are able to do the job. It was very impressive.

Right before departing the grounds, we took a picture with our fellow guests and new friends, Karen and Nick, in front of Jump 33.

The following day, September 6th, our kind hosts Jilly and Michael took us to Barnack Church before dropping us off at the Peterborough train station.

Church of John the Baptist, Barnack, Lincolnshire

Anglo Saxon door detail

Church interior

Wall memorial, dated 1012

Detail of date

It was really lovely, and very, very old – and still in continual use. That is amazing to me, that an Anglo-Saxon building dating from 1012 (1012! Not a typo!) is still in use, and not roped off as a historical artifact. Au contraire, by the door is a cork board with all kinds of bulletins and announcements; this be a living kirk.

Full of fantastic wood carving and the smartest organ I’ve ever seen!

 

After a look at this venerable place, we said our goodbyes to Jilly and Michael and got on the train to King’s Cross. Once there, we caught a taxi to our hotel for the last night in the UK: the Cardiff Hotel, near Paddington Station.

That night we had a fantastic dinner of dim sum at Pearl Liang, which is north of Paddington and St. Mary’s Hospital. It was exquisite and a great send-off.

The next morning, the shuttle came to pick us up and took us to Heathrow….the start of a long trip. Lisbeth and I each watched two or three movies during the flight, dozed a little, and so on. Luckily, our travel was uneventful in the extreme – perfect! So we arrived tired but not ruffled, in Kansas City – very glad to be home.

carving

A most lovely ceiling

Angel mosaics, in lovely shape

All the wood was OAK, OAK, OAK

Wyvern?

Posted September 10, 2011 by Evelyn in Uncategorized

September 3 and 4   Leave a comment

September 3

Cross country day dawned grey, windy and cold, but it was predicted to turn warm…which was exactly what happened, amazingly enough.

We began by getting hot chocolate and huddling for a while in our stadium seats, until a few competitors had made their ways through. Our overall strategy was to walk the course from back to front, thereby avoiding the scrum. I have no way to gauge whether that strategy succeeded, but I can say that the trickier fences, or the ones which were part of a combination or complex of fences were crowded three or four people deep at the observation points. However, if you waited a bit, the people at the front would move off, and gradually it would be your turn to see the fence from the best vantage point.

Cottesmore Leap fence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0P_EjuuNFo

Capability’s Cutting (blind jump into a sunken road and up the opposite bank) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj5hCH6eCWc

The Waterloo Logs  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWaE9nrCsqc

landing moment - Pardubice fence

All this takes time, however, and we didn’t make it back to see fences 3-1 negotiated; we saw the final two competitors get through the Leaf Pit, one of the trickier things on the course, and then all was done. So our strategy probably would have worked if we’d had the discipline to tear ourselves away from

sailing over the Winner's Avenue fence

each jump after seeing one or two contestants negotiate it, but we did not!

My general take-away feeling from watching the competition was that though the fences looked nauseatingly enormous to us on the course walk, in reality the horses at this level and at this competition made them look like nothing, they

well away - Winner's Avenue

were just sailing over the fences with ease the vast majority of the time.

Now it is September 4th and we have seen the entire competition – William Fox-Pitt won it by quite a margin, and with style. He, unlike most of the other competitors, seems to have installed a special button on his horse that says, “clear the show jumping fences by at least a foot extra, and touch nothing.”

I am going to beg off on the details right now, as I seem to have gotten a case of food poisoning from last night’s dinner, and I’m exhausted dealing with that and packing for travel tomorrow. This last item is a real challenge, due to the already-bloated state of my suitcase and the new items that I now need to fit in there. I think I’m actually going to have to throw a few things away – jettison would be the correct term.

Tomorrow, or soon anyway, I will post videos and photos from both days, I promise!!! But now I need to take care of business. Tomorrow back to London for one evening and night, and the next morning, to Heathrow for the long journey home.

Posted September 4, 2011 by Evelyn in Uncategorized

September 2   Leave a comment

The last two days have been the Dressage days at Burghley. On Wednesday we were on the grounds briefly and saw some of the trotting up, which is the first inspection to ensure the horses are sound and ready to do the event – crucial, since the event is so physically demanding.

Yesterday the Dressage competition began in earnest, and by the end of the day the order of go for the Cross Country tomorrow was announced.

Our view of the dressage court

However, there is not an exact correlation between dressage placings and order of Cross Country go. For instance, Simone Deitermann on Free Easy NRW scored the best at dressage: 39.3 (lower scores=better scores in eventing dressage, unlike regular dressage. However, she is the 89th rider to go out tomorrow (out of a field of 127 runs). Here are the first ten riders to go out tomorrow:

  1. Happy Times/Sam Griffiths;
  2. Running Brook II/Georgie Spence;
  3. Neo du Breuil/Oliver Townend;
  4. Sir Percival III/Francis Whittington;
  5. Tubber Rebel/Dag Albert;
  6. Avebury/Andrew Nicholson;
  7. Holstein Park Leilani/Christopher Burton;
  8. Parklane Hawk/William Fox-Pitt (who, I believe, has the distinction of being the rider who has won Burghley more times than anyone else);
  9. Clifton Promise/Jonathan Paget;
  10. Mrs Tilly/Caroline Powell.

In other news, what young ladies of the equestrian set are wearing: Dubarry boots. These, with very short cut-off jeans or micro-mini kilt skirts in green tweed windowpane plaid.  Often paired with a sporty polo or rugby shirt.

Like this, only in green windowpane plaid

Many of the less-young ladies are wearing hacking jackets in that selfsame green tweed windowpane plaid; with leather piping on the pockets and lapels, and contrasting dark velvet collars. I coveted one of these, but the prices were beyond my means.

And dogs! there are almost as many dogs at Burghley as there are horses. More, actually. Every fourth or fifth person has a dog, and some of them have two (likely to be a matching set, as well.)

Lisbeth, not being sucked in much by the dressage action, spent quite a bit of time today offering water to, and petting, dogs who were tied to the fence in the Member’s Enclosure. She had offered to help out at the Animal Rescue tent, but they couldn’t allow it, as she was under 16.  So she acted independently, and was so diligent and caring that she got tipped by at least one owner, and another one bought her an ice-cream cone!

The dogs are going to have to take care of themselves tomorrow, as we will be out on the course virtually all day…

Oh! Speaking of that – we went on an organized course walk yesterday with Lucinda Green, and it was great to hear her perspectives on all the fences, the questions they posed and their possible solutions.  She was particularly kind to Lissie, who walked alongside her almost the whole time and assisted her by holding the course map and jump descriptions (Lucinda had a fall and one of her arms had just come out of a cast that morning, so she only had the use of one hand).

This course walk was scheduled to take two hours, but stretched to a little over three, due to many enthusiastic questions from the large (between 30 and 40 people) group. Toward the end Lucinda also had Lisbeth managing her dog for her, a little terrier who was just as full of energy at the end of the course walk as he was at the beginning!  It was a great experience on many levels, but especially to prepare us to understand what we’ll be seeing tomorrow on the big CC day.

Posted September 2, 2011 by Evelyn in Uncategorized

Watch this space   1 comment

We had a great day at Burghley – including an exhaustive and exhausting course walk with Lucinda Green – and I’m pretty much too tired to write about it now! Must. Sleep. I will report later. We will have the second day of dressage tomorrow, but without the course walk, so it will be less busy for us, more low-key.

 

 

Posted September 1, 2011 by Evelyn in Uncategorized

August 31   1 comment

August 31

This morning we packed up all our things and made our way to Kings Cross rail station, where we caught the train to Peterborough. We passed through lovely green country on the way, and the trip seemed too short…we had just started to get the hang of it, and relax, when it was time to disembark for Peterborough. Very kindly, our host Michael (of Rowan House in Barnack, where we are staying) had offered to pick us up at the station, and then took us for a mini-tour of Peterborough and its cathedral.

Peterborough Cathedral, in contrast to Salisbury’s medieval and St Paul’s neoclassical architecture, is a Norman and Gothic cathedral, which houses the remains of Katherine of Aragon, among others. We were poleaxed by its vaulted New Building ceiling, especially, which recalled a forest of stone trees to us. The ceiling of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge is an almost identical replica of this ceiling, by the same architect, John Wastell of Bury St. Edmunds. Notable other features were the fiendishly complex wooden carvings of the Choir section, and the insanely ornate wooden carvings of the pulpit.

I don’t have many photos of this cathedral; we only had Lissie’s itouch with us, so the photos are trapped there for now. Plus, they strongly discouraged photography in the cathedral, though we did get a nice souvenir book full of better photos than we possibly could have taken. For online pix, see:

http://www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk/

Once we got settled into our room, Michael took us to the Burghley site and we walked around, seeing the manor house (really a palace) and a bit of the course, as well as watching a few of the competing horses being trotted up. It was thrilling to be there after all this planning, and it all starts tomorrow!

While there, we saw the extensive herd of Fallow deer which reside on the estate – they’ve been herded into an enclosure for the duration of the event.

Swans in a Barnack river

Lissie says: good luck, first day of school tomorrow kids!

Posted August 31, 2011 by Evelyn in Uncategorized

August 30   1 comment

The 30th was our last full day in London, and we spent it at St Paul’s Cathedral.  We got there at lunchtime, so started out by having lunch in their crypt cafe.  Then, fortified, we proceeded to the cathedral floor.

Photography is not allowed inside St Paul’s. Only on the outside bits – the galleries of the dome – can you take pictures – which explains why I have so few pictures to share with you today. But for more, see the St Paul’s website:

http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/Explore-the-Cathedral-Floor

The design character and interior (well, and exterior, for that matter) of  St Paul’s is very, very different from Salisbury Cathedral, the other major cathedral we’ve seen on this trip. St Paul’s is much, much larger and the dimensional space inside is defined by cylindrical, or barrel, shapes and of course, dome shapes.  Salisbury Cathedral is defined by arches and spire shapes. The classical influence (read: Greek/Roman) at St Paul’s is marked. And in fact, the statues inside, overwhelmingly of fallen military heroes, echo the roman portrait sculptures we saw at the British Museum and at the V &A.

These were more touching than I imagined, as many of the inscriptions told of the deeds done and even at what battle and by what means the hero was slain. They actually did use the word ‘slain’ on more than one monument – interesting choice of words  – as if the opponents were murderers, rather than equal foes on field of battle. War is incredibly stupid, no matter how you look at it, and the spin doctors of each age do their part to lay the gilding on thick.

On the cathedral floor level, the thing I loved most  were the ceilings above the Quire – richly tiled in mosaic, the effect was marvelous. The use of gold was particularly effective, though I was surprised at how ‘Popish’ the cathedral appeared. But this was not a reformation church, after all.

And while we were there, a choir came in and became rehearsing – the acoustics in the nave are marvelous. This was a small masterworks choir of maybe 24 singers, and they were excellent. I could have sat there for hours listening, it was very beautiful. And listening to them stop and start the rehearsal to fix and polish various sections made me want to join a choir again -it reminded me of how much I loved that experience.

In the Crypt we saw Wren’s tomb, as well as William Blake’s, and those of many other illustrious citizens. One in particular – I wish I had jotted down his name – struck me  – it was a monument to a doctor, who had dedicated his life to science and the alleviation of suffering. I was heartened to see him included, and his deeds set down for posterity in a monument.

We climbed a spiral staircase of double-wide, shallow oak stair treads to the Whispering Gallery, which is inside the dome. We tried to communicate from across the dome by whispering, but there were so many other people trying to do the same that it was a bit difficult to sort out which whisper was which.

From there, we proceeded up, through a series of narrower stone staircases, to the Stone Gallery on the outside of the dome. This Gallery is quite wide, but the balustrade is also quite high and it makes the view a bit difficult.

Lis on the Stone Gallery

So then, we went all the way up to the Golden Gallery, which is the highest point on the dome that one can visit unless you have an in with the Bishop or the Mayor of London. This is accessed via a series of hair-raising iron spiral staircases of which the treads are narrow and steep, and it’s unnervingly easy to see how high up and exposed you are inside the dome. (Aside: there are about a million locked doors which are accessed via these little staircases – I assume they’re access doors for maintenance of various parts of the cathedral – but so, so, so very intriguing! I would love nothing more than to get an insider’s tour of this place!)

Lis, caution on the Golden Gallery

Eventually we emerged onto the Golden Gallery, the highest point on the outside of the dome that we could get to, which is quite narrow and gives glorious views of London. Lisbeth was a bit frightened of this whole last trek, so we didn’t spend much time on this level – plus it was a bit crowded – so after having a bit of a look around, we went back down (passing another series of mysterious doors, all different this time, as the way up and the way down are so very narrow that they must necessarily be strictly one-way routes.)

Here is a photo that shows where the Stone and Golden Galleries appear on the dome exterior.

Top arrow: Golden Gallery. Bottom arrow: Stone Gallery.

Eventually we headed back to our apartment via double-decker red bus, to rest and pack and get ready for departure to Burghley on the 31st.

Posted August 31, 2011 by Evelyn in Uncategorized

August 29   2 comments

This day was a very long one! So long, in fact, that I didn’t have time to post the blog when we finally got home at 11pm last night.

We started out at the Tower of London – a phenomenally well-preserved place that looks as if it will stand for another thousand years, easily. We went through parts of it that I didn’t remember seeing before, most notably, King Edward’s chambers, which were a lot more habitable than I expected. They have been restored with perishable materials (textiles, wood furniture) which are as close to the originals as may be, and the effect is very interesting. I took a few pictures:

The table and benches were of such an interesting design that I had to take a special photo to document their underpinnings.

The doors were of quartersawn oak planks, with enormous iron hinges, hobnailed on.

A little visually incoherent, but you get the idea

The spiral staircase was made of MASSIVE oak beams…MASSIVE. If there were staircases like this throughout the realm, it’s easy to see how most of the UK was deforested during previous centuries.

Then we joined the scrum and inched along for a period of about forty-five minutes to see the crown jewels, which I admit, were gorgeous!!! So many brilliant diamonds, and such enormous rubies and emeralds. The various crowns of state were in glass cases flanked by dual people-mover belts, which were slow but not slow enough for my taste. The cattle-herding aspect of the experience detracted from the spectacle, but considering how much traffic they have and how many people want to see these beautiful things, I guess it’s really the only way.

Lis waiting for the Thames Ferry

We had a quick lunch at the cafe there, which served the best carrot soup we’d ever had. Then we took a Thames ferry boat to the Tate Modern Gallery.

The Tate Modern is housed in an old power plant. They have done something wonderful with the grounds: they have planted groves of birch trees, which I think helps counteract the grim aspect of the building.

Birch Woods at the Tate Modern

Dorothea Tanning, 'A Mi-Voix'

There is a lot to see at the Tate Modern, but knowing Lisbeth’s limited tolerance level for art museums, I confined my roaming to the surrealists and expressionists. I was very pleased to see three works by Dorothea Tanning that I hadn’t seen before; I got a decent photo of one, her painting ‘A Mi-Voix’, from 1958.

They also had at least one outstanding Dali there, and paintings by Leonor Fini and Leonora Carrington that I hadn’t seen before, so much joy was had in the Surrealist gallery.

The Expressionist gallery held many good pieces, but my favorites among them were this painting by Clyfford Still, entitled ‘1953’.

Clyfford Still's '1953'

Also, of course, it was a great honor to see a Kandinsky: his painting entitled ‘Starnberger See’, from 1908.

Kandinsky

Lisbeth managed to crowbar me out of the Tate and we walked across the Millenium Footbridge and back, then got back on the Thames ferry and rode it to view the London Eye. We might see if we can get on that tomorrow, our last full day in London.

Then we hurried back to our apartment, to get ready for our night out seeing War Horse at the New London Theatre.

Here’s the promised picture of us, the best we could do in the mirror at our apartment:

Ready to go see War Horse

War Horse was great – the puppeteers making the life-sized (actually a little larger than life sized) horses move melted into the background, and their work, especially the puppeteer animating the head and ears, really brought the horses to life.

The plan tomorrow is to go through St. Paul’s cathedral, and maybe the London Eye. We haven’t even set foot in Trafalgar Square on this trip – it’s seemed to fly by! There is just too much to do and see, and we are not people who like to cram. So we have to just do the best we can and hope we can return someday to fill in the gaps.

Posted August 30, 2011 by Evelyn in Uncategorized