This is the first time we have not travelled away as a family for a summer holiday since having children. We did all go skiing earlier in the year, though not as a complete family. The main reason is that I’d only just picked up a new contract after a couple of months out and needed to crack on with it. The children accepted the concept of using our home as our holiday base and I took a couple of long weekends to make the most of some fabulous day trips.
Our day trip to the Royal Academy was memorable, to see an exhibition of works by Félix Edouard Vallotton, an artist born in Switzerland to a middle-class family. Catching the 8:45 train from Guildford to London, we set-off for the RA on foot from Waterloo station, walking over the Hungerford Bridge under gloriously blue skies with magnificent views of the City down river. We walked across Trafalgar Square, cut up Haymarket and along Piccadilly in the sunshine and enjoying the fresh unpolluted morning air to arrive by 10am. The exhibition was informative and a pleasure: The narratives beside the art-work gave a fascinating account of how Vollatton had astutely developed his career: He made a living in the early part of his 20s as a reporter in parallel to developing his name as an artist and reputation in print (from woodcutting). He gravitated towards France as he developed opportunities to establish himself into networks of like-minded, influential artists. He met his wife in Paris who was super wealthy (already with kids from another marriage) and well connected in the art world. The marriage enabled him to concentrate on his passion for painting in a ‘realism’ style combining the influence from Les Nabis.
We’ve tried a few family trips with Teddy (our Cockapoo) during our staycation. Surely, we no longer needed worry about Teddy misbehaving like a puppy, having reached 2 years of age and attained a suitable level of training . We took him down to meet my mother one day having boldly booked into a local pub/restaurant for lunch. We were armed with treats and toys, his own personal rug and the children we briefed to be super attentive to his behaviours, wants and needs. Teddy, to his credit, actually did very well right the way through to coffees, a point during the meal where we’d relaxed a tad and didn’t notice the landlord’s fat Labrador nicking Teddy’s chews and scoffing them down. This was all too much for our little mutt who properly kicked off. We evacuated our disgruntled Cockapoo from the pub but the commotion continued outside as he then didn’t want to leave without his humans and the stupid fat Labrador had followed him out. Fortunately, we were in a position to quaff the coffees, settle-up beat a hasty exit.
I won’t forget the next family expedition, with Teddy, to the grounds of Windsor Castle. That day turned out to be the hottest August Bank Holiday weekend on record and I was wearing jeans and boots (instead of shorts and birks). We took loads of water and spent the entire walk seeking shade under the trees. We stopped at a pub on the towards the end of the walk, but it was too hot for Teddy to settle, so, again we took our leave earlier than planned. It was a lovely walk and I’ve made a note to go back without the dog so we can go inside the castle and look around, perhaps when it’s a bit cooler.
Chartwell House is the other place we took Teddy. He wasn’t allowed inside any of the properties so we took it in turns to go into the buildings.
Churchill bought the property for £5000 in 1922 after it failed to sell in an auction (it needed major renovations). Chartwell was the home of Churchill from 1922 to his death in 1969, other than during the 2nd World War, when he had to stay in more secure accommodation as the Estate was too big and exposed. What a lovely place to make a home: It stands in the middle of 500 acres, stating it’s presence on the more gentle slopes of the South Downs looking out across the Weald of Kent with a vista from the terrace to die for.
I didn’t realise what a prolific artist he was, pretty much self-taught as well. To anyone thinking about visiting, I’d highly recommend spending some time in his studio. We took a self-guided tour around the main house, taking in more if Churchill’s artwork and lots of photos of Churchill with his geopolitical counterparts, which really put some context around his his global influence. I came away with a sense of how he seemed to deal with life, compartmentalizing home-life and leisure away from the world of his work. Clearly he worked and studied at home and seemed to have figured out ways of keeping degrees of separation.
I pondered, during the visit, about how anyone could deal with the huge burden of decisions he was routinely making at work as one of the worlds most respected leaders and especially during times of conflict and war. I guess he had to find some way of applying abstraction and logic to decision-making.
It was a family great day out and very thought provoking, and Teddy was on top form all day. No misbehaviours.
The highlight of the holiday was a day trip to Bletchley Park, without Teddy this time. We set off early as it was a long trip to make in the car. The story-telling and layout at Bletchley is compelling for anyone vaguely interested in modern history. It was so good to see an Enigma machine and a life-size mock-up of the Bombe decoder. I watched the video explanation twice and still didn’t understand how it works.
The technology that Turing and his team used to solve the unsolvable problems just looks so primitive, and yet is it so complex, relying on logic provided through a combination of mechanical and electrical engineering, underpinned by some awesome mathematical capability.
I need to put some more narrative together on Bletchley Park when I have a bit more time.
More updates to this post are to follow.
Bellow is a shot the of the Bombe machine replica.