Saturday, March 12, 2016

Edibles and antiquities: Bridport

DSC09382 (1300x842)It’s hard to know how the restaurant critic of the New York Times ever wandered off-track into this part of Dorset.

The owner of the Seaside Boarding House Restaurant thought that there might have been a relative nearby; someone else suggested that it was the pretension of ‘discovering’ a remote gem ahead of everyone else.  I suspect that the writer was simply  making the best of getting lost on winding shoreline lanes.

Nonetheless, the restaurant, commanding a clifftop above Chesil Beach, is a find.

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We went over for lunch on a sunny day, when there would be clear views  over the water and warm spots to sit by the windows.  Pastel blue and white, the walls dotted with seascape paintings, it is a lovely place to sit and linger over well prepared dishes: well=-seasoned fish soup and bread, mushroom polenta, chocolate-walnut delice.  The setting and the food attracts a varied pairs of people  seeking quiet conversation over mussels and soufflĂ©: friends, couples, and walkers who’s backstories we filled in. 

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Nearby is the market town of Bridport, once a Saxon center for rope- and net-making, now for arts and antiques.  The Alleyways area, on the edge of town, turned out to be a good place to wander, ‘fifty shops overflowing with comfortable old clutter.

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DSC09413 (1300x863)The wooden furniture, coloured glass, and vintage clothes evoke collectables from roadside farms throughout New England.  But they do have a distinctly UK flavour: better condition, spanning longer periods, and from a more refined life.

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There were good neon bits from the 60’s, political pieces from the 30’s, and metal kitchen tools from far before.

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I always get a bit wistful over the children’s toys, once loved and now forgotten, and the faded china that families passed across generations of pride and tradition.

Another writer notes that The UK  tends to focus more on ‘proper’ antiques rather than the bizarre because there still exists a huge amount of them in the UK to unearth. DSC09392 (865x1300)Also, the British take their antiques seriously where there is some knowledge and an expectation of value, where the element of pure fluke taps more into the American penchant for the bizarre and the uncertain.

perhaps so: I was tempted by a whimsical clip that was in utterly bad taste.  ‘Less attracted by the strangeness, though: I valued any objec that evokes a smile.

Disclaimer: My opinions are wholly my own; I never ask for invitations or compensation to write about places I go.

Friday, March 11, 2016

A foggy Cambridge morning

DSC09306 (1300x867)I’m making a two-day loop through East Anglia, driving between London and Cambridge.  The connecting drives link sessions with investors and directors, course administrators and students, service providers and designers.  Between, the roads ramble through villages and farmlands remote from my usual route on the M11, past colorful streets and quaint gastro-pubs in villages like Thaxted, somewhere to stop on another visit.

Today, my morning started at sunup, while Cambridge was still, silent and foggy.  A breakfast meeting in the City Center and a half-hour’s walk to get there from my College meant setting out well before seven.  The traffic was light; the bicycles nudging me aside were well outnumbering cars.  I filled the enveloping silence with reflections, stopping to take photographs and to make notes for the day ahead, arriving for coffee with time to set a proper agenda.

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Actually, and with a great deal of work in February, a lot of things are going well in March.  That harvest (hopefully) foreshadows success in achieving market entry with our first products later this year.  Now it’s time to look for people that can help in running that sort of company, who can connect with customers, build an organization, and return profits to investors.

It’s coming to the peak of a journey that started here in Cambridge ten years ago.  Breakfast at Browns goes well, followed by a preview of a fundraising talk that one of my lecturers is planning.  I scribble a few practical notes in the margins of the proposed slides: I’ve learned that startups seldom follow straight, logical lines.

DSC09326 (1300x866)By one, back on the street, the fog has gone and the sun is out.  I’ve got a few hour’s drive ahead to my waiting weekend, but there’s time to ramble through the backs and put it all into perspective. 

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DSC09361 (1300x866)I still love the familiar views of the Cam and the Colleges, still spend time with my children in Great St. Mary’s, and still believe that this will all come right later this year.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Rambling the Sculpture Park

DSC09148 (867x1300)It’s Mothering Sunday in the UK.  The Netherlands and US celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May, but in the UK, it’ always the fourth Sunday of Lent.  This makes the actual day a bit unpredictable, so the Tesco is full of people picking up flowers and cards.DSC09056 (1300x865)DSC09081 (867x1300)DSC09058 (1300x666)DSC09075 (867x1300)

Dads with small children are more practical, centering on spending the day out as a family, doing something Mom would enjoy.  A drive into the country, a walk in the woods, and Art, perhaps? 

The Sculpture Park, outside Farnham, filled with earnest fathers running fingers through the guidebook to avoid the naked statues, kids in wellies sloshing through the muddy trails on a drizzly day, and small groups of women, trailing and chatting.

DSC09279 (1300x821)And me?  ‘just another determined day off.  I’d given the group the week off after completing the audit successfully, and my w.wezen was being fĂȘted by daughters.  A day’s ramble in arty woods would clear my head and reset my spirit.

DSC09122 (1300x867)I always enjoy Sculpture Gardens, and this is one that I’ve had my eye on.  ten acres, two miles of trails, over 700 sculptures to see.  The catalogue suggests a winding route around the lakes and over the hills that takes in all of the works, and i was over three hours completing it.  The bare trees and low clouds (dropping occasional hail)  wasn’t ideal light for composing pictures, but there are lots of small delights to photograph. 

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The sculptures are very diverse, quality ranging  from a majority that are clever / whimsical down to a third that seem banal and derivative.  I suppose that is ‘par for commercial art: all are for sale and there are a few that I would take home (someday).

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It is well worth a trip and spending an afternoon: reasonable admission (I paid my own way), helpful staff, and lots of imagination-stirring.

More photos, as always, on my Flickr page.