|a wall of pictures in our Budapest drawing room with 'Toft Church' shown bottom left|
Amongst our possessions is a ring made from the gun metal of a rifle, used during the Great War of 1914 - 1918, and passed down to us from grandparents. It is engraved simply 'YPRES'. A parent, as a young girl, received a prize at school from the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, who at the time was in exile and living in Chislehurst, now a suburb of London. More recently, our very dear young Russian friends attended the sale, prior to refurbishment, of The Savoy Hotel and presented us with a set of flatware stamped 'Savoy'. Such are life's little connections which both intrigue and, where we are concerned, endlessly fascinate.
A couple of years ago we purchased a small, Victorian watercolour of a church. Signed 'Toft Church' and 'Painted by an invalid', it sparked our curiosity. During the nineteenth century it was not at all uncommon for paintings, usually the work of gifted amateurs, to be signed in such a way. But as to the whereabouts of this country church, set in its rather ragged churchyard, a little research revealed it to be St. Andrew's, Toft, Cambridgeshire.
|the church of St. Andrew's, Toft, Cambridgeshire signed 'Painted by an invalid'|
To date the painting took a little more time. However, it would appear that in 1890 the tower of St. Andrew's collapsed in its entirety, presumably on account of poor construction, not to be rebuilt until 1894. Judging from the ivy firmly established at the ruined end, and the somewhat makeshift temporary building attached, we assume that our watercolour may be dated, more or less accurately, to around 1893. Thus a small, but significant, connection is made.
This Friday we look forward to a totally different kind of connection with the arrival from The Netherlands of our Dutch friends for a short stay here with us in Budapest. And on Saturday evening, around the dinner table, British, Dutch, Hungarians, Poles and Croats will, drawing on a diversity of experiences, connect countries and cultures in a manner which, despite all the current economic difficulties, underlines the strength of European unity.
P.S. Apologies to E.M. Forster for both using and reinterpreting his words in the title of this post.