Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Jolly Hockey Sticks

students in training at the Bergman Osterberg Physical Training College

We have never been fond of organised games. Well, if the truth is to be told, with the notable exceptions of board games, Mah Jong and playing cards, we do not participate in games at all. Not for us the hockey field, rugby pitch, or even watching from the sidelines, and never have we attended Wimbledon, Wembley or White City. And, in the summer of 2012 we shall most definitely not be found in the Capital.

a game of Netball in progress

But for Sheila, our friend and Brighton neighbour, physical activity has, and continues to be, central to her life. She embodies the positive effects of an active lifestyle. Straight of back, sure of foot, slight of build and looking far more youthful than her years, she is an exemplary outcome of a physical education regime which, in its day, led the field.

Kingsfield, Kent, where Madame Osterberg established her College

From 1949 - 1952 Sheila studied at Dartford College in Kent, previously the Bergman Osterberg Physical Training College established in 1885 as the first Physical Education College in the United Kingdom, by the redoubtable Swede, Martina Bergman Osterberg. Kingsfield, a handsome country house sitting in 14 acres of Kent countryside, was the base for the College. There Madame Osterberg converted the ballroom into a gymnasium, where the principles of Swedish gymnastics could be taught, and from the surrounding fields courts were created for the playing of Netball, an Osterberg invention following her travels to America and her observation of Basketball games.

Madame Osterberg's aim was to provide professional opportunities for women in Physical Education and, some sixty years on, her legacy was still firmly in place when Sheila attended the College. Gymslips [an invention of one of Madame's students] were the uniform of the day, discipline was strict and sporting excellence was the goal. But, above all, the creation of a strong mind in harmony with a healthy body was an overriding tenet.

students forming a human pyramid

Throughout her own career Sheila put these enlightened ideas to good use, first in schools and then in the training of other teachers at Roehampton. And now, as she looks out to sea from her Brighton apartment, we are sure that she remembers with great fondness her days of hockey on the sandy beaches of Weston-super-Mare.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A Taste of Brighton

Caroline at work in 'Artisan' in Kemp Town, Brighton [click to enlarge all images]

We do not believe that, by any stretch of the imagination, we can be considered practical. Even in our otherwise reasonably distinguished schooldays, whilst others presented their proud parents with sausage plaits, tapestries and even wooden spice racks, neither of us succeeded in producing anything remotely edible, beautiful or useful. And unashamed as we were, and are, of our later gardening achievements, we were always happiest when dreaming up ideas for others to turn into a reality. It is, therefore, no wonder that we hold the greatest respect for those individuals who are masters or mistresses of their crafts.

All of which takes us to our favourite Brighton delicatessen and coffee house, 'Artisan', a shrine to the delectable, the delicious and, importantly for us, the handmade.

a variety of coffees, teas and sandwiches advertised on the board

Here hand roasted Lazy José coffee is skilfully transformed into Lattés, Espressos, frothy Capuccinos and the 'on-trend' Flat Whites. Plump olives and sun dried tomatoes tempt in large white bowls, quality oils and vinegars are decanted to order and handcrafted loaves of sour dough, rye and wholegrain are delivered daily from a family bakery in Hove. Award winning cheeses, slow roasted hams, spicy salamis and hand raised pies are testament to the knowledge that this is a shop which takes its food seriously.

some of the local and Continental cheeses available from 'Artisan'

And from our favourite table in the window we consider how the 'Artisan' customers are every bit as individual and interesting as the delicacies which are on offer: a former pianist to the youthful Ivor Novello, a local food critic, artists, musicians, students, television personalities [or so we are told], and a ninety-two year old, retired civil servant who, accompanied by her dog, Bunty, hates cooking!

the open door acts as an invitation to passers-by

For, although only in its first year of trading, former banking executive Simon and established painter Stephen, have, together with manager, David, within a very few months established 'Artisan' not only as a superb delicatessen and coffee house, but a meeting place for the wealth of creative talent for which Brighton is so well known. We are lucky, as we despair over our knitting needles, to count them as our friends.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

An Aesthete in Albemarle Street

letters from Graham Sutherland to Andrew Révai [click to enlarge all images]

If in the 1960s London was said to be swinging, then Andrew Révai, or The Doctor as we referred to him, was to have none of it. With a calm, if forbidding, authority he presided over an empire which bore more resemblance to a gentleman's club than ever it did to a highly successful art publishing house.

Albemarle Street. The Pallas Gallery was situated at 28b [below Garrard]

The Pallas Gallery at that time occupied the second floor of a house in Albemarle Street in the heart of London's Mayfair. Affiliated in some unspecified way to The New York Graphic Society, it was the brainchild of Andrew [or András, for he was a Hungarian emigrant] Révai and his partner Robin Chancellor. As the Bright Young Things of our day we danced in decorative attendance, mere Pucks before Oberon, whilst the great and the good of the contemporary art world glided in and out of those closely carpeted, eighteenth century rooms.

Jean Dufy: Le Bois de Boulogne. Works by this artist hung in Albemarle Street

They were all there: Hitchens, Moore, Nicholson, Piper and Sutherland, their work joining that of Dufy, Eisenmayer, Kokoschka, Soutine and Vlaminck, paintings propped, paintings positioned, but paintings rarely hung. And we, the callow youth of the day, so much more interested in the occasional appearance of Daniel Carroll, famous then as Danny La Rue, who, in pursuit of one of our number, Jimmy, would emerge from the lift flourishing bunches of beautiful flowers.

Graham Sutherland, at the time having completed work on the tapestry for the new Coventry Cathedral, was the most frequent visitor, no doubt on account of the publication of 'Christ in Glory in the Tetramorph. The Genesis of the Great Tapestry in Coventry Cathedral', a dialogue between Andrew Révai and the artist himself.

Christ in Glory - the Graham Sutherland tapestry in Coventry Cathedral

But all of that is now a long time ago. The play is over and we, the shadows on the wall, are since dispersed. Or so we thought. Yet as recently as a year or two back, through a mutual friend, Robin Chancellor invited us to see the daffodils in the park at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire where he continued to live in the handsome Inigo Jones pavilions which he, and Andrew Révai, had so lovingly restored some fifty years before.

Inigo Jones pavilion at Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire

What is left now are the memories. Memories revived yet again earlier this year when Bonham's put up for auction a collection of letters, a correspondence between Sutherland and Révai. Such a strange, small world!

N.B. Whilst we shall remain in touch with our Followers and friends over the coming week, travel through Europe may delay the timing of our next post.