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Tales from Edinburgh

I found our trip to Edinburgh amazing. I didn't know what ‘The Fringe” was before I went as I had not heard of it.

Our hotel was very central to all the action, restaurants, museums and a lot of the shows. It was in a Square where small entertainments were going on every day at different times with quite large crowds being attracted to them. There were no problems, as the atmosphere was great.

The first full day we went to the Museum of Scotland where we saw the Millennium Clock, depicting a medieval Cathedral and standing just over 10 metres tall.   When it struck the hour all manner of parts came to life and performed for about 10 minutes

We also saw Dolly the sheep. It is quite a dark building outside but inside it is light and airy.

Two of us then decided to walk by the park which was beautifully green in contrast to our brown grassed areas and seeing a tour bus, we hopped on.  We took the front seat on the top deck and had an hour long guided tour of the city.

In the evening, after our meal, several of our party went to the Tattoo which was held in the Castle. It was a wonderful experience, absolutely enjoyed by all.

On Saturday, five of us went to see the Royal Yacht Britannia and again the experience was most enjoyable with coffee and tea, cake and scones on board.

There were a great many shows that you could go to see with street entertainment going on all the time everywhere you went.

Sunday, the only day it rained, we went to see “Shakespeare before breakfast”. You were given tea and coffee as you went in and a croissant with a napkin was on every chair. The play was based on “The Taming of the Shrew” and was called “The Taming of the Shoe”.  The man owned a shoe shop!!!  and there were references to Shakespeare all the way through.

In the afternoon two of us went to Mary King Close beneath the Royal Mile where we saw Edinburgh's hidden history frozen in time since the 17th century.  There are a maze of streets underneath the Royal Mile. We had a guide explaining things and in one room there were three large portraits that suddenly came to life and started talking and then to each other!!

The hotel was very good and very quiet and as far as I know everything went smoothly.  A lovely holiday.

Pam Hortin

Photos from Edinburgh

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Visit to The Watts Gallery at Compton, Surrey, July 27th 2018

Some months ago I passed by the Watts Village in Compton and decided it needed a more leisurely visit, so I was delighted to be part of the group that set out from St Albans on 27th July for a full day at the centre. The Watts Gallery Artists’ Village, to give it its full name, is a collection of Arts and Crafts buildings connected with the home and work of the Victorian portrait painter, George Frederic Watts OM, RA (1817 – 1904).

I started with a tour of their home, Limnerlease (limner being a word for painter and lease about their means of purchase), with an entertaining and very informative guide, who got us to understand the contemporary significance of his life, and that of his wife, the potter, Mary Watts and their relationship. It really was a case of de-mystifying the supposedly stuffy Victorians. This proved a marvellous introduction to his studio, with its pulley system for managing large canvases, and the other parts of the village. The Watts’s loved woodland, and the site and house are built within wooded, naturalistic grounds.

In the afternoon, I visited the Chapel which was designed and decorated by Mary Watts (1849-1938), and which, by the gasps from entering visitors, took away the breath of many of our group, including myself. It is small, round, and domed, and the decoration covers nearly the whole of the interior. It is full of symbolism and spirituality, embracing many different religious concepts. It was good to realise that Mary Watts had made sure that conditions for the workers in her pottery and the village were decent, at a time when this was not generally the case, and that she used the work of many villagers in the interior decoration, including teaching the village children to make the flower reliefs round the feet of the angels.

There is a modern gallery of Watts’ paintings, which show that he, too, campaigned against poverty and deprivation; he famously said ‘I paint ideas, not things’ There is also a gallery showing the de Morgan Collection, the work of their friends William and Evelyn de Morgan, and there was a very interesting temporary exhibition about the work of asylum inmate, James Henry Pullen.

It was a marvellous day out; it is fascinating and humbling to realise how little we know even of so many Victorians who acted to change the way we think (Mary Watts insistence on decent condition for the villagers), and who were so prominent in their time but verging on forgotten now (George Frederick Watts). The chapel was breathtaking, and had to be the work of a truly spiritual person, I can somehow still feel it in my minds eye. We had our work cut out to see all there was to see, but it was a hot day, and we were all grateful to return to our air-conditioned coach for the trip back to St Albans.

Lilian Goldberg

Photos of our visit

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