Mary Poppins

I’ve seen a great many shows in my time, but I must say the performance at the Prince Edward theatre in London last week was the best ever. We went to London on the Phyllis Court coach – a great way to go. No parking problems or having to walk a long way to the theatre. We were dropped almost outside the door. Because of the early start my young friend made a lovely picnic meal to eat on the way (no smelly food). Most people did the same thing, with bottles of wine popping open everywhere on the coach. This is the view from our seats before the show started.

Wonderful sets, incredible lighting, brilliant dancing and music. And the magic effects were stupendous. To see Bert, the chimney sweep, walk all the way up the side of the stage till he reached the ceiling, and then walk upside down along the roof of the stage, and finally back down to the floor on the other side. Amazing. Then Mary Poppins flew through the air right up to the balcony and disappeared from view. Here are a couple of scenes from the show.

The chimney sweeps routines were like watching a fast moving ballet.

Last Sunday we visited Basildon Park – an impressive Georgian Mansion near Goring-on-Thames.

The mansion was rescued from probable ruin in the 1950’s by Lord and Lady Iliffe. Basildon Park was originally built in 1776-83 by John Carr of York for Francis Sykes who made a fortune in service with the East India Company. However the house stood empty and neglected in the first half of the 20th century till it was bought and restored by Lord and Lady Iliffe. Here are a few photographs I took of the interior of the house.

The last is a one of a series of drawings by David Sutherland for his Coventry Cathedral tapestry.

I’ve been very busy this year painting miniature portraits – so far have done five. This one I call ‘Sooty and the Sweep’ and is of Kevin Giddings, the Royal Flueologist.

It’s considered lucky for a chimney sweep to be present at a wedding. Kevin, for example, blacks his face with soot and takes an old fashioned wooden Victorian chimney brush with him. In this portrait his cat Sooty perches on his shoulder and remains there all the time he is at the wedding.

Here’s another one. It’s of the famous (and sadly now deceased) comedian and writer – Spike Milligan

I remember when I first met Spike to paint his portrait. Not wanting to be late I arrived at his London house about 20 minutes early and rang the bell. An angry Spike Milligan opened the door with the words “It’s just as rude to be early as it is to be late!” He pointed to a chair just inside the front door and said “Sit there” I felt mortified, but at the appointed hour he came down and was great for the rest of the day while I sketched, painted and photographed him. Later on that day he told me that he had just sold the house to a Japanese family as he and his family were moving down to Sussex “and they don’t know it yet but on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor the house is set to blow up!”

We went to see my friend Joanne on her 90th birthday yesterday in Bampton yesterday afternoon.

Joanne’s son Christopher, daughter Nicola, and granddaughter Megan had come over from the USA were there together with a number of neighbours. Joanne is amazing. She looks twenty years younger than her age and is bright as a button. I first met Joanne and her husband Chris 50 years ago in Singapore when he was, I believe, Wing Commander in the Royal Airforce. This is Joanne’s garden in another season.

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