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Holiday in Hampstead 2019Sue Kirby and others
There are many good reasons to stay in Hampstead in August – it’s quieter for one thing as lots of people are away. And I am adding ‘Holiday in Hampstead’ to my personal list. This year was the fifth organised by Hampstead Parish Church.
Each day started at the civilised hour of 11am with coffee or tea and delicious homemade biscuits. I arrived in plenty of time to read the newspapers and help with the jigsaw (Handley Stevens has to take most of the credit for completing it). To get us started Sue Kwok then took some of us through some gentle chair-based exercises. On most days this was followed by a literary half hour; on Monday, John Willmer, and friends presented poetry and prose on the theme of Rivers and Waterways. I particularly enjoyed William Wordsworth’s ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, which shows that this enthusiast for the countryside could also appreciate an urban landscape, and U.A. Fanthorpe’s ‘Rising Damp’ on the hidden rivers of London. And it is always delightful to hear how Mole met Ratty in ‘The Wind in the Willows’.
It was standing room only for the two lectures on Monday. Geoff White, an investigative journalist, spoke on ‘Cybercrime: how it works and how to protect yourself’. Online crime now accounts for 50% of all crime. Geoff used a case study from his time with Channel 4 and explained the age-old psychological tricks used to build the trust of potential victim. If in doubt never open an attachment or click on a link in an e-mail. Instead, delete the e-mail or send it on to your bank or to Action Fraud. As Jeremy put it, “Carry on NOT clicking”. After lunch our curate, Ayla Lepine, gave a presentation on ‘Edward Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelite Ideal of Beauty’. These artists have not always been held in the high regard that they are today. Ayla showed a selection of Burne-Jones’s work and that of others, members or associates of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood from murals at William and Jane Morris’s home (1859-62) to the Kelmscott Chaucer (William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, 1896). And for all those wanting to witness the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of beauty for themselves Ayla recommends visits to The Red House, Bexley Heath (run by the National Trust) and to Birmingham, where Burne-Jones was born, for the Art Gallery and the Cathedral which has amazing examples of his stained glass.
On Tuesday morning Stephen Clarke and friends entertained us with poetry and prose entitled, ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’ which was followed by Mark Nevard’s talk; ‘It’s not perfect, thank goodness!’ in which he explained the importance of using the possessions we value rather than just keeping them safe for future generations, and in the afternoon we had a highly entertaining talk from Stephen Tucker: ‘More astonishment! Ballet Russes and modernism’ which followed on from last year, with numerous musical examples.
The speaker on Wednesday morning was Nick Scudamore, a lecturer in film theory and history, who gave a talk illustrated with film entitled ‘Redemptive moments in film’. His first example was ’The Passion of Joan of Arc’ directed by Carl Deyer (France:1928). Shot mainly in extreme close-up, the dialogue is taken from transcripts of the 1430 trial. Gazing heavenwards, Joan refuses to be bullied into signing a confession of heresy. The second extract from the 1954 movie, ‘Sound of the Mountain’, features the actress Setsuko Hara as a woman who has made the difficult decision to divorce her adulterous and spendthrift husband. She is very upset as she informs her father-in-law but there is a sense that she can now speak in her true voice. Finally, in ‘Still Alice’ (USA:2014), the story of a professor, Alice Howland, struck down with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, there is a moment of hope and connection as her actress daughter recites the last lines of Tony Kushner’s famous play, ‘Angels in America’.
Following a light lunch, we moved to Henderson Court for ‘Tea at the Ritz’ with singing and even a bit of dancing. There was a good turn-out from residents, staff and some young helpers. Members of the community choir led us through some old-time favourite including ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’, ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’ and ‘Cheek to Cheek’ ably accompanied by David Moore on the piano. His lively introductions show that his time as a cocktail pianist was not wasted. And many cups of tea, sandwiches and cakes were consumed.
On Thursday Moragh Gee and friends transported us ‘Somewhere Else’ in their Literary Half Hour, followed by Anthony Gooch asking us ‘Australia; what do you know about it?’ and going on to tell us what he had learnt during a recent visit. In the afternoon we were lucky enough to be entertained by the Magnard Quintet who, fortuitously, had been rehearsing in church that day. Afterwards our vicar, Jeremy Fletcher, sang and played us a memorable selection of tunes on his guitar before we all walked over to the vicarage garden where Julia Fletcher explained some of the changes they had made to the garden since moving in 2 years ago.
Friday morning opened with Margaret Willmer’s compilation of words and images inspired by Iona. Trainee priest Paul Gurnham who turned his hand to many tasks during the week, joined the regular performers. Many in the audience will have been inspired to visit the island of St Columba themselves despite John Keats’ difficult journey to get there, telling his brother in a letter of “a most wretched walk across Mull”. I especially enjoyed a poem ‘The Marble Quarry’ by Robert Crawford (born 1959) describing a visit by a father and son and then by the son and his son.
Jean Harrison has been visiting and studying Egypt for many years and gave a fascinating talk on Daily life in Set Maat ‘the place of truth’, an artisans’ village that was occupied for 500 years (1550 – 1080 BCE). These were highly skilled craftworkers who built the tombs for the pharaohs so they made sure they had wonderful tombs themselves. Of the many items perfectly preserved in the dry atmosphere of the tomb, I was particularly intrigued by the laundry marks still visible on the linen. Jean also explained how sherds of pottery or flakes of stone were recycled to provide surfaces for drawing and writing. These ‘ostraka’ were used for messages, spells, prescriptions, receipts, student exercises and as teaching aids. Lots of men, women and children in this village could read and write. In the afternoon Jeremy Fletcher posed the question ‘To be a Pilgrim: what did John Bunyan think he was doing?’ and went on to explain how Bunyan came to write what has become one of the most well-known and widely read stories in the world. The week was brought to a close with a short service of thanksgiving led by Jeremy.
Diana Finning, Sue Kwok and Rosemary Lloyd carried out a lot of the planning and were joined by a large team for the week to ensure all went smoothly, whether the fantastic catering in the kitchen, setting up the furniture or the provision of technical support for the speakers. On behalf of all who participated in ‘Holiday in Hampstead’, I offer a very big ‘thank you’ to all the organisers, helpers, speakers and performers.
And a partridge in a pear tree….
but if you wonder what goes into putting Holiday in Hampstead on…..
1 jigsaw, 1 cup of decaf, I quintet, 1 Tea at the Ritz, 1 guitar and
1 Community Choir
3 magazine, 3 film clips
5 loaves of sandwiches
6 bottles of sherry
8 bottles of elderflower and apple juice
10 dish cloths bleached
12 packets of ground coffee
25 green aprons
40 drying up cloths
120 cups of tea
175 lunches, 175 plates to wash, 175 glasses, 175 recycled paper cups and 175 folded napkins Print This Page