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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Category Archives: Things I will come back for…

This morning I was surprised to find something I had not seen since my childhood.
A sight I only remember from early mornings after sleep-overs at my grandparents….

Everyone with central heating will probably not know what I am going on about.

Frozen florals...

Frozen florals…

Ice flowers…
or: IJsbloemen, as we call them in the Netherlands.

I haven’t found a similar name for it in the UK. Here it is simply called frost on the windows, or slightly more poetic ‘Frost ferns’.

Beautifully intricate crystal patterns are formed from the condensation, blooming gradually up onto the glass.. As the sun gently grew stronger, they slowly melted down onto the window sill…
The sight was so pretty I almost forgot how freezing my bedroom had gotten…
Brrrrrr and chattering of teeth.

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Viv and some mice... and a little ship.

Last week in London I was introduced to some delicious insanity.

Sir Henry at Rawlinson’s end.

There are simply too many incredible quotes that can be taken from this wonderful film.
It is made in sepia colours, so it looks much older than the 1980s.

For a foreigner this should be some compulsory viewing, doing away with the picturesque treacle words of Betjeman about the English countryside.
Many anglophiles dream off at the idea of the glowing hills and fluffy hedgerows, but will they get the joke of getting your tongue pierced by Cardigan’s lancers?
Not even mentioning the butler ‘Scrotum, the wrinkly retainer…’

If only I could play a round of scrabble with Viv Stanshall
May be teaming up with Stephen Fry?
Now wouldn’t that be a game!
(I am presently struggling with a Wordfeud addiction…)

Enjoy! (And special thanks Chris for opening my eyes a little wider!)

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The moving back staircases at West Dean...

I really have had a wonderful time at West Dean College last week.
I attended the second installment of the Building Conservation course, this time focusing on Architectural Metalwork.

I never knew it would be so much fun to learn about corrosion and cathodic protection… Playing with a blowtorch applying patina and hammering in the forge really made me re-appreciate the basic material facts of life.

The college is a magical place, somewhere between Hogwarts and New York City High School for the Performing Arts.
Some days there are Baroque appreciation classes chiming from the Music room, while the quilting ladies gather for tea in the dining hall in their colourful aprons.  All it really needs is an occasional flock of wispy giggling ballet girls streaming down the main staircase…

In the middle of all this excitement I was reading my email in the Oak Hall after breakfast, when Fraser sat down at the piano and played the following:

It really is true that gardens need birdsong

…and buildings need life and music.

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Guess where I am…

Here or there?

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Wet feet on the stairs...

After earlier negative posts on English plumbing I should now eat humble pie and pledge my eternal devotion to bathtubs…

Last week my course on Building Conservation at West Dean College started in earnest.
Apart from the actual course I really looked forward to spending more time at the house itself…

The house is a wonderful place to just be. It is the ideal space to learn (in all her studios), study (great library in the old billiards room, including a nook) and spend time with a large variation of creative and cultural types (especially at the cheap college bar!).
The wet footprints of Tilly Losch (the last lady of the house) woven into the carpet on the stairs are only one of the many eccentric touches that surprise you when wandering around.

But this time for me the largest attraction must have been the shared bathroom.
In it was the most enormous Edwardian Bath.

It is me...

It was the first time since I was a little girl that I actually could float full length in the tub.
And just to add to the experience the original fittings revealed a strange looking tap, with a sweet note on it:

But it is me, I am your plug!
If you turn me and drop me I will hold your water.
Lift me and twist me and I will GULP it!

Imagine this one steamy and filled with bubbles....

All of a sudden I remembered the incredible bath described in ‘The Bolter’, a freestanding green onyx monolith at Idina Sackville-West’s Kenyan house.
She made it part of the daily attractions of being her guest.  As part of the experience she would invite her guests to witness her bathe and dress before dinner…

Lying in that West Dean bath I could imagine how roaring the 20’s really must have been.

The tank...

Hahah, shows you the importance of actually experiencing old buildings and places for yourself.
Even if the National Trust now occasionally allows visitors to sit on their sofas, it will take a little more before we will be allowed to have a proper soak!

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Please note the returned boxes in/on the basket...


After letting rip on the eggnog yesterday I asked around where I could find some fresh eggs.

To my surprise the Dutch countryside has a new innovation!

The Egg Automat!
I am not kidding, the local farmer had had enough of selling his eggs for nothing to the supermarket chains, so he installed a small cabin at the side of the road. It is open all day and everyone far and wide has come to see this novelty.

Pick a number...

It is all very plain and simple:
1. You put in some coins, (€1 per box of 10),
2. Pick a number of the door with the right amount of boxes in it
and voila!
3. The little trap door opens and delivers your eggs.

Cheaper and fresher than any shop could supply.
(Supermarket eggs are generally around 3 weeks old, so these are really a whole different kind!)

It really does make all the difference.
Pity this farm is in the Dutch bible belt, so it is closed on Sundays!

(I am sorry I have to add this overly gay song. It has been stuck in my head, since I had a wonderful breakfast in Amsterdam some weeks ago. Eggs weren’t that good, but the company was.)


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