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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Tag Archives: west dean

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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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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