Splendid, large, mostly 14th century.
Must be really, really annoying to have worked your way up to the position of Admiral, sailed all over the Med and the Caribbean, supported both sides in the Civil War and somehow got away with it, fought the Dutch and even killed the commander of their fleet, become a member of parliament, been knighted, featured in Pepys's diary, and then after all that tourists only come and photograph your grave because you have the same name as your kid who got famous in America.
I found this photo, with the stamp of photographer J.Cecil Gould (of Weybridge) on the back, in the flea market in Brighton and, Googling around, found the same pair of Benin bronze leopards in a Royal Academy exhibition two years ago. They are now back in the national museum in Nigera. The altar piece in the centre is in The Fowler Museum in L.A. and the central plaque is in the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. They are Benin artefacts originally looted during the 1897 Benin expedition. This is almost certainly the house of George W. Neville, who lived at Wey Lea, Weybridge (see recent photo below). Photographer J. Cecil Gould was also situated in Weybridge, so that provides a tantalising link. Neville's collection was sold off in 1930 after his death and a specialist at the British Museum believes that the leopards, the two plaques and masks on the fire hood are described in the catalogue of this sale. George Neville accompanied the Benin expedition and later a Captain Shelford wrote about him returning with a remarkable collection of curiosities; ‘They are in his house to this day, and include ivory tusks, carved and plain, two magnificent bronze leopards’. I can see this photo is going to be entertaining me for months....
Thanks to Susan Kloman, Hermione Waterfield, Tim Teuten, David Noden and Bruno Claessens for taking an interest in this.
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The venue. Renamed after its current sponsor but I still think of it as the Millennium Dome. I last visited it when it was a shiny new rather eccentric white elephant of a previous government. It's faded a bit now, like me, and its neo-modernist forms are almost weather-beaten enough to pass as actual decayed 1960s modernism. There is a newer cable car over the Thames next to it, which has also proved a commercial white elephant. I couldn't resist it, of course. So, with a few hours to spare I crossed over industrial wastelands and the old Golden Syrup factory to what used to be docklands and is now a sterile, expensive housing estate, mostly devoid of people. It made me feel sad. An experiment in wealth attraction that has failed to attract anything other than wealth. I rode back over to the Dome in search of human life and found it heaving with 20,000 fellow Monty Python fans queuing for food and beer, and giant neo-Victorian Terry Gilliam sets. Yes! Then it began.....
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It's silly, I know, but I was browsing IMDB last night and discovered that John Neville died more than two years ago and I hadn't been aware of it, and I felt rather sad about this. He'll always be the Baron to me. A surprising number of the cast of Baron Munchausen are dead now. It seems only recently I was watching it at the cinema when it first came out but it was actually decades ago. Kid actress Sara Polley is the same age as my wife! I feel old.
I'm looking forward to seeing the surviving Pythons this summer before they all die too.
( Neville interview.... )
A fuzzy iPad photo of Jonathan Meades giving a talk about brutalist architecture to the Regency Society in the spectacular music room of Brighton Pavilion. For months Jon (jermynsavile) and I had been as excited about this as small children going to Disneyland. There was a tense moment when Jon's tickets failed to materialise but it all turned out well in the end and we sat there in our coats at the beginning grinning at each other like idiots. Like many Meades fans, his programmes are one of the few reasons I will ever tune into broadcast TV. To those of you unfamiliar with Meades, he has created a sort of Reservoir Dogs screen persona and delivers his programmes as verbal barrages which, oddly, despite the extremely visual subject matter, are more akin to radio than television. Somewhat slower and unedited in real life he was, if anything, even more bizarre. Tiny, irritable eyes embedded in that big flaccid face it soon became evident that he was going to deliver nothing less than, verbatim, the entire script of his last two TV episodes. Spontaneous and engaging are not qualities he's bothered to cultivate and I don't suppose he needs to either. After an hour and a half of this the charming chairman of the Regency Society hesitantly placed a note on Meades's lectern which, we gathered, read something along the lines of "Brighton City Council are going to turf us out of here at 9pm." Meades froze as if in terror, but more likely rage, and then, in stony silence, turned over the last five pages of his script like sheets of lead and wound up the lecture; an episode of comic drama which Jon reckons was worth the whole £10 ticket price. There was a brief Q&A session during which I asked him if there was a better name for brutalism and he shot back "chummy, matey concrete".
Meades didn't join us for wine afterwards in the fancy kitchen with its iron columns disguised as palm trees. His loss. I found that the Regency Society is made up mostly of immensely literate, witty conversational retired people and I will make an effort to meet them again I think.
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Another section of the ruin of the West Pier got washed away by the storm yesterday. I went to have a look today. Some people in Brighton are quite sad about this, which is quite touching when you consider that the pier barely exists at all now. They don't want their ruin ruined even more. I felt a little envious that I'm stuck in a small town inland and wasn't able to watch, free of charge, this titanic struggle betwixt nature and a great big chunk of pseudo-oriental Victorian marine engineering.