Revisiting Salutation Gardens, Sandwich

Although I’m slightly horrified to realise that it’s SIX YEARS since I first wrote about The Salutation Gardens in Sandwich, Kent, it was a pleasure to go back and see them in all their spring glory. Look at the tulips in the bottom corner…

Then, of course, they were called the Secret Gardens, but I guess now that their owners, Dominic and Stephanie Parker are now television stars, then it’s not so secret now.

Still lovely though, and surprisingly peaceful.

 

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And I still love how the house was first built by Edwin Lutyens in 1910 for three brothers who all had asthma. The story goes that it was deliberately built to be near the gas works because the fumes were then thought to be good for breathing! Here’s the poem I wrote at the time of my first visit…

Fresh Air
Sarah Salway

You’d be sure to notice the gasworks first,
worry how close the garden sits
until you learn this is why it was built,

three asthmatic brothers filling
their lungs with seasalt and gas fumes:
the latest thing in London, Lutyens
 
also. You imagine three garden chairs
lined up to face the smoking chimneys,
a sound of gasping like bad static

waiting to be tuned while, from over the sea
the smooth sounds of orchestras playing,
tea cups clinking in peaceful pre-war courtyards,

and so many farewells hang in the balance,
tears ready to mist on cheeks, and still
the brothers struggle to catch their breath.

And actually those tulips above are wasted, let’s have another closer look at them… hello there, beautiful! How many estates would you have cost back in the day?

You can find out about visiting times for the Salutation Gardens on the website by clicking here

A visit to The Library of the Birds of London

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The complete joy of hearing birdsong again is making up for a stop-start spring this year. And thinking about birds, I had a joyful visit to the Whitechapel Gallery in London last week, mostly to visit the giant aviary created by American artist, Mark Dion.

Only four visitors at a time are allowed in the aviary – well, four people and the twenty zebra finches who are temporarily living there. So you stand surrounded by birds completely ignoring you, going around their own business, pooing on books and making nests from the linings of hats…

And there’s something about how they absolutely don’t care they are an ‘art work’ that made me take time, to go slowly, to look again at all the artifacts around the aviary so very deliberately placed there. The books on cats, the bird books from all round the world, the photos of David Attenborough, all the exploring equipment, the amount of knowledge we  humans feel we need for such a simple thing as looking at birds…

I loved it, and thoroughly recommend a visit. It’s on until 13th May. It’s part of Mark Dion’s ongoing exploration of the relationship between nature and culture, and includes a reading room with hand-made wallpaper featuring extinct animals (I heard a granny explaining that loudly to her grandson), findings from mudlarks, and so much more.

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My favourite was finding out about the The Ladies’ Field Club of York. This was a previous exhibition for  the National Railway Museum in York, in which imaginary female amateur naturalists from the turn of the century set out on a field trip together.

Joy indeed. Here’s the artist talking about it…

Always the two sides….

On this rainy Easter weekend we went walking in Kent, and came across this lovely rural scene of a church being decorated for Easter Sunday and the start of spring…

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And then keen to investigate the one Commonwealth War Grave in the churchyard, I went round the back of the church. Here it is…

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But my attention was caught more by a bench placed directly against the back of the church…

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I’m always struck by the word ‘novelist’, so I investigated further, and found that Marjorie Bowen has written “150 volumes under half a dozen pseudonyms, and tackled larger-than-life subjects in historical dramas, supernatural tales and mournful gothic romances. Critics have long considered her storytelling to be clear-eyed and efficient, her detail and description masterful, her understanding of human nature filled with compassion and sorrow.” (taken from here). Her pseudonyms included Joseph Shearing, George R. Preedy, John Winch, Robert Paye, and Margaret Campbell. Her books have been described as ‘sinister gothic romances full of terror and mystery.’

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I’ve ordered one to read – of course I have! – but after admiring the view above and sitting on her bench to google her gothic writing history, she is apparently the ‘master of horror’ – it was particularly pleasing to go back round to the front and get a cheery goodbye wave and bright smile from the flower arrangers.

Shades of Wickerman, anyone???? Sometimes England really is a parody of itself.