Another Trip to Merrie England: Part 4: Three Museums in London

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[Note: I have intermingled in this blogpost a few photos from the Intertubes amongst the photos that Randy or I took.]

After our maddeningly brief (and somewhat exhausting if also exhilarating) two days in Oxford, we boarded a train to London and made our way to our final AirBnB, which we’d selected because it was a 20-minute walk to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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Something I particularly wanted to see at the V&A was the visitors’ tea room designed by William Morris. It was smaller than I expected, but there were two other highly-decorated tea rooms to eat (or have hot chocolate) in, and I welcomed the chance to sit down in such atmospheric environments!

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We had planned to spend all our time in London doing (only) multiple visits to the  vast V&A, but we got quickly overwhelmed, despite the fact that we’d both visited this museum before, and despite our resolve to be highly selective in which collections we chose to browse (either together or separately). So after our first, extended foray to the V&A, we aborted our initial plan and decided to spend our remaining time in London visiting other museums.

The museum I most wanted to re-visit, and to show to Randy, was the Sir John Soane House Museum. Alas, after a very long cab ride across town to get there, we found the museum was closed on the days we happened to be in London.

Quickly reverting to Plan B, we decided to seek out Polock’s Toy Museum that Randy especially wanted to see after reading about it in one of our London guidebooks. We took a LOT of photos in this ramshackling labyrinth of antique wonders:

London Toy Musuem from Internet

London Toy Museum interior 2 from Internet

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Our other Plan B museum visit was to London’s Natural History Museum, located next door to the V&A and one of my favorite buildings in London.

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Natural History Museum from Internet

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We also made a pit stops in the British Library’s “Treasures of the Library” permanent exhibit, and gaped briefly at the lobby and stairways of the St. Pancreas Hotel next door to the Library.

St Pamcreas Hotel staircase from Internet

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The weather was nice enough for us to sit and rest awhile in Russell Square Park after we merely breezed through the atrium of the British Museum, determined not to get distracted, on this trip, by that particular museum’s acres of architectural and archeological wonders.

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The night before our flight back to the US, we treated ourselves to a showing of the movie Downton Abbey, which was playing at a cinema not too distant from our AirBnB.  The movie was as entertaining as we’d hoped, and it was nice to sit down for a couple of hours after all the walking to, from, and around all those museums!

Takeaways from This Latest Trip to England

  • I am so glad to have convinced some friends to share the expense of a canal boat-rental with us, so I could travel that particular way again. I am trying to accept the notion that I may have made my final canal-boating group trip.  Perhaps not, but at least I managed to undertake – and with several different groups of friends – this unusual and relaxing type of traveling more than once.
  • I probably won’t be visiting the Cotswolds again. Rather than see some of the towns I missed this past trip (and the trip before that), I think I actually want to live  (for a time) in the Cotswolds. When you’re only there for a short time, it’s difficult to fully absorb the uniqueness of each town, and to have the leisure one needs to completely soak up the wonderful atmosphere of the scenery and the architecture.  Also, and perhaps inevitably, road-tripping through multiple villages (in the Cotswolds or anywhere else) results in the villages starting to resemble each other, which is totally not the case: obviously, I just need the luxury of spending more time in each town. However, because there are so many other lovely areas of the British Isles I’d like to see (or re-visit) – not to mention all the places  in Europe outside of England I’d like to visit (or revisit)  –  yet another visit to the Cotswolds (or, for that matter, to Oxford or to Stratford or to Hay-on-Wye) is, at age 71, unlikely to happen. Mind you, London is another story altogether: I could never visit London “too many times.” It will continue to be a travel fantasy magnet for Calvin, despite the allure of other, yet-unvisited European capitals.
  • September might be the ideal month, weather-wise and minimum-tourist-crowd-wise, to visit England. We had sunshine and comfortable temperatures throughout our trip. True, there was a single, brief, and formidable deluge our very last afternoon in London, but I was comfortable all the rest of our time there.
  • The trip to England wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be – in fact, it cost less (per day) than many of my previous trans-Atlantic adventures.  (My calculations, however, did not include the cost of paying for the damage I did to our rental car during the final hour (!!!) we rented it. After an entire week of zero car-related problems, Calvin managed to severely scrape and dent the car while trying to back out of a walled driveway on the dead-end street where our Oxford AirBnB was located.  Fortunately, Randy had talked me into buying the optional extra insurance on the car: otherwise, the cost of the damage would’ve been in the thousands of dollars instead of the $126 deductible I had to fork over.)
  • Taxicabs. I am now a fan – at least when I’m in London (especially only for a few days), and maybe in certain other cities as well. London for sure, because the fares are (considering the time and energy they save you) amazing bargains, and because hailing one is so easy. In all my dozens of previous trips, I avoided taking taxis; this is a travel rule of mine that I hereby eliminate from my considerably voluminous Travel Rule Book!
  • I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s time to start planning fewer trips abroad and planning more road trips in the United States, simply because the destinations will involve less air travel, which is hardly the adventure that flying abroad used to be, when transatlantic airplane travel was less expensive and airline seating provided more leg-room.

Randy, being my ideal travel partner, will, of course, have a say about wherever in Europe – or elsewhere – we’ll be visiting.  Unlike me, Randy prefers visiting places he’s not yet seen to spending time and money re-visiting places he particularly enjoyed.

We shall see. Perhaps my longing to see (or re-visit) more of England and Europe – and more of England in particular – will eventually return in full force, like it has before? Wherever we decide to travel to next, traveling anywhere with Randy is a joy and I look forward to more travel adventures with him. We’ve already planned our next trip – a week-long road trip to Arkansas –  and we aren’t even waiting until 2020 to do it!

 

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Another Trip to Merrie England! Part 3: A Couple of Days in Oxford

After driving out of the Cotswolds and dropping off our rental car in Oxford, we checked into the  AirBnB where we’d be staying for the next two days and nights.

The fact that we could walk from our room into town in only 20 minutes more than compensated for the room’s total lack of charm. I also knew that wandering around – even for a mere two days – in this breathtakingly gorgeous town itself would completely obliterate any disappointment in our tiny, sterile AirBnB.

Even before my first visit to Oxford decades ago, I had envied any student who was lucky enough to spend four or more years in this ancient city with its glorious, mostly Gothic architecture. Randy had not visited Oxford on his previous trips to England, so I was thrilled to be able to be with him as we explored what little of it we could in the time we had there.

We threw down our suitcases and immediately walked into town to tour the courtyards and interiors of the three (alas, only three!) colleges we’d selected to take a gander at. Each of them was suitably inspiring (as you will see if you click if you click on these hyperlinks – these images from the Internet, like the photo at the top of this blogpost and the photos below of the university’s Sheldonian Theatre  –  are much better than the few photos we took ourselves):

Meandering through the courtyards, gardens, and interior spaces (especially the chapels, cloisters, and dining halls) of these magnificent Gothic spaces was an Anglophile’s dream.

I had decided before we arrived that I’d wanted to spend as much time exploring the lively and architecturally delightful town of Oxford as we spent inside the university. 

I was especially keen that Randy see the Oxford’s covered market. 

Also, despite the unfortunate time constraints of our visit, we also wanted to see at least a few of Oxford’s many famous museums.

Oxford’s amazing natural history museum was certainly worth the walk to get there (especially since the walk was through such charming streets).

The natural history museum happens to house another amazing museum inside:  a labyrinth of glass cases housing every conceivable category of curiosities from around the world – from models of Chinese temples to shrunken heads to shelves of African woven baskets.

We also toured another museum, devoted to the history of science, or, rather, to the display of various historic scientific instruments (one of the many interests Randy and I happen to share):

One of the places in Oxford where we got to sit down and rest was Oxford’s oldest pub, where we had supper our first night in town.

Our final night in Oxford we attended an orchestral concert in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre, where the university’s formal events (graduations, etc.) are conducted.

The concert was staged to mark this year’s United Nations International Day of Peace and the performers were drawn from orchestras all over Europe. It was the most impeccably-performed live orchestral concert I’ve ever heard, and the commentary by representatives of various refugee organizations was quite moving.

Wonderful town, Oxford! Certainly worth visiting, certainly worth re-visiting. It was fun just imagining, for a few days, spending several years (as a college student, say) in such a magical place.

Next post: the final leg of our 2019 trip to England, a couple of days visiting three museums in London.

 

 

Another Trip to Merrie England! Part 2: A Week in the Cotswolds

After parting ways with Charles and Thomas at the end of our week on the Oxford Canal, Randy and I rented a car and headed for the tiny town we’d decided to base ourselves in during our week exploring one of my favorite sections of England, the Cotswolds.

In researching various towns to base ourselves in for this second week of this year’s trip to England, we chose the village of Blockley, near Chipping Camden, as the place to head out from and return to each day. Blockley turned out to be an excellent choice.

Blockley is architecturally and historically interesting,  is (compared to other potential bases, and despite the fact that the BBC television series Father Brown was filmed here) not overrun with tourists, features some handy amenities (a good pub, a local grocery), and was fairly convenient to many of the other towns we wanted to see.

We  used AirBnB to select our cottage rental in Blockley, and couln’t’ve been more pleased with what we found: a three-story townhouse in a restored mill with easy parking and cozy (but modernized) interiors. Here are some photos of the place, and what we could see from our windows:

We spent the following week doing various day trips from Blockley, trying to see as many of the Cotwolds villages as we could conveniently pass through or stop in without trying to do too much on any single day. I’d arrived hoping (unrealistically, I know) to at least drive through a total of fifty (!) particular Cotswolds towns or villages.

We managed to stop and see – or at least drive through – a mere seventeen of them.  Traveler, beware: you’re going to need a lot more than a week to see the Cotswolds! Even if you were to visit only The 50 Places in the Cotswolds Calvin Deems (Based on His Extensive Research) Most Worth Seeing, you’d probably need a month, rather than a week!

A few of these places I’d seen on a previous road trip to the Cotswolds many decades ago. But, charmed by the countryside studded with dozens of quaint, limestone-bulit “willages,”  I wanted to see these places again, and to see them with Randy. The seventeen places we did manage to visit, in a total of four days, were  (listed here in alphabetical order, with our favorite faves displayed in bold type):

Since we spent a  total of only four days roaming around, some of these places we merely drove through, rather than exploring on foot. But whether or not we had the time and energy to get out of our car and wander around and/or have a snack or a meal in any given town, I was in Architectural Heaven pretty much the entire week.

Now, scroll back up to the list of towns and click on the hyperlinks for any of these towns to see dozens of other people’s photos of these quaint “willages.” Come on: you know you want to see how better photographers than us managed to capture the stunning visual appeal of these towns, yes? 

Just as wonderful as the towns we saw were swaths of the glorious Cotswolds countryside.

A Note on the Weather

The amazing luck with the weather we’d had during our week on the canal before heading to the Cotswolds continued for the entire week afterwards.  Gorgeous, sunlit days – I never wore any of the long-sleeve shirts I’d brought along in my suitcase.

A Few  Sightseeing Highlights

Mind you, we didn’t see any un-beautiful Cotswolds villages, but we definitely enjoyed some places more than others.

After poking around Blockley the first day after we drove into the Cotswolds, one of our earliest forays was to Stow-on-the-Wold, where we did quite a bit of window-shopping and whose wonderful church we visited.

Another popular-with-tourists towns we spent considerable time in was  Bourton-on-the-Water.

One of the tourist sites in Bourton is a definitely-worth-visiting miniature version of the village that visitors walk through and marvel at:

On the day we visited Broadway, the village was having a food festival in the middle of town.

Two other places we lingered longer than many others – especially in their churches – were “the two Slaughters”:

Upper Slaughter:

Lower Slaughter:

One of the many spectacular churches we peeked into along our journeys through the Cotswolds was the church in Northleach:

A couple of the towns we visited (or re-visited) on their weekly Market Day. One of those was the market day in  Morton-in-Marsh.

One of my personal favorite Cotswolds towns is Illmington (near Stratford), where on my previous trip to the Cotswolds I’d rented a cottage for a week. Randy was agreeable to our returning there to see if I could find that cottage again. Reader, we found it!

We spent a lovely afternoon wandering around the ancient church across the street from the cottage, and in the church graveyard we struck up an extended conversation with a woman who lives in the town. The more we talked, the more convinced I became that I had met her husband (a former pilot) my first time in Illmington all those years ago.

After poking around the church, we circumnavigated a nearby pond I had remembered often and vividly throughout the years since my first visit to Illmington. (The image of this pond, has, since the morning all those years ago when I first stumbled upon it, been my “go-to” mental image that I use whenever I need to call to mind A Place of Total Serenity. If I had my druthers, this pond in Illmington – now, alas, surrounded by a fence to keep in the sheep who now graze its shores – is where I imagine I’d like to have my ashes scattered after I die.)

A highlight of the Cotwolds adventure for Randy, who enjoys visiting prehistoric sites wherever he travels, was our brief stop alongside a busy to take a gander at the Rollwright Stones:

The place in the Cotswolds where we spent the most time  – or at least where we took the most photos – was Snowshill Manor, in the picture-perfect village of Snowshill.

Snowshill Manor is a National Trust property. The extensive house and grounds are spectacular, and took most of a day to tour. Randy took a LOT of photos there, especially of the fraction of the 22,000 items currently on display inside the house. (You can read about the guy who collected all this stuff here.)

Wade also collected costumes, some of which the Trust allows visitors to try on, which of course Randy proceeded to do:

The sheer amount and variety of stuff we saw during the tour of the manor – a mere fraction of everything Wade collected during his lifetime – was stupefying.  But so worth our visit – and worth all the walking involved, as the estate is enormous.

Wade filled the manor house with his treasures, and entertained his friends there, but he actually lived in a tiny outbuilding next to the manor house. The innards of Wade’s private domain were  as astonishing as the interiors of the main house:

Venturing Outside the Cotswolds

In addition to our wanderings around the Cotswolds, Randy and I spent two days on journeys slightly outside the official borders of the area. One day we drove up to Stratford-upon-Avon to meet up with our Gay Spirit Visions friend Brad Pitts, and another day we ventured out of England and into Wales to the town of Hay-on-Wye.

Brad lives with his partner Andrew in Wolverhampton, but he was willing to meet us in Stratford for a leisurely walk through the town center, where we stopped for lunch at a historic pub, strolled along the Avon to Trinity Church (where Shakespeare is buried), and then a couple of hours touring Stratford’s unusual (and unexpectedly located ) Mechanical and Art Design Museum.

Hay-on-Wye became part of our 2019 trip to England because, as a longtime book-lover (and as a retired librarian) I’d long wanted to see it. Dozens – dozens! – of the buildings in this hilly town in Wales have been converted into second-hand bookstores! The day we spent in the unexpectedly picturesque Hay was one of the highlights of our trip.

We stayed a bit longer in Hay than we’d planned to, so we could catch the final performance of a local traveling circus that one of the bookstore clerks had mentioned to us. The circus troupe was definitely an extended family affair (the performers also staffed the ticket booth, the cotton candy booth, and the snack stand). The charming circus acts featured zero animals – the acts were mostly things like magic tricks, acrobatics, knife-throwing, and rope-twirling. With, of course, the obligatory pantomiming clowns.

Back in Blockley after our long foray into and back out of Wales,  we drove to one final sight in the Cotswolds before heading to Oxford to drop off our car. We spent our final morning at Broadway Tower, a multi-storied stone folly that overlooks a beautiful swath of the Cotswolds and where our design hero William Morris (among many others) spent time as a frequent visitor. (One level of the tower is devoted to All Things Morris – including a video of a movie based on Morris’ his life that I spent many minutes watching – which turned out to be A Good Thing, as the main Morris-related site in the Cotswolds, Kelmscott Manor, is closed for renovations.)

 

The Food

After being pleased with the pubs we’d sampled along the canal the week before, we continued to have great luck with the pubs we sampled in our week in the Cotswolds.  A few examples:

Note to self for future reference: Just in case I ever get to return to the Cotswolds to see the places I’d liked to have seen this trip but didn’t, the Reputedly Fabulous but Still Unvisited-by-Cal Towns I’d still love to visit (based on the research I did before our trip) are (in alpha order):

  • Barnsley
  • Blandon
  • Broadwell
  • Burford
  • Broadwell
  • Castle Combe
  • Cheltenham
  • Chipping Norton
  • Cirencester
  • Colm St. Aldwyns
  • Cricklade
  • Eastleach
  • Fairford
  • Great Tew
  • Guiting Power
  • Hidcote Batrin
  • Lacock
  • Lechlade
  • Little Barrington
  • Long Compton
  • Malmsbury
  • Mickelton
  • Naunton
  • Painswick
  • Sapperton
  • Stanway
  • Swinbrook
  • Tetbury
  • Upper Oddington
  • Winchcombe
  • Whitney

[Note about these photos: a few of them I snatched from ye Internet, including the photo at the top of the blog. The others were taken by me, by Randy, or by Brad.]

Under construction: some photos and comments about the final leg of our trip, a couple of days in Oxford, followed by visits to three museums in London.

 

 

Another Trip to Merrie England! Part 1: One Week on a Canal

[The photos in this blogpost are a mixture of the ones taken by the four of us on the trip. The hyperlinks at various places noted in the blogpost will, if you click on them, produce Internet photos that other people took when they visited those places.]

England is one of the places overseas that I never seem to tire of returning to. (The other countries in  Europe that I’ve been to more than once are Italy and France. And at some point, I’d love to add Greece to that list, having been there only once, way back in 1983.)

This most recent trip to England was originally planned for 2018, but by that time I’d met Randy and he preferred that we head to Spain for our first trip after the 2017 trip to Italy where I’d reconnected with him. So with us going to Spain last year, we rescheduled our trip to England for 2019.

The main reason I wanted to return to England was to more thoroughly explore my favorite region there, the Cotswolds. But I also had been hoping to convince a few other people to join with us to spend at least a week renting a narrowboat on one of England’s canals.

I had a wonderful time doing that with Kris, Nancy, and Roger in 2012. Two years later,  in 2014,  Kris, Nancy, Royce, Martha, Robert, and Randall rented another boat for a trip through a canal in southern France. And two years after that, in 2016,  the same group of friends did another group boat rental together, this time spending a week cruising down Ireland’s Shannon River. Clearly, I must love “messing around in boats.”

When my friend Charles and his boyfriend Thomas agreed to do the narrowboat part of our 2019 trip with  Randy and me, we added a week on the Oxford Canal onto our plans to for a week or so exploring the Cotswolds, and we also tacked on a few days at the end of our trip to see a few carefully selected sites in Oxford and London.

We chose the Oxford Canal because it featured combined lots of rural scenery (vs. lots of towns) and involves fewer locks than are part of the Llangollen Canal that I’d done with Kris, Nancy, and Roger.

Although our original plan was to cruise from Napton all the way to Oxford, we ended up going only about half that distance. We curtailed our original plans to cover the entire southern part of the canal so that we didn’t spend too much time each day driving the boat (which was one of my regrets about the otherwise fabulous Llangollen trip).  We rented a car to get us from Heathrow Airport to Napton, where the narrowboat marina is located, and traveled as far south as Banbury before returning to Napton.

The six-person-holding Charlotte was the boat the four of us rented from Napton Narrowboats

Here’s the bedroom inside the narrowboat that Randy and I slept in; each of the two bedrooms had a kingsize bed folded down each night, and another two people could’ve slept in the galley kitchen). The boat also featured two bathrooms, each with its own shower.

The canal was certainly as scenic as it is advertised to be, and the weather could not have been better – no rain the entire week (September 7-14), except once in the middle of the night when we were moored along the shore and snug in our beds.

The scenery along the canal was  appealingly serene, and spectacular in places

The canal’s edges featured an often-surprising variety of flora and fauna:

Some of the scenery along the canal was edible! There were delicious blackberries to enjoy at dozens of places along the towpath, and here’s a photo of Randy munching on one of the apples he plucked along the way:

Our gliding through the countryside (at the leisurely rate of 4 miles per hour) was punctuated by numerous (but not TOO numerous) locks. Although we all took turns steering the boat, Randy did most of the navigating in and out of the locks, with Charles, Thomas, and me hopping off to open and close them.

There were also plenty of bridges (of various sorts) to steer our way through:

We stopped for the night at several villages and towns along the way (and in some cases, again on the way back). Cropredy was probably our favorite of the smaller villages:

You can find other people’s photos of Cropedy here.

We also liked Lower Shuckburgh:

You can find other people’s photos of Lower Shuckburgh here.

The largest town along our route was Banbury, located almost at the geographic center of England (and thus the site of much history, especially during the English civil war). We found exploring the town so interesting that we moored in Banbury for two nights.

You can find other people’s photos of Banbury here.

Although we ate some of our meals (usually breakfast) on the boat . . .

We also stopped to eat at various pubs alongside the canal. The food was invariably interesting, as were the pubs themselves.

After turning around the boat just south of Banbury, we headed back to Napton and returned our boat to the marina, at which point we rented a cab to take us to the train station in Leamington Spa, where Charles and Thomas caught a train to London for a couple days there; Randy and I rented a car for phase two of our trip to England,  a week exploring the villages and countryside of the Cotswolds . (My blogpost about the second week of our trip is under construction.)

 

This.

QUESTIONNAIRE

How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy

In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

–Wendell Berry

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, tree, plant, outdoor, closeup and nature

Places to Sit

Ladder-back chair

The best single piece of advice I ever read about what to do when one moves from one abode to another: make sure you’ve got a chair to sit in before you start unpacking all those boxes!

Once one has recovered from the stress of moving house, I think chairs also play a key role in achieving Domestic Bliss. And the more chairs you have room for, the better.

Alas, my tiny (1100+ square foot) abode limits the number of places to sit and read or to work on different sorts of projects.

Still, I have managed over the 25 years I’ve lived here in Atlanta’s Candler Park to carve out several different perches to suit my various moods and purposes.

For many years, my Default Reading Nook was not actually a nook, just the end of one of my living room loveseats in front of the fireplace.

Living Room - sofa seat

With a book-storing tea trolley nearby and a flexible clip-on reading light that I discovered at IKEA (and which I subsequently installed at virtually all my reading perches, and often give as gifts to my aging friends and family members), this is where I’ve read most of the books I’ve enjoyed over the past two-and-a-half decades. Especially the books I read during the winter months, when I enjoy lighting a fire in the fireplace. So cozy!

Immediately behind that loveseat is a corner window where I keep a table and chair.

Living room window table

The table is a loaner from a former librarian colleague who was storing it for a friend of hers; since that colleague has moved out of Georgia, I might have become the table’s permanent owner. The Windsor-style chair (like most chairs I own) I found at a yard sale. I often eat lunch there, especially when the leaves have turned Candler Park into a wonderland of color.

Like most other surfaces I initially resolved to keep clear so I didn’t have to move anything to use them, this table, tends to fill up with Objects That Indeed Must Be Moved before I can sit down to, say, have lunch there in front of that window. At the moment, the top of this table is the home of a collection of man-made lizards that gets added to every year on March 9th. (A story for another blogpost someday.) At least I eventually figured out that storing all the lizards on a tray would make it easier to clear the table for lunch!

Tray of lizards

As soon as I had the screen porch adjoining the living room glassed in to create a sunroom for my indoor plants, I knew I’d want a place out there to sit down in and read (or, occasionally, meditate). For many years, I had a set of rattan furniture in this room. When a yard sale yielded a really comfortable wooden glider that I didn’t hate the look of and that I could wedge into a corner of the room, I transferred the rattan sofa and chairs to the garden shed and, voila! – an even more comfy reading nook in the sunroom – again, equipped with a trusty IKEA reading light.

sunporch chair #1

After Randy entered my life a couple years ago, I wanted to reconfigure the room so we could both sit out there together. Fortunately, I serendipitously scored, at yet another yard sale, a second wooden glider, also painted white. So – yay! – mission accomplished.

sunporch - chair #2

Thinking it would be useful to dedicate a light-filled sunroom surface to my calligraphy hobby, another trip to IKEA produced (after the obligatory ordeal of assembling it) a sleek, white glass-top desk that also (after exporting something else, of course) fit into the sunroom.

sunporch desk

Regrettably, not much calligraphy gets done at this table, especially since I moved into my study all my calligraphy paraphernalia.  So I decided to re-dedicate this surface as The Place Where I Handle My Mom’s Financial Affairs. (Underneath and directly to the right of the table are the basket and filing cabinets where I’ve been storing her files since my mom moved over two years ago to a senior living facility almost three years ago.)

Despite all these pleasant places to sit in the living room and on the sun porch, the room where I spend most of my waking hours is my study, where my computer is. (I’m one of the few Americans who hasn’t yet purchased a laptop; my computer screen-staring takes place in front of a decidedly non-portable desktop machine that I keep inside the large rolltop desk that I bought shortly after buying the house in 1993.)

For most of the 25 years that I’ve lived in Candler Park, I had kept that desk in my bedroom. When Larry moved out 20 years ago, I was able to move my bedroom furniture (including a rocking chair: every bedroom should have at least one chair!) into Larry’s former (and smaller) bedroom . . .

Former bedroom

. . . and to transform my former bedroom into a study:

Former study

Two months ago, however, I decided to switch these two rooms, so Randy and I could enjoy the light-filled larger room with its window overlooking the patio. That switch involved dragging into the small bedroom all my study furniture (except for the small rolltop desk, which I just couldn’t wedge into it). So here’s where I currently spend the majority of my time:

Study - rolltop desk

There are now two additional perches/workspaces in my study:

Study - drafting table

study - most recently purchased desk

The other rooms in my house also have places to sit down, including the guest room:

Guest room perch

. . . and even the kitchen:

kitchen chair

And of course there’s always the dining room table that I can convert to a working surface or a place to read. I’ve owned a series of dining room tables before finding the one I use now; it took many more years after buying the table to find comfortable chairs for it. This is where Randy and I eat our meals, where I play Scrabble with my friend Charles several times every week, and where friends occasionally gather for playing Wizards:

dining room table and chairs

Of course, one must have several outdoor perches as well as indoor ones. One of my favorite places to read (or eat) is inside the garden shed my brother Michael built for me five years ago. Here’s the current configuration of the garden shed seating (not shown is the aforementioned rattan sofa that’s also in the shed):

Garden shed interior

Here’s what I see when I’m sitting in one of those chairs (which is why I put them there!):

patio-may-2016

I also wanted a place to rest when I’m out working in the garden, and this bench fits that bill perfectly:

garden shed exterior front

I also installed another bench for resting in a shadier spot in minuscule back yard. It’s so shady, in fact, that it’s impossible to photograph the bench itself. But here’s what I get to look at when I’m sitting on that bench:

garden bench view

This past spring I added a third outdoor bench, this time in the front yard, for sitting and/or reading when I don’t particularly need any privacy to do that. (There’s quite a bit of foot traffic on McLendon Avenue.)  I’d wanted such a perch in my front yard for years, and was thrilled to buy the third bench after my brother Michael, during his most recent visit to Atlanta, installed a small patio out front for me:

outdoor front patio

Before I bought my three benches, I spent plenty of time where so many other American homeowners sit when they want to be outside: on the steps of my front porch. I still sit there sometimes:

outdoor front porch

Have you identified or created your own favorite reading/sitting/eating/working perches – indoors or outside? I’d love to hear about them, and see some photos!

The Accidental Collector

Red transferware retake

One of the things I first noticed about my partner Randy’s house was how many different collections he’d accumulated over his lifetime. Not only collections of paintings by certain artists and books on certain subjects of perennial interest to him, but all sorts of other things as well. Wonderful things, too.

Although I’ve enjoyed sprucing up each of the numerous apartments and the two houses I’ve lived in, and trying to make my living quarters as comfortable and congenial and visually interesting as I could afford, I never really thought I “collected” anything in particular or on purpose (with a few exceptions, of which more anon). But Randy pointed out that I have in fact assembled quite a number of collections over the years. Certainly a lot more of them than I realized! My collections are not nearly as large or significant or valuable as Randy’s, but, still, the discovery that my admiration for certain types of things has led me to purchase (or for people to give me) several concentrations of specific items was a total surprise.

In my forays to flea markets, estate sales, yard sales, etc. (where, incidentally, most of the non-electronic items in my house came from), I am always on the lookout for several categories of things, so those things that I have purchased in those categories do, in fact, count as collections, modest though they are. Listed here in chronological order in terms of when I started collecting in these categories, those things are:

  • Pfaltzgraff crockery
  • cobalt blue glass
  • teapots and tea tins
  • wooden boxes
  • wicker baskets
  • red transferware
  • anything fashioned from wire
  • pottery made by my sister Lori

I long ago ran out of room for any more examples of any of these things, but I find I’m still bringing more of them home and somehow finding places for them in my tiny (1100+ square-foot) abode.

The Pfaltzgraff dishware (the company’s “Yorktowne” pattern) are the dishes Peg and I decided we’d buy when we got married, back in 1969. Reader, I still use those dishes – and only them – and for special occasions as well as for my everyday meals. (Unlike Randy, I don’t own multiple sets of dishes  for different occasions or different cuisines.)  My sister Gayle also uses this pattern of Pfaltzgraff crockery, as did, at one time, my brother and his wife. When Mike and Inice and moved to Oregon decades ago, they gave me their set of Pfaltzgraff Yorktowne, which instantly and exponentially expanded my stash of this amazingly durable crockery. Over the years I kept buying additional serving pieces and some of my friends began scouting on my behalf for additional pieces on their own thrift-store shopping excursions.  Eventually, I had a floor-to-ceiling corner cabinet built in my dining room to contain the Pfaltzgraff pieces that I rarely use, and now that cabinet is full:

I apparently harbor fantasies of at some point having twelve people to dinner! In any case, the size of my collection of Pfaltzgraff far exceeds my actual needs. Fortunately, my most recent acquisition – a Pfaltzgraff lamp I bought in a Murphy, North Carolina antique mall a few weeks ago – is something I can  – as soon as I locate a suitable lampshade – store outside the overflowing cabinets in my kitchen and dining room.

My modest collection of cobalt blue glass was spawned from an encounter that happened even earlier than my marriage: my high school days (late 1960s). I spent some time, then and later, in the living room of one of my high school teachers, George Lee. What I remember most vividly about the Lees’ living room was his wife Betty’s collection of colored bottles, which she displayed on their living room window sills. When, fifty years later, I bought the house I live in now, one of the first things I did after moving in was having some glass shelves cut to fit my dining room windows, so I could display some miscellaneous cobalt blue glass pieces I had accumulated by that point (1993):

House Interiors - Dining Room - June 2013 002.jpg

Dining Room 2018

(The glass shows up better whenever I haven’t allowed the creeping fig that covers the outside of my house to spread over the dining room window panes! Removing the vine from all those windows (among others) has been on my to-do list for months now, but I’ll be waiting for cooler weather to get this done . . . .)

Thanks to Blanche Flanders, my high school art teacher, tea-drinking has been a daily habit of mine since high school, and the collecting of teapots and tea tins began soon thereafter. Eventually I had collected enough teapots and tea tins to justify buying the oak cabinet in the dining room where I store them now:

teapot collection

The tea tins I store in a wire cabinet hanging on a wall in my kitchen:

Mostly Christmas 2014 073.JPG

Actually, there’s another cabinet full of tea, teapots, and tea tins at the cabin in Blue Ridge, Georgia that I co-own with some friends:

[Side note: Despite the variety of tea I have on hand, both at home and at the cabin, all teas are not – with me, anyway – equal. Although Constant Comment was (again, thanks to Blanche Flanders) my mainstay from high school years into my fifties, for many years now, what I usually drink – morning and afternoon – is not even pictured in the photo above. That’s because I keep my trusty stash of Typhoo in an even more convenient spot than the wire cabinet: on a turntable on top of my microwave.

[Side note to side note: Ever since my Britain-born friend Roger Park gifted me several years ago with an amazingly efficient electric tea kettle, I no longer use my microwave to boil water for my tea, but I still keep my stash of Typhoo and a sugar bowl on that nifty turntable, right beside Roger’s now-indispensable tea kettle.]

[Side note to side note to side note: Just how “indispensable” to my domestic bliss is that electric tea kettle? Reader, I eventually bought a second one to use at the cabin.]

Since the advent of Randy into my daily routines almost two years ago, I’ve been drinking – especially when I’m at his place – more herbal teas. Even before Randy’s tea choice-influencing, I had discovered Yorkshire Gold, and, recently, I’ve often been ignoring Typhoo for various brands of Earl Grey. Feeling a bit guilty for at least temporarily abandoning Typhoo, I tell myself the Earl Grey thing is just a phase. In any case, I do confess that my large collection of tea (vs. tea tins) has proved a bit ironic. The original intention was to make sure my houseguests would have a lot of choices when they came for tea; what I never expected was that most people either have no deep-seated tea-drinking preferences (like I have), or they tell me they’ll have whatever I’m having. (The era of my presenting my guests with a printed list of all their tea options was very short-lived.) Oh well, perhaps I’ve managed to make a few additional converts to Typhoo . . . .]

Meanwhile, back in the Recollection of Collections Department, I reckon it’s not just tins for storing tea that I collect, as I just remembered that in my attic I’ve stashed away a collection of other tins that I haul down every Solstice to display atop my kitchen fridge:

Kitchen Solstice 2018

(Also in ye attic, by the way, are stored the various Solstice-themed ornaments and other paraphernalia that I festoon the house with each year . . . .)

The origin of my habit of buying wooden boxes is obscure. I was vaguely aware of how most things in most Americans’ houses are not made of wood, and collecting wooden boxes seemed somehow to be a symbolic consolation for how unfortunate I thought that fact was. The wooden boxes that I still buy at flea markets and yard sales are of all shapes and sizes, and the plainer they are, the more I am likely to buy them. I use many of the smaller and medium-sized boxes to display or to prop up the paraphernalia mixed in with the books in the living room bookcase that my friend Charles builtthe living room bookcase that my friend Charles built for that room.

Bookcase

Only once did I mass into a single display all the smaller and medium-sized boxes I’d accumulated, but I found I liked the boxes better scattered about . . . which may be why I forget that those myriad boxes (along with a few free-standing larger boxes) do form a sort of “dispersed” collection.

I’m also an inveterate collector of wooden frames. Although most of them are currently stored in my attic, I occasionally haul down the smaller ones to display all by themselves, sans anything in them, simply because I find beautiful what they’re made of (the aforementioned wood):

Photos uploaded April 26 2016 072.JPG

Incidentally, it’s not only wooden boxes and wooden frames that I seem smitten by: anything interesting made out of wood – pedestals, candlesticks, vases, shadow-boxes – seem to follow me home from those aforementioned yard sales and thrift stores. Like the boxes, these wooden objects tend to end up wedged among the books in the living room bookshelves. An exception is my collection of wooden eggs, which  (unless I am photographing it) I keep in the kitchen:

Another subset of the Objects Made Out of Wood That Cal Collects are two sets of miniature bowling pins – no doubt a nostalgic nod to the fact that my dad was an avid bowler, a fact that resulted in my spending hundreds of hours of my childhood in various bowling alley nurseries. Here’s the first set I bought (back when there was a gigantic flea market at Atlanta’s former Lakewood Fairgrounds):

miniature bowling pin collection 1

(Note to self: since The Collecting Authorities have decreed that any collection must consist of at least three of something, I suppose I need to stay on the lookout for one more set of miniature bowling pins.)

A photo I came across years ago in a home decor book made me instantly realize that one day I wanted to stack in a corner of one of my abodes a tower of wicker baskets. Well, I eventually got my tower of baskets constructed, and – like my collection of teapots, there is not an inch of room for any more of them!

Wicker baskets

My very modest red transferware collection (shown in the photo at the top of this blogpost) also has obscure origins. As I mentioned, I don’t own a set of china, but I do admire beautiful china dishes in other people’s houses. However, transferware is a lot more affordable than porcelain. And I am fairly certain that I decided on accumulating red transferware because it’s a little more unusual than the blue patterns. (If I had room to display more transferware, I would also collect brown and purple patterns.) As it is, my collection of the red stuff is small enough to fit atop the armoire that houses my television set and CD player.

Sred transferware sauceride note: I do own several additional red transferware saucers that I’d love to hang on one of my walls – perhaps around the mirror over my mantel, or maybe alongside the armoire. But I only have four of these saucers, and everyone knows that collections must feature an odd number of items, right? I am patiently waiting for Randy to decide he wants to give me several more plates that he happens to own in this identical pattern . . . .

As for collecting things made out of wire, I have no clue as to where my infatuation with such things came from, unless it was the Flanders-inspired love of Alexander Calder’s wire sculptures and mobiles. What I do know is that it’s virtually impossible for me to pass up an opportunity to purchase yet another wire basket, wire wall hanging, or wire do-dad. Most of the wire baskets ended up mounted above the three (!) doors in my kitchen:

wire collection 2

Others wire thingies are deposited elsewhere around the house:

Wire wall sculpture

wire collection example

Wire cow

Wire wall sculpture 2

…or are displayed among the tools, etc. that I store out in my garden shed.

Like most Americans, over the course of my life I’ve accumulated a miscellaneous assortment of ceramics. The most treasured of these are the few pieces of wonderful pottery my sister Lori created. Like my other ceramic pots, vases, and bowls, Lori’s are scattered around the house. But for the purposes of this blogpost, I’ve hunted down the items Lori made to take these photos:

Lori's pottery 1

Lori's pottery 2

Also in the ceramics category is a tiny collection of raku pots that were either given to me or that I found at various yard sales. There are so few of these that I managed to find a single spot for all of them (under the grandmother clock in the living room):

raku pottery 2

So much for the things I have deliberately been collecting over the years.

Other collections I wasn’t aware of until I started poking around after Randy mentioned that I collected quite a number of other things.

For example, it’s not only cobalt blue glass that Cal collects. There are other assorted glass things in my bathroom window…

Colored glass collection 1

…in my guest room window:

colored glass collection 2

…and in the windows above the kitchen sink:

clear budvase collection part

Then there’s a small collection of Florentine trays that I’ve salvaged from various thrift stores and yard sales:

Florentine tray collection

Urns. I love garden urns for some reason. I’ve got several concrete urns out on my patio, but I’ve also accumulated some miniature ones more suited to the indoors:

miniature urns collection

Oil lamps. For most of my cabin co-owning years, I’ve kept them on the cabin mantel, but recently I brought them back to Atlanta for a while, where they are now in the dining room. Only five of these (and I’m determined not to buy any more!); one of them is currently missing a chimney that exploded when it apparently overheated during the most recent Winter Solstice celebration at my place:

oil lamp collection

Like most people, I pick up various souvenirs during my travels. For some reason,  my travel memorabilia often tend to be depictions of various gods and goddesses. They, too, are scattered around the house, although a few of them are concentrated on one shelf of the living room bookcase, mixed in with some Asian items my Asia-travelling friends have given me:

Pagan gods and goddesses collection

My longstanding interest in all things pertaining to Oscar Wilde led me to want to festoon my house with something he decorated his own houses with: blue and white things. Most of the ceramic blues-and-whites I’ve corralled onto my sun porch:

part of blue and white collection 2

Blue and white on sun porch

part of blue and white collection

An exception is some blue-and-white tinware, which I display in the dining room:

tinware collection

tinware 2

My kitchen, on the other hand, features – by design rather than by accident – A Lot of Red Things. Or, more accurately, red, black, and white things:

red stuff in kitchen 2

red stuff in kitchen 3

In my study, I also have a modest collection of rubber stamps:

Rubber Stamp Collection

Miscellaneous accidental collections not pictured here:  my six (indoor) concrete rabbits, my seven small mirrors, my eight (non-Florentine) trays, my growing collection of gourds, innumerable (non-wicker) baskets of all shapes and sizes . . . plus whatever’s out there in the yard (how many more ferns can I plant???)  or inside the garden shed that shares a particular theme or shape (a dozen birds nests harvested from the shrubberies in my yard, for example, various sunburst do-dahs, and a still-accumulating assortment of those things one uses in vases of cut flowers called “flower frogs”).

. . . So it turns out that Calvin collects a lot o’ things, not just the few I thought I did! Many would say Cal collects too many things – especially too many smallish things. In my defense, I want the record to show that, had I a bigger house (as large as Randy’s, say), it would doubtless contain even more collections, deliberately-assembled ones as well as the accidental ones.

Certainly I’ve been sorely tempted to collect a host of other things, but I simply don’t have room to store or display them. Chairs, for example: I am always running across yet another gorgeous chair, and even found a few of them I could actually afford to buy, had I the floor space for any more chairs. Ditto pitchers: no more shelf space for any of those (I had to stop at three). And I need to stop buying rugs! (My floors are already covered in them, and I have at least five surplus ones rolled up and stashed in various places that I’m not using, and won’t be able to.)

Who knew that this one-time postage stamp collector (we’re talking pre-high school era here) would dispose of that collection in his late twenties, only to end up years later accumulating so many things that, while visually appealing and/or laden with sentiment or personal significance of some sort, would take up so much more space than a few albums of stamps?

Having recently turned 71, I have naturally begun to wonder whether I should focus more of my energy on getting rid of some of this stuff instead of continuing to indulge in the collecting/accumulating habit that’s obviously part of what makes me happy.

If I ever do buckle down and start winnowing, I shall regard doing so as a significant personal accomplishment. Ideally, I should make the attempt before I become too feeble to undertake such a daunting project. (Not incidentally, my resolve to begin The Great Purge usually evaporates when I remember that what’s on display does not include all the stuff that’s in my attic!)

In any case – and just as daunting all by itself – is the matter of how to better cope with the number of books I own. Purging my bookshelves would be another major challenge.  And a project that should probably precede any nonbook object-winnowing, as my bookcases – despite the recent acquisition of two additional ones –  are now completely full. (Sadly, there is no room in my 1100+-square foot abode for a single additional bookcase, of any size.)

The fun part of downsizing my library (he writes optimistically) will be discovering how many deliberate and accidental collections it contains. As with my other stuff, only a few of theses collections are deliberate, with many more that sort of manifested accidentally. Another blogpost, another time . . . .

Thank you for reading. I’d be very interested to read any comments you’d be willing to post about what you collect, on purpose or otherwise, and why, or how they contribute to your own domestic bliss.