Send Me to Coventry

It’s book group tonight. I have missed the last two meetings. In January I was at the panto, in February I was in Ireland. Just as well I haven’t doublebooked myself this month as the book was my choice. It’s a novel by Sarah Moss called The Tidal Zone. I believe I wrote about here when I first read it last summer. It was my book of 2016, and it’s definitely in my current top ten of all time favourites.

The novel is written from the viewpoint of Adam, a stay at home dad and part time academic. I’m not going to go into the plot of the whole novel, just say that Adam’s current academic project is researching the rebuilding of Coventry cathedral which was lost in the bombing of the Second World War.

The writing is luminous, the descriptions of how the cathedral came to be rebuilt through the passion and vision of its architect Basil Spence, breathtaking. The project was an act of faith, and finishing the novel I knew I needed to make the long neglected trip to the Midlands to see it.

I went on Tuesday. Somehow I had imagined all of Coventry to have flattened during the war, so the streets and buildings that survived were a welcome surprise. I took my time, made my way across the city, circled the cathedral’s exterior, ate the lunch I had brought with me in sunshine. The glimpses of the jeweled glass I had seen through an open door on the north side were enough to tell me I shouldn’t be disappointed.

Whether I should have loved it so much had I not read The Tidal Zone I don’t know. Certainly passages from the novel echoed in my head as I walked around, the way Spence wanted the cathedral to reveal itself gradually, so that the glass in all its gorgeous glory is only appreciated as you move from west to east.

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Beautiful Belfast

I rarely have the chance to mooch about Belfast alone, and when I do I am struck by the buildings that speak of the city's past wealth and importance. Take this one for example. My little Olympus doesn't have a great zoom, so it's hard to appreciate all the details. It was the Scottish Provident Building, and has any number of references to Belfast and the things that made the city and surroundings: ship building and related industries, spinning, printing.

It overlooks City Hall which is pretty impressive in its own right. Note the statue of Queen Victoria. Surely the most memorialised monarch that ever lived.

The Courthouse is also something of a statement.

I like the statue of the Speaker.
I was aiming for Big Fish. It's more than a while since I have been up close to it.
When Mother saw the Harland and Wolfe gantries from the window of the 'plane her to excitement was palpable. To her, and to so many returners, they were and remain a powerful symbol of home.
Like London, Belfast grew to importance as a port, so the river plays a central role.
Nearby there are buildings that remind us of past trades.
The shopping arcades hint at a time of gracious shopping, when the democracy of pound shops and Lidl was not even dreamed of.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

I remember this challenge has been set before, and funnily enough just a week or so after we had set it as a private challenge. I joined in the private challenge, but I don’t remember if I joined in the WordPress one.

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The Shard of Glass, London SE1

I posted a photo of the Shard at dusk the other day. Pat commented that she’d like to see more pictures of this new addition to London’s skyline. At 1016ft (309.6m), it’s the tallest building in Western Europe.
I took these two photographs from Borough, London SE1, just by the tube station.
In the first, you can see the Shard behind the spire of St George the Martyr. Perspective makes the two buildings look almost the same height, but of course they are very different.

The Shard and St George the Martyr

The Shard and St George the Martyr

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A Little Detail

When I was at the talk last week, some members of the audience were bemoaning the modern developments.

“Why can’t they build something classical?” said one woman. Others nodded. I kept quiet. Her classical was yesterday’s cutting edge. I don’t much like the current fashion for high buildings and blocks of flats with tinted glass, but I do want today’s architect’s to be creative, and not stuck in a straight jacket design laid down by the Georgians.

I’ve not got a lot of time for Prince Charles’ views, which seem to have resulted in some pretty bad pastiches of early C19 buildings. That’s better than some of the excesses of the late 80s and early 90s, the height of Thatcher’s reign, which yelled money but no taste, and always remind me of fascistic architecture in Spain. They’ll be the next to be pulled down, and I’ll cheer to see them go; especially a particularly horrible example on the Farringdon Road. I have a personal grudge against that one. While this monstrosity was being built it caused great traffic delays, and I was one of the drivers caught in that daily nuisance. a nuisance that was irritated when I saw the excrescence that was causing it.

I do like detail. The Aldgate Pump was finally made redundant when it was realised the waters were poisoning the local population. But it has a very handsome spout.


Aldgate Pump