Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Good Samaritans

I am intrigued and moved by the image currently being used in Samaritans' publicity.

It reminds me of something I was compelled to create during my troubled teens at boarding school in the depths of Norfolk.

Many years later I was equally compelled to reach out to The Samaritans myself. I was given a calm and sensible ear in the middle of a horrendous night. I was encouraged to recognise and appreciate my personal strengths, though I hesitated to put that advice into action for quite a while. It was a rough ride at times, but I think I got there in the end.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

60th anniversary of Wymondham College

Am I mistaken in my taste for revisiting my past? It's inevitable, I suppose, for anyone past middle age. That's why I'm also relishing Maggie Nelson's Google-trip round her youth – brilliant!
[Read it on http://theanswers42.blogspot.com/2011/07/nostalgia-part-2.html .]
Of course, you must always be prepared for disappointment when the beloved places of your memory no longer match the “improved” realities...

I first attended an Old Wymondhamians (say 'wind-hay-me-anz'!) reunion in 2006 and experienced a mix of that let-down and excitement. After a gap of 40 years I had been surprised at how many people I could still recognise through the wrinkles and grey hair – both mine and theirs. But I'd also been fazed and a little embarrassed by not knowing those who claimed they remembered ME! The weirdest thing had been hugging my former English teacher and calling him by his first name.

On this second return there were even more impressive new buildings and old familiar faces. And I was better prepared as I went as part of a group who have been in tenuous contact during those intervening 5 years. There was one woman I recognised for whom this event was a 'first time' – and she had the look of a rabbit caught in headlights. She'd always been a nervous type from our days as Primary School playmates, and being away from home at boarding-school had added to her worries. I was a bit surprised by her opening remark that I was to blame for the way things turned out. She did say it in a throwaway manner, and perhaps meant it as a joke. Our fathers had both been strong-minded, and I guess neither of us had much choice in where we were being sent to be educated. The 60th anniversary reunion was clearly a watershed and an ordeal – hope she goes back as I think the ghosts will have been laid.

 My old school seems nothing like it used to be in the Sixties. The buildings and the ethos have changed – Victorian values flew away with the retirement of its first headmaster, Raymond V. Metcalfe (known as Muz to his not very respectful pupils). My English teacher had confessed this had been as much a relief to the members of staff at the time as it must have been to the students. Almost wished I could go back for a term or two! Hmm, perhaps I'd better not get too carried away...
The old school as I knew it back in 1959 - all black corrugated iron!

                                                                           Splendidly transformed by the time of its 60th birthday...

Elizabeth Fry Hall - my hall of residence

The fabulous new Sixth Form complex

If you're curious read more about it on  

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Who really owns art?

Well, well – the Wildenstein's are in the news again (Independent, Friday 8 July 2011) for all the wrong reasons, and very aptly considering my previous post about the Edmund de Waal book.

I have now finished reading The Hare with Amber Eyes, having become totally engaged with its unassuming author and his respectful exploration of his family's history. And how much he seemed to have learned about himself during this retrospective journey, both physically and spiritually. He followed a trail right back to Odessa and the 19th century Russian pogroms. And always the Ephrussis seemed to be there at the start of significant developments – the expansion and cultural regeneration of the great cities of Paris, Vienna and Tokyo.

Whilst I had initially cringed at the conspicuous indulgence of the Ephrussi art collections, by the time the Nazis had done their worst in Austria and beyond, I was wanting to hug poor Edmund. He kept discovering little caches of letters or crumbling official documents that marked his family's dispersal across the world. I was so pleased that, by the close of the book, Edmund had found a new resting place for the 264 netsuke – at home with his wife, children and dog in London.

So where do the Wildensteins come in? Well, apparently Guy, the current head of the institute that has taken on the authentication of art works by Monet and Manet, has been discovered with his illustrious pants down! A police raid at the Paris institute – a raid intended to uncover art works “concealed” by the late Daniel Wildenstein's stepsons, discovered instead a stash of “missing” artefacts belonging to other family collections. Some of these wayward items appear to have been looted by the Nazis in 1941. Who knows, perhaps some of Charles Ephrussi's former treasures are amongst them?