Recently Seen: photographs of things that have recently made me smile

In these days when all the news is bad news and the future seems likely to be worse, I look for small moments of contentment whenever I can find them. The photographs below are things I’ve seen in the past few weeks that made the here and now worth spending time in. I hope they brighten your day as they did mine.

Sunshine on the Kennet and Avon Canal

This morning was bright and clear and inviting so I took myself for a walk into Bath, avoiding the main streets and travelling along the Kennet and Avon Canal path. One of the things I love about this walk is the way the canal reflect the lushness of the trees and how their greenery is punctuated by Bath Stone buildings that seem to stretch towards the sun like sunflowers in a field.

An umbrella flock

Perfect pears

Earlier in the week, on a much cloudier day, I was walking through the streets of Liverpool 1, an area I know well and stumbled across the unexpected gift of playful public art in the form a sky full of colourful umbrellas. If the artists intent was for the flock of umbrellas to shake people from their routine and get them to take a moment enjoying their surroundings, then it worked with me.

Sometimes, it is small but perfect things that make me pause. We were at Dyrham Park, taking in the views from the parkland hills, the dappled shade of its trees and the proud boasts of its 18th Century stonework when I noticed the Black Pears being grown espalier style against the wall of the old stable block. To me, these look like a working definition of ‘ripe’.

Vintage Funfair

Earlier this month, we visited Carters Steam Fair in the Royal Victoria Park in Bath. Carters describe themselves as:

A traditional English travelling funfair with rides dating from the 1890s to the 1960’s. We are a unique piece of living history. Over the past 40 years we have been rescuing and restoring vintage fairground rides and attractions taking them on tour around London and the South East for everyone to enjoy. One of the features which makes Carters Steam Fair unique is the decoration of its engines, rides and transport with consistently superb signwriting, lining and traditional fairground decoration created by Joby Carter and his team.

It was like stepping back into the funfairs that I used to visit in the late 1960s. The rides aren’t as loud or as large as their modern descendents but they have style. After forty-five years of touring the country, this vintage funfair was making its final visit to Bath this year. The owners are looking for a new permanent home and new owner for the fair

Wonderful whimsey

On one of the hottest days this month, we were in Bradford-on-Avon when, amongst all the charming old buildings, we noticed this piece of playfulness. I don’t know who created this but it felt like the perfect comment on an unseasonably hot day.

A brave new enterprise

In the centre of Bath, squatting between Bath Abbey and Pultney Bridge, two of Bath’s most spectacular pieces of architecture, is the huge Empire Hotel. It was built in 1901 and has listed building status but I’ve always regarded it as an eyesore. Sir Nikolaus Bernhard Leon Pevsner’s architectural guide described it as a “monstrosity and an unbelievable piece of pompous architecture’. For a long time it was the home to a burger chain – an up-market burger chain but still a strange thing to put in a listed building.

Brexit and Covid and our government’s general incompetence has seen many restaurants and pubs fail in the past year, so when we walked past The Empire Hotel and saw that a new bar and restaurant called The Architect had been opened, we had to go in and see it. I think that what the owners have achieved is wonderful. The design makes the most of the building’s structure, the bar is open and welcoming and the terrace restaurant looks out on Bath Abbey. I admire the courage and optimism needed to set this up and I hope they do well.

2 thoughts on “Recently Seen: photographs of things that have recently made me smile

  1. Hi, Mike,

    Thanks for posting these photos and your remarks on them. Your post is especially fun right now. I’m currently sitting in St. Edmund College Hall in Oxford (one of their summer guest rooms) looking across the front quadrangle, which is incredibly quiet with the exception of the occasional soft cooing of wood pigeons. My sister has been here for four weeks, but I just arrived on Thursday morning, so I missed the heat wave(s) thank goodness. (Back in Vermont I was able to retreat to my air-conditioned house during our heat waves, but my sister was saying that these stone walls don’t do too badly keeping the heat at bay…just that it wasn’t the kind of weather to go out and about.)

    Needless to say, even though this is my third trip here, I’m taking lots of photos. The different part of this holiday will be heading up to Scotland for three days to visit a school friend I haven’t see for over 40 years. Looking forward to that.

    “The Architect” looks rather splendid. Now I want to go eat there. 😀

    Today we’ll be off to Wolvercote to spend a bit of time at the cemetery there (we like cemeteries) and have lunch at The Trout.

    Hope you and your wife are enjoying the much more pleasant temperatures.

    Thanks for your post — I enjoy reading all your posts, and the ones with photos are always an additional treat — and for reading this response.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Rose,

      How nice to know that you’re in England and at such a beautiful venue. Oxford is definitely best seen from within the colleges. Some decades ago, I spent part of a summer at New College, helping to run a course teaching new graduates COBOL. It was a wonderful setting.

      My wife and I spent some time in Scotland at the beginning of the summer, first at Aye and then at Stirling. I hope you enjoy your time there.

      If you’re able to get to Bath at any point, my wife and I would love to take you to The Architect.

      Have a great vacation.


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