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
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’.
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
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.