Michelangelo & Sebastiano Exhibition

15 March – 25 June 2017

During a recent trip to the National Gallery, sparked by a love of Renaissance art, we booked tickets for the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition.  Quite honestly, though hearing Sebastiano’s name in passing commentary, neither of us had any idea of the great artist he really was.  Interestingly, listening in on passing conversations in the queue to enter the gallery, neither had anyone else and having seen the amount of recent publicity surrounding the exhibition and judging by the amount of people in the queue this lack of notoriety may now be a thing of the past.  [1]

The exhibition was based upon the great friendship between both Michelangelo and Sebastiano and the great works of art the two collaborated on to produce.  Both from very different artistic traditions; Michelangelo’s compositions were prepared in advance with the utmost clarity and precision, through detailed anatomical drawings, whilst Sebastiano was an accomplished painter who preferred a more improvisatory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Improvisatori) method of painting, rich in colour, expressive and bold.

It became clear that this was no ordinary friendship, their collaborations created the most striking pieces of artwork, applauded at the time they were created and still admired today, as some the greatest works of art.

The exhibition largely focused on their relationship and demonstrated through their art and their own personal correspondence, the journey of their relationship, from mutual admiration and respect to bitter acrimony. “Dearest friend, dearer to me than a father, greetings…….  Their friendship which roughly lasted 25 years, began as a ploy by Michelangelo as he sought to create an alliance with Sebastiano to thwart the artist Raphael, whom he detested, though, their sentimental and heartfelt correspondence clearly shows a genuine respect for each other.  This being unusual since Michelangelo was severely temperamental and not one to hold friendships for very long.  Though rivalries were often encouraged and fuelled in Renaissance Italy, to encourage the creation of outstanding works of art.  “…because I do not want Raphael to see mine until he has delivered his, (with reference to the artwork, Raising of the Lazarus). [2]Sebastiano_del_Piombo,_The_Raising_of_Lazarus_(cropped5)

As fascinating as the story is, for me, the star of the show is still Michelangelo, the exhibition seemed a little thin on the ground when it came to presenting his works, probably because the theme was predominantly about the relationship between the two artists.  No one can deny after looking at the Masters’ great drawings how incredible he really was.  The detail and delicacy of his sketches are tantalising to look at and its breath-taking to consider that these preparatory drawings on show, were just the beginning to greater works of art.

[1] Art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon exploring the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition at the National Gallery in London,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlFwI85M9H0

[2] The National Gallery Michelangelo & Sebastiano Exhibition Notes

20170527_145413533_iOS

Foraging

There is something quite primal about foraging for food, particularly for your evening meal. Normally, I would resort to a quick trip to the local supermarket, which is usually less primal and more desperation, as I’ve generally lost track of the time at work and have failed to plan for our evening meal.  But, on this occasion, the sun was out over the weekend and on reading some article in a broadsheet, I was inspired!

I settled on pasta for dinner, adorned with, hopefully, a wild garlic pesto, accompanied with a few sliced jersey royals and fresh peas.  The perfect meal to celebrate the Spring season.  Jersey Royals, always evoke a feeling of complete satisfaction within me, as their taste is so full of earthy goodness which elevates an average meal to the realms of divine indulgence. Although their flavour can stand alone without any adornment, who doesn’t like to smother them in butter to extract every morsel of pleasure out of them?

I have been joyous since Spring arrived, life is so much more sparkly with the sun out, green trees and spring flowers adorning the verges all adds up to make the world seem a much brighter place.  And I know I’m not alone thinking like this, you only have to look around to see a “spring” in everyone’s step!

With swift organisation, I searched for images of wild garlic, as I didn’t want to be held responsible for poisoning myself or my husband, I took screen shots of these on my phone gand armed with a couple of cans of Pimms, a thermos of ice and a slice, we headed off into the Downs.

We had established that to locate the Wild Garlic we needed to head for ancient forests, with dappled shade, we needed to locate areas carpeted with Bluebells and hopefully, Wild Garlic with its pretty 6 petalled white flowers and long pointed green leaves, would be lurking somewhere close by. We drove to an area of woodland between Finchdean and West Marden in the South Downs and took off walking along one of the footpaths towards the dense woodland.  The scenery here, never fails to uplift me and is always a great location to avoid the crowds.  It wasn’t long before our endeavours were rewarded and carefully we picked a few handfuls of the leaves to carry home for dinner.

A word of caution here: – if you do fancy a little foraging yourselves, always protect the bulbs, it is against the law to dig up any plant in our great British Countryside, wild plants are protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.  Do forage for your own personal use, but leave enough of the plant to keep it healthy and for the next person who may happen to come along.

A happy couple of hours were spent soaking up the peace of the forest, we didn’t see another soul in all the time we were there and on returning to the car and in recognition of our efforts we sat and enjoyed a very pleasant Pimms and lemonade.  What better way to finish a walk in the Downs?

I am happy to report the wild garlic pesto was a resounding success, we managed to pick roughly 100g, about two handfuls and enough to provide a meal for 4.  For those who do fancy the idea of foraging, do your homework first, make sure you know exactly what you are picking and take a photo with you as a comparison. Another final top tip is that Wild Garlic leaves when rubbed do actually, produce a strong aroma of garlic!

Try any recipe you can find online or I’ve attached my version here..

Wild Garlic Pesto

 

 

Pie and Vinyl

These days it’s hard to walk down any street without being bombarded with an endless stream of restaurant chains.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against them and have a few favourites amongst them, but I do yearn for something different, something that’s unique.IMG_7557

One fabulously sunny day last week, I was met my daughter at Southsea station and we strolled through the back streets, uncovering quaint little cobbled streets with regency style terraces, adorned with spring magnolia blooms.  A far cry from the rising tower blocks of flats you only see when driving into the centre of town.

Although our destination had been previously arranged, it was a great walk and we did discover the Portsmouth Tea Shop ( allabouttea.co.uk ) which I have pencilled in for a further visit on another occasion; a factory store which creates teas, suitable for the local water. As an avid tea drinker, I’m looking forward to exploring the premises at a later date.

Castle Road in Portsmouth is a street full of independent shops and eateries, it’s a street so full of promise because unlike the town high street, you really don’t know what stores to expect.

IMG_7561 (2)

Our destination was the record café, Pie and Vinyl, somewhere which had been previously recommended to us and had been top of the list to visit for several weeks.

On arriving with were greeted by an eclectic mix of bric a brac, which bombarded the senses.  Cool music and happy chat filled the space. The walls were a riot of colour, textured with a variety of shapes and materials. And the place was full of people from every walk of life.

We were shown to our seats and having never
IMG_7560 (3)been before, the menu board was briefly explained, basically choose a pie, followed by a meal option.  The basic premise is to enjoy and have fun with choosing your food and to enable you to have some involvement with the creation of your meal. The menu has plenty gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan offerings and is all provided with a mammoth sense of fun.  For once I was spoilt for choice, I’m very often limited to one item on the menu, or worst case scenario, I have to ask.  Faced with a choice often brings confusion for me, but I finally settled on Bon Pie-ver, lentils cooked in a tomato sauce topped with a sweet potato mash topping.  I chose to have this with the
IMG_7562 (2)mushy peas, which was an excellent choice, completely delicious, although in hindsight I should have had a little of the vegetarian, gluten-free gravy on offer, because this would have counter balanced the slight dryness of the pie.  The pastry was gluten free perfection and I ate in awe at the crispness and compete absence of a soggy bottom.

On completion of our main meals, an extremely helpful member of staff recommended a portion of the Jam Rock ‘n’ Rolly Polly, which we had with honeycomb ice cream, all amazingly gluten-free.  I couldn’t have been happier!

My verdict?

Great food, great place, helpful and happy staff and great price.  But top of the leader board for me was the choice of gluten-free, veggie and vegan meals.

Above all completely UNIQUE!

www.pieandvinyl.co.uk

61 Castle Road,
Southsea.  02392 753914

IMG_7563 (4)

South Africa, a country that gets in your blood…….

We returned from an epic adventure to Hoedspruit in South Africa a week ago and would dearly like to thank our friends and neighbours Zoe and David for hosting such an amazing visit.IMG_6324

South Africa had never been on our radar as a holiday destination and I’m not sure why.  Our friends, Zoe and David are passionate about their second home and their enthusiasm became infectious. We booked our flights with no preconceptions of what to expect, we chose not to buy guide books and neither do any research beforehand, but allow our Hosts to introduce us, to South Africa through their eyes and by their own experiences.  Thankfully, a great decision, wow, what an incredible journey we made.

IMG_6131Taking an internal flight from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit, in the eastern reaches of South Africa’s Limpodo Province.  We flew across country, giving us a bird’s eye view of the vast landscape.  The phrase “I had a farm in Africa,” from the great, classic film, Out of Africa, popped into my mind; the scenery gave us the sense we had just dropped onto the movie set. From high above I could see giraffes roaming free, I struggled to keep the awe and wonder from bursting out, I felt like a small child and caught myself screaming in excitement.

IMG_6222

 

 

Landing in the small but incredibly formed Hoedspruit airport, we were already getting the sense that we were about to embark on the holiday of a lifetime.

Hoedspruit is surrounded by abundant wildlife in private game reserves, it’s literally 40 minutes away from the Orpen Gate entrance to the world-famous Kruger National Park and just north of the majestic, Blyde River Canyon located in Mpumalanga, at the northern most tip of the Drakensburg mountains. IMG_5914

On our journey to our home for the next two weeks, we encountered Giraffe, Kudu and Impalas, the Khaya Ndlovu private game reserve felt like Bewdley Safari Park on steroids!  Khaya Ndlovu is situated within The Blue Canyon Conservancy with incredible views of the Drakensberg Mountains.  The African bush, although autumnal, was looking green and lush from recent rainfall.  Wild flowers in a riot of colour, shimmered in the heat and blankets of light and shade carpeted the floor of the bush, creating an overwhelming picture of perfection; add in the occasional bit of wildlife with their incredible markings and you can see why Africa presents an artist with a limitless amount of inspiration.IMG_6166

We spent two weeks enjoying the most spectacular game drives, meeting the most extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, eating some of the best food I’ve eaten anywhere and witnessing some of the most incredible sights.  Someone said to us, when we commented, that this was our first visit to South Africa, that the country gets into your blood.  We laughed at the time and thought nothing of it, but on returning home to the UK and thoughtfully processing the visit, we both agree, South Africa has got into our blood, what an amazing country!  We are already planning our next vacation, who knows when we’ll manage to get there again, it’s anyone’s guess, but we hoping to achieve this very soon.IMG_6997

Stay at Khaya Ndlovu Manor House which boasts magnificent colonial style gardens as well as unsurpassed views of the Drakensberg Mountains and surrounding bushveld. www.khayandlovu.co.za

If the opportunity arises, take a helicopter ride over The Blyde River Canyon, it is one of South Africa’s most remarkable geological features and is the third largest canyon on Earth.IMG_6098

Having had the wonderful experience of flying over both, Blyde River and The Grand Canyon, I can tell you first hand, Blyde River Canyon is truly spectacular and for me, surpasses the legendary Grand Canyon hands down.  On a clear day from the aptly named viewpoint, God’s Window, you can see as far as Kruger Park and Mozambique.

No visit would be complete without spending time in Kruger National Park, the size of Wales, its range and sheer diversity of animals is beyond comprehension.   Remember the scene in Jurassic Park, where the characters of Sam Neill and Laura Dern encounter the Dinosaurs for the first time from the game vehicle?  We felt their awe and wonder, it was often ‘a fling off your hat and sunglasses,’ kind of moment around every corner!  At one viewing point, we looked across the plains and saw Elephants in every direction and we watched Impala, Kudu, Nyala, Waterbuck and Fish Eagles at a waterhole.  We sought out sleepy Lions, dozing in the bush and witnessed the most spectacular sight of all, a gorgeous Leopard, using a road sign as a rest stop.  What a thrill! IMG_6770

It was a privilege to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat and for us, to do our part, to promote and encourage our small community of friends and family to see how valuable our wildlife really is.  The more of us who promote these majestic sights, then perhaps these tragic animals will become worth more alive, than dead; poaching is still a catastrophic problem, which funds the criminal underworld.   Rhinos particularly, have suffered to near extinction, we need to do, as much as we can, to enable the children of the future, to continue to witness these gentle giants, in their natural surroundings.

www.rhinorevolution.org

www.lonelyplanet.com/south-africa/mpumalanga/kruger-national-park

IMG_6212