070603.Bath, Today’s Procession

June 3, 2007 at 11:46 AM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Bath, Columns, doorways, Ionic Order, Overcast, people, somerset | 7 Comments

Mayoral Procession Part 1 of 3: From the Guildhall, Around the Abbey, Into the Abbey

TODAY I saw a mayoral procession from the Guildhall to the West Door of the Abbey. They marched just as I had earlier reported that they would. (Reminds me of the one at the beginning of each Peabody’s Improbably History Segment) I’ll try and find out what was going on. Anyone know? (Perhaps they’re celebrating this site hitting 30,000 visitors today!)
The mayor is in red, although the term only lasts one year. The red-clad figure is not Mayor Paradise, which must mean her term has expired. Note the fur-clad figures in front of the mayor-in-red holding the golden expensive maces topped with crowns; these are historic weapons to smash the head in of anyone threatening the mayor and her expensive necklace. Bath is quite unique among cities since all mayoral processions are entitled to one one mace but Bath gets TWO. Also, the term of the Bath Mayor only lasts for one year. I’m not sure what the police are carrying. Perhaps Bath gets to have two sets of two maces. Or perhaps the police are just feeling particularly violent today (the constant overcast environment does that to you now and again).
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Bath has a new mayor now, our 780th!: The Right Worshipful The Mayor of Bath, Councillor Mrs Sharon Ball! And the theme for this year has been decreed as “Caring.” As usual, brace yourselves for the ruthless change.
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070601.Bath, I’m Back from the Future!

June 1, 2007 at 10:11 PM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Architecture, Bath, Columns, Doric Order, people, Roman Baths, somerset | 5 Comments

Hear ye, hear ye: The long adventure of a destroyed harddrive has yet to officially end, but almost. I’ll try and recover photos on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Thank you all for the kind comments and advice. I still have much to respond to, much to catch up with, and much more work to do…..but soon I won’t. What I found interesting during this blackout period in the days following the crash was that I experienced my highest hits ever. More on this later. The numbers have continued to come in, making me wonder if this site is more popular without me. (But again, thanks for all the concern.)
Today is also DP Theme Day. I’ve done the view from my window several times. But below, below you’ll find the view from my window today: I got out and saw some things…started to replenish my photos.
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We’ll be coming back to this guy. And I’ll make up the missing days/weeks of this post retroactively with a fascinating series I’m preparing on walls. Brace yourself.
By the way, I’m up to 13,447 sp.am comments. Huzzah!

070516.Bath, A Murder Has Been Announced and Missed

May 16, 2007 at 5:11 AM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Bath, people, somerset | 2 Comments

Forgot to post this on time. Why am I posting it at all then. I saw something about Faulty Towers in Clevedon on June 9-10, hopefully I’ll remember that since it is after all the deadlines.

MAY 09 – 12 A Murder Is Announced , by Agatha Christie [adapted by Leslie Dunbar] Argyle Players, Tovey Hall, Central United Reform Church, Grove Street, BATH at 7.30, tel 01225 423 866

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070425.Bath, Polite Notice and the Civilized Nutters Who Take Note

April 25, 2007 at 4:25 AM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Architecture, Bath, Jane Austen, people, somerset | 10 Comments

The cast of Janes Austen’s Persuasion converted one of the abandoned storefronts into a costume and makeup room for their performers who then had to parade down stall street from this hideous building to film a scene at the Pump Room in the Abbey Yard.
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Oddly enough, the Austen actors followed the ‘Polite Notice’ alternative route directions that would soon be posted. The question comes up that by the word construction, they meant destruction, right? Do you have to construct to demolish? Probably. Further polite notice came explaining when the stores would be closed and when demolition would begin.
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Odd, now that it’s gone I realize I don’t have many photos of it. Click here to view  the only one previously posted, the only other one I have..

070417.Bath, Naked Came the Mayor

April 17, 2007 at 1:47 AM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Bath, people, somerset | 6 Comments

When meeting important dignitaries or on other specific occasions, the mayor and her costumed private army of attendants parade through town wearing their ceremonial robes and holding their ceremonial weaponry. Life goes on.
Mayor's Office
Stored in the Guildhall, every robe and weapon is specific for a position, though I can’t tell you which goes to which with the exception of the red outfit one hiding in back. (It looks like the Crimson graduate robes of Harvard or Cornell). Red robes, you see, are worn by all English mayors.
Why, you ask?
It all starts back in Victorian England, the Empress of India’s workaholic husband Prince Albert traveled the rails on royal ceremonial functions. Since he was the queen and empress’ husband, he should have been titled emperor, or at least king, but he was only licensed to use the title Prince. Nevertheless, as a royal, it was a big deal when he visited towns and cities, and as such he had to be greeted at the train station by the mayor and his council. These mayors and their assistants naturally dressed their best in the latest fashions to greet the prince, which meant that they all wore black.
This troubled Albert, who after failing to locate a certain mayor at a train station in a sea of black-cladded officials and being thoroughly embarrassed for it, mandated that all mayors should wear bright red.
Now, whenever Bath City Mayor Paradise goes to Bath Spa Station to greet someone important, they immediately recognize her. It also proves handy in distinguishing her from all the other crime-fighting superheroes running about this town.

(I may very well not have taken this shot. Today’s photo credit goes to Rajeesh G.)

070328.Bathwick, Star Cross’d Lovebirds

March 28, 2007 at 1:27 AM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Architecture, Bath, Bathwick, Canals, Chisel Marks, Gardens & Parks, Peephole Views, Pigeon, Ruins, somerset | 8 Comments

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[Sydney Gardens, Kennet and Avon Canal:.]
PIGEONO [Coming forward.]:
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Pigeonietta is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.
It is my lady! O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing.
What of that? Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold; ’tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

PIGEONIETTA :
Ay me!
PIGEONO:
She speaks.
O, speak again, bright angel, for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o’er my head,
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned wond’ring eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy puffing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.

PIGEONIETTA:
O Pigeono, Pigeono! Wherefore art thou Pigeono?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

PIGEONO [Aside.]:
Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
PIGEONIETTA:
Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face. O, be some other name
Belonging to a man.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
So Pigeono would, were he not Pigeono called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Pigeono, doff thy name;
And for thy name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

PIGEONO:
I take thee at thy word.
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Pigeono.

PIGEONIETTA:
What man art thou, that, thus bescreened in night,
So stumblest on my counsel?

PIGEONO:
By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am.
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself
Because it is an enemy to thee.
Had I it written, I would tear the word.

PIGEONIETTA:
My ears have yet not drunk a hundred words
Of thy tongue’s uttering, yet I know the sound.
Art thou not Pigeono, and a Montague?

PIGEONO:
Neither, fair maid, if either thee dislike.
PIGEONIETTA:
How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
The orchard walls are high and hard to climb,
And the place death, considering who thou art,
If any of my kinsmen find thee here.

PIGEONO:
With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls;
For stony limits cannot hold love out,
And what love can do, that dares love attempt.
Therefore thy kinsmen are no stop to me.

PIGEONIETTA:
If they do see thee, they will murder thee.
PIGEONO:
Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords! Look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.

PIGEONIETTA:
I would not for the world they saw thee here.
PIGEONO:
I have night’s cloak to hide me from their eyes;
And but thou love me, let them find me here.
My life were better ended by their hate
Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.

PIGEONIETTA:
By whose direction found’st thou out this place?
PIGEONO:
By Love, that first did prompt me to inquire.
He lent me council, and I lent him eyes.
I am no pilot; yet, wert thou as far
As that vast shore washed with the farthest sea,
I should adventure for such merchandise.

PIGEONIETTA:
Thou knowest the mask of night is on my face;
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
For that which thou hast heard me speak tonight.
Fain would I dwell on form–fain, fain deny
What I have spoke; but farewell compliment!
Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say “Ay;”
And I will take thy word. Yet, if thou swear’st,
Thou mayst prove false. At lovers’ perjuries,
They say Jove laughs. O gentle Pigeono,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully.
Or if thou thinkest I am too quickly won,
I’ll frown and be perverse and say thee nay,
So thou wilt woo, but else, not for the world.
In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond,
And therefore thou mayst think my havior light;
But trust me, gentleman, I’ll prove more true
Than those that have more cunning to be strange.
I should have been more strange, I must confess,
But that thou overheard’st, ere I was ware,
My true love passion. Therefore pardon me,
And not impute this yielding to light love,
Which the dark night hath so discovered.

PIGEONO:
Lady, by yonder blessed moon I vow,
That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops–

PIGEONIETTA:
O, swear not by the moon, th’ inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circle orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.

PIGEONO:
What shall I swear by?
PIGEONIETTA:
Do not swear at all;
Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,
Which is the god of my idolatry,
And I’ll believe thee.

PIGEONO:
If my heart’s dear love–
PIGEONIETTA:
Well, do not swear. Although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract tonight.
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say it lightens. Sweet, good night!
This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flow’r when next we meet.
Good night, good night! As sweet repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast!
PIGEONO:
O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?
PIGEONIETTA:
What satisfaction canst thou have to-night?
PIGEONO:
The exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine.
PIGEONIETTA:
I gave thee mine before thou didst request it:
and yet I would it were to give again.
PIGEONO:
Would’st thou withdraw it? for what purpose, love?
PIGEONIETTA:
But to be frank and give it thee again.
And yet I wish but for the thing I have.
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
I hear some noise within. Dear love, adieu!
[NURSE calls within.]
Anon, good nurse! Sweet Montague, be true.
Stay but a little, I will come again.
[Exit.]
PIGEONO:
O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard,
Being in night, all this is but a dream,
Too flattering-sweet to be substantial.
[Enter PIGEONIETTA again.]
PIGEONIETTA:
Three words, dear Pigeono, and good night indeed.
If that thy bent of love be honorable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,
By one that I’ll procure to come to thee,
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite;
And all my fortunes at thy foot I’ll lay
And follow thee my lord throughout the world.
[NURSE within.]
Madam!
PIGEONIETTA:
I come anon.–But if thou meanest not well,
I do beseech thee–
[NURSE within.]
Madam!
PIGEONIETTA:
By and by I come.–
To cease thy strife and leave me to my grief
Tomorrow will I send.
PIGEONO:
So thrive my soul–
PIGEONIETTA:
A thousand times good night!
PIGEONO:
A thousand times the worse, to want thy light!
Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their books
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks
[Enter PIGEONIETTA again]
PIGEONIETTA:
Hist! Pigeono, hist! O for a falc’ner’s voice
To lure this tassel gentle back again!
Bondage is hoarse and may not speak aloud,
Else would I tear the cave where Echo lies
And make her airy tongue more hoarse than
With repetition of “My Pigeono!”
PIGEONO:
How silver-sweet sound lovers’ tongues by night,
Like softest music to attending ears!
PIGEONIETTA:
Pigeono!
PIGEONO:
My sweet?
PIGEONIETTA:
What o’clock tomorrow
Shall I send to thee?

PIGEONO:
By the hour of nine.
PIGEONIETTA:
I will not fail. ‘Tis twenty years till then.
I have forgot why I did call thee back.
PIGEONO:
Let me stand here till thou remember it.
PIGEONIETTA:
I shall forget, to have thee still stand there,
Rememb’ring how I love thy company.
PIGEONO:
And I’ll still stay, to have thee still forget,
Forgetting any other home but this.
PIGEONIETTA:
‘Tis almost morning. I would have thee gone–
And yet no farther than a wanton’s bird,
That lets it hop a little from his hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silken thread plucks it back again
So loving-jealous of his liberty.
PIGEONO:
I would I were thy bird.
PIGEONIETTA:
Sweet, so would I.
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
[Exit.]
PIGEONO
Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast!
Would I were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest!

…[It doesn’t end well, so I’ll summarize: After hearing that PIGEONIETTA ate some bad bird seed, PIGEONO swallows a slice of white bread (the urban legends were true!). Then PIGEONIETTA, overcome by grief, flies into a window.]

>If you got down this far, congrats. I didn’t. But it’s now true, one picture tells 1,638 words.

070320.Bath, Shiny Emergency

March 20, 2007 at 1:14 AM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Architecture, Bath, Conservation, Crescents, Light and Shadow, Mansion, Peephole Views, people, Reflection, somerset, Supernatural | 4 Comments

Door handle of One Royal Crescent’s Drawing Room.

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exit_sign
One hundred beeswax candles lit equals the light given off by one 60-watt light bulb. Although it may be romantic to have that many candles lit

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in a room, it’s expensive and dangerous as well. Before the choice of electric or gas, candles or oil lamps of any kind were expensive and thus used sparingly. However, when they were inevitably used, precautions had to be taken in the event they burned down the house. Thus lamp and candle-era door handles, knobs, etc. were shiny to reflect the light of a carried candle or a raging inferno. If you needed to get out fast, you could find the exit. These were the equivalent of red-light EXIT sign boxes you see everywhere that are positioned throughout large spaces to aid in their two and a half minute evacuation. In Micahel Forsyth’s book “Buildings of Music,” (I don’t have it in front of me so don’t quote me) he figured out that theatres in particular burned down on average ever [number under 10, I think] years.

Most aesthetics of that long gone age reflected this necessity, and as gas and electric overtook commonplace lighting, so too did non-shiny, duller, more subtle colors overtake fashion. Today, we see shiny as somewhat tacky. (Although its use in architecture has been resurrected with the starchitects’, like Gehry’s, use of the aesthetically superficial to have their building stand out on glossy magazine covers.) Who wants an old mirror frame re-gilded to its shiny former like-new self? Basically, shiny doesn’t work in terms of modern aesthetics: think Liberace.

[Above: Liberace and “the World Famous Liberace Museum” in…Las Vegas. Below: The Great Lafayette. The story is paraphrased from JK GILLON’s article.]
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Now, for a second, think of a different Liberace a long time ago in a place far far away: Edinburgh, Scotland, May 1911. One of the greatest and most popular magicians of Europe was the Great Lafayette, the highest paid entertainer on the continent at that time. His shows immediately sold out everywhere he went and featured numerous illusions, large-scale stage shows, a fantastic mechanical teddy bear, midgets galore, and exotic animals too!

The magician himself was somewhat of showstopper. As a “bachelor recluse,” he lived with his cross-bred terrier named Beauty, a gift from the great Harry Houdini. Beauty was certainly loved by its owner, who had a metal statue of the dog cast for his limo hood ornament. Lafayette bought the dog a pure gold diamond-studded collar, velvet cushions, a minature porcelain bathtub that was fitted on his private railcar. This magician lived for his dog.

But then, the unthinkable happened — Beauty died (curiously enough, of apoplexy caused by overfeeding – the same thing that French chefs do to the foie gras geese and also what probably killed by gerbil)! The magician could barely go on, he had his beloved dog embalmed and buried in what became his own plot in Peirshill Cementery, on a mound near the Portobello Road entrance.

This death of a loved one came four days into his two week show at the Empire Theatre, Edinburough. That Tuesday on the 9th of May, 1911, during the second evening performance, the shiny satin-costumed Lafayette was still grieving but had continued to perform and made it through almost the entirety of the show. All that remained was the finale, called “The Lion’s Bride.”

It started off easily enough, Lafayette charmed the audience by pulling out not a hare but an entire goat from the folds of his satin pants, quickly followed by the usual flocks of birds (extracted from a still shinier sequined-handkerchief). Then Lafayette vanished, then he reappeared, then he switched identities with his assistants, you know, the usual. But the act involved a staged “exotic” “Oriental” set, complete with tapestries, cushions, tents, curtains, carpets, etc. There was a caged African lion, fire-eaters, jugglers, acrobats – basically, everyone who was anyone. The whole stage seemed full of people who had previously appeared. A scantily-clad woman entered the lion-filled cage, which was then covered (to allow the sedate lion to be poked and roar), then the covering was lifted and suddenly the magician was in the cage! Fooled you, he’s the lion’s bride.

The crowd went wild, everyone always loved that act, it was a great way to end the show. Lafayette got out and bowed but in so doing he knocked over an “exotic” lamp, which quickly set the “exotic” curtains, carpets, and cushions alight.

What did the crowd think? Oh good! There’s more. Let’s stay seated. Soon the exotic blaze engulfed the footlights and edged to the stall seating. Stage hands, assistants, orchestra members and off-stage performers suddenly broke rank and started spilling out of the woodwork, where they were hidden. As the crowd got this sneak peak and learned a few of the magician’s secrets, the fire curtain quickly fell hiding the growing inferno and the audience jumped up and fled the theatre in about two and a half minutes.

Three hours later, the fire was under control but many of the orchestra and stage-hands didn’t make it out. Neither did midget Little Joe nor 15-year-old mechanical-teddy-bear-operator Alice Dale. But where was the magician — had he vanished to safety? A few survivors claimed he had escaped but returned to save his horse. Whatever the reasons, they shortly found his charred elaborately costumed body on stage – AND THEN THEY FOUND HIM AGAIN! The second severely burned body was found in a lower basement, and this one had his diamond rings – the ones he didn’t lend out to assistants.

Later that week, his ashes were interred in the resurrected and opened casket of Beauty, in a funeral described as “one of the most extraordinary interments of modern times.” Houdini didn’t make it to the funeral but he sent flowers, a floral arrangement shaped like Beauty.

Subsequently, theatres and large arenas have to be evacuated in under two and a half minutes. Cathedral-ceiling spaces can take longer but low-ceiling spaces should be evacuated much faster.

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