Monday, September 29, 2008
Alan Staniforth, one-time Heritage Coast Ranger for the N. York Moors National Park Authority, explains in an interesting article he wrote about the North Sea Trail. In it he revealed that "a building with its toe in the sea at the bottom of Robin Hood's Bay village has a shorter history than its design might at first indicate". It seems that this late 18th century building, after being used as a public house and then dwelling houses until 1829, was then taken over by the recently established coastguard service. After they moved to a purpose built station on Fisher Head in the early 1900s, the building was hired, and later bought, by Leeds University, to accommodate students studying marine biology.
During the war the building was taken over by the War Department, and afterwards use of the laboratory was at a low ebb until the arrival of new staff in the early 1960s. This led to its demolition and the rebuilding of a purpose built marine laboratory which opened in 1967. The design was not popular with the local community, however, and one can see why from the picture of it nearing completion in 1965. Only 15 years later, the new laboratory was closed down for economic reasons.
The property was eventually purchased in 1999 by the National Trust for use as an Information and Interpretation Centre. The new building was demolished, and the present building was constructed to the style of the old coastguard station, as you can see from my own picture taken 10 days ago. For an account of this remarkable piece of reconstructive work, it is worth going to the website of Allen Tod Architecture, where you will also find really good pictures of the three architectural stages in the building's life. [You will need to click on Projects, then scroll down the list to find Robin Hood's Bay]
All this is fascinating, but I am no nearer identifying my painting. But I don't give up easily, and reference on the website to a history of Robin Hood's Bay by Barrie Farnill, led to my buying the book second hand. It contains many wonderful old photos, but sadly none that threw any more light on my enquiry. There is, though, an enticing description which gives me hope that someone may yet tell me what I want to hear:
"To the south of Wayfoot [the end of the slipway], a sea wall was built many years ago, an extension of a much older one. Behind the older wall one particularly interesting 17th century house, known now as The Coble, shelters snugly and securely. It was once the home of the chief coastguard officer of Robin Hood’s Bay. From what is now a sunny glas-walled lounge, but was formerly a balcony, the old water-guard scanned the horizon through telescopes for sight of smuggling luggers. In more recent years, the coastguards occupied an old building on the north side of this house, one which was pulled down and rebuilt by the University of Leeds in 1965. Here, too, was the old round-house, which served as a bad weather look out post, and a building in which the water-guard, forerunners of the coastguards, kept their boat. "
Well, there is something decidedly 'lookout-ish' about that little sort of bay window hanging out over the sea on the left of the building in the painting, and there is a balcony too. And what about those shadowy flag poles, (which can be seen if you enlarge the picture), or are they the masts and rigging of a real or imagined smugglers' lugger trying to creep past the coastguard station? Remember, this was painted around 100 years ago! I would like to have certainty one day, but meanwhile, all this speculation and my own imagination have added enormously to the charm of the picture for me.
[Black and white photographs are from the Robin Hood's Bay official website.]
Saturday, September 27, 2008
He made no objection, and after a while we turned off the main road and began a long trek through narrow country lanes until we eventually emerged at the viewpoint which had been marked on the map. It was staggering! We were high up on the clifftop above the town, with a shimmering panorama of sea and sky in front of us. We parked the car and passed through a small swing gate to find ourselves at the top of a very steep path down to sea level. It was clear that if I wanted to study the buildings at the water's edge I should have to go down it. It was equally clear that my 80-year-old heart would not be equal to the climb back up again.
So what does this good man do? I have shown him the picture of course, and explained my mission, so he says "You stay here and take some pictures, and I'll go down and have a look for you." There were a couple of benches just inside the gate, and I sat there and resumed my basking mode from earlier that morning. After a while I began to feel he had been gone a long time, and got up to look for him. There he was, slogging up the hill by another route, showing all the evidence of a stiff climb. He said he thought that some of the sea wall by the slipway might have been what I was looking for, so I asked him if it was possible to drive down.
The headland, Sandsend
I have scanned all the smaller pictures into my computer, and I thought it would be interesting to take prints with me to Whitby, and see if I could actually find the places where the artist had sat to paint the scenes. I took altogether seven pictures, only three of which where titled, and I ended up identifying all but one of them. But this was only done with the help of three other people who supported me in my search.
Tate Hill Sands and Jetty, Whitby
My first piece of good fortune was to find a receptionist at Sneaton Castle who was a local person and actually recognised all but one of the pictures - and bear in mind that they had been painted about 100 years ago! I was planning to go on my search by taxi, and she told me exactly where to ask the driver to put me down to find the different scenes. My next piece of luck was to have a disgraceful friend offer to drive me round and wait while I located my targets and took photographs. We didn't have very long, as we had to get back for our second leaflet meeting, so it was a bit of a scramble, and I didn't get all the shots I would have liked. However, I have enough evidence to convince me that I have followed my mother-in-law's artistic trail of a hundred years ago. This proved to be quite a moving experience, and I feel that in some way I have actually met her at last. Here are my two best successes, with the painting on the left, and my photo on the right:
Argument's Yard, Whitby, alongside the lifeboat shed, seen from the water's edge. The yard is now private, but I was lucky enough to be invited in by a couple who live there, who were delighted to see the 100-year-old watercolour. Further confirmation came from a painting by a contemporary artist below, and an old photo from the Whitby archive, both of which I found on the web.
Friday, September 26, 2008
We were staying at a conference centre called Sneaton Castle, set high above the town of Whitby, where we had met before in 2005. It was good for once to be returning to a place we knew, as we usually go somewhere different each year, in order to move around the country for the benefit of our countrywide members. Well! When I go on these annual trips with my Growing Old Disgracefully friends, the expectation is usually fun and frolics all round. But this time I worked quite hard for much of the time, and have continued to do so since coming home a week ago, which is why I have only just got round to posting.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Friday, September 05, 2008
What could be better? I think I would need a small stool on the platform, (which is 47 x 60 cm), as it would be difficult with my legs dangling to make that final transfer onto the van seat. But my son already carries ramps in his van, so he would have no problem with running it out and trundling it round to the side when I need to get in, and again when I want to get out. I reckon it would be a lot more dignified than the heaving and struggling that has been going on up to now.
Oh bummer! I've just noticed a drawback. The platform isn't at ground level when at rest. I might have to go for the full forklift truck option!
Thursday, September 04, 2008
She sent me a link she had found and I have been having a good look through the website of betterlifehealthcare.com .
I soon realised that the swivel cushion will unfortunately not meet my case, as it is designed primarily for use in a car, where one can stand on the ground with one's back to the car seat and just lower one's bottom onto it, and then swivel. My problem is that I have to get myself off the ground and up to seat level first, which requires massive forward and upward movement, and THEN twist myself to get my bottom on the seat. It didn't take much thought to realise that what I really need is a HOIST!!! Or a seat that cranks up to the level I want.
I was about to close the website when I thought, "I'll just have a look through the whole page" ..... and then I began to laugh. Moving firmly in the direction of industrial equipment, the company was offering this little number, called the Caresia Twist patient turner, which comes in at a robust £702.00. [The cheapest swivel cushion is a modest £16.79!] "At this rate," I thought, "there might even be a device with a hoist as well, so I'll carry on down the page".
Alas, no, there was nothing with a hoist on offer, though there was equipment of increasing complexity, such as this Rota Move De Luxe, which allows for four separate handling transfers: 'sit to stand, pivot, seated and side transfer', and which would knock you back £1804.00.
The priciest item of all came in at £2329.00.
But it made me think about what may lie ahead, and I am determined to keep as flexible and agile as I can, even if it doesn't include climbing into my son's van without a hoist.