This soulful looking gardener stands in the garden of Fenton House in North London. He's about half life size, and I can imagine him working in his cocked hat, hoeing away in the garden of this "gentleman's residence" tucked away in the oldest part of Hampstead,
K is always going on about how pleasant it is to sit in Fenton House's garden, so I went there on Friday to chill out. But I found the garden was full of gazebos.
Not very relaxing to sit there with workmen bustling around. I got up and strolled about, and noticed that someone had created a display of apples in the vegetable patch.
Ah! They were obviously preparing for something, and finally I found a notice saying that they were going to have an Apple Day this weekend.
Since I couldn't sit outside, I went inside - something I haven't done for some years. The house is quite simply a good example of the kind of house a wealthy but not aristocratic person might have lived in. It contains several collections - of old needlework (like this)
of china, and of musical instruments, namely the Benton Fletcher collection of historical keyboard instruments.
Cocked hats off to the National Trust which allows students and competent harpsichordists to play this world class collection of harpsichords, clavichords, virginals and spinets - many of them incredibly rare and valuable, We wandered into one room and found a glamorous lady in a long red dress playing some Bach, very well indeed. Here she is.
She was happy to talk, and showed us (and played) a little pentagonal spinet dating from the 16th century. You see she is standing up.
Many women played virginals, and I have been told that did not use their thumbs while playing (weird!) and they stood up to play.
Here's a Vermeer lady doing just that, although she's playing an ordinary spinet
The instruments are in astonishingly good condition, and being made of wood, they have to be tuned almost continuously, unlike a piano which has a much more stable iron frame.
So anyway after looking round the house, which was great, we decided to come back yesterday for the Apple Day they had been so busily preparing for.
When we arrived, there weren't such very huge numbers of apples to be seen, (although there was one stall selling a few, and a cider stall). It seemed the Apple Day was also an excuse for the kids to have fun, doing climbing or archery, having their faces painted
or listening to stories and playing with balloons
or even looking at bees
You could buy cakes and different varieties of apples grown in the garden or at other National Trust properties. (I'd like to grow "American Mother" just for the name - and to make apple pie of course!
For some, it was just an excuse to sit and chat and enjoy the garden
This time, when we went inside the house, it was packed with people. Upstairs, in the attic, another lady was playing different keyboard instruments from the ones we'd heard yesterday, and she had quite a big audience, all jammed into the little room, as no doubt they'd have stood around listening in the old days. Though I don't suppose they'd have had balloons in the old days.
The lady was playing airs from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, She told us that it was compiled by a man who was born in prison, spent most of his life there and died there. It's a collection of tunes which people would have liked to play with their families and friends - rather poignant, I thought. .
If you're interested, here is a very short jig from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, written by John Bull and called "Dr Bull's My Selfe" The performer on this recording plays it a bit fast for my taste, but on the other hand it WAS a jig. I still think you'd have had to have been a pretty good pub harpsichordist to play it at that speed, when everyone had had a few pints of beer.