Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Following in Constable's footsteps

I've done it all back to front as usual.

I've had a truly fantastic day out and look like I have applied war paint to my nose and cheeks. My right side is redder than my left and as Colin pointed out once I'd made it home “I see your legs haven't changed colour”. They stay gloriously glaring white all year long.

Sketch for Hadleigh Castle circa 1828-9

The Gardener bought me a postcard on a visit to see Constable's monumental six foot canvases at Tate Britain on the understanding we would make a pilgrimage out to the featured Hadleigh Castle over the summer. I did expect to see the exhibition before undertaking the task but a phone call early this morning suggested the weather would be good for the walk and before I knew it we were winging our way to Benfleet. It was superb. We met few people on the footpaths yet the castle itself was teaming with life; mostly women picnicking with young children. A far cry from Constable's feelings of despair and desolation when he completed his masterpiece.

There was a very English feel to the landscape. Ash, hawthorn, kestrel, dragonflies and cows. The straw has been baled early due to the scorching weather. The sea in the background and strangely the distant chemical works.

Lunch was eaten at the Salvation Army tea house to the north of the castle. I loved the ordering system. You look at the menu and then fill in a pre-printed sheet with the quantities of what you want and the table number. You then pay at the till and the food is brought to you. The staff have various needs – from what I could tell Down's syndrome and different moderate to severe learning difficulties. The service was excellent as was my cheese and onion toastie.

A walk and a pint or two in Leigh on Sea followed by a crunchy seashore saunter to Chalkwell finished our day.

We've made an agreement to go back in the winter to see it from Constable's point of view. We'll see!

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