Nyth y Fran

After we left Ruthin we drove down the Vale of Clwyd to St Asaph where we picked up the A55. The holiday traffic had died down by then so it took less than an hour driving down the coast road and over the Britannia bridge onto Anglesey. It was only a short drive then over to our apartment which was about half way between Menai Bridge and Beaumaris.

Nyth y Fran (Welsh for bird’s nest) was on the very top floor of Bryn Mel Manor, a large house that had been built in the late 19th century for William Imrie of the White Star Shipping Company (owners of the Titanic).


We’d chosen well. The house is sited on top of the hill overlooking the Menai Straits and being on the top floor we had particularly good views over the water towards Bangor and its Victorian pier with the mountains of Snowdonia stretched out behind.


Our apartment occupied the left hand half of the top floor (effectively in the attic) and the windows from the living room, kitchen both bedrooms and the en-suite bathroom all looked over the water and the mountains.


I never tired of the view which changed with the weather and the time of day.


The apartment was beautifully fitted out with all mod cons – you just had to be careful not to bang your head where, being in the roof, the ceiling sloped down.

We had two very hot, sunny days during our stay, otherwise it was cloudy and, sometimes, quite windy. But we didn’t really have any rain. So we were able to get out and about. Although we filled our time, there was a lot more we could have seen and done. A week really wasn’t long enough.

Elf and Safety

There was a new comedy programme that started on BBC last week, written by Ben Elton. It’s all about Gerald Wright, a Health and Safety Department chief from the fictional town of Baselricky, somewhere in the south of England. Very funny I’m sure – except it isn’t and it’s had a real panning from the critics. But the premise that it’s hilarious to make fun of people involved in protecting people at work from accidents and ill health has become generally accepted.

In recent year the trend in the media and the entertainment industry has been to mock, misrepresent and ridicule the whole idea of health and safety. This has played into the hands of a government which has an ideological agenda to remove anything that gets in the way of the pursuit of profit.

Well, just in case anyone thinks they’re right, a lack of regulation and a disregard for health and safety led to this

the collapse of a building in India which resulted in the death of a large number of Indian textile workers.

Ben Elton, who made his name as an “edgy” radical comedian really ought to know better.

Modern Masters on the BBC

I’ve enjoyed watching the series of four programmes on the BBC presented by the youthful Alastair Sooke about Modern Art. Each programme focused on one of the great “masters” of Modern Art – Picasso, Matisse, Dali and Warhol, showcasing their work, looking at how it developed over their lifetime and trying to explain their influences and connections and the influence they have had on popular culture.

Picasso (source: Wikipedia)

Sooke is an enthusiastic presenter and explains his points without being too preachy – although I’d agree with the Guardian review that suggested that there was “a touch of Blue Peter” in his style. There seems to be a trend for young, dynamic presenters on the BBC at the moment – we’ve also had Brian Cox, the “rock star physicist”, who seems to crop up all over the place, and Iain Stewart who’s presented a number of geology based programmes. Sometimes their enthusiasm can be a little irritating, but they clearly know their stuff, generally get it over well and may attract some younger viewers (not just old fogies like me!).

Matisse (source: Wikipedia)

I’m sure that some serious art critics would get sniffy and consider the programmes to be “middle brow”, but I found them both entertaining and informative. I’ve only developed my interest in Modern Art relatively recently and have a lot to learn and programmes like this certainly help my education. I found the programme on Matisse particularly interesting as I didn’t know much about him even though I’d seen some of his works in the Beaubourg in Paris, and was familiar with some of his better known paintings. The programme put these in context and allowed me to discover other aspects of his work. There was much more variety – his style changing as he got older – then I realised.

Pictures by Matisse (Beaubourg, Paris)

I knew more about Picasso and Dali. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Musee Picasso in Paris and the Dali Theartre and Museum in Figueres. In both cases there was a large collection which spanned the life of these artists.

Dali Theatre and Museum

The BBC has a website devoted to the series, which has some clips from the programmes, a “virtual exhibition” of major works by all four artists and links to places where it’s possible to see Modern Art round the country. They also have a series of “art walks” – routes around major cities in Britain which focus on public art including sculpture, architecture and other places to see Modern Art.

Manet: the Man Who Invented Modern Art


An excellent programme shown on BBC2 on Saturday. Not too heavy or too lightweight – I guess you could say it was “middlebrow”, but that suited me!  Presented by the critic Waldemar Januszczak (try saying that name after a few pints – on reflection try saying it when you’re sober) it looked at Manet’s art and his life. He has always been one of my favourite artists – since I learned to start appreciating art in my early twenties. A number of his paintings are particular favourites of mine,  especially Olympia, and despite his character flaws which were explored during this programme (and who doesn’t have those),  I admire his republicanism and leftish tendencies, reflected in his painting “The Execution of Maximilian”, even if he was essentially a “bourgeois radical”. That’s better, in my view, than being a reactionary. He did, after all, come from a bourgeois family – his father was a senior judge.

The Execution of Maximillian

The Execution of Maximilian

When discussing the more famous works such as “Dejeuner sur l’Herbe” and “Olympia”, the progamme “recreated” the pictures with live models. I’m not sure what the intention was in doing this as I don’t think it added to the understanding of the paintings, but I guess it was a device to make the viewer take notice, rather than simply displaying a flat image.

I’m also not sure about the title pf the programme. Did he “invent” modern art? He certainly helped to move art away from the stuffy traditions prevalent at the end of the 18th Century and was a major influence on the Impressionists but I don’t think that he deliberately set out to revolutionise art in the way the title of the programme suggests. I guess that its another device to grab attention.

Manet's Olympia

Manet's Olympia

Despite these reservations watching the programme was a good way to spend some time on a Saturday night at home.

Pictures from Wikipedia