Saturday, August 27, 2011

Notley Abbey

These pics were taken back in May when a group of friends and I took the train out to Buckinghamshire to visit the country estate of Sir Laurence and Lady Olivier (better known to film fans as Scarlett O'Hara herself, Miss Vivien Leigh). Notley Abbey, near Aylesbury, is a 15th century converted Abbey (endowed by Henry V) that was purchased by the Oliviers as a country retreat shortly after WWII. It had been in a long-standing state of disrepair but Larry was determined to fix it up into something livable.

Shortly after moving in, Vivien fell ill with tuberculosis and spent months resting and recuperating here. She grew to love its idyllic secluded setting, surrounded by green pastures and a lazy river that runs out front. Over the years Larry and Vivien created a romantic haven, a place that was steeped in history, and one where some of the most famous parties in England were held. It was sold shortly before the Oliviers divorced in 1960. Larry later wrote, "Of all the houses I’ve lived in over the years, Notley is my favourite. It was absolutely enchanting, and it enchanted me. At Notley I had an affair with the past. For me it had mesmeric power; I could easily drown in its atmosphere." Vivien's letter to her step-son Tarquin touchingly conveys how much the house meant to her:
On top of all this it seems as if Notley is sold. I can hardly write the words. A Canadian couple saw it some weeks ago, made an immediate and perfectly good offer and want to move in at the end of April. It doesn’t seem possible, does it? Of course it is looking particularly beautiful. We have had the most glorious crisp and dazzling winter days…I walk from place to precious place and gaze at the beloved views with tears pouring down my face. What memories for all one’s life—such unbelievable rare happiness, sweetness and quietude there has been here. I don’t forget the other times too, but they seem to me outweighed by blissful togetherness. Dear God it is a heartache…the fact that we have known for some time now that it would have to go doesn’t seem to help in the least. It is fifteen years—a great part of one’s life…Oh the hundreds of times my beloved Larry and I have wandered here in wonder and grateful amazement at the beauty all around us—the feeling that we were a little responsible for creating it too made it all so doubly dear. It is hard to imgine life without such an oasis.

Today, Notley is a wedding venue. While the inside is cold and informal--rather like a hotel than a home--the outside retains its air of romanticism.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Somewhere in London

+ St Martin-in-the-fields | Trafalgar Square

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Love After Death


"And if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death."
--Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Highgate Cemetery is located in Swains Lane, Hightage, North London. It was built in 1839 as one of seven planned cemeteries to accommodate burials in the quickly expanding city, which had previously taken place in local churchyards. It's quite a famous tourist destination, and as I find old cemeteries really interesting, I decided to go check it out. Highgate is divided into two segments: the East Cemetery which is the final resting place of famous people such as Karl Marx, Ralph Richardson and George Eliot, and the West Cemetery which is more famous for its stunning Victorian architecture.

Victorian attitudes about religion and death account for the lavish mausoleums and various memorials designed using styles that were in vogue at the time--classical symbols, angels, death masks (plaster placed over the deceased person's face so a statue could be fashioned as an exact likeness), statues of people's pets, etc. The cemetery also boasts two amazing architectural designs in the Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon, which our guide said were once painted in vibrant colors to reflect their exotic origins. Over time these memorials have been reduced to worn grey stone and nature has definitely taken over. The large trees and creeping vines add an extra touch of eeriness to the already haunting atmosphere.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Revamp and Revival

+ Houses of Parliament at sunset | August 12, 2011

Hey everyone,

I'm surprised but really happy to see that this blog still has some followers! This is good news because this evening I decided to do a little revamp and revive Days in Mayfair. Much has happened since last I did update--one of those things being I finally had the opportunity to upgrade to a DSLR camera. I've been a bit more of a shutterbug ever since, so I decided to turn Days in Mayfair into a photo blog; a place to share snapshots from my travels and my life in London. From here on out it will be more a portfolio than a miscellaneous blog, more photos than text.

My goal is to be a better photographer and get better at Photoshop. Let's face it, I need to properly learn how to use my camera. Practice makes perfect, as they say, and I can't wait to share what I learn and discover along the way.

Thanks for sticking around!