Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Article excerpt

verse. Opening the exhibition last month, Sir David Attenborough described Lear as 'probably the best ornithological illustrator that ever was', and Lear's paintings of birds, especially of parrots, are indeed superb.

But more moving for me are the beautiful landscapes he painted during his extensive travels around the Mediterranean and in India. There is something magical and sad about them. His view of Jerusalem is particularly affecting. Painted in the 1850s, it shows the ancient city still wholly contained within its walls, a small and vulnerable enclave of beauty and civilisation amid a wild and mountainous landscape. Equally touching is his 1880 painting 'The Plains of Lombardy from Monte Generoso', in which the plains lie far below and fade away into the distance under a blue mist.

But the exhibition also pays tribute to his brilliance as an illustrator of his famous nonsense limericks, with several of the original illustrations on display. And at the back of the exhibition there is a large board on which visitors are invited to pin their own efforts. 'Along the lines of Lear, Leave your For the fifth year running my nearest village in Northamptonshire has just hosted a weekend of celebration called 'Stoke Bruerne: Village at War'. A busy two-day programme of events, including a Spitfire fly-past, a bread-and-dripping and spamsandwich tuck-in, and classes in how to dance the Lambeth Walk, started on Saturday morning with a formal opening ceremony by Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Montgomery lookalikes and ended on Sunday afternoon with an air raid 'all clear'.

Stoke Bruerne lies on the Grand Union Canal about halfway between London and Birmingham; and Village at War was organised by Friends of the Canal Museum there to raise money for that worthy institution.

It was a great success. The village was festooned with Union Jacks and crowded with hundreds of people (men often in old uniforms or siren suits, and women in sensible coats and skirts, wedge shoes and hats) buying items of second world war nostalgia and 'black market' food products from stalls beside the canal, watching noisy military demonstrations by 'living history' re-enactment societies, and listening to a very plausible George Formby impersonator. …

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