Monday, 14 May 2012

MONMOUTH Mark Steel & Manor Houses

One might think that the city has more variety but the country can offer comparable diversity (culturally speaking).  So a weekend begins with Mark Steel's performance at Monmouth's theatre with its antique music-hall-cum-cinema charm and and uncomfortable seats.
Being no connoisseur of stand-up, I was impressed by the length of the solo gig - nearly 90 mins each set plus interval and encore - and interested in the premiss.  Which is Steels's tour of minor, mostly unmemorable provincial towns, each duly studied with insult and affection.  Photos form the tour backdrop - Monmouth represented by a shot of the fortified medieval bridge flanked by a public toilet. Additional downbeat quotes from local guidebooks - one comparing the Skirrid to the Matterhorn - and allusion to the unauthenicated Nelson memorabilia in the town museum.  All interspersed with low-key jokes against soft targets - Ryanair, Tesco, online banking and the Coalition.  Despite effing, all rather over-amiable, but certainly progressive rather than reactionary, albeit in low-key manner.

Succeeded by a springtime walk in saturated fields alongside the river Trothy when, defeated by a washed-away footpath, barbed wire  and cows, calves with BULL, we came onto an old road leading to Treowen manor house, an immensely tall Jacobean pile dominating the landscape from afar.   The photo does not record the astonishing rear elevation,  with  three-and-a-half high floors under four dark-red sandstone gables. A wedding reception was in train on the yew-hedged terrace looking steeply down to a lake  - one of those  chance discoveries  made memorable by no previous knowledge of its existence.

Then the next day a stiffer walk up from the Wye to High Glanau, a manorhouse by courtesy, being in fact the country residence of Artsand Crafts architect H. Avery Tipping. built on an umpromisingly precipitous  site plunging westward towards Raglan.  A garden only for the young and agile - the woodland walk like two  full underground escalator flights
The gabled, slate-hung house modest and pleasing, if uninspired,  in the dream model  for wealthy urbanites, with terraced gardens lovingly restored, complete with kitchen-garden and gardeners' bothy with shining old-style  handtools.

We are all still entranced by the appeal of Edwardian / National Trust country house style. I ought to add some of Mark Steel's images of blighted suburbs, town centres and carparks and ask why  these are not made aesthetically attractive.  But I can't find those to copy.

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