Wednesday, 10th April, 2024

[Day 1486]

There is quite a lot to comment upon today what with one thing or another but I will start with the results of some of the internet searches I made last night. Trying to ascertain some of the provenance of the tapestry I purchased yesterday at a knock-down price and am having currently re-framed, I have discovered the following. The story is considerably condensed but the starting point is that the outstanding weavers in the middle and late middle ages were undoubtedly the Flemish. The best of these were charged with the opening of the Gobelin factory, actually started by Louis XIV but coming into its heyday during the reign of Louis XV (‘Louis Quinze’) Under this monarch, there was a massive flowering of the decorative arts and the legacy to this day is Louis Quinze furniture. The Gobelin factor produced tapestries on mediaeval and classical themes and its output was used extensively at Versailles and at manorial homes throughout France. The established court painter was Boucher and a tapestry was made, in the style of Boucher, of ‘Jardin de Louis XV’ which depicted 18th Century aristocrats, some dancing, others painting, to the sound of music being played in the garden. (As you might have guessed by now, the tapestry I purchased yesterday was one of this genre.) Tapestry making was extremely expensive and took a lot of skill and gradually the use of tapestries fell away with the rise of paint and wallpaper – but the tapestry-making skills were still deployed in restoration work. The Flemish weaving tradition was still strong and one of the famous of these enterprises acquired the rights to all of the Gobelin as well as Jacquard designs. Then in the 1960’s, the skills of the weavers was deployed to make modern facsimiles of some of these classic designs. This was not like a photocopy or even a print but was a skilful adaptation of century old skills. The resulting output, although made on a machine and not hand made as in the original, were then put on the market at prices ranging from £160-£200 upwards. So the binding on the back of the tapestry I purchased although it says ‘Made in Belgium’ should really have read ‘Made by Flemish weavers using traditional skills’ So this the condensed back story of the tapestry I have purchased which is still best described as ‘Jardin de Louis XV’ but, if it were an absolute original, would sell in the hundreds of thousands and be in a museum (or stately home) somewhere.

This morning, after breakfast Meg and I went out to the AgeUK Club which we attend on the second Wednesday of each month and the morning turned out to be far more entertaining than we would have imagined. A troupe of female ‘Morris Men’ had been engaged and they engaged in some traditional dances made resonant by the clogs that they were wearing. They were accompanied by a little band comprised of a guitarist, an accordionist and a concertina or squeezebox. Some of the tunes originated from the locality and some from the North where the wearing of clogs in the mills was quite widespread. This really does not sound like everyone’s cup of tea but was actually immensely enjoyable and the morning just flew by. To make life a little more interesting, one person attended the club for the first time with her father and this lady was a teacher in Leeds, so we actually had quite a lot to talk about. This particular lady was being faced with the prospect of moving her father from a community in which he had lived for decades to a brand new environment so that she could continue to provide care and support for him. This must be a very difficult to make and I do not envy her lot – but I gave her details of a webpage I had put up some time ago that might offer a few practical tips and hints. I had hoped that more people might contribute to these pages so that we could information share but I guess that we are all too busy actually caring than to have time reading websites.

In the middle of the afternoon, I received a phone call from the daughter of Meg’s cousin. Yesterday, although very frail this cousin had celebrated her 88th birthday yesterday and had a really wonderful day with members of the care staff baking a birthday cake and with all round celebrations with the two daughters. This turned out to be a sort of swansong because early this morning, Meg’s cousin had slipped peacefully away having had the most enjoyable day yesterday. The family have been under immense pressure coping with the illness of her mother and so today their inevitable sadness is tinged with relief and almost a certain amount of happiness that their mother had experienced what in my youth used to be described by my religious studies teachers as a ‘good end’ The significance of this phrase was lost on me at the age of 14 but I appreciate the sentiment more fully today. Whilst one inevitably mourns the passage of a loved one, the age of 88 is not a bad age at which to pass on – in the meanwhile, we are still thinking about the practical arrangements when we can meet again, funerals notwithstanding, so that life can go on.

Just before we got the phone call from Meg’s cousin, we had received another one from the member of the NHS ReAblement team who had made an assessment of Meg some two or three weeks ago and was now checking that all would be in place for a hand over (or rather a hand back) to the care agency which we were using before Meg’s recent stay in hospital. This will be a case of picking up the pieces again and there is a certain amount of sadness involved as we move from one band of carers to another. Almost inevitably, one enters into a sort of emotional relationship with the personnel involved in providing care for a loved one and we may be in a situation where we will be sorry not to be seeing some of them again. This afternoon, though, has been one of those really wet and gloomy days and one wonders when we are going to get a glimpse of more springlike weather.