Sunday, 31 July 2011

Rhino Mountain

The Yorkshire Dales, apparently, are a dangerous place to be these days. Seriously, I've been meaning to photograph this sign for some time. You can find it on a high road in the hills between Kirkby Stephen and Sedburgh. I'm sure it's cheered up a lot of tourists (or worried them, if they're slow on the uptake). It's been there for years now. Are "SEM" the initials of the artist? Who knows.

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Not so long ago we paid a visit to Ormesby Hall, a National Trust property just outside Middlesborough. Prior to passing to the Trust, it was the home of Colonel Jim Pennyman and his wife, Ruth. They were an interesting couple: Ruth was a socialist while the colonel was an active member of the Conservative Party. It's a pleasant afternoon out: there's a lot to look at in the hall, especially since Ruth -in addition to everything else- was a semi-professional artist. The exhibits which stick in the mind, though, are pretty gruesome. Ruth kept one of her milk teeth and it's now in a glass case along with two sections of Jim's ribs: he received a bullet wound in the war and, as a result, they had to be removed surgically. He kept them, wrapped in cotton wool.

Having had a wander round, I came across a portrait of Sir Michael Tippett in a corridor close to the exit. I was quite excited by this as, if pushed, I think I'd have to name Tippett as my favourite composer. I headed back to the information desk to find out what he was doing there.

It turned out that Tippett had been a friend of Ruth Pennyman in the inter-war years. He had worked with her on a project for unemployed people in the area - first on a production of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera and then on an opera which he composed himself, Robin Hood. Ruth Pennyman wrote the libretto. As it was an early work he was not altogether pleased with, Tippett later withdrew the music and forbade its performance.

He did write his Piano Sonata No. 1 in the thirties, though (this is "1/2", so if you listen, and it captivates you, click on the "2/2" that appears at the end to hear the rest) :



Now I've seen it in a new light I'll have to go back to Ormesby Hall.

1 comment:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Some marriage that - one of each political persuasion. Wonder if they argued.
Can you say with absolute certainty that there is no rhino in the Dales. If there is a beast of Bellerby roaming then who knows what else might be lurking behind a rock?