Sunday, 16 June 2013

Dad’s 90th Birthday and a Fun Night Out

Yesterday was my dad’s 90th birthday so we went over to the care home and had tea with him. He had lots of cards, and seemed to be enjoying his day. Here he is with some cake and a candle.

Dad's 90th Birthday

I can’t believe he’s 90 (any more than I can believe I’m 60, actually!). A few weeks ago he swore blind he’d already had his 90th, and wouldn’t be persuaded otherwise – but in the end, who are we to disillusion him – if he thinks he’s already had a celebration, then the real one would just be an added bonus for him! His final clinching argument was, “I must have had my 90th birthday, because I received a Christmas card from the Queen!” ROFL!! Bless him!

Afterwards we went on to Exeter for the evening. Just outside Exeter is a beautiful old house called Poltimore, which is in a very sad state of dilapidation, but major restoration work has begun on it. Several years ago there was a TV series called “Restoration,” where a number of different buildings around the country competed to win the prize to be restored; Poltimore House was one of them, but unfortunately did not win.

It suffered the ravages of extreme vandalism during the 70s and 80s when a lot of youngsters broke in for raves, and they wrecked everything they could reach. Fortunately they couldn’t reach the ceilings with their very fine plasterwork, but a lot of damage needs to be repaired, and after decades of neglect, the structure of the building is in a very poor state, and some of it may be too far gone for restoration.

It will be wonderful to see it restored to its former glory, but in the meantime there is something to be said for the faded grandeur of its present state. Sometimes we get carried away with restoration until it’s hard to say what is original and what is not, and I have a fascination for the effect of decay on surfaces, and the textures and colours that result, and this is lost when it is restored.

On the Poltimore Estate there is a paintball park. The building was constructed in the early 50s as the Royal Observer Corps 10 Group Headquarters, and my hubby served there for seven years during the 1970s. This was like the Territorial Army, and my hubby was part of a team to monitor and identify nuclear explosions, to pass the information on, and to plot radiation and fallout, and to warn the public of attack and radiation, and to enable the evacuation of the population, or keep them safe in their homes until the radiation levels had reduced. They also spotted aircraft. This was during the height of the Cold War, and fortunately none of their training had to be put into practice. He very much enjoyed his experience with them, and was interested to see that the radio aerial was still towering above the paintball building!

The reason for our visit to Poltimore yesterday was a charity do to raise funds for the restoration. It was an Antiques Call My Bluff evening, with a team of three from one of our prominent local firms of auctioneers – they were responsible for the recent sale of my parents’ antiques, and in particular, Dad’s clocks, and got a very good price for us – the partner we dealt with was there last night; a charming man, and it was so good to see him again and to be able to thank him in person for doing so well for us.

When we arrived, we had drinks in the main entrance hall of the beautiful house, and were able to wander around and see the state of it, and the work in progress. There were plans and drawings of the proposed restoration on the walls. I was able to take quite a few photos, particularly of the beautiful plasterwork, which was some of the finest I’d ever seen.

We then moved on to the chapel (not the sort of building you’d expect for a house of this sort, but more like a village hall!) where we had a buffet supper, and then the Call My Bluff session began.

There were ten objects displayed, which we were invited to examine, and then each one was presented to us by each of the three team members in turn, and they described the object, its age and history, and its estimated value at auction, and we had to decide which was the most plausible explanation and mark the sheets we’d been given. It was a hilarious evening – they were all experts at describing such objects, of course, but some of the explanations (even the true ones!) were highly implausible, to say the least. There was a beautiful little blue and white dish, heavily encrusted with barnacles and other sea life, which the partner who we’d had dealings with described as having come from the wreck of “the Texting – I mean, the Tek Sing,” he said. (General laughter and scepticism all round.) He said that there had been several thousand people on board the junk that had sunk, and hundreds of thousands of these plates and other stuff (that all sounded highly unlikely, and we were not surprised it had sunk, if it had indeed been the case!) and when someone asked where it had sunk, he hesitated and tried to consult his notes, and replied, “Oh… somewhere between here and China, I think.” Needless to say, most of us put “Bluff” beside that one, but of course, it turned out to be true! I told him afterwards that I’d never buy a second hand car off him!!

There was a picture of two children with a rocking horse, which one of the team assured us was by an obscure Russian artist rejoicing in the name of Hors Manooor. You can imagine what we thought about that!!

One team member tried to pass off a sapphire and diamond ring (which I didn’t much like) as something bought off the Shopping Channel for twenty quid, but it turned out to be genuine and worth many thousands of pounds! I thought it was from the Shopping Channel. Duh. Definitely not my area! I only scored 3 out of 10. My hubby scored 6, but then he always does well with quizzes and things, and can read people pretty well and knows when they are telling porkies! The trouble is, he’s always so blessed SMUG about it! There was a tie-breaker between the two people who scored 7 out of 10, and the winner received what was described as “a bottle of a champagne-like substance” lol!

It was a most unusual evening, and tremendous fun. I think the auctioneers enjoy doing these evenings because it’s a bit of light relief from their normal work, and they are happy to do some extra-curricular work in a good cause.

Here are some photos of the inside of the house. It will be amazing to see it in its fully restored state – apparently it was glorious in its heyday – but in the meantime there is something about its faded grandeur that will be lost when it is restored; it will be hard to tell what is original and what is not, and the effects of age and neglect on the damaged surfaces gives rise to some beautiful subtle colours and textures which will be lost when it’s all tarted up.

Poltimore Fanlight

Poltimore Floor

Poltimore Plaster Fragments

Poltimore Plasterwork 1

Poltimore Plasterwork 2

Poltimore Plasterwork 3

Poltimore Plasterwork 4

There was powerful temporary lighting throughout the areas we saw, and this produced some unusual effects of light and shade on the plasterwork.

Poltimore Plasterwork 5

Poltimore Plasterwork 6

Poltimore Plasterwork 7

Poltimore Plasterwork 8

Poltimore Plasterwork 9

One of the magnificent mirrors, which had unfortunately been smashed by vandals.

Poltimore Plasterwork Mirror

The whole of the roof had been covered with this temporary structure to keep the weather out while they are doing the work. This is one of the towers.

Poltimore Tower

A most enjoyable day out! A restful day today, and over to the new house early tomorrow when we will have some discussion with the builder about our plans. He told me he is hoping to have the units for my new ARTHaven and we can start arranging them around the room and deciding where I want them. It’s starting to feel very real now!


  1. Hiya Shoshi, yes I second that.....'Bless him' - for your Dad. He reminds me a little bit of my dear Dad who always smiled a lot too. Fabulous pic to treasure.

    Your new place looks pretty spiffy, settled in yet?

  2. 10th photo will be good inspiration for zentangle. Hope those photos inspire you too. I'm keenly follow the progress of your new place. Also please take photo when they complete the work of Poltimore House as well.


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