The train is a perfect vehicle ( sorry!) around which to build a thriller. So it’s not surprising that Agatha Christie (the queen of crime herself) made brilliant use of it it Murder on the Orient Express. Also, Ethel Lina White’s 1936 novel The Wheel Spins – better known as The Lady Vanishes – uses the conceit of a mystery centred around a train. I don’t want to say too much about the plot of The Girl on the Train but there are resonances between the two – in that each features a young woman who has seen something on/from a train but is persuaded by others that she hasn’t. In this play the central character, Rachel Watson, has doubt planted in her mind by her ex-husband.
How is he able to achieve that? Because Rachel is a drunk on a downward emotional spiral. One of several themes running through this play is that of domestic abuse – in this case gaslighting.
In this central role, Samantha Womack ( of Eastender’s fame) is entirely believable as a young woman depressed by her infertility and the loss of her marriage, her husband to another woman who IS fertile and has produced a child. She gives a strong performance in what must be a challenging role.
It’s always interesting to see how a book is adapted for the stage. I thought this was rather nicely done. The passing of the days and the changes of location in this production are smoothly executed. My companion for the evening, who as it happens, had recently finished the novel, thought the adaptation was rather good.
All the elements of a good thriller are there. There’s the requisite number of red herrings for a start. All in all a cracking play.
The play is running at the Wyvern Theatre until Saturday 12th October – so if you’ve got a free evening get your tickets and get on board!
At the ripe old age of 76, Swindon-born, mural painting legend, Ken White at last has a a solo exhibition. Called Railways and Landscapes, the exhibition is on at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery until the 30th November 2019.
I’m not the best photographer and I took these in a bit of a rush so these are not the best. Better by far to go and see them for yourself. It is a gorgeous exhibition.
A Mural Man
Ken is of course well-known as a muralist – both here in Swindon, in the UK and abroad. During his years as Richard Branson’s personal artist, Ken travelled the world painting airport lounges, record shops, car parks restaurants and more. Of his Swindon murals only one now remains – The Golden Lion mural. You can read more about that in both the new book and also in my first volume, Secret Swindon.
To return to the Advertiser article:
Sophie Cummings, curator at the Swindon museum, said: “I think the exhibition is a real celebration of Ken’s art and the response we’ve had to it from visitors already just shows in what high regard the people of Swindon hold him.”
Swindon in 50 Buildings goes to school – Well this has been a wonderful development. A week or two back I received a contact from Sally Clarke, the head teacher at Nythe Primary school. She’d seen my posts on LinkedInabout my most recent book, Swindon in 50 Buildings.
But back to Nythe and Swindon in 50 Buildings Going to School
The ever-so-lovely head, Sally Clarke, at Nythe contacted me asking me to meet her. The upshot of that meeting was myself, a barrow-load (well eight) of copies of Swindon in 50 Buildings and my ex-teacher friend, Jo Garton heading over to Nythe school to speak to Sally and her lovely staff about this blog and my books and how they might be used as a teaching resource to teach the children about Swindon and having pride in where they live. And there’s SUCH a lot to be proud of.
I’m so delighted that Sally spotted my book and make contact. It’s great to sell some books of course – I won’t lie to you. But it’s also lovely to see their potential recognised. Thank you Nythe!
All three of these books, in their own way, constitute good resources for schools as well as excellent general interest – though I say it myself.
It’s quite a tale about how this blog came into being – one which I won’t go into here. Suffice to say if you’re interested enough, the Born again Swindonian backstory is here. The main thing is that this blog is here. It’s free. And it’s a resource for all of you to use. I’ve been writing it for six years now (I think) and I’ve covered a lot of stuff. The image below gives you some indication of the topics covered.
The GWR railway village is one of many, many things that Swindon and its people should cherish and be proud. Winning that award played a big part in the railway village being awarded a Historic England action Zone.
I’ve been to several of them now and they do seem to get better each year. They do a damn good job – all them. On stage and off – the standard is VERY high. All kudos to the Wyvern, to the foundation and to the kids themselves.
I said it then – and I’ll say it again. That young man has ‘it’. So when, in a few year’s time, you see his name in lights remember: you saw him here first.
Here again, in the Wyvern’s Summer Youth Project 2019, in the lead role as Caractacus Potts, the still-only-17-year-old Archie gives a credible performance as as father to two young mother-less children.
A host of memorable performances
But I can’t only talk about Archie Fisher. The production boasts a full complement of super performances. There are not one but two lovely comic duos. Michael Kerr gives a good turn as the infantile Bulgarian Baron – one feels apologies are owed to Bulgaria – and so does Rae Alexander as his long-suffering, indulgent wife.
Amy Gordon made a fitting Truly Scrumptious with her sweet singing voice fitting the role well.
Also deserving a particular mention are Maddy Stimpson-Duffy and Marcellus Hill as Cloris and Goran, the Baron’s bumbling spies sent to get hold of Pott’s car. Lots of laughs from all four! Super stuff.
Both the youngsters playing Pott’s children were scene stealers of course. But I have to give a special word about Mollie Avenell – I felt she too had a notable stage presence.
I, like many other people I daresay, had formed the impression that the only piece of Ken’s Swindon work, still in existence, isthe Golden Lion mural.
So imagine my surprise when, just t’other day, a tweet appeared on my Twitterfeed from the friends of Lydiard Park with an image of a painting of Lydiard House, that Ken did in 2005. I rather get the impression it’s been in storage or something. Certainly, I’ve been in that house more than a few times and never seen it. Even now it’s leaning against the wall in a tucked away corner of the rooms that are open.
Which rather begs the question Lydiard House management, WHY in God’s name do you not have this artwork on permanent display and shout it from the room tops?With Ken’s story due to be published soon you’re missing one heck of a marketing opportunity. #justsaying
Ken created the triptych as a joint project between Ken and Intel. Some Intel staff did some of the painting. The idea of the artwork was, according to Ken, for children to find things in the painting around the house.
Indeed, hidden in the bottom right hand corner is the image of a very famous Swindon figure.
What else is there to see at Lydiard House?
Well. Quite rather a lot actually. The member of staff on duty, Adrian Smith, gave me a bit of a tour explaining some of the paintings etc. He’s really very knowledgeable – as you’d expect – and I must seek him out again and pay more attention. Why? Because, TBH, I was too stunned about the Ken White triptych to concentrate fully. That and thinking, as Adrian spoke, that small in number as the available rooms at Lydiard might be – there’s a heck of a lot of stuff that is simply not shouted about enough. WHY is Swindon so bad at this?
You may (or may not) remember that Angela and I walked half of the River Ray Parkway last year, from Moulden Hill to John Lewis. This summer (2019) we finally got around to walking the second half, John Lewis to Coate Water in our tour of the River Ray Parkway part 2.
We went out the back of the Mannington Retail Park, looking for the old green signs that show the way. We found the first one on the edge of a field used by dog walkers, pointing us towards the Old Town Rail Path, following Sustrans Route 45.
NB: This stretch of this walk is approx 5 miles
Blagrove Fitness Trail
Lydiard Country Park
Old Town Rail Path
Coate Water Country Park
Blue Route 45 signs – Old Town 2 miles, Wroughton 2 miles
Discovered a new thing already, anyone have a clue what “Blagrove Fitness Trail” is (or was!) ?
The route now follows the road through the Signal Way industrial estate, sneaks out at the end of Berenger Close (which we almost didn’t find), and over the top of Evelyn Street, still following the old Rail Line.
Next to the Piper’s Way roundabout we discovered another sign.
Lydiard Country Park
Coate Water Country Park
Old Town Rail Path
From the sign we headed south along Piper’s Way, crossing over to take the off-road path around the allotments on the east side. Just after the allotments a further sign pointed us off road, onto a track that leads all around the edge of the Broome Manor Golf Complex.
Here we were excited to discover a stone marker, planted in memory of Cassandra Clunies-Ross, carved by Sarah Chanin in 1992. The work is carved in Sarsen stone and was commissioned by Thamesdown Borough Council’s, Great Western Community Forest Team. The stone marks an area of what was then new woodland.
The inscription reads:
Casso’s Wood – planted January 1992 by friends, in fond memory of Cassandra Clunes Rosss, ecologist-forester. 1965-1991. That her work to conserve woodland here and abroad is not forgotten.
The last part of the trail had us squeezing past nettles and wondering if we were going the right way, before suddenly finding Broome Manor Lane, and the familiar sight of the Coate Water Park.
The final Parkway sign stands to the west of the lake, near the miniature golf course.