A visit to a house from the past

Today we visited the House of Tarvit near Ceres in Fife. A Georgian country house rebuilt by the Sharp family. This family were Dundee jute mill owners who had the original building pulled down and a new house designed Sir Robert Lorimer to house Fredrick Sharps’ art and furniture collection. And so each room depicts a different style from mock baronial to French 18th Century. Yet throughout this beautiful dwelling there were reminders that it was financed probably on the unrelenting labours of others back in the squalor of Dundee’s slums. Also a display gave an idea of the 12 indoor servants wages at today’s prices; even allowing that food and board would be included, it was hardly wage worthy of all its encumbrances.

Sharp was a self-made man who taught himself about the art he collected. In that effort, he was advised by Burrell whose collection graces Glasgow. To some extent their combined thoughts bore fruit as there are some very beautiful Netherlandish oil paintings. Some of these apparently were bought because the show a Dutch form of primitive golf; another the Sharp family passions. However there are truly hideous still lifes covered in dead birds. Proof if any is needed, that wealth cannot buy taste.

The family eventually died out with the Sharp’s son being killed in a train crash and the daughter dying without children. The house then passed into the hands of the National Trust of Scotland where it was used as a hospice for a period. Unfortunately, due to the Trust’s financial woes, it is only open a few days each summer month.

Good Service

What is your comfort zone in worship? Today we tried not to find worshippers’ limits but at least to explore what challenges us in new ways. The original idea was to have the service outdoors. Unfortunately, a Scottish summer didn’t allow that – so inside we went. However, we managed to maintain the slightly impromptu feel of bring the talents of congregation together. In fact, despite our now polish, marble and pew surrounds, something more akin to ‘a Hall Service’ resulted. Most important was the keep of the children in the church for the full service. During the sermon, they kept themselves quietly occupied by colouring in a picture specially placed in the Order of Service. Needless to say, a judging of the results had to take place during post-worship coffee!

Its not easy to get all age groups to worship together and sadly the lowest common denominator tends to prevail. However if the 21st Century church is a return to the house churches of the First Century, let it be their ‘living rooms’. For those are the rooms where share in companionship yet use simultaneously in different ways. 

A day off

Strange how after such a cold winter, we take this warm snap as the norm. Actually the weather is slipping away leaving a leaden steaminess in its wake. But that did not stop us getting out and heading to St Andrews. The town was bustling with students with, probably with exams over, are only waiting for results and then off to what? Do students still have summer jobs? The tourists are also arriving and with the Golf Open in July, this Home-of-Golf is only to set to get busier.

Painting took up some of the afternoon and then I worked on the Green Piano Player – will post it soon. Its based on a sketch that did of an old man who play the grand piano at Benningbourgh Hall (NT) so beautiful when we visit a few weeks back. We sat and listened in a window seat and then, when we praised him, he seemed surprised. He apparently only played the piano one day a week.  Nevertheless his music filled the old Georgian house like a fragrance of the past


The evening found me half watching telly and doing some Visual Basic Programming for a bit of light relief! A programme on the history Italian Opera makes we wonder whether at some future date software programmers will be remembered like composers – probably not!