I think this is the highlight and the centrepiece of my new house:
The dining room fireplace...
Fireplace from Newhaven tip (£10), cleaned and restored by Jim - but in excellent condition to start with, under its layers of white gloss paint. Brass skirt thingy from the marquee at Braunston. 'Teapot brown' oblong tiles from the V&A collection (£90 a metre!); Victorian decorative tiles bought on the works outing to Cleethorpes, 2015; oak shelf made by Pete Boyce (designed by me!); brackets by Yesterhome, all beautifully put together by Jim.
One of the things I've got involved with because of my job is the Foundation Year Network (they're working on the website), and because I can't resist a committee, I got myself elected (unopposed, I think) to their executive last year. We meet at various institutions where the network has a presence, and yesterday this provided an opportunity for the boss (who currently chairs the executive) and me to take a trip Up That London, as it is obligatory here to call any journey to the capital. Our hosts were Kings College, and we were to meet in the River Room, which we were assured had a stunning view of the Thames.
Well, it probably did, before they put the scaffold up.
It was a lovely bright, dry (if cold) day in London, a welcome contrast to the slushy Sheffield I'd walked through to the station for the 0729 train. In the afternoon, the FYN held a workshop, in which I participated in the traditional fashion:
A good time was had by all, and I was particularly impressed by the college's monogrammed Wedgewood plates.
The boss being a fell runner, and me as you know a keenish walker, there was no question of us taking the tube for the scant mile and three quarters from St Pancras to the Strand. What with my walk down to the station in the morning, I clocked up over six miles over the course of the day. We left it a bit late getting away though and had to stride out fairly briskly, not helped by starting off in the wrong direction and someone putting a building site whereof Google knew not. Now, here's an interesting thing - we each had Google maps on our identical iPhones, set up for the same destination, and they were giving us different ETAs. Does Google/iPhone take account of your walking speed (as measured in the past) when estimating how long a journey will take?
Anyway, we beat Google's estimate(s) fairly comfortably, and had a most civilised return journey.
These will hold up the mantelshelves in the front room and the dining room.
Like their plainer counterparts in the kitchen
(and bathroom), they're from Yesterhome, and cast in Birmingham. They're not cheap, but they are really nicely finished. Service is good too - easy to order on the website, postage at standard Royal Mail rates, and dispatched quickly. The ornate brackets were out of stock when I first looked, so I ticked the box saying 'email me when they're back in' without much hope, but just before Christmas I got the email to say ther were available again.
It tool me ages to track down some decent brackets, so if you're on the lookout, Yesterhome are definitely worth a try. They have all sorts of other tempting stuff as well...
That building is of course Sheffield University's Arts Tower - and as well as seeing it from my study window and passing it on the way to the office, I forgot to mention that I've taught in its basement too. Rather churlishly, we tend not to like its windowless lecture theatres - especially as last semester they were too small for what we were trying to do.
Built in the sixties, and opened in 1966, the tower did, as the name suggests, originally house all the Arts departments. Sadly, they have outgrown it, and although Architecture and Landscape still have the privilege of occupying the upper floors (and I, once, have had the privilege of visiting them), the rest of the building is largely given over to offices now, with HR on the 5th and 6th floors being my most frequent destination (after the basement).
It's the tallest University building in England (Glasgow pips it to the British crown) and was until 2009 the tallest building in Sheffield. What it is most famous for, though, is this:
The Arts Tower Paternoster lift is reputedly the largest in the world. It has 38 'cars' whcih can each take two people. Paternosters were popular in Europe from the early 20th century, but fell out of favour in the 1970s. In Britain, they were particularly popular in university buildings, but over the years there numbers have declined, largely, it seems, over safety concerns - which, to be honest, are understandable. Until last year there were three remaining in the UK, all in universities; now there are two - the University of Leicester have just closed theirs, and will replace it with a conventional lift, citing not safety but the impossibility of getting spare parts for it - something I guess will chime with historic boaters. Sheffield's however was completely refurbished - with added safety features - in 2009, and the university website assures readers that it will be in operation 'for many years to come'.
I confess I was quite trepidacious about using it at first, until - on that visit to Landscape - my boss said, 'I suppose it's a bit like getting on and off a boat' and I thought, I suppose it is, a bit, really - and have quite taken to it since. I was slightly disconcerted on when occasion when, after I had safely disembarked, the lift stopped, leaving my colleague in the next car coming up peeping up from below ground level. She did eventually clamber out - I'm not sure I would have dared in case it had started again.
Rather like the waterways system, it's a refreshing reminder that 'health and safety' hasn't actually gone mad (see 'most popular posts'), and we are still trusted to do slightly dangerous things (and very dangerous things, like driving cars). We even trust students to do it! So long may the Arts Tower Paternoster continue.