My beautiful wife Julie is a Coventry girl, and Monday 3 December 2018 was our 35th wedding anniversary. We drove to Coventry, parked at the west end of the old cathedral and then went in to the new one. We needed a verger to take us down from the nave floor to the basement, and direct us through to the café. After a snack we went back upstairs, and had an explore – the photos were taken on my phone. We also purchased lots of guidebooks to write a full blog next time we come.
The Cathedral was destroyed in an air raid on 14 November 1940, and then rebuilt on the north side, opening in the early 1960s. It was designed by Sir Basil Spence, the stunning tapestry at the “east” end is by Graham Sutherland, some of the windows by John Piper, and there are so many lovely things to photo. When I blog, it will be a very long blog.
The Cathedral crib is rather special too. Its design is contemporary with the Cathedral, and it was commissioned by Spence himself. He approached Alma Ramsey-Hosking, who had already contributed some public art in the city. She trained as a sculptor under Henry Moore in the last 1920s at the Royal College of Art. In October 1940 she was in Southampton, and gave birth to her daughter in the middle of the aerial conflict above. When the child was born, the midwife handed her over saying “Do not put that baby into her cot, but keep her on your hand, where it is safest.” Mary holds her baby on her hand, she is depicted as a young woman, with the delicate neck of girlhood and modelled with looped plaits around her ears. All the figures are constructed from wood and wire armatures, while the figures’ heads and hands and the beasts in their entirety were modelled in bronze powder suspended in a thick resin so when, when hard, it could be burnished. Alma also designed the clothes and, if I’ve read the leaflet correctly, the shepherds become Kings at Epiphany, and Mary moves from being a simple peasant girl to the Queen of heaven. Taking photos was not easy as the Cathedral was full of children so one had to be careful where I pointed the camera. Julie wanted to borrow their Christingle.
We went outside into the Old Cathedral. I searched for the bench dedicated to “Coventry Meat Traders” on which she was sat when I asked her to marry me in 1982. Our marriage has obviously out-lasted the bench. We had a selfie – no one had invented selfies in 1982!
We went into the Herbert Art Gallery and spent a little time there, then walked into town. I spent a while in the café at Waterstones, and tweeted asking how many hours of my married life I have spent waiting in bookshops. We had supper at the Cosy Club, and the staff were lovely. I mentioned it was our 35th anniversary and told the lass that I had fallen for a Coventry girl (“I’m from Birmingham” she said). When the bill came our puddings were free. Thank you! We then went to see Over the Top at the Belgrade Theatre, this year’s alternative pantomime. “The year is 1918 and the troops on the Western Front have had a surprise visit from a fearless group of suffragettes who’ve come to perform a show to life their spirits.” It made us laugh, and made us think. If you are near Coventry this Festive Season go and see it.