A Seat With a View

Once upon a time, the campus of the University of Essex was simply Wivenhoe Park. Now, the University expands ever-faster with ever-increasing student numbers and ever-changing demands – so, much of the Park has been built over. Of the few spaces remaining in which to breathe and be still, this is my favourite – by the lake. This is where I take my breakfast before starting work, and where I take my time at lunch. I tell myself that, on this seat, eyes front, Constable might, just might, recognize this view.

Animals in War

‘This monument is dedicated to all the animals that served and died alongside British and allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time’

So reads the first inscription on this tribute to animals in war. Recently, I crossed Park Lane in London on my way to Hyde Park and saw this memorial for the first time. It’s a calm oasis in the middle of a busy thoroughfare, providing a space for reflection and gratitude. Designed by the sculptor David Backhouse, it was unveiled by Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, on 24 November 2004.

The second inscription reads:

‘They had no choice’

Number 18

My GP (general practitioner, or family doctor) is based at Durlston House, or number 18 North Hill, Colchester. I have a long connection to North Hill, perhaps longer than I realise, specifically number 47 with its key place in my personal history.

Number 18 lies on the east side of North Hill and has its own stories to tell, of course. It was given Grade II listed status in 1950 – recognising its late 16th-century structure with Georgian facade and its 18th-century oriel window over the central doorcase. Yet earlier, in the 19th-century, Roman tessellated paving and medieval walling had been discovered in the back garden.

There are exposed wooden beams throughout the house, perhaps the most eye-catching of which are in the north room downstairs, now the surgery waiting room. Here, the walls are covered with public health notices, an electronic screen flashes the names of patients, doctors, and rooms, and the obligatory leisure magazines sit, neglected, on a corner table.

If those waiting (sometimes) patiently only look up to the beams, they can see there painted inscriptions. The medical practice has thoughtfully transcribed, printed out and framed them as a poster for the patient to read and make of what they will. Here, as so often in life (and medicine), there is no explanation.