Martha’s Vineyard

We arrived at Oak Bluff and drove across the middle of the island, a mixture of scrubland and small holdings, occasional open fields and stone walls, small clapboard houses, all heavily wooded.   Its history dates back to the original settlement of 1602 when seafarers came in search of sassafras, used as a cure for syphilis.   We’re staying in the south-west corner of the island in what’s called up-island, based on its position in longitude, slightly less touristy, more discrete, in Chilmark with its memory of sheep farms and the Wiltshire downs, with the sea eating away at the coast.   This is the sea:

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And this is inland:

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Richard MacCormac (2)

I was really sad to hear this morning of Richard MacCormac’s death.   I can now add what I didn’t like to say of his book launch at the Royal Academy a month or so ago that it was obvious then that he was approaching death, so thin he was, but a manifestation of the triumph of the human spirit that he was able to speak with such power and lack of self pity.   I hugely admired him:  someone who practised at the highest level as a modern architect, but maintained a deep interest in history and ideas, as evident in his Ruskin Library at Lancaster University, an early lottery project, and Blue Boar Court, a combination of graduate housing and a lecture theatre for Trinity College, Cambridge, which might be regarded as post-modern if it was not so obviously deeply thought and felt.

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Fiddlehead Farm

We called in at Fiddlehead Farm, a small market garden and farm shop established by Bob Skydell who worked with Leon Krier for Jim Stirling, then turned restauranteur, and now spends half the year in Nicaragua.   All the abundance of New England produce is piled up in the shop:

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Woods Hole

After the long flight to Boston, we arrived at Woods Hole for the ferry across to Martha’s Vineyard.   I always forget the impact the US makes:  how neat and orderly everything is;  the size of the cars;  how unwelcoming they are at immigration;  the steamy heat:

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Wickham’s Department Store

The old Wickham’s Department Store, designed as the ‘Selfridges of the East’ looks good in the early morning summer sun.   The original owners gradually bought up a run of shops on the north side of the Mile End Road, all except a small family clockmakers called Spiegelhalter.   When it came to construct a grand new building in 1927, the Spiegelhalters refused to sell, with  the result that the grand Ionic façade is interrupted by a gap occupied by a single, now completely derelict shop.   Ian Nairn loved it and described it as , ‘one of the best visual jokes in London, a perennial triumph for the little man, the bloke who won’t conform.   May he stay there till the Bomb falls’.

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Roadfood

The prospect of going on holiday tomorrow has led me to dig out my copy of Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood.   I was first recommended it in the summer of 1988 when we were due to drive across America from Santa Barbara to Philadelphia.   Someone said ‘Get a copy of Roadfood‘.   They were right.   We did the whole trip by driving from diner to diner, including Craig’s Bar-B-Q and the Family Pie Shop,  right opposite one another in DeValls Bluff in deepest Arkansas.   In 2007, we drove from Chicago to San Francisco by way of Seattle and again used Roadfood as a guide to where to go to, including the Yellowstone Drugstore in Shoshoni, Wyoming.   It was before everyone had become obsessed by food writing and we used to read out the Sterns’ long, loving descriptions of their favourite hot dog store with delight.   Of course, it’s now a subscription website.   And the Sterns have divorced.

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