Saffron Walden is picture postcard pretty. So here are some picture postcard pretty pictures.
I took them really to show to Tom when I got home, but then thought I'd make a collage just to give everyone a taste of ye olde half-timbering, pargeting. warm brickwork, greensward churchyard etc. According to my niece, who lived there for a time, it gets surprisingly rough of a Saturday night, however.
Still, a nice thing about it is the Fry Gallery (good link, if you keep returning to the home page, they background image changes every time), which is a small but beautiful space chock full of things by the likes of Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, which are so much in the cultural and visual idiom in which I grew up that even when I hadn't actually seen them before I felt like they resonated with some atavistic, DNA-based part of me. There's a small room off to one side that contains Festival of Britain china and shelves full of illustrated books such as the Shell Guide to Britain which quite create a sensory hallucination of slipping back in time to somewhere I never quite left.
That's my sister going through the prints.
Outside was a wall covered in variegated ivy,
complete with wagging butterflies, like in Intercession in Late October.
As any fule no, or could deduce, Saffron Walden is called that because they grew saffron there once. (But how many know that Croydon was also called after the autumn crocuses grown there for saffron, which pleased me because Charmless Dutch Bulb-growing Neighbour once pompously corrected me for referring to colchicum as autumn crocus, since, he said, they were unrelated. Or that saffron is to be found in cookery wherever the Phoenicians went, from Persia to Cornwall. Amazing what an upbringing immersed in Radio 4 and the Shell Guide to Britain can do for you...).
Anyway, the saffron crocus (colchicum) motif is to be found around the place in the town, from the crest with the three rather bizarrely heraldically rendered flowers in the top left of the collage,
to a rather handsome bit of woodwork, a rail and table, in the church, which is more elegantly autumn crocus-like.
Postscript: Thanks to Zephyr, who is unparalleled in matters horticultural, I must east humble pie with saffron (which wouldn't then be so humble, in view of the costliness of the spice). Colchicum, though called autumn crocus too, is not the flower from which comes saffron, but is in fact highly toxic. The saffron autumn crocus is a true crocus crocus sativa which looks a bit similar but has different leaves and growth habit. In fact I think that the church carvings look rather more like colchicum, so perhaps others have been confused too.
This also means Charmless was right. He often is, which is somehow serves to exacerbate his general annoyingness. Alas, I am not always a nice person.