I do like a mix and match day. So we started with a couple of kilometres of walking round Rainham Marshes bird reserve. Not many birds to see, but there’s not much to beat a marsh in the sun; a beautiful morning, a stolen September summer Sunday, wandering about in shirtsleeves with the end of the month in sight.
Rainham Marsh was in danger of being developed for years before the RSPB finally secured it, and they are being very conscious of stepping lightly now they’ve got it – the visitor centre makes use of natural light, ground heating, harvested rainwater… the tradition of grazing is kept up with a mixed herd of beef cattle relaxing in the scrubby grass, and dragonflies flitting hither and yon. The walkways keep you above the reeds so there is some hope of seeing something – I have been places where all you can see are head high reeds – no doubt wonderful for the birds, but
I’d want at least a bittern under those circumstances!
I don’t mind the lack of birds when I can see the scenery, and they provide you with the odd sculpture to make up for it, and there are old military posts and firing ranges to distract from the lack of rustling and chirping.
Apparently the kestrels use the giant wooden numbers on the range as hunting posts, but not today.
We walked back along the river path, trying to work out where we were on the southern bank last week, but I think we were a lot nearer the mouth of the river than last week, although we could identify Shooters Hill in the distance.
We got rather lost trying to find our next stop, the Royal Opera House Production Centre, where they were having a sale of costumes. It could hardly be more different, although the building is again ecologically minded with a Sedum roof.
We have a great time window shopping, trying on full length white Astrakhan coats, eighteenth century frock coats and monstrous cloaks.
There were queues from four in the morning yesterday, but it is quieter today with a very comfortable, good-humoured crowd, much laughter and enthusiasm, complete strangers taking pictures of each other and offering opinions on the fit of the Cinderella dress or the Hussar’s uniform.
There is something for everyone, and then some:
Rococo, Barbarian or Grand Guignol, people were pulling dresses and armour on over their jeans with a fine disregard for modesty. And some of the transformations are worthy of Cinderella.
Sadly, nothing fits me – that’s the problem with costumes, they have all been made to measure for particular people, and it wasn’t me!
The quality of the costumes was astonishing, I had expected it to be a bit gimcrack and just good enough to be seen from the gallery, but the stitching was mostly exquisite and not too worn and sweaty either.
I was surprised at how heavy most of the costumes were, I can’t imagine how they stand it singing under lights in such thick heavy (but gorgeous) clothes.
If I could have found something that fitted I would almost certainly have bought it, regardless of whether I would ever wear it, just for the pleasure of looking and touching.
Copyright Cherry Potts 2011