"We are only here for the Beer," we might have said this afternoon. But not quite.
The focus for the Painswick meet-up of members of our book group was John Beer's newly-opened Arts & Crafts Museum, in Gloucester Street: it's housed in the former Christ Church, a square 19th Century building, with a fine Morris & Co. stained glass window at the "East" end, which Beer told us was one of the attractions to his securing the place.
He has been amassing Arts & Crafts (and associated) work over many decades. We first caught a glimpse of it - and him - when we looked over his beautiful but crumbling former home in Priory Street here in Cheltenham in 1994. Caroline was keen to buy it: I less so. The collection has since grown considerably - Pugin, Lutyens, Morris, Gimson, Barnsley, Waals, Russell... It must be among the finest in private hands. But the chief attraction of a visit is John Beer's extremely knowledgeable commentary about all aspects of the work he loves, with many red herrings thrown in for good measure. No pains are too great for tracking down the provenance of a Tiffany chair or extra large, curved walnut table (the BBC).
From the end of this month, the Ashton Beer Collection is only open on Sunday afternoons, over the Winter months: well worth discovering.
Over lunch, we enjoyed discussing The Great Gatsby. I'm sure I have read it before, but it seemed almost a new book - some of it like blank verse, much de nos jours, and altogether gratifyingly brief.