It's been a sunny day today. Our winter break is nearly over, and it's back to work on Monday, but today we headed to see a dear old friend of mine.
If you walk up towards the east cliff from Bournemouth Pier, a little treasure will appear before you.
My old friend, the Russell Coates Art Gallery & Museum, is tucked away at the top of the long uphill path, and is somewhere that I've visited since I was less than ten years old.
I would walk the mile and a half along the beach from Boscombe, where, accompanied by friends or my brother, I would lose myself in mystery and imagination, as we explored the various rooms in this extraordinary Victorian house.
This time we were greeted by some exquisite piano music being played in the central auditorium, and the sound permeated throughout the place.
The statues have always watched me as I walk from room to room.
And 'Jezebel' has portrayed a life in an exotic land far off. She's more respectable now, as x-rays show that she was indeed once naked, a copy available to see nearby!
There have always been cabinets and cabinets full of artifacts collected by the owners, a husband and wife so in love that the house was built as a birthday gift for his wife, with the intention that they would travel the world together, and fill it with all that they found beautiful together, and collected.
Displays have changed over the last 43 years, and there is now a modern gallery and cafe built on to the side of the original building, but the house remains unchanged in itself, which is quite something given the way in which our seaside town is changing.
A different thing around every corner.
As I took the film below, an elderly gentleman excitedly whispered to Amanda how wonderful the place was. He had never been before, and quickly hurried off to one of the other rooms in search of his own adventure, muttering 'marvellous' as he went.
I've always liked this painting, and like to think that the red umbrella belongs to the old lady. Maybe it was a gift from her husband, now long gone, that always brings her peace when opened, and reminds her with happiness when they would both shelter under it?
'The Butterfly' by Luis Ricardo Falero was the first ever painting to capture my imagination. The inspiration that's led me to many of the most famous galleries in the world, it's still my favourite picture, to the extent that I have a copy on my bedside table. Strange how it also has a garden like theme as well.
The ceilings in the house are all painted with exotic scenes and images, the walls adorned with heavily textured and coloured wallpaper, and most of the windows are stained glass. I would spend hours here as a child, a young boy, a teenager, a young man, and now a man about to become 54.
And once again I had been spellbound, and taken away to another world. But now I had to leave once more, to return how many more times? How ever many, it is never enough.
My birthday is on Saturday, and tomorrow we leave for three days of hiking on Dartmoor to celebrate. A strange way perhaps? Not when I tell you why on our return.