Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snow and Whitby

Decision made I decided to go to Whitby yesterday (saturday) even though the forecast looked forbidding but my love accompaniedJustify Full me to Kings Cross through the welter of trains/coach/tube stations and we arrived at Kings Cross just in time to catch delayed Edinburgh 11 o clock train. Travelling through the snowy countryside it did'nt seem too bad and very pretty. Catching the Scarborough train (this is a long journey) was different though. Travelling through the valleys and the sky went dark and suddenly there were blizzards of snow, a white-out. Twice this happened, and it was worrying that the road to Whitby, which the was the next part of the journey, would be closed. Luckily I happened to be sitting next to a person who lived in Whitby and she offered a lift in her jeep, and we got to Whitby safely over the moors

Next thing of course was to go to The Show which went on for about three hours, in which Matilda was making several appearances it took place at the Pavilion theatre, overlooking the sea, thick snow by now and the waves creaming against the sand; 80% of children and audience turned up, Matilda graceful and pretty, she has only been in dance a short time but she is pretty good....

Sunday and the roads over the moors were closed, cars slipped and slithered up the hill outside never quite making it to the top but the snowy look of Whitby is very pretty, especially at night when it is lit up, the lights shining on the harbour.

No photos for the moment, typing on a netbook is obviously more difficult than a nice large keyboard, and today (monday) the weather is also not too good, the wind has picked up in the night, blowing the snow off the roofs, hail as well as snow. Not a good time to go house hunting, my favourite cottage seems off limit, as it is near to a couple of nightclubs but there are half a dozen others to fret about!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Heywood Sumner

Heywood Sumner is a little known artist, illustrator and naturalist working around the beginning of the 20th century, (dates 1853 -1940) he dismissed the pre-raphaelite style and followed in the footsteps of the Arts and Crafts movement. I came across him years ago when I ordered his book from the library which was called Cuckoo Hill or Gornley. It was a handwritten book, illustrated with pictures of the area around his house of his beloved New Forest. The first thing that strikes you about his trees is that they are unusual, a lot of pine, maybe scotch pine, beech, etc. This is because the New Forest occupies a type of sandy heathland, the trees are in his watercolours, the soft greeness everywhere, gentle hummocks; he doesn't paint in a classical style, and his figures and horses can be terrible but there is a warmth and love for the natural world.

He also illustrated Cranbourne Chase, so that there are archaeological drawings as well, mostly black and white in true Arts and Craft style. He even managed to paint barrows, which I consider a great achievement because they often look slightly peculiar.

He built, or had built his house at Gornley, and it is still there today being used as a care home, medium sized and unpretentious, I suspect that his great love for its surroundings would have made for a pleasant life, being able to wander and sketch at will.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cottages and frost

I could say that nothing has happened this week for me, but that is not quite true, for I have been finger tapping on the Internet looking for a small cottage in Whitby. Its rather exciting this exploration, looking into these small houses and trying to create mental pictures. Whitby is so medieval, narrow streets, narrow alleyways and tiny poky cottages that may have housed a large fishing family in its time but have now become holiday homes so that modern double beds seem to overwhelm tiny beamed rooms. Most of Whitby is tiered rows of houses up the hills that surround the harbour; a choice of medieval, Georgian, Victorian and modern.

Last night they were talking of Captain Cook and his ship sailing to Australia and the inevitable consequences of colonialism that destroyed the indigenous population.

A replica of the Endeavour (but only 40% of the original size)

Well Captain Cook started work in Whitby when he was young and went to work on ships trading out of Whitby to London and the local museum has a large display of his life and work, the famous ship Endeavour on which he sailed was built in Whitby and up till two years ago a replica of the ship was moored alongside the quay.

Cook sailed round the world both north and south poles, and it brings me to something else.

Rime - frost, especially formed from cloud or fog;

A few days ago I read about the etymology of the word frost on a beautiful photogenic website called The Fields we Know, and so I did some delving as well. Words were a common theme last week, Mornings Minion had also written about fascinating descriptive weather words. What had struck me was the word rime something we find used in poetry and 19th century literature, but which also is a term used for frost. It's Old English - hrim and if you were Saxon you would say hrim-ceald - icy cold, or hrim-giecel - icicle and hrimrig - rimy. So what puzzled me about the word, it was so similar to rhyme which means 'identity of sound between words or the endings of words.' So we have rhyme - rime; which is medieval or OE, and greek ryuthmos.

Leading on to another similar word but spoken differently, is rhythm - 'measured flow of words and phrases in verse or prose'. Must be modern but I always have trouble with the spelling of both.

A snowy, frosty December last year, the water was dark and crystal clear, reflecting the trees so that there seemed another world underneath the water. The river and its bank and trees, had turned into a fairy land, greys figure prominently against the white with a hint of black, and the twisted shapes of odd branches brings a tone of witches.....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday and frost

Tuesday and a glorious morning, true cold, with the leaves outlined in frost, and the grass on the green a crystallised icing only broken by footsteps. A collared dove and a noisy blackbird are chasing the magpie out of the tree above as I pass by - robber of nests, though not at this time of the year - the magpie just chuckles and zooms off elsewhere.

The hedge shrub with its leaves outlinedby thick beadings of ice, the sun bringing out the red hue of the stems, bright red berries elsewhere in the hedge and the chattering of the sparrows as they fuss about on the branches.

The thick leaves of the hydrangea in the shelter of the fence have just been touched by old Jack Frost, there pinkness still caught at the tail end of Autumn tells me that they should have had a few more tea leaves this year!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

North Stoke miscellaneous

At one stage in my life my blog got deleted, and certain things I had written got lost, but not quite so, some I had printed. One such essay was about the area that lay under the village of North Stoke, the reason I had started the blog, old history still caught in old maps, churches and landscape.
Well something has been niggling over the last few days, stones lost, probably prehistoric in origin which had been used in all probability to provide hardcore for the road to Bitton from Bath years ago; they were there still in an old 1889 map of the area in the field called Mickle Mead, mickle stems from the Old Saxon word micel/micle meaning great. This particular meadow (mead) was adjacent to Holm Mead, another A/S word for water/ocean/sea (land arising from water). In this instance the meadow is adjacent to the river Avon.

The Boyd River, Bitton Barrow and Wick Burial Mound

This little river seems to have started in Dodington (Glos), and made its way across country encountering the M4 on the way, under which it got culverted, it then came through the villages of Hinton and Doynton till it reached the village of Wick and it then ran "in the exceptionally beautiful valley of the River Boyd, the rocks that line the sides of a deep nearly a mile in length, rising in some places to 200 feet, a bright sparkly substance found on these rocks is known locally as 'Bristol diamonds' taken from a 1914 source.
This now is Wick quarry, still being quarried and still an unspoilt 'glen' in some places. If you were to follow the river further on through the flat fields, the Wick Burial mound can be seen, two rather forlorn stones standing there; this burial mound is situated about a kilometre away from the river, and is near to the so-called 'Grandmother Rocks', perhaps marking the site of an old quarry or an outcrop of rocks that no longer exists.

And then of course the river empties out into the larger Avon, by the barrow at Bitton. If we have a confluence of rivers then we also have a confluence of history, for it is here at Bitton that an old roman road goes through (Via Julia) from Bath on its way to a roman port, and that the church of St.Mary in Bitton close to the road is supposedly sited on top of a Roman temple.
Lost Stones;
Things or at least an important part of its prehistoric history has got 'lost' at this barrow, stones for a start, they are there on a 19th century map, 7 in Holm Mead and 6 further along in Mickle Mead. In both fields on the map they trail the hedgerows, perhaps in Mickle Mead they curve down to the river. This is what makes this place something special in the past, the barrow is very close to the church, a site which has not only had a christian religion, but also a pagan roman temple, which maybe goes back to a native shrine, similar to the one at Bath - Aqua Sulis, or even the Silbury roman settlement. which shows the closeness of the Bitton barrow to the church of St.Mary...
The following photos are of St.Martins church at Northstoke, note the yews around the church and what is not shown in the photo the stream tumbling down on to the lane by the side of the steps. The second photo shows a 'hollow way' old road, that was probably a Roman road from Northstoke down to Bitton.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Primroses and wool tops

Two worlds, the logical, rational and explained world, the other a subjective world felt through the senses. So that is my bedside reading at the moment David Abram on Becoming Animal and A.C.Grayling on Truth, Meaning and Realism. The latter I can hardly understand for its complicated terminology but catch vague glimpses through the mist of his argument, Abrams on the other hand is succinct and easy to follow. Grayling argues from the mechanistic viewpoint, we can assert a truth, we can even back it up with facts (as known at the present time) but whether its 'truthfulness' holds water against other truths is yet to be seen, mostly we rely on belief in our own judgements, truth is defined in a social framework, an agreement between our human selves, more often than not subjective, factual evidence is taken for 'truth'.

To turn to Abram, we must feel through our senses the world we live in, just to take one aspect, do we live on the Earth, or do we live in Eairth, the air around us that gives us life, the dome of the sky above our heads frames this protective layer of oxygen through which we swim as breathing humans very much like the creatures of the sea.

There are innumerable distinctions to be drawn between the palpable phenomena of this world, yet each particular presence partakes of a common mystery; the unfathomable upsurge of existence itself. Each thing expresses this mystery in its own manner and style, yet each thing is equivalently outrageous, a clump of dirt no less than a roaring, marauding brown bear - each enacting it own tenuous and improvised way in the world, each gifting its own rhythms to the riot of life that surrounds it. Every gust of wind, every note ringing from the bell tower, each staccato step of a water strider along the streams surface has its own subtle influence on the beings around it. Simply to exist, or continue existing, is already active - already a doing - and hence no phenomenon is utterly passive, without efficacy or influence....

David Abram

Pondering this gives me dreams, why did primroses appear in a dream last night; their pale lemon flowers springing from a rosette of leaves, snuggled into the earth around the roots of trees they are harbingers of spring. Perhaps it is the talk of gales, rain, wind and cold weather forecast for this week that brings them to mind. But if I was to explain them, they would for me encompass the natural holistic world that I understand. Place them against the gaudily coloured cultivated primroses you can buy in your local nursery and immediately you spy the hand of man 'trying' to make the species 'better' and failing miserably in the process. The primrose in the wood on the other hand has found it natural place here in this particular spot, it thrives in the ecosystem provided by the trees, the dappled sunlight, the rich leaf mould that has developed over the years - it is at home in it its environment but take the cultivated variety and try to find a spot in the garden without it shouting out to you that it cannot blend with nature.

Its the same with my dyed wools, chemical dyes are often harshly coloured whilst the natural colours extracted from plants and trees will reveal subdued hues. When I spin, the tactile feel of the different types of wool as they run through my fingers tells me a great deal. At the moment I am spinning the soft merino coloured wool above it is to be the weft stripes of a rug I am thinking of making. The warp I have spun out of a cream Devon longwool sheep, coarse, it scratches my fingers, it has unruly little wisps sticking out from the main thread but it will make a good strong contrast warp.

The difference between the two authors can be summed up neatly, I could quote from an Illustrated Flora the attributes of the primrose, its place in the world is governed by photosynthesis with the sun, it transpires through it leaves, it takes from the soil the necessary nutritions for growth.... and yet this says nothing of its delicate colouring, the slight sweet scent, the cool touch of its petals and the way it will tumble in a glass when you bring it into the house. Gerald Manley Hopkins in trying to describe it says...

take the instress of brilliancy, sort of starryiness: I have not the right - so simple a flower gives is remarkable. It is, I think, given to the strong swell given by the deeper yellow middle... Grigson

The understanding of the space around us, the things that assault our eyes when we wander in the countryside, is purely subjective, a feeling, a sensing of the senses, an unconscious feeling that is felt by the mind that all the philosophers in the world cannot arrive at through a tendentious use of language.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hobby Craft

Completely engrossed in spinning wool, a lovely vivid orange at the moment, that my computer gets little use, except for the work related Journal, which I consider work - news gathering, sorting through stuff, etc.
But this week I have been twice to Hobby Craft which has recently opened down the road, it was a pleasant surprise, a cornucopia of goodies, but exhausting to take it all in. Aisles of buttons, embroidery silks, wools, painting equipment and paper - plus a thousand and one hobby things.
I settled for making a memory photograph album for my son, and I shall do one for my daughter and then eldest grandson; till that moment in time when I acquired a digital camera and became paperless as the term goes, but at least it reduces the enormous box of photos I have.
My ex-sister-in-law and husband was also supposed to come down from London yesterday but Sylvia tripped up over a suitcase and hurt her knee badly ending up in hospital and bed rest back at the hotel. So we went out on our own for a ploughman's lunch yesterday.
I hadn't seen her for many years, though she was part of my 'adopted' family in Switzerland.
I saw her very rarely over the years as she studied in America, then took a job in Hong Kong as a lecturer in child psychology, but occasionally she was at the family gatherings in the summer at Blonay, when everyone came over from the various parts of the world they lived in. Sunday lunch in the garden with a fruit tart from the village bakery, and normally a Thai dish with rice as well.
Leni my mother in law's best friend and bridge partner, (though they were always arguing) Annabel, my other sister-in-law, and her son Marc. All very cosmopolitan, my gentle English father in law Con who worked for UNESCO and my mother-in-law, who was Dutch and ruled the family in a slightly autocratic manner.
We might go over there next year, like West Wales its somewhere I know very well, perhaps take the little train up the mountain behind the village and listen to the bells clonking round the necks of the great creamy coloured cows that graze the summer pastures; the little rail track went past Leni's house, and there is an old photo of her standing by a tall sunflower in her garden, fast fading because its polaroid.
This part of Switzerland had many expats living up on the slopes behind Vevey and Montreaux, there were two English churches as well, mostly attended by the people from Nestles who worked here my father in law was a church warden as well so that the English vicar would also come for lunch as well.
Fondues are still a favourite of both grown up children, a treat at Xmas for vegetarians and also raclette, potatoes with cheese melted over, and eaten with plenty of pickled stuff.