Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lost Puffin book

Uffington White Horse

Wiltshire Heritage Museum reveals ambitious plans for its 'lost' Eric Ravilious acquisition

Eric Ravilious;  I meant to write about him but found such an excellent blog by James Russell on line that the thought fell through, especially about his wife Tirzah, who seems to be interesting and rather overshadowed by her husband, both were artists.  Anyway they fall with that period of history I like, early 20th century artists.
Paul Nash was Eric's teacher at one time, and the above news regarding the finding of a lost Puffin children's  book had Massingham as the author of this intended book.  The book was lost and Ravilious died an unexpected early death in Iceland.
White horses are such a part of the Wiltshire countryside, and it is true, as approaching Swindon from London you can see the Uffington White horse from the train, and also I used to see the Westbury White Horse from Lansdown on a clear day, though it was about thirty kilometres away.
Some paintings by Ravilious and one by Paul Nash......

Eric Ravilious - Tea time

Paul Nash - on the downs
Eric Ravilious - Train Journey
Paul Nash - blog

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Unknown single rose, captures the eye with its brightness

I have been coming across lately good words which need recording... Darshan was introduced by Macfarlane, a wiki below.  Macfarlane thought it a good word to use when coming on a beautiful landscape or mountain, instead of the 'wow' factor we use, to translate our sense of awe into this Hindu expression darshan  coming face to face with something sacred on earth and that interaction between seeing and seen, it is sanskrit 'sight'......

Darshan is ultimately difficult to define since it is an event in consciousness—an interaction in presence between devotee and guru; or between devotee and image or sculpture, which focuses and calls out the consciousness of the devotee. In either event, a heightening of consciousness or spirituality is the intended effect.

Another word is Johar a tribal greeting from Jharkhand, India with which a friend always greets  LS with in his emails, I like its soft sibilance.

Rewilding, came across this morning in George Monbiot's angry article, it means restoring the ecological system or balance, a "mass restoration' to match the terrible destructiveness we apply to the planet through capitalism.

Which turns me to the word wild now Macfarlane gives it etymology as the following, it is one of those words that tumble down through our language gathering its meaning on the way.  Firstly,"Old High German, wildi and the Old Norse Willr, as well as the pre-Teutonic ghweltijos"  Macfarlane says all three of these words give the impression of wilfulness, or uncontrollable events.  Wildness then becomes self-willed land, whose habits and laws belong to itself, growth of trees, movement of its creatures, free descent of its streams through it rocks. Wildeor the Saxon for wild beast, or deer.
Funnily enough when I put the question of 'Sense of Place' to a forum, the answers were quite interesting, someone thought that wildness is virgin land untouched by humans.  Of course this is not possible in today's world, we inhabit every corner and quite a lot of our British waste land turns by definition into wilderness. 
The word landscape did not come into being till late, about the 18th century I think, The English word is not recorded as used for physical landscapes before 1725 (wikipedia) but if you consult Sweet's Anglo-Saxon reader, there is a word land-sceap,  this from the 5th century, and the word 'land' appears in about 50 words, obviously an important word in an agricultural country!, and probably showing as the colonisation of Britain took place with the Anglo-Saxons naming their settlements, buildings, boundaries, territories and much else with this useful word in tow.  And of course, the use of the word 'waste' land had a greater meaning than it does today, but that is another story............. 

A much larger explanation of landscape and all its associations are in the following wiki

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Yesterday we walked down to the river I wanted to take photos of the gypsy ponies and their foals but they had all disappeared from the water meadows, maybe moved to other land or maybe because of the constant rain, the men were worried about the meadows flooding.  So feeling rather sad about it we wandered back, the river is full, water lilies are just starting to flower and we sat by the lock watching the dark silky water flow by.

Toadstools under a tree

I bought myself a bike last week, but on my first long ride out managed to fall into the hedge, because my legs gave way through tiredness ;), cutting my forehead rather badly so that I walked the last couple of minutes  back home my face covered in blood which gave LS a shock, but he very gently cleaned it up and it wasn't that bad and now I sport a beautiful black eye which I am rather proud of, examining it carefully every morning to see how it has progressed!
Lots of reading, Macfarlane got put to one side as an Oxfam purchase of Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Country had to be read, still makes me giggle.  Then yesterday a book from a bookseller on Amazon fell through the letterbox - The Ancient Stones of Wales by Barber and Williams, 1989. So I have been dipping into this since yesterday, entranced by the old stones in black and white photos and finding out facts I never knew about them.
Did I not say something somewhere that books are like pathways leading you on, well today I found a verse of a poem by the Welsh poet Henry Vaughan in the book.  He was a mystical and religious poet from the 17th century, and I knew him from the fact that the Vaughans lived at Tretowers Court for a couple of centuries... The last verse quoted is as follows...

He knocks at all doors, strays and roams,
nay hath not so much wit as some stones have
which in the darkest nights point to their homes
By some hid sense their makers gave;
Man is the shuttle, to whose winding quest
And passage through these looms
God ordered motion, but Ordain'd no rest.

I love the idea of standing stones pointing the way home to our prehistoric ancestors, though of course present theories are more to do with alignments of the stones on the sun and moon on far distant mountains and valleys so maybe he was right.

Today is the actual day of Midsummer, and of course the rains continue with the winds blowing through the tree outside, though not the rattling gusts we have had last week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Colour;  I have not done much spinning or dyeing lately, though had some wool to be dyed, well a scant teaspoon of purple dye produced the middle picture yesterday, though it looks more blue.  Three dips into the dye bath produced three shades, the almost washed out blue was the last remaining.  Purple is Lillie's favourite colour, she will take anything knitted in purple.  My dyeing is slightly slapdash, the dye is mixed with white vinegar for mordanting and cream of tartar for keeping the wool soft, this being bluefaced leicester which is soft anyway. The pale pink of the foxglove, speckled inside is not a favourite though with the sun making the petals transparent, its beauty  is evident.
As for the bottom photo this was bought 'rainbow' wool which produced a children's shoulder cape - good for dressing up in....

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Books - Robert Macfarlane - The Old Ways (A Journey on foot)

A book greatly anticipated, Macfarlane is a wonderful writer on the 'wild side' of Britain, and he doesn't falter in this book spread over several walks in the countryside.  It is definitely not your 20th century writing on the subject, the other book that also sits on my bedside table is his 'The Wild Places' so a firm reading companion....  He has that ability to sleep out in the frost, walk barefoot and undergo a whole series of adventures, not entirely pleasant for the rest of us!.
I have only got half way through the book so why bring him up, well in yesterday's Guardian he wrote an article in the review supplement about pilgrimage and walking. Then there was Richard Long's gallery exhibition  (You can see his work  on the link) featured and I had just read in the book about Macfarlane staying on the Isle of Lewis with Long, coincidence, coincidence.....
Long is a land artist, a sculptor who walks as well but leaves behind him stone circles, straight paths of stones and mazes.  He also kills birds for some of his sculptures which I do not approve of, a dozen sparrow hawks for goodness sake (shades of Damien Hirst) though he does eat the birds as well.
Macfarlane's prose is beautiful, read slowly and you appreciate the landscape he walks through, as I had just read Nicholson's Sea Room, I was astonished to find that Macfarlane had also sailed to the Shiant Isles, and walked through the Isle of Lewis following the 'Manus Stones' path, myths came rolling out as well.  Did you not know that when you cross the Minches in a boat you must look out for the Blue Men, who, if they climbed into your boat there was danger.  If the crew could not follow the Blue Men's one line verse with a similar one, then the ship would be pulled down to the bottom of the sea.  It has a Saxon taste this reciting of poetry, mixed up with Celtic folklore.

The Broomway
provided the main access to Foulness for centuries. It is an ancient track, which starts at Wakering Stairs, and runs for 6 miles (9.7 km) along the Maplin Sands, some 440 yards (400 m) from the present shoreline. The seaward side of the track is defined by bunches of twigs and sticks, shaped like upside-down besom brooms or fire-brooms, which are buried in the sands. Six headways run from the track to the shore, giving access to local farms. The track was extremely dangerous in misty weather, as the incoming tide floods across the sands at high speed, and the water forms whirlpools because of flows from the River Crouch and River Roach. Under such conditions, the direction of the shore cannot be determined, and the parish registers record the burials of many people who were drowned

The other chapter that held me enthralled was the one about his walk across the treacherous sands of the Broomway, an old causeway, covered by the sea when the tide was in, to Foulness Island.  An old trackway going back to prehistoric times and extremely dangerous as the above Wiki shows. This is in Essex, land of drowned villages such as Dunwich, and where England might end up one day a watery graveyard with the occasional spire sticking out of the sea.  Of course he mentions that other 'drowned land' of Doggerland, this stretch of sea we now know as the narrow English Channel, the land bridge which was once a country in its own right.
  When the seas finally closed this stretch of land between Europe and Britain 10,000 years ago, it left a whole of host of evidence of prehistoric mesolithic life now dredged up by fishing boats and written about in another book call Doggerland by Vince Gaffney.

The Manus Stones path
Books are like pathways themselves you enter a world of information moving between time and people, the paths are themselves historic events; the Manus's Stones (Clachan Mhanais), is really named after a person who marked it out more in the mind than on paper following waymarking stones, cairns, and standing stones but not marked on the ground on the stony Isle of Lewis, but following the high ground of stones and avoiding the greener, more dangerous areas, of the bright green boggy lower valleys.

The books

foxglove and bee

to be cont...

Friday, June 15, 2012


The great burial urn, 3 foot high at least. There is  a small print on the right-hand side showing William Cunnington in a horse and cart with his daughter clutching the urn. LS photo

1960's sign, yes they really do exist! LS photo
We went to London yesterday, not exactly a big event as it is only up the road, or the rail track at least.
But it was dry and therefore we could pick up a scroll from Bonhams without getting the wooden box wet.
It is so crowded, people, buses and cars, it reminds me of an ant's nest, people bustling around in a haphazard sort of way.
Firstly we went to a Stonehenge exhibition housed in the western gateway arch of Hyde Park, sandwiches in the park watching an adult girl on one of Boris's bike trying to ride it, then the horse guards also came through in the distance.  The exhibition was small but good, a rather ugly cork version of the stones, a real JMW Turner of the stones, apparently he manipulated his paintings of Stonehenge with artistic licence so that they are not true representations.  The photographs and prints of the area around  Stonehenge were also interesting, my favourite was a stage coach riding over a very torturous track into the sunset.

We had to collect the scroll from the basement at the auction rooms and of course LS was asked to give his judgment on the age of a couple of things. One was a six panelled screen which was probably 18th century, in good condition it was painted with a rich palette of minerals.  Azurite for the blue, malacite for the green and ground up oyster shell for the white.  Gold leaf was of course used. I was informed that LS is the foremost expert on the subject of Japanese artwork in the country, unfortunately it does not pay being an expert! But it is wonderful to see him transformed talking about the papers and silk used and tying the proper knots for scrolls and the great covering for the screen - his precision jars somewhat with my untidy nature!

The horse guards riding through

Cork model of Stonehenge

Four horses photographed from the balcony of the gallery

London Street

Loved this living wall, think it was the Athenaeum Hotel

This is the Mall from the other side of the gates

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Collecting Words on Megaliths

This is one of my favourite stones, I call it the 'Lion Stone,' for its face of course, to be found in the  large circle at Stanton Drew Stone Circles.  credit; LS photo
The following I have taken from a book review of a book that seems no longer available, Megalith; Eleven Journeys to the Stone.  Jan Morris, who lives in Wales wrote the following in the introduction.  Just like the way she has crafted her description. I should actually title this 'Looking forward to Going to Solva', images of Wales have flashed through my mind this morning as I peruse lists for books on West Pembrokeshire!  This is what Jan Morris wrote.........

In their lichened,
faceted faces we see our lineaments; in their
solitariness, our loneliness, or our need to be
alone; in their gregariousness, our
congregational temper; in their alignment,
our deviousness; in their poised mass, our
fragility; in their rootedness, our
deracination; in their age, our ephemerality;
and in their naked outfacing of time and the
elements, a valuable lesson in patient dissent”

Pentre Ifan
Gillian Clarke writing on why she wrote the poem to be found at the end of this blog.

What set me on this stony path was working on a commission to write about a megalith which I’ve known all my life, since early childhood days spent in Pembrokeshire with my grandmother on the farm. The megalith is a massive but elegant cromlech known as Pentre Ifan, in the hills above the Irish Sea. The huge weight of the capstone seems scarcely to touch the orthostats. Within sight of the sea, under the granite outcrop of Carn Meini - source of the bluestones of Stonehenge - Pentre Ifan is a pictogram from the alphabet of stone. I read its silhouette as the very word for cromlech. Carn Meini is formed from igneous granite, as old and as hard as any rock on the planet, an outburst of molten dolerite and rhyolite from the Earth’s mantle. Under Carn Meini the fields slip downhill to the sea, the underlying sedimentary rock blown away in the wind, aeon by aeon, from Carn Meini’s bony shoulders.

And the poem by Gillian Clarke...


Near the cromlech
lies my favourite.
It’s fallen out with the others,
left out of the circle,
ditched in a damp hollow
like a huge toad
keeping its head down.

Megalith, giant stone.
Nobody knows it’s there,
hidden in long grass
cooling its bluestone bones,
asleep under the sun,
under the stars
for four thousand years.

So when I stroke it,
I’m sure it’s the first time
anyone gave it a friendly scratch
for at least four millennia.
I’m sure its stone heart
is beating under my thumb.
I’m sure it’s breathing.
Gillian Clarke

Sunday, June 10, 2012


What is it about England, one month deep drought, the next month the heavens open and we have floods with the drought over in many counties. It has given us that beautiful verdant green of a temperate climate, and  some of the loveliest hedgerows with the wildflowers coming out in obedience to the season.  The white and pink of the wild roses cascade down with elderflower shrubs to sweeten the air, the wayfaring bush can be found and today I found wild honeysuckles tangled with the hawthorn.

Small pond with yellow irises

the wild rose

Cool depths of the woods

meadow flowers

the same

perfect blue specimen

Just a visit to Danbury Country Park, with its great oak trees, avenues of them leading up to a non-existent house, the long grasses interspersed with the red of the docks.  Carpets of tiny white flowers next to a blue carpet of goodness knows what but the bees were loving it.

Refreshment; a Japanese beer and stout

The Cricketers pub

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Don't diss this miss

Hi Dollydiamond/Matilda,

 Thought it might be you, the emphasis on fashion gives it away ;) this photo below which you christened 'we are three generations' gives an insight to your determined nature,  I expect you have been back to this pretty garden centre by the river and had tea again.
Paul was most impressed by your blog name, especially as he has always liked the 'Boudicca' name we all call you when you flounce!  Boudicca of course went down the A12 only a couple of miles away from us, when she went to destroy the roman towns of London and Colchester, she is Paul's favourite heroine. Your mum used to call you Flossie when you were young, which has a nice soft sibilance to it, but the name Matilda also has a history.  She was the first queen to rule England albeit only for a few months in the 11th century.  A great fighter for her right to the throne (she was also an empress) but lost the plot by demanding high taxes from her people.
Anyway keep on blogging, and I will find some more photos for you.
Love Granny X

p.s. try this pinboard site on which you can pin things of interest, and what about writing about some of the books you read....

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


A boat silently nudges it way past a bend on the river
Cold, rainy and windy, but the Diamond Jubilee has been a great success, and it looks like it has put a republican Britain right back on its haunches, the magnificent bronze statue of a lion outside Buckingham Palace has done its job.  Roared fiercely in defence of the crown!
We listened to the concert outside the palace, marvelling at how old some of the 60s musicians looked, that is the 1960s...but it was great stuff, the song 'My House' illuminating the palace was fun.  Today the carriages and horses on show,  I'd keep the royal family just for those magnificent horses, tossing their manicured heads manes interlaced with red braiding and tails brushed to an immaculate swish, they trotted and cantered down the mall in strict formation.
Photos of the flowers that are making their entrance felt.....

Showy red valerian, hogging the limelight in gardens and wild places at the moment.  It came into the country about the 16th century,  sometimes called 'American lilac'.  Grigson calls it a blowsy and cheerful plant.

Also loved by the bees, that is why I let it spread in the garden

White deadnettle more common than the red deadnettle, again loved by the bees.

Hogsweed, a giant square stemmed plant, whose buds large green/purple buds remind you of something evil is about to burst forward....and of course if the sap gets on your skin it will cause sunburn

I'm never good with the wild rose, this is probably the dog rose, poor creature named probably because it has become second best to the cultivars...

My latest effort, colourful but untidy.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Something to share

I was not going to say anything about the Diamond Jubilee not really being a republican or a royalist but watched it on tv with the occasional tear in my eye for its beautiful tribute to the Queen.  My thoughts for her on that cold trip was please can someone give her a hot cup of tea, or at least a hot water bottle she looked cold towards the end.  The two ships that stood out were the 'bell' ship with its bells pealing out answered in greeting by the churches on land, and the Spirit of Chartwell  which sailed gloriously regale in red colourings and piled with flowers.

 But this morning a friend in America had sent me this Jacquie Lawson card which made me laugh.  Firstly for the dogs, secondly it reminded me of the time we went with the grandchildren, Matilda being so brave stood next to the soldiers and Lillie taking fright at the changing of the guards and leapt into my lap out of sheer terror as the soldiers marched by with grim faces.

For all those brave people who stood in the unseasonally cold weather and those rowers who rowed against the tide it was a marvellous spectacle, everyone on the boats seemed to love it, and perhaps what was more important it was a family occasion celebrated by the country for a Queen who has stood the test of time!

Friday, June 1, 2012


For years I kept a commonplace book, and then they became unused.  The computer or blog to a certain degree fills in that spot when you want to record something, so writing almost becomes extinct.  But when I don't have my computer to hand I write down that which interests me as I did in Whitby.
Well what got my fancy was a Winston Churchill quote;
"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time" 
As a statement it is probably close to my own thinking, this week I have been recording on Facebook the stupidity of our wildlife minister Richard Benyon's idea to take the eggs and destroy the nests of the buzzard so that pheasant chicks can be reared for slaughter by the guns.  Figures; 40,000 pairs of buzzards compared to 40 million pheasants raised annually for the shoot, luckily I wasn't the only person aghast at such a destructive policy and right has triumphed

The buzzard is my totem bird, years ago one May Sunday walking with my dog up on the downs I witnessed something special.  A large young buzzard strolling without care and concern in the field, worried I stayed too watch, and then realised that the two parent buzzards were also keeping an eye on him.  He was being handed his territory, which consisted of the Lansdown race course and all its surrounding fields.  After that I would see him on his waiting posts for small rodents in the long grass, or hunting a particular field for worms.  He was exceptionally tame and always slow and majestic in his walk.  Once he seemed to follow the car from the race track down to a favourite wood as I opened the door of the car he flew in and settled in the tree above me agreeing that the place was too crowded.
Magnificent creatures, slowly wheeling overhead, that there existence should be threatened by the Tory estate millionares, to follow the demise of so many other birds such as the golden eagles in Scotland beggars belief..

This is a gentle rant, read George Monbiot on the subject ;)