Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Well I have'nt written for ages, but the words below were a start over the weekend, my main problem is that my new computer will not recognise my North Stoke blog, and to add insult to injury my email server is also not recognised..
So should in the not too distant future my blog come to a halt, I shall start a new one under the name of North Stoke Two (I think).  My old computer still works, albeit slowly, there I was all hyped  up to clear my desk of keyboard and monitor, and fit a smaller laptop, which could be taken off when I wanted to sew or write, and now it is not possible until my son comes down and sorts it all out!

A mass of presents around my make-do xmas tree, not being mean but there was not enough room for a large tree and all of us. So on Xmas Eve morning (4 am to be precise) the family set off from Whitby across the snowy moor road on their trip down to us in Chelmsford. Okay, hot water bottles, blankets, food, crates of presents and more food stacked high in the dependable land rover was the order of the day, and of course the obligatory spade! They were lucky to get away, the snows came in once more, and the long hill through the village of Staithes became impassable, stranded cars being rescued by the coast guard a few hours later.

The rest of the journey was uneventful, and they arrived later on in the morning, and we all went out to lunch at the Fox and Raven, which was full but two glorious log fires in the old farmhouse is a sight for sore eyes. The children played with the games I had bought most of the afternoon, though there was a drama next door.

At least for the house, for the people had gone off to Thailand for several weeks; a great bang on our front door and an off duty policeman said that it was flooded next door, and boy was it flooded!

The water tank in the roof had given way, it looked as if it was raining on all the windows inside, and the ceilings had collapsed to add to the chaos. Fire engine came to turn off the water, though we did'nt see it, police came and sorted relatives addresses, and so we are now in touch with our next door neighbour in Thailand. Moral of the story; Turn off the water, leave some heating on in your house when you go away in winter, and do leave a key and contact number for panicking neighbours!
Well it was dramatic, he still has'nt come back from Thailand yet, though there are emails now and then.
I see we have a new format on the blogs, which looks elegant.... Christmas went off with a bang, they travelled back yesterday, the weather is warming up and we now have grey skies and fog.  We played games of the boxed kind, though 'Family Fortunes' was a bit difficult for me.  Children got what they wanted, computer for the eldest, phone for Ben, and Matilda and Lillie, got smaller presents, because they had already received their big ones.  Lillie acquired a set of fairy wings from Hobbycraft, she also nobbled a jumper and bag from my sewing bench, which was meant for another. But a good christmas all told......

                                                      The Fairy or Madame Pompadour

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Darkling Thrush a poem by Thomas Hardy

Snow, upon snow.. amid the bleak mid winter carol has been going through my head lately, no prizes for guessing why. People are getting tired of all this snow, out in the countryside according to Farming Today radio this morning, the task of feeding outlying animals, and getting food into the villages is a hard job. Oil is at a premium, let alone getting the tankers to the farm, or to BBs house stuck up high on a hill. People lie around airport terminals waiting for their planes to take off, travel comes to a standstill as road and railway lines freeze up over night.
We are safe, near to shops, our heating mended after one week of no heating, and there is always an open fire in the sitting room. Doubt if my family will make it down, and I don't want them to venture out onto dangerous roads, Xmas can always be postponed to the following week.
Not sure its chaos, the English do so love a drama, and snow is fulfilling that role superbly, perhaps what we need is an extended holiday period, so that people can fly abroad over a longer time, and the festival days can be spread.
My thoughts have been with the birds, out in the cold every night, the doves look miserable, but the starlings still come to the table happily as do the little fighting sparrows.
Anyway it reminded me of my favourite author and poet - Thomas Hardy and his poem to that little old thrush who sang on a cold and miserable evening such as we are experiencing now........

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy unlimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Snow again - and a return to warmer days maybe?

The snow arrived all of a sudden whilst we were out in the car picking up logs, it was the usual 'whiteout' the roads covered in minutes. The countryside suddenly transformed itself into a winter wonderland, though everyone was driving very carefully on the roads, and as we turned down into the road where we live, a car had slid into another one, denting it badly. We were supposed to go out for a birthday meal, but I doubt the car will be taken out of the garage again, so it is either walking to the Fox and Raven or fish and chips!

This morning, I received a long email from one of my old internet miniaturist friends who lives in London, and cares passionately for cats. Or at least the stray ones, she makes miniatures of shops, greengrocer and florist come to mind though her tiny little nut fairy house filled with furniture (no bigger than a pansy flower) was something else. Years ago, when we all made miniatures, we would exchange stuff, and Claire made delicious little cakes out of clay of course.

My other friend in Wales, Gwen who lived near to Carew Castle, in a very romantic setting by the great tidal mill there, also made miniature shops in clocks (the insides taken out of course).

It made me look at my album on the site, two of my efforts are below, both destroyed now.

The one is of the chapel at Farleigh Hungerford, the guide there had told me of the story that someone had bet that she could'nt stay the night in the crypt there. Well the crypt was down a flight of stairs outside, and had three little stone coffins of children from probably the 15th or 16 th century. She had taken up the bet, and locked herself up behind the iron grille door. No, nothing terrible happened but she did say that she was visited by a little (ghost) girl who said she was very cold and wanted her cloak......

The other is of a long hall, which my oldest grandchild used to play, mostly stringing up the dolls to hang from the hooks I made, and then skewering them with the sword, grisly child that he was; all gone now though they took an age to make.

Anyway one of my new year resolutions, is to get back to miniature making when the weather gets warmer and I can cut wood outside...

Thursday, December 16, 2010


A painting that hangs in a gallery in Bath; Geese coming down to drink

Geese photos are in tribute to that marvellous tv programme 'Edwardian Farm', last night a gander was introduced to see off the fox, who had mauled one of the female geese - which survived luckily...

Life is busy, christmas beckons, cards are almost done, and so are presents, the next thing is to go out into the countryside to collect ivy my favourite xmas decoration. Yesterday we bought my present, which happens to be a teapot and cups and saucers, for what I call the traditional ritual cup of tea in the afternoon, which is never served too well by the mugs we drink out of on a daily basis. Leaving all my china in the move was not exactly a wise thing to do, as it can be exceedingly expensive to buy afresh, but the pretty turquoise teapot chosen in the end will do.

Next week before the advent of xmas it is of course the winter solstice, when the balance between dark and light starts tipping the other way. It's the pagan festival day of old, though I'm not quite sure how they knew it would happen.

At the local reservoir, on a hot and sunny summer afternoon

Snow ready to come back again on friday with strong Arctic north winds blowing straight down the length of Britain, its a bit surprising all this snow before the 25th, it was always the harsh cold of January and February that one remembers.

The survey report came through on the cottage by email, which was slightly depressing, though at 30 pages long was excellent. He had practically examined every nut and bolt of the place, though not the back wall and its roof, due to snow.

Analysising his findings, I find a couple of things are essential, the chimney stack has to be overhauled, there is slight water ingress into the attic bedroom, the house has readings of damp, which of course is not unusal for its age, but it might be wise to put in gas central heating to contend with the dampness and it has a bressumer beam, which is rather thrilling though not quite sure what sort of beam it is..

Hopefully jobs will pick up after the festive season, and my son will find one, though he is still engrossed in his projects on the computer, which may be coming to fruition next year, there is a 'mmm' in my soul as to the outcome. There was rather a worrying programme on Channel 4 news last night about the expensive use of a particular type of insulin, analogue as opposed to the humalin types. I suspect he is on the analogue one as a type 1 diabetic, as it is supposed to respond more quickly to hypos and keep weight down, though to tell the truth he could put more weight on. The good news last week is that his annual blood glucose check up for two years now has been almost perfect, but I would dearly love to see some sort of stem cell cure for diabetics, promised by my doctor 12 years ago and still not on the horizon.

Insulin of course means a life and death issue for people like my son who have type 1 diabetes, its not something my mind always faces up to, but he is sensible and has far more nerve than me. His trip to Ghana for a year was a brave choice though he went with friends but that moment in time was a worrying one for me. Seeing them set off in a car for the airport was a strange moment of whether I would see him alive again; that I waved goodbye outside the chemist, where I had been waiting for his large supply of insulin (late delivery) to take to Africa. It arrived, and I handed it over, still worrying that they would keep it cool on the plane, and not knowing until a couple of years later that he had had a massive hypo on landing at Accra.

So my christmas present to him if possible, would not be the sweater I have bought him but a cure for his diabetes and not the daily regime of needles and testing he must always go through....

Edwardian Farm review;

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Getting up early

Getting up early and listening to the radio, as I made a cup of tea this morning, I listened to someone on the radio talking about democracy, and the fact that in essence democracy does'nt work. That the system we have is probably the best, founded as it is on hundreds of years of smoothing out the edges. That our form of government, with the house of lords and the royal family appearing in the formalisation of our laws and 'motions passed' is in essence the best.
Well earlier on this week watching the student riots in London, the charging of the crowds by policemen on horseback and riot armour dressed police against young people, I wasn't so sure though; and when Charles and Camilla got attacked, it made me look at the royal family with a slightly quizzical eye.
For a start it was a complete foolishness to take them through this part of London where everyone was protesting, and also it was a complete foolishness of the couple to be seen in an expensive car dressed to the nines when we are all told that austerity is to be part of the next few years of life for most people, and that we were slinging round the necks of our young people, high bills of maybe £50,000 for university costs to be paid off in the future. Given that these young people also have to find jobs, probably pay off mortgages for a greater part of their lives, would they even want to start on this life of debt!
I find it very demoralising sometimes this line between rich and poor, it was poor Camilla necklace that started this trend of thought, large emeralds in a setting of diamonds hung round her neck and outside angry youngsters, who would have heavy debts hung round their necks in the future, the juxtaposition was too close and uncomfortable.
Well the next programme was about walking, something I used to do early in the morning when I walked Moss. Getting up on Sunday, and wandering about the downs is something I miss. Seeing the moon still in the sky on cold winter mornings and the sun coming over the horizon in a fiery glow. Watching the little muntjac make its way home into the woods, and also the deer as they browsed along the edge of the woods.
Walking is a meditation, our minds become cleared of all those small nagging problems and fears, we are part of the greater world, unimportant in the great scheme of things. Sometimes i think it is the time when nature flows through us, welcoming us to the minutae of its abundant life. The skylark soaring up into a tangle of clouds in spring as you venture too near its young hidden in the grass, we are offered the grace of its beautiful song. A single blade of grass, is a work of art, yet their are billions around, insects climbing solemnly to the top of a blade and balancing precariously there.
The form and shape of trees, the music of the wind blowing through their branches, different as the seasons progress, I miss the old ash trees that grew up on the downs, though the beautiful willows here are good enough compensation, I cannot get over their silvery-blue leaves and their fissured bark.
Their are two landscapes that I love, the first is Wales, not always pretty, but still retaining a wildness that is different. The other is Somerset, full of hills and downs, and woods. Yorkshire moors I have still to come to terms with, their bleak bareness is so different and its just a tad colder up North - 3 degrees to be precise, though if you were to move further north it would be another 3 degrees! Essex landscape is also beautiful in its rivers and fields, but it is bounded on all sides by roads which I hate.....
But the one thing I meant to write about was the cutting down of the thorn bush under Wearyall Hill in Glastonbury. Now Glastonbury is supposed to be a magical place, it is the 'mecca' of alternative views and paganism, though in reality it has a very christian background, with the great ruined abbey there and its story of King Arthur and Guinevere.
So who committed the crime? well I can't answer that one, there are dark mutterings on the local paper, only that someone took an axe to it, leaving quite a lot of stump still standing. Funnily enough a sprig had been cut the day before to grace the table of the Queen on Christmas day, so whether that had anything to do with it I'm not sure.
The story goes that Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus and a merchant, came to Britain and on coming to Glastonbury stuck his stick into the ground, and from thence miraculously a tree grew, and it is from this tree, over the centuries, many slips and cuttings have been taken to preserve the symbolic 'magic' of it. Its magic by the way is that it flowers on Christmas day, it doesn't of course, maybe sometimes 10 days later. But it is a hawthorn tree from a 'foreign' country that flowers at its proper season, like so many of the firs that we find in this country.
Its not such a calamity clones of the tree are apparently to be found elsewhere. The puritans or the roundheads in the 17th century also cut the tree down that was standing then, they did'nt believe that Xmas should be a time of festivity!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

4 Trains and a bus

Snow on the moors; Creative Commons with acknowledgments to Colin May

7.3o start on a very cold morning, the bus took us round very snowy villages, and then up onto the moor, which was very beautiful. I suspect the temperature in the bus was -10 degrees if not more, the snow on the North Yorks moor was deep, blown by the wind, indeed sculpted by the wind, snowdrifts were everywhere, plus that lynchet/wave like affect as the wind ripples over the snow. Everywhere glistened silver with the frost, and as we plunged into Dalby Forest, it stood 2 to 3 foot deep down the tracks, completely impassable. The other road to Pickering had been opened the day before, to get supplies through, as towns and villages were running empty.
Whitby being by the sea was'nt as affected as much and had this rather tenuous link with Scarborough, even so shelves were beginning to run on empty.
A long wait for the Scarborough train, which took us through a magical country of snowy frosted trees, past the ruins of Kirkham Abbey, to arrive and wait for a further 20 minutes outside York station as a train had 'failed' on the platform. Eventually it was moved, and then another wait for the London train, which turned up fairly quickly but only because it was a very late early train, all trains from the north were coming in on one platform, hours late!
Travelling through a snowy countryside with frozen ponds and streams, suddenly changed into a green frozen landscape; the 'ribbon' of arctic cold weather twisted its way all round Britain.
London it had of course melted, so tube from Kings Cross to Liverpool street was easy, as was the Chelmsford train; a long journey though of about 8 hours.

Outside the cottage

one of the many snowfalls treacherous for cars though

Whitby Abbey in the distance

Pottery Cottage 1712 AD, two years till its 300 years old!

Beautiful skies, all this cold weather has created lovely cloud banks

Footnote; Well it seems I got out of Whitby just in time as more snow fell next day, and the road became impassable according to this BBC news item sent by my daughter. Its quite difficult to convey the state of the weather, but heavy falls of snow, combined with sleet and hail, does build up a surface on the roads that no amount of gritting can contend with, luckily it happened in daylight on the Scarborough road whereas a similar happening in Scotland left hundreds of motorists stranded overnight. The same of course happened with the trains, York is a main line station, trains from London to Edinburgh, and all the northern cities pass through this station, that they were reduced to one platform shows just how serious it was up north.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Sunday, and my daughter sits in front of me with the most enormous piles of clean washing, which is being sorted for ironing, Lillie is 'helping' sorting the socks. A rainy sleet is making the snow disappear but it is treacherous out with black ice.

Is the country in chaos because of the bad weather, maybe, but tv shows the lorries back on the roads albeit driving very slowly, so though there will be short term shortages of food, supplies are being delivered. The co-op ran out of meat yesterday and the shelves apparently looking a little bit empty. This because people from the villages come in and stock up for the week.

But they did'nt run out of chocolate cake at Sherlocks this afternoon, the children gorged, to be quite honest this fudgy cake is horrible, I suppose Black Forest gateau must have been its inspiration.

The salt miners down the road (or somewhere on the moors?) have been working flat out to mine the street salt, so its not all gloom and doom as the papers would have us see. Tomorrow I shall try and get home(joy no more non stop Fireman Sam with those terrible Welsh accents on tv) The rather nice woman who drove me to Whitby in her American jeep, in fact owns two famous fish and chip shops in Whitby plus a restaurant; think there might be a bit of competition with the Magpie restaurant for awards but if we are heading for a recession, fish and chips are the business to be in!

Friday, December 3, 2010


Today has been glorious, bluest of skies and crisp white snow, a new fall last night. Children are off school and have been tobogganing in the front garden, though Lillie has come in crying, that it is too cold, too white and too tiring. Late afternoon clouds are creeping in, soft beigy-greys, the birds sit in the tree outside, seemingly unconcerned as they clean their feathers. A thrush plucks a berry from the garden next door.
So can I get back to London next week? for the first part of the journey, its either a two hour bus ride across the moors, hopefully the road to Pickering is open now, but there was talk on the radio this lunchtime of the town of Malton not getting supplies through. Or, an hours' journey back to Scarborough, and then another dicey hour to York on the train. The York train, or at least the Edinburgh train, seems to be keeping to timetable, but the south east trains are having problems.
When we were in town today, we saw 'Jesus' the tramp standing in a doorway talking to himself. Apparently he is well looked after by the restaurants, and collects a daily amount of money from the bank each day for the days wants.He does have a similarityto Jesus, as he is quite a young man, and had a blue and white cloth draped round him. One wonders at the crime rate in Whitby but I am informed (not sure how reliably) that the police run the druggies out of town, and there is hardly any burglaries because everyone knows each other!
Tomorrow is the 'big shop' at the co-op, so I will buy a saturday paper and see how the rest of the world is coping.
No photos till I get home, and hopefully the gas man will have been today to mend the boiler/heating which has gone haywire, seems to me that if we are to make ready for colder winters, then decent boilers and pipes that don't freeze would be of some help. Of course if the snow stays to xmas, there will be no vegetables or sprouts to put on the table.......

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So Britain is stranded under bitterly cold weather and snow, here in Whitby the roads alternately appear and disappear under snow, cars skid on the corner just outside the house. I have seen only one car with chains on the tyres. I should be stoic but that does not come easily, plus I have a wretched bug, caught from the youngest Lillie, luckily she is recovering and seems her usual bouncy self today.

Well I seem to have struck lucky with cottage searching. Walking around the half dozen I marked soon reduced the field to two, the others had a variety of faults, mostly to do with long dark alleyways reducing the light into the cottages.

Tiny is the word, these 18th century fisherman cottages are very small, but at last after all these years of wanting an old fashioned cottage, I seem to be in the process of acquiring one.. true it doesnt have any acres to go with it just a couple of flower pots maybe!

Dependent on the surveyor's report, it should be finalised fairly quickly, basically it is going to be a holiday let anyway but we can use it when its not in use. The selling points were most of the original beams, cupboard doors and the quaint stair door with latch that sold it, plus a warm atmosphere and secluded yard, not forgeting the fireplace -and it was a great deal warmer than this draughty old victorian terrace house.

Houses are very subjective, atmosphere plays a great deal, one had been 'done up', two shower rooms and a whole set of kitchen stuff I did'nt like including the tiles, sad because it was pretty outside. Another had a bad feel to it, not that I believe in ghosts but something 'other' was trogging round the bedrooms I'm sure...

Chelmsford news is not too good either, the heating has gone and the gas people are inundated with calls, so they may come out tomorrow, and of course the snow has hit the London area quite badly. They were talking of people, sleeping on the trains at King Cross which is the station I come back through, (if I ever get back) apparently it was warm though in the carriages.

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.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Buzzards and ploughing

Some of the following photos are very stark in the blackness of the earth, but that is how it was when we went to the river Terling yesterday. The farmer was ploughing the field into a great sea of black ploughed ridge and furrows, the soil gleamed as it was turned, wet and heavy by the river. The powerful tractor was pulling a plough with great teeth that tore up the earth. No team of horses could have done that job without a great deal of labour, and though this disturbance of the soil is destructive, it brings forth a harvest next year. Red hips draped over a fallen tree, the sloes still gleaming amongst the copper turning leaves. A cluster of mushrooms clung to the opposite bank, but difficult to get to through the swathe of nettles.
The two buzzards (my totem bird) wheeled in the sky harassed by a crow, they turned and glided on the thermals, twisting away from the crow, the cream underside of their long wings catching the sun. I am fond of their lazy slow flight, their indifference to the mobbing that occurs from the crow family. At this particular spot, and note Essex does actually have hills and is not flat everywhere, the field had been sown, and a long line of 10 pheasants made a slow procession from the woods into the field. In other fields, the grey of grouse blended in so well with the soil, that they were almost like stones.

A furrowed sea

black soil gleaming in the sun

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ghosts - the Spirits of England

A rather good book for this time of the year, of course if one was cynical, just the right time to have a review written about it.

"England is a haunted country. Several explanations, for the ubiquity of the ghost in this land, can be offered. Alone among the countries of Europe, England is bordered by original British (or Celtic) nations. The popularity of the English ghost tradition – the English see more ghosts than anyone else – is deeply rooted in its peculiar mingling of Germanic, Nordic and British superstitions. The English are also in many respects obsessed with the past, with ruins, with ancient volumes. It is the country where archaeology is placed on national television, and where every town and village has its own local historian. Ghosts therefore may be seen as a bridge of light between the past and the present, or between the living and the dead. They represent continuity, albeit of a spectral kind."

'The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time' is published by Chatto & Windus (£12.99)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"How Dare You" - hunting

Well this is not going to be a 'class' rant, but the video below fascinated me as to how a particular man behaved in response to being videoed by an anti-hunt person. I had used this video to illustrate the mindset of the people who are probably behind our conservative government's plan to sell off 50% of our forests to private investors (yes you heard right!) for development! and of course a loosening of planning laws is also coming along in its wake. Give them power and we're back to privatisation of the worst kind, the free for all (that is if you are rich) to 'own' and develop - this in our overcrowded tiny island, with all the powers we have put in place to protect our wild places, moors, forest, woods as a sanctuary for our indigenous animals, plants, trees and birds.
I suspect that the conservatives will not get away with it, for all their weak kowtowing the Liberals should and hopefully will speak out...
So what about the video, the person who is filming (an anti-hunting moderator) confronts our 'John Bull' character on his piebald horse? who gets into a rage and seems to splutter 'how dare you' several times because he can't find anything else to say, except such foolishness as to demand why is she filming on this bright morning at 7.45. She has, sadly for him, the right to be on a public lane. Also, her car has been boxed in by the followers of the hunt, this confrontation is of course a common stance in this particular war.
It is the sight of grown men and women on large horses that is so extraordinary, a little fox crosses the road in the background, that is what they are hunting, a small chestnut coloured creature who lives out in these fields in Gloucester. What is his crime you may ask? well maybe he's been killing a few pheasants, but millions are bred, either in this country or they come from France, reared in the woods from young, and then shot at as a 'sport' - there's plenty to go around. Oh and pheasants are not difficult to kill, being rather slow and clumsy to flight. It can't be hens the little fox is after, most of our hens are well protected. So this 'vermin' that must be exterminated by a hunt and a pack of dogs is really only there for the pleasurable exercise of killing!
The good thing of course is that there are people there standing up for the 'rights' of the fox, the bad thing? well maybe its the foul mouthed abusive language that tumble from the mouths of the hunters, who must know that they are in the wrong.....

Money Could grow on trees

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The end is nigh

Well at least for my computer, which has been crashing lately; it needs replacing, so I have been copying email addresses, passwords and anything that needs saving to my external hard drive.
But the solid sound of a book hitting the floor as the postman delivered the mail through the letterbox this morning -David Abrams Becoming Animal and my Resurgence magazine means that at least I shall have plenty to read in the future!
Going out to find a new computer fills me with horror, I shall end up with a laptop of course because it will give me more space on my desk; I need at least two desks, a large table for ALL my other work, and another bookcase, space is always at a premium.......
Whether it will hit my access to my blog I am not sure, only remember Bovey Belle's trouble when she could not access her blog, we will see.
What else has ended? The marvellous radio programme A History of the World in 100 Objects, no more will we listen to the mellifluous tones of Neil Macgregor, or the rather good intro music, its finished on the note of a solar powered lamp and charger. There was a lot of discussion on the radio last week, sheer surprise at the dullness of this last choice to go out on. But Macgregor's choice was inspired for in the selfish world of this supposedly 'first' world, in which we think the technology of whizz bang internet mobile phones is the bees knees, he had chosen a small lamp and a charger for mobile phones for all the people in the rest of the world (one and a half billion) who do not have access to the unlimited energy consumption we have in the form of electricity. Solar power is of course the greatest energy source on this earth, it empowers people in the 'third' world (I do so hate that expression) to be educated and to conduct business.
And an interesting article in the Financial Times.. by Andrew Roberts, ending with the following words.....
"MacGregor could not have skewered our pretensions better; we too often think ourselves superior to earlier inhabitants of the planet simply because of the chronological – and all too swiftly altered – accident that we are alive. Look at the photographs of the majestic centaur and Lapith on the Parthenon Sculpture (440BC) or the Augsburg mechanical galleon (1585), and then fast-forward through the centuries to our own green plastic solar-powered lamp and mobile phone charger.

Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair. "

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fungi in Blakes Wood

Don't ever eat Boletus
If the tube-mouths they are red
Stay away from the amanitas
Or brother you are dead

The beautiful gills of a mushroom, I laid the camera underneath it and then just clicked. A walk in Blake's Wood this afternoon revealed puffballs, mushrooms and fungi. In actual fact it should be Sweet Chestnut Wood, for everywhere the ground was covered in the spiky pale green shells of the chestnut tree splitting open to reveal the four nutlets inside. A couple of people were picking bags full and I now know where to find the biggest nuts. Seems I will have to do a little research into what to do with them, apart from roasting on the fire, I collected a large pocketful of them.
The mushrooms were incredible it really has been a good year for fruit and nuts, and the mushrooms must love the damp weather we having having of late.

These two photos of white mushrooms were close together, so they may be one and the same species, note the bluish tinge in the above

Red agaric mushrooms, pretty but poisonous of course, no dainty fairy sat underneath

puffballs, apparently delicious to eat when young and still white inside, but as they grew older, and develope a dark green inside (the spores) no good for eating.

Sweet Chestnut tree

Strange creature the puffball, a lot of the mushrooms were nibbled, even the fly agaric, it has a stem but belongs to the puffball family...

Strange but maybe a puffball, bad photo

This has a cracked surface, could it be a russula? to answer myself no, but a decent mushroom book might help!

last words by Gary Snyder..

So here's to the mushroom family,

A far-flung friendly clan,
For food, for fun, for poison
They are a help to man.