Thursday, March 31, 2011

Whitby and boats

A few days at Whitby with the family and working in the cottage, stripping wood chip. To be quite honest I was quite happy with the woodchip, scraping it of a whole room is no easy task, but apparently to the younger generation it is a 'no-no' in house decor.... A gas meter had to be installed and bathroom stuff ordered, all done now and waiting for the plumber to put in the central heating.
But one morning the early sun looked so tempting that I decided to photograph along the harbour, though the sun was almost directly in front of me. I had been trying to get a photo of a big yellow boat, which turned out to be a dredger but it had already gone out. Apparently a few days ago it dredged too near a sea wall and being undermined the wall fell down. Poor harbour master resigned on Monday over the whole affair, unfortunately denial that the dredger had been anywhere near the wall was contradicted by someone taking a photo of it near the wall ;)
I just love the roofscapes of Whitby, it has innumerable churches, and yards (We live in a yard) which are very medieval.  Something to do I suppose with the seafaring nature of the town.

Just catching the bridge
Boats and piers

Just across the water are two bridges in the centre

lobster pots

They reminded me of children's boats in the bath

shadows and water

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Essex photos - one Saturday;

A glorious day, and we decide to go to Chipping Ongar, the old Greensted Saxon church is about a mile away from the town and this is where we are heading for..... but first Chipping Ongar and its church of St.Martin.  Many years ago I lived round here in a little village called Fyfield in a rented cottage, incredibly cold, it once got cut off from the rest of the world by snow.
Chipping Ongar high Street

St.Martins church, which is early Norman and has Roman tiles in the older part

Hidden corners of churches always reveal violets at this time of year

lane up to the church

Greenstead church with crusader's (12th C) grave in front

Tidy rows of prayer books in the boxed pews at Greensted

Violets again, mostly white

The Viper pub, set in woodland this is a popular place for walkers and dogs

Greensted church

Reading for the future

This week I decided to buy some books that I had read in the past, both to do with nature and wildness. I see that I have written about Roger Deakin's book and probably about Jay Griffiths.  I suspect it is getting back to my roots, the old 'green' thread of my nature.  The other books that I have lost along the way are Eliot's Middlemarch, Thomas Hardy books, I mean to read them all again, their misery capturing so much of what is England in the fold of their tales.  Tess's turbulent life and of course Jude the Obscure, plus 'Under the Greenwood Tree', which for some strange reason is probably my favourite, and Eustacia Vye and the Reddle man, the title of which I've forgotten.
What next, Bill Mckibben - Eaarth, and Wendell Berry of course, though I do own two of his books, one of which is called The Unsettling of America.  Then there is Robert Macfarlane's book about the wild places of England and Ireland......
The other book I sent of for this week is about Chernobyl, and the reason is obvious, looking at some of the photos on the web, after the disaster, and the town is drowning in trees and greenery, very much like one of those lost Mayan civilisations in the jungle.  There is also the added fact that wildlife has returned to the area in greater numbers; more of everything, lynxs, deer, brown bears (almost extinct from that area) and I think also leopards.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Falling staircase

Life is quiet at the moment, we've had visitors as well, but the funniest thing to happen over the weekend was related by my daughter.  First of all my cottage will undergo some work, and secondly my daughter and her husband are also 'finishing' off their house, which includes restoring the plasterwork to very high Victorian ceilings, painting the outside and having  new carpets (there was'nt an old one) fitted on the landings and stairs of a three floored house. 
Well unfortunately, the carpet layers turned up with carpets already cut for the small cottage; they had mixed a quote (for the cottage) and an order (for the house) up.  It was decided to fit this carpet, and they duly started at the very top of the house, where the two rooms for the boys are in the loft, and worked down.
Then fled the scene, so that when said daughter went to look at the stair carpet up to the loft, on coming down the stairs they started to collapse on her like a row of dominoes; the heavy hammering of the fitter having knocked out the old backing timbers. Her husband spent a couple of hours knocking everything back in, the moral of the story is that when you take on an old house, you will soon find yourself knowing its most intimate detail and weaknesses, from rising damp and slugs in the dining room to the fact that at one stage during its history, it was owned by a butcher who kept chickens in the loft.......

Friday, March 11, 2011


Photos of yesterday, one walking down to our local shopping mall, and the other a miniature I have been struggling with the last couple of days.....
Making the minature has been somewhat difficult, will not use superglue in the future! luckily  managed to get it off before my fingers stuck together. 
Have been informed that screens come in multiplies of 2/4/6 not 3s and it needs a 'tea-wash' to antiquate it.;(

This giant has had the path skirted round it in due respect, in its hollow in autumn are great mounds of mushroom.

 The turreted forest of our dreams!

Miniature screen...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Matilda's notice on her door;

Well taking embroidery as the theme of the day, thanks to Morning Minion's comment, I remembered two things I had wanted to photograph and record, one is a piano cover the other a tablecloth.

 Matilda my grandchild is also craft minded as well, and though my daughter is'nt she collects and keeps family 'treasures' in a large school cupboard in which Matilda is always to be found scrummaging around

M proving that it is not a wishing chair

In Matilda's bedroom amongst the assorted bits and pieces on her chest of drawers last time, was an old wooden box in which she kept her 'treasures' she had opened it to show the Victorian bead bag I had given her.  Recognition slowly dawned on me that the box in fact was an old cigar box of my grandfathers'.  He smoked cigars quite regularly, and the whole art, for it is indeed an art, came back to me.  The removal of the cigar from the box, the band removed, hold the cigar between thumb and figure and gently rotate, smelling the tobacco.  Then the clipping of the end and the lighting up, blue tendrils of smoke and the very strong aroma of cigar, which always permeated any car he owned.
So to the two pieces of embroidery, the first is a Chinese piano cover, exquisitely embroidered on silk, the silk embroidery threads having faded to an all over grey colour, though LS says they would have been coloured.  There is a Chinese water dragon in the centre with lily pads floating around, and flowers and butterflies embroidered all the way round.  It also has family history and will probably be Matildas' one day.  My first mother in law was Dutch, and her parents the Dutch ambassadors in China for a time, and they acquired a lot of Chinese furniture, dragon chairs, screens and a beautiful Chinese dresser, which is still in the family, so it would make this piano drape mid 19th century probably.
It always hung in the house in a dark corner, but has never been photographed fully, digital though does wonders for detail, so today I pulled it out from the cupboard and looked at the detail closely, four motifs at each corner, 2 have chyrsantheum detail, the other two maple leaf.  Around the edge are embroidered butterflies and leaves, and then the skinny water dragon in the middle.

The tablecloth is something I found at a church hall sale, again beautifully embroidered and also carefully crocheted around the edges in cotton.  The tablecloth is thick linen, the colours used are pretty, and even the edging of green shows a lot of work and strained eyes probably.


cotton edging in crochet

The embroidering out of the flowers over the green reminded me of a painting in the Guardian recently, it was of a woman holding a book which stepped out of the painted frame.

Monday, March 7, 2011



This I think is a weigala, it was in the pub garden, already out, though the blossoms called for me to take a photo, on closer inspection there was a lot of dead blooms, caught by the frost.  This photo captures the lovely grey/blue of the lichen along the branches.  It seems to develop on shrubs facing the wetter west, on the downs hawthorns were often covered with it and it seemed to hang down in fronds the older it gets.  

  Evening meal - fried noodles

For years I always cooked for the family and language students on a daily basis, but now my partner cooks every other day! bliss

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Ploughman Lunch

The idea that you can catch moments in a day by photographing them has taken hold at the moment, see previous post.

What for instance flows through our minds, aimless thoughts like a stream of lava trailing down a mountainside.  Today for  we were going to the Cats pub for a ploughman's lunch, so my mind started to dwell as to when ploughman lunch came into being.  Of course it has been with us for centuries, it was the only meal you could take out into the fields, cheese and bread, with either some cider or little beer, water was not drunk in the medieval period.  In the 19th century, it would have been cold tea, as the farm labourers sprawled near the hedges having their mid day meal.  The plough horses would have been nearby noses deep in the sack nose bags having a well earned rest and feed.  These horses of courses in the early 20th century would be sent overseas as transport and riding horses for the guns of the 1st World War, many, many of them never returned, and we saw the beginning of mechanisation in our farming history.
Two books came down from the shelves, Dorothy Hartley, The Countryman's England and Food in England, they both document a fascinating part of history in the early 20th century and before.  I could fill this blog with Hartley's photographs of rural England, the horses, the women working out in the field, the cottages huddled somewhere with no electricity or phone lines, and the lanes bare of cars (not something to easily imagine now). The different cheeses that came from all parts of the country, England is a bit of a misnomer in the titles, what of the white cattle of Gwent, (Glamorgan cheese) bred for their milk and its cheese making qualities.

The Cats pub is caught in a time warp, a real original pub, beamed, with the same customers coming back and chatting with a warm familarity that comes of long association.  You can see from the following photo that it was originally a small cottage with a later Victorian extension tacked on at the back.  It is full of a collection of cat objects, they line mantlepieces, pictures on the wall, in the loos, around the fireplaces, which Wally always keeps going in winter.  There are no fancy meals here, its sandwiches or a ploughman and only on certain days in the week.

When I was a child, I had a nanna who lived in Wednesbury in the Midlands, she was the mother of one of my stepmothers.  And I would be left there on occasions, her house was an entranced terrace house, one tap in the kitchen, (no bathroom) cold water of course, and an outside loo.  One of the things I remember was Sunday tea, which was of course ham and salad,  No fancy french dressings or mayonnaise of course, but lettuce, cucumber, tomato, radishes and spring onions with the obligatory Heinz Salad cream - it was considered a feast..  The following photo taken from Hartley shows spring onions being washed in the stream ready for market, a very much simpler style of direct production, than those terrible aisles we must prowl in the supermarket, and the half dead vegetables and fruit flown in from abroad....

A glass of stout and Abbot's Ales

Note the large slice of cheese, Heinz salad cream and Branston Pickle
The wood-burning stove with strange cat sitting in front

the tiny cottage backed by the larger house

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Photos of the day

Sometimes we need a moment of Zen, when our senses become fused with the environment we live in...

a crop of violets protected by a small tangle of twigs

The sun going down in the West in a last spectacular display

Turquoise mug for coffee, roses for tea.

The ritual of coffee at 10 in the morning

As she lies on the board, slightly erotic,
 is she pregnant? captured for evermore in a few strokes of the brush

Such elegant simplicity this female impersonator actor, draped in his red cloak

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Catching up

Retiring to the peace of my blog would be a better title, sometimes I wonder why do I belong to a 'firecracker' group, every so often we get attacked.  Its a phenomena of the internet, the ability of faceless people to say what they want in the interests of 'free speech' and very little comeback.
Luckily they run out of wind very quickly, their arguments foundering on the deep waters they find themselves in.

So to more pleasant memories, I had been charged to find 'the wishing chair' in Whitby and bring back photos. So one morning Matilda and I set out to find the stone, it was supposedly outside Lidl on the outskirts of town, so we walked and walked with Matilda complaining every inch of the way till we came to the countryside but turning left spied Lidl in the distance, photo taken and carpet shop wandered round  we returned by a much shorter route back.  The stone is'nt a wishing chair but the socket for a mile cross to Whitby Abbey.

 Pannett Museum was on Matilda's list, she is like me very curious and also very craft minded.
The museum is a fascinating mixture of everything, beautiful jet jewellery vie with carved miniatures of jet. Ghastly Victorian dolls adorn the cabinets, along with stuffed birds, dusty animals, and pinned butterflies.  Beaded bags, little lace cushions and carefully stitched samplers, plus of course all the arrowheads, rock art and cup marked stones.  Tea and ham sandwiches in the cafe and we did another half hour looking at the exhibits.
Things that are good in Whitby; Boyes which is quite small but which sells everything, including the kitchen sink.  The little patchwork shop, in which we brought materials for projects.  Several fish and chip shops though Fuscos is the best, my eldest grandson had just started a week end job in one, there is talk of him not going to university at the moment, the £40,000 student loan he will probably be lumbered with, has made everyone think twice about spending three years at a university only to come out in a redundant job market.
Matilda and Lillie spent a day making bags, or at least I made Lillie's bags, the girls amuse themselves quite easily, in the shop (they were on holiday) they made houses out of boxes, and Lillie played her 'jack in the box'   game on unsuspecting customers..

The stone

Fireplace with hideous tartan carpet.

The only thing I'm not replacing

cottage with my share of the garden

And already there is a cause to fight for, the Donkey Field,  by the Abbey, which has rig and furrow still showing in it, I just love this photo of protestors and their dogs .

Residents fearing for the future of the Donkey Field near Whitby Abbey are petitioning to have the area declared a protected village green.
Recent sewage works have led to the area being transformed from a meadow into a muddy building site, with many residents fearing the area will never be restored to its original beauty unless official conservation measures are imposed.