Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

A favourite rose

Well a happy New Year to everyone, may the sun shine and we have a marvellous summer to write, wander, craft, draw or  just stare and contemplate at this marvellous world we live in xxx

And then something to shake you alive from Greenpeace ;)


Well what passes through your mind in the middle of the night when you can't sleep? Last night it was the Ruralists and their paintings, which I fell in love with about four years ago when I had gone to see an exhibition in Bath.  I wrote at the time, about finding their home in Wellow, wandering along the lane with Moss on a hot sunny day,  at the time I wondered why none of the artists had gone up to Stoney Littleton long barrow to paint it.
Silbury mound and the owl floating in front of it first came to mind, and then I found David Inshaw's Silbury with the river Kennet and the moon and that became a favourite (£250 a print - yikes) so what else floated through?   Ann Arnold's little donkey, looking more like an unicorn, in its small enclosure amongst the trees.  She painted trees spectacularly, they were all fine artists, the may tree comes to mind a sparkling creamy mass that reminds you so much of the English countryside.

David Inshaw the Moon over Silbury Hill

David Inshaw - Owl and Silbury Hill

Friday, December 28, 2012

Past Ghosts

Castle Chillon in a stormy mood, Creative Commons - Pear Biter.

Watching an excellent cartoon Christmas Carol (Dickens) over the holiday period, the part where Christmas past comes to the fore made me remember, the Swiss Christmases I spent long years ago.  Widowed at the early age of 27 with a young daughter, I sort of got adopted by my then husband's family and my daughter and I spent our holidays in Blonay.  Blonay is a village half way up a mountain called Les Pleiades, the town below was Vevey and just along the lake was Lausanne and Montreux where my sister-in-law worked.  My other sister-in-law lived in Hong-Kong as a lecturer.
I must have spent about 14 christmases there, and of course summer holidays.  Con, my father-in-law had retired from Unesco, and in his retirement was faced by two young grand children, my daughter and her cousin Marc to entertain.  He would drive us up into the mountains to wander round a lake or to eat the most delicious meringues sandwiched with cream. 
Ex-pats of course live in Switzerland, though many of the people around us worked for Nestles the chocolate people in Vevey.  Down from Lotta's bungalow in our small lane there was a church 'house' which was used by vicars on holiday from England.
Lotta my mother-in-law was kind, had been very beautiful in her younger days.  She had followed Con round the world living in a whole host of places, in Africa, Mauritius, Haiti, Persia as it was then called, then Paris and America.
From the following photos you will see us all gathered, dressed up for a meal perhaps, Xmas Eve was the celebratory time in the household, midnight mass at Grandpa's church in Territet (he was a church warden) the xmas tree lit with real candles precariously held by snap on holders.
We could see the lake from the garden, and you could watch storms come over the French mountains, whipping the lake up to a frenzy in a very short time, so that the paddle wheel ferry boat would not be able to dock.  Out in the lake is a very small island, English owned, it was given to Queen Victoria in her time and has a small chateau on it.  Across from this on the main land was the famous Chateau Chillon of Bryon fame.

As I wander through the old photos remembering past times, and seeing the faces, some now dead sadly, it draws the nostalgia out of the air, the bright sunny crisp air of Switzerland, great brown cows with heavy bells round their necks up in the summer pastures, fondues, we still have the 'ritual' fondue at Xmas, the strong smell of Gruyere cheese at that pretty town, and on wandering through the net yesterday came across these few words about Con, a wise and gentle person who lived a good life.

"One of the troubles of living with the trappings of power, even though the power is very moderate, is that it quickly goes to the head even among those least likely to be corrupted. I noticed it in myself but I never noticed it in Conrad Opper, even though he had started his career in the colonial services in what was at the time Rhodesia. In Thailand he was greatly appreciated for his gentleness and was very content. In Tehran, where Conrad Opper was head of the UNESCO Mission, I fear that his gentleness was taken for feebleness and he was so unhappy that I fear he was 'walked over.' The day after I arrived there to join him, he was very happy to receive an invitation to move on to New York to serve as UNESCO's liaison officer at the head office of UNICEF, the UN's International Children's Emergency Fund"

front row; Marc, Karen, me; Back Row; friend,  Lotta, Florine, Sylvia, Eugene, Annabel, friend of Marc.

Note our finery, still got that dress!
Con, Lotta, me, Karen, Michael and daughter (Canadian side of the family)
You can tell from the photo that Marc is taking the photo and we are all cross with him..

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Post Christmas

Well a rather smudgy photo of the fire, first of the year as the weather has been so warm, but I found something on the dial of my camera that takes the 'real' warm glow.   Lovely quiet christmas, we had visitors yesterday and will today, my partner's sons and the oldest, A showed us all his artwork in his studio and some that has appeared at galleries - proud dad ;) - on the computer. Friends in America are debating whether to come over for the Ice Age Exhibition at the BM in March, they will probably stay with us for some of the time so Sea-Henge, Sutton Hoo and hopefully Bartlow Roman Mounds will be on the menu.
A visit to Germany early January is also to be looked forward to, to take back some scrolls, old and new boxes to a museum there.  These scrolls have been round for 10 years waiting to go back, but apparently it is some sort of anniversary of the person who gave them to the museum and LS is to lecture on them.
So a happy but busy start to the New Year, and I still haven't got my old photos out to get nostalgic about. 
Forgot to get cat food, but luckily 'Skinny' was not around yesterday, though her friend, much plumper and sleeker was, this cat I call 'Buttermilk', a yellow tabby, who is well fed though greedy and I have to stand guard between the two of them.

Edit;  A parcel came this morning from Japan but was not opened till coffee time, inside were two gifts. LS's head of the Japanese conservation studio,Usami Shokakudo  had died in October, he was in his 80s and LS had sent flowers, these gifts were in reply to the flowers, the card accompanying very beautiful.  To understand the formality and ritual of Japan, all of this can be found in the wrapping and giving.  All shop assistants are taught to wrap properly, only three small pieces of cellotape are used, elegant points and paper that tells you the nature of the gift.  As you will see the pattern of yellow and white on the paper reflects death, in earlier days the tie would have been straw. A wrapping cloth was one gift and green tea sweets the other, accompanied by the letter from the son telling us  that eight generations of the family had worked in the studio, LS was deeply touched, he misses this old life.....


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Summer thoughts

It cannot get any darker or gloomier than it is at the moment, rain beats at the window and the wind gently howls, so LS said yesterday what was the best megalithic site visited this year and came up with Garnwynda.
Bright sunny day, through Welsh small lanes, parking on the verge, then walking up a cool green path shaded by trees with a stream running down, past a small derelict cottage and then the rocky outcrop on top. Garnwynda sub-megalithic cromlech is hidden against the rock face but once found is marked in the mind.  Not exceptionally beautiful as Pentre Ifan or Carreg Samson cromlechs are though, these are magnificent as is the third of the trio who's name I always forget, except that it has Arthur in it somewhere......

A visit to Jennie's house up the winding lane, just found a couple of photos with us sat round the table in her beautiful kitchen, all in full flow of conversation  And then of course our American friends BuckyE and Loie, who did the great tour of the house, Keith  beating BuckyE (very difficult) as to being more knowledgable  - think it was about wood!  

The sweet smell of honeysuckle

Loie and BuckyE at Pentre Ifan

Foxglove and nettles

Summer light, grass and a Jersey/Guernsey cow?

St.Elvis Cromlech with the long line of cows coming out from milking in the background

Garnwynda with the sea in the foreground
Beautiful Wales and then Solva with its tranquil harbour, there is a familiar noise as something taps the sails of the boats as you walk along the sand when the tide is out.  The Cambrian Inn, good food and Welsh whiskey for those who partook of it (not me).

Probably used up my photograph space by now.....

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Christmas

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Wishing everyone who reads my blog, and all those blogs I have been introduced to over the year,

A Merry Christmas and a fascinating and interesting New Year XXX

Taken from Jane Tomlinson's site  and there again if you are childish a Jacquie Lawson card

Friday, December 21, 2012

Spinning and Mozart

And of course Ravilious's painting of the White Horse at Uffington *(no it's not it is the Westbury Horse you idiot; thanks Heather) as you come to that dreaded place Swindon.  Sorry to all that live in Swindon of course!  I remember driving my son to a job interview somewhere near Coate Waters, and he came out and as we drove back along the M4 to Bath, the phone range with a job offer, he quietly and politely turned it down.....
The painting is a favourite because of the quirkiness of the subject matter; Mozart's Clarinet Quintet & Concerto is  playing at the moment, a piece of music that has accompanied me through life and of course I'm spinning,  something that quietens and gentles the soul as does music of course. Also the starlings are joining in with the music, as the music swells so does their chorus...
So we arrived back in Essex yesterday, driving through the rain for 5 hours, the spray of those great liners of the road covering the car, but strangely it was an easy drive for LS. Fields are flooded and the great rivers that we passed are overflowing, lapping at the edges of the banks like an over full bath just about to spill.  The Yorkshire Moors were a dark grey mist of rain and probably the worst bit.
The cottage all clean and tidy, always a wrench to leave, Frasier our next door neighbour, away somewhere in a village, phoned as we drove along.  His Scottish accent normally leaves me puzzling, what the hell is he saying? He has a key to the cottage and is not well, one lung collapsed a few months ago so he has a range of ailments, must of have been a hippy in his day, travelled the world and enjoys conversations with LS about Japan. 
Another very large painting rolls up (via the internet), apparently in Germany and my love says no, its a Chinese scroll which has been Europanised, ie. the silk has been glued (heaven forbid) onto a canvas and so it sits prettily (it is pretty) in its frame 6 foot by 3 foot, to come to England will mean a large crate.  The last painting from this person who lives in Australia was rather beautiful, the gold work and turquoise, must find the photo one day.......

A serene Whitby, though parts of the cliff under the church above has slipped again, not many photos this time, mostly I took rather boring ones of the yards and their entrances.

*Reason, shows I was not looking at the painting properly!! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Well three books bought recently, the first is 'Boneland' by Alan Garner and the sequel to the trilogy of Moon of Gomrath  and the Weirdstone of Brisingamen.  Had to read these two books before I read Boneland, which surprisingly is aimed at grown-up people.  This of course due to to the fact that Colin has grown up and needs the help of a psychologist who is probably the old witchy person in the first two books.
Did I like it? difficult to say, his characters are very thin and I definitely did not like the  psychologist and Colin has grown up into a 'sauvant' extremely clever scientist but he is a bit 'wet'.  The story is told in what I can only describe as a poetic prose form, short, short sentences and the fact that he is trying to find his twin sister Susan, now locked up in some star galaxy is the theme, perhaps in real life we would see it as a rationalisation of a lost sibling which resides deep in his psyche, still an interesting read, and it is not  Garner's fault that I fall out with his witch/psychologist character....

The second book which I have read through is about the Yards of Whitby, which of course is just history but fascinating all the same, and I shall write about it later, my love picked it up and then reading through it in the book shop (he always reads them in the book shop) found our cottage photo in the book with its date stamp of 1736 so we had to buy it.

The third book just started is Stephen Moss, Wild Hares and Hummingbirds, he writes occasionally in the Guardian in the Country Diary bit.  He lives with his family near Glastonbury in a village called Mark, the hummingbirds by the way is the hawkmoth, to be found occasionally in the south-west, I used to see it in the garden feeding on the soapwort, it acts just like the bird with its long proboscis, it comes to England via France I think and a great thrill to see in motion, has a short stubby body and is not particularly colourful.  Reading the winter months at the moment and he is bemoans the loss of many birds, especially the sky lark, which I used to hear over the downs at Bath racecourse, their lovely song as they rose high in the sky leading you away from their nest in the grass.  One of those moments to remember as well is of course the barn owl floating so silently over the watery meadows of Avalon marshes, saw it on tv once, and we had the same experience just round Avebury one night as an owl floated silently alongside the moving car - magical..
Photos from now on will always be on the Word Press site, when I remember to put them on ...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Settling In

Settling in to Whitby takes time, we came over the moors about 3.30, that time is important as the sun was going in that last moment of glory only cold weather can produce.  The vast moors, dark brown with the withered heather, snow still caught up against the banks, the sun in all its magnificent glory put on a show not to be missed. There is such an enormous space to be filled, clouds chasing across in the wind, the dark mass that proclaims rain is heading for Whitby and then this marvellous peachy coloured light from the sun warming up the heather.  Nature has a magnificence we should be in awe of, it can colour our thoughts with such vibrant images, only Turner could have captured this spectacle, and frail humans would not be able to paint in this icy cold atmosphere.  How the Bronze age people would have interpreted heaven knows.  Passing Horcum Hole, it had a dark pit like spirit of terror...
But then Whitby, cottage was warm, the heating has been sussed, the sun and moon instructions finally worked out by my love.  The router arrived on tuesday for the internet, though in fact the computer started to pick up on wifi beforehand, but of course it was an unprotected connection.  So I can now type, albeit with the computer snuggled into the duvet, because we need a table of some description up in the attic.
Matilda's birthday party was a great success, takeaway fish and chips and large birthday cake, she already had had her big present, so her mum had spent £20 at Boyes and the Pound shop and bought about 15 little 'opening' bits and pieces.  I had bought her a pretty jewelled photo holder, with photos of herself stored in the back, apparently her great grandmother had also done this in her time, plus a jewellery box with odds and ends.
We went up to St.Mary's church to see the Xmas trees, link here for photos, the church is something else, apparently it was built in the 18th century, on a much older Norman church, so that there are still bits of the earlier church caught up in the more modern fabric of the church, its unusual design can be put down to the fact that it was built by shipbuilders and fitters.  At the back of the church, the boxed pews have the name 'maids' and church wardens, and above on some shelves are loaves of bread for charity.  Apparently this tradition kept up today is by the same family who started it all those generations ago.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


We are off to Whitby tomorrow, the weather seems fine for the weekend so we will make the journey.  The bag full of clean sheets, and towels bulges, and I still have not tackled the problem of a chest of drawers and bedside table for the attic bedroom, problem is it is all money, and then trying to get them up narrow steep stairs, Argos flat pack is perhaps the answer.
Matilda's birthday on monday and LS on the 18th, so one reason to make the journey for the celebrations, perhaps a birthday meal in the Magpie.  Funnily enough I had a card from my next door neighbour in Bath yesterday, who does not like the people who have moved into the old house, and she had been to the Magpie on a visit up North.
Fraser, our next door neighbour at the cottage, phoned up last week when it was snowing to warn us about the snow, apparently the one person occupying the terrace of cottages that had been affected by the landslide was his friend, Whitby is very small. My son-in-law sent a photo of the cottages already being demolished, I presume the council are not hanging round because there are more rows of houses underneath.
Well if all things go right next week, we should have the internet installed there, so maybe I shall be able to write then, traipsing round to my daughter's house for wireless can be a bit of a bind as I join everyone else with their laptops, wireless is a godsend when it works.
We were discussing how towns shape out the other day, Chelmsford for instance is thoroughly modern, takes an age to get there by bus really leaving you reliant on the car.  Both my children do not drive a car, simply because they were brought up in Bath, where buses arrived every 10 minutes (I exaggerate slightly) and you could catch a train to London or Bristol, or Wales travelling through the dreaded leaking tunnel under the Severn Estuary   Bath had a lot of people living in the centre which made it more safe and lively at night and created a more secure atmosphere of restaurants and shops, Chelmsford by contrast is empty of living places in the town centre and suffers accordingly.
Whitby of course, though a bit like Bath because of the tourists, is different, lots of little local shops, locals gossiping happily within them, everyone seems to know one another, and it is very 'Northern'
So back to packing, and which books to choose to take down...
A couple of photos on my Wordpress blog, see Em has been there, thought no-one visited, it needs sorting that blog but I notice the really, really good templates you have to pay for!
Whoops, the car is out, must stop and start packing......

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Poison Tree by William Blake

There is something rather cruel in this poem, Blake wrote it against the Anglican church (he was a dissenter), but it also brings a half smile to the mind.  There is apparently a drama on television coming out soon called 'The Poison Tree' it was seeing this that bought the poem to mind perhaps the poem explains the drama!

The Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water'd it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veil'd the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

Bringing the sheep back home

Have to leave a record of this marvellous Youtube video(8 minutes long) of a sheepdog moving a small herd of sheep down a very steep hillside.  The dog has a camera strapped to its back, moving through several fields he finds the sheep and then starts bringing them back, what is extraordinary that towards the end a sheep challenges him (several times) and one is confronted on camera with a stroppy sheep but the dog wins and faces it down!
This was sent by a friend who rears sheepdogs down in Cornwall, and has a litter of puppies coming in February from his bitch called Missie, think Chief sired them.  Chief is a dog I have watched on videos who patiently follows his master around on his megalithic tours, much as I would love another dog, don't think it is possible till we move. But puppies are so gorgeous......