Thursday, February 28, 2013

Circular walk or 'Edgeland'

Snowdrops growing in a little copse

the copse

Old weeping willow by the river, already colouring up for spring

Sandford Lock

First walk for ages mostly to see if the snowdrops were up along the lane, must have been planted years ago for the plants to have spread so much. This lane is a back lane that potters along the river, we had driven along part of it a couple of weeks ago, and had stopped because of flooding, as a council lorry splashed through two feet of water, we had to reverse all the way back.

There is a lot of land on the outskirts of Chelmsford, below the river's level and also plenty of water meadows, which seem to be coming under threat of development of houses, rather stupid given the increased rain fall. The developer has already put 'private land do not trespass' along a much used path, but someone has put up a pole with a 'no digger sign' on it, let battle commence!  Anyway we met the most gorgeous collie pup along the path, frisking away with great delight.....

Monday, February 25, 2013

Summer Green

Just a photo of the little River Solva outside the Solva Woollen mill to remind me that the world will eventually turn green.  The lush verdant green hues of Wales, is for me a poem written in the landscape. 
Goodness knows what the line is across, but the brown clear sparkling water makes a pleasant sound.

Time catches at my heel at the moment, things to do etc, but as I was just preparing a lamb stew Jan Morris's The Matter of Wales book came to my mind, a lovely evocative description of its history and people... so to take the first paragraph;

"To look at the nature of Wales is deceptive.  Within its small expanse the style of terrain changes so often, the mountainous countryside is so constantly corrugated, this way and that, by ridges, valleys, lakes and passes, the sea appears so often, and so unexpectedly, at the ends of vistas or around the flanks of hills - the scene in short is so cunningly variegated that it sometimes seems not natural at all, but like some elegantly conceived parkland or domain"

My paperback book is yellowing with age, it says inside 1986, the sub title Epic Views of a Small Country and I shall read it once again, but for those of us who love those bleak grey chapels, soft hills and clear tumbling waters Wales has an indefinable magic,

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Being Anonymous - Banksy

Yesterday I was looking at this Paul Nash water colour painting of Silbury Mound and trying to work out Nash's perspective, and coming to the conclusion that it was slightly out of kilter.  The small house against Silbury does not exist, did it exist in 1935 probably not. The steps were intriguing as well, given the now condemnation of anyone climbing this hill, that it should have steps at all.  Further research revealed that this painting went on the market in 2004, the reserve price being around £5000, but it in actual fact sold for £33,000 not a bad price for a painting that seems quickly made, though attractive in its own right.

But today another item is going on sale in America, this is a Banksy graffiti painting called 'Slave Labour' on the side of a wall in North London, LS.' article gives the details.  We discussed it this morning agreeing that the morality of taking this artwork from its original place, and where it was making a Banksy statement was very wrong, Banksy states that it was  no longer part of his work as it has been moved out of context, thereby anyone who buys it will not have his authority.  Good socialist that he is and part of the Bristolian street artists, though now famous all over the world for his artwork, it will be interesting to see what happens at the sale...... Funnily enough a little rat has been drawn at the site where (with some difficulty one would think) the block of concrete was removed, and 'Why' has been written......

Edit; Withdrawn from auction at the last moment, wonder why?

So the 'get rich quick merchants' have been stopped in their tracks for the time being, and the question where does street art reside maybe is that it is returned to the street where its social comment is part of what Banksy is saying to the public at large, the artwork is not there for private gain - the context is the art and the message.  Still legal problems of ownership rights, between the person who owns the wall, and Banksy who paints anonymously will prove an intriguing conundrum in the future and hopefully there can be only one winner....

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Spinning thoughts

Spiegel im Spiegel, plays its slightly monotonous tune on my laptop, but it is soothing and as I spin, thoughts drifting everywhere, it at least relaxes the mind.  Images of skylarks rising from the grass, the golden plovers flight one early morning, swooping as they dive in formation the soft shush of their wings overhead.  What else, deer caught in the early warm orange glow of sunrise, standing still by the woods, listening and debating flight.  The old green lane, where I used to imagine the Saxon family lived, the bowl of hills lined with hanging woods, broken tarmac in places, where once military traffic had gone up in the 2nd World War to the planes which temporarily  took off from the old bronze age barrow cemetery on the Lansdown as they defended Bristol and Bath.
But cease, talk of war is not on the menu, I prefer to return to the ash trees that line the green lanes and the downs in this part of Somerset.  Have you ever seen a 'parliament' of crows, once I saw one it must have been summer, and they lined the white fencing of the race course, chattering away to themselves.......
Here is Monty at the start of our walk, some sort of hound, I used to walk round with his owner Alison, chattering away.  Monty was not terribly intelligent, Alison said of  him that two brain cells floated around in his brain
and occasionally collided giving rise to a thought!.  When snow lay on the ground, he would gather snowballs on his feet and mither about it, till in the end he would sit down and refuse to walk till they were removed.  He also chased the deer, one day he went off and we all searched most of the morning for him, Alison frantic because she adored him.  But as I was searching around the woods above in the first photo, he turned up through an old gate in the field, completely whacked and exhausted and pleased to see me, so all was well.  In the photo above you can see the sun rising next to Beckford's Tower, soon the old Victorian cemetery with its sunken graves will be full of violets and primroses, not something I see much in this part of Essex.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Birds and cats

Yesterday someone put a beautiful photo of a nightjar on F/B, I can only describe it as a living colour range of grey- browns to blend in with the branches they hide themselves upon. We don't have many in this country and they are mostly down south, described as crepuscular, they inhabit that time of dusk and are rare. Today friends have put the first photos of siskins arriving in their garden in Oxfordshire and there is always Em's marvellous photos of birds (and now lichen) on Dartmoor. 
So what do we have in our small garden? I treated the birds to a bird table this week, as I am getting a bit tired of standing on garden chairs to hang bird feeders from the tree.  Most days I see the tail of our gormless wood pigeon sticking out gobbling up the seed, the ring doves have been down and so of course have the starlings in their squabbling community. Blackbirds are getting much noiser as they anticipate spring, and the robbing magpie is keeping a close eye as well should any nests be in evidence.
My two daytime cats, Skinny and Buttermilk, sit on the garden chairs and probably frighten off many other birds.  I have learnt a little about these two, they belong in a house up the road and she must go out to work all day that is why they have set up 'another' territorial home in our garden.  A letter pinned to her hedge, thanked the person whoever was feeding them and said they did have a cat flap, but said the lighter tabby can only eat biscuits, so that is what they get at lunchtimes from me.
Is spring here? we shall see, the flowers are beginning to appear.
As for the news all week about horsemeat in foods, strangely my heart has been with the slaughtered horses, probably a culling has taken place in Ireland and Romania as the economic recession has hit, as I don't buy processed food I cannot feel any indignation only the fact that I WILL NEVER BELIEVE the labelling on packaged food anymore. 
In fact I have been eating quite a lot yellow/orange food this week, homemade butternut squash soup, carrot soup, polenta which I had a yearning for plus sweetcorn.  Must be their bright springlike colours;)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Dogger Bank or Dogger land;  Yesterday I read in the Whitby Gazette that there is a proposed wind farm to be situated on this shallow part of the North Sea.  Now the Shipping Forecast in the early morning is a joy as we make our way round this coastal island of ours, the names ring out like a song, and Dogger land: The Mesolithic Landscapes of the Southern North Sea  is of course a book detailing the archaeological and environmental nature of this piece of sunken land that once joined us to Europe.
This off-shore wind turbine farm is to be one of the biggest wind farms in the world with apparently 2000 turbines, though it presumably has to go through more vigourous soundings out before work starts in 2014/2015.
So Whitby is happy, with an eye on future jobs and it may be the port for all the comings and goings for the whole infrastructure that will accompany the setting up of turbines in the sea. Why so large is one question to ask, what about shipping and what about the fact that this is a highly prolific fishing area?  Basically I do not have a beef about wind turbines, we need energy and they are one form, do believe though that small is beautiful and this is hardly so, we shall see how it all pans out.

Yesterday my books arrived from Waterstones, switching custom from Amazon the last few months has not been easy, but until they pay their taxes Amazon is off my list....
Jackie Morris's Dragon book is to be a 'collectible', always wanted to collect the Victorian children's books years ago but they were always a bit too expensive... P.D.James is a favourite, love detective stories, and her 'Death Comes to Pemberley' her sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has been well reviewed.  As for Nan Shepherd, she is being classed alongside Robert Macfarlane for wilderness writing, so another must.....


Saturday, February 9, 2013

A small dragon or the great crested newt

Creative Commons photo

Lovely story this morning, one single newt has held up construction at a new police building in Durham, and he is not even awake but sleeps to May when he will wake up and face the world.
The Natural England body are responsible for this ruling as we all know that the Great Crested Newt is officially protected by the state.  Could they please ask the newts to produce more so that we can protect the great swathe of countryside to be destroyed by the new rail link HS2.  Apart from the fact that arriving 'up North' may get you there faster by half an hour or so, but can you imagine the cost of all these high speed trains, they will only be for the elite, perhaps less first class carriages and more second classes might be in order.....
The pond in the old Bath garden, was a delight in spring, one had to get over the early fling of frogs marching down to the pond and then almost drowning the poor female frog as they mated and then the cannibalism of the tadpoles but enough survived for the next year, tiny baby froglets hiding in the flowerbeds.  But come May, turquoise and red damselflies, the skins of the 'nymphs' after emergence from the water caught on the reeds, the soft noses of the common newts as they flowed quietly through the water, a pond is a place to dream by and watch the emergence of its creatures..... roll on summer...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Alfred is next!

Checking the news, as I do every morning in the news feed, and most of it has been about them bones of Richard the third, please may he rest in peace now! The funniest line came from the DailyMash,

"THE skeleton of Laurence Olivier is to portray the modern-day Richard III in a new play." and

THE skeleton of Richard III has vowed to re-boot the Wars of the Roses and slaughter his rivals to the throne.

Mike Pitts excellent review   

Such juvenile black humour does tend to make me giggle, but of course there is another king coming up fast behind him and that is Alfred the Great buried in Winchester, maybe St.Bartholomew Church, now he is an interesting person and I look forward to the real bones of this king being found, up to date the skeletons found look to be mostly monks.
And so to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Alfred the Great's great battle against the Danish army..

After this at Easter, Alfred with a small band,
 raised a fortress at Athelney, and from it warred on the host,
with the men from that part of Somerset which was nearest to it.
Then in the seventh week after Easter,
He rode to Egbryht's stone on the east of Selwood
And there came to meet him all the men of Somerset
And the men of Wiltshire, and the men of that part of Hampshire
which was on this side of the sea; and they rejoiced on seeing him
And on the following day he went from that camp to Iley.
and one night after that to Ethandune
And there he fought against all the host and put it to flight,
and rode after it as far as the fortress [at Chippenham]
and laid seige to it for fourteeen nights
Many years ago in the car park of the Gold Diggers nightclub in Chippenham I with several others excavated to try to find this fortress, I excavated an enormous post hole all day but sadly only a piece of flint came up.  Whether it was this fortress/royal residence heaven knows....
things you pick up along the way to add to the magpie miscellany below and of course my favourite dragons, see link below....
The origin of the word wyvern or wyrm is interesting, being associated with the Latin vipera, Old Germanic wipera, Middle English wyvere, and Nordic orm, all referring to a poisonous serpent. The word dragon derives from the ancient Greek drakon and the Latin draco meaning a large serpent.  Or now I know why Kath has a little red dragon floating across her screen...

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Celtic Hochdorf burial mound 500BC

Some things come to mind and have to be written down, this time, probably for most people boring history!  Some time ago I watched as people on a forum argued against restoration of stones at Avebury.  Restoration was wrong, reconstructing the past was even more so, well to a point I disagreed with vehemently held views,  all history has been 'discovered' through the ages, at what point do we take history to become 'finished' 

The reconstructed mound

 Well take the Hochdorf burial mound above, this is a reconstruction of the mound that was obliterated by the plough, it stood in a snow covered landscape  giving an example of how it was once.  The stone on the top, may even have been one of these sandstone figures here, acclaiming a strong king or even warrior.
Although the mound had disappeared the burial still lay underneath and was discovered in 1978, the high lord with all his worldly goods, a great chariot, the beautiful couch he was laid out on, gold plates and the great cauldron from which the drink mead was distributed at banquets, also woven cloth and the gold on his slippers and body, including brooches and arm rings. 
All this lay under the great crush of soil, stone and the timbers that had destroyed the burial chamber.  The couch on which he had laid was crushed to pieces, and yet it was patiently restored over the years to its former glory, and this can be seen in the Stuttgart Museum. 
But this is just  the beginning, the archaeological work, the restoration of all the objects took many, many years, but the replica housed in the Celtic Museum at Hochdorf not only points to a great pride in its own prehistory but the fact that the three parishes that made up this council chose to build and fund the reconstruction, and then build a museum to house all the findings.
The couch was made up of large bronze sheets and then hammered into the required shape, the decoration of wagons and sword dancing were all punched in by different tools, the little supporting figurines even had wheels on them for rolling the couch.
As for the chariot, tools at first had to be made for the reconstruction of this iron-clad vehicle, the preserved metal was fitted which took many years and then new iron used to complete the task.  The under frame of the chariot was made of wood, and no part of this had  survived, but other fragments point to the use of ash and maple.  The wheel rims had been formed from a single piece of wood, a great technical achievement.  The body of the chariot was made from elm, with springy poles of elm for the floor.
The appendix at the back of my catalogue pays tribute to all the many people who have worked on this Celtic burial, experimental archaeology has given many answers as to the 'how and why'.
So to my initial question should we reconstruct, the answer in this case was definitely yes, the reconstruction has valuable education for all those schoolchildren who must visit the museum, and of course adults.  For me, it put together lots of answers that had been floating about in my head, to be honest, seeing the Gundestrup Cauldron at the Stuttgart Museum was something I never thought I would see, it's imagery so profound introducing you into a culture, not barbaric as so often as the Celts are seen but a lively introduction into another culture.......

                        The large arch that is the height of the mound, going over the museum

Sunday, February 3, 2013

To Play

Lately it has been all spinning and knitting, I had contemplated making a quilt but could not find a pattern in my mind to make.  So this from Ann Miles blog intrigues me, just sitting and making things in a journal, collecting the things I love, poetry art, needlework a blend of those things that make up a 'magpie' mind. Dragging out my commonplace books, poetry I've collected, the children as well when they first wrote their first few lines.
So where to start, well there is plenty of  Japanese papers to choose from, two baskets full of materials, the only other things I need is some watercolours, my computer can be used for imaging.  Facebook introduces you to lots of art work, also designers and ideas, and Pininterest to the gorgeous, though what I can only describe as very  OTT........

I have been following Ravilious online and then this popped up this morning, David Inshaw's painting of a Bonfire, one of the Ruralist's painters.....Why do they appeal these early 20th century artist, Paul Nash, John Piper, the Brotherhood of Ruralist and Ravilious, the answer came as I looked at the hardcover of Geoffrey Grigson's The Shell Country Alphabet, (From Apple Trees to Stone Circles, How to Understand the British Countryside) the simple drawing of the countryside before its rape by motorways and the continuous passage of cars. Was it a gentler time? cannot answer that but Wordsworth's words, gives an apt description of why we so love the country we live in....

Not in Utopia - subterranean fields -
Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!
But in the very world, which is the world
Of all of us, - the place where, in the end,
We find our happiness, or not at all.