Thursday, March 28, 2013

Morning emails

Life has slipped quietly back into a quiet gear, the birds sing early in the morning despite the cold, my email reveals an Easter message from my old friend Margaret in America. When I was about 18 I used to go and stay with her parents in Lampeter, Margaret worked at the police station somewhere, maybe in Scotland. My half brother Reg would drive both of us down, sometimes I stayed with him at the Feathers pub in Aberayron where he kept his boat. Always got seasick on the boat, so did other things like horse riding.
Margaret floats in and out of my life when she comes to England, last time I saw her we spent two hours chattering in Starbucks in Bath, Frank her husband must have got terribly bored. Weirdly she knew more of the people in my life than I ever did.. 
Families can be strange, mine particularly so, even now when giving an explanation of  my childhood those closest to me cannot understand the tangled web. One of the reasons I do not go down the road of finding out my ancestry, maybe are stories that reflect the disharmonious nature of our human life.
But to get back to things I know about, the red full moon early this morning, touched by the rising sun, the first daffodil breaking out, the small crocuses standing like soldiers in the garden, the snow has melted from them and left them all intact. My bossy male blackbird has found a mate and yesterday gave her a piece of bread, sweet, especially as he spends most of his time chasing the other birds away.
LS's is getting plagued by scamming/phshishing emails, today a diet link from his son's address,the other day we both had another one from a mutual friend, contact lists stolen from these people.  Also yesterday a 'classic' sob story of someone needing money, must reprint this as it made both of us laugh.  The person in question is unknown though we have had similar emails from friends who have also had their email addresses stolen....

Hello,I'm writing this with great grievance . I'm presently in Scotland,UK.with my Family for a short vacation and we're stuck..And really it was unannounced. We were attacked by four armed robbers on our way back to the hotel where we lodged.we were robbed and completely embarrassed.
All our cash,credit cards and cellphone were stolen. We've reported the incident to the embassy and the Police but to my dismay they seem not bothered...their response was just too casual.Our flight leaves in few hours but We've got to settle our bills before We're allowed to leave....Now am freaked out....Please I need you to loan me some money,I promise to refund you as soon as I'm back home. All i need is $1,650 .. Please Let me know what you can do?Write me back so I can tell you how to get it to me..Ralph Fraise

Yes, well it is never going to get to him, but this is what occasionally gets through the spam detector, the thought of all those crooks worldwide is rather scary, though who would send money to complete strangers needs to be more careful.

Photos are taken from the 1st April of last year, bees on the Bowles Purple wallflower above, the blossom on the cherry trees also filled with bees. Talk of climate change is of course old hat now, and we are to keep this cold weather for another two weeks so the forecasters are saying, also Japanese saki? in a warm garden to welcome the arrival of the blossoms....

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Okonomiyaki; I very rarely write about food, but this Japanese dish, called sometimes Japanese pizza intrigued me.  Well it was what we had out at the restaurant we went to after the exhibition, four of us sat round a table with a central hotplate or cooking plate in its centre.  The dish is described as a sort of pancake to which you add as many ingredients as you want, or not.  It reminded me of the Swiss rosti, Spanish omelette and potato cakes we eat, my favourite is the German potato cake.  Grated raw potato with the water squeezed out then flour, finely chopped onion and an egg blended together then fried in spoonfuls, eaten with apple puree, delicious...
In Japan you can cook the Okonomiyaki  yourself at the table, the ingredients are brought to the table, but at this restaurant the waitress cooked it.  You choose from the menu, and then separate bowls for each person come to the table, topped with a raw egg.  So we have within this bowl the batter, finely sliced cabbage, and in my case cheese and spinach (okay can't face squid!), this is beaten up by the waitress and then poured on to the hot plate where it fries gently, about 5 minutes on either side. It is then ladled onto your plate and a variety of sauces are squirted gently on top. There is a Japanese brown sauce, very similar to ours, Japanese mayonnaise (yes, well?) then the usual bonito flakes and dried seaweed. 
Our Japanese expert, who as everyone knows I live with, turned his nose up at it, though luckily not in the restaurant, as not being authentic enough.... But what intrigued me is the cheapness of the dish, it would suit the grandchildren I know.

Apparently we even have a tepanyaki in the garage, which is the hot plate, so I shall be experimenting in the future.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Exhibition - British Museum

Art emerging like a foal fully formed into the world

Chauvet Cave Horses

Of our visit to the British Museum to see the Ice Age Art Exhibition and also to see the film by Werner Herzog - Cave of Forgotten Dreams, one needs to take a deep breathe before trying to give some impressions, albeit fleeting, of the whole experience.  Firstly, entering the great hall of the museum  the hustle and bustle of hundreds of tourists everywhere, we arrived on time and went round the exhibition.  The first thing to strike you is how small everything is, miniaturisation of the objects, held in the hand and carefully carved by the light of a campfire maybe.  This is carving done 30,000 years ago, the Lion Man from Germany is even older at 40,000 years  old.

The Lion Man
 Exquisitely engraved bone and ivory, some things you fall in love with, my favourite was a musk ox head, the size of a small skull, it stood alone in a corner, the great brow carved with an eloquence I find hard to put into words, a small sculpture that captured an animal that once roamed this earth. What else, there is a slight problem with the lighting, it is very dim, probably for the good reason that these old prehistoric objects should not be in full glare and the objects being so small.  I have culled from the Internet some photos of this and that, the following is difficult to see, but is seen as two deer swimming, it looks for a moment like a dragon but look closely and you can see the drawn up legs of the deer.

There are the 'venus' figures, portly figures with round pendulous breasts, large behinds, some see them as fertility goddesses, myself I prefer to think of them as 'teaching' dolls, perhaps the facts of life and the terrible ordeal of child birth to the young teenage females.

The 3D film was very good, something I had been looking forward to, the Chauvet Cave was discovered in the 1990s and has to be accessed by going down a deep hole, it is very large and the only thing that people can walk on is a narrow steel path laid from one end to another.
The floor is a treasure of prehistoric wonders, bones lie scattered, hyena, bear and wolves, footsteps are still to be found imprinted from thousands of years ago, a young boy's footsteps walks side by side with a wolf, were they together? or does 500 years separate them, will we ever know? Stalagmites meet stalactites in a creamy mutation of such beauty that the slow drip, drip of water reminds you that time passes in thousands of years forming our geological superstructure over millenia.
But it is the cave art that takes your breath away, the horses featured at the top, bottle brush manes, short thick necks, alive they move across the canvas of rock; maybe being driven to their deaths over the cliffs for food, who knows, but a rendition of realistic animals still conveying the sense of movement and life today.
Bears peer out from corners, in recesses and niches heavy bodied rhinos are found, along with lions, bison and deer.

The artwork can be dated from about 30,000 years ago, but dates are movable feasts and there is some questioning on accuracy.  Apparently if you read the wiki on the artwork, they say that the surface of the rock was cleaned and smoothed away before work commenced, you can see the shading that give such shape and form to the drawings.  The setting for the cave is glorious, steep white cliffs fall to one of those idyllic clear French rivers. Herzog starts the film with the straight lines of the vines that lie below the entrance to the cave, he also at the end takes you on a somewhat unexplained tour of a tourist centre a few miles away..... there is a nuclear plant somewhere here, and the warm waters from the cooling part of it has been used to create some sort of Eden type garden.  Here crocodiles breed and frisk, as only crocodiles can do, but the ones he focused on are  albinos, stark white with pale blue eyes that glare into the camera.  Not sure what he was saying but he seems to be contrasting these albinos with us humans, or is he talking about evolution, bit scary anyway around nuclear plants!

A short trailer, though I believe the whole film is online at Youtube

This is not the musk ox I fell in love with but another sculpture, they still exist apparently,
most of my photos come from Wikipedia Creative Commons, a resource I find invaluable.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Travelling with Loie And Bucky

Great Canfield hidden Saxon stone
It is early and the wind is rattling and whistling round the maple tree in the garden, that means, though I already know, it is going to be bitterly cold in London today.  We are going to see the Ice Age Exhibition (that figures as Loie would say) and will meet Loie and BuckyE after at the Museum Tavern, as you go in on a ticket time.
Great Canfield graves

We took them back to the station yesterday as they are renting an apartment for the rest of their stay.  But in the two days they stayed with us we did plenty, though we had to switch the itinerary round.
Firstly, they arrived from the airport late morning and we had lunch, and then decided to do the churches, firstly Greensted, the oldest wooden church building in Europe, it snuggles amidst a straggle of houses, cosy and Victorian from the outside but stroke the grey-black wooden staves and you are immediately transported to a Saxon England.  Then Great Canfield church where one has to call someone to get the key to open the church, so a wander round the old gravestones for fifteen minutes.  We admired the flyflots at the entrance and Odin and his two ravens though the church pamphlet will say that it is Jesus with two doves.
Then the marvellous 13th century painting of Mary and baby Jesus above the altar, which had been restored in the 19th century after those wicked Cromwellians had painted over it, luckily with white wash.

Great Canfield 13th Century painting

BuckyE held the mirror so that we could see the marvellous Scandinavian Ringerike stone with a fabulous beast looking over its shoulder.  The stone itself has been reused in the chancel arch high up.  Then late afternoon we drove to Broomfield Church to see the pudding stones used at the base of the building, mostly these churches also have roman brick coursing through their fabric, and of course flint, meticulously layered in those soft creams and browns.
Greensted brick work

The next day, we drove for an hour to Sutton Hoo, and saw the marvellous jewellery and reconstruction of the burial there, Loie had done her dissertation on the Saxon burial but had never seen it before but it was freezing cold there as well.  Then a two hour drive to see Seahenge, free entry this time, and I once more fell in love with that old central trunk as it stood grimly black and fissured against the wall.  LS wrote a long piece in the book (reserved for children to write their thoughts on the timber circle) as to why they should have put the great tree trunk in a central place.  Then BuckyE caused a bit of a rumpus about banding within the wooden posts, an explanation was found by phoning the archaeologists, and we departed happy and then the long drive back, sadly on the other side of the M11 motorway was a terrible accident causing the traffic to back up for miles, and then the strange sight of an empty motorway (they must have closed the junctions) for a long way.

The Ringerike beast

Broomfield church in sunnier times

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sutton Hoo - gold bling

A reconstructed mound shown for height as the saxon mounds had to some extent been obliterated by the plough

This is the Sutton Hoo mound

A brief photo record of the treasure room at the museum at Sutton Hoo, a cold day enhanced by a bitterly cold East wind, the walk round the burial cemetery is weird.  The Saxon burial mounds form a rough circle, in the centre there are half a dozen stone cists, under which executed medieval villians were buried.  The weirdness was that the estate of the late Mrs. Pretty is surrounded by large fields of open air pigs and their shelters, but her large white house can be visited and three rooms seen.

Gold buckle

Decorations on shield


shield decoration

boss in centre of shields

Even the horse has beautiful decorations

Warrior burial with his horse

Cloissone work
This was one of the first places LS and I visited together, so it remains a romantic memory ;)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Diary Day 4

Tomorrow we go home, and we haven't been anywhere, hardly any photos. But yesterday bought something pretty - shabby chic - you might say, furniture.  Now I hate labels but love pretty materials, so this chair and loom linen basket caught my eye just down the road.  So today the shop person's husband walked my chair and basket up to the cottage.  The shop is very pretty, though I am not a Cath Kidston fan, but she had reupholstered the chair herself and it was very reasonably priced. (£64)  The material used is Kate Forman's so it must be a discontinued line.
Today, and yesterday woke up with wretched headaches, the stress is getting to me ;), I ploughed through the lists and bought all the little things at that marvellous shop called Boyes, everything but the kitchen sink lies in its tumbled depths but mostly haberdashery, china and all the things you need for a house, Yorkshire Trading Company is nearby another palace of 'everything' LS could spend whole mornings in there browsing. And we haven't even done the charity shops yet.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Diary Day 3

Actually there should be 4 diary days, but I must have skipped a day.... Yesterday the bathroom mirror went up successfully, we even found battens in the plasterboard in the bathroom, all that fuss about springing wall plugs was to no avail.
When we first bought this cottage, it had not been updated probably from the 1960s, except for the kitchen area.  The bathroom had a long plastic window in its wall facing out to the bedroom, this was one of the first things to be knocked out and plastered  and proper lighting installed, the leaking chimney was the next thing the builders repaired to stop the ingress (love that word) of water, the roof at the time was fine except for excessive vegetation in the gutters which was of course removed, but is something you notice all over the houses in Whitby - dripping gutters.
Negotiating this week with the letting agent, we all decided to reduce the number of people to 2/3, which I am very happy about, means we can get rid of one bed in the attic and put a desk in there.  But there is another almost insoluble problem if you take Laura's long list of things that should be in the cottage.  This is hanging space, no wardrobes can in any shape or form be put in the cottage, so another way has to be thought out.  We lost the cupboard in the bedroom to the boiler which has to vent whatever on the only outside wall of this cottage . We also on the way had to negotiate with our neighbours to remove their tv aerials off this outside wall, and install a satellite which the two other cottages use... But to get back to hanging space, among the long lists of dos and don'ts, you cannot have rows of hooks (which we have now) as hanging space.  This is where I am starting to see red and call the whole thing off, so we bought a perfectly hideous (Argos) hanging rail which will go up in the attic as a temporary measure, before we insert some sort of hanging rail against the wall, between a sloping roof and a sloping chimney breast! My brain has stopped here as I can't figure the mathematics out ;) 
Yesterday the sun shone beautifully on the sea making the water dance with light, there are a few tourists around, my daughter and I went to The Marine restaurant, and had the appetisers with delicious rustic bread for our lunches, we also spent two hours talking about family and have decided to do this into the future - leaving the family behind and being matriarchal;).
We must leave by Sunday as friends from America are coming to stay on Tuesday and we have to take them to Sutton Hoo and Seahenge and then we all go up to London to see the Ice Age Exhibition at the British Museum so another busy week....

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Diary Day 2

Making things... the chest of drawers had its provenance in Denmark, therefore there was almost 100% accuracy in the drilled holes for cams and bolts, so the job of putting it together though tedious was not too troublesome.  The next piece of furniture came from Thailand, holes were not drilled deep enough and after a certain amount of fury, we decided on some wood glue to stick it together and it is now almost finished.  Mirrors today and a shelf for the bathroom, cut the curtains too short for the attic window and am now doing patchwork repair.
The weather has changed, after the blizzards the next morning the snow had melted away, the wind is icy though.  We have not seen much of Whitby, i.e. wandering down to Church Street to look at the little shops or the East cliff pier which I love.  My daughter has invited me out to a meal on today, at the Magpie no children, no partners LS says he is going to eat some chips outside the restaurant looking pathetic.  Dining out with the family is an expensive business when there are 8 of us but enjoyable all the same.
Today I shall make time to go down to my favourite wool shop to look for a pattern for a fisherman's pattern for LS, my feelings on knitting such a thing are rather mixed.  These patterned jumpers were of course given individual design for a sad reason, so that if the sailor got drowned at sea they would be recognised by the pattern.
Yesterday we seemed to have spent a couple of hours in Homebase worrying over rawplugs for plasterboard, why is life so difficult?  The answer will come today should if the bathroom shelf falls down but at least I am an expert on rawplugs now........

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Diary day 1

Having spent a good part of the day yesterday putting together a chest of drawers from Argos it now stands almost complete, this putting things together is because you cannot get them up the stairs, the cottage is a good example with its narrow twisted stairs it is one of its failings, or not. We had the same problem in the old house, everyone loved the attic, but my son took it over and everything had to be built up there.
The journey down was pretty good, the sleet/snow swirled around on the motorway surface making pretty patterns.  The moors were bleak but I love late afternoon sun on its brown surface, and the clouds were magnificent, you could see the dark weather clouds spiralling the sleet over different parts.
Last night we went over to the family for a takeaway, little Lillie had put her party dress on with gold slippers, she loves dressing up for an occasion.  The children have their jobs, hers is to lay the table, so a few glasses in a jumble, knives and forks back to front, and a lot of chatting is her contribution.  Matilda clears the plates efficiently, occasionally you may not have finished, then the floor has to be swept.  Matilda also gets paid for the occasional lapses of the old cat, but makes such a song and dance about this chore that her mother does it in exasperation.
Then we had to drive home through frightening blizzards, not very far but everyone was driving very slowly up and down the roads, we drove along the West Cliff, the sea so dark and mysterious, but the ice-cold savage winds must be whipping up the waves.
More jobs today, and a visit from the VisitEngland lady, wish I had never started this letting the cottage fiasco, and my Scottish next door male neighbour to face, who has offered to clean the cottage after people, but I'm not happy about this.  Think he would like to house the woman who sadly lost her home in the landslip (so that she could look after him) ;), but I am not prepared to lose this place to a long let - problems, problems......

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wind turbines


Having had a very Green political outlook all my life, and spent many years reading Permaculture books and holistic green thinking I have always had a positive response to green energy, when it comes in its many forms, solar panels, wind turbines and sea energy.  Travelling through the countryside as we do, you see these great giant windmills turning slowly in the distance, but I have never lived by one so cannot say how they would affect in both noise and visual intrusion.
I have followed their progress in archaeological terms, the Isle of Lewis and the turbines relationship to the great Callanish stones, and the other many sites in Scotland that the government is giving approval to, and note that the reason they are going up is to do more with rich landowners wanting to make money. But this corruption of green idealism is something one has to grow up with in the end, organic food really can only be bought by rich people, the discipline of green socialism has lost out now.
So when reading this Creek Sailors blog this morning was rather dismayed to find that there is to be more built on farmland in the desolate but beautiful Dengie Peninsula, near to the site of the early Celtic-Saxon church of St.Cedds.
When we were wandering along the East Anglia coast by Seahenge, there were many turbines out to sea and you could not really see them, and perhaps that is the best place for them , I also made mention in an earlier blog of the largest wind farm in the world which is being contemplated on the Dogger bank in the North sea.
So wind turbines are appearing all over this country in a somewhat unstructured way, a 'market' is out there for their erection but is there any joined up thinking?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

This and that - Cranesbills

Meadow Cranesbill

The sun came out yesterday, was it not wonderful? We have been busy with putting things together for a trip to Whitby at the weekend the car is already loaded up, and a test run yesterday sorted the rattles, LS hates rattles in the car, so we padded out the offending box....
We went to the garden centre to have a look round, and I bought a couple of cranesbills (perennial geraniums).  Plants are so expensive nowadays, they need mollycoddling at such prices, though cranesbill are pretty tough.  My all time favourite in insects are bumblebees, so was on the look out yesterday to see if they would respond to the sun, saw some at the garden centre and rescued a groggy bee wandering along the pavement, though I was not allowed to bring it home in the car.... Bee plant list from the RHS, there is a battle going on over Neonicotinoids  used in pesticides thought to be the result of bee decline, I have signed so many things lately but this one is Buglife, our government of course is fighting the restriction......
Why do I love cranesbills so much, they remind me of summer, find them in the wild, a simple flower either in pale pink or blue, the dusky ones do not appeal....
The following photos perhaps speak for themselves, i.e.why birds are reluctant in the garden, could be the feline company..

Buttermilk and Skinny 

Dyeing - crocus and yellow ochre

Crocus - violet
Just a quick note from Geoffrey Grigson, the plant is also called Blue Basins, Blue Buttons, Blue Warriors and Loving Andrews in Wiltshire.  He does not favour the name Meadow Cranesbill (which in fact I like)
but as he says the flowers are a colour element along the lanes turning red and tawny in the autumn.  He lists five other wild geraniums, which one day I might come back to, but the dusky cranesbill, Geranium phaeme is an introduced species which is also known as Mournful Widow, has the colour of dark red or black.

Friday, March 1, 2013

St David's Head

Coetan Arthur on St.David's Head
Well as it is St.David's Day I shall quote Jan Morris on that part of the landscape I have meandered over for many years...

The holiest place is Dewisland, Pebidog,  a stormy protrusion from the coast of Dyfed which was once a spiritual hub of the whole Celtic world.  Not only does the countryside there seem holy by its nature, so ascetic, but so exciting, all bare rock and heather headland falling to the wild Atlantic sea, but its associations too are intensely sanctified.  Here the Celtic missionaries came and went on their journeys through the western seas, and here the itinerant Irish preachers landed on their way to evangelize a pagan Europe.  Everywhere there are the remains of shrines and chapels..... and in the middle of it stands the most venerated structure of it all, the cathedral of Dewi Sant, not only the mother-church of Welsh Christianity, but the vortex of all that is holy in Wales.

St.Nons Chapel

Its wild rocks and bleak atmosphere hold the kernels of truth for me, a place to contemplate and meditate on the very essence of nature. The ruined chapel at St.Nons enclosed by a stone circle, (if it indeed be one) marks that spot where Celtic paganism met its final end with the Christian church, it is there written in the landscape, old and new religions playing out there battles.  So happy that he returns to St.David, that aesthete who lived on water and leeks if the legend is to be believed (he is known as Dyfrwyr, the Water Man). Barefoot, clad in skins, holding a stick he has cut from the woods and a bell of miraculous power he has wandered into history this legendary saint.

But on reading through Morris's book I came upon another, rather wonderful story, about a prehistoric stone built into the wall of a church in Corwen, Gwynedd.  It is a large crooked stone, known as Carreg y Big yn y Fach Rewlyd - The Pointed Stone in the Icy Nook.  Now there is a name to conjecture with and it has a few stories on its tail....
But the reason there is this alliance with old pagan stones and churches is that some churches were built on pagan sites and that the early Christian builders included  these stones into their churches in a kind of symbiosis, if they did not goodness knows what fate might befall them.

 © Copyright Eirian Evans and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence