Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gardens and grandchildren

The youngest grand child Lillie always up to mischief is also the star on Matilda's F/B at the moment.  Smeared lipstick, ringlets, dark glasses and a limp flower is her choice of outfit.  Ollie the cat winds round her trying for attention, Ollie is getting on, must be about fifteen years old, has enormous green eyes and will sit and stare at you for minutes on end.  We have never understood this, is he trying to fathom our inner souls or is he just brainless...
Spinning wool takes up time, I have had to put my mind to the cottage recently as it still needs bits and bobs, a chest of drawers and a bedside cupboard should soon be shortly winging its way from Argos, to be taken up and made up when we go up next month sometime.  Micro-wave bought, never use them but you have to have one!  My reluctance to allow it to become a holiday cottage is becoming evident, but it needs to pay its way if only for the utility bills.
My mind is mostly on the coming spring and plants, above my desk two photos stuck in the picture frame,
white foxgloves, ladies mantle, marguerite daisy maybe, cantebury bells, southernwood and rue.  Two of my favourite roses, the stripey Rosa mundi and the York rose I think. I often wonder how the old garden is doing, I planted about thirty fruit and nut trees, built trellises for climbing rose and honeysuckles, but putting them together is not always a good idea.  Sometimes I wish I could start on another large garden but age would catch me out!

The other photo brings back memories of my young son sitting up on the slope at the bottom of the garden stroking Daisy the angora rabbit, or even Tom my oldest grandson now, but when he was young had built a shelter up there, but on crawling inside and sitting down, he sat on a bumble bee's nest, the sight of his face and the bumble bee chasing him still makes me giggle...  This bank was wild still had the remains of the old Victorian rockery garden, and my son and I had made bumble bee nests not that I think there ever worked except one maybe...

This is a rowan tree I planted (for luck) to the side a planted walnut tree that the squirrel would raid the nuts every year when they were still in the green, and I would find them buried in the leaf and compost heaps.
Behind the blue of brunnera in spring, later the honey scented cow parsley would film the little path with white.  Tall spikes of Japanese knotweed, a relic of the old garden, would be cut down, but it never became aggressive.

the old garden

Rosa Mundi  rose, loved  by bees to...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Nounsley - Sportsmen Arms

Yesterday as the snow started to melt we went out along the country lanes full of large puddles, the fields a tracery of snow and black earth. The sky blue and people walking the lanes with their dogs.  The Sportsmen Arms pub at Nounsley was the place we were heading for.  Nounsley was once a small hamlet with three or four old houses by the pub and a large farm about fifty metres away.  Today strip development of modern houses along the lane has taken place, no church, no shop, the pub being the only centre of the community/
No more alas, closed and fenced off, the windows empty and black, the large area of green where people would eat their lunches on the wooden tables all gone.  We had spent many a sunny afternoon sat there with our drinks children playing on the green, dog walkers passing sometimes with more exotic dogs than a country labrador or spaniel.  Sad and then angry at a world that drives people out of their business, supermarkets and gastro pubs run by large breweries slowly encroaching into every area.  Pubs are closing of course everywhere, but it is the sense of community that is also lost that is so sad.
We went to the Cats pub, always full of the same people who greet you with a friendly smile but even Wally is way past retirement age, he only sells a small brewery beer, and the food is kept simple but good.

The little Terling river behaving itself and not overflowing, the old willows gracefully bending, always stop  by the river here for that moment of calm and introspection, on the other side of the bridge the river is always somewhat choked by the vegetative growth, different land owners I think.
Rain is beating down now, yesterday the news that the river had overflowed at Solva, three foot deep it has affected 60 properties, terrible news for house owners, also on Facebook the Solva Woollen mill has been flooded, all their new work ruined......"Our worst nightmare came true last night as mother nature gave us a taste of her power and the river kept rising. Beating all previous river levels at the Mill it peaked about 1.30 am. The water started coming in at the back of the mill, washing though our gorgeous new shop and flowing out through the weaving shed."


Saturday, January 26, 2013


Experimenting with the new pipits (not sure they are called that) but yesterday with my dye pot to hand I chose emerald/purple/violet acid dyes they turned into  pretty green sea colours, and though I made mistakes and it does not look like space-dyed yarn should, the method has become a bit clearer.  The top photo is dried flowers from a bouquet sometime ago, I love dried flowers the way they fade into different colours, and a good source of inspiration for new colour ways.  The serving dish underneath is an 'onion' pattern with a translucent glaze a favourite piece...

Friday, January 25, 2013

More snow

Snow is on its way again, albeit briefly before rain and then flooding resumes.  I like snow, its pure white brilliance unsullied by human footprints scuffing it away, I like the tracks of the birds in the snow, I loved it in my old garden, and then when it arrived unexpectedly at Avebury whilst we were staying there for a week in a small cottage in 2007.  So as I have my Flickr photos to hand, some photos.  Flickr by the way is good for storage although you have to pay, even when you don't pay for a year or two, pay up and your photos will return....
We got up early to experience the snow at Avebury, bitterly cold and only a couple of photographers around to capture the magic of Avebury in the snow, I found the stones too harshly outlined, but as always loved the trees and the river.  Moss loved snow, he also loved sitting in the Bath garden, from a pup he would sit and contemplate the skies with all its bird life and wait for any cat to put a foot in the garden!  The only birds he could not stand was the grey and white wagtails in the car park at the Braythwaite Arms, a low growl, a tug of the lead and they would have been mincemeat in his eyes, goodness knows why........

This is down by the river, snow etches sharp lines  and almost draws the tree against the skyline

The Cove stones

Moss and the old stone by the green lane

Moss sitting happily in the Bath garden

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Seizing the day

Well there it is a banner bright and bold, but today spinning happily away I listened to their protest songs on the following link, I had found them two or three years back, and though occasionally their language can be near the knuckle it has you laughing and maybe dancing too, I see their address is in Glastonbury - where else for protest?  I am so glad to see Bovey Belle back on the internet too, being a worry gut I had imagined the worst, but thank goodness for internet cafes.
The cottage has been wired up too, I suspect mostly for my love who gets fidgety without the 'source' at his fingers.  But fighting with my grandchildren for the loan of THEIR computers is a bit intimidating, also the little one has a habit of remembering passwords, god knows what she would put on my blogs..... We could have done with Jennie earlier this morning with a Welsh email from a 10 year boy beautifully written asking about Pentre Ifan, but in the end found a translation. 
I even ordered some more spinning wool today, it had a 20% reduction for a kilo so it should last me the year, I have a fancy for space dyeing, and having found a method on Youtube. The snow is starting to melt, the hillock on the green in front of the house is a messy brown colour after hoards of children, adults and dogs have sledged and scampered up and down its side.  
I have been trying to work out how to fool the bully of the garden, a blackbird named Fred not to chase away every other bird who alights to feed, the only one who stands up to him is a wood pigeon who has bulk on his side if no brain!  I am cross that my collared doves are too scared to come down, the starlings help themselves to the fatballs, which infuriates Fred - yes I do waste time watching them.

And a song  Bigger, better, brighter

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hoar Frost

At the moment we are all living in a monochrome world of snow and black silhouettes of trees against a grey sky, the snow in Chelmsford is not so deep as in other parts of Britain, the news on the radio grinds on and I worry about the garden birds... but four years back I went on a magical early morning walk with my Moss up on the downs near Bath and the world had crystallised into a magic place, caught on camera that early morning the soft pink of the rising sun illuminating the fairy trees, so perhaps not wishing the cold on people that hoar frost brings in its wake some photos, and a poem by John Clare. 'Hoar' can mean 'aged' or could be taken from hawthorn which is covered in white in spring.

The Hoar Frost Lodges on Every Tree
The hoar frost lodges on every tree
On the round hay stack and the rushy lea
And the boy ere he fothers behind the stack stands
A stamping his feet and a knocking his hands

The shepherd goes tucking his hook in his arm
And makes the dog bark up the sheep to the farm
The ploughman though noisey goes silently now
And rubs off the ryhme with his arm from the plough
Kop kop to his horses he sings and no more
For winter grins keenly and singing is oer
Save just now and then in the midst of the day
When hoar feathered frost is all melted away
Then larks from the thurrows takes sunshine for spring
And mounts oer his head just a minute to sing
And cleaning his plough at the end of the land
He'll hum lovely Jessey and sweet Peggy Band.

Friday, January 18, 2013

This and that

This is the Japanese garden made in honour of the doctor, and his house is  on the right
Idle thoughts...What did I think of Germany? Well let us start with breakfast, self service in the two hotels we stayed in and no kettle in the bedroom for that first cup of tea!!!!!! Yikes did I miss that first civilised cup of tea of the day, to actually add to my woes, the tea bags on offer in the dining room were mostly of the tisane variety with only darjeeling being the black tea..  But the rooms were beautifully warm and clean, and it is not the hotel's fault that we can't speak German and had to resort to CNN for news. Stuttgart was a bit of a scary place, as someone who does not like shopping, the enormous shop lined street we walked down to get to the museums were not interesting in the least, they had not got to the 'Westfield' (the big shopping mall next to the Olympic stadium) stage at least in providing covered shopping malls.  To be quite honest I haven't been to Westfield yet but will undertake it one day if my grand daughter Matilda wants to go, as surely she will.
Everyone was so kind to us in Bietigheim that I can only praise the people, we met a German doctor and his Welsh wife who had relatives in Fishguard, and it was a shock to be asked by him, had we got into The Old Pharmacy restaurant in Solva, this is a restaurant known for its culinary skills, and yes we had last year...
We had two meals out with everyone in German restaurants, and the first thing you notice on the menu, that it is mostly meat with noodles - spatzle (something I shall come back to one day) and a help yourself salad, that is a great deal better than the salads you get in this country.  But neither of us are large meat eaters, so we managed on the salads and found chicken in one of the restaurants. But when we were invited to Regina's house we ate the noodles with fried onions and a salad.  One of the things I liked and would like to do in these dark winter months would be to line the path with little candles as Regina had done for the museum for her 'soiree'.

Just to prove that not all my photos are in monochrome these green bamboos  did stand out

This is the witches lane,  and people had little doll witches in their backyards just to emphasis this 'hexed' place..

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


The building with the tower is the Town Hall, and the building behind is the museum.
The weather was cold as you can see from the deserted street

So we are back, the paintings safely delivered, and once more in the museum at Bietigheim.  They had been brought back to this German town by Doctor Erwin Balz a hundred years ago from Japan. They are very proud of his collection at the museum, though I believe there is quite a lot of stuff in Stuttgart as well.  In the town there is a municipal Japanese garden just opposite his house.  The lecture was a great success, we were not sure that anyone would turn up but about 70 people did and listened for the hour and a half as LS talked.  He had an interpreter, and after the lecture a chosen few went back to see one of the paintings unrolled along with the two journalists from local papers.  Lots of questions were asked by the audience as they watched the restoration through the slides, the idea of 'reversibility' that Japanese paintings can always be restored because of the same technique (used for hundreds of years) using the 'aged' paste and water and the removal of the fine tissue papers came across clearly.  So that in a hundred years  they can still be restored once again, though hopefully they will never reach that same crinkled appearance again.
We met the mayor the day before for a cup of coffee with his young family, and the first thing you learn about this German town is how proud they are of their cultural heritage, statues, modern and old abound in the town, the old buildings have been restored traditionally.  Also taxes are quite low and you can park for free in car parks!
So what else, we had a two hour guided tour from Margaret, one of the guides from the museum, and Regina the curator and our host, lovely lady and her husband Franz, took us to the Hochdorf Celtic burial site on sunday.  On tuesday before we went to the airport at Stuttgart, we saw the Celtic exhibition housed in two great museums in Stuttgart.  This is an important Celtic exhibition, loads of Celtic bling, torcs that were so beautifully decorated, great bronze cauldrons and the original Hochdorf  settee and gold bowls and waggon.  I spotted the Gundestrup silver cauldron and the Desborough late Celtic mirror (on loan from the British Museum). Both objects I never thought I would see... No cameras are allowed in the museum, and bags and coats have also to be put away in lockers, but when ever I hear British  historians quibbling about the use of Celtic with a small or large 'c', I shall reply 'nonsense' for there is a definite style of outstanding artwork that follows through from the Hallstatt to the La Tene period.
Photos will be put on Northstoke 2 on Wordpress, because I am sure to have used up my ration on this blog fairly soon....
The Hochdorf Celtic burial on his bronze 'sofa', though I am sure it would have had cushions and animal furs on it when in use

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Tomorrow afternoon we drive to Stansted and then fly to Stuttgart, or maybe we get stopped at the airport for trying to smuggle paintings out of the country.  We have an email from the museum and there should be a letter in the post specifying why we are taking Japanese paintings to Germany but it has not arrived yet. Yes you can tell I'm nervous my dear daughter worried me further last night with tales of taxes, not carrying liquid and not taking any jewellery.  Apart from the 6 boxes we are also taking back the old boxes and the canvas bag they came in! Clothes are few and far between in the suitcases.  Everything else has been laid on, the lecture at the Town Hall, a tour of the town, and then visiting the museums in Stuttgart to see a Celtic exhibition there.
Yesterday was my birthday, so we went out for dinner at the Fox and Raven, we had been going to go to an Italian restaurant in town but decided to walk down to the pub, it has a nice atmosphere, the old farmhouse still haunts the rooms, food is just about passable, yesterday was pie day, so I had a vegetarian cheese and potato one, the pastry had a certain well cooked hardness to it, LS's fishcakes also had a good long time in the deep fat frying, still we enjoyed the meal...
Lillie sang 'happy birthday' to me over the phone, or at least her version,and I had a thoroughly happy birthday, LS dancing attendance all day.
We should be back on Tuesday, hopefully before the cold weather sets in, and snow makes travelling around impossible, at least the snow will lock up the water in the ground, though the mayor in Whitby says that freezing and thawing of the rocks could make them more unstable and further slides.

Whitby latest

A photo (courtesy of The Mirror) shows the extensive damage to the cliff in front of St.Mary's church, given the dramatic headlines a certain caution needs to be used though: some of the terracing of the soil by the church is remedial, but there is definitely a serious problem and the church does look in a perilous position. Whitby houses are of course built in terraced rows on the sides of the hills that come down to the harbour, there is always an element of danger as cliffs crumble or rocks move, in this case excessive rain caused by climate change lies at the heart of this latest drama.  Forget Bram Stoker and Dracula, a fictional creature living in a dark fantasy world, the bones that are washed down are 18th century upright citizens, and if you ever go to Whitby you will note the very strong religious tone of the town, churches abound everywhere, St.Hild established a strong religious centre here!
As my love has noted the photo is taken from a long distance so that a foreshortening has occurred betwixt the church and the abbey which is some distance away.....

News headline from The Mirror, but if you click there are a whole load of those terrible cookies loading up...

and here and here also

Friday, January 4, 2013

As I contemplate the two enormous suitcases we have to get to Germany via various modes of transport I start to panic, so soothing  poetry to calm the thought of custom men and taxis spring to mind.
The other day we walked by the river, a river that had flooded and reached to the path at some stage, it lapped gently against the saturated banks as we slipped and slithered along the path.
So who do I choose? it must be Ted Hughes for his gloomy view and a reminder of the North York moors, the grouse butts that dot the moors..

Grouse-Butts by Ted Hughes

Where all the lines embrace and lie down,
Roofless hovels of turf, tapped by harebells,
Weather humbler.

In a world bare of men
They are soothing as ruins
Where the stones roam again free.

But inside each one, under sods, nests
Of spent cartridge-cases
Are acrid with life.
Those dead-looking fumaroles are forts.

Monkish cells, communal, strung-out, solitary,
The front line emplacements of a war nearly religious--
Dedicated to the worship
Of costly, beautiful guns.

A religion too arcane
For the grouse who grew up to trust their kingdom
And its practical landmarks.

Some of these grouse butts are beautifully constructed from stone with turf tops, I have written about them and photographed them, and the black grouse that scurry along the narrow heather lined small paths.  Hughes of course grasps the nettle, the senseless slaughter of an innocent creature to show what? prowess may be, don't know all I remember is seeing two young men wearing camouflage astride their camouflaged quad bikes with guns ready to hunt the unsuspecting grouse, the mind grapples with the image of small birds and large humans astride machines.....

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Germany Trip

Well this morning the 6 paintings were bought out of storage, ten years they have been hidden, all safe thank goodness, and though I will go on to write about them later, the first photos on the WP blog...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pottering through the day

The Fieldfare, turdis pilarus, courtesy of Creative Commons
This bush is already starting to lose all the topmost berries.
There we are, ask for sun, and what do we get, a bright, clear blue sky and this morning if I am not mistaken fieldfares (not many) dining on the red berries.  Their pale breasts gleaming in the sun, this bird can be found in the millions, does not feature on any extinct list and is classified as 'least concern' well that is good news. How did they get there name, well it is Old English or Anglo-Saxon as the following states from its Wiki.
"The Anglo-Saxon word feldefare perhaps meant traveller through the fields. Alternatively, it may be derived from Old English fealu fearh, literally grey piglet."
The blackbirds are also out in full voice this morning, their loud call waking me up, we now have at least 30 odd flock of collared doves that frequent the green, and occasionally grace our maple tree in the back.  Not to be missed are the great flocks of starlings that land with beautifully timed precision together, squabbling and whistling in the back garden at the moment.
As a note to my more exuberant self, Geoge Monbiot has one of his rants this morning Annus Horribilis, I shall colour him blue because he is right of course and blue with rage, taken from the Guardian....
In the UK in 2012, the vandals were given the keys to the art gallery. Environmental policy is now in the hands of people – such as George Osborne, Owen Paterson, Richard Benyon and Eric Pickles – who have no more feeling for the natural world than the Puritans had for fine art. They are busy defacing the old masters and smashing the ancient sculptures. They have lit a bonfire of environmental regulations(13), hobbled bodies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency and ensured that the countryside becomes even more of an exclusive playground for the ultra-rich, unhampered by effective restraints on the burning of grouse moors, the use of lead shot, the killing of birds of prey and the spraying of pesticides that are wiping out our bees and other invertebrates(14,15).
What else though, phoning my daughter last night to wish them a happy new year, she was still in the dining room keeping Lillie company as she got through her soup.  Lillie is always at least half an hour later than anyone else eating her food, she gets deserted in the dining room much to her annoyance when we give up on her chatter and demands that she eats up now... Here lost in her own world she is probably typing out one of her emails to the family full of emoticons and kisses, always dressed up in some form or other she lives in another world to us!