Thursday, February 27, 2014

A drive

Weather again fine yesterday so we took ourselves off to Terling.  Pretty Terling is one of those villages preserved by the hand of the local lord, Lord Rayleigh to be precise, so that its large village green and houses are preserved, with not too much new build going on. Rabbits played in the field, squirrels rustled around, and we saw a buzzard and tree creepers in the woods alongside the little River Ter.
Coming back amongst the lanes, we hit a back lane pretty badly hit by the floods, no water now, just great potholes a foot deep, and very muddy because the farmer had been using heavy machinery, maybe to clear the ditches which were extraordinary deep with the verges all mushed up.

Spot the rabbit, all went into hiding as soon as the camera appeared

local planting

the little river grown large
The houses are typical plastered Essex houses, in some case jettied, as is the post office, the strong Essex colours are dominant.......

Look at those tudor chimney pots

The Green with the church

Terling post office

Strange windmill

Spooky house in the middle of nowhere
Two young lop eared rabbits enjoying the sun

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


                                                            A small portrait of Monty: 

Monty was a Welsh hound according to his owner Alison, and we would occasionally meet up on our daily walks round Bath racecourse.  I loved Monty for his clownish face and bumbling manner, Alison said of him that he had two brain cells, occasionally they collided and a thought occurred!  Moss took little notice of him another dog to walk round with, but Monty had one failing, he chased deer so that a careful eye had to be kept on him.  Walking in snow, his large paws would get clogged with the stuff and he would get more and more miserable till in the end he would sit down and refuse to budge till every bit was scraped from his paws.
Deer there was aplenty round the fields, and one day spying some he chased after them, disappearing for a long time, so that Alison had to phone husband and son to start a search party.  I joined in and we hunted high and low, in the woods, three hours later I was in one of the lower fields and Monty wearily appeared through a gate, exhausted but still happy, and as I wrapped a lead round him and phoned his frantic owner I wondered where his adventure had taken him.

                                                                     The Wood

So what sparked that story? well it was an email from our friend in Cornwall this morning, who sent a link about a dog find of about six million pounds worth of gold coins on the owner's Californian property, and then said that he was keeping a pup back for me from  Jan a border collie when she is eventually bred from, to wander with around the Cornish moors.

The above photo showing the two dogs and the grandstand in the background, also shows though long since vanished the small runway of a temporary airfield run in the second World War.

The wood in the above photos are a magical place but were neglected, very boggy,  in years gone by they had been coppiced, and great hazel stools were everywhere.  At the edge of the trees in spring violets and primroses carpeted the grass, and I can see them even now.
Violets are appearing in the garden, they are wild, and must herald a time when once this small piece of land was woodland.  

Monday, February 24, 2014


Today is so beautiful, that I sit outside in the sun, only the little buddha statue for company but he  is surrounded by the bright yellow of crocuses reflecting the sun.  I am waiting for a bumble bee to appear but not yet it seems.  Blackbird makes an appearance and finishes off the pear core which I threw out for him yesterday.  My pair of doves are off somewhere on the green, normally they mooch around the garden either in the cherry trees, or the maple, all is peaceful.

Wandering back into the house I visit LS in his studio, he is sorting out the cedar hangers for two scrolls to be finished off. Taking photos I am given a talk on the concave and convex nature of these rounded poles, and take a photo of the scroll caps, looking at first like ivory, but they are not, ivory is not allowed in the studio unless it comes with a client's scroll.
Bone knobs, made by a lady in Kyoto in her small shop

Lengths of cedar wood, chosen because they hardly lose their resin over time

In actual fact they are bone, and have to have their centres filled in.  The intricacies of scroll fixing is interesting, by opposing the convex and concave nature of the two wooden poles you end up with a straight scroll, even though there is only a marginal fluctuation in the wood. 
There is something quite special with the anticipation of spring, everything is new, the tulip leaves unfurling alongside cuckoo's pint, which weed though it is, is also anticipatory of spring, I always let this wild plant go through to its red berry stage and then crush it beneath my feet, just in case any child think the berries interesting enough to eat, which of course they are not being poisonous.
Waiting for the flowers to unfurl is one of the great delights of the garden, my lilies need renewing as the bulbs get smaller each year, and I have a fancy for a white scented one, they fill the garden in the evening with a sweet perfume.  The same happens of course with the tulips if you leave them in the ground and do not bring the smaller bulbs on they gradually lose their stamina.
Edit; Lunch in the garden produces my first queen bumble bee of the year, it rests on the fencing soaking up the sun, and above my head Missie our solitary collared dove sits preening.  She has been bullied out of the garden by another pair, but if either one of us is out there she will appear and sit in the cherry tree, she prefers LS to me and is happy to keep him company when he paints the fence.

Buddha in everlasting contemplation

As an addenda to that read yesterday these words from the Dalai Lama,
'the need to act - TODAY. He says there is only two days in the year that nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


This morning I opened my Resurgence magazine that had just dropped through the letterbox, first thing I always do is thumb through the beautiful photos and there towards the end was a beautiful montage of this Australian painter Anne Middleton.  It is part of the series 'Gates of Paradise', and her luminous work springs out at you like clear falling water.  There is technique of course I think, though have lost the link 

about using luminous oil glazing in transparent layers over and over again to get these shiningly beautiful images.  You can see more of her work at Rebecca Hossack Gallery ......


Waking up this morning I tried to puzzle out something my daughter had said yesterday, "I knew I was going to be happy here two years ago".  She is of course talking about Todmorden, they both have jobs now, she has just had a promotion to manager in the charity shops she works in, after worrying that as she was the last in she would be the first out.  The charity which is a greyhound one has lots of shops round this part of Yorkshire, charity shops are profitable these days and though my daughter is not the greatest dog lover on earth, she seems happy there.  
Yesterday afternoon did not go well but progressed to a better outcome. Starting a migraine, I immediately took a pill which at leasts stops the visual disturbances if not the headache.  The phone rings, there is a very cross Karen the cleaner for the cottage on the phone, she has just finished cleaning the cottage after the latest visitors and the new vacuum cleaner has blown up and given her a scare.  This is the second one to go, and I promise to get her a new one, via the family as they are going to stay there next week in the half term.
Phoning my marvellous son-in-law, and he says he will go down to the market in Todmorden and try and pick up a reconditioned Dyson there today.
Darron apart from working in a full time time job also has been working on the house in Tormorden, photos flash through on his F/B of the latest work of stripping the walls of this house, he found tongue and groove wood on the walls in the kitchen, goodness knows from what period.  Last week they had a new roof put on, only for it to start leaking two days later down the chimney breast, but luckily the roofer had just appeared to put it right yesterday.
I talk to my granddaughter Matilda on the phone, then 10 minutes later the phone rings again,' who is that' LS says 'it's me' says a small voice at the other end, Lillie feeling left out of talking on the phone and we talk, at least I talk and she answers in monosyllables, but does tell me about the roof problems.  We both miss the grandchildren, only Lillie can work our remote controller for the DVD with complete ease, hopefully they are all coming down later in the summer to stay for a couple of days, I might even brave the horrors of the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford for them.

Meditating on elephants - Boon Thong enjoying a peaceful time in her life after years of working with a broken back.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Last Words - other blogs

The land that time forgot....  A sad but lovely tale told by Jackie Morris

St.David's Head, somewhere up there is the cottage that Jackie Morris talks about

A small sheepfold perhaps from a long time ago
The cliffs along the coast path from Solva

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cheese and Tea

Seeking houses;  Well LS sent me a link for mains gas in England, and there is only a small patch down in South Cornwall, focused around Truro and Torquay, so it is back to the drawing board, though he did mention there are some new German oil radiators on the market to explore.  Today we go to a funeral, so it is rather sad, I hardly know the person but he is a friend of LS's and we have met him at times walking down to Asda, his battle against cancer is lost and his wife is left bereft.
Yesterday we had our two monthly visit to Sainsbury, such small things as coffee filters (seem to have been made obsolete now), my Dove Organic bread flour, and various Japanese bits and pieces, plus a made up sachet of fondue mixture, which I occasionally treat us to.  In fact it tastes much nicer if you buy the two cheeses and make it yourself, but I don't drink white wine so it becomes more expensive homemade. The trouble with buying cheeses in this country, and here I am talking about gruyere, emmenthal, brie and camembert, is that their European equivalents are so much more cheesier (and smellier of course), in other words so much more flavoursome.  Gruyere the town is very pretty and you can visit the cheese factory there,  the family went there a couple of years ago, and they are off to Switzerland this year to meet Karen's aunts, luckily not in the old caravan but staying up in the mountains somewhere in a chalet.  One of the weirdest things of course to LS is that my daughter's cousin Marc runs a sushi factory, in the middle of this landlocked country.  Not my choice of food, though I have been treated to an expensive version, whereby you sit at the counter at the restaurant whilst the sushi chef prepares these nibbles for you, and I did not let LS down by pulling my nose up at these raw treats!
Stop wandering off the track.. to return to coffee filters, why can't we use the simple method of making coffee? the answer is of course at Currys, look at all the fancy coffee makers on the market, they come in all colours and different types of coffee making, no more the steady 'plop' of a percolator on the stove, or even the old 'cona' coffee we had as a child.  A scientific wonder, the coffee contained in two glass circular apparatus, warmed by a bunsen burner, the coffee would steadily rise as if by magic...  I have to buy my 'loose' tea now from Twinings and have it sent by post, why? because it is more convenient to put tea in teabags, yet what happens if you don't want teabags, your choice becomes limited.

The Story of Manuka the bear

Monday, February 17, 2014


The new header is rather drear, but I look forward to going to Cornwall in April, and this view will be seen from the cottage we have taken for this holiday.  My first reaction to the village of Minions as I looked out of the pub bedroom window was an inward 'wow', rain was streaming down with that slight mistiness that comes with gray rocks and moors, and in the far distance I saw an engine house clinging to the side of a hill. Surreal was my first thought, like some apocalyptic scene from the end of the world, these tall austere buildings, set in a bleak lonely landscape, had housed the mechanics for the extraction of tin, they amazed me with their ugliness, I still do not know how they worked, but can feel the distant past of hard work embedded in their bricks.

I know other landscapes, the soft gentle hills of Somerset, the chalk lands of Wiltshire, Wales with its rivers  and the beautiful Yorkshire valleys which always make me catch my breath.  Bodmin Moor does not fit easily into any characteristic beautiful view, the tors  look like some drunken giant has placed pebbles on top of each other in a childish manner without much thought, great rocks balanced precariously on each other.

I want to go back and wander round the great stone circle at The Hurlers, but all I remember is the gray mistiness and the squelch of water underneath my feet, the mares hiding their foals under the gorse whilst they slept,  The paths leading further on into the moors, the quarry filled with water where people swam in summer, the almost vanished stone circle somewhere....

Looking at houses in Cornwall on the net, and the first thing that strikes you is that everyone either uses oil or LPG gas for heating, expensive at the best of times.  Wood burners adorn sitting rooms, and an aga or rayburn the kitchens, so perhaps if you live by a town and mains gas is on offer you are alright but the countryside offers a different option.  What excites me about Cornwall, is the adventure that beckons, reading and finding out about its history.  The first thing I note from the websites I follow, is a strong nationalism, if Cornwall could cut itself off from the rest of England, there would be quite a few happy people, this slightly worries me, Scotland is getting into hot water over wanting to be independent and is being strong armed both by Europe and Osborne into giving up the idea. 
Resentment of 'incomers' must surely be part of the 'native' viewpoint, I am never sure how to take that, movement of people means movement of money, but by the same token house prices become too dear for the young.  One day we shall stop living off what I can only describe as the inflated price of our houses, and price them at a more reasonable level for everyone, though sadly a socialist viewpoint of caring for all the people and not just the few seems a long way off.
The header photo is showing the Heritage Centre, rather badly signposted, we sheltered behind its wall one day out of the wind, only for LS to go up and discover what was happening inside so we were grateful for its warmth. 

Industrial heritage

Friday, February 14, 2014

Definitely miscellanous

This blog is not called a Magpie's Miscellany for nothing, my mind picks up and writes about anything that crosses it;) So where has this blank mind gone today? Firstly whilst looking through the news, a new exhibition at The Natural History Museum is opening, and this video of the models of Homo Sapien and Neanderthal man being made flashed through.  Which in turn reminded me of the two reproduced bisons at the entrance to the Ice Age Exhibition we saw last year.  And so I decided to look them up, not helped by the fact that I actually thought they were boars, but luckily I found the original.  Fourteen thousand years old they were found in the back of  the Tuc D'audobert Cave, an altar to fertility maybe, see how the clay on which they were carved also represents in its natural form a third bison at the back.  This is obviously a reproduction, but I can remember the flash of incredulity as I looked down on these beasts, so lifelike in their carving.

The bison of Tuc D'audobert Cave

The other thing of note that happened yesterday was (we don't get out often) the visit to a nursery centre.  We had gone to get some coal, after these storms apparently winter looms in the form of snow in March,  but summer is to bring some hot dry weather, so not all is lost...  The coal was expensive but of course a browse round the plants section was needed and I bought a pulmonaria plant.  For the bees I explained to my love.  Coming back in the car and I could not remember the name of the bees, they are singleton nesting bees and hover in front of the flower with long proboscis like humming birds.  Of course they are called 'pulmonaria bees' a bell eventually struck, and how long it is for those bells to strike lately! but perhaps my head is to full of unimportant stuff anyway..

Once upon a time I had a garden full of the plants, used as weed check they are invaluable forcovering bare earth. Anyway nondescript is perhaps the only way to describe it, but a good early flower for bees and the pollinating of fruit trees.  Apparently according to Grigson, there is a local variation in the New Forest Pulmonaria Longifolia found by John Goodyer in the 17th century.  But the official wild lungwort Pulmonaira officinalis is called Jerusalem Cowslip, Spotted Comfrey, Sage of Jerusalem, both by the way go under the common name of Adam and Eve because of the blue and white nature of the flower. And to quote Grigson....

Often naturalized, making a pond of azure in the woods. (it likes shade)  Since the leaves have white spots, sympathetic magic made it into a medicine 'against the infirmities and ulcers of the lunge'.  Gerard also wrote that the leaves were 'used amongst pot herbes'.
I shall have to consult my herb book on that one and also Robinson, but I can hardly think the leaves are a great delicacy, being slightly hairy, and indeed their spottiness would put anyone off.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Poem

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bronze Age bling

Whitehorse Hill Bronze Age bracelet

This is a photo of the Bronze Age cist found on White Horse Hill on Dartmoor, forget the funny pyramid in its centre, this is just a walker's cairn, but focus on the rocks below, this is the cist.  Uncovered in 2009 I think, what came out of the cist was a revelation, at least for Dartmoor.  The cremated ashes were covered in a fur wrap, which washed up beautifully by the conservators; also a plaited bag which contained inside a necklace of 35 beads, and strange little studs, sometimes mentioned as earrings but more likely to be buttons.  The find also included a beautiful bracelet made out of woven hair (I think horse) and tiny tin studs.  You can find
the story on this BBC episode Mystery of the Moor, which runs to the 13th Feburary
I have followed the detail of this news for several years now, and so it's eventual analysis is great, was it a young female buried with her 'bling' I wonder.  There is something very poignant about such burials, all to easily we fall into the media news of high status/princess burial, but it could well be that she, and I have to see her as a she, was a much loved daughter, we cannot tell either way.
I can find no photo of her bracelet on line, though here is a news item on the Dartmoor 'Treasure Tomb discovered, with photos of the fur wrap and bag.

It reminded me of what I want to collect, which is strangely bracelets, small and portable, this little hoard of mine was bought for £10 in Whitby at xmas, also brooches seem quite collectible now as well....  the bracelet is Indian but very pretty...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Guardian photos

Evocative photos of the flooded Somerset levels and how it has affected people's lives, photographs taken by Matilda Temperley...

James Winslade House, 500 cattle were eventually evacuated from the farm buildings by local farmers with tractors and trailers...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

River Chelmer

peering through the hedge at the rush of water

Today we woke up to the wind buffeting the windows once more, but yesterday the sun shone and the rain had stopped so we walked down to the river, and the pub. The news has been bad, the Somerset Levels the worst hit, the shoreline of Wales and Cornwall, magnificent with the great waves beating against the shore line, scary of course and a tragedy for the people whose cottages cling to the quaysides, but nature has decided to put on a show and there is nothing much we can do about but clear up the mess afterwards.
So how did our river perform, that slow meandering Essex river that has been rationalised into a navigation river and has locks along its length.  Not too badly, it is very swollen, the banks are under water for about fifteen feet and the mill stream is racing along churning and bubbling like an over excited foal around the old mill house.  Firstly, this river is dredged, last year saw the workmen working several weeks to dredge the bottom in the water meadows, so perhaps disaster was averted.
The mill is surrounded on all sides by water, the river in front, and the mill stream in an 'u' shaped curve winds through the garden, with a small bridge to the garden, which is underwater at the moment. The buildings sit higher, a causeway to the lane and the water rushing underneath. The whole scene is rather beautiful, if you know this part of Essex, and indeed Suffolk, river banks are lined with the silvery leafed willows, you can plot the trail of a river through the landscape by this silver thread.
So the landscape is peaceful, a flock of seagulls take resident on a small lake that was once a field, the ground is saturated in the other fields, we watch our feet carefully, small cranesbill plants are scattered around their leaves finely dissected and rather pretty.  Staring down into the brown muddy water flowing at quite a speed under the bridge, allows one to meditate on the wondrous force of nature, my mind in its emptyiness sees the fish crouching under the old leaves of the water lilies bunkering down from the tidal rush above.

The garden looks so peaceful

The mill

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Notes on Stuart Piggott and the West Kennet Long barrow

West Kennet Long barrow 

Yesterday two books came through the post, a friend had returned a Cornish book I had lent him, and with this book he also sent Stuart Piggott's report of the excavation of West Kennett long barrow, written in 1956 I have almost read it in a day so fascinated by the restoration of this old barrow.  Sixty years on, what we see to day is very different from what his excavation had to unravel, the sheer hard donkey's work that goes into an excavation, the destruction of this site over the centuries, the trackway carved out of its centre, the 'robber' holes as farm labourers tried to remove the smaller stones for buildings, walls etc.  The following illustration is neatly drawn, the second photo shows WKLB as first seen by Piggott, and the third as it is today.  Ideas change over the years, today's archaeologists will interpret very differently from yesteryear's, but we have a lot to be grateful  for from these early pioneer archaeologists and their enthusiasm.
Amongst his writing I came across the following, which I will note.

Isosceles triangle; If such a triangle, it is found that it's sides run through the stones forming the rear walls of all four lateral chambers, and that three of the stones involved (Nos. 10,27,33)  are coincident in angle with the triangle's sides.  The fourth (no.15) only slightly divergent.  The west chamber (at the head) falls symmetrically within the converging sides, its rear wall being 20 feet from the apex.
Such an agreement between the structures and a geometrical figure strongly suggests that the basic plan was in fact laid out in these terms.  Further symmetry in plan is shown by the regular tilt of the axis of the lateral chambers westward from a line at right angles to the passage axis by 15 to 20 degrees.  It is clear that some kind of  regular plan was envisaged, presumably to definite units of measurement and with a knowledge of ratios, and that building followed this plan so far as practical difficulties in handling large masses of stone allowed.

As my maths is so terrible, I vaguely understand the above, to believe of course the theory that there is a mathematical sum to be had from the moving of stones is more difficult.

East Kennet Long barrow

This long barrow remains unexplored, except by badgers, who live in its dark recesses amongst the stones below. One thing I did learn from Piggott is something of the nature of those stones and here I will quote...

EKLB appears to have a construction embodying considerable cairn material, for Dean Merewether recorded in 1849 that the proprieter of the barrow 'had caused a hole to be dug at the east end for the purpose of obtaining flints, but that he had found that it was made up of generally round and flat sarsen stones, which came tumbling so about the men'  Diary of a Dean in Proc.Salisbury Meeting Archaeology Ins. (1849) 98.

The EKLG is an overgrown but very large barrow, hardly to be seen for the trees, and the second photo is the badger hole, this time it is chalk that can be seen that is thrown out by the badgers.