Monday, June 30, 2014


As I wandered round watering the garden this morning, so many pots in this small garden, I was struck by all the little wasp like creatures around the flowers.  The ecology of a garden is quite marvellous to see, always stay the hand when greenfly/blackfly appear, their predators will soon appear on the scene to demolish them. If they are too bad, a light squirt with weak washing up liquid.  Bumble bees buzz round the bean flowers, hopefully bringing on a large crop, whilst the courgettes have produced loads of fruit, though we are now in the middle of their season, waiting for the next batch to appear.
Photos from our walk along the river the other day, hawker dragonflies were out, the damselflies are slowly disappearing their job done for the season.  What I notice along the river bank is the prolific growth of weeds in the shape of nettles.  Nitrogen is of course responsible for strong growth, so whether it comes from the river or the fields that lie either side, who knows. But the scruffy boats that line the beginning of the walk are a bit of an eyesore.  Now if you were to get nearer London and the Thames, you would see the 'rolls-royces' of the boat world moored alongside river homes, a proud statement of the class system that still prevails.


For sale

needs a good scrub

Old willow splitting

Eco-Warriors Sea-Shepherd video of boats travelling through France to try and stop the slaughter of the Pilot Whales of the Faroe Islands....

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Unexpectedly perfect

LS noticed our convolvus hawk moth/s mating on the same gate post this morning, they are still there frozen into a perfect bonding of colour and size.  Apparently these migrants also fly out to the oil rigs in Scotland  to mate, flying hundreds of miles without food to these outposts in the middle of nowhere. You could almost stroke they are so gorgeous!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A handful of photos

This morning I have been cooking, gooseberry tart is on the menu as we found some at a farm shop on the way back from a walk, also Essex honey, though to be honest it tastes as if the bees have feasted on sugar as well.  A fruitcake cooks in the oven, LS is always mooching around in the evening for more food and demanding impossible things to eat and then there is a vegetarian gravy bubbling away, which has been a strong favourite over the years. I reckon it is because of the marmite in it.
Brings back memories of my first mother-in-law, Lotta in Switzerland, as she made supper soup every day, standing in front of the oven stirring, usually the leftovers from the day before.  This we would have with a selection of cold meats, (and you had to eat them, because they would turn up every day, even if they had gone green).  Gooseberry tart brings back memories of the cherry tart grandpa bought from the patisserie on Sunday lunch time, the cherries snuggling in its custard base.
So I looked up a few old photos, the sun always seemed to shine at the house in Blonay, people coming and going 'grandpa/Con' going off to his church in Territet in the morning, he was a churchwarden and was eventually buried there followed by Lotta a few years later.
Vevey the town below the village of Blonay was home to Nestle headquarters, so there was quite a few English people around, and Annabel, my sister-in-law worked at shop selling fine embroidered tableware and blouses.  The English ex-pats consisted of people from Nestles, and  British colonial service people, Con had worked for Unesco for many years in education, ending up as a director in America, so there was a diverse set of people coming to the house.  Lotta loved bridge, so she went to her weekly bridge meetings, Sylvia her daughter, has also become an avid bridge player.  Sylvia was the clever one, married to an American, they both taught in Hong Kong, tall like her father I was always envious of her sophistication. Annabel was the quiet one after an unhappy marriage to a German (family joke Herman the German) who worked out in the oil fields of Persia/Iran, had left her stranded on a camp out in the desert, she was helped by a french family out there and later married Jeannot their son.  Marc her son was a lively youngster growing up, and teased Karen piteously when she was young, is now miles away from the slim youngster who toted a knife and a gun out in the desert, runs a sushi factory.
This summer the family are going out to spend a couple of weeks with them, Karen's children are the only grandchildren that my ex-sister-laws have so they are cherished.  Though that is not quite true, there is an Opper contigency out in Canada, Mike the oldest of the four children (the fourth, and youngest, being Nick who was Karen's father and who died when she was about three) Mike,  emigrated when he was about 16 years old following a career of boxing and then working in the forests.

Karen's baptism with her godmothers, we would call this photo 'the three witches'
Florine to the left, Lotta in the middle and her best friend Leni, though they were always falling out.
I see she has a silver bracelet digging into her chubby little arm, I  also had one at the same age, which they had to cut off in the end.

Tom my oldest grandchild staying with his Aunt Annabel and Jeannot down in Montreux
now a strapping 19 year old

Tom again tucking into goodness knows what

Con, Sylvia, Lotta, Florine and Eugene

I owned a polaroid camera at the time, Annabel and Jeannot at Avebury on a visit

A party? Marc is teasing Karen probably, you can see me in the background - had a hair problem like the 'witch of Fleet Street'!

Love this old photo of Kim at the cottage in Fyfield, he was not obedient but lived to a ripe old age of 15

Elegant couple, dressed for a party

Capturing my in laws in their retirement period gives a somewhat untrue picture of how their lives had been lived.  Con, short for Conrad, was an exceptionally good person, he worked in Africa, Thailand, Iran and many other countries, bringing education to far out places.  He would often talk of making the bricks to build a school, or whilst out in the jungle in an old Morris estate, peeing on the wooden tyres because they had overheated and were on fire... Lotta on the other hand had to deal with bringing up four children in outlandish places where perhaps you would find a snake under the cot, she kept a gun under her pillow to keep away any marauders.

Looking at the photo of Kim, anarchic labrador that he was, and I realise he was very similar to my old collie Moss, in the role he played in my life at the time.  He came with me on my marriage, couldn't stand my stepmother I think, and as I moved through his 15 years of life, he was like an anchor of sanity. Holidays of course he went into kennels but never seemed the worse for wear  when he came out. My cat Maxi who also lived to a ripe old age, would migrate down to a friend in the road who would feed him every day, but would often be seen sitting on the front doorstep waiting for our return from long holidays and was always there when we got back.  He was a shy cat but very affectionate, and on what was to be a final move to Bath, climbed into the car as I packed ; - don't leave me behind was the message!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Collecting thoughts.

Yesterday evening I sorted out the drafts in my blog, I collect information about anything that interests me, so Daniel Gumb's history is there, right down to marriage records for his family, did the same with Oliver Cope, tailor from Avebury in the 18th Century and who emigrated to America to start a Cope dynasty which resulted in the estate (now a museum) of Awbury.  So who is the latest eccentric to pass along my line of vision?  This time it is someone from Whitby, an article appeared, about Edward Simpson the famous flint forger of Whitby.  Now how do you forge prehistoric flints, without the evidence of thousands of years wear. But he did, and according to the article could have fooled the British Museum with his forgeries.  Drink got the better of him, not surprised with all the pubs in Whitby, and he was denounced, but what a striking picture he makes.
There are several things that have rolled off the background of news that I follow for others, one is the reinstatement of the cromlech called The Giant's Quoit or the Carwynnen Quoit in Cornwall, the placing of the capstone on the holding stones on solstice day was a great event and the restoration a success for this cromlech that had fallen in 1966.  It was done privately by the Sustainable Trust, with various bodies supplying money etc., and the news can be found here.
Cornwall has featured a lot in my news, do we move down there, or do we move to Yorkshire, that problem is difficult to decide, weighing the pros and cons, the cottage in Whitby gives up somewhere to live whilst looking for a house, whereas Cornwall means we have to rent somewhere which can be expensive.  Both areas are beautiful, though in my mind the moors of Yorkshire outflank those of Cornwall....

The covered pavement

But to get back to what nags at my mind and I need to record, one of the things I photographed at the Hurlers Stone Circles, was the 'crystal pavement' which had been excavated and then the turf put back on, the link for the following quote in an Astronomy meeting comes from here.  Archao-astronomony is a science that sets the mind working on relationships between prehistoric stones, circles etc and the sun, moon and stars.  But there are mistakes even in this blurb, there are other stone circles where three are next to each other (Avebury and Stanton Drew come to mind).  And the Orion Belt theory, is,  though not exactly old hat but has been used for the Thornborough Henges, and if I am not mistaken the Priddy Circles.

 In addition to this, Brian Sheen and Gary Cutts of the Roseland Observatory have worked alongside Jacky Nowakowski, from Cornwall Council’s Historic Environment Service, to investigate the important Bronze Age astro-landscape extending over several square-miles on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. At the centre lies Britain’s only triple stone circles, The Hurlers, of which two are connected by the 4000-year-old granite pavement, named the Crystal Pathway. The team has confirmed that the inhabitants during the Bronze Age used a calendar that was controlled by the Sun. The four cardinal points are marked together with the solstices and equinoxes.
“The Pipers are standing stone outliers to the main circles. When standing between the stones, one to the right and the other to the left, one looks north & south; when lining both up, one faces east & west,” says Sheen.  “We also think the three circles that comprise The Hurlers monument may be laid out on the ground to resemble Orion’s Belt. Far from being three isolated circles on the moor they are linked into one landscape.”

LS fell in love with these four, think they were well looked after, even though their coats are dirty.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Odds and sods

You must be so good as to tell me my road, and if there is anything in my way worth stopping to see - I mean literally to see: For I do not love guessing whether a bump in the ground is Danish, British or Saxon....  Horace Walpole to the Reverend William Mason July 6th 1772

Odd photographs I have taken over the last few days, so pleased to see this large moth. In the garden in Bath the hummingbird hawkmoth was to be found, a recent addition to our isles from the continent, it would feed on soapwort, or saponaria. The Convolulus moth must be quite common given the vast amounts of bindweed that trail through our hedgerows.

Reading Alex Clifton Taylor on the Pattern of English Building 1972, he says that the timbered frame houses (in the photo below) leading from the church, " all but one, in the usual Essex way,  are wholly plastered.  The use of colour wash is spectacular, and one is tempted to add, very un-English"
I think that cannot be said today as colour wash on plastered houses are more common and comes in a variety of colours, adding to the many different types of historical houses you see in Essex, pargetting, brick, flint and timber all add to the variety.

This is, 99% sure on this is a convolvulus hawkmoth. About 3 inches long and blending beautifully with the gatepost.
Convolvolus or bindweed is out in the countryside, he has almost a death mask on his head.

The first sweet pea flower, love their delicate petals, almost remind you of butterfly wings

This tunnel of mallow and thistles was taller than me and very scratchy to go through but bees, damselflies and butterflies danced through its scratchiness

The infra ray lines of the flower attracts the bee down to the pollen, nature is so complicated.

Driving through Thaxted and the old village Corn Exchange.

House for sale next to Dick Turpin's cottage

One day I shall capture the Essex houses on foot, but the most original are of course deeply buried in the countryside. 

The solitary swan that haunts our stretch of the Chelmer

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bartlow Roman Mounds Again...

Scrambled thoughts on the Roman Bartlow Mounds.  A glorious day, Essex in full pastoral glory, looking sweet and pretty with its thatched cottages, the fields full of wheat, some turning a soft sheen of pale gold under the sun.  No cows of course, something I miss in this wheat region.  But what lies under the surface, well we had a delicious meal in the pub at Bartlow, chatted to the landlord, and he filled us in on house prices. Let us  say that it is expensive to live in this county, the building plot in the derelict kitchen gardens had cost a minor £900,000 for the land, was not sure about the building of it.  A large house with three acres had just sold (sealed bids) for four million pounds and he reckoned a further few hundred thousand to update it, a two bedroom cottage in the village had gone in four minutes for approximately £300,000.  Crazy prices, probably London money all to live in an idyllic bucolic dream, we need a socialist answer!
But to return from the gossip, to the reason we visited, as we approach the little round towered church, my first impression always is, path to the left pagan, path to the right Christian, under the rampant sweet pea at the gate of the church are the remains of an old tree stump, and when you walk down the cool path to the mounds you will meet tree giants along the way, as if in an avenue of great trees, an earlier history of the manor probably.  But also an old bridge across a stream and another bridge for the defunct railway line. Past the old kitchen gardens with their large greenhouses falling into disrepair, and then you turn the corner and a great mound greets you, the largest is about 40 feet high, the three mounds hemmed in by the trees and a paling fence, so that it is difficult to photograph.  For me this small area of a pagan past is so resolute with history that the imagination could run riot. A green tree cathedral for the mounds of these Roman 1st century immigrants, with the hint of a Roman feast buried deep below the chalk.  Evidence does not survive because the place where the pottery, etc was lodged in the 19th/20th had burnt down.
As the village lies just on this side of the border between Essex and Cambridgeshire, it is Cambridgeshire Council who look after it, the grass was roughly mown and the tree saplings had been cut down on the sides of the mound, a difficult job given the steepness of the sides of the mounds, perhaps they used ropes to tether themselves.  
I have written elsewhere on an earlier visit, so this must be speculation, was it slave labour of the local British inhabitants to dig and build these monuments I wonder... anyway Wiki notes.

"For centuries the mounds were believed to cover the bodies of those killed at the Battle of Ashingdon in 1016, but excavation demonstrated that they are the graves of a wealthy family and date from the 1st or 2nd century AD. Excavations in the 19th century found large wooden chests, decorated vessels in bronze, glass and pottery and an iron folding chair, most of which were lost in a later fire at Bartlow Hall. A small Roman villa, occupied until the late 4th century, was situated north of the mounds and was excavated in 1852.

Also this weird photo, taken from a kite I think (though now they use quadcopters to get aerial views of sites) found on Wikipedia under the Creative Commons license.  Photo by Bill Blake.

poppies in the churchyard

Old post office and the pub

The path over the bridge

Link to further information on the Bartlow Mounds

Friday, June 20, 2014

This and that

The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt

"a terrible image of the world as a god-forsaken wasteland, a heap of broken images where the sun beats".

This morning as I listened to the news and Britain's defeat in football (I hate football) my mind turned instinctively to the above image, who would resign/get sacked when the team came back to England. Now on looking at this sad picture and listening to the other far more serious news, all I can say is that religion has a lot to answer for, why on earth did we invent it I wonder....

But it was not all doom and gloom in the email department, after the costly court case over where Richard 111's bones should be buried, Mike Pitts posted this video from the Horrible Histories on Richard, in the usual lighthearted fashion that says history should not be seen as terribly serious, and perhaps our children will learn a lot more when learning both sides of the argument

When Matilda my granddaughter was young, apart from being called Flossie, she was also called Boudicca, a name that suited her well, and she introduced me to the Horrible Histories 'Boudicca' a bouncy song you would have to admit.  As we often travel along the A12, LS is sure to say something about Boudicca's long march along it too bring so much suffering on the Romans in London, Colchester and St. Albans.  This pagan tribal leader did indeed wreak havoc, and if only she had had some military discipline in her large army we may now have been living under a different regime - did the gods not favour the hare she let loose I wonder.

Coffee calls soon, and tomorrow we go to the Roman Bartlow Mounds, as our celebration Solstice, these large magnificent barrows represent that 'edge' between pagan and christianity.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Queen of the Meadows


Wabi-sabi "If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi " nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."

This definition fulfils the emotions I often feel, a sad melancholy for things past, for things that have a brief day of glory, such as the peonies that now lie fallen on the grass, their splendid show of petals bedraggled with brown spots. 
Not to be too depressing I shall put up my photos from yesterday's walk,  LS had suggested it as I was not feeling too good and it did indeed cheer us both up.  We walked down to the park, ate our sandwiches and then strolled through the fields down to the river.  A different walk this one, the field is rape seed, now podding and silvery grey, the field edged with poppies and mallows grown to an enormous size.
The river with its boats tied up to small jetties was tranquil, I often think people buy boats on a whim and then leave them to rot gently on the water, there was one boat so dirty that it could not have been washed for the last three years, being advertised for sale for £3,500, tiny fry swam in the water, and the blue demoiselle darted around and the first dragonflies hawked the water, skimming low like little helicopters.
What strikes you in this month now is the changing of the light green of early summer to the deeper greens of midsummer, blackberry bushes are heavy with blossom, the elder flower is over, waiting for those dark purple berries of Autumn.  Meadowsweet scented one lane, growing in an old ditch and three piebald horses in an overgrown field of weeds grazed the scant grass, one had a young foal at heel.
This part of the Essex countryside, really falls into what I would call waste ground, abounding the river the land is overgrown and must be part of a flood plain, Sandford Mill, now a museum takes up quite a bit of the land, there is an air of dishevelment in the overgrown hedges, a faint hint of a once farmed landscape, the land is rutted in places, hopefully not waiting development. One bid for housing for land down by the river seems to have been stopped, though warning 'private' notices went up, which were immediately pulled down by the locals!  People cycle round this area, walk their dogs and walk generally just like us, it is a land that time left behind, Chelmsford Council is very generous in its grass verges and greens that surround the housing estates and I presume must own some of the acres that fall either side of the river Chelmer.

Blackberry blossom, should be a good crop this Autumn

Someone loves their boat as well as their animals

Meadowsweet - Regina Patri or Queen of the Meadow has a very sweet smell, used as a strewing herb in medieval times, Geoffrey Grigson gives one of its local names as Courtship-and-Matrimony, the milky foam of the flower rather nauseating as far as he is concerned when found in great patches, and which has been given another name 'Goat's Beard Barba Caprae,  It seems it can be used in mead to flavour the drink (must try making some mead).  Earlier on in its history, the plant was used for scouring milk churns in Ireland, and can also be used as dye mixed with copper to make black.