Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Each month I treat myself to something, it could be a book, some spinning wool, or patchwork, this month it has been patchwork material.  The scheme in mind is for Lillie, aged 8 so some funny materials are dictated.  There is a surge of excitement on opening parcels, my choices are not always what I want them to be in the cold light of day, but this time pastel shades fit the bill.  I can see I have gone for bird/flower motifs so this almost dictates larger panels to show the patterns against the background colour of pale blue.  A lot of deliberation will go into arrangement before the materials hit the cutting board, and to be honest I quite like the 'old-fashioned' way of just using materials that come to hand, but we will see.

Jewel colours
Just as a note, and what is inspirational as far as material/prints are concerned, Angie Lewin

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tidying up

Life is busy at the moment, the 'gang master' LS has to find my duties for the day!.. Lester has come and gone and painted brown wooden windowsills with white paint - yikes, and a removal man is coming this afternoon to quantify what is to be removed, though we have not as yet put the house on the market.  So be it, so in that short time between now and coffee, I go through old blogs and start to assemble them in some sort of order..... Basically an Essex order, though Deorham of course is in Wiltshire.

Battles come to mind Deorham in Wiltshire, and Bryhtnoth in Maldon, but I realise I want to bring together the Essex churches as well.  So the medieval Mundon Church, and then there is  the Saxon church of Greenstead not forgetting Great Canfield Church with its Norse influence.

Greensted Church

Great Canfield Church

The Battle of Maldon

The Battle of  Deorham

Mundon Church

Prittlewell Burial/Greensted

St.Botulph's Church - puddingstone

Broomfield Saxon burial at the church as well, here I have collected a lot of notes but not the picture of the 'pyramidal stud' mentioned as being housed at the British Museum,  if I had the time I would see patterns emerging from these rich burials.  Prittlewell Saxon Burial comes to mind, as does the Street House, Loftus, North Yorks as well.

Broomfield Saxon Burial

There is of course the reuse of Roman tile to be seen in so many Essex churches, the use of the black puddingstone, is that a prehistoric trait? and of course talking about prehistory what of the Alphamstone church stones buried in the fabric of the wall and scattered around the graveyard, are there similar patterns to be found at the Alton Prior church in Wiltshire?

The Arts of Early England 1915

Why did the Anglo Saxon not become more British?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fairy tales

“The industrial landscape of the Black Country was on Tolkien's horizon growing up – like a demon, encroaching on the green idyll he lived in,”

There is a new exhibition on the scene about Tolkien and the Midlands which some would say inspired Tolkien to write Lord of the Rings, the inspiration lying in the Satanic mills of the North, the heavily industrialised conglomerate towns of the Midlands, all filled him with such hate that in his imagination Mordor was a representation of the Black Country.

Well I lived my first 15 years on this earth in the Black Country, and can understand my need to escape such a place but was it that bad?  First of all I tried to remember the fiery furnaces but none came to mind, only the blacksmith's fire at the dairy where he shod the great cob horses that pulled the milk floats, and I would ride my pony into Wolverhampton to have her shod.  Then there was the vast empty spaces of the factory that my grandpa managed.  The oily black surface of the walls and floors, driving down lanes to different work shops, for the factories in those days were vast.  The great car factories of Coventry come to mind, all now gone, and Villiers which made motorbike engines, where my grandfather worked has disappeared from view. When the hundreds of factory workers came out through the gate, walking or riding bikes it was as if a Lowry painting had come to life.

What is true is that all the towns were joined by long ribbons of housing estates, Bilston, Darlaston, Wednesbury, Walsall, Wolverhampton and of course Birmingham, there was no where to rest the eyes on a green field, now I expect it is different, a tidying up must have occurred. 

I have loved the stories of Tolkien, the great tree ents, the hobbits, and the trolls and when I had read the three books in the 1960s, the films I later watched translated them into a more accurate form.  What I would say is, that imagination can run rife, but Tolkien built his stories up over a period of time and I am not sure that the Black Country was the template for Mordor.

When I thought about the stories, I could not remember a 'wicked stepmother/queen', in Lord of the Rings and it set me thinking.  C.S. Lewis had the terrible Ice Queen in the Land of Narnia,  Hans Christian Andersen had the bad Snow Queen, a story that I had loved as a child but Tolkien kept his main female characters good and life affirming.

The Snow Queen with Kai

This thread of thought, and I did not sleep well last night, bought to mind my three stepmothers, and the middle one who was so remote that I can hardly remember her at all. In my child's mind, she seemed to have stayed upstairs in her bedroom.  Barbara was a classic beauty, copper-red hair, green eyes an alabaster skin sprinkled with freckles, she was not cruel just not there and rather cold. She was the mother of my half brother Peter, and the upset between my grandfather and my father.  I came across a photo of her on the web a few months ago, she had become a councillor in Wolverhampton, though old in the photo she still had traces of her old self.  In the photo below this must have been the time Peter came into my life, and in my imagination he was Kai of Andersen's Snow Queen and I was his  friend called Gerda who had to protect him.  I suspect I thought Barbara was the Snow Queen, of course she wasn't, just an ordinary girl in a situation that was difficult, her parent's home granted me at the time a safe and secure place to visit and I would go cycling round the park behind their home all on my own on a tricycle which seems ridiculous now.

To return to Tolkien... the Guardian covers the subject more thoroughly, and like me has its doubts as to the Black Country being the inspiration for Mordor, as Stuart Jeffries  so rightly says the Midlands was the power house of England, people were proud of their work, it may have been dirty but it was bustling with energy and life.

Writing this shows that sometimes we wind our lives round stories and fairy tales, they may never reach the conclusive happy ending of these tales but our lives fall into  patterns we can understand.......

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Taking the Plunge

Well as I haven't written for a few days, my fingers itch, but my heart is still beating at a faster rate than it should. So, we have decided to go for the farmhouse in Newton-on-Rawcliffe, estate agents are doing their business, the 'stuff' in the studio has been put on line for the various bodies interested in Japanese conservation tools and people are already getting in touch.  Scary, scary is my reaction, when this house is sold, the move will be fairly easy, as all the furniture can be moved instantly into the farmhouse, and we can live in the cottage whilst work is done.
Why are we moving to Yorkshire instead of Cornwall.  I think the answer is that we are used to the countryside there and are at home, Cornwall is still a bit strange.  I for one would answer rabbit pie at the Blacksmith's Arm in Lastingham, or maybe Rosedale Abbey, it is the peaceful nature of the villages contrasted against the rugged moors and the black grouse that pop their heads up over the heather as we drive past that spring to mind.  
Perhaps also it is the fly agaric mushrooms that greeted us last time in all their flamboyant colour, fairy toadstools waiting for who knows what down at the beck, a place that has always greeted us with such warmth and that hidden genii loci which we call spirit of place or to quote Alexander Pope when designing a garden.....

Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th' ambitious hill the heav'ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,

So fingers crossed for the next few weeks, it may be will happen or not.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Yorkshire is a joyous place to discover and though I have not written about the cottage at the above village, LS is still interested.  He has entered into correspondence with Truda and her partner who own the house.  LS is very, very careful, he must know every detail, so to date it has been about the old chimney in the kitchen, which has no kitchen furniture in it by the way but looks like two rooms made into one, with a pantry and another Victoria extension which I suppose you could call an utility room.  To return to the chimney which is reputed to be 300 years old but is behind a wall it has had a double skinned liner inserted for a boiler or wood burning stove, LS wants to open the chimney fireplace but I'm not sure that this is a good idea better to have the stove free standing. 
So yesterday he was worrying about isolation out in the country, what if the car does not work, is there a bus?  Taxi said I, but Truda mentioned that we could walk down the valley track (three miles) to the North York Moors Railway  line at Levisham, don't think there is even a road to it.  Lots of 'well I'm not carrying the shopping back up that hill', had me giggling.  But on further research would you believe it apparently Levisham Station has an artist in residence, who paints down in this rather beautiful valley.  The train runs from Whitby to Pickering and is rather expensive, I have only been on it once with the children but it a beautiful scenic ride.  There is another method of transport in the summer as well which is the moor bus for walkers which you can catch as it goes through the village.

@ Creative Commons - Levisham Station

Friday, September 19, 2014


Well the excitement is over, Scotland still stays within the union, but somehow I think the real adventure would have been an independent Scotland but it is not to be.  I'm all for devolution and that is all I will say on the subject, because I got myself into trouble yesterday over Cornwall.
We had a terrible storms last night down here in the South, lightening lit up the window, thunder roared overhead, I am not sure what it presaged but it was in the South not the North! So I turn to William Morris for reflection, 'The Dream of John Ball', Morris is an exhausting writer, he fills the pages of his books with dreams of a better, medieval way of life, a romantic socialist coupled with a creative hand so I pick the first verses of The March of the Workers to quote which seems so apt......

What is this, the sound and rumour? What is this that all men hear,
Like the wind in hollow valleys when the storm is drawing near,
Like the rolling on of ocean in the eventide of fear?
                           Tis the people marching on.

Whither go they, and whence come they? What are these of whom ye tell?
In what country are they dwelling 'twixt the gates of heaven and hell?
Are they mine or thine for money? Will they serve a master well?
Still the rumour's marching on.

Hark the rolling of the thunder!
Lo the sun! and lo thereunder
Riseth wrath, and hope, and wonder,
And the host comes marching on.

There is change in the air not just for Scotland but for England as well, and a partial reform of our antiquated Houses of Parliament and forms of government is long overdue.  But to return to Morris and his trip to Iceland when he bought back a little Icelandic pony for his children.I see a favourite poem amongst his writings, just love its bleakness, so the first verse, as the robin sings so sweetly outside and I must go and make coffee for LS who is messing around with the new front door installed yesterday by Lester who played Radio 1 continuously all day yesterday!......

Iceland First Seen

Lo from our loitering ship 

a new land at last to be seen; 
Toothed rocks down the side of the firth 
on the east guard a weary wide lea, 
And black slope the hill-sides above, 
striped adown with their desolate green: 
And a peak rises up on the west 
from the meeting of cloud and of sea, 
Foursquare from base unto point 
like the building of Gods that have been, 
The last of that waste of the mountains 
all cloud-wreathed and snow-flecked and grey, 
And bright with the dawn that began 
just now at the ending of day

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mices - Robert (Mouseman) Thompson

On the chair arm you will note a little mouse, now this is the trademark of a woodworking company in Kilburn, North Yorkshire founded by Robert Thompson (1856 to 1955), and in the 1930s was asked by a vicar to carve the cornice of a screen in the church, which he did, but when it came to payment the vicar said that the church was  poor as church mice.  So henceforth Thompson always carved a little mouse on his furniture and so his company grew.  Also it will be noted that he never carved the front legs of the mice because they were likely to be knocked off.  
He worked in beautiful seasoned English oak, and his work is very collectible, softly lustred and golden, but having said that it is also very expensive.

We saw the bench on the photo at the top of this view, 5 minutes from the cottage we looked at and the view it looked at over was the valley and of course the moors...

A collection  of his saleable work 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bits and pieces

Unpacking; Clothes are so easy, it is the seed pods, that are deep in my jean pocket that need digging out, the memory of that walk following the mushrooms along the beck still lingers. LS picked up fir cones as well, to go back into the bowls of dried flowers I keep.  Then there is the bag of heather, purple flowered that I cut from  the moor, now residing in the fireplace.
Also there is my handbag, large and with plenty of pockets, in here resides the 'important things', such as cheque book (will we ever see the back of them) never go out into the wilds of this country without a cheque book, you will suddenly find that the hotel or inn you are staying in, only takes cheques. There are still seeds in my bag as well, perennial sweet pea pods which I gathered from a pub garden.  Then you will always find something to nibble, a packaged biscuit maybe, LS was so pleased to find a packet of peanuts the other day.  This need for food at regular intervals has been with me throughout life, like my son I carry glucose sweets but do not have diabetes as he does. 
The first time this ability to faint happened if I wasn't fed every so often manifested itself at the convent I was boarded at, early morning chapel was a killer, and I got special dispensation to have a couple of biscuits and a cup of tea before attending the service.
Then there are the  half a dozen archaeological books/pamphlets that the 'book' man at the charity shops my daughter works, or even runs, has set aside for me so I am duty bound to buy them, I buy three little painted parrot coasters as well.  Darron my son-in-law is back home, feeling better but sounded a bit husky on the phone, the hospital cannot find the clot but think there is something according to all his tests and so his illness goes on.  The prodigal grandson, Tom, has at last phoned Todmorden, someone stole his phone is his story, my daughter sounded sceptical about this.  He has been working in London all through the university holidays, so seemingly has fled the nest for the time being.

There is one more thing I would like to record, and that is a potter who was exhibiting at the Museum,  John Egerton works in Sandsend and makes the most beautifully decorated pots in smudgy greens and blues, unfortunately the price ranges around £300, so slightly out of my reach!

John Egerton

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pirates in Whitby

It was Pirate's Day in Whitby, so rather unexpected when we emerged from the wholefood shop to see these two women with their swashbuckling escorts in front strolling down the alleyway,
What the pirate was doing with the typewriter heaven knows.

Newton-on-Rawcliffe's ducks

George Weatherill - Turner of the North

George Weatherill's Whitby and above Whitby Abbey

On Saturday we went to Pannett Gallery/museum to look at the two galleries which are free.  George Weatherill is called the 'Turner of the North' and you can see why, he at one time worked or was taught by Turner and you can see it in his misty watercolours of Whitby.  The busyness of the town is caught in the above painting, beautiful sailing ships moored by the bustling quayside and the Abbey above and it is little changed today.  His children painted as well, a streak of genius that must have run in the family, Mary Weatherill, his daughter went on to fame as well.
It is said of George, that he only painted within 20 miles of Whitby and wandering round the gallery you can see his love of the sea.

Mary Weatherill travelled more widely than her father but there is still that unmistakable air of Turner about her works as in this painting of The Grand Canal, Venice

The Grand Canal, Venice - Mary Weatherill

The Wreck - Mary Weatherill

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Penultimate day; we wandered round Whitby yesterday along with a lot of other people, and their dogs of course, Whitby is renowned for its dogs, (hear my son-in-law comments on the state of the place!) it truly gets packed, this is the Southend of the North, LS's parents used to come years ago on the coach and stay at the large Royal Hotel on the West Cliff.  Whitby has given itself to tourism like a good time prostitute, not quite what I meant to say but its garishness is a tonic for the soul.  Fish and chip eating people everywhere, goth shops, beautiful jet jewellry, fortune reading and perhaps LS's favourite haunt the fish shops, where you can buy three oysters at a pound each.  
The young gulls are fully fledged now and wander in their rather lovely grey plumage on the quay with that rather vacant blue-eyed look of the bird. 
Below is the rather ramshackle 'Bobbins' shop, which as you can see was once an old chapel the shop sells rather expensive crafted wools and hand knitted jumpers, especially the fisherman one. Here amongst the cheap goods are old wooden bobbins and toys.
Car parking is terrible, we pay £4.50 a day in the little car park in Silver Street, we went and saw Tom at the Reading Room Gallery and had a long chat about the family, he made us a fair offer on a space in his little underground car park for four months but we did not take it up.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

House hunting

Newton-on-Rawcliffe; Another pretty quiet village, this time a 17th century long house, which you can see in the photo.  Slightly ramshackle inside, needs work, but plenty of space, small sun trapped garden at the back.  There is a negative/positive side to this house, the present owners are converting a large barn behind into a house, very friendly we spent almost two hours with them and learnt everything about the village, and then surveyed their acres, can always negotiate land if we want for grazing but the fox eats all the hens round here...
We walked up the village, 3 minutes probably onto a track way that goes over the moors, the North Yorkshire Railway runs below in the valley, and over the hill is the Hole of Horcum; the views are spectacular but then this is my favourite road over the moors from the Wheeldale Beck Roman Road, enough said.

View to the moors

the little brown beck

 heather still flowering;

plenty of wool colours there

Very large fly agaric, and unbitten.

these fly agarics were coming up everywhere on the edge of the larch wood

The dark miserable larch woods
Village duck pond

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

North Yorks

Yorkshire is a beautiful place, especially when the weather is good, and as we travelled to Kirbymoorside and Thornton Le Dale, the impression you get  is a substantially wealthy county.
But house hunting is not for the faint hearted, lots of pretty cottages facing onto village streets but then where is the garage?
So yesterday we visited Kirbymoorside, a typical country town, small and quiet, we had seen a town house with five bedrooms here, but the photos had not shown that the 1600 years century house was attached to a fairly substantial Georgian hotel with a big terraced garden which though separated by a large wall would still have been noisy in the evening.  The house even had a wobbly chimney (which was cute but not practical), the owner came back from shopping whilst we were contemplating the house and seemed nice enough, extolling the virtues of a 'proper' town, but nowhere to walk the dog (I have not got yet) easily.
Thornton Le Dale is very pretty with the river running through the town, but is ultimately a tourist destination, and its shops reflect this, lovely cup of tea though! Ducks galore, and the car park is a great walled area, which must have been in its time the walled garden of the 'big' house, now a care home.

This is Thornton Le Dale, it even has a chocolate shop in it.......

Kirkbymoorside below is a substantial small town....

The house with a crooked chimney, and has a plaque on the wall, Lord Villiers I think once lived here, funnily enough there is a crooked chimney stack in the top bedroom of this cottage, as it tapers up into the roof.
The truth of the matter is that estate agents photos of houses are always much better on paper, they must be air brushed, but I notice from the photos that it has an aga in the kitchen, something my daughter has now got much to her delight, and now keeps her kitchen warm.  My poor son-in-law is still fretting in hospital, a clot has been diagnosed but not in the lungs, which I suppose is one good thing, 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Arriving in Yorkshire, grey and rainy, the first photo is of Mytholmroyd, a completely unpronounceable name, known by me for the fact that Sylvia Plath is buried near at Heptonstall, well their festival was not going too well, just a sea of umbrellas.   Then through Hebden Bridge, a bit like Glastonbury very hippy and incense shops, and finally we arrived at Edible Todmorden where my family live.  The news was not particularly good, my son-in-law had just been taken to the hospital  the day before with either a suspected heart attack or an embolism, but seems to be coping well.
On sunday we wandered round the town with the children through a lively market and down by the river.  My daughter runs two charity shops for discarded greyhounds, the shelter has about 100 of them but the person who runs the charity, is thinking of moving to Doncaster create a bigger shelter, with other animals, including shire horses and a restaurant. 
LS is busily working in the bathroom, so I feel rather redundant, we should be going out later today to look at houses, this is our plan to eventually arrive at a place to settle, if it will work out I don't know........

Hebden Bridge


This is Todmorden's Council
building, to the left is the River Calder, I think, but the centre of the building defines the boundary line between Lancashire and Yorkshire

Just happen to like the way the geese took off.