Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Remember Hannah Hauxwell?

It seems such a long time ago that her life was followed by a television crew, sadly today she has died at the age of 9l years.
The farm was without electricity or water but she struggled on alone looking after her cattle in the bleakest of winters till at the age of 66 she moved down into a cottage in the village.

John Gray has written a good overview of her life..

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

30th Janaury

Came across this the other day on 'Women artists in History'
Maria Sibylla Merian,  17th century

Listening to the news this morning and the fact that women working in the BBC are to bring a law suit against that venerable body because they receive lesser pay than their male colleagues and a little thrill of optimism sailed through my soul, maybe the world is changing ;)  The book by the way is expensive but you can catch a glimpse of it in the videos here.

The morning is just appearing dull and grey but breakfast was warmed up by these daffodils.  They came into the house two days ago as tight buds and now have unfolded themselves into bright stars of yellow.

Well I made a start on the dollshouse, dry running the fitting of it, and made myself ill by the way, it is very heavy and large, and today I shall finish glueing the inner floors and outer walls.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sunday 28th - play

Play;  Subject matter to be discussed today Sunday, which is after all the day of rest!  It start a few days ago discussing Matilda's (16 year old grand daughter) art work with my daughter, she said that Matilda had two projects, one was the making of a patchwork skirt and top and the other was the production of a Disney type house, and she had already found half a house to start the project.
Well I looked and tidied the Georgian dolls house and then thought why don't I start a new house, and looking around eventually decided on a kit call April Cottage.  Now this is going to take some time, years in fact but the idea of a project appealed.
Thinking who would live in my cottage and I decided Miss Marple, plus a maid.  Now Aril will know this, the kit dollshouse cottages on offer are hardly Allingham type, well unless I want to spend big bucks, but those moss roofed cottages with front gardens overflowing are a particular dream of mine.  No Miss Marple lives down South(St.Mary's Mead) with the likes of Midsomer Murder folk who also always live in pretty gentrified cottages and get horribly murdered -so don't go and live in one.

This is the time to wonder about space and building the kit, painting it and then furnishing it, so was my workroom big enough?  Just about, I can construct on my desk and use the table that the old house is on.  On my desk you see patchworks which will influence the colours.....

I have soft greens and blues in my head, and cream for the cottage but what would Miss Marple have lived with I wonder, and where did she get the money to live in comfortable retirement??

Friday, January 26, 2018

26th January - Imbolc is on the way

On my you tube there are brief snatched amateurish videos which I have taken with my camera.  The above one reflects the sound of water at the beck.  Looking through them, I once captured the cuckoo at an Essex wood, though I have also heard them at the above moor.  There are bluebells in this Essex wood, that beautiful ethereal blue that only this flower can give as spring makes it way through the annual cycle.

Can you not feel that spring is just around the corner? It is getting lighter in the mornings and evenings, the birds are beginning to sing early on and the jackdaws are beginning to explore the holes in the old tree in the church yard.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

24th January - storms

Well Storm Georgina went through last night and in fact is still with us.  As I sat with Lucy in the night listening to the wind whistle down the chimney I thought the storm should be called Cathy after Kate Bush's song.  My daughter lives on that side of Yorkshire where the moors would have been Heathcliffs and Catherine's playground.  Those windswept hawthorns always tell of wild weather like we had last night.

This is what greeted me this morning as I pulled open the curtains, dark, windy and raindrops beating against the panes

There is a plant that makes it appearance each year, it shows itself in several gardens, mostly under hedges and must be seeded by the birds and rather wild, or an escapee.  firstly it is a helleborus so rather striking, I think it is the green helleborus which is very poisonous.  According to Marjorie Blamey, 'damp calcareous woodland and scrub, growing in deep leaf mould' but useful to early bees.

And now to the news... Tom Degan (to be found on my blogs) has a virulent tongue against Trump and calls his country 'Idiotic America', though probably in worse vein than I have put it.  Well I am going to call Britain, 'The Land of the Absurd'.  Politically we are stuffed with a witless bunch of MPs who cannot run this country.  Star of the show is of course another blonde bombshell who is running the foreign office - yikes.  After chatting up the French minister Macron, on the benefits of building a bridge across the Channel, all Johnson wants is something named after himself, the vain popinjay;) his new airport on Romsey Marshes failed to get off the ground as did the tree and flower lined bridge which he lent his name to as well.  Luckily he was put down when he strayed into NHS policies, not only by the prime minister but also the chancellor for speaking out of turn.
Than we have the UKIP ex-leader, who unfortunately has been playing around romantically with a racist female, which hit the headlines.  Disowned by his party and why doesn't that party just fade into the background by the way, he is trying to stage a comeback, though most of its spokesmen/women have walked out anyway.
I must admit Kate Bush's video of Wuthering Heights leaves me feeling rather shaken by her energy and weird voice but somehow howling winds and news leaves me to include her video...

Monday, January 22, 2018

22nd January - rambling

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, 
tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely,
with too high a spirit to be cumbered 
with your old nonsense.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I came across this today and thought it spelled out a way to approach life;) Well it is cold, the snow fell from 1.30 pm yesterday afternoon, but was not heavy as to lie thickly on the ground, though Paul took Karen and Lillie back an hour earlier to catch their train, along with Teddy the whippet.
Poor Teddy got bullied by Lucy and he spent most of the time creeping round her and staying upstairs.  I had bought fillet steak for the meat eaters, then had to tell them that I had just signed the Avaaz pledge to not eat meat, or at least to eat less.   Usual idiotic banter from those with a guilty thought that maybe it is not just right to send all these animals to the slaughter.  I have lived with this conundrum a good deal of my life, feeding people meat whilst not eating much myself.  Will the new vegans triumph? doubt it, and I myself eat eggs and cheese and put milk in my coffee.  Sometimes I think we are made to go round with a great burden of guilt for every action we take, but do those vegan eaters have a feeling of superiority, does that carry them along in their actions?
Enough, a friend brought along a catalogue of Paul Nash's paintings they had seen at an exhibition 'up North' and I wandered with rapt attention amongst his megaliths and landscapes of the moon.  There are essays in front of the paintings but somehow I am not interested in where he painted only on what he painted.
I have a problem with art, Ravilious and Nash are favourites, but to my eye the paintings are naively done yet that is not so, the subject matter catches the imagination and is this not the whole point?
Perhaps in seeing different work we delve into the mind of the artist we see the images that cloud our own minds.  Here I see the stone avenue at Avebury in the background is that flat topped Silbury and Glastonbury on the left with the maze path.

Landscape of the megaliths

Landscape of the Vernal Equinox

When ever I see those funny mushroom shaped clumps of trees, these are the Wittenham clumps in Oxfordshire, I am reminded that their neat undersides are nibbled by countless generations of sheep than cattle to produce that evenness,  a delicious idea of trees dancing on the hills, did Tolkien ever admire Nash I wonder!

November moon
'November moon' was seen on an evening but I always see the moon on those crisp cold mornings against the blue of the sky, though now at the moment it is but a thin sliver of cheese.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Saturday 20th January

I remember in the 1950s our first television coming into the house, the black and white images as my brother and I sat with our noses practically to the screen.  Now we have big screens that lurk with black hostility in the corner of the room. 
So the new tv came yesterday, a 'Smart' Panasonic, and the chatty installer walked us through its delights.  Now in this part of the world, ie, the countryside reception for tvs and mobile phones is dire so this was one of the reasons we were changing.  There are two (amongst many) functions 'freeview' and 'freesat' on the new tv, we have an inherited satellite dish which was never used which will help with the reception.  But  Rupert Murdoch and Sky are not allowed in this house, Amazon is also going the same way.
He was a lovely chap and knew his job backwards as he thumbed through the set-up procedure, pleased to know that we are on a small provider called 'Beeline' for our internet.  Apparently, and he did not have a good word for BT, they are much faster, especially as Beeline have just upgraded their speed (without even telling us).  
So what is wrong with British Telecom, well 70 year old copper piping is wearing out, all that crackling on the line is water in the pipes.  He says the set-up speed can last up to 50 minutes and then the whole thing crashes and you have to start again.  All to do with not investing in fibre optics over the last 20 years, which is pretty expensive now.
We are happy with Beeline, they send friendly little messages out during the month, and there is a lot to be said for the local tv people as well, you get to talk face to face with them.  The larger companies need you to run round them before you can get a proper answer.
What I have against television, it can take up your time with junk, but hopefully once we have invested with Netflix we should be able to watch what we want in the evening. Anyway big screen (well 49 inches diagonally) means we can watch in full colour horror;)
The snow still lies on the ground and my daughter is coming for the weekend, I hope it does not snow anymore, I have to take kettles of hot water to release the doors on the chicken coop.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thursday 18th January - We live in interesting times

There is a beautiful peachy sky above the snow which had fallen last night but I suspect the snow will melt away.  Lucy rushing around playfully in it tumbled over and her large hairy paws have scuffed the back lawn untidily.

Napoleon and Marengo crossing the Alps, much better with flesh on...

Well what to write about, could it be 'Marengo' Napoleon's horse, now of course a skeleton, to be swapped for the Bayeaux Tapestry coming to visit England soon, better be careful of foreigners bearing gifts ;) we are already in a wretched mess!
The news has slowly unrolled, vast acres of papers will analyze the fall of Carillion and now we have to find 199 billion pounds for those PFI; come on just lets raid a few of those CEOs pockets, and what about Osbourne and Cameron making millions on hedge funds all these rumours float through the air, true or not I do not know, but I am beginning to think there is a large black hole which we are slowly edging towards - the end of capitalism? fools can wish.
The other thing that struck me yesterday was Anna Alma Tadema paintings so detailed and yet so reminiscent of a rich life style....

'One of the highly detailed, miniaturist watercolour interiors painted by Alma-Tadema's artistically gifted daughter, Anna, shows the drawing room at 1a Holland Park. She was influenced in technique and subject matter by her father and his second wife Laura, her stepmother, but her interior views are her most individualistic works. This example was painted in April 1887 at the house owned by the Coronio family, adjoining Alecco Ionides' much admired Morris-decorated 'Aesthetic' dwelling. Rossetti's red and black chalk study of Marianna visible on the left of the painting, was owned by Aglaia Coronio; it is now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The drawing room painting was shown at Grosvenor Gallery in 1887, along with Laura Alma-Tadema's 'Always Welcome'.

Good news is that Rachel is back blogging, knew she would of course and even she is a bit cross with this government, tides are turning, tides are turning.......

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday 15th January

Zen... does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes"
Alan Watts, teacher and writer.

This made me laugh yesterday in The Times, an old voice from the 60s making a statement.  Where did all that 'flower power' go?
Pat has brought up the subject of ironing, well I do very little, pressing knitted garments or patchworks is about the only time the ironing board comes out.
But it did bring up the subject of housework, which also I do not do much of.  Paul is the great cleaner, he enjoys it, tidying cupboards into another arrangment which will always make me cross as I go on another hunt for something.
Probably you would say housework or cleaning is a very Buddhist occupation, he loves the meditative sweeping of the paths outside when the leaves have fallen.  In many ways our natures clash, but love binds us, and whereas I love colour and flowers he likes the darker muted colours of the Japanese palette.  
He has never owned a dog till Lucy came into the house but he worships her, not her bad habits, especially her untidiness, sprinkling the newspapers around before we have read them, pulling things off the table, one could make a long list of her 'naughtiness' which has developed as she has got more assured with us.  Like Paul she loves this house, will always hurry back to the gate from a walk demanding to carry her lead for the last few yards before she wees on his lawn much to his disgust;)  This carrying of the lead is also done in pubs and restaurants as she shows off to the company as we are leaving that she is an independent old girl.
This train of thought was struck by an article in the Guardian last week, a Buddhist monk Shoukei Matsumoto explains here, I call it the arrival of a non-thinking non-egotistical mind which is arrived at by the repetitive physical action of the body. Different cultures, different minds.
The day now that it has dawned is miserably grey, more rain, wind and probably snow is foretold for this week.  But the milkman has left on the doorstep another bag of wild bird food, and the little robin's joyous greeting through the blackness of the kitchen windows earlier tells me that buying food for all of them is money well spent.

Edit after Paul read it! an email he sent, forgotten the tale of Trigger's old broom!....

This is my Zen hero Jittoku (Chinese: Shide), a kitchen helper at a Chinese mountain temple. He was befriended by Kanzan (Chinese: Hanshan) who was an eccentric poet of the Tang dynasty (618-906). They both lived on leftover food from the temple's kitchen. Kanzan is usually depicted holding a scroll, perhaps of his poetry or of Taoist wisdom; Jittoku holds a kitchen broom. Both have slightly unkempt appearances and carefree, laughing expressions.
Zen, a meditative school of Buddhism, originated in India and was transmitted to Japan through China in the late twelfth century. Kanzan and Jittoku were sometimes regarded among Zen practitioners as incarnations of the bodhisattvas Manjushri (Japanese: Monju) and Samantabadhra (Japanese: Fugen).

What they both portray is the belief that enlightenment can be achieved whether one is a scholar or ‘just’ a sweeper. Trigger’s Old Broomsays it all. Rolling on the floor laughing

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday 14th January

Well I have finished the last of Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins book - The Smile of a Ghost.  Rickman has a tendency to hold your attention till the last word is read, though I must admit the ending was slightly garbled.  In all his books he mentions the print in Merrily's hall as she hangs up her coat, the one below of course.  So slightly intrigued, after all I once thought the Pre-Raphaelites were fabulous, not so much now though, I looked it up.  So was Rickman saying something symbolic about the 'obstinately shut mind'.  His stories always on the edge of believable in ghosts and dark matters, and then he draws back and we have a human in the frame capable of dastardly deeds.

The Light of the World (1851–1853) is an allegorical painting by the English Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt (1827–1910) representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me". According to Hunt: "I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject." The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing "the obstinately shut mind".Hunt, 50 years after painting it, felt he had to explain the symbolism.

Actually I like the print, not for its religious connotations, but for that spray of dry wild plants that tries to grow up the door and the trees behind.  For me it is a landscape painting, Jesus in his rich robe accentuating the art work.  The print must have hung in thousands of homes, a religious expression of faith.

Things that maybe believable or not, here I am talking about such things as leylines and ghosts.  Rickman is happy amongst prehistoric barrows, old evil churches with wicked grinning gargoyles (the ability of the church to frighten its parishoners into believing). 

The thing about belief is how far you want to believe.  Take dowsers for instance with a couple of rods, they can dowse for water or in some cases for hidden objects under the soil.  They add stories to their dowsing, a brutal death has happened here, thinking here of King Arthur's hall on Bodmin Moor.  The archaeologists haven't worked out what this square  watery space is surrounded by standing stones but dowsers found some anomalies - who do you believe? and perhaps more important who do you want to believe?


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wednesday 10th January

So it was my birthday yesterday and we went out to lunch at Wombleton and on the way back we stopped off at Kirkdale, St.Gregory's Anglo-Saxon Minster.  It was a dark grey day, misty with a fine fretting rain coming down just right for old churches with their graveyards.  I have found no explanation for the megalithic stone just near the tower of the church, only that it might be a memorial stone from Saxon times given the message on the sun dial.

"Orm the son of Gamel acquired St. Gregory's church when it was completely ruined"

Landscape wise the church is hidden in a valley with a beck running by, the heavy presence of trees gives it a sombre dark feeling.  Found out by doodling on the internet that Philip Rahtz, archaeologist was buried here in 2011 and that he had excavated here in1996, but nothing to show on the net.
Lucy followed us around rather reluctantly, you will see her disappearing round the side of the church, so here is Lucy where she likes to be, comfortable on the sofa and not on adventures round churches.  Rather scruffy and in need of a haircut.

Churches have an enormous pull on my psyche, it is as if their history is  written in their stones, the building and rebuilding, the lives of all the farmers who have come to bury their families, written out in the landscape.  Perhaps Rahtz who had moved out to this part of  Yorkshire felt the same.  The darkness of the great firs and yews add a distinct 'feel' to the place, nature has taken over and a Phil Rickman story would not come amiss....

we did not cross but turned back.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Seed buying

The first are chosen, old favourites, such as the heliotrope below.... Sweet smelling, butterflies and bees love it but will it grow up here in Yorkshire?

Heliotrope - heliotropium Peruviana

"A sweet-scented plant which is called Heliotrope because it follows the course of the sun. After opening it gradually turns from the east to the west and during the night turns again to the east to meet the rising sun. The Ancients recognized this characteristic of the plant and applied it to mythology."

The next, is mignonette, not chosen for its beauty but scent, I often get these two mixed up but scent is a theme this year.  I mean to underplant the roses with lavender which will be quite a big job.

Mignonette - Resda Odorata
There are three packets of nasturtiums, I love their bright colour all around the garden, so easy to grow just slip the seed into the soil and their bright oranges, yellows and dark red dance at your feet.
There is sweet rocket, Dame's violet or hesperis matronlis. considered a weed species in some American states, but again a sweet smell, though it is a biennal it can live as a short-lived perennial.

Lastly there is Clary Sage, just for the colour of their bracts, and apparently if you send off for its essential oils, you will save your teeth and hair plus a number of other things it is good for - never knew that!

Clary Sage


What I have fallen in love with this morning is a fish painting by Jackie Morris, though the price is a bit steep!  
We have a temple screen painting in the sitting room of carp. Fish are lucky in Japan, and here the screen would have been in front of the door of the temple keeping evil spirits at bay.  at least that is what I like to think Paul may tell me different.

Here is a fishy painting repaired everything in life has a story.....

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saturday 6th January - Time to take down the decorations!

Yesterday I made bread and then decided to look up the millers from where I got the flour from, well it is a farm in Spaunton not too far from Appleton- le-Moor.  Just down the road in fact, so locally grown. I had been reading about 'fat', what is good for you and what is bad. so 100% olive oil is good for you but anything with hydrogenated fat is bad.  Probably most biscuits and bought cakes.  My label chasing also excludes anything with palm oil, but need new glasses to read the small print!
Next week I have a birthday, my presents (ordered by me) are fountain pen and ink, and a book by Madeline Bunting about the Hebrides.  Not sure I look forward to birthdays, they come and go is the easy answer. A meal out is on the cards, strangely some of the restaurants round here have closed for the winter, they mostly  rely on the tourist trade, and I suppose paying a chef in the middle of winter comes at a high price, so it will probably be The Plough at Wombleton again.
The news this morning is getting very green centred, no to diesel cars, yes to electric (if you can afford them that is).  Then there is those coffee cups, plastic and cardboard which are practically non- recyclable.  Someone said on the radio take your own mug for coffee, which seems like a good idea but I am sure it will take a long time to actually being the thing to do.  But then we embraced car seat belts eventually.
The only fairly respectable ceramic closed cup I could find, the rest are mostly stainless steel

It is good news that China is refusing our rubbish, making us think how to overcome this terrible wastage of plastic rubbish that lasts for ever, and pollutes the sea destroying sea life with such ghastly consequences.  Even better news is that China is calling a halt to the sale of ivory in its domestic market, but note other countries are guilty of the same crime such as the UK, EU and Japan, should take similar actions so that their markets do not provide a cover for illicit ivory and perpetuate demand for ivory.

The fire has kept going all night, coal last thing keeps it ticking over and then a couple of logs in the morning, it is getting colder, the weather everywhere has been a roller-coaster, and now I read in an article that the sea bottom is sinking under the weight of all the extra water that is being melted by glaciers melting. ho-hum!  Of course there are beautiful natural photos of the icy conditions in America, which are very worrying and definitely not good for the people experiencing them.

Niagara Falls
I am not going to go on about climate change, each must choose their version of what they believe, and the present incumbent of the White House has little time for either climate change or environmental disasters, but luckily he is only human and the constant attrition that he is getting from all sides may hopefully remove him from office. (and hopefully from our airways).

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Penny Hedges

The Penny Hedge is an old custom in Whitby, whereby on the Day of Ascension a rickety 'hedge' is built into the sand of the East side of Whitby.  It has to withstand three tides from the sea, and is called a horngarth.  The folklore rests on the story in 1159 of three nobles chasing a boar which subsequently gained the protection of a chapel and then died.  The monk in the chapel stopped the hounds going in and for this he was beaten up by the nobles and died, but not before he asked for their release from punishment from the Abbot.  This was granted and their task and the task of their future families was to build this hedge.
The whole story is told in this article from Whitby Museum and there are many interpretations as to what the hedge was for.
And whilst in the Whitby Museum have you ever met the Hand of Glory.  A grisly keepsake used by burglars to gain entrance to your house and then keep you motionless as they burgled your house.  I won't even show you a photo of the horrible thing ;)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Summoned by Bells

 Well Jo and David rang the bells at the church last night, and the fireworks went off next door and the New Year arrived.  Guess what it brought to mind John Betjeman, that old soul of poetry so redolent of the England that once existed like a magic fairy land - or did it ;).  That time between the two great wars when the summers were hot and the villages still to see electricity and running water from the tap.   Many years ago a friend gave me 'Summoned by Bells' as a Xmas present and I fell in love with Betjeman that slightly sardonic look at the people around him.  He lived in Calne at one stage with his daughter and her husband, Lycett-Green, (O England of the double-barrelled name and large old houses).  So this morning a poem and a video to delight your palate, rather late for Christmas though......

Diary of a Church Mouse by John Betjeman
Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn's Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle's brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes ... it's rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher's seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear our organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God's own house,
But all the same it's strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don't see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.