Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tuesday 29th January

the plate was given to Linnaeus by Johannes Gessner c.1764

It is Tuesday and Lucy is fussing to get the day going but it is still dark outside.  Saturday I had a delivery of seed potatoes, half a sackful to be precise, and I do not have the space to plant all of them.  So not to be out done by age and lack of soil I have ordered potato sacks to plant them.  Along with tomatoes, courgettes, french and runner beans we should at least sidestep the coming disaster of Brexit!  Okay I am kidding (but taking precautions anyway).

Do I believe in 'project fear' not quite, but when the rats start deserting the ship (Dyson) it is best to be a little prepared.  All I can say of this country is that we are in a terrible mess, rudderless comes to mind. So I shall tend my potatoes.

This morning (very early) I watched Antony Gormley's 'How Art Began.  He becomes fascinated by the depictions of how the hand is drawn on the rock, not exactly drawn but sometimes blown on by charcoal which is chewed, or printed in ochre.  He draws the parallel between the long geological life of the rock and the fraility of  human life.  It was a fascinating journey through the depiction of animals so lovingly portrayed, to the more cruel paintings of animals depicted being killed. When 'man' became more dominant and self-centred, it was interesting to see that this self-centredness has bloomed in the age we are living in at the moment.  Technology gives us cameras and  phones, and we turn them on ourselves and photograph the 'best images'.

I do not understand modern art, came across this today, which made me giggle, and perhaps should not frame the above paragraph, but look at the beginning of this blog at that beautiful print of thistles and touch the mind of Gessner in the 18th century and that is what captures my imagination.

I notice that Cro has called for Teddy bear pictures, and the two sitting on top of the shelves behind me will feature. The whitish one is something I bought at a sale a few years back, I felt like rescuing him, though I do donate to Four Paws for real bears that are so cruelly caged and baited in Eastern Europe.  The other one though must have belonged to my son, so that gives it a good age, passed on to Tom my grandson.  I always have this memory of Tom aged about 5 years old on the platform at Bath Station.  Dragging this bear crossly along the platform because his mother would not carry it for him and had threatened to leave it at the station if he did not carry it. The bear is safely rescued now but still has no name.

Everything in life has a story to tell

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday 27th January

This print hung on our hall wall for years, a reminder that William Randolph Hearst had squirrelled away many of the stones from it.  Today that would not have happened, there are laws to prevent the defacing of ruins and of course graded houses.  Not sure why it came to mind, only that I had been watching the film Bookshop (brilliantly moody on the landscape, also a creepy Bill Nighy) on Netflix, and a law had come into being to be able to compulsorily purchase land or property in 1965, or at least had been upgraded.  This is of course now being used to buy the land and properties that impede the new rail run to the North - HS2.  A distraction of the first order by our government! But that is by the way...

"Bradenstoke is located on a hill on the southern side of Braydon river and to the north of Lyneham airfield, it was an important place in medieval times. The site of the Augustinian priory of Clack founded in 1142 by Walter D'Evereaux. Some of its ruins are still to be seen in the farmstead known as Bradenstoke Abbey, but its great barn and guest house were taken down and carted away, some to St Donat's castle in South Wales, and the Tithe barn to the USA, by William Randolph Hearst where they have recently been re-discovered still in the original shipping crates. The story goes that the barn was dismantled stone by stone and taken to the site of the magnate's castle at San Simeon, California. He lost interest in the barn project and sold the stonework to an hotelier who wanted to use it for wedding receptions. Permission was refused because of earthquake zone restrictions. The residents of Bradenstoke have been trying for a Lottery grant to try and persuade the hotelier to sell them their barn and return it to its rightful setting."

Hearst was rich, flamboyant, and he probably is very like the resident in chief in America, but what has been done is done.  St.Donat's castle is a very beautiful fairytale castle,and the great hall must stay in place, and the stones shipped to America still in their boxes after all this time - a shame, but they have been disturbed and bringing them back to England would hardly be realistic.


But then a softer side is seen when you look at Heart's love affair with Marion Davies, unfortunately he tried to manipulate her life, but then look at the dates and you can understand why.

There is a filter with which we view life, especially past life, she was glamorous, Marion, also clever, not just a film actress, a philanthropist in later life, putting off marriage until Hearst died.
In all the story is very Hollwoodish, a fairytale castle in St.Donat, a pretty actress, and a rich newspaper mogul, and poor old Bradenstoke Abbey ransacked.  But remember the entrepreneurs of Henry 6th's reign as they took over the abbeys he closed down, and which many plundered, not only for their land but for their building materials.

The Bookshop trailer, did not get many good reviews but I enjoyed it ;)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Saturday 26th January

The scraggy time of January, in this first photo you will see a snowdrop patch in this rather large roadside verge.  They come up before all the nettles arrive, they sit under the wild cherry trees.  I watch the fruit ripen in these trees and then in a flash the red cherries disappear, wolfed down by the birds.  I often wonder what this piece of neglected land once held, an old cottage maybe, it is opposite the village green. 

Then we come to our River Seven, not in flood, though the snow melt from Roseland Moor must have come down at some stage.  Sometimes I picture this river with its gentle shallow depth, reaching the 13 foot height in a matter of hours.  Now the banks are lined with willows, grey, dark and leafless, the water rippling over the stones.  Stop to listen, for there is nothing more soothing than the gentle noise of water moving along.  There are snowdrops along the bank, the snowdrop after all is very promiscuous as it wanders over the land.

There is one more photo from the walk, looking up to the farm on the hill, lower down the slope you get a glimpse of a large 'genteel' house, not sure of the date, but slightly Georgian, was it the manor house I wonder.  Anyway the point of this photo was to catch the old tree left in the arable field.  All over England you see these venerable giants given the space to live, when it would be so much easier to fell them.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday 25th January

Turdus Pilaris - Fieldfare @
                                            By Adam Kumiszcza - Own work, CC BY

I saw a flock of these fieldfares yesterday as I took Lucy for her walk.  I keep seeing large what I thought of as thrushes in the church yard, but they are probably fieldfares and obviously feasting on the last of the berries and fallen apples around here.  Though I would like to think that the solitary bird I keep seeing around the garden is the mistle thrush, because we did have one once.  Well this weekend is to be the bird count for the country.   What do we have in the garden, a resident pheasant, several wood pigeons, collared doves, lots of sparrows, than most of the different types of blue tits, the little wren (on the up) and of course blackbirds.  Apparently some blackbirds come from France, migrating back and forth, you can tell by the colour of the beaks..........  Not forgetting the crows and jackdaws.
People moan about January, as if if should be stripped from the calendar, but there is an air of expectancy; it gets lighter, and though the weather is so changeable.  Yesterday hard frozen ground with a smattering of snow, today the weather has warmed up and puddles grace the roads.
John Simpson said on the radio this morning, all you ever hear about is talk of Brexit and backstop, never anything about climate change and the cliff we will be dangling over in 12 years time. And of course in Davos they are still flying around mouthing hot air as usual....

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Thursday 24th January

The following blog I wrote about four years ago, what sparked it? Talk of the heron on the 'tweet' programmes this morning.  I have always loved herons, rigidly still and quiet as they fish by a river or pond, endlessly patient they are the dinosaurs of the bird world.  I remember my son looking out of his bedroom window - "there's a big pigeon in the pond mum" of course it was a heron fishing for the last goldfish!

So why do i bring this blog up, it was Paul yesterday, he needs something to do, he has no time for his old work as a a conservator of old Japanese paintings, it did his knees in but there are still echoes round the house of it.  The spray for water as he applied the papers to the work, the great stack of papers he has amassed still in the study.  He talks of blogging but wordpress now charges, so he says.  So I shall nag for a few days and perhaps find the blogs.

The  painting below is about 6 feet wide, and is not exactly a painting but a screen that would have been in a temple at the front to ward off evil.  It is on the wall in our sitting room and is extraordinarily serene. As you can see it is sprinkled with gold and depicts two carp swimming over the bridge.

"Fishy traditions - Goldfish

"Goldfish was introduced into Japan via China in the sixteenth century where they were popular and kept only by the aristocracy and samurai. The Japanese set up breeding programs and eventually developed their unique strains of goldfish. "

Keeping my mind working, well trying to at least!  Why goldfish, well a couple of years ago, I had a  print that needed framing and so we went to the framers in town.  He offered to do it for nothing if LS would restore for him  a modern Japanese scroll of goldfish.  To be honest I did not like it at the time, yet the goldfish swam with great gusto across the paper and I grew to like it.  Occasionally my job is to take photos of what was happening in the studio, a record to send to the client.
If you look at the number of smaller goldfish you will see that there are nine  all told with the larger fish, a lucky number in China. Giving a present with a depiction of goldfish means that you are wishing the receiver of your gift good luck or prosperity, or even good business.  Also there are eight gold fish and one black, this is to give positive energies and push away negative energies within the houshold
The thing of course about most of Japanese art work is it's symbolic nature, dragons (and the dragon is supposed to have changed from a fish) and carp which are the larger species of goldfish all have their tales to tell.

"The dragon carp symbolizes high ambitions, wealth and success. The Golden Carp is known for its legendary courage to swim against rapid currents and is therefore a symbol of perseverance, achievement and career success. According to some the carp turns into the revered Celestial Dragon when it makes a final leap across the Dragon gate. Keeping this symbol brings literary and scholastic luck to students and excellent career luck to working people."

I love the idea of the Golden Carp leaping across the currents so similar to our own salmon as they come back for breeding, and probably why the Celtic fish would also be revered as they came back to our rivers.  I was forever restocking our pond with goldfish as the local heron would come to feast on these captive creatures.  When we are on our travels I see these great grey birds  in the sky occasionally, their necks hunched as they flap their  wings slowly, they always seem incredibly thin and rather raggedy like old men standing in the water waiting for a hapless fish to swim along.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tuesday 22nd January - time is flying

Well I have nothing to say this morning, only to mention the following poet, someone said something about him on the radio.  I remembered the poems we would have to learn each week as a child, this was probably one of them, and what painting would I put with it it? Carl Larsson came to mind, always wanted to miniaturise one of his paintings, all charming but so kitsch though......

Off to Castle Howard Nursery centre, to ponder whether we need a covered seat in the garden, the trouble is....................... where to put it, every time I approach the front garden to dig a hole or suggest something Paul pipes up the pipes, the pipes, I imagine them all wriggling along under the lawn daring me to dig!

The Listeners

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,   
   Knocking on the moonlit door; 
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses   
   Of the forest’s ferny floor: 
And a bird flew up out of the turret,   
   Above the Traveller’s head: 
And he smote upon the door again a second time;   
   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said. 
But no one descended to the Traveller;   
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill 
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,   
   Where he stood perplexed and still. 
But only a host of phantom listeners   
   That dwelt in the lone house then 
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight   
   To that voice from the world of men: 
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,   
   That goes down to the empty hall, 
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken   
   By the lonely Traveller’s call. 
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,   
   Their stillness answering his cry, 
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,   
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky; 
For he suddenly smote on the door, even   
   Louder, and lifted his head:— 
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,   
   That I kept my word,’ he said. 
Never the least stir made the listeners,   
   Though every word he spake 
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house   
   From the one man left awake: 
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,   
   And the sound of iron on stone, 
And how the silence surged softly backward,   
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.

And something to write about tomorrow  My daughter's town

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday 20th January

Sunday, still misty and grey but not cold.  Yesterday I ordered four books from the secondhand dealers that Amazon hosts.  Amazon always tries to get you onto 'Prime' and you need devious skills to avoid it.  Two were fiction books, Phil Rickman and Peter May 'Shetland' series.  The other two was Fiona MacCarthy's Eric Gill and an 'Arts and Craft' book.
Shetland and the Orkney Islands are becoming the 'in' places to visit.  Their lonely windswept beauty to be sold to tourists. Sad. But I suppose it means more money for the islanders, many of whom are incomers, trying to avoid a crowded life;)  If you ever want Shetland wool from these islands then go to Jamieson and Smith, as a knitter I have used their wool, the shades for fair isles are extensive and they have fabulous 2 ply wool for knitting shawls that should pass through a wedding ring.
I have probably read the Gill book through the library but I would like a copy, though a man successful in his world, I think he was a pervert if I remember rightly.  I loved the area in which he lived Llanthony, the old priory ruins and the slightly deserted grey miserable air of the countryside around, the Ewyas Valley, Landscapism blog on my right is doing a dissertation on the area around Llanthony, the granges and farms that still echo in the landscape.

As it is Sunday, something funny to end with.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday and snow

Before it all melts away, the drip from the trees this morning said that the snow would not stay long.

 a light feathering of snow
Nigel's sheep this morning

Bamboo and southernwood gently collapse

Friday, January 18, 2019

Mary Oliver

Every spring
I hear the thrush singing
in the glowing woods
he is only passing through.
His voice is deep,
then he lifts it until it seems
to fall from the sky.
I am thrilled.
I am grateful.
Then, by the end of morning,
he's gone, nothing but silence
out of the tree
where he rested for a night.
And this I find acceptable.
Not enough is a poor life.
But too much is, well, too much.
Imagine Verdi or Mahler
every day, all day.
It would exhaust anyone.
From A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver. Copyright 2012 by Mary Oliver. Excerpted with permission of Penguin Group.

No wonder I remember Tania!

Well Pat stirred a childhood memory this morning when she asked if I had been to Wightwick Manor, no I had not, but it struck a chord.  My friend Tania Hodgetts had lived in a windmill near to the manor, with her mother, Sheila Hodgetts who was a children's author.  She wrote 'Toby Twirl' books, very similar to Rupert the Bear books, from which I gather she got her inspiration.
It suddenly occurred to me that Tania had come to tea in January for there was snow on the ground which led to my accident.  She could have come for a birthday tea, we lived in this late Victorian House at the time, probably my most favourite house and garden of my childhood.  It is now a care home, the lawn to the side has been built on, and the large garden at the back I cannot see.

It is still called 'Woodthorn' though

And it was here that Tania came, in the afternoon we had taken the sledge down to the tennis courts, there was an icy path ideal for sledging.  Unfortunately at the bottom there was the tennis hut, which I tobaggoned into at great speed, stopping the jolt with my left arm.  Agony ensued, and we went home, I rang my grandfather at work but he did not come back.  So when he eventually did turn up and we had sat down to tea, taken Tania home, and then we went to the hospital and it was discovered that I had fractured my elbow, two bones in my arm, and fingers, no wonder I was in agony!
Being left handed had consequences on my writing and any work I did, and after I had had a silver plate screwed into my elbow it took a couple of years to right itself.
When I look at that house now I think how ugly it looks, but the window on the left was the morning room;) the one on the right was the sitting room, then the pantry at the back and the corridor to the dining room (only used on a Sunday).
The kitchen was the heart of the house, the old black fireplace come cooker the warmest place in the house.  This led out to the scullery, dishes were washed here, there was a modern cooker and an enormous fridge.  The back door led to a small yard with several brick buildings for coal etc and an outside loo.  Down the steps past the monkey tree, turn left past the rose garden and then the rest of the garden unfolded itself, large fruit trees lined another two lawns and an old summerhouse which was the children's headquarters and the sand pit almost at the end of the garden fronting a beautiful central bed of flowers. This is where my love of flowers come from!

Wightwick House, I believe it has some Pre-Raphaelite paintings or glass there


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wednesday and hens

A chicken update: Why?  well there are a lot of headless chickens running around in parliament at the moment, we are at impasse over Brexit, there is  really nothing to say.
About three weeks ago Phoebe our last bossy hen died, I think with the same symptons as the other two.  Leaving me with two bantams, Lady Jane and Fay.
Now my first three hens had not been vaccinated, but the two bantams had, and I paid a good price for them, but obviously it is worth it for health reasons.  They are vaccinated against Newcastle Disease, Marek's disease, and infectious bronchitis.
So who became top chicken out of the two? Well it turns out to be mad little Lady Jane, she has strode forward chasing Fay around, and two days ago took her small self to sleep in the coop with Fay, she has always at night gone into the box to sleep by herself.  It will be interesting to see what will happen when another two are added to the flock how the pecking order will arrange itself.
I notice quite a lot of bloggers keep chickens, and I think we keep them for the fun they provide, at last in life when we have slowed down we can stand and watch.  And of course be hypocrites and eat bought chicken!
I came across photos of my original chickens in Bath, they got finished off by one of those city foxes......

My very first two, Hetty and Harriet

Hetty and Harriet being jungle hens

Bought in Yorkshire and now part of the Universe

Fay and Lady Jane

I came across this whilst flicking through.  This is the coke house for the church that you often see from our house view.  Note the coal hatchway, just the right size for the pony and cart which delivered.  Paul found out that this small building had an earlier life, it was a 'lock-up' for the local drunk or thief.  You can see the results of flooding on the bottom four courses of stone.  What has happened is that as cars drive through they throw up spray water which washes the mortar from the stones.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday - following the memories

This was a 'Sunday' walk, you can see over the beautiful Somerset country side the Cotswolds coming to an end here in the valley behind Moss.  The track ahead, had longevity stretching back in time, the land just here had been quarried, but behind the camera the battle between Royalists and roundheads had been fought, and also along the ridge as you made your way through the fields. Detail of the battle of Lansdown.

In fact the trackway further on is an old Saxon boundary mark now marking Gloucester and Somerset, the track had followed the line of the two bronze age barrows further on. You begin to understand the fluidity of history, one thing leads to another, bronze age barrows mark the delineation lines between modern Gloucester and Somerset.

The verges of this track were covered in wild flowers, but already the heavier wider tractors were beginning to take their toil of them.  Below the sweet smell of elderflower, fluffy and creamy but turning to a much stronger smell as it aged.

 quoting myself here........
A walk down the old trackway in this parish of Langridge, will reveal a treasure of wild flowers on the verges, vetches tangle with yellow archangel, bluebells will replace primroses, the white gleam of stitchwort; the stoney path slopes gently down curving on its way, later on the white of elderflower will catch the eye, the sweet scent on a warm day reminding you of elderflower champagne.  


You came to a field of the barrows through  a small lych gate, there was no road for miles and someone must have loved this field, for it still kept its wild flowers.  In the field early in spring would be primroses and then cowslips, orchids and the beautiful ethereal ladies smock set down amongst the grasses.  Further on a badger den, still used, though they had not migrated to the barrows.

Deer out in the early morning

langridge Barrows

Langridge barrows

ST 7323 7044 and ST 7328 7045. Two round barrows excavated in 1909 by H H Winwood, G Grey and T S Bush. The first contained much burnt material, animal bones and potsherds, but apparently no human bones. There were numerous flints including eight scrapers and two borers. The second barrow had an unaccompanied primary cremation. A number of flints, including one borer, were found in the material of the mound. (1)

ST 7323 7045, ST 7325 7044. Two barrows, the westerly has been truncated and is 0.9m high, the easterly, 1.7m high, is partially overlaid by a dump of extraneous material, possibly from the other barrow. Surveyed at 1:2500. (2)  Pastscape overview

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Walks with Moss - when the sun shone

I read this morning that as you age time goes quicker because the brain is not processing as much as a younger brain. 
So I thought to clear some of my photos that accumulate in my files, a waste of time for as deleted I came across things I wanted to keep so added as much as I substracted!  There was this long file from years ago, when Moss, that gorgeous collie on the top and myself, wandered at will over the landscape, my brain caught up with its magical aspects, the old prehistoric stones on the Wiltshire downlands churning out a magic and a need to know!
Well let us stop at the pond in my old garden for a while, and discover the magic of damselflies mating, I would sit and watch the nymphs unfurl at a later date, wings damp then dry.  My son and I dug that pond, the first day leaving the black membrane in the hole, we came back next morning to find two newts curled up inside waiting for the water.  Looking now at that green water and for a moment you begin to understand the vibrant life that is our planet, I could tell you of the spring when the frogs came down the bank to mate and cover the water with tadpoles.  The second pond we dug, larger and shallow, but so pretty, till one day Moss chased a cat through it, and of course it developed holes and the water disappeared.  Or the time in the cold of winter, little Tom fell in, he was fascinated by the pond, though I had planted a great bank of reeds round it.

To be continued............

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wednesday 9th January

Well I have been reading Susan Cooper, a first time experience, as her The Dark is Rising is aimed at children, but by now you will have noticed that I love all literature.  She takes us from Cornwall to Wales and in her storytelling wends all the threads of ancient myths in the forces of good and evil.  Even as I write this I remember C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia, the children taking on adult roles.  Lewis took religion as his motif, Cooper uses stone circles, mountains and water in Wales.  Perhaps evoking the tale of the magic lake of Lynn Cerrig Bach in which Iron Age votive offerings were found.
The presence of lakes at the foot of mountains is a strong dynamic force, the mountain can be male and evil, the water female and good.
So to go with the mystical, Neill Burnell beautiful photographs of Wistman Woods on Dartmoor.  He has caught the mossy verdant nature of these stunted trees, the mist arising through the trees and rocks.  Perhaps Britain hundreds of years ago would have looked like this when you rode through forest or wood, now Wistman Wood is solitary in its splendour. Old oak trees twisted and gnarled, this photo from Wiki does not do it full justice you must look at Burnell's photographs to grasp the 'evilness' of twisted branches to understand how the mind works when confronted with such natural splendour.

"The name of Wistman's Wood may derive from the dialect word 'wisht' meaning 'eerie/uncanny', or ‘pixie-led/haunted’.The legendary Wild Hunt in Devon is particularly associated with Wistman's Wood – the hellhounds of which are known as Yeth (Heath) or Wisht Hounds in the Devonshire dialect."

The Green Man

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tuesday 8th January

We went out to lunch today, a birthday treat, which is tomorrow but I am going to the gardening club in the afternoon.
The Moors Inn was chosen at Appleton le Moor, and we lunched well, I had halibut on crushed potatoes (poor potatoes) and Paul had one of the starters with an enormous salad.  It was delicious.
We sat by a roaring fire with Lucy under the table and the atmosphere quiet.  Typical old pub, beams and old blackened oven over the fire.

taken from the Moors Inn site.

Appleton is but a few miles from our village, one of these villages that has a wide open road with large verges think it must have been a drover's road.  There is moor, though most of the land is turned to farm land but the sheep still wander around the road as you will see from the following photos.
The sheep wander around without thought, a bit like the pheasants, so slow driving is essential.