Saturday, February 27, 2021

Saturday 27th February - a look at my day

I opened the back door early this morning to hear the funny voiced crow that lives in the copse at the back and the soft melodious sound of owls.  They must be the barn owls.  Yesterday as I put the food out for the birds, I noticed later on that there were a host of the large black crows with their white beaks.  Hungry after winter, ready for mating and bringing new young into the world.  My friend said that there had been a large 'meeting' of crows a few days ago.  I have only been present at one 'parliament' of  crows, up on Bath Race Course as they crowded the railings.  BBC seems to be having a bit of a Alfred Hitchcock moment, Psycho for a start though I never watch scary films.   I did like the advert when the cat is creeping up on the dog in the shower and then rips the shower curtain to shreds.

Then of course the poor man's peacock for the garden, the beautifully feathered pheasant for the peasant! 

Well as I have been writing this, the two bantams have rushed out of their enclosure, the door was opened from last night.  All to do with the cat who likes to sleep in the coop so I left one door open rather than shutting them up.  The run is made up of three sections and each section has two doors, but my not so bright bantams can only remember to go in one particular door and pace frantically in front of it should it be closed.

I have one thing in common with Kate Winslet I learnt this week, we both can be found sweeping the kitchen floor several times a day.  Not sure why she does but I have to because of Lucy.  I think she has suffered from a couple of minor strokes, and can be unsteady on her back legs.  But eating has become difficult for her, so each day I feed her with a fork which takes quite a while and when she is eating biscuits has a tendency to crunch them over the floor.  Luckily her greedy nature sees that she eats plenty.  She still bounces round the lawn when I go to feed the animals - this is an important part of her regime - she looks rather like a rocking horse, occasionally coming down 'splat' as her legs give way.  I am hoping that she will die quietly in her sleep but she is a strong little dog.

Edit; Back from a shopping trip, haven't been out for at least three weeks. so was rather nervous about the trip.  Lost a new glove on the way but got my prescription from the chemist.  Then went to the Co-op for fresh vegetables and our electrical shop for a new kettle. Unfortunately had not got the colour I wanted so went for a dismal grey.  Or is it fashionable grey?

When I get home always dump the bags on the kitchen floor, and Lucy whilst my back is turned has a rustle through the bags for pears which she adores.  She found a banana and started to chew, tug of war ensued and then one squished banana later I took the skin off and fed her the contents. 

Something to think about?  vaccine passports?

Also I will not answer the comments on the previous short blog.  Seeing the sad news this morning was a shock and in the end belongs to Jill and remembering her.

A Breath of Air

Isis in Hyde Park, London by Simon Gudgeon

I see that a brave and courageous spirit has left  Earth this week.  Just Jill - Land of the Big Sky and her trips down to the Scottish beach where she lived nearby was an opening blog for me every morning, and it will be sad not to see her sea birds each day and her cheerful few words..  May she find peace,  and all the best to the family who must be distraught by her sudden departure.

And something peaceful.  Listening to the radio this morning Simon Gudgeon walk with Clare Balding  on Ramblings to his 25 acres of his work Sculpture  by the Lakes, see below.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

25th February 2021

Reached a low which is hard to come up from, but have been doing things for the future.  Some of that future makes me sad, whilst the need to enervate myself into action is to do with decisions.  My eyesight is going quite quickly therefore I need to move into a town.  This means renting a flat somewhere and hopefully in West Yorkshire. 

I shall be sad to leave here, the garden has all the trees, shrubs and plants which I hold dear and which I look forward to seeing each summer.  But there are other plants to see and different landscapes to wander around.

The churchyard is full of snowdrops and the sun is shining today.  Coffee to be had  in an hour or so.  Sorting out books.  Well there is something to do, if I find reading difficult I can let go of a lot of books and reduce. Already those odd balls of wool have met their end in the dustbin and scraps of patchwork.  Actually I like throwing things away, reducing the things we carry around in life.

I am sure this mood will go, funnily enough I had a nightmare last night, there was this large ghostlike figure hanging over my bed, bearded and wild haired, thought it was God for a moment come to rage at me;)  All those year of atheism wasted for goodness sake!

So as we move into spring, things will be changing, and I must find the energy to see things through, and also find that funny slant to life which always sends me chuckling.  The Scottish spat looks interesting - Sturgeon/Salmond.  Does the future of the independence of Scotland rest on the squabble of two individuals?

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Television programmes

So what have I been watching to move the mood of wretchedness? Came across McDonald & Dodds, just two episodes on ITV, tucked away.  Well an incompatible pair make a delicious foreground to the background of Bath.  Jasper Watkins and Tala Gouveia play the leading roles.  The second series is to start from the 28th February.  It is a detective story, with the poor Dodds played beautifully by Jasper Watkins, he is not quite doddery just bumbling but always manages to work out the clues.  His co-star, Tala Gouveia, sparkles with sharp energy down from London to sleepy old Bath. 


Someone said of Bath it is neither North or South but a little national state of its own, and yes I liked the idea of it being 'middleish'. But I relished the images of Bath, there was even a brief visit to The Bell down Walcot Street, of Tom Stephenson fame.  The only time I ever walked the long length of Walcot Street was either to go to Tridias the toy shop, now gone.  Or, to the musty antique shops, that never made any money at the lower end.  Not forgetting the Saturday market of miscellanea at the top end, I wonder if it still exists or hasn't been bought up by some one to make it either office/apartments/ or elegant shops that sold expensive clothes.

Looking down on Bath from Alexandra Park, where the boys, including my son, from Beechen Cliff school would tumble down the hill to the bus station below.

Edit;  Thank you Carruthers for introducing me to London in the 60s

Maybe one day I will write about this but first impressions.  It is like looking down the wrong lens of a telescope, the eyes are blinkered in one direction.  Swinging 60s, Carnaby Street, etc, belong to a few.  The rest of England led a different life, though I recognise a lot of the 'fashionable side', worked and partied in London but never went down Carnaby Street.
Funnily enough I thought more could have been said about class, our society was up to that time riven or marked by the society they came from, perhaps the Beatles broke that down.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Friday 19th February 2021

 Stalled.  At least in writing.  Good things are happening in the world, 'Perseverance' has landed safely on Mars and will go hunting for the 'slime' of life that may have once existed in the lake of the crater.  A sponge like form of life has been found clinging to a boulder in the Artic Sea, hundred of metres below the ice. And then we are going to share our surplus of vaccines with the rest of the world.

The weather is grey as usual, but instinct tells us as it grows lighter that spring and then roses are just round the corner.  I have to make decisions for the  year and the car needs it tyres pumped up.  Lucy is living off sausages just now and I shall make her some meatballs later on.  She is slowly getting worse, walked into the back door this morning before I opened it and then ended up in the cloakroom in a corner but she is better now.

Knitting a very fine jumper probably for one of the girls, though my efforts are not always appreciated, it has frilly edges which required an enormous amount of stitches but looks pretty.

Sent off for 'Frostquake' by Juliet Nicholson on Sunday and got it on Monday.  It covers in each chapter, the problems we are still experiencing today.  It is like a historic timeline, names that we once knew pop up.  Gender displacement, not sure what to call it was beginning to happen.  My thoughts on it allow the children to grow into adults and then let them decide which sex they want to be.  It seems that everyone is an emotional wreck for one reason or another, but in the 60s chemical solutions to homosexuality was a terrible tool to use.

There was  interesting chapters on Juliet Nicholson's family.  Her grandparents were Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicholson, her parents Phillipa and Nigel Nicholson.  Her brother, who also writes as well Adam Nicholson. So Juliet had been brought up at Sissinghurst.  If you have been to Sissinghurst, there is the famous tower in which Vita wrote her gardening articles, and several cottages.  Apparently the family lived in two or three of the cottages, going to bed in one and meals in another.  Obviously gardening does not bring in the money but now it is National Trust property, it is exploited to full advantage.

I am reading the book slowly, but here are a few photos (30 years old) of a visit we once did. They are rather blurred, but the cascades of flowers and climbers that clung to the brick walls was sumptuous to say the least.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Saturday 13th February 2021

 Today I was going to write about Gary Denke and the 'Teeth of Stonehenge', written by his ancestor in the 17th Century but I will put that aside for another day.

My tablet and phone ping every time some notification happens.  This morning it was the monthly 'Fruity Knitting podcast.  I love knitting and have indulged myself with wool now and then.  But these Australian couple who live in Germany with their beautiful daughter have made it their livelihood.  The husband Andrew is sadly very ill with a brain tumour, but at the moment is being treated in a clinic.

What I admire about the family is how they resolutely set forth with great courage to overcome his illness and to bring to the screen, through the use of a podcast knitwear designers from everywhere.

Today's podcast (one hour, 20 minutes long) covered (10 minutes) a small time brewery in Denmark and the enthusiam of the brewery manager for creating beers was infectious. I remember finding hops in the hedgerow in Essex, and it brought back memories of our favourite pub which was called 'The Cats'.  Basically dogs and children were not allowed inside!

But then we went on to a young Scottish knitwear designer and her work and the rather magical repair job she does on old jumpers. Her name is Collingwood- Norris and she is so sweetly young that I feel like an ancient oak against her enthusiasm.  I am noting this video for my granddaughter Matilda, who is doing a fashion design course and hopes to be a fashion journalist. 

Not all is lost out in the world, our young will bring back the world, not as we knew it but to their own design - have faith.

The snow still lingers, this morning the sky was the palest blue with pastel pink tinged clouds.  The trees skeletal black branches a striking contrast against the sky.

Some photos of the Cats pub, with Wally the owner, who apart from the pub also had in his collection two great fair steam engines..


A Ploughman's lunch

Cats Pub

Everywhere cats but not real ones

Friday, February 12, 2021

Friday 12th February 2021

The weather absorbs us all, but sadly has been beaten by the virus that changes and laughs at our anxieties. But for the last couple of days the sun has come out, the wind has died, and the crisp white snow as it crunches below our feet has given a winter wonderland.  My only anxiety will there be enough food for the cat and dog till my home delivery arrives on Monday.  Becoming lazy about going out is a worrying feature, though whether I could get my car off the drive is another matter.

Yesterday I went into the living room and the sun greeted me as it illuminated the room, I could not be unhappy for that moment, as my mind went to Paul and his love of this house.  For me sometimes the memories are too painful but then again I rejoice for those last few years he was happy here, sitting on the bench outside in the front with his beer. In the warm summer evenings  he would be perfectly at one with the world.

So how do I keep myself occupied apart from knitting and crocheting another blanket.  Well the four hours of 'The Trump Show' has filled my time somewhat.  Watching this cunning, self-important man unpicked by friend and foe alike, my mind keeps asking - how can people vote for him?   He wriggles out of everything, in fact I begin to admire such a ruthless idiot, he takes to the stage like a Roman emperor, tossing aside the broken bodies of anyone who questions him.  Is it that we must have a 'personality' in charge no matter how terrible that personality is I wonder? Mayors of London comes to mind, Livingstone and Johnson, picked by the people to stir things up!

All I will say and then hopefully he will disappear into the annals of history, is that the assault on the Capitol was extraordinary.  You have to visualise it happening to the Houses of Parliament.  People wander round the interior of our governmental offices, flocks of schoolchildren, all peaceful, the matters of governance argued out.  Then those terrifying pictures in America of people scaling the terrace, ramming down glass doors and those poor policemen unable to cope.  I am not sure I like living through historic times!

I am grateful for the BBC and its news and ability to chronicle the world around me, let the Conservative party raise one finger against it and I shall personally bite it off.  Figuratively speaking that is.

It has been the coldest night so far -5% in York so it said on my tablet, in Scotland of course even colder, though the weather will warm up next week.

Good news this week, there seems mounting evidence that the Bluestone's of Stonehenge do definitely come from Waun Mawn in Pembrokeshire..

Waun Mawn

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Wednesday 10th February - doesn't time fly in lockdown?

 It is cold but beautiful, a double edged sword. Tried to coax Lucy out into the garden but she stood at the door reluctant, 'I had a pee at six' she reminds me, don't need another one.

The news rolls out.  Yes I am pleased about the impeachment, though it probably won't go anywhere.  The film about the breach of the Capitol was horrific. Four plain clothed men with guns barricaded the inner door against the mob of stupidity as people crouched on the floor inside, a complete failure as a coup, but where did Trump think he was going?

Then there is of course the ten year imprisonment against all those Pinocchio's people who will insist on telling lies when they arrive back in this country. Not exactly the equivalence of the 'naughty step' but don't worry when threats are waved about, THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO SCARE YOU.  Luckily Cummings got out when he could before the law caught up with him.  As no doubt many others will.

I should be a good blogger and go and snap the snowdrops in the church yard, which I can see from the window, they cluster under the old multi-stemmed hawthorn.  This church yard is rather barren of wild flowers, Rod the gardener sees to that but I can hardly raise my voice in protest he is such a nice person.  But I look forward to the tiny violets that will appear by the coke house which appear to have survived the machinations of the mower.

I have breached the instruction book of my 'Steam Pocket Mop' and the kitchen floor is looking cleaner. And it was so easy as well, all I have to do now is master the 'klik n' flip', which translated means I can change the mop head.

Monday, February 8, 2021

8th February 2021

My son and friend's walk to Victoria Park from Weston Village, via Weston Park in the snow.  An album came yesterday.  Mark has worked from home since the pandemic arrived.  He seems to be quite happy with the solitariness, which I do not find surprising.  The village of Weston sits on the shoulder of the Lansdown and when I lived there explored its byways but never took many photos. Here is a blog on village life.

Snow lays lightly on the lawn, it is not as cold as expected though the sharp bitter East wind greets you when I go outside. The wind is roaring through the copse, I have put apple and bread out for the birds.  Also one of my bantams has laid an egg in anticipation of spring I wonder? Okay hens are silly creatures but the day is getting longer.

Weston Village

Victoria Park

I remember looking at a house along here

Weston Park.  

  And here is one of my long pottering histories of the area round Weston...

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Saturday 6th February 2021

Sutton Hoo mound

The memory card arrived of 'The Dig' and I settled down to watch it on my computer.  The quality was not as good as watching the actual film but its soft shading lit up the landscape and gave it a blurry dreamy feeling. Good acting helped and as the Anglo-Saxon boat was uncovered, then the inner chamber full of priceless artefacts, you realised that full justice had been done to the dig.  The house was a different one and as I wrote to a friend today, when we went the fields were full of pigs and sties.

Two visits to Sutton Hoo, the last with American friends, I think Loie had done her dissertation on the boat.  First of all we did the late Saxon staved church at Greensted in Essex and then went on to Great Canfield church where Odin with the ravens Munin and Hugin reside on the pillars into the church.  Church history says they are a pair of doves either side of Jesus (or God), but they look fierce as does the figurehead.  It is surprising what still remains in our old churches, they become repositories for old Scandinavian burial stones here in Yorkshire, and of course if early enough to allude to a history that was gently turning from paganism into Christianity.

Trailing through my blogs has bought up many memories, all I can remember of Sutton Hoo was the terrible weather, and the reconstruction inside being a much better thing to do then wander round the barrows.

To some degree the find of the Staffordshire Hoard has somewhat lessened the impact of Sutton Hoo but both are great finds of a particular part of history.

Now I must bring logs in before the cold weather comes.  Also, unpack a large brown box which has sat in the hallway a couple of days. Ordered one afternoon and it was there the next morning. Why reluctance? its a Shark floor cleaner which I will have to use!

Smithsonian on the subject

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Wednesday 3rd February 2021 - old blogs

Well if you have nothing to write why not go back to beginnings and old blogs.  Tom Stephenson finding Roman bits and pieces reminded me of Mike Aston of Time Team fame,  both now sadly gone, whose writing on Roman Bath always set my mind feverishly working.  Sometimes I do get homesick for the walks around Bath but not Bath itself, though I expect it to be rather deserted of tourists at the moment.


Telling stories, as I have wandered the landscape so the stories unfold and you begin to realise that now this moment is just that, below you on this very spot you stand, thousands may have walked, led lives, even settlements lie under you feet all now dead and forgotten, crumbled into dust so that only the imagination can fill in the spaces.  Therefore when you approach history or archaeology you are picking up fragments from the past.

The water spout at St.Martin's Church

So it has always been with me, I wandered a part of land called the Lansdown for 25 years, such  knowledge allows you the place of the deer, the short legged muntjac early morning, the golden plovers nesting in the ground, the fox coming home from a night's hunting.  It also brings up the ghosts, and before I embark on my original story about North Stoke that lies just below the Lansdown let me begin with unusual happenings.

Ghost stories maybe, firstly there was that early Sunday morning walk, the downs were covered in fog, Moss loping by my side went onto red alert, every muscle straining to see through the fog, he started barking as a figure emerged through the fog, even my heart was beating, Moss had hysterics, normally he is a sensible collie, but this figure that emerged was wearing a tam o shanter, and a kilt to boot, truly Scottish, in fact was so strange that ghost seems a normal way to describe him, he passed by a cheery greeting and was gone, was he a ghost? or some drunken fool walking back from somewhere, who knows!  One person who walked the downs and had 'the sight' told me of his wife seeing an old soldier  limping back along the same path from the battle of the Lansdown from the Civil War of the 17th century, now that surely was a ghost.  A friend had a similar experience, riding along on his motorbike in the lane at night past Dyrham House, and passed an old fashioned gaitered man.  He stopped and turned round, but could not find the old man, though there was no place for him to vanish..

So North stoke, a small hamlet with a Saxon place name meaning that it was a small Saxon stead to the north of Bath.  I think at one stage it had a small monastic foundation in the 7th century.  The village is set half way up a hill, and looks down on the road out of Bath to Bitton, Keynsham and Bristol, in fact it would have been the old Roman road to the port of Ebona, and called Via Julia but according to some sources this is wrong.

The church of St.Martin stands on the hill, with a fast flowing brook beside it, in fact it is a 'water spout' that emerges just above on the hill.  This itself gives credence to the fact that the church had a long history and was built on a Roman building's foundations, a villa would have stood below the site of the church.  Though this has never been excavated, and cannot therefore be guaranteed but what I have read of the place, the foundations of the church are slightly askew, and given that the name St.Martin alludes to a very early saint. There is nothing spectacular about the church, there are a collection of old yews in the churchyard and the church itself stands above the manor barn and a few old cottages just about makes up the sum of the place.

So who was St.Martin of Tours, AD 316 to AD 397 and short biography would put him as a Roman soldier turned christian, for a fuller biography you will see he did not step into England, but lets allow the story to be embellished for the sake of the Roman villa in North Stoke, and there are a number of churches named after him in England, and his story is interesting.  Here is a description as he came upon the 'pagans' (people who lived in the countryside).....

As bishop, Martin set to enthusiastically ordering the destruction of pagan temples, altars and sculptures. Scholars suggest the following account may indicate the depth of the Druidic folk religion in relation to the veneer of Roman classical culture in the area:
"[W]hen in a certain village he had demolished a very ancient temple, and had set about cutting down a pine-tree, which stood close to the temple, the chief priest of that place, and a crowd of other heathens began to oppose him; and these people, though, under the influence of the Lord, they had been quiet while the temple was being overthrown, could not patiently allow the tree to be cut down".
In one instance, the pagans agreed to fell their sacred fir tree, if Martin would stand directly in its path. He did so, and it miraculously missed him. Sulpicius, a classically educated aristocrat, related this anecdote with dramatic details, as a set piece. Sulpicius could not have failed to know the incident the Roman poet Horace recalls in several Odes, of his narrow escape from a falling tree.

The felling of 'sacred trees' in Ireland is documented in the old  celtic tales, and I have often wondered if the tree carried on the shoulders of the Celtic soldiers on the Gundestrup cauldron, is a sacred tree won from their enemy.

As I wind this story round it several routes, landscapes interlacing with histories, it is well to remember that at the great temple of Roman Bath, there would have been this magnificent face of the Celtic 'guarding figure' over the portico of the door, the Romans had meshed their gods with the local deities, perhaps I would rather use the word 'nested' a comfortable mythology to spread good social order on the natives.

1) The great Celtic head above, dramatic and a very fine sculpture, Roman or native no one knows, has of course a part in celtic history and as Ann Ross says, maybe she is exaggerating slightly ,"the Celts venerated the head as a symbol of divinity and the powers of the otherworld, and regarded it as the most important bodily member, the very seat of the soul.  but the head  of the vanquished  played a role in battle, and was often kept as a trophy afterwards. Sometimes visitors to Roman Bath see it it just for the hot baths when in actual fact the temple was a fusion and meeting place of many people in Roman times, including pagan worship and druids.

2) This road may, for convenience, be said to start from Bath. But it seems to have been regarded in Roman days rather as a continuation of the route from London, than as a road from Bath to the west. It does not, strictly speaking, start from Aquae. It diverges from the Fosse at Walcot church, half a mile east of the Roman settlement, and runs on westwards without entering the Roman area. Through modern Bath its course is roughly represented by Guinea Lane and Julian road. In Victoria Park it may have been joined by a road from the west gate of Aquae. But the evidence for such a road is scanty. It does not include any trace of an actual roadway and rests mainly on the probabilities of the case. Thence our road continues through Weston, mounts the neck of high land which joins Kelston Round Hill to Lansdown, runs close beneath North Stoke and drops sharply to the Avon valley and the 'station' or village at Bitton. ......

Monday, February 1, 2021

1st February - musing on music


Music: made me think why do I like some music and not others.  What came to mind was the overlay in the mind of poetry, music and landscape.  It just melds into a blur as the music catches the breath . At the moment I am listening to The Protecting Veil by John Tavener, - 20th Century.  The haunting cello followed by the orchestra.  It is so melancholy but yet plucks at the soul.  There will be a moment when the music suddenly dives at you, the anticipation is somewhat nerve inducing.  Not everyone's idea of music, but then I dislike quite a few paintings, I call them the 'brown' paintings of past centuries, don't have much time for modern either!!

I had noticed that Maxwell Davies had written something called Taverner, and I got it all mixed up but with the aid of Google managed to sort my magpie mind out. Davis had actually written an opera about  John Taverner who lived in the 15th century

So music that is British and pastoral, such as Elgar and Vaughan Williams would be part of my list.  As well as Spiegel  in Spiegel for its measured slow tones.  It is funny what takes the fancy, have I looked for sunsets, sunrises and birds in my music, does it become a holistic view I wonder?

Going back to Maxwell Davies, he has intermittently appeared and disappeared in my vision, St.Magnus cathedral, a place where his work is played, on the island in Orkney. Would remind me of him, he needed the austere bleak settings of the Orkneys to create his music and that is what comes out occasionally - storms and jagged notes to wake you up but never forgetting there is harmony in nature itself.

And an 'Orkney Wedding with Sunrise' and Maxwell Davies, now sadly dead of course.

Have you guessed the dark cave on top?