Monday, March 31, 2014

31st March

A cloudy grey day, and I have just listened to the world climate report on the news, so we must adapt seems to be the answer, a bit like the insects and animals.  Not going to worry about it, Nature has her own way of sorting things.

Weaver of Grass has put a photo of Marsh Marigolds on her blog, and it reminds me of a walk I took years ago along a little valley, that the Romans had once settled there and built a temple.  Along the small stream, in years gone by you would have found old Roman coins, probably thrown in for luck as were the coins at the Bath Roman temple... Richard Jeffries says of the plant "Nails of gold driven so thickly that the true surface was not visible - countless rootlets drew up the richness of the earth like miners in the darkness throwing their yellow patches of ore broadcast about them." The words and photo below show their love of damp wet places, but its history as given by Grigson tells of a plant that likes the cold as well. I notice from my blogs that their are some at Hylands House but these are probably garden centre plants.

"Marsh Marigold- Caltha Palustris has another historic tale to tell, this time from Geoffrey Grigson. He says that this flower was growing before the Ice Age in Britain and its bright yellow flowers that arrive so early in the year must have forced itself into the consciousness of all who saw it on damp, cold grey days of early spring. In Iceland it appears when the snow is still on the ground, and its flowers surround the farmsteads on the high dry knolls separated from the boggy land below.

The Anglo-Saxons when they arrived as colonists must have welcomed this flower from their home country and they probably called it Meargealla or mersc meargealla. Mear from 'horse' and geallafrom 'swelling' or 'blister', a horse-blob or mare-blob. This is of course conjecture on the part of Grigson but is well to remember that names, and especially Saxon names, have a direct correlation between that which is seen and experienced, and apparently because the round globe flower suggest a round swelling, and the flower itself looks like a large buttercup, whose roots were used as a soothing concoction for blisters."

Nettleton Shrub


Whatever the colour of the day, spring sits like a benign spirit on the land, the blackbird is furiously sqwacking  this is the one who loves his pear cores, the blue tits have taken some of the wool, our doves have not as yet built their untidy nests, which always fall to pieces.  Everything grows, my pots of snipping lettuces colour up and the spinach grows apace. Sinking runner bean seeds into the earth is always a pleasure as well, Scarlet Emperor this year.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday 3oth March

A lovely soft misty morning as I go out into the garden to hook some fleece on the cotoneaster for the blue tits, who are once more nesting in, not our nest box but next door as usual.  We have seen them check out our box but always turn their beaks up at it!  There is nothing as pretty as blue tits amongst the cherry blossom, a Chinese scroll captured for a second, they are a delight, soft blues against the pink and white.   The hedgehog is around, obviously feasting on worms from worm city, as we have left the bottom flap off
Yesterday we went to to The Cats pub for a mother's day celebration.  LS loves this pub, and its Abbots beer. Set out in the country and run by Wally and his partner Anne, who creates the perfect ploughman's lunch. Wally has 'regulars' they are always the same on Saturday, gossiping away and eating their lunches. Because this is upmarket Essex, many will arrive in expensive cars, but it is Wally who is the collector.  Two fun fair steam engines reside in a great shed, and there was three old sports car obviously belonging to him. Rather fancied the Mazda at which had a faded piece of paper quoting £1500, but I suspect it will probably have something fundamentally wrong with it, like no engine.

Wally in 'The Cats, which is full of cat's bits and pieces'

Two enormous plastic cats reside in the sun, with one on the roof, there is a real cat called Henry around somewhere.

patchwork experimenting

Future god of compassion!

Thursday, March 27, 2014


A video from Tales of Simple Day,  The Dark side of Morris - The Witches Brew, reminds me of Whitby and the Morris dancers and undertones of Gothic horror that is so delightful in our crazy interpretation of 'old' history.  People have lots of fun dressing up, and Whitby comes alive on Goth weekends, and funnily enough there are also WW2 'dressing up' occasions, when seamed stockings make their appearance. Morris dancers down here in Essex are more conventional, bells ringing at their knees, etc, so I like the dark undertones of  The Wild Hunt  ensemble.
Below are  photos of Lockeridge and Piggledene, whilst hunting through an old Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine of 1911 (yes I know its boring, but that's what I do occasionally) online of course, I came across the fact that these drifts of  sarsen stones were bought up by a trust at the beginning of the 20th century so that they would be protected in the future.  It was called the Grey Wethers Trust, because most of the fallen stones do look a bit like sheep, Lord Avebury had paid the most, £90 into the fund, and so today remain part of the common heritage of us all, which is a fact I rather like, so whenever you wander a little bit of land that has an English Heritage sign, thank the persons who put their hands in their pockets many years ago. 

Lockeridge Dene with its thatched cottage


Piggledene or the Grey Wethers
The computer on my desk is surrounded by strips of patchwork material, not making anything large, just messing around with squares and stripes, experimenting is the word. Several days ago developed toothache, after finally summing up courage yesterday to go to the dentist, they sadly managed to find me a cancellation the same day, not toothache but a sinus infection, never had that before, or weirdly, antiobiotics which he prescribed......

Monday, March 24, 2014

Photos from The Duck Slayer

The new camera is slowly being tried out, very simple on 'auto', but already I see a clarity from the 18 pixels strength; The software decanted  three programmes for uploading and messing around with, and it took quite a while to find where the computer had deposited them....
Why do we call it the 'duck slayer' because the camera strap guillotined our pottery duck in the garden leaving him headless..

Wood anemones at Blakes Wood

Blakes Wood

Blakes Wood

Blakes Wood

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday; 23rd March

Sunday is simple, this quiet cool day of the week has one subject that can be tackled with ease and that is churches, though in this instance it will be a Victorian cemetery.
William Beckford, eccentric of Bath,  born 1760, he or his father were at one time the richest 'common' men in England, worth in the region of of three hundred million pounds.  How deliciously class ridden that statement is, our William lived till 84 years old, and had spent most of the family cash by then.  Of course it was made on the back of slave labour and cane sugar plantations in Jamaica. He seems to have been married twice with two daughters but was bi-sexual and had an affair with a young boy that probably blighted his reputation for life, so in many ways a bit of a recluse as well.  He built one folly  Fonthill Abbey which starrted to collapse after seven years after being built and then he came to Bath.  Bought two houses, one being across the lane, and had a bridge built to join them.  From this row of terraced Georgian (Lansdown West) houses, he made a path (did he buy the land?) for about two miles to the top of the Lansdown and had a tower built with a gold cupola, in which he housed rather ugly Chinese vases (I have seen them) and his books.  And it was here that he would retire to each day to write or read, having ridden up from the town below.  
When he died, the land must have passed into private hands for a few years, and then was brought up by a Trust and turned into a cemetery, to house Bath's great and good. 
Bath has seven hills, just like Rome, and the walk up  Foxhill must always be undertaken in Spring when the violets and primroses nestle in Beckford's old sunken garden, now filled with sunken graves, ready to entrap you and sprain an ankle if you are not careful, but what a wonderful cornucopia of delights the grave yard reveals.

Like gossiping old ladies they sit in a row and watch the world go by

Tumbling around they present an untidy appearance

William Thomas Beckford's 'Saxon' burial, a mound and a ditch,
sadly neither of his children were buried on the mound leaving him in solitary splendour

The view down to Bath

Intriguing 'foreign' tombstone, is the rather scary crawling tree a palm?
Well who christened Thomas 'Pagan'... Lowe, what is it an afterthought,  there is definitely a man of that name in Bath, an illustrator of a book the Waters of Bath..

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday; 22nd March

Suki in old age

So Saturday comes round, and I flick through the old photos on my external hard drive looking for something to write about, pulling up memories of sunny days and walking. So today a small tribute to Moss's predecessor, Suki or though their lives overlapped for a year or two.  First thing I notice was that Suki fails to appear in the early digital camera photos and so she must have died before I had an all-dancing, all-singing digital wonder!  LS makes the remark that would it not have been wonderful to have had digital cameras 40 or 50 years ago.
She came from Claverton Dogs Home, two years old, her former owner was an Italian waiter, who treated her horribly.  All this bad treatment had to be undone, she was a gentle sweet creature but for the first few weeks hid behind the armchair.  Walking her in the beginning, and the first time I let her off she just stood there not knowing what to do.  She must have been kept on a leash on all her walks, the added nasty bonus was, that the retractable lead she came with had been used for hitting her with as well, so she would flinch as it retracted - so that went into the dustbin.  Time heals of course, and she lived till fifteen years old, scared of a lot of things.  For instance the great balloons that took to the air round Bath, they would take off with their passengers on Sunday from Victoria Park and float over our house sometimes, which was a bit worrying because they should have been up over the fields at that stage.  When we saw them over the downs she had to be kept on a lead, or would just take off.  The balloons occasionally landed on the race course, the basket bumping along the grass, all very exciting, the recovery jeeps would of course trail them through the lanes.
The two of them

The other things that scared her was being lost, or what she thought was lost, once she got left behind an old wall that surrounded an Iron Age fort,  and as I walked round to get her she had worked herself up into a terrible state, her heart beating fast and trembling so that she was unable to walk and I had to carry her the two miles home! The other thing she hated was electric fences and once having been 'stung' by one of them would give all wire fences a wide berth.  Moss when they were put up to keep the summer cows and calves in would actually take a detour of about a quarter of a mile round an electric fence and we would meet up further on.
I mentioned she came from Claverton Down, well up on these downs past Bath University you come to the American Museum, a place everyone should visit on a trip to Bath.  But this weekend till October there is a show, this is in the American quilt gallery and it is Kaffe Fassett and his partner's flamboyant quilts on show.
I love the colouring and patterning of Kaffe,  whether knitting, embroidery or quilting though too bright for me but so decadent and it is fitting that this exhibition should come to the splendours of this old house.

The American Museum, Claverton
Creative Commons.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday; 21st March

Well what to talk about today, can I  hold out for the week, heaven knows..... I have talked about my upbringing and how it was different to most families, though who can tell. As I have said before come holidays, we as children would be sent off, whether to wander the chines of Bournemouth, or the wilds of Wales.  But there was another farm I was sent to, in Colton by Cannock Chase.
Few weeks back I was looking for this farm but no luck, it was a large old farmhouse, opposite was a yard with buildings all round.  A mixed farm, a child's delight but of course dangerous with its large animals.
Yesterday we were talking over coffee how children were subject to all sort of rules and how safety and health loom ever large in our lives, compared to the childish free run of the world we lived in; there was no talk of paedophiles and drugs, of course they must have existed but the media had not caught up with them yet.
It was here at the farm in Colton I learnt that you killed a chicken by pulling its neck, and then donning an apron plucked its downy feathers, watching in fascination the little red mites that were on the body, and then gutted it before it was roasted and served with onion sauce and bread sauce. Seamlessly I had learnt  that you had to kill if you wanted to eat meat, something my grandchildren will not  see as the chickens are already vacuumed and plastic wrapped in the supermarket.  
The farm was wonderful, looking out of the bedroom window and you could see all the activity in the yard, there were four sons, big strong lads, except the fourth was, what you would call in those days a 'village idiot', the last born maybe.  He often played tricks on us children, mostly cruel and bordering on dangerous but I shall get to that later.  
In the yard the prize show bulls were exercised, they were kept in the buildings, but exercising the bulls was a time to stay indoors and watch from the safety of the window.  Great black creatures with rings through their noses, haltered, with three men holding tight, one on the tail, they would lead the men a merry dance, at last the men would be pulled in a great tug of war out of the yard and up to the large shed which housed the heifers.  
There was a solitary bull, a Hereford I think, tethered in one of the fields and when I passed him, I felt his loneliness, so used to go and talk and pet him, till of course I was found out and given a thorough telling off and told never ever to go near him.  
Round the back of the buildings was a small triangle yard in which the boar lived in his sty, normally shut up he was occasionally allowed out for exercise into the yard, and because this was a shortcut for us children, we had to watch out if he was free, as he was often hiding round the corner.  I remember once asking our young farmer lad, I shall call him Will,  if the boar was shut up, yes he said, smiling as he lied, so over the gate only to be confronted by the boar, so a very quick sprint over to the  hay bales that reached high in the shed and  a scrabbling up till safety was reached.
Once my grandfather sent us on holiday with the horses, this time it was a friend with her enormous horse called Tiny, and my much smaller Welsh mare.  Will managed to let them out one day with the milking cows, that evil smile on his face as the two creatures trotted down the drive.  We jogged behind them down country lanes for a couple of miles, till by luck a hand cart was coming the opposite way and halted them. 
Another time we had tied the animals to an old five bar gate that lead into the garden,  Will came by, yelled at the horses causing them to rear up and pull the gate up over its hinges and on to my legs, luckily nothing was broken and I presume he must have been told off.
Now imagine that scenario today, you would have all those parasitical solicitors claiming compensation, even if you did not want it.  The poor farmer would be distraught and probably up before the court for running a dangerous farm. We have moved a long way in a direction that may be safer but obviously more boring ,which is really rather sad, society has developed but not for the better in many ways......

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday, 20th March

Today may be difficult, opening the curtains this morning revealed a bright and cold morning, but this type of weather can also bring a migraine as well, so as those amoebic like creatures swirled before my eyes once more, took a tablet, and took to my bed, feeling guilty of course......
LS is upset because I called my life humdrum yesterday;),so he teases me as to what I am going to do in my 'humdrum' life today! Well I cannot play with the new toy, so I shall write....
The other day I mentioned archaeology, something I studied many years back, did my 'A' level course in it, and then did a diploma course, my subject being 'Wiltshire Abbeys'. So archaeology filled  quite a bit of my life for years, notwithstanding that I married the archaeology lecturer, now suffice it to say  that it was not a happy marriage and ended in divorce a few years back.
The Cluniac Castle Acre Priory, a beautiful ruin to contemplate every day.

But come weekends and summer months a group of us dug sites as an amateur group, cold winter mornings would see us trogging across a ploughed field in search of pottery, etc or scrapping away at the soil on various undertakings such as a medieval kiln or Roman remains..  Summer months were spent on a proper paid dig at Castle Acre Priory for four years. Here my ex-husband ran the dig, and there would be about 40/50 volunteers to organise and see fed, so it was always a busy two months.  At the time we were excavating  a 'unique grain-processing plant comprising a granary, barn, a kilnhouse, a malthouse and a brewhouse' down by the 'canal', which was how most of the goods were transported.  Monks were after all the most self-sufficient of people, with their granges and gardens, and brewhouses they probably lived a good life, turning 'deserts' such as the Yorkshire moors (the great Cistercian abbeys) into productive land.

Here you can see the rounded kilns, at the other end was the great round building used for malting

In the beginning I used to draw on site, which called for a lot of concentration.  There was a young lad from university, and we worked together, he was always much cleverer at working out the 'points' from which we started our measurements, even to the point of laying the great linen  measuring tapes out in the morning to see if they had stretched over night.  As a group we had lots of fun, it is exhausting working out all day in the fresh air, but come night there would be a campfire and people playing 'ghosts' in the ruins of the abbey...

It is of course the first day of spring today or the Vernal Equinox, when day and night becomes equal in terms of time, so happy Equinox everyone.......but real spring starts when cow parsley line every lane and by ways with the exuberance that only nature can produce.

Ulting Church overlooking the Chelmer; taken in May 2011.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday,19th March

Trying to write something everyday can ultimately be difficult, but there again a blog is a diary, so for this week trying to write about my humdrum existence will continue....
In many ways, news wise, there are serious issues in the air. How far will Putin go with his bluster and bullying, he seems to have the backing of the Russian Parliament behind him, the annexation of Crimea has gone forward, whether this will result in bloodshed remains to be seen.  Should we be worried for the Ukraine people, I think so, will the Western politicians do anything about it, I think not.
Indian music plays in the background, my love has just worked out how to play the CDs on the player downstairs, he forgets the sequence of events every time though we have had it for months, incense wafts up as well!
The camera is at last bought, Canon EOS M, which makes as little sense to whoever reads this blog as it does for me, as does DSR, or 'bridge cameras'  I have pondered over these last couple of months. But there it sat small, neat and tidy on its little stand in Curry's, and it captured my heart. It has a lense, removable no less and if I buy an adaptor I could treat it to another 60 lenses of differing scope! Of course that would be a very expensive hobby, but that potential did it for me. 
Our friend in Cornwall has gained permission from the archaeologist to uncover a stone on one of the prehistoric monuments with our help on Bodmin Moor, so that seems like one of our days is already taken up, plus of course all the places he wants to take us; also the visiting of places to see where we would like to live, plus of course visit to LSs cousin. 7 days is not long enough....
What struck me this morning thumbing through Facebook, and it was not the twelve sided new pound coin, as someone so wittily observed,  are we to be distracted from the real horrors that lurk in The Budget by waving a new coin in front of us... Also the Guardian has a rather good article, telling me something that I probably knew already, money doesn't really exist in the bank, it's all smoke and mirrors...
Then there was Ann Miles writing her new blog for Dobies the seed people, waving in front me a rather useful three shelved 'bookcase' to put against the wall for plants, a bit like the old covered auricula plant stands used for showing these pretty flowers.....

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday 18th

Things I dislike;
1) Worm City for one, this is our composter bin inhabited by roughly a million worms I think, as you take off the lid, they all withdraw amongst the vegetable scraps.  Worse still, if a couple of hundred are clinging to the lid, they will fall around your feet! yuk.

2) All this emphasis on food, now Mary Berry and your delicious cakes, don't you know sugar is bad for you? the Guardian have been producing articles rating sugar content in the foods we eat. My two pieces of fruit I eat daily has fructose in it for goodness sake, and of course all the vegetables I love for their sweetness. Butter, according to this morning news is not as bad as we think, that's good then, because I am buying cheaper butter rather than the 'lighter' lurpak because it is so expensive...  I do believe they are trying to drive us mad, television programmes galore on food, forget the starving poor in the rest of the world.  O dear I have forgotten, we are showing voyeuristic  programmes of how it is like to be poor in this country, which I have never watched so can't comment on them Benefit Street comes to mind.  So that is where my third dislike will come from.

3) Television programmes; Network channels seem to be pointing the camera at the 'me' or what I can do in life, as a dancer (Strictly Come Dancing) singing (The Voice) or particularly nasty violent drama, I suppose there must be a market for it...  All I know is that there is rarely  anything to watch in the evening.  I realise I must be getting old when I say I have seen it all before, and that it might be a good idea to shuffle off the mortal coil, except..............

It is spring and summer is on the way, and I might even come back with a new camera this afternoon!

This is the garden of an old friend, very narrow but the winding path gives a focus.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday - 17th March

Sissinghurst photos; 20 years old maybe, can't even remember what camera I had at the time but I think the yellow hollyhocks must have been a favourite, Vita Sackville-West's 'rooms' of flowers must have taken a great deal of upkeep, clipping the box hedges, and I never did really like the white planting but all these plants bask in warm Kent sunshine with  faded brickwork, a tribute to a person dedicated to gardening...


Richard 111 in Court, a beautiful summary by Mike Pitts;

In reading his very long summary of court proceedings you would be forgiven for thinking you had entered into Alice in Wonderland but you haven't.  The reburial of Richard's bone is being argued in the highest court with  barristers on both sides.  Really it is about where his bones should rest, and if his descendants should have any say in the matter.  We are all vaguely related to each other, and therefore his DNA has been found in other descendants, and a group headed by Phillipa Langley wanted and now have  a public consultation, and also a final say in the matter of where he should be buried, this decision is up before the judges of this land. Therefore the group headed by Phillipa Langley and Ashdown-Hill  have taken action against Leicester University (who funded the excavation in the car park).  The last of the Plantagenets, can't say he is 'turning in his grave' because he is'nt!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Where is this house? - Old photos

It is so pretty, romanticised to within an inch, nothing displeases.  The quiet moat with water lilies, the turreted tower, and the house with varied detail.  To my eye it looks like a folly to be seen as a 'view'.
Now did I see it from Sissinghurst, or from Knole?  Reminding me of Tennyson's poem - Mariana in the Moated Grange.....

Waking she heard the night-fowl crow:
 The cock sung out an hour ere light:
 From the dark fen the oxen's low
 Came to her: without hope of change,
 In sleep she seem'd to walk forlorn,
 Till cold winds woke the gray-eyed morn
 About the lonely moated grange.
   She only said, "The day is dreary,
   He cometh not," she said;
   She said, "I am aweary, aweary,
   I would that I were dead!"

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A walk in Hyland Park

There was not much happening in the gardens flower wise,  here I am going to grumble about this 'colour co-ordinated' park planting above, have they never read Gertrude Jekyll books on gardening? That is a bit snobbish I admit,  but self colour with self same plants are on the whole boring, what about this summer picture below at Lindisfarne....I shall quote her here, because the book happened to fall obligingly open at what I was thinking,
"I am strongly of the opinion that the possession of a quantity of plants, however good the the plants may be themselves and however ample their number, does not make a garden; it only makes a collection.  Having got the plants, the great thing is to use them with a careful selection and definite intention. Merely having them, or having them planted unassorted in garden spaces, is only like having a box of paints from the best colourman, or, to go one step further, it is like having portions of these paints set out upon a palette.  This does not constitute a picture; and it seems to me that the duty we owe to our gardens is so to use the plants that they will form beautiful pictures; and that, while delighting our eyes, they should also be training them to exalted criticism.....
Just love her prose, and she reminds me of another gardener long gone at Sissinghurst Castle, second photo down, now I have beautiful photos of that garden, which I must digitalise one day.  Enough of gardens!

Lindisfarne Garden
Creative Commons; photo by Ann Young
Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst gardens
Creative Commons

Cross  Canadian geese ready to duff LS up. Why?
Because LS is lurking behind this tree taking photos, and frightening the male's mate

All is well.  A rather sweet protective mate

The old oak still in winter garb

This is the rather bare World Garden.