Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Friday, 18 April 2014

Garden of Remembrance

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.”  Shakespeare, Hamlet

This sequence of photos show my talented and creative late sister-in-law, Gillian, in the process of designing and making from scratch, her herb garden. We have only recently seen them as they came from her own albums, which have been  scanned by the family following her death at the end of 2012.

In the 1980 she and her husband took over an hotel in the Cotswolds and turned it into holiday apartments. They then set about converting the old skittle alley, attached to the building, into a cottage which would be their home. Not content with this achievement, Gill went on to carve a lovely garden from the grounds and single-handedly made dry-stone walls and seats as well as the above herb bed.

I don’t know what it looks like today, as when they retired they sold the business and cottage and moved to a new house. However, the garden does feature in the occasional snap from my own album.

 "Here’s flowers for you; hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram........” Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale

In the snap on the right, where my son is jumping from the patio, Gill and I can be seen admiring the herbs garden’s progress. I appear momentarily distracted by something and my daughter is probably talking to her grandmother (hidden by the tree) who is seated on the stone steps, judging by other shots taken on the day.

"For you there’s rosemary and rue; these keep 
 Seeming and savor all the winter long.” Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale

Gill also grew vegetables and flowers and here she is with her brother (my husband) as they show off the runner beans. It looks as if it would be a good harvest that year.

And on the same day Gill and I sit on one of the smaller patio areas.
I can see roses, dahlias, spiraea and what looks like lavender and even more herbs. In the foreground there is a contrasting silver-foliage. This little area almost looks like a secret garden; what a wonderful place to escape to with a book.

I’ve shown the picture of Gill and my husband before, but it’s my favourite so here it is again. They’re seated on the stone wall seat near the house and the Cotswold stone is shown at its best in the warm Summer sun.

For more garden memories visit this week’s Sepia Saturday, where contributors are inspired by the prompt below.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Over the Yardarm

The picture above c1920, comes from The State Library of Victoria, and shows sailors ‘high up in the rigging’ of The Garthsnaid. That’s all we know I’m afraid, but I thought it would serve as my contribution for this week’s Sepia Saturday, where the photo prompt shows some men enjoying a rather lofty vantage point and we are encouraged to think of the concept of danger.


By chance two other items led me to the Garthsnaid picture. The wonderful Europeana blog reminded us that this week was the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Eiffel Tower, and pointed us in the direction  of these quite hair-raising pictures of men working on its painting. I’m away next week so I’ve made a quartet of photographs as suggested by the prompt for Sepia Saturday number 223 to cover both weeks.

Then, in today’s newspaper I read that the SS Great Britain at Bristol Docks, was inviting visitors to experience life as a Victorian seaman and take a walk up the rigging. I can’t show the picture of course but follow the link to Climb the Yardarm and you will see a scary enough photograph of a brave soul dressed as Isamabard Kingdom Brunel, the designer of the ship, doing just that. You can find out all about it on the Bristol Culture web page and read about a poor sailor named Ramsay Grey who fell from the one of the ‘yards' in 1852. The captain decided that the boat was going too fast and the sea conditions meant that a boat could not be sent to rescue him putting other lives at risk. Now that is scary.

Well the sun is over the yardarm so it must be time for the first alcoholic drink of the day. If you don’t mind I’ll skip the issue of rum the common sailor was doled out (watered down) and go for a gin and tonic instead. Cheers!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Happy Simnel Sunday

Today is Mothering Sunday or Simnel Sunday. The fourth Sunday in Lent. Unfortunately it is rarely called that these days. Instead, it has become Mothers’ Day, and it is getting harder to find a card with the correct wording. My family have always made an effort to send me a card for Mothering Sunday and here are a few from my treasure box, including today's.

When my brother and I were young, in the 1940s and 50s it was the tradition to go to church, present your mother with a bunch of violets and possibly a box of chocolates, and generally make a fuss. It was her day to rest and be pampered, perhaps with breakfast in bed, a special Sunday dinner and other treats, and be showered with love and affection. Violets seemed to figure in card designs too. and below are the youthful efforts of my brother and me. At least I know the hanging one with the antiquated language is mine, but I’m not so sure about the other one.

Of course the best cards  are the personalised ones. such as these which show how my grandchildren have grown.

And these made by my own children at various stages in their lives.

The origins of Mothering Sunday go back centuries in the Christian calendar, to a time when people would return to the Mother Church or Cathedral. This was to go ‘a-mothering’. In more recent times, young people living away from home or in service, would be given time off to attend their mother's church and take her flowers. Eventually the day became more secular and these days is often celebrated in the same way as Mother’s Days in Europe and the USA.

I don’t think many people will be baking Simnel Cake today either, and it is more likely to be associated with Holy Week. The cake has been known since medieval times, when it would be eaten in the middle of Lent, on ‘Refreshment Sunday’ when the forty day fast would be relaxed. Again, the cake was often baked as a gift for children to take to their mothers on this day, Mothering Sunday.  Simnel is a light fruit cake with two layers of marzipan and toasted marzipan balls on top. An Easter convention is that there should be only eleven balls as Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, is not represented.

Charles Causley, one of my favourite poets, wrote ‘Tomorrow is Simnel Sunday’ and it appears in my treasured copy of Collected Poems for Children’.

Tomorrow is Simnel Sunday
And homeward I shall steer 
And I must bake a Simnel Cake 
For my mother dear.

I’ll fetch me almonds, cherries,
The finest in the land,
I’ll fetch me salt, I’ll fetch me spice,
I’ll fetch me marzipan.

With milk and eggs and butter
And flour as fair as snow
And raisins sweet and candied treat
I’ll set it all to go.

And I shall search for violets
That scent the homeward way
For tomorrow is Simnel Sunday
And it is Mothering Day.

A very Happy Mothering Sunday, Simnel Sunday or Refreshment Sunday, to all mothers wherever you may be.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Lazy Cow

This week Viridian’s call for Sunday Stamps was farms and farm animals and she generously said we could interpret this widely. Just as well, as the only farm animal in my little handful of stamped postcards is this one. Unlike the beasts on the stamps from other contributors, mine is being rather lazy, actually doing a spot of sunbathing on one of Jersey’s magnificent beaches. Clearly she is worn out by providing all that rich, creamy milk, Jersey cows are famed for.

The Lazy Cow was affixed to this postcard, sent to my parents on 20th August 2000, from my Dad’s cousin.

My husband and I had a happy holiday in Jersey a couple of years later, but it would appear that we didn’t send my parents a postcard - how remiss of us. Thank goodness for Dad’s cousin then.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Local Hero

I’m not even going to attempt to deliver a knowledgeable post about the legendary outlaw Robin Hood. The Internet is flooded with history, folklore, poems, songs and stories about him for those who wish to seek them out. This post is about the statue; however, I will tell you that he is the local hero of my childhood in Nottingham and that his statue and I are of similar age. It’s situated in the grounds of Nottingham Castle, and here are my own children getting acquainted with him in 1988. It was presented to the city of Nottingham in 1952 when I was still a babe in arms. The statue was unveiled by the Duchess of Portland, to the accompaniment of a fanfare from the band of the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment.

The Royal Academy sculptor, James Wood, was commissioned by a local business man Philip E F Clay, in 1949 to make Robin and other statuary and plaques, to commemorate the visit by Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on June 28th 1952, during the city’s quincentenary celebrations. A large party of civic guests dined on an appropriate medieval banquet, which included venison and mead, and from the Minstrel Gallery came the music of 'Merrie England', with a programme that included Greensleeves.

There were possibly audible gasps of surprise when the statue was unveiled, as the popular conception of Robin Hood at that time was of the Errol Flynn rôle. This Robin, the result of meticulous research by Woods, was the stocky yeoman type which would historians believed medieval foresters would have looked. And so the debate began, and has continued for the past sixty or so years. Every generation has their own Robin Hood; my own mother still favours the swashbuckling Flynn, whilst I was brought up on the TV serial of the 1950s, starring Richard Green. Then came Michael Praed in the TV version of the 80s and I was instantly in love.

Poor old Robin has been the target of souvenir hunters and vandals over the years, and I remember him sometimes without his bow, or part of it, or more often than not, minus the arrow. During the 50s and 60s replacement arrows were costing the City Council £55 a time. The statue itself was cast in eight pieces of half-inch thick bronze, weighing half a ton, so would be difficult to steal, but the arrows became a target (sorry) because they were so easily removed. It was a former Sheriff of Nottingham, Alderman Frank Dennet, who came to Robin’s aid by commissioning the services of the engineers at the Royal Ordnance Factory, to make the new arrow from a particularly strong material, fixed with a special welding process. Thus part of the legend was reversed, as the Sheriff was traditionally Robin’s arch-enemy.

The statue is now truly iconic, appearing in advertisements, posters and TV shows, and now here he is in my blog and reaching a new audience through Sepia Saturday, where this week’s photo prompt is statues and monuments.

Before you go over there to see what other contributors have posted, here’s a picture of another of James Woods’ statues. My son joins Robin’s Merry Men in this photograph. The statue shows Friar Tuck, Little John and Will Stukely having a rest from their outlaw duties.

I am indebted to an informative article by the Nottingham Post, from which many of the snippets of information for this post came.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Please Mr. Postman

Please Mr.Postman look and see
If there’s a letter in your bag for me.

The words of the song Please, Mr Postman, from a 1961 song recorded by the Marvelettes, seem to fit the picture on the postage stamp above. You may know the song from later cover versions by The Beatles and The Carpenters, among others, and by now you’re probably singing along. The singer hopes to get a letter from her boyfriend, who is away at war, and pleads for the postman to check his bag one more time, and “deliver the letter, the sooner the better.” It seems the lady on the stamp struck lucky, and as the postman is smiling we can assume it’s not bad news.

I’m amazed at how light the postman’s bag appears to be. When I was a student in the 1970s I worked on the Christmas Post and the bag slung across my shoulders was huge and heavy; I couldn’t wait to get back to the warmth and safety of the sorting office (away from the dogs and the slippery paths).

The letter was sent to my parents by a friend on 23rd September 1989 from Lugano in Switzerland. The reverse shows an idyllic scene and the friend reported that the weather was hot.

Sunday Stamps over at Viridian’s Postcard Blog is celebrating letters, letter-writing and the post; once again I’m amazed that from my meagre clutch of stamped postcards I’ve managed to find one to fit the theme.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Pleasure Domes

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan 
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

Sepia Saturday’s picture prompt this week suggested domes as a possible theme. My domes are not those dreamed of by the poet Coleridge, after taking opium, but they brought pleasure nevertheless. This picture was taken on a visit to the Eden Project, near St. Austell in Cornwall in 2000. Some of the giant domes or ‘biomes’ were still incomplete but the site was open to visitors. We were on holiday with friends and it was the place to go that summer. The project was the vision of Tim Smit, who had also been responsible for restoring 'The Lost Gardens of Heligan’.

Once again, I think we took more movie film than stills, but there are a few postcards and souvenir snaps of our friends enjoying the day. If my memory is correct we were put in trains and driven round the site, hence the hard hats as it was still under construction. The domes consisted of hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal inflated plastic cells supported on steel frames, and housed thousands of plant species. You can read more here.  I think we later re-visited with the intention of seeing how the project looked once it was established, but didn’t get further than the main door as the entrance fee was around £50 for the two of us. I know there was a lot more to the attraction than the biomes; art displays and exhibitions and so on, but we’d already enjoyed those the first time round.

The Eden Project is housed in a disused China Clay pit and here in Lanzarote we had our own man of vision, César Manrique, who designed practically all the visitor attractions and ensured that it did not become an island of high-rise hotels. I have written about the Jardin de Cactus (Cactus Gardens) before on my blog, but it’s worth mentioning again as a contrast to the Eden Project. Manrique started work on his gardens in the 1970s, although they didn’t open until 1990. They are also built in a disused quarry and the old mill stands above the the gardens, serving as a great lookout for the surrounding landscape. My friend and I are pictured taking a walk last year amid some of the amazing cacti.

On the Lanzarote Information site you can see some pictures of the gardens under construction in 1971 and at the inauguration in 1990. It’s one of my places to visit here and only costs a few euros so nobody has second thoughts at the entrance. In fact most people are already in awe of the giant cactus sculpture in the car park and can’t wait to see what delights the garden itself holds. The answer of course is hundreds of species of cacti collected from around the world.

Manrique was responsible for initiating the proposal to declare Lanzarote a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which was achieved in 1993; sadly he had died in a car accident the previous year.

I had to end with that last picture of us enjoying refreshments in the restaurant, because it includes another dome-like structure (which houses the tiny gift shop) in the background.

Lanzarote is a volcanic island and there are caves and lava bubbles aplenty creating domes of their own, but that would require another blogpost. I’ll leave you with this link however, Into the Lava Dome, which describes some of the beauty to be found there.

For more domes, arches or libraries travel to Sepia Saturday and see what other contributors have found.