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."

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.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Two Lovely Ladies

The lovely lady portrayed in the stamp is Clara Schumann 1819-1896, famous as the wife of Robert, the composer, but also in her own right, as an influential pianist. She was a remarkable woman in many ways and deserved to be honoured by the FDR in 1986 for her achievements in music. She was also the main breadwinner for her family through her concerts and teaching. Clara not only raised a large family of her own but took on the responsibility for her grandchildren when one of her own children was unable to do so.

The stamp was affixed to a postcard from my godmother to my parents in July of 1994, when she would be staying with her daughter’s family in Germany.

I like the card because of the sentiment it includes. My godmother, ‘Aunty Rita’ had been my Mum’s friend since childhood and she and my ‘Uncle Bob’ were good friends of my parents, Sadly only Mum remains of the four, but I have many happy memories of my godparents and the many kindnesses they showed me.

This is the reverse of the postcard with the large spring my godmother mentions. It is in the Hartz Mountains and is the source of the River Rhume

The two pictures below, taken in July 1989 at Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire, demonstrate the friendship between the two couples.

Viridian’s Sunday Stamps prompt today is Women on Stamps, as March is Women’s History Month in many countries and yesterday was International Women’s Day. I have very few postcards and only found one with a woman, but what a great find. Not only was the stamp of a remarkable and loving grandma but the sender of the postcard to which it was affixed also deserved to be remembered here. One of the generation who grew up in the 1920s and 30s when times were hard, who served her country in the Second World War, raised four children and was a loving grandmother to their offspring.  Of course she was also my mother’s very good friend and my godmother. Another lovely lady.

Dad and my godfather, Uncle Bob.

Mum and my godmother, Rita, with Bob on the second bench.

Friday, 7 March 2014

A Boyhood Backyard

Uppingham Terrace, The Meadows, Nottingham.

This is a painting done by my late father, of the place where he lived from about the age of four to ten years. The family moved from here around 1930 when my grandfather Sam, who worked on the railways, was allocated a railway house at Barnsley Terrace, on Glapton Road. All those houses are gone now, as they were demolished in the 1970s and new houses built in their place. Anything with ‘terrace’ or ‘street’ in the address seems to have been re-named ‘gardens’ or ‘walk’, thus Uppingham Terrace is now Uppingham Gardens, and Lammas Street, where Dad was born, is now Lammas Gardens; not exactly gentrified, but a far cry from The Meadows area of old.

 The Meadows suffered from overcrowding and unsanitary conditions during its history. In the 1890s the fields surrounding the city were developed and a rapidly expanding population was crowded into a restricted city area where outbreaks of cholera and typhoid were common. After the 1845 Enclosure Act, Victorian brick terrace houses, shops, pubs and factories were built. By the 1920s, when Dad was born, the scene above would have been a familiar one.

Dad and his siblings and cousins enjoyed a reasonably happy childhood in the area. Dad remembered the gas street lights being changed to electricity whilst he lived there. Around the age of seven Dad was allowed to play out on the street and nearby waste ground, which is where his lifelong love of football began. The area also offered Life Boys and Boys Brigade at Bridgeway Hall, swimming at Portland Baths and River Trent Baths. Dad also sang in the church choir at St. Margaret’s and St. Saviour’s and had a newspaper round at a newsagent’s on Arkwright Street. He was allowed to keep some of his earnings for pocket money, which he supplemented by running errands for neighbours and Nottingham Forest footballers. The proceeds usually went on books.

The picture above shows Dad (centre front) with his mother, aunt, cousins and sister, probably at his aunt’s house in Lammas Street, The Meadows,where he was born in 1921.

Mum also lived in The Meadows; she moved from Tealby Terrace to Woodward Street as a young girl, and it is the Woodward Street house that I remember from my own childhood and early adulthood. I have happy memories of the house and garden, but not so happy memories of the outside lavatory.

Here is the photograph I believe Dad may have used to help him with his painting. I’ve recently discovered that he took a number of pictures during the 1970s of his old haunts and this was amongst them. Clearly at that time it hadn’t changed very much from his memories of the place.

For more stories of backyards, gardens, fences or terraces, go over to Sepia Saturday this week and see how other contributors have matched the prompt picture.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Telescoping Effect

The term ‘telescoping effect’ is used in cognitive psychology whereby people perceive recent events as being more remote than they are, and distant events as being more recent than they are. The former is known as ‘backward telescoping’ or 'time expansion’ and the latter as ‘forward telescoping’. If you’re interested in the scientific explanations of this field of study, it’s all there in the web. In some ways Sepia Saturday is about forward telescoping as we bring events from the past nearer to the present.

Seal Harbour, Glengarriff, County Cork, Ireland, 25th August 1998

There are no sepia photographs of telescopes in the family album, which is surprising as the model being used my husband in the picture above, is his childhood telescope. It was given to him by his parents after a trip to New York in 1958. He still has it but these days he uses the binoculars, given to him by his colleagues on his retirement, to view both the passing ships in the Bocaina Straits, and the more distant heavens. On our Ireland trip we must have both been very relaxed, whilst my husband is enjoying his hobby I was indulging in mine, and some of you will remember this from my companion piece on my other blog, A Stitch in Time, where I recall the blackberrying and the chat with local dogwalker.

The Glengarriff ferry is possibly what was being viewed through the lens of the telescope, as I took the photograph above at the same time. These days it’s the Fred Olsen and Armas ferries we watch from our balcony as they make their crossings between Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, where we live, and the nearest Canary Island of Fuerteventura.

This one is just a little further down the coast from Seal Harbour, where I think we stopped for a cup of coffee from our picnic flask. A beautiful and peaceful spot.

Our Sepia Saturday picture prompt this week features telescopes and rocks, so here’s another picture demonstrating just how relaxing Seal Harbour was.

There’s nothing like a spot of  rock-pooling to help one unwind. We often go for walks along our coastal path here, and as the tide goes out we scramble down to see the tiny marine creatures temporarily displaced into the rock pools. It’s the Atlantic Ocean we see from our bedroom window (not the Mediterranean as some mistakenly believe); the same ocean which washes the shores of Ireland, so, yes, it is tidal, and sometimes on the cool side but this doesn’t stop my husband taking a dip.

There he is in Seal Harbour again. There was no digital zoom in my camera in those days and I almost needed to borrow his telescope in order to see him.

Here is our very good friend Ian, clearly enjoying whatever it is he is viewing. I think this one was taken in the summer of 2001 on our holiday in Cornwall, but I can’t be precise about the location I’m afraid.

In today’s Times newspaper there’s an article and chart, explaining what we can expect from the night sky in March and in which the recent findings of the giant Hubble telescope are reported. I can’t share it in its entirety as you would have to be a subscriber to view it, but the link will take you to the chart, together with the introduction to the piece, entitled: Brilliant Venus Rises before Dawn, by Chris Lintott. It’s aimed at a UK audience of course but I can quote from it, as I’m acknowledging the source:

A moderate pair of binoculars, accompanied by fairly good eyesight will reveal the four Galilean moons. These are large worlds — Ganymede is larger than Mercury, for example — and, thanks to the push and pull of Jupiter’s gravity they are, with the exception of distant Callisto, dynamic places. The volcanoes of Io and the subsurface oceans on Europa and Ganymede owe their existence to the changing forces they experience as they swing round on slightly elliptical orbits. According to recent results from the *Hubble Space Telescope*, when Europa is farthest from the giant planet it relaxes, allowing water from under the ice to be spewed out into space. Whether this happens frequently or was just an isolated episode is an open question, as is whether the water thus expelled comes from the deep ocean or from some source closer to the surface, but it is undoubtedly an exciting development.

For more exciting developments and discoveries you need to move into the orbit of Sepia Saturday, and see what other contributors found when they peered through their telescopes.