Thursday, May 21, 2015

Embroidery; The Magna Carta

Lovely video of the making of this  embroidered 13 metre Magna Carta, so timely when we are seeing the apparent erosion of the Human Rights Act by the present government.  Based on the words of Wikipedia, a font of knowledge and one of the best expressions of freedom around..

Magna Carta Embroidery at the British Museum  video also.

The one clause of any importance remaining is about law...

No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land.

Taken from the Wikipedia Content on Magna Carta which this embroidered representation of this first article of faith between the king and his people was arrived at.

Lotta Opper

The following is a history about the family of my first mother-in-law.  A couple of weeks ago an email from a Dutch man called Pieter landed in my mail box.  He had picked up from a blog post - Past Ghosts I had  written three years ago the name Lotta Opper and as he was doing his own family history, contacted me. We exchanged emails, I felt it was history that belonged to the Opper family, passed the emails on to my daughter, and she duly passed them on to her aunts, Sylvia and Annabel.  Sylvia wrote to me yesterday, they had been in Brittany for a few weeks, and she and her husband are going back to Brittany because Sylvia is allergic to the pollen spores in Vevey.  Well when she comes back she will get in touch with the man, who is terribly polite and I feel that I am relieved of the post of family historian!

It struck me yesterday that such a history instead of languishing in my emails should once again be on the web, just in case another  person wanted the information so with a little judicious cut and paste here it is.  Fascinating geography emerges from the emails, the van Rijnberks were obviously very entrepreneurial, and there is mention of a steam engine expert as well, which  requires some exploration, I note that Lotta was named after her mother? I'm crap at working out who  belongs to another...But there are two paintings in the family, my daughter has one of the Hague and the other was the van Rijnberk house.

You describe Lotta your mother-in law, married to Conrad Opper.
If I make a correct interference than Lotta's maiden name is van Rijnberk (born in 1909, in Singapore) and she married Conrad Opper in 1931 in Mazabuka, then Rhodesia (now Zambia I believe).

If this is correct I would very much appreciate if you would contact me, this since I am doing historic research into the origins of the shipyard, which my great-grand-father started in 1872 (A Vuijk @ Sons), in which the van Rijnberk family played an important role. Both Lotta's father (a.o partner of Hooglandt & Co, Singapore) and grand-father (Feijenoord shipyard, Rotterdam) were of paramount importance in this context. 

 I am already curious about the paintings you mention, regarding the house Lotta
lived in during her childhood in The Hague. May be it is the same, as the house I recently 
visited in The Hague in the Statenkwartier district (the houses in that neighbourhood date 
from the early 19th century), where the van Rijnberk family may have lived, following their departure from the Far East.
I also spend a good part of my career overseas and it is therefor interesting to observe that some 
of these (distant) family members lived and worked occasionally in the same places, albeit
a good many years earlier. I also wonder about the location of the house you refer to, 
regarding the van Rijnberk house painting, you remember.  Anyway, thank you for sharing the pictures 
of Lotta and her family on your blog.

the above is correct then Lotta's paternal grandmother was Maartje Sophia Vuijk.
she was the sister of the founder of the shipyard, Adrianus Vuijk.

As I understand now: Annabel and Sylvia's maternal grand-parents are Willem E. van Rijnberk and 
Helene Charlotte Sperling. He was born in Rotterdam in 1881, near the shipyard, where his father (Gerrit-Willem) made an astonishing career in applying steam engine technology in shipping during the 2nd half of the 19th century,
she was born in Leipzig in 1883. Also their grandfather had an incredible career in Singapore, where Lotta was born, and was decorated in Batavia (Djakarta) in 1914 by the Queen's representative, after which the couple moved back to Holland, The Hague, I believe in 1916, where he started many new trading ventures.  As such their grandfather's parents are Gerrit-Willem van Rijnberk (the steam engine expert)  and Maartje Sophia Vuijk, people I also study for my research on the shipyard A. Vuijk & Zn (1872-1979), founded by my great-grandfather. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Waking up to a beautiful morning, we agree that it is just right for another visit to the recycle place, heavy bundles of magazines this time, all Britarch goes, and the boxful of Japanese magazines. Yesterday was a bit of a shock, the people who want this house want a moving date for next week, according to the estate agent They are not going to get it because our solicitor is still doing the 'searches'. This house is mostly empty of stuff we don't need, the last place to be tackled is the loft in the garage, a few boxes hopefully.
The studio houses the most books and four gigantic Japanese encyclopedias which are accompanying us.  The new house has no cupboard space or wardrobes, LS is talking of flooring the loft there, as it has proper steps up to it, then we can put a lot of the books from the studio up there.  We argue somewhat as to which studys for both of us, I want to be downstairs in the smaller room, but as he says we talk a lot to each other so therefore I should be upstairs near him, and I do need a craft room....
We have choice in four bedrooms, the en-suite bedroom (never did like such things) is to be the guest bedroom, the cottage furniture if the cottage is sold, will also fit nicely in as well. The car, which is fairly old, has just been serviced and MOTed but there is a large problem looming on the horizon about the failure of the camshaft because of its age, hopefully it will last a few more months.
Slowly we move towards moving!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pondering on Mid Wansdyke

My mind has been wrapped up for a few days in following the old Roman road, that takes a straight course over the high ground between West and East Wansdyke, the supposed barrier between two tribal areas? this though  can only be conjecture there is little dating evidence but it is supposed to be post-Roman.  It could also be the boundary line of the Dobunni tribe, Cunliffe mentions the fact that they looked after the sacred springs of Aqua Sulis*

There is  a linking part of the boundary between East and West Wansdyke, following an old Roman road over the higher ground, this is called the Mid Wansdyke.  It skirts Chippenham, following a line to Sandy Lane, or the Roman station of Verlucio, from here it takes a course over the Cherhill downs, past Avebury and of course its Roman settlement and then joins up with  East Wansdyke.  Wansdyke obviously takes it name from Woden, and the boundary has been associated with the Saxons.

The area of the western Wansdyke became the border between the Romano-British celts and the west Saxons following the Battle of Deorham in 577. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Saxon Cenwalh achieved a breakthrough against the Britons, with victories at Bradford on Avon (in the Avon Gap in the Wansdyke) in 652 AD,

The maps following the course of the old Roman road can be seen on Poems, Painting and Photos, the maps themselves rather worn sadly.  Not too confuse myself mostly, is the fact from where the boundary started to the west of Bath, there is a presumed course for the West Wansdyke starting at Maes Knoll  hill fort, going through Stantonbury fort and then getting lost because of later ploughing, the next hill fort out of Bath is Bathampton following the A4 to Box, which is roughly four miles out of Bath. 
  Bathampton has been ruled out, though interestingly, there is the  Iron Age settlement at Solsbury, almost opposite Bathampton and commanding a high position in the landscape.

The A4 is of course an important road, it runs from London to Bristol, and is in places still following the original Roman road, but such main arteries changed direction over the centuries, and an interesting article on  toll roads, explains more.

Bath was late in building Roman villas, but of the several that lie round the city, one of the largest is Box Roman Villa.  Now buried under a church grave yard and several gardens, we had a friend who lived in one of the houses there, with the remains of the villa under the soil in her garden, and she had decorated her house in Roman style.

  © Copyright Brian Robert Marshall and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
So I meander, but it is in Box rather than going up the steep hill that follows the A4, you can turn right up onto the Roman road that is supposed to be the Mid Wansdyke boundary.  There is another modern road that starts from Bathampton, going over Kingsdown  the Roman road seems to follow it in a parallel course marked on the map. There are also tumuli up on Kingsdown, and therefore the  Roman road must have followed a prehistoric track over the high ground.  You can also see a Roman villa at Atworth, south of the road.

To be continued.... or in the Words of Vortigen..

I fear therefore that we should rule out the option of the existence of Wansdyke here, and accept either the use of the Roman Road as a demarcation line, or the complete discontinuation of Wansdyke on the stretch between the Avon and Morgan's Hill. May the reader choose wisely.

And the poem, which probably sent me thinking about the Wansdyke....


On the byway,
off the highway,
are you resting, chief and churl,
sleeping easy, dreaming sweetly,
under cloud and wind and soil?

One who passes, pauses,
sleeps at night,
then travels onwards northwards,
salutes the sleepers under sod,
salutes the wind-blown leaning grasses,
shares your ancient journey,
shares your god.
 John Kemp.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday 16th May

Today, Saturday, I decided to empty part of the compost bin, as you empty from below, the sight of a wriggling thousand worm strong mat is not for the squeamish. But as I tackled this writhing knot a young thrush ran round the garden as I worked.   It was beautiful, pale brown, its chest skimmed with spots and a little ruff of baby feathers caught behind its wings.  Time passed and it had still not flown, so starting to worry I tried to shoo it into the air but it wasn't going anywhere, and in this garden where cats are daily to be seen - what to do?
So I sat on the lawn with him, it was very tame, and fed him breadcrumbs, till an adult blackbird came down, bullied him over the crumbs and then flew off.  A moment of magic happened, the young bird had a 'light bulb' moment, ran across the lawn, jumped up onto a chair after the adult bird and then to the fence and flew away, nature or nurture I don't know but safety for a few more hours.

Watching handmade whilst I spun the other day, no words just action, as the person went through the making of a Windsor chair, made me look at my chair, which I sit in every day in front of the computer.  As someone who can do woodwork, the machinery and the work is very familiar, the point of a good chair is that glue is hardly used, just dowelling and fitting the struts into corresponding holes in the framework, bracing in other words. It makes you remember all the medieval timber built barns and houses, when nails were hardly used.
My chair I love dearly, it has cushions for comfort, and is rather low to the floor but it is comfortable and would probably be the first thing I would save in case of fire..... And yes I do not know his name WHB, but like to think of him as William, Henry Bennett.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Hawthorn,Whitethorn, May thorn - Crataegus monogyna

By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn trees
For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite?
He shall find the thornies set
In his bed at night.

Taken from The Fairies by William Allingham

It blazes across the country, elegant panicles drip their blossom to the ground. As English as yorkshire pudding, or perhaps I should say as British for it is everywhere, promiscuous like an overdressed lady of the night, with its faint sweet scent.  The turning of spring into summer this is what May thorn is all about, when children danced round the maypole, and young lovers left bouquets of flowers outside the house of their darlings.

Grigson has a hundred names for it at least, it fills the countryside in a riot of white. OE for it is haegthorn or hagathorn, which is usually taken to mean the haw or the fruit.  Children from the past would eat the fresh young shoots, nutty and fresh.

The puritans hated it, it represented vice and sin, though it crept into the churches adorning columns and pews.  It is a supernatural tree, made for fairies, and its power is only equalled by the magical rowan.  Grigson states that Lady Raglan* (The Green man in Church Architecture), that these carvings of the 'green man' are the May Lord or May King.

In Ireland its mythology is strong, you did not spread your washing out on a sacred lone hawthorn, you may be interfering with the washing of the fairies.  Of course it wove its way into Christian stories, none so famous as the Glastonbury Thorn according to the legend of Joseph of Arimathea, which is supposed to flower on Christmas day; it puts its flowers out in winter and then again in May (Crataegus monogyna var. praecox), if a more practical explanation is to be offered.  Grigson says that this story came into print in 1722, presumably a story by the medieval monks of Glastonbury to elicit donations from the people, three thorn trees were to be found on Wearyall Hill.

Thre hawthornes also, that groweth in Werale,
Do burg here grene leaves at Christmas
As freshe as other in May.

 When in the bleak days of winter I look back on this blog, Wednesday's beautiful weather and the flowering hawthorn will be something to remember and be thankful for ;)

Green Men in Wiltshire

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


What can one say about wisterias. exuberant, flamboyant, sumptuous, almost beats bluebells in its colour.  Anyway we caught it at the right moment at Hylands House today.

There is a Chinese wistaria, also similar native Japanese and Korean - Wistaria Chinensis an American one -Wistaria Frutescen, which flowers later and after the leaf has developed.

The first wisteria was brought into Europe by an English man named Captain Welbank in 1816. Apparently one evening in May 1816, Captain Welbank was invited for dinner by a rich Chinese dealer from Guangzhou (Canton). The dinner party was held underneath a pergola covered by flowering wisteria, which the Chinese called Zi Teng 'blue vine'.

No European had ever seen such a similar beauty and Captain Welbank convinced the dealer to give him some seedlings which he took back to England as a present for his friend C. H. Turner, from Rooksnet, Surrey. Three years later, in 1819, the wisteria bloomed for the first time and from there on rapidly spread to many gardens throughout the old continent.
In Italy the Wisteria is known since 1840.

Taken from Curiosity

It's Gone

Yesterday evening the bench sat in its pristine landscape, the great machine had mowed carefully around it, the hawthorn blossoms glowed in the gathering dusk.  But..............this morning the black maria/council van came at 7.15 and took it away, so ends the saga of the bench, which has kept us amused these last few days!

And when I get over another migraine I shall start thinking again and return to a  lunar goddess at Bath, and the Wansdyke when I came across an old favourite link from the past the Vortigen Studies

Monday, May 11, 2015

Benches and Butterflies

The Tale of a Bench; Could be told in pictures, but on Saturday, some lads moved a bench from one end of the green to our end. putting it on the mound which is such a great attraction to children and adults.  As time went by we kept an eye on it, the council man this morning did not take it back to its usual place, probably H&S, or different people to do this job.
Many people have sat on this bench, over the last couple of days, it was even toppled over this morning by the boys going to school, but righted mysteriously sometime later, probably by a dog walker.  Fascinating said I, it reminded me of a moment in time when you could leave books on a bench and they would be picked up by a passer by and recorded by some organisation on the net, it never actually caught on round here.  Could be that the bench got here under its own steam, deciding it wanted a different outlook on life, its days are numbered of course, the council already knows about it absconding!

Butterflies: One thing I notice about this part of Essex is that there is no brimstone butterflies at this time of year, the garden in Bath always had them, echoing the daffodils which they had just replaced.
Orange tips are around in the garden as are the holly blues, always difficult to catch with their wings wide open showing that lovely deep blue.

At the woods the other day was this peacock butterfly basking in the sun...

This morning a sparrow hawk flew low over the green, I had been wondering why our doves seemed so spooked, the hawk was probably the reason, and we only have one coming down....

A Journey to a Far Land

I have just fallen in love with these beautiful shepherd dogs, a life style so different from ours, but am not sure that I could live on mutton stew for life but the simplicity  of the shepherds seems a long way from ours.  On facebook I have a couple of Indian 'friends', and wise Bula Imam is one of them and it is a delight to wander round his landscape of India and listen to his musings, it was from him that I found the following link.

And to our world; Standing Stone comes from Bath, my home city once, and he in the tradition of all good protestors went up to London to video the protests that took place on Saturday.  There is some dissent in the country thank goodness, notice the police have refined their tactics as to 'kettling', a rather cruel practice of holding people for hours on end.....

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday, 10th May - Never write in Stone

Where is the green and promised land I though might exist one day, actually I did not, even the Green Party hardly know where they are going.  But what has troubled me and plenty of others is the 'false' and scary nationalism that erupted under UKIP, and the stark silliness of Milliband and his stone; never ever write in stone! Stick with prehistoric cromlechs, they have managed to survive the millenia.  That is of course what Milliband lacked, maturity, the ability to tackle the real issues of poverty in this country, do I see 'zero contracts' on his tablet of promises, all I see is a vagueness  of aspirations projecting into the future, actually I am quite sorry for him, he is a 'geek' who could not even find the rhetoric to name his values.
LS wants to go up to Yorkshire to see the house, though I am not sure it is a wise move, as we should be moving at some stage soon.  Though the village is tiny, just opposite in one of the cottages there is a lady who will alter our curtains, and a husband who will put up curtain rods - joy, we have spoken to her on the phone, friendly and chatty....
It is weird how matters are conducted these days, mostly through emails, though there are always  actual papers to sign to formalise everything.  When we clear out the clutter of old correspondence, which is a boring affair, it does at least remind you of past times, but who can scroll through thousands of emails to find a (yes I do file in folders) particular communications, and where is the fun of a beautiful House of Commons letter from your MP when you decide to pick up pen and write your grievances - all gone.
I am tentatively looking at dogs in rescue homes online in Yorkshire, dearly love another collie but we will see, there does not seem to be many walking areas in the village, though you can walk by the river.

Coetan Arthur Cromlech hidden in a rocky landscape

Self  belief

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Saturday 9th May

Eddie Procter in his blog 'The Wake' sums up the feeling of the few who viewed with mounting despair the Election results yesterday, there I was waiting for a shake-up in the voting patterns it did not happen. We are condemned to five years of Tory servitude, my heart sinks, as the constant
background chatter of the commentators adjusts our nation's thinking to the 'safe option'.  Three leaders down, does not break my heart, I wanted a different pattern to appear.  Chaotic maybe, honest definitely, the ability to  look back at the 'State' which governs us and to really  put it through the wringer of truth, but no we get politicians who will sometimes lie, compromise on what should be done, but will we get fairness?

Enough, I have just found another character to love, John Thomas Blight, 1835 to 1911 antiquarian and draughtsman, he ended up mad in Bodmin Lunatic Asylum and finished his life there. It sounds a terrible place, but did improve in later years, John Clare the poet comes to mind, where does madness lie I wonder?  And why should I be thinking it on this post election day?  Two of his drawings he was also interested in the churches of Cornwall and illustrated books for them as well.

Two books to explore as well;  The first on Cornwall, the second on Dartmoor.

Friday, May 8, 2015

bluebells in the wood



wood spurge

Two videos, as usual not very good, perhaps one day I shall treat myself to a camcorder.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thursday the 7th

Statue in the garden
A bit of nostalgia;  Last Saturday was World Naked Gardening Day, now I do not think many people actually participated, especially in this country but it gives me a break from Election day and to go back a few years when we wandered round the gardens of a house in Malmesbury next to the abbey, where the owners did in fact work naked in summer and are famed for it, in fact I saw a photo of him on the net a couple of days ago.
It was a very hot day and this was my first digital camera, and a lot of the photos have my thumb in them sadly, but not a bad camera till it succumbed to sand in its innards, must have been to the sea side.

Tom looking rather ghostly

Is that a Norman arch from the Abbey?

Roy quietly sat at the top of the stairs

And if you want a moral story to come out of this, the couple at Malmesbury Abbey House divorced last year, not often you get to write 'divorced naked gardeners'  ;)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

5th May - cuckoos

5th May, and there is talk of cuckoos on the radio, so doing a 'search' on my blog records that we heard cuckoos on this exact date last year.  Pottering is the blog, and I see the bluebells are almost over, whereas last week the flowers were just starting.
Woke up early to the heavy downpour of rain, and when I fed the birds this morning, the doves were soaked, their feathers dark grey.  Yesterday I sat out in the sun and recorded what I saw, you will just have to imagine the bees I am trying to capture and never do.  But that thin strip down the side of the house which is left to follow its own way, has had small dark violets, bluebells and the wallflowers that always grow wild in the front, plus of course the red valerian coming into flower.  Wilderness even in the smallest part of the garden just happens, but  you must stay the hand from weeding and acknowledge the wild flowers.  There is also the yellow poppy, which I dearly love for its bright lemon colour, the buds are still at the hairy stage before they burst into too brief a flowering.

Maybe these bluebells go back to an earlier woodland here.

tiny dark violets with their heart shaped leaves.  When I was a child you could buy bunches of violets.

Flashing by in the background is our male blackbird, the starlings always send him off in a rage..