Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Things to pick up

We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love... and then we return home. " - Aboriginal Proverb 

Found on Facebook;  I suspect the golden sand or earth was a direct contrast to the grey of outside, the wind is picking up and howls gently round the windows, the storm is yet to reach as it travels down from Northern Ireland and Scotland, down through Yorkshire, the Midlands then us.  Britain is sometimes an exciting place to live in with its temperamental weather, a bit like following the shipping forecast early in the morning as it touches the various places around our long shore line.  One of the baby hedgehogs was clattering around in the fallen leaves yesterday as LS swept the latest batch off the lawn. They are turning into a bit of a 'baby' handful, last night because the back gate was open one almost went out, unfortunately there isn't a gap to squeeze back under.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Moments in time

Wild, wet weather, the beautiful part of Autumn is over, leaves tumble from the maple and lie sodden on the lawn.  How quickly our seasons turn over, a glorious summer, a dry Autumn and now we wait for a storm that covers the Atlantic but hopefully will miss us.  
I love Sundays, it is a rest day as far as I am concerned, a quiet day amongst the working days of the week..  We live in, at the moment, a state of suspense, will this house get sold before the farmhouse we want gets sold, who knows.  Truda wrote yesterday that they are having a 'serious' viewing from a village person.  This house has only been on the market for a week, we have someone coming back for a second viewing this week, they have a young child, and living here with schools on the doorstep and Asda but five minutes walk must seem advantageous.

I have looked at other houses in Yorkshire, ones with garages and fully fitted kitchen, which the farmhouse does not have but LS has his heart set on the farmhouse........

Interval for breakfast;  I had forgotten I had promised to make a fried breakfast, and the doves have been flying past the windows uttering plaintive calls for their seed!

Well on looking for photographs, I get sidetracked, Em had put some photos of golden plover on her blog and I remember when  they came to the downs about this time of the year, the soft sound of their wings as they wheeled overhead, finding them sleeping in the grass, me and Moss creeping up on them to take a photo but can't find it.
golden plovers

Then other photos started to play their memories before me, Goths at Whitby, they have two festivals  in the year and they will be coming this November.  The cottage is always booked on these dates, apparently some people will not have Goths in their holiday cottages according to the agents, but they are very respectable people who just like dressing up of course, one of my internet friends always attends these gatherings....

he is really a pussy cat

Matilda (in purple tights) coming down the 99 steps of the Abbey with my son-in-law

Whitby firemen in Star Wars Outfit, the children are young, and Matilda is really scared of standing by these figures.

The last photos are of a sad moment, the sprinkling of ashes  of someone from the world of megalithic stones, and yet I would like to record it because, it reminds me vividly of a beautiful autumn day when I visited this place alone with Moss.  The day of the scattering  of the ashes was very wet and a long walk to Wayland's Smithy, we all either huddled under umbrellas or wrapped  up in plastic bin bags.  But it wasn't sad people laughed and chattered, I see my son glaring at me for dragging him away from his computer and depositing him in the middle of nowhere in the pouring rain, and next to him 'Wysefool' who I always thought of as the guardian of the stones.  A shy lad, and since the photo was taken has died which is very sad because he was so young.

Mark and 'Wysefool'

Wayland's Smithy longbarrow in Autumn

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Solving Mysteries

King Arthur's Hall

"Clearance 2013 and investigation 2014 by Roy Goutte and others as members of The Heritage Trust, revealed a revetment wall built to retain the inner bank. It was concluded that over time the earth had covered over the top of the revetment wall and the, what was once c.140, upright stones now lie buried, recumbent, or standing at an angle. This would suggest that the structure was originally a rectangular enclosure from which the earth was extracted and banked up on the four sides, forming a sub-level `tank? with an `apron? between the excavated area and the banks. It is assumed that the `tank? would have been filled with water, either rising or from rainfall. The question unanswered being how was it drained away? The author attempted to determine the depth of the excavated area which appeared to be shallower at the perimeters and deeper in the middle. 
Investigation on removing turf from what was thought to be a fallen upright revealed a granite paved area with a raised centre line and not a stone at all. It abutted the remains of the facade stone perfectly. 
The monument is considered to have some purpose other than an animal pound and would benefit from professional excavation and scientific dating.  Pastscape"

See also Heritage Trust Article By Roy

round hut foundation stones

There are moments in history you get a mention in the sensible bodies of archaeology, and this was one of them.  We had all walked over to King Arthur's hall, a place of mystery, meaning that there is no logic to this isolated rectangular monument which could be prehistoric, I will try not to mention the word 'ritualistic'.  Permission was granted by the local EH archaeologist to explore the area in front of the stones, and this is what we did.  Roy is always very eager to get the world moving on clearing the stones on the many Bodmin Moor stone circles that lie beneath the great tors on this moor, he writes books about his ideas and I love his enthusiasm. 

KAH seen from a distance

King Arthur's Hall, lies next to an old green track, there are the remains of an early medieval cross in the ground. You approach it up a long track way, past a prehistoric settlement of round huts and then come to a green where three houses are to be found, this must have been an early settlement place for people still to be living in a somewhat isolated spot.  A twenty minute walk brings you to KAH a sunken pond covered in cotton grass in the summer, deeper in the middle this water pond/sump has no logical explanation.  It was some years ago identified as a medieval pound for stray animals, as manor boundaries meet at this point, but if one knows anything about boundaries during the Saxon and then medieval centuries, boundaries were taken to an obvious point in the landscape, and this would logically have been a strategic (prehistoric point)? maybe.  It of  course needs a major excavation through the bank to explain things more clearly.

It is a place to visit and contemplate, Bodmin Moors is somewhat untouched in some places by the intrusion of modern building, though the Forestry Commission's hand of planting dire evergreens is to be found, why not deciduous trees?  The great tors rear their heads above the watery moors and its stones. One bad habit discovered this year was miniature 'tor' building on top of Stowe's Hill Neolithic settlement, the  mini tors ranged all along the stone wall, and were taken down by a working group this summer.  Odd 'neopagan' ritual perhaps, whatever it is is very destructive on the old wall, and probably typifies the 'selfie' image of people trying to make their mark in life...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Children and their toys

Elegant creature

Twelve and half centimetres high he stands, found in 2011 and recently restored this beautiful enamelled Roman cockerel is second century AD.  But it is the circumstances he was found just outside Cirencester in a Roman cemetery.  Placed next to the head of a two year child, the love of the parents stand out, and also the laughter of the child as he sees this elegant, arrogant cockerel, not quite a toy but a thing to look on and marvel.  Even now after all those centuries ago we can capture the sadness  but also the  happiness of a child accompanied into the otherworld with his favourite plaything.

Cirencester Roman Cockerel 'best find' in forty years.

Monday, October 13, 2014

New creatures

Two new baby hedgehogs have been mooching around the garden today, the first one found was too near a vessel full of water, so had to be rescued, and put back near to the run they have under the shed, and the water safely covered over.  Just wonder if these are the young of the hedgehog I rescued last year from the public footpath by the green one afternoon.  When I picked that one up and put it by the shed it scuttled in very quickly as if it knew where it was.  LS says there have been hedgehogs under the shed for 20 years, so it is nice to see them breeding as well.  The compost bin has been opened at the bottom for the worms....

Almost like the sweet chestnut shells as he rolls himself into a ball.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Autumn poems from the 'Old Irish'

Slieve Gua

Slieve Gua, craggy and black wolf-den;
In its cleft the wind howls,
In its denes the wolves wail.

Autumn on Slieve Gua; and the angry
Brown deer bells, and herons
Croak across Slieve Gua's crags

from the old, according to Geoffrey Grigson

Deep in book reading this morning trying to trace the word 'belling'.  I know it is the mating call of the stag, and therefore a word that can be used for Autumn, somehow I have strayed onto Irish Celtic stories and links on the internet.  Finn for one and his poem, another favourite.......

The Words of Finn

My words for you;
Stag ruts and bells,
Winter pours down,
Summer has gone.
Wind's high and cold,
Low is the sun,
Briefer its run.
Runs the sea strong.
Turns red the fern,
Broken its form.
Habit is hearing
The wild goose's song.
Season of ice,
Wings of the birds
Caught by the cold.
These are my words.

I shall have to get to grips with Finn, for there is a story that belongs to him....

Then Derg Corra went into exile and took up his abode in a wood and used to go about on shanks of deer (si uerum est) for his lightness. One day when Finn was in the woods seeking him he saw a man in the top of a tree, a blackbird on his right shoulder and in his left hand a white vessel of bronze, filled with water in which there was a skittish trout, and a stag at the foot of the tree. And this was the practice of the man, cracking nuts; and he would give half the kernel of a nut to the blackbird that was on his right shoulder while he would himself eat the other half; and he would take an apple out of the bronze vessel that was in his left hand, divide it in two, throw one half to the stag that was at the foot of the tree, and then eat the other half himself. And on it he would drink a sip of the bronze vessel that was in his hand, so that he and the trout and the stag and the blackbird drank together. Then his followers asked Finn who he in the tree was, for they did not recognize him on account of the hood of disguise which he wore.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


There was an email this morning from Harriet Harman, (shadow deputy prime minister for the labour party) okay it was only requiring me to fill in a questionnaire form about what I felt about the Labour Party.  Well given the choice of words I had to choose from (they think we are idiots) I deleted the email on the second question in exasperation.  Do these politicians live in a high tower surrounded by their own estimation of their worth, whilst we commoners mouth our fury below ;).  Talk about Gormenghast, and its long corridors to endless rooms for ceremony and dusty old books, that is how I see Westminster!

I have, mostly, always voted Green, knowing full well of course they cannot get in under the present system, but putting my vote into the bag for devolution and maybe proportional representation.  I was at the beginning of the making of the Green Party, called firstly the Ecology Party, think it started somewhere in Chippenham.  We met in a very old spooky house at Corsham, then in people's flats at Bath.  It never really got of the ground, though we worked hard, but if you know anything of the G/P it had a 'red' side to it as well, a socialist order that bounded on fanaticism by a few and this made it difficult to establish itself in the mainstream.  We organised the Poll Tax revolt in Bath, which was attended by hundreds, our member of parliament at the time was Chris Patten (conservative), a nice enough chap but charged with bringing Maggie's tax to the people.....

One of the 'reds' was a person called Derek Wall, I had met him as a lad on one of my ex-husband's archaeological excavations, and he had a lot to say for himself, and to an extent in those early days divided the party so such moderate people as Sara Parkin and Jonathan Porritt left.  I remember him marching into one of our meetings with half a dozen followers and overturning an important vote, always ambitious.
So just maybe I will pick up my political leanings again and take more interest in what is happening. And to the mundane, there is an email from Karen as well, who cleans at the cottage, has just managed to get through a third vacuum cleaner in two years, so a fourth has to be bought, okay it was a secondhand Dyson that was bought a few months back, but I always thought they were indestructible....

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Moss approaching two barrows in the Littledown Iron Age fort
Well I started the day meaning to write about Pipley Woods, an old relict wood that clings to the side of a valley and was part of a sunday walk.  You access it from the Cotswold Way track, it lies next to the Lansdown golf course under which is a Roman camp, but when looking through my old photos did not find any of the wood. And, in the process my computer started to play up, the programme crashed and everything that covered moving pictures and sound disappeared.  Luckily it righted itself eventually but I am now more careful going there.  I fished out of my jewellery box the tiniest memory card which LS says will probably take all the stuff on the large H/D - we will see.
The two links below are interesting, to me at least, the small head might be of the Brigantian Goddess, she wears a town wall on her head as a crown, very Roman! And the other is about a Roman loo seat found near Hadrian's Wall...

an impressed toilet seat manufacturer has pledged a cash sum towards the care of a wooden toilet seat found along Hadrian’s Wall, saying the ancient craftsmanship of the Romans persuaded them to donate.

Well there you are!!

And the last find of the day is a video by Carmel Diviney, it is filmed at Fourknocks, County Meath in Ireland, in a Neolithic tomb.  I knew her from the days when the hill of Tara was under threat from the motorway to be built not far from it.  There were many furious people at this outrage, lots of protest, all of which was covered in the news, in the end the motorway was built of course.

And what has LS been doing, well apparently in touch with Pickering town council trying to find the name of Newton on Rawcliffe's main street, which seems to have three different names for its length....

Roman Loo Seat

Head of Northern Goddess found at Arbeia Roman Fort

Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday -

Warrior's Dyke, the stones are the foundation of hut settlements
Nostalgia on a miserable day!!
The wind has started up,  grey and wet, Autumn is making her presence felt, someone on TMA has been to an area I know well, St.Davids and it brings back memories of wandering with Moss in the Welsh landscape......

Sat on the floor in front of my books, can I throw any away, no is the answer, they are the ones that accompanied me on my divorce, these must stay even the archaeological ones.  I pick up the old exercise books I have recorded in so many years ago, they are commonplace books, written so neatly in that  slanting writing I learnt in the drawing office of my almost first job. Old poems, sayings current at the time, Ruskin is there talking about the Pre-raphaelites, Dosteyevsky's chapter on The Grand Inquisitor, Goldsmith's poem of course and there is Thomas Hardy poem's with his bleak lamenting at the grave side for his former wife, the poems the children wrote when young. So what would I choose, well maybe words from the Iliad, there is a phase in this quote that often drifts through my mind 'soft as the fleeces of descending snow'.

But when Ulysses rose, in thought profound,
his modest eyes he fixed upon the ground,
As one unskilled or dumb he seems to stand,
Nor raised his head, nor stretch'd his sceptred hand;
But, when he speaks, what elocution flows.
Soft as the fleeces of descending snows,
The copious accents fall, with easy art
Melting they fall, and sink into the heart
Wondering we hear, and fix'd in deep surprise,
Our ears refute the censure of our eyes.

These words come from four eighteenth century books, written in that funny print of the time. John Ruskin next, I got rid of some of his books, but kept several, such a prolific, one might also say boring writer!

The largest soul of any country is altogether its own.  Not the citizens of the world, but of his own city - nay for the best man, you may say, of his own village. Patriot always, provincial always, of his own crag or field always.  A Liddesdale man, or a Tynedale;
Angelico from the Rock of Fesole, or Virgil from the Mantuan Marsh.  You dream of National Unity! - you might as well strive to melt the stars down into a nugget and stamp them small into coin with one Caesar's face.     Ruskin - Art of England.

I wonder how he would have viewed the world today, though the truth of the matter is that we haven't really changed.........

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Even the recently coppiced chestnuts are producing crops

I have been in love with this many branched family of the woodland floor for years, so excitement creeps into my soul in Autumn.  The fungi family are nearer to animals on the evolutionary tree of life than plants, one can hardly say a near relative but one who took a different branch line.  What is it about them, they have soft colours, not always necessarily so, Schroomworks blog from America came in  this morning rejoicing about their appearance, a great cluster whose local name is 'strawberries and cream' were pictured.  She dyes with mushrooms creating soft shades of pink, blues and greens, though what colour she gets from these monsters, I am not sure.
Hydnellum peckii  rather grotesque; Wiki entry

Yesterday we set off for Blakes Wood to find sweet chestnuts, and there is a great collection of them, this year's bounty in wild fruits and nuts has been spectacular.  LS spent more time picking them than me, stamping on the prickly outer covers to get to the nuts snuggled so neatly inside but my nose was to the ground looking for mushrooms. 
There is a mathematical perfection about the gills, and as I don't pick, my only way of getting underneath the cap is to lay the camera on the ground.  Puffballs galore, the slightly brown capped ones, we have never picked them I fancy the larger whiter one, which I think grows out in the open. According to the book, you have to be careful of not confusing puffballs with earthballs.  Well I can identify the stinkhorn (hopefully), and we found two small blue ameythst deceivers, very pretty, and a rose coloured  russula .  No fly agaric where it normally grows.

Down the lane and into the woods

Little assemblies of mushrooms just like a settlement 

Old lichened wood



tiny cap emerging

ameythst deceiver

Alfred's cakes?, this particular fungus likes a different tree.

Emerging Stinkhorn

And just to finish off Beatrix Potter wrote a book on mycology, illustrated with her drawings, of which you can find many on the web......

Friday, October 3, 2014


Clearing the mind and sliding in
to that created space,

This morning I am confined to the computer, as the agent is coming to photograph the house, and everything must remain tidy... My mind is bubbling over with thoughts, LS often asks 'what are you thinking,'  too much is my answer.

Yesterday's post about the Banksy drawing  at Clacton, slowly slides off the page, news revealed yesterday that Clacton needs a new MP, defection of conservative to UKIP and all that, but it seems that only two miles down the road from Clacton, there is a small town called Jaywick 'The poorest town in the UK'.  Clacton is but 50 miles from London, so what has happened.  Well the answer soon becomes clearer, it is the retired and old that have moved to this town by the seaside, and Jaywick also by the sea has a history of its land being sold off into plots in the 1950s. This produced a rash of cheap wooden holiday homes for Londoners, unfortunately there was no ancillary services put in by the council for such things as electricity, roads etc.  Plotlands as they are called, are similar to the dachas of Russia, originally temporary not permanent homes.

Towns falling into decay, are only to be expected through the centuries, deserted medieval villages come to mind,  the people wiped out by the recurrent 'black plague'. The book I am reading at the moment (Britain After Rome - Robin Fleming) also explores the period of the so called 'Dark Ages' when the Roman way of life ceased to exist after the withdrawal of the troops in 410, and there was no form of overall government.  Villas, government offices and the baths fell into ruins, as presumably anarchy must have prevailed for a period of time.  Some of the Iron Age forts were again inhabited, as small local Romano-British leaders took control.  There was colonisation by the Angles and Saxons, arriving in small groups they settled down into the countryside seeming to shy away from the towns.  There is an 8th century  Old English poem, said to be written about the City of Bath which captures the mood so evocatively.......

The city buildings fell apart, the works
Of giants crumble. Tumbled are the towers
Ruined the roofs, and broken the barred gate,
Frost in the plaster, all the ceilings gape,
Torn and collapsed and eaten up by age.
And grit holds in its grip, the hard embrace
Of earth, the dead-departed master-builders,
Until a hundred generations now
Of people have passed by. Often this wall
Stained red and grey with lichen has stood by
Surviving storms while kingdoms rose and fell.
And now the high curved wall itself has fallen.  

What fascinated me on reading the book, was the 'ancestor' jewellery, and Roman bits and bobs that were found in the Saxon graves of the women, like my magpie acquisitiveness with words so these women would have searched among the old Romano-British homes, rescuing pieces of pottery and broken glass.

The next thing to grab my attention was Digging Deeper rather striking use of Bonham images to underline the problem of how antiquities are getting sold.  Sometimes one feels that this is rather like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, such things have been sold since time immemorial, but the Sekhemka saga still rumbles on, and there is a questioning in the air!

Notes to myself... Iron Age Roman helmet reused for cremation burial

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bad Pigeons

 Meaning of Irony; Irony is a form of utterance that postulates a double audience, consisting of one party that hearing shall hear & shall not understand, & another party that, when more is meant than meets the ear, is aware both of that more & of the outsiders' incomprehension. Wiki entry

So Banksy has won the game yet again, his irony fails too pierce the ignorance of the council members, who finding 'racial' offence at the above photo scrubbed it off the wall not knowing it was a Banksy thereby depriving Clacton of a 'masterpiece' worth several hundred thousand pounds, or maybe they  just did not have a sense of humour.  Double meanings are part of our collected language inheritance, we delight in them, they are clever little parodies which tells us a truth which makes us examine our own thinking.

Anyway, it is a delight to see birds brought into the argument, as I watched 'our' birds feed this morning, the dozen or so sparrows that come to the bird table for seed, the small dopey one who sits inside for a long time watching the world go by. Then there are the doves, whose nest building abilities leave a lot to be desired.  A quick shake of a few twigs laid haphazardly on a branch or two and the job is done.  Of course it falls down in a matter of days, they even built a nest on the bird table, only an expert could recognise it as a nest, but quickly done and quickly forgotten about. I am always alerted to the fact that there is no seed on the table by one dove's squawk as he flies down.  The blackbirds are the next on the scene, a young male is trying to bath in a little plastic saucer, and looking ridiculous, whilst the  old  male blackbird tries to shoo him off.  Age is fast creeping up on this bird, he started the spring with such fierceness, fighting off all intruders, but now has patches of white all over his feathers, too much white bread (but not from this house).

LS has been in touch with 'Billy Broadband' in Newton-on-Rawcliffe, worrying about internet reception in the village.  Well as our 'maybe' house is opposite the village hall we should 'bounce' off whatever contraption is needed to get reception, such things are beyond my scope, but it is a delight to know that such people as Billy, who was a radio ham at one time, exist. He also gave the latest village gossip, the pub is up for sale, now LS is worrying whether there will be a pub in the village after all....

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Each month I treat myself to something, it could be a book, some spinning wool, or patchwork, this month it has been patchwork material.  The scheme in mind is for Lillie, aged 8 so some funny materials are dictated.  There is a surge of excitement on opening parcels, my choices are not always what I want them to be in the cold light of day, but this time pastel shades fit the bill.  I can see I have gone for bird/flower motifs so this almost dictates larger panels to show the patterns against the background colour of pale blue.  A lot of deliberation will go into arrangement before the materials hit the cutting board, and to be honest I quite like the 'old-fashioned' way of just using materials that come to hand, but we will see.

Jewel colours
Just as a note, and what is inspirational as far as material/prints are concerned, Angie Lewin

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tidying up

Life is busy at the moment, the 'gang master' LS has to find my duties for the day!.. Lester has come and gone and painted brown wooden windowsills with white paint - yikes, and a removal man is coming this afternoon to quantify what is to be removed, though we have not as yet put the house on the market.  So be it, so in that short time between now and coffee, I go through old blogs and start to assemble them in some sort of order..... Basically an Essex order, though Deorham of course is in Wiltshire.

Battles come to mind Deorham in Wiltshire, and Bryhtnoth in Maldon, but I realise I want to bring together the Essex churches as well.  So the medieval Mundon Church, and then there is  the Saxon church of Greenstead not forgetting Great Canfield Church with its Norse influence.

Greensted Church

Great Canfield Church

The Battle of Maldon

The Battle of  Deorham

Mundon Church

Prittlewell Burial/Greensted

St.Botulph's Church - puddingstone

Broomfield Saxon burial at the church as well, here I have collected a lot of notes but not the picture of the 'pyramidal stud' mentioned as being housed at the British Museum,  if I had the time I would see patterns emerging from these rich burials.  Prittlewell Saxon Burial comes to mind, as does the Street House, Loftus, North Yorks as well.

Broomfield Saxon Burial

There is of course the reuse of Roman tile to be seen in so many Essex churches, the use of the black puddingstone, is that a prehistoric trait? and of course talking about prehistory what of the Alphamstone church stones buried in the fabric of the wall and scattered around the graveyard, are there similar patterns to be found at the Alton Prior church in Wiltshire?

The Arts of Early England 1915

Why did the Anglo Saxon not become more British?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fairy tales

“The industrial landscape of the Black Country was on Tolkien's horizon growing up – like a demon, encroaching on the green idyll he lived in,”

There is a new exhibition on the scene about Tolkien and the Midlands which some would say inspired Tolkien to write Lord of the Rings, the inspiration lying in the Satanic mills of the North, the heavily industrialised conglomerate towns of the Midlands, all filled him with such hate that in his imagination Mordor was a representation of the Black Country.

Well I lived my first 15 years on this earth in the Black Country, and can understand my need to escape such a place but was it that bad?  First of all I tried to remember the fiery furnaces but none came to mind, only the blacksmith's fire at the dairy where he shod the great cob horses that pulled the milk floats, and I would ride my pony into Wolverhampton to have her shod.  Then there was the vast empty spaces of the factory that my grandpa managed.  The oily black surface of the walls and floors, driving down lanes to different work shops, for the factories in those days were vast.  The great car factories of Coventry come to mind, all now gone, and Villiers which made motorbike engines, where my grandfather worked has disappeared from view. When the hundreds of factory workers came out through the gate, walking or riding bikes it was as if a Lowry painting had come to life.

What is true is that all the towns were joined by long ribbons of housing estates, Bilston, Darlaston, Wednesbury, Walsall, Wolverhampton and of course Birmingham, there was no where to rest the eyes on a green field, now I expect it is different, a tidying up must have occurred. 

I have loved the stories of Tolkien, the great tree ents, the hobbits, and the trolls and when I had read the three books in the 1960s, the films I later watched translated them into a more accurate form.  What I would say is, that imagination can run rife, but Tolkien built his stories up over a period of time and I am not sure that the Black Country was the template for Mordor.

When I thought about the stories, I could not remember a 'wicked stepmother/queen', in Lord of the Rings and it set me thinking.  C.S. Lewis had the terrible Ice Queen in the Land of Narnia,  Hans Christian Andersen had the bad Snow Queen, a story that I had loved as a child but Tolkien kept his main female characters good and life affirming.

The Snow Queen with Kai

This thread of thought, and I did not sleep well last night, bought to mind my three stepmothers, and the middle one who was so remote that I can hardly remember her at all. In my child's mind, she seemed to have stayed upstairs in her bedroom.  Barbara was a classic beauty, copper-red hair, green eyes an alabaster skin sprinkled with freckles, she was not cruel just not there and rather cold. She was the mother of my half brother Peter, and the upset between my grandfather and my father.  I came across a photo of her on the web a few months ago, she had become a councillor in Wolverhampton, though old in the photo she still had traces of her old self.  In the photo below this must have been the time Peter came into my life, and in my imagination he was Kai of Andersen's Snow Queen and I was his  friend called Gerda who had to protect him.  I suspect I thought Barbara was the Snow Queen, of course she wasn't, just an ordinary girl in a situation that was difficult, her parent's home granted me at the time a safe and secure place to visit and I would go cycling round the park behind their home all on my own on a tricycle which seems ridiculous now.

To return to Tolkien... the Guardian covers the subject more thoroughly, and like me has its doubts as to the Black Country being the inspiration for Mordor, as Stuart Jeffries  so rightly says the Midlands was the power house of England, people were proud of their work, it may have been dirty but it was bustling with energy and life.

Writing this shows that sometimes we wind our lives round stories and fairy tales, they may never reach the conclusive happy ending of these tales but our lives fall into  patterns we can understand.......

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Taking the Plunge

Well as I haven't written for a few days, my fingers itch, but my heart is still beating at a faster rate than it should. So, we have decided to go for the farmhouse in Newton-on-Rawcliffe, estate agents are doing their business, the 'stuff' in the studio has been put on line for the various bodies interested in Japanese conservation tools and people are already getting in touch.  Scary, scary is my reaction, when this house is sold, the move will be fairly easy, as all the furniture can be moved instantly into the farmhouse, and we can live in the cottage whilst work is done.
Why are we moving to Yorkshire instead of Cornwall.  I think the answer is that we are used to the countryside there and are at home, Cornwall is still a bit strange.  I for one would answer rabbit pie at the Blacksmith's Arm in Lastingham, or maybe Rosedale Abbey, it is the peaceful nature of the villages contrasted against the rugged moors and the black grouse that pop their heads up over the heather as we drive past that spring to mind.  
Perhaps also it is the fly agaric mushrooms that greeted us last time in all their flamboyant colour, fairy toadstools waiting for who knows what down at the beck, a place that has always greeted us with such warmth and that hidden genii loci which we call spirit of place or to quote Alexander Pope when designing a garden.....

Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th' ambitious hill the heav'ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,

So fingers crossed for the next few weeks, it may be will happen or not.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Yorkshire is a joyous place to discover and though I have not written about the cottage at the above village, LS is still interested.  He has entered into correspondence with Truda and her partner who own the house.  LS is very, very careful, he must know every detail, so to date it has been about the old chimney in the kitchen, which has no kitchen furniture in it by the way but looks like two rooms made into one, with a pantry and another Victoria extension which I suppose you could call an utility room.  To return to the chimney which is reputed to be 300 years old but is behind a wall it has had a double skinned liner inserted for a boiler or wood burning stove, LS wants to open the chimney fireplace but I'm not sure that this is a good idea better to have the stove free standing. 
So yesterday he was worrying about isolation out in the country, what if the car does not work, is there a bus?  Taxi said I, but Truda mentioned that we could walk down the valley track (three miles) to the North York Moors Railway  line at Levisham, don't think there is even a road to it.  Lots of 'well I'm not carrying the shopping back up that hill', had me giggling.  But on further research would you believe it apparently Levisham Station has an artist in residence, who paints down in this rather beautiful valley.  The train runs from Whitby to Pickering and is rather expensive, I have only been on it once with the children but it a beautiful scenic ride.  There is another method of transport in the summer as well which is the moor bus for walkers which you can catch as it goes through the village.

@ Creative Commons - Levisham Station

Friday, September 19, 2014


Well the excitement is over, Scotland still stays within the union, but somehow I think the real adventure would have been an independent Scotland but it is not to be.  I'm all for devolution and that is all I will say on the subject, because I got myself into trouble yesterday over Cornwall.
We had a terrible storms last night down here in the South, lightening lit up the window, thunder roared overhead, I am not sure what it presaged but it was in the South not the North! So I turn to William Morris for reflection, 'The Dream of John Ball', Morris is an exhausting writer, he fills the pages of his books with dreams of a better, medieval way of life, a romantic socialist coupled with a creative hand so I pick the first verses of The March of the Workers to quote which seems so apt......

What is this, the sound and rumour? What is this that all men hear,
Like the wind in hollow valleys when the storm is drawing near,
Like the rolling on of ocean in the eventide of fear?
                           Tis the people marching on.

Whither go they, and whence come they? What are these of whom ye tell?
In what country are they dwelling 'twixt the gates of heaven and hell?
Are they mine or thine for money? Will they serve a master well?
Still the rumour's marching on.

Hark the rolling of the thunder!
Lo the sun! and lo thereunder
Riseth wrath, and hope, and wonder,
And the host comes marching on.

There is change in the air not just for Scotland but for England as well, and a partial reform of our antiquated Houses of Parliament and forms of government is long overdue.  But to return to Morris and his trip to Iceland when he bought back a little Icelandic pony for his children.I see a favourite poem amongst his writings, just love its bleakness, so the first verse, as the robin sings so sweetly outside and I must go and make coffee for LS who is messing around with the new front door installed yesterday by Lester who played Radio 1 continuously all day yesterday!......

Iceland First Seen

Lo from our loitering ship 

a new land at last to be seen; 
Toothed rocks down the side of the firth 
on the east guard a weary wide lea, 
And black slope the hill-sides above, 
striped adown with their desolate green: 
And a peak rises up on the west 
from the meeting of cloud and of sea, 
Foursquare from base unto point 
like the building of Gods that have been, 
The last of that waste of the mountains 
all cloud-wreathed and snow-flecked and grey, 
And bright with the dawn that began 
just now at the ending of day

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mices - Robert (Mouseman) Thompson

On the chair arm you will note a little mouse, now this is the trademark of a woodworking company in Kilburn, North Yorkshire founded by Robert Thompson (1856 to 1955), and in the 1930s was asked by a vicar to carve the cornice of a screen in the church, which he did, but when it came to payment the vicar said that the church was  poor as church mice.  So henceforth Thompson always carved a little mouse on his furniture and so his company grew.  Also it will be noted that he never carved the front legs of the mice because they were likely to be knocked off.  
He worked in beautiful seasoned English oak, and his work is very collectible, softly lustred and golden, but having said that it is also very expensive.

We saw the bench on the photo at the top of this view, 5 minutes from the cottage we looked at and the view it looked at over was the valley and of course the moors...

A collection  of his saleable work 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bits and pieces

Unpacking; Clothes are so easy, it is the seed pods, that are deep in my jean pocket that need digging out, the memory of that walk following the mushrooms along the beck still lingers. LS picked up fir cones as well, to go back into the bowls of dried flowers I keep.  Then there is the bag of heather, purple flowered that I cut from  the moor, now residing in the fireplace.
Also there is my handbag, large and with plenty of pockets, in here resides the 'important things', such as cheque book (will we ever see the back of them) never go out into the wilds of this country without a cheque book, you will suddenly find that the hotel or inn you are staying in, only takes cheques. There are still seeds in my bag as well, perennial sweet pea pods which I gathered from a pub garden.  Then you will always find something to nibble, a packaged biscuit maybe, LS was so pleased to find a packet of peanuts the other day.  This need for food at regular intervals has been with me throughout life, like my son I carry glucose sweets but do not have diabetes as he does. 
The first time this ability to faint happened if I wasn't fed every so often manifested itself at the convent I was boarded at, early morning chapel was a killer, and I got special dispensation to have a couple of biscuits and a cup of tea before attending the service.
Then there are the  half a dozen archaeological books/pamphlets that the 'book' man at the charity shops my daughter works, or even runs, has set aside for me so I am duty bound to buy them, I buy three little painted parrot coasters as well.  Darron my son-in-law is back home, feeling better but sounded a bit husky on the phone, the hospital cannot find the clot but think there is something according to all his tests and so his illness goes on.  The prodigal grandson, Tom, has at last phoned Todmorden, someone stole his phone is his story, my daughter sounded sceptical about this.  He has been working in London all through the university holidays, so seemingly has fled the nest for the time being.

There is one more thing I would like to record, and that is a potter who was exhibiting at the Museum,  John Egerton works in Sandsend and makes the most beautifully decorated pots in smudgy greens and blues, unfortunately the price ranges around £300, so slightly out of my reach!

John Egerton