Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Happy Solstice

Moonstone by Christine Bozier

Night airs that make tree-shadows walk, and sheep
Washed white in the cold moonshine on grey cliffs.

             Walter Savage Landor

This beautiful print came in the post yesterday, it is by the partner of LS's brother. Christine.   Keith (LS's brother) writes about ghosts, onto his second book at the moment, you can find him in my blog list under Haunted Wiltshire.  I have a pendant moonstone as well, in its dark green translucent interior you can see tall fir trees  a never ending forest...


Welcome to the Moon

Welcome, precious stone of the night,
Delight of the skies, precious stone of the night,
Mother of stars, precious stone of the night,
Child reared by the sun, precious stone of the night,
Excellency of stars, precious stone of the night.

From the Gaelic

 As the short days grow towards their zenith and  the Solstice, and slowly the long unwinding of night time begins to turn into daylight, measuring its way  towards spring, the small prayer above always comes to my mind.  It kindles in me a memory at Avebury when in the early days of our meeting, maybe  I should call it courtship,  LS and I stood on a freezing cold night under the great stones of the Cove.  We were remembering  someone from the past, let us call her 'Treaclechops', for that was her avatar, who had died far too young.  I shall never forget the stones bathed in the cold light of the moon, which hung above our heads, the lines of it geological unknowingness carved  into its surface, just like the craters and patterns on the Didcot Mirror.

As LS's brother lives near Devizes in Wiltshire we do not see much of them, but both of them work as volunteers over the weekend at Avebury Manor,  Keith as a guide of course always tells ghost stories of which the manor has a couple, the Red Lion pub further down in the village has the reputation of being the most haunted pub (probably amongst many) in England, Keith has never seen any ghosts at all though!

Saturday, December 20, 2014


The  White Horse of Uffington
Our trip on Thursday into Chelmsford for a meal also included a visit to the Marconi building, Chelmsford is where radio began (well maybe), the building is to be developed into flats.  Having some time to kill, and foregoing a trip to the Chinese shop we decided to visit the museum. Chelmsford Museum is  a slightly dull place, could be because of all the Marconi equipment that towers like huge banks of old fashioned computers awash with dials and knobs.  We live in an age now when that tiny square mobile phone in your hand can reach out to the world, but those first morse code dots and dashes was the beginning of it all.
But wandering through the rather dusty history section, which needs a good updating, LS took photos (with his phone) of the gold coins below and my mind is off wandering down the avenues of speculative thought, were these hoards buried in times of trouble, or were they the safest bank around, the dark earth concealing the hidden shine.  Found by detectorists some years back these three hoards revealed themselves to the world.  I like the little story of how the detectorists and the landowner were denied 60 per cent of the value of the coins because....

The Valuation Committee agreed an abatement of the award of sixty per cent on the grounds that the coins had not been reported 'promptly or honestly, as required under the Treasure Act Code of Practice'.  

Mr. Newitt was responsible for discovering all three hoards, two at Great Waltham and one at Great Leighs.  Why the White Horse of Uffington at the top? because if you look closely many of the 'pony' coins have a similarity to the Durotrigian pony at Uffington. Like the enormous Marconi machines taken over by tablets and mobiles, the ponies of the Iron Age were the equivalent of the sports car of today.

The Great Waltham Hoard


Great Leighs Hoard

Though I love gold, the interest of these coins is in their manufacture, their travel, the hands that held them, part of a history given to those strange Celtic people  who were part of Caesar's army as they marched into Britain and so began 400 hundred years of domination for the British.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Just a news item, though I am thrilled that Em has drawn me a beautiful portrait of Moss, a photo of which she sent last night, but that will come in the New Year.  Today a migraine hovers behind my eyes and it is also LS's birthday, so we are going to town for a meal and to photograph the Marconi Building and hopefully my head will not give way to a full blown migraine!

But the news that the Didcot Mirror was saved from leaving the country is good, not as beautiful as the Desborough, Mirror, Celtic craftmanship at its best, but the curvilinear design is simplified in the Didcot.  There is a quote below outlining some of the uses for the mirrors, it must also not be forgotten that Iron Age men had very fancy hairstyles as well.

Didcot Mirror

 “They would certainly have been prestigious items, owned by few people. Mirrors can be used to reflect light into dark spaces or to signal across distances as well as to apply make-up or check your hair. In many cultures mirrors are magical objects, which reflect an alternative view of the world, or act as a portal to another world, like Alice found in Through the Looking Glass. This may well have been the case in Iron Age, Druidic society, and mirrors may be connected to fortune telling or shamanic activity. While this mirror was a casual find with no archaeological context, some have been found in association with cremation burials, so mirrors may also have had a function connected with death or afterlife.”

Detail on Didcot mirror


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Melting Cheese....

Modern raclette machine
Today I shall write about raclette, a certain nostalgia for Swiss cheeses filters through.  I love cheese, the gooier the better as far as Camemberts and bries are concerned, and the strong smell of gruyere or the raclette cheese will have a profound effect on my nose!  Previous Christmas's my son and I always used to opt for a good fondue, downed with baguette, sweet pickled onions and gherkins, plus tea of course you must always have something acid or hot to break down the cheese.

If you were to go to a Swiss restaurant, the great raclette round of melting cheese would be held against the vertical bars of an open fire giving off the most delicious smell, and then you would either have it on your potatoes, or anything else, charcuterie maybe.
Of course you have to like strong cheeses, no pale insipid cheddars for me, emmenthal which is used with gruyere to make a fondue is also fairly bland, therefore the buying of a decent gruyere is imperative.
Raclette has a history of course, when the farmers in Switzerland took their cows up into the mountain to the summer pastures, this cheese would be ideal round the camp fire.

A photo I took from this year's holiday snap.  The family in Gruyere, where the cheese factory is.

There is a photo somewhere taken just under 40 years ago, with me, Karen at about 4 years old and Marc her cousin sat on the well behind the family, it has not changed from the pretty Swiss town it always has been.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Wellow Brook in summer

But now 'tis Winter, child,
And bitter north winds blow,
The ways are wet and wild,
The land is laid in snow.

Taken from Robert Bridges - The Idle Flowers

Soon it will be the Solstice, the turning of the year and then of course Xmas.  Sometime at this time of the year it is difficult to write about things, yesterday I sorted through my blogs on the East Kennett long barrow but that was about all.

East Kennett Long barrow hidden behind a screen of trees

  The family have been for the weekend to the cottage, my two middle grandchildren still have friends in Whitby.  Matilda's birthday last week, LSs birthday this week, no trip anywhere but a  meal out. This will probably be at Loch Fine restaurant, which you can gather  is a fish restaurant.  LS has avoided this restaurant for ages, basically because at our last meal there with friends he got what he considers re-fried fish cakes, scooped out of the dustbin; now whether that last is really true I don't think so but it makes a good story. 

The back of Stoney Littleton

I quite look forward to the Solstice, it reminds me of Stoney Littleton long barrow, in which on the 21st December the sun rising is supposed to hit the back of the chamber.  Introducing LS to Stoney Littleton and East Kennett Long barrow in those early days were the 'happy times of summer' when the sun shone and the wild flowers bloomed and an element of nostalgia creeps into one's mind! And he says that a trip to Stoney Littleton and a meal at the pub in Wellow would be his choice of a 'special occasion'

Moss also enjoyed the treks to the barrows

Saturday, December 13, 2014


I have been busy spinning, so it gives me time to listen to online talks, yesterday was Noam Chomsky, but today I picked up a rather beautiful 2 minutes of growing fungi by someone called
Louie Schwartzberg, so for two minutes be entranced by growing mushrooms. Though his job is a mycologist, he seems like another interesting philosophical strand to follow.  Nature is intelligent?
Mushroom photos are from 2013, the season is over but already we travel towards the shortest time of the year, and then we flip over as the days get longer, manouvre past Christmas and the two coldest months in the year and then into spring and growth!

A shaggy parasol

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Something to smile at...

Brilliant outtakes from Michael Bott and Rupert Soskin, when they made their 'Standing with Stones' Dvd.  It came to mind when Weaver of Grass mentioned Langdale axes, and there is a small sketch, can't think of a better word, when Rupert Soskin in the cold and mist on top of Langdale Pike's steep slopes tries to find a stone he has laid out previously.
The complete dvd is an excellent resource to finding your way round the Neolithic monuments of this country, and in truth a way of seeing the diverse landscapes Britain  offers.  There are chapters of Standing with Stone on Youtube should you wish to explore further.  Rupert starts with a monument just outside Bath - Stoney Littleton long barrow.

Langdale Axescape

Going over old ground

This is a blog I wrote in April 2008, and I must have been reading MacCana at the time. what comes over to me is the sheer delight I took in the Celtic world.  Not a scholarly one, but that sense of history happening in the landscape, just out of touch, a different world that the mind could dwell on.
What is also striking is  the 500 BC Glauberg sandstone figure, below which I saw at the Stuttgart Museum in 2013, I was in an absolute awe-struck state of mind at the time seeing such treasures as the Gundestrup Cauldron the great golden torcs and then this statue facing me across the room, he definitely got a 'wow' from me!  So on to what I wrote at the time, I see that I have included the 'Nemetona' shrines which of course I learnt later in fact that there are several place names containing traces of this word in Devon.

Shrines, rivers and gods continued..

Celtic naming of rivers stems from the fact that as the Romans conquered or colonised, whichever you prefer, they kept the indigenous names of the rivers. Rivers like mountains are always there, they have their own identity and perhaps even the romans were afraid of the river gods to change such names. The river Thames in London had many valuable votive 'offerings' thrown into it, some might argue by chance these things had fallen in, such as the famous Battersea shield, but there are numerous finds from the earlier bronze age to suggest that the river itself had a special meaning.

British Museum Catalogue 1906
Miranda Green occasionally takes issue with Anne Ross, but her own writings on the celtic gods follow through quite closely. One goddess Nantosuelto in Gaul is twinned with Sucellus, but her name means 'winding river' although she also appears with a raven and that can mean death and the underworld.

Arnemetia was a romano-british

goddess her shrine was at Aquae Arnemetiae ("waters of Arnemetia"), in Derbyshire. Arnemetia's name contains the same Celtic root as nemeton, meaning "sacred grove", so her name is interpreted as "she who dwells over against the sacred grove". (taken from Miranda Green).

Nemetona is also a goddess, worshipped in Treve, but also mentioned at Aquae Sulis with her consort where a native of Treves erected an altar to Mars Loucetius and Nemetona.

MacCana the Irish historian, says of the Celts "Ancient Irish had little sense of a clear and palpable line of demarcation between the supernatural and the secular....flexible combination of a routine pragmatism and unquestioning belief in the power of ritual and mythic precedent"

Which just about says it all for any religious faith, it is after all better to believe than not believe, even if there is no truth in what you believe.....

One of the problems when encountering all these many gods, is to my mind that they don't necessarily match up, Irish literature gives us tales of Irish mythology, as does Welsh through the Mabigonen, and perhaps the Gallic Celtic tradition is different again, we have gods with different names, often masquerading under the Roman gods. Yet what we see in England, is Roman depiction of the gods, the odd stray Celtic name may still be found but the archaeological evidence for native shrines is so thin on the ground in this part of the West country as to be non-existent, what we do have in the record seems to be stray finds of the imported gods/beliefs of the foot soldiers that made up the legions.
MacCana goes on to say that the underlying unity of Celtic myth and religion does not exist because it was not written down, thereby of course giving it a fluidity of movement in interpretation. All we have to go by is various roman writings describing the Celts through the lense of a different social and political order. That the romans were impressed by these people is evident in the friezes and statuary that depict Gaulish celts dying naked in battle, trampled underfoot by horses, commiting suicide when the battle was lost - their bravery, courage and belief in an afterlife are captured in stone for posterity.

Again, we find that the early medieval literature that records the mythology tradition of Irelnad and Wales is transmitted through the veil of christianity by scribing monks, which began in in the 7th/8th century, all of which was further copied in the late 11th/12th century in expanded texts. By then writers such as Geoffrey of Monmouth had woven stories and fables from these writings, further influenced by the French storytellers, until everything becomes woven into a magic fairytale of many threads.
Some basic celtic motifs such as the Triads, the importance of three, comes out in the virgin, mother and hag, and we can trace their path through the cucullati the three hooded figures, found in iconagraphy in Britain, especially round the West country, either men or women. Theeir faces and sex are hidden in the folds of their hoods, yet some carry the symbols of fertility, therefore are seen as women.
Sacred landscape; The 'naming of the land', its hills,mountains, rivers, confluences and springs. Its sacred geography worked out in the great cosmography of the spiritual world.The overworld of the sky, the 'middle earth' and the the underworld all fitted into the fabric of place. The gods were ephremal, they could be given names, locations and attributes, they could also be carried from one sanctuary or shrine to the next - nothing is static all is fluid.
When Caesar names the Celtic gods he gives them Roman names, so he says..'of the gods they worship Mercury most of all, he has the greatest number of images'. It is in the imagination of course that these gods exist, whether by a roman foot soldier, celtic warrior or a new pagan of today. Mercury therefore translates into the god Lugus; Irish Lugh; Welsh Lleu, he was the 'inventor of all the arts'. The young god who overcomes the wicked underworld figures, and his feast lughnasadh was celebrated throughout the celtic land. According to MacCana, Mercury in one Irish tale is seen as the king of the otherworld, paired with a woman identified as the sovereignity of Ireland; a pairing similar to the Gaulish Mercury's association with the goddess Rosmerta (or Maia) she is also found at Aqua Sulis. Though this soverign pairing of the land through the goddess with the king seems only to be found in Ireland, the Tara ceremonies testify to this.
Rosmerta, Nantosuelto, Damona, Sirona, and Nemetona on the continent are goddesses paired with male deities, the goddess, as mother a representation of the earth. The Irish goddesses Eriu, Fodla and Banbha are personifications identified with individual provinces, going back to the sacred landscape represented by human identity. Of course the goddess in Irish tradition is also terribly destructive, she teaches the art of war; the terrible trio the 'Morrigans', who are to be found on the battlefields inciting the fighters, working their terrible magic.
MacCana equates the goddess Brigit with Minerva, latinised as Brigantia 'Exalted one'. If this is true what does it make of our Bath goddess Sulis matched with Minerva?


The Warrior Lord of Glauberg

This marvellous Celtic sandstone stature was found recently at Glauberg, Germany just outside a warrior barrow, the two 'earlike' projections on his head are thought to be representations of mistletoe leaves, he is probably one of four statues worshiped at this site.

He was a lucky find when I was reading the excavations of the Roquerpertuse shrine, translated beautifully by Babelfish, a similar but double headed head was found there. Again two warrior statues, and a lintel with four horse heads carved upon it. But of course the crowning glory of the site was the archway with cavities on each side for the display of skulls, presumably their enemies defeated in battle. The two warrior statures here are probably earlier than Glauberg, as they are seated in a cross-legged style, and are dated to 500 bc approximately.
Roquerpertuse has bird significance as well, Miranda Green records a great free standing bird, probably a goose there. Geese are of course fierce creatures when approached and would have been seen as a warlike bird. She also mentions a bird of prey displayed on the shrine holding two skulls.

The Yorkshire Hoards

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Watersplash - Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859-1929)

Just to return to one of my favourite paintings which is of geese, this painting always graced the stairs of the Victoria Gallery in Bath, and its warm sunny rural nature always gladdened the heart as you went up the steps to the gallery.  The painting went on a journey to America last year but has now safely returned.
Sad that these rather clumsy beautiful creatures make such good Christmas fare!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sheer waffle - Tuesday

Today a Buddha painting will dominate the page for awhile because I am feeling rather homesick for Yorkshire, or more precisely the moors. (So how do you marry those two up?)  When I woke up this morning, it was very cold, frost on the roof of the shed and the whole picture bathed in that beautiful pink glow only cold can bring. The phone rings, the BM van won't start, they will try to come this afternoon, and that is why memories of this enormous painting on the work bench comes fleeting through my mind.  The Australian (actually he did originally come from Chelmsford) had it delivered a couple of years ago for restoration and it became my favourite, it eventually went on to auction in Europe somewhere.

The Buddha seated calm attitude is what I would like to achieve as well but my magpie mind chatters away to itself refusing to be quiet.  In actual fact there were I think two statues in the Celtic shrine of  Roquerpertuse  who were also in the lotus position which I featured yesterday.

So why the moors, I think it is the clear calm coldness of today, though of course this being England we shall probably see rain by this afternoon.  To walk on the moors is not easy, the thick heather catches at ones ankles, the ground is often wet and squelches underfoot, then there are the rocks that lie so easily near the surface.  Sheep dot the dark heathers, and if you walk quietly you will spot grouse hiding in the undergrowth.  Once I came upon blue harebells by the side of the road, such a pleasant shock, and if I was better informed as to what was the difference between ling and heather, I could even find them!

Trees are few and far  on the moors, apart from forestry plantations, hawthorn bushes shaped by the winds are what you would see and of course in the deeper hollows of the sheltering valleys.

But if you go down to my favourite spot, the trees line the beck that tumbles over  obstructive  rocks, the brown waters creaming against the grey of the rock.  Here you will find where the beck crosses the lane, the beautiful rowans following its course, several trees have seeded themselves.  Here one's mind can rest, in that space of water, rock and tree.

To begin at the beginning or Under Milkwood a short trailer in Welsh...

Monday, December 8, 2014

A guarding goose maybe

Celtic Sanctuaries


This picture is taken from Celtic Mythology by Proinsias MacCana - 1970  a Hamlyn book. This book has been typeset  on rough, faintly cream paper and all the photos have an air of grainy ghastliness that is so evocative of the Celtic period (that is probably why I love it).
But the thing that brought this particular image to mind was the supposed goose on top of the pediment, even Miranda Green calls it a goose, but later minds think that it is a raptor, actually I am quite happy with a goose, or maybe a vulture, given the fact that geese are used to guard one's property.  What is so striking though when I went to investigate this Portico of the Celto-Ligurian temple of Roquerpertuse, was the restoration work that had taken place in the succeeding years after the above photo was taken...

The horror of the gaping mouths of the skulls have gone, if you know about Celtic mythology, the head of one's enemies is respected and therefore becomes one of the trophies of war, the 'head cult' was one of the distinctive features of  the Celtic tribes, as was the symbolism of animals and birds part of their artistic culture.
When you look at these pillars, it becomes obvious how far we are removed from their world, almost alien one might think.  War and fighting was normal, and the mysterious otherworld held stories we can only dream about.  There is a photo in Miranda Green's book of a Roman carving of a baby in a cot with a dog sleeping at its feet, again so different.
And then again there is this fearsome Celtic head guarding the Roman temple of Aqua Sulis on the portico.....

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Typical timber and brick Essex house

LS is throwing books down from the loft, Abstracts of Archaeology and Art, great heavy tomes that have never been read going back years.  Clearing out has a certain satisfaction it is like removing a heavy weight from one's back.  The great bags of magazines that also came down are for Kesukie, and there is more stuff in the studio that the BM will pick up next week. 
Geese flew low over the roof tops this morning, a beautiful sight, were they coming in from the estuary to feed in the fields, who knows but their voices have been heard most days as they fly inland.
Exciting but they are considered something of a nuisance by farmers.  Having brought many types of food to encourage the small birds, (I already have a flock of 20/30 sparrows) the starlings are very hungry at the moment and attack any food that I put out which is a bit discouraging, if I want to see some of the smaller birds.
Another box hits the ground from the loft smashing open and revealing its contents of conservation magazines, luckily I had been told to stay in my study as the string broke....  Perhaps we should all invest in a Kindle, storing books and magazines is backbreaking!

I turn to photos for relief from the grayness outside, and find this which brought a smile to my face when I saw it. 

And those few lines of Mary Oliver's poem, Wild Geese echoes once again in the memory....

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

We are bees of the invisible

Celebrating the work of Rainer Maria Rilke, born on this day in 1875. 5th December
"Everywhere transience is plunging into the depths of Being… It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again, “invisibly,” inside us. We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible."
—Rainer Maria Rilke, writing to his Polish translator about writing the "Duino Elegies"

Found on Facebook, who seem to be going for dominance over our photos, or at least the free use of....

Yesterday we went to the Dog's Trust centre just outside Basildon, the dogs live in five star comfort, glass fronted small rooms with baskets full of blankets and plenty of toys, they also have an outside space.  No Angie though, the collie I had come to see, she is in training and it sounds like it is going to take a long while.  We both fell in love with Benji's brown eyes, he was a bassett/hound cross, but probably not for us  as he had high energy needs and complete training from scratch!
Sad place even so, unwanted dogs always pull at the heartstrings, two elderly dogs to be housed together, young flighty collie, and bulldogs stare back at you.  Since my daughter has started working for Tia Greyhounds the plight of the unwanted greyhound and the unscrupulousness of owners who race these dogs and then abandon them (it is all to do with gambling) slowly unravels itself.

Today it is cold, woke up to frosted green and blue skies, and the starlings busily demolishing every bit of bird food in sight, they are supposed to be on the danger list, but to see the flocks overhead it would seem that they breed prolifically.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Marbles and Gold

The greatest things in the world should be... shared and enjoyed by as many people in as many countries as possible”  Neil Macgregor

Well that was kept quiet, news that one of of the Elgin Marbles has just been flown to State Hermitage Museum in Petersburg on loan, when the Elgin Marbles have never ever left these shores before. Should add of course before their controversial arrival on these shores, which is another tale altogether....
Neil Macgregor mellifluous tones describing this wonder was calm and as LS said the British Museum are a very independent bunch of trustees and do not heed their political masters..... 

Llissos is a river god, and represents the river that flows through Athens, and that is more or less all I have learnt about him.  The statue is headless and according to Macgregor there is a stream of water falling from his back.

The other news that came through this morning is equally exciting, that is of course if you like history about Celtic gold and Greek river gods, is that the Jersey Hoard, which at the moment is carefully being pulled apart has revealed gold torcs and other items within the vast store of coins.

And as I have written so much about rivers, here is a little story from an earlier blog called Etymology

The strangely named hamlet of Werg was a community of nine dwellings on the River Kennet."One of the many pools on the river, as it wove its way through the water meadows was "Nicker Pool", where it is said the water spirits played. When the climatic conditions are right, the whirling wraiths can still be seen, so that the local name had good cause to be established."

Werg of course is a word that can be transformed into many meanings but given that there were only nine dwellings by this stretch of the river near Mildenhall, one of the meanings is outlaw or criminal, and presumably popular medieval myth has taken up the word and transformed a particular happening of the water spiralling around maybe, a bit like cropcircles, and transformed it into water wraiths, probably the spirits of the poor wretches who lived here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

And we don't even own a dog

Scary is it not? This came through the letterbox the other day, do we have a Stasi council, no I don't think so. But both of us said there are other ways to make a notice for dog fouling and not expecting neighbours to report on each other which it further went on to say....  Actually most people on the green clean up after their pets, well over 95%, and LS did point out yesterday, albeit on a very tricky council reply email that the dog refuse bin further along the path, was over full and people were piling little bags on top.  Clever, clever council for starting a campaign with one hand and not checking the bins with the other!

Something prettier, I bought some white alstromerias (Peruvian lilies) the other day, still in bud, but they have slowly started to unfold, reminding me of the fresh colours of the winter snowdrop, but also the strappy leaves of mistletoe.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Stonehenge news

Stonehenge December 18th 2013
How do I know the date so well? well it was LS's birthday treat that took us to the stones, the grand opening of the visitor's centre.  But like an ever rolling sea Stonehenge once more hits the beach into the news.  Yesterday I read the news about the next wave of spending on roads, and the monies proposed to spend on the short tunnel on the A303 which will  take the cars and lorries through the tunnel thereby creating less noise and visual intrusion at Stonehenge.  I have no say on this matter, the truth lies in politicians and their 'promises' so easily broken as to whether they will start work on this road next year or in 20 years time.  It is just so much noise, but Jacquetta Hawke's words echoes a much quieter time for Stonehenge and so I choose her words.  Note she says 'the blighting military activites of Amesbury',  LS said yesterday that the military had thought of knocking down Stonehenge as it obviously would have proved a target to enemy planes, luckily it never happened.

Prehistoric and Roman Monuments in England and Wales - Jacquetta Hawkes 1954; Chatto and Windus publ.

"The traveller who wishes to approach Stonehenge most fittingly should keep along this road, crossing the little river Till at Winterbourne Stoke. As he reaches the quiet crossroads on the summit, he will be on the edge of one of the greatest, and certainly the richest, congregation of burial mounds in all Britain. Here was a kind of vast scattered cemetery on ground hallowed by its proximity to the renowned sanctuary. Barrows cluster round Stonehenge on all sides - three hundred of them - but here to the west is the greatest concentration and the area most sequestered from the blighting military activities of Amesbury. Close within the north-eastern angle of the crossroads is a well preserved longbarrow and its spine acts as a pointer to a line of round barrows starting just beyond the small wood. These in their range of forms make a typologist's heaven. First there are two striking bell barrows and on their left two disks - one of normal type, the other with twin tumps. Just beyond them is perhaps the best known example of that rare variety - the pond barrow - which consists of a circular depression with a low bank on the lip. Back on the line of bells are four bowl barrows, and there are many more of this type beside the left-hand road as it leads very happily northwards to nowhere.
This completes the enumeration of this famous group, and I will not attempt another. When the ritual and whatever its accompaniment may have been of masks, effigies and offerings have vanished so long ago, when there is no stir left of emotion and the ghosts which emotion keeps alive, when the very people responsible for raising these mounds have been overwhelmed, absorbed and forgotten, then their detailed study can become lifeless enough.
Better perhaps to look at them with knowledge but with the knowledge unexpressed, these round barrows that are like the floating bubbles of events drowned in time."


And Darwin's Letters;  I have John Hooker to thank for this..............'themes'  will set the path!

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Today it is just photos, the early morning sun caught these berries with a couple of blackbirds feasting on them.  Then I remembered the fieldfares that should have arrived in November, perhaps this year the berries are so fruitful elsewhere they have not made it to this corner of Essex.  Also geese flying over, honking away, where were they going I wonder?  
Keisuke, the conservator at the Japanese department in the British Museum came the other day, to mark out what he would take, there are antique papers and books,  and they are sending a van to collect soon.  Lunch was sage and lemon chicken, with thinly cut roast potatoes, beans, and red cabbage (my favourite winter dish).  This is the third time I have met him, living with his young family in London is not the most ideal of situations and he will return to Japan next year.  Funnily enough he had been up North to the Lake District and York, and had wanted to taste the fish and chips of Whitby, if only he had known about the cottage.....

Berries waiting for the fieldfares...

I love dried flowers, a collection fading into cream

Fireplace with its collection.  The rocking horse was bought last Christmas, after I lost my favourite in the move.

At last finished, oatmeal blue faced leicester spun and knitted.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


The fresh blue of a campanula, with what looks like a nicotana in front and the feathery fronds of 'love in a mist' or nigella damascene to the side.

Two words chased through my mind this morning, egalitarianism and parasitical;  Partly Weavers of Grass blog fault yesterday when she talked about personae, it got me thinking how we see other people, what lense of the social eye do we siphon people through who we meet in the street, was class involved?
Things that make me mad (most of the news) Tony Blair being awarded the Save the Children award, and David Mellor and his stupid (and the man is stupid) swearing rant at the taxi driver.
So when L/S asks me first thing this morning what am I thinking, I say parasite, my mind on the bumble bees I rescued on cold spring mornings, when weak from the cold they lie on the ground. Taking them home, watering down some honey on cotton wool, then putting them in an old margarine tube, until when fully revived and furiously making their presence felt I would release them.  Well once one of the bees had small parasites crawling all over it, not sure if it was the varro creature, but I carefully picked them off with a pin.
Is a parasite though only following the rules of nature, the survival of the fittest? so therefore the human parasites that were tramping through my mind at the time, and here I include bankers, loan sharks, landlords and solicitors who live off other people's woes,  bad as I think they are, or are they not following the instinct of survival.
Getting cross at the news is not a good way to start the day, to ignore it though is to abdicate your responsibility to the people around you but one thing becomes more clear capitalism is not the answer but then is an egalitarian society any better? when the struggle to succeed leads to competition.  We are seeing at the moment the balance being tipped precariously towards capitalism and the old slave poor serving the rich folk, as in Roman times, how do we control the balance?
And after those musing a Happy Thanksgiving Day to all those on this American day of sailing safely to the New Land,;)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


This morning as I spun decided to listen to 1970's music.  The 1970s were for me the 10 years of being a widow, not miserably I hasten to add but with the mindset that I would never ever get married again. But listening to Don McClean singing 'American Pie' it bought back the memories of dancing around.  The first song though was YMCA, bringing back memories of taking a small Tom to playschool at the local  Bath YMCA branch just by Save The Children, where I volunteered a couple of days a week.  LS told me, something I never knew, that YMCA stands for Young Men's Christian Assocation, which of course makes sense of the words of the song.

Playing with wool, these wools have been hand painted as tops, so when you spin them they meld...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


One of three churches that reside next to each other in Brunswick Street
Lucid, transparent, pellucid - playing with words, trying to frame the atmosphere of light that we experienced as we drove back to Essex.  The last days of Autumn are glorious the branches of the trees are lightly framed in such glorious colours, starting from the lightest lemon, tumbling down through copper. gold, amber, orange and bronze.  The lattice branches making dark patterns against a grey sky.  Why was the light so lucid, I think because of the rain that had fallen  still hung in the air, the tyres swished through large puddles, occasionally hitting parts of the road that was flooded.
That was Sunday. Saturday had been a day of fog, driving across the moor there was nothing to see but the straight road ahead, the fog rolling back now and again as we hit a dip in the road.
Fog obliterates the world around you, a soft blanket and we did a lot of driving that day.  First visiting Church House where I managed to leave my camera in the pub.  A disaster that was only retrieved much later in the day.  We had gone to 'chat up' a would be neighbour, if we ever moved there and learn a few facts about the risk of flooding. Then driving to Newton-on-Rawcliffe, for a late lunch (Truda forgot to turn the oven on), and being greeted enthusiastically by their two dogs, as I looked up out of one window I saw their black Shetland ram standing looking forlorn in the mist, he seemed to have had four horn; he was forlorn because he is not allowed in with the sheep.
We have only seen three houses, that really was all there was to see, and balancing the last two we come out at 50% a piece each, so as I always say - we shall see, fate will have a hand in all this.....
Both of us agreed however that we love the cottage, and if we were rich enough we would keep it for ever.

I wanted to capture the roof lines between the two churches. Whitby is a crowded place, every square metre is covered by houses, of all shapes and sizes and ages as well.

Things to 'pin'  this is John Freeman's work, an artist who works in Whitby, and I happened to notice a painting of Delve Cottage at the selfsame cottage when we were there.... 

Little Beck by John Freeman