Sunday 30 January 2011

The Beast of Brechfa on Holiday?

There has been another sighting of a Big Beast here in Wales. I've written before about our local one, the Beast of Brechfa, which has worryingly been described as "black panther type" and a afriend of mine said the one she had seen crossing the road was BROWN. Oh oh, more than one sort hereabouts then.

Anyway, this latest sighting was made by an ex-Policeman ( so more credible, apparently) in Pembrokeshire, about 6 miles above Haverfordwest at Treffgarne. In the past, such a creature has also been seen at Mathry, which is to the North of Treffgarne. This was a black panther type of cat, with some browny blotches on its coat. It crossed the quiet road in front of the ex-Policeman, who was driving very slowly at the time. We will see if there are any more sightings in the weeks to come. Just found a link to the actual report:

A.R.O.S. Citrus eyes, a gleaming coat, a twitch of a tail and he is gone.

Friday 28 January 2011

A walk in the SUN!

It was such a beautiful sunny morning that my OH and I couldn't resist the temptation of a walk in Brechfa Forest. We collected the daily paper en route and then drove to the Picnic Site at Byrgwm and parked up. Since our last visit there are now various trails for Mountain Bikers, and also trails in lieu of bridleways. Words seem superfluous really, so I will just let you all walk with us and enjoy the scenery.

A.R.O.S. for today:

Sunlight highlights the margins of winter twigs and branches with a metallic gleam.

Thursday 27 January 2011

A.R.O.S. for today

A silvery sun hyphenates glowering clouds with morse-code.

Wednesday 26 January 2011


When my mum had jobs that needed doing but she didn't enjoy, she always called it drudgery. A word not often used these days, though it did cross my mind recently when I put my nose to the grindstone and got on with the - truly horrid - job of scrubbing the oven from top to bottom, and boy, did it need it as some jam had boiled out of a roly-poly and bubbled all over the oven bottom until it was pure carbon!

Today I have been reading bits from "Not in Front of the Servants" (A true portrait of Upstairs, Downstairs Life) by Frank Victor Dawes and an excellent book. Believe me, the poor girls mentioned in there knew ALL about drudgery.

They had very little choice, of course, in those days of poverty and large families. As soon as the eldest girl was old enough, she was out into service, and proud to go and help her family by sending home the pittance she earned and by being one less mouth for her family to feed. In the mid-Victorian period 10 years was considered a suitable age. The book tells of one poor child who was in service in a large house at Harrogate in Yorkshire. Up at 4 a.m., she was expected to set to and scrub the stone floors in the dairy, on her hands and knees with a bucket of cold water and just a candle for light. Having done that, she then had to churn the butter until her arms felt like they were dropping off. She would scarcely see the light of day as she skivvied (another word my mother used) in the kitchen and scullery, black-leading the grates, setting and lighting fires, polishing floors and being at the beck and call of all the other servants until finally she was allowed to drag herself upstairs to her attic bedroom, again lit by candlelight, at 9 p.m. I should imagine she slept like the dead each night.

If the placement was local, the maids in service were sometimes able to send some leftovers home, as Harriet Brown, working in Edgeware in 1870, wrote to her mother: "I have saved a small piece of plum pudding for you and will save some mince pies and I thought you would like a little dripping so I have sent all."

Bread and dripping - a favourite of my mum's especially when we had had a small piece of beef to roast on a Sunday. I never joined her in this delicacy!

Harriet's daughter didn't fare as well in her placement 20 years later where she was the lowest of 8 housemaids. She "slaved from 5 a.m. until late at night at all the roughest work. She had to scrub at the bare boarded floors of the staff rooms with a mixture of soft soap and silver sand until her hands, and arms up to her elbows were red raw. On most nights she cried herself to sleep."

Of course, the staff got full board although at times they might have been better off at home. One poor girl who worked in a chemist's home, had a frugal diet: Breakfast: Four slices of bread and dripping, two cups of tea. Dinner: quite a good two-course dinner; Tea: small pot of tea, three slices of bread and margarine. This was 1914.

A 1900s lady's maid remembered that the food was not plentiful and was rather repetitive, with boiled bacon one morning and fried the next, but NEVER an egg in all the time she worked there. Sundays had tastier fare with sausages or bloaters being on offer. However, the Sunday roasting joint for above stairs was expected to be used up the rest of the week on the servants' table, in various guises until it became a sort of hash which no-one fancied. Bread, butter and home-made jam (gooseberry one week and plum the next) were served for tea. Occasionally they had treats left over from dinner parties and these were swiftly demolished!

In large houses there was a very strict serving order, with the tweeny last, poor lass. The better establishments fed their staff very well with none of the "this'll do for them" and bread and margerine and leftovers. Instead, the servants would have their own menu and country houses would always have an abundance of fresh vegetables and game, though one wonders what the servants thought of game hung until it was high and wriggling with maggots, and ripe cheese crawling with mites . . .

Anyway, no drudgery for me today, although I did push myself hard tidying up out in the garden, and did my baking at the wrong end of the day (after breakfast is best, when I have energy).

Today's A.R.O.S.: Harbingers of spring, the snowdrops peek through the soil, and the catkins waggle golden lambstails.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Tidyup in the rain

A view of a restored farmhouse in the next valley across from ours.

I haven't achieved much today - though I did rip back my lacy scarf and hopefully now I'm knitting the right pattern - I had somehow messed it up and had to rip back over 20 rows : (

Hearing the chainsaw, I wandered out into the yard and watched my husband for a while, before feeling guilty because I was doing nothing, so I picked up the yard broom and began to sweep. This was as good as physio, as I felt shoulder muscles unlock and start moving usefully once again! We both ended up sweeping up the leaves from the entire yard and the stretch between the stables, plus washing it all down. Still plenty to do out there, but that can be tackled the next dry day (though saying that, we worked in the drizzle this afternoon).

At one point I ran in and jotted down today's A.R.O.S.:

Willingly I toil, and curse muscles feeble from winter,
Thinking of those who laboured - and had no choice,
No reward, bar death . . .

Read it as you will, be it slavery, concentration camps, or our Ag. Lab. ancestors . . .

Monday 24 January 2011

Gloucester Cathedral

Sorry about the delay. Once again, life got in the way. My middle daughter took me to the cinema yesterday (her treat), then we went shopping for seeds (her treat) and finally ended up in Matalan where she got a jacket for work and treated me to two lovely tops in the sale : )

Back to Gloucester cathedral today:

This marks the spot of the burning to ashes of John Hooper, 2nd Bishop of Gloucester, who died for his religious beliefs during the reign of "Bloody Mary" - Queen Elizabeth's little sister, and a devout Catholic. He died in 1555.

The entrance into the Cathedral Close - St Mary's Gate.

This beautiful (Elizabethan?) building is the back view of the previous photograph.

View of the cathedral as we walked towards it from St Mary's Gate.

This tombs is one of the earliest alibaster carvings in England and drew many visitors in the 14th century, gifts from whom funded a major expansion of the Cathedral between 1331 and 1350.

Alas, he met a grisley end, and his "consort" Piers Gaveston, fared little better.

Painted chained White Harts top an adjacent pillar.

The Norman font is made of lead and dates from around 1130. It was gifted to the Cathedral in 1940 and originally came from Lancaut in the Wye Valley.

This effigy of Robert was carved from Irish bog oak in the 13th C. It is believed to have been made by Knights from the Third Crusade as a tribute to Robert, who had been one of the Knights in the First Crusade.

He was otherwise known as Robert Curthose and was Duke of Normandy from 1087 until 1106. his name comes from the French: Courtheuse - "short stockings" although his father, William the Conqueror called him "short-boots" in derision . . . Wikipedia can tell you more about him . . .

The beautiful cloisters at Gloucester - where part of one of the Harry Potter movies was filmed.

A rather blurry photo of what was believed to be a Tiger - it certainly has lots of teefs!!

Today, 31 years ago, my dad died. He was only 63. I wonder what he would have thought of his grandchildren? He would have thought we were mad to move to this house, falling-down as it was when we arrived nearly 23 years ago, but perhaps a bit more approving if he saw it now.

A.R.O.S.: Love lives on in every memory.

Saturday 22 January 2011

A.R.O.S. for today

On a Misericord in Gloucester cathedral . . .

. . . Two dragons crouch and loop medullary curves, released from imagination . . .


AROS for Friday (late!): Is it my grandmother stirring the spoon, or my hand guided by her memory?

After a lifetime of trying to make sponge cakes which are edible, yesterday I finally cracked it, when a forum friend gave me a "weight of an egg" style recipe which WORKED! I am so pleased with myself!

Thursday 20 January 2011

A.R.O.S. for today

More of Gloucester tomorrow - the Cathedral then.

For the meantime, here is today's AROS: The Cothi valley at dawn:

Peachy sunshine neons the hillslope above the shadow in the hoar-frosted midnight-moonlit valley.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Day out in Gloucester

Today's A.R.O.S.:

A rolag of mist swaddles the valley bottom,
Suffocating trees.
As my hillside becomes an island.

Gloucester Docks - but our first port of call was the antiques centre. We resisted temptation!

Then we had a wander round the docks area.

A link to the fascinating history of Gloucester Docks and its people can be found HERE. Many of the warehouses are now apartments, and a large Designer outlet is centre-stage. We went to the antiques centre instead. There is also a large arts and crafts building we didn't have time for (next time) and an Inland Waterways Museum (ditto).

The Mariners' Chapel at Gloucester Docks.

One of the stained glass windows.

It is hard to imagine nowadays, but ships would have been queuing up to discharge their cargoes by this warehouse back in Victorian times.

This is the North Warehouse and was one of the first to be built, and became the blueprint for many of the others. More information HERE.

HERE is a link telling you a little more about the docks, generally.

This was the warehouse for G & W E Downing, a company of Maltsters and as we took a short cut across the front of this building, the carved name over the door had a date of 1901 for the building of this warehouse on Baker's Quay. Find out more about the company and buildings HERE.

Just beyond this warehouse was an oil and cake mill but my photo failed, so follow this link to see what it looked like and learn about its history.

This is the lightship "Sula", which was once moored off the mouth of the River Humber at Spurn Head. She was decommissoned in 1985 and brought to Llantony Quay at Gloucester, where she is now used for various health therapies. Here is a link showing her journey upriver to the Dock.

This is looking downstream from Gloucester Docks (just as we turned into the Sainsbury's car park). There were several houseboats and

Tuesday 18 January 2011

A.R.O.S. for today.

Sorry - run out of time for a proper post and yesterday's pics. I will get them posted in the morning.

Meanwhile, today's A.R.O.S.:

Moonlight casts a metallic light across the magpie-shadowed woods, as a vixen screams her lust.