Monday 28 May 2012

Where did last week go?

Ye Gods.  What a week last week was.  First of all, a viewing on the house (they liked it but haven't been in touch with the agents - mind you, our phone line is still down so perhaps they have and we won't know until we phone the agents yet again.)  BT are apparently going to fix the line "by Wednesday . . ."  We shall see.

Then this sunshine calls for outdoor occupations (and leisure).  However, as we had a room full of "things" we have collected over the years and don't need when we eventually DO move, we needed to tart some of them up for yesterday's Antiques Fair and Fleamarket. We didn't sell the two chairs though, which is a shame as they take up so much room in the car and are difficult to pack around.

Our eldest daughter is coming home today for a few days to recharge her batteries.  It will be LOVELY.

So, finally, now we have broadband back (though no phone line), the rest of the photographs from last week's walk:

Once again, photos are taking forever to load, so I shall return later and add the last few. 

Wednesday 23 May 2012

A horsey walk

This beautiful weather is there to be enjoyed and after all that tidying and cleaning and gardening, I decided to go for a walk yesterday.  Down the hill and cross the bridge . . .

Along the lane where the river foams over the rocks by the Mill. . . .  And then I met our neighbour with the TBs, just bringing one back from being scanned.  Come and see this years foals, he said, so I hopped in and we drove back the way I had just walked . . .

Cute or what?

Lunch time . . .

This mare is dam of a couple of promising youngsters on the racecourse.

They were just pausing for breath here after a canter round.

Half the brood mare band.

My internet connection won't load any more photos - I've tried 5 times.  I will have to do the rest of my walk later on.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

I hope I haven't misled you all . . .

I hope I haven't misled anyone over the previous photo as that was taken at Tretower Court last week and isn't our house (much as we'd love it to be!!)

Our house looking back across the wildlife pond.

The kitchen inglenook down in the Dairy, which was mum's home.

Anyway, they've not been yet as they were delayed, so we have to wait until teatime . . .

What do you need . . .

when you are on your hunkers with tiredness and just want to sit in the sun with a good book?

Yup, you've got it.  A house viewing!   Arrrrrrrrrrrrgh.  PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESE let them buy it.  They're coming all the way from London . . .  this must look like heaven on earth.

Saturday 19 May 2012

"I told you I was ill . . ."

So said Spike Milligan, whose epitaph has just been voted top in a recent poll of famous last words.

I might say the same myself at the moment as I am back on anti-biotics as my chest isn't at all good, and feeling bushed as I only slept for 2 hours last night.  Sigh.

Anyway, hopefully I'll soon be back to normal.  Meanwhile, another photo from Tretower Court - the wild flower meadow.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

A Day Out - Part 1

Yesterday we had a much-needed day out checking out, firstly, the Fleamarket at Abergavenny. 

Just a swift internal photograph.  There were LOTS of different stands and we browsed very slowly and enjoyably.

There was a sheep market on too.  Lots of pens of sheep from farms all around the area, and quite a few buyers as well.

The Blorenge, above as viewed from the castle at Abergavanny.  We were there too early to look inside the castle/museum, but we have been there before so left that for another day out.  The Blorenge has a summit height of 561m (1841 feet), and overlooks the Usk Valley in Monmouthshire.  The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal hugs its flanks, and used to carry coal.

Harry Llewellyn's famous showjumper Foxhunter (who won the only Gold for Britain in the 1952 Olympics) is buried close to the Blaenavn to Llanover road (a car park was sited there in his honour.)  I remember Foxhunter (being a horse-mad kid) - he had a slit in his ear from an accident as a young horse.  And couldn't he JUMP . . .

If you want ore scenery, HERE is a link to a photo gallery of wonderful photos taken from the Blorenge Mountain.


I "think" this is the Blorenge as viewed sideways on from White Castle, which was our next port of call.  I have been there before, but my husband hadn't, so we took our time wandering round and relaxing.  As you will see, I was brave enough to climb up to the top of the tower - though I chickened out at first (I get vertigo).

The approach to the castle is over the moat, which provides a wonderful habitat for wildlife.

View of the outer walls from inside the central courtyard.  It was originally known as Llantilio Castle and indeed, is situated near Llantilio Crossenny.  The Welsh name for it was Castell Gwyn, taken from a leader in Norman times called Gwyn ap Gwaethfoed.  I believe he was a High Prince or King of Cardiganshire who died 1047 (but he was a long way from home here).  Legend has it that he showed great fearlessness when summoned by the Saxons to Chester when he refused to pay homage by rowing King Edgar up "the Dee.  He stated "Let him be feared who fears not death."  In later life he entered a Monastery at Llanwit Major (near Cardiff).  But I digress . . .

HERE is a link to the castle's history in full, and further photographs.

The wretched phone line is playing up no end - since BT came and replaced a pole t'other side of lane.  It won't load photos at present, so I will have to finish this off later.

Monday 14 May 2012

The flowers of the field . . .

I have taken a leaf out of Morning Minion's book today and taken a walk down the hill and then around my garden, camera in hand.  So this is what is blooming this occasionally-sunny May day!  Firstly, Red Campion, with Stitchwort in the background.

Some slightly out-of-focus Cow Parsley - the breeze was blowing it as I tried to photograph the blooms.

Jack-by-the-hedge, well-grown now and soon to put out seed.

By the side of the fast-flowing Perrott stream, Marsh Marigolds still hold up their golden faces to the sun.

Ramsons of course - we have masses round here.  Down on the sunny bank by the Chapel, however, they have "gorn over" and their yellowing leaves lie flacid on the bankside.

Bluebells are still flowering happily, here with Stitchwort again and some fern fronds just unfurling.

You should just be able to see a little Red Damselfly, newly-hatched, on the leaf to the right of where the little stick forks.

Which leads us nicely to my wildlife pond . . . happy sunbathing tadpoles . . .

If you look closely, there IS a newt, sunbathing, too. Just above the letter "t" in "sunbathing". You can see his tail and then follow it forward. I hope you can double click and enlarge the photos on your computer. Mine doesn't seem to do it for me anymore.

Finally, a general view of the pond.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Cheering myself up

I'm not enjoying a very positive time at the moment.  There are times when it is easy to get low and stay there.  Recent/current health worries are making me feel unusually stressed, so my husband suggested a walk around the antiques emporiums in town this morning to cheer me up.  I should have known THAT would be fatal!  I was casting a jaundiced eye (after last weekend!) over various pieces of china and collectables, when I looked up and saw this beautiful watercolour.  It reminded me both of my New Forest childhood and of course, the moors of Dartmoor.  We asked the price, which wasn't at all expensive, and left the shop to walk back to the car.  My OH knew I really wanted it, but I was of the philosphy that money wasn't exactly plentiful at the moment and if it was meant for me, when I DID have the money, it would still be there waiting.  Anyway, the long and the short of it was that we turned round and we got a suitable amount off the asking price and it came home with us and is now hanging on the bedroom wall.  Another week of beans on toast and vegetable curry then!

As you can see, we had a wee bit of rain yesterday and overnight.  This is the extension to the "herb garden", which has various perennials in it, and will have Sweet Peas around the edge when I have set to and excavated a suitable trench.

Ramsons (Wild Garlic) growing just beside our front gate in the "wild" area.

I had intended to walk down along the river, camera in hand, to take some photos of the beautifully ethereal atmosphere of the young leaves on the beech trees.  However . . . someone (Miffy, the boys' mother) saw me going and decided she was going to come too, but she was complaining bitterly all the way until I turned round and retraced my steps.  Here she is, yowling at me and telling me to Hurry Up!  She is blind in one eye, but this doesn't seem to stop her hunting.

So I took a couple of photos on our way back from town.  Doesn't it look beautiful?  Quite a depth of flood-water building up too . . .

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Treading water

I am still here, and still tired out after a long weekend which involved spending up to 14 hours at a time on my feet at the antiques fair.  It was interesting to see things from the other side of the fence, so to speak, but not an experience I would willingly share with a virtual stranger again.  I am afraid I couldn't be doing with unpacking/repacking anything up to 1000 or more different pieces.   Yeesh!

On the bonus side, I met and had long conversations with some lovely people, which makes up for the family who set out to deliberately defraud . . .  A pox on such folk, but perhaps they are making their own "luck" in the long run.

It would have been nice to have the usual leisurely stroll with my husband on the Saturday, instead of hastily-taken trots around when things got quiet.  The stallholder I was helping seemed to do very well, but a lot of people were homing in on the £5 stall and many of the other traders were saying the same thing.  There were definitely less people selling, in the outside and undercover stands.  Inside the "posher" area, many familiar faces, but one chap I talked to had done three big fairs in a row and not sold a thing, so I don't know what he was selling.  Something expensive like longcase clocks perhaps.

Today it is housework, and some gardening.  It was supposed to be a deluge of Biblical proportions today, but perhaps that has been delayed.  We had half-thought about having a day out at the Fleamarket at Abergavenny, but the weather report and then a changed appointment for a boiler check-up meant we had to spend the morning at home.

My OH is working on another chair from a bargain basement, which needs restoration.  I have a date with a duster, and also my kitchen sink which looks like someone has annointed it with a very oily pizza . . .

I would like to sit down and finish reading the latest Phil Rickman book (found in a Swansea charity shop) - The Lamp of the Wicked.  If you haven't read his novels, I can recommend them heartily. 

I have a hankering to do some crochet too, but would love some really pretty NEW wool to use . . .  Perhaps a stroll around the market in town this afternoon may find a couple of balls to bring home.

Yesterday I treated myself to a new Auricula - Eden Goldfinch.   I would still love some of the  doubles, and green-petalled varieties, but have at the moment, just to focus on what I can buy locally.  As the ones I have potted on come into flower, I need to make sure I get their proper names tagged on them - which will mean running up and down stairs to the computer to check on the colours and names!  Many thanks to whose photograph of Eden Goldfinch I have borrowed from an internet search.

These photos came from previous antiques fairs, as I didn't have a chance to take any photos this time.

Thursday 3 May 2012

I love my wildlife pond . . .

When we move (eventually), I intend to have a pond, if there isn't one already, but no fish in it, just a wildlife pond - hopefully of a reasonable size.  I get endless pleasure from our wildlife pond here, whereas the goldfish one just gets dirtier! 

The wildlife pond is crystal clear.  So clear in fact, I can always see what the tadpoles are up to unless they are deeply involved in a frondy dark green pond weed which the newts also love.  I have at least 14 newts - I think they are all Palmate, but hard to tell because they don't come near enough for me to see if they have webbed feet. One looks bigger and spottier with more of a dorsal crest so that could be a Smooth Newt. They are out and about in the daytime as well as after dark, and I enjoy watching them so much that I now understand Gussie Finknottle's obsession . . .

We also have pond snails, water boatmen, backswimmers with their two big arms, frogs (a big one shot under the pond weed yesterday), caddis larva (nearly ready to hatch as one is hanging on to some semi-submerged stem today).  I have seen two, both distinguishable by having different "houses" on them - one has mostly old bits of twig from the Snowberry at the edge of the pond, and the other has a long white piece of Snowberry, some red bits ditto and two colourful deep red seeds from the Irises.  These two met up yesterday and appeared to be having a bit of a barney.  DO they fight?  Anyway, the other one is at the bottom of the pond now, so I don't know if he's just there, or beaten to a pulp!  Apparently caddis fly larva are the sign of a REALLY good pond but are only found in 1 in 10 ponds.  We have done something right then.  Today I spotted a big dragonfly larva on a piece of pond weed stem, and that is a positive sighting as last year (after the hard winter we'd had where both ponds almost froze solid) there were none.  The ponds had ice on them this year, but no great amount.

The tadpoles are growing well - less on them, but then they are feeding the predators in the pond.  The bigger ones in the fish pond have all disappeared and a 2nd hatching (newts or toads?) are still in residence - I think!

Does anyone else have a wild life pond?

Wednesday 2 May 2012

What are YOU doing today?

The beautiful kitchen (one end of it anyway) at Tredegar House.  I could make myself at home here!

I have taken a prompt from Rhonda over on down-to-earth , who was asking her readers what they were doing today.

Well, in my case I have been baking.  We are right out of bread, so first thing I crept downstairs and got out bread flour, and brought the fresh yeast out of the fridge to warm up.

As the oven would be on, it would then be a baking day, so I could make the most of a hot oven and saving money by doing all my baking for the week at once.  I cooked up some eating apples which were getting past their best, and made an apple crumble and a blackcurrant and apple one, with oats and ground ginger in the crumble mix.  I took great pleasure in my loaf making, and used an egg glaze and poppy seeds to top the crust.  In 7 minutes it will be done - I've just checked on it and it's looking SO good!

Next it will be a cake which gets baked as I am away over the weekend (3 days) helping a friend at an Antiques Fair, so I dare say a slice of cake now and then would hit the spot.

After walking past them for over a week, I have finally put my latest packet of Sweet Peas in to soak for a bit before I sow them.  I have several lots started and growing nicely in the greenhouse, and several pots of really well-grown ones I've bought from a regular trader at the car boot sale.  Now I need to get a good frame up for them - I fancy having them at the back of the flowers and herbs bed in the paddock.

I plan to get a walk in later (as it's finally dry) and wash my hair, and do some weeding and do the crossword from the newspaper.  I may even find time to get the sewing machine out and quickly sew the ends of two pillowcases which I have made from one BIG bolster case I got at the car boot sale recently - 3 lots of old linen for £1!  They are such top quality cotton and deserve to be kept in service, with their neat white-work embroidery across the opening edge.

What are YOU doing today?

Tuesday 1 May 2012

A bizarre personality

Last week's visit to Tredegar House included an excellent guided tour around the upper half of the house, set in the 1930s, when Evan Morgan, 4th Baron, 2nd Viscount Tredegar lived at the house.

He was a noted eccentric, though I feel that term hardly does him justice.  At the time, I wondered how much of his behaviour was pure eccentricity, how much assumed in order to shock people (and delight himself) and how much was down to his mother, the former Lady Katherine Carnegie, who could best be described as . . . unbalanced.  She seemed fascinated by birds, and imagined herself to be a Kingfisher.  Guests at Tredegar House were given birds' nests which she had made herself.  Her obsession must have totally overwhelmed her in the end as she had a gigantic person-sized nest built, complete with eggs, and she would spend time in her nest, brooding her eggs . . .  It is hard to imagine that both nurture and nature had not  influenced her son. Her daughter, Gwyneth, was described as "Bohemian" and was found dead in the Thames in 1925, aged just 29.  I believe there were murmourings of drug-taking linked to her name.

Evan Morgan's house parties were the talk of the town.  Distinguished guests such as Aldous Huxley, artist Augustus John, George Bernard Shaw, H G Wells, and Nancy Cunard enjoyed his hospitality.  They all seemed to believe in Homeopathy and I am sure there were other beliefs linking them, beside several being noted for their Bohemian behaviour.  Nancy Cunard set a trend by appearing in her collection of African bangles which were at first considered shocking and then highly fashionable - the "barbaric look".

Evan was a homosexual, although he married twice, for convenience, and each wife a society beauty.  I should imagine each party "did their own thing" and pretty well led separate lives.

What they (or indeed the house guests!) thought of Evan's parties, with animals from his private zoo being allowed loose in the house (imagine opening your door to find a Baboon reclining on your bed!),  his famous party pieces - Blue Boy the macaw being trained to climb up inside his trouser leg and appear from his open flies - and snakes and reptiles roaming the house is unrecorded.  I dare say enough cocktails would numb your responses!

Perhaps his close friendship and association with occultist Aleister Crowley is the most shocking aspect of Evan Morgan's life.  He became adept at black magic himself, and on one occasion, when he had been court marshalled for sharing war secrets with some Girl Guides, of all people, he asked Crowley to help him set a curse on his arresting Officer . . . who did indeed end up ill in hospital.

He also became a Catholic, serving as Chamberlain to the Pope for 15 years.   The strangest thing happened as I was admiring the Elizabethan wedding feast which had been laid out in the Dining Room, it suddenly came into my mind to ask if the family were Catholics!

As I said, how much of Evan's behaviour was for show and how much was his real character is hard to say.  He wrote very poor poetry and considered himself an artist (but his work was not widely admired or praised).  Virginia Woolf seemed to have his number, and summed him up as an immense show-off.  This blog gives much better detail than I have time to write.

I will say though, that the room I expected to have an atmosphere - his bedroom, where he often slept with a bed full of rabbits (as you do!) and where he carried out his necromancy - had a very pleasant atmosphere.  But there was another room where I stayed in the doorway and wondered at the ability of various folk inside to stand right beside two pillars which had been accoutrements to Morgan's special black magic altar and which gave me a VERY unpleasant feeling indeed.  (And I felt this before anything was said).

Apparently the house is very haunted - do a check and I am sure you will find several sites dealing with all the spectral inhabitants of the house.

There will be another post dealing with the "lesser" rooms of the house - the domestic ones - which I found fascinating.