Wednesday 30 October 2013

A morning in the kitchen

Or should that be Notes from a Domestic Goddess? !!!

I spent the first part of the morning blog-hopping.  For quite a long time actually, but hey-ho, suitably impressed by a Bacon and Egg Pie over on Anglesey Allsorts' blog, I set to and made one for my menfolk, with some subtle differences.  No tomatoes (they don't "do" tomatoes), no grated Courgette sneaked in (though I still have some to use up from the garden), and instead I Mandolin-sliced potato very thinly and laid it in layers with chopped bacon, and a sprinkling of cheese, and topped it with three free range eggs before putting another cheese pastry lid on it.  This is how it came out of the oven (above), and below are a couple of the layerings:

I had some cheesy pastry left over, and a single portion of Chinese Mince from the other day (which got its name from the half a packet of Chinese stir fry mix which needed using up and got combined with the mince, and onions, tin of chopped tomatoes etc), so I made two pasties . . .

The lovely golden colour is partly the cheese in theh pastry and partly the egg glaze I used.

I was on a roll by now, and as I had fresh yeast in the fridge (they give it away free at Tesco) I made a Cottage Loaf.  This really took me back to my childhood, when I would go to the corner shop for my mum, get her the Cottage Loaf, and by the time it got home, the wonderfully burnt knob on the top would be inside my tummy!  This one over-prooved a bit as the kitchen was warm from baking and I made the mistake of turning my back on it . . .  Tastes good anyway.

I am haunted by apples at the moment, so yesterday and today I have tackled the most urgent ones (bruised or split) and cooked them up.  Of course, while I had the oven on, what better thing to cook than . . . a deep dish Apple Pie in the lovely green dish which I found in TKMaxx this summer, and which is an exact match for the lovely big green mixing jug I was treated to when we were in Hay-on-Wye in July.

So, having worked, now I shall play, and clear the table to get my quilt blocks assembled.  I wish I could show you them, but they are destined for my daughters, who come on here . . .

Tuesday 29 October 2013

After the Storm

Well, after all the hype for the Big One - Storm that is - and after going round putting things away, under cover and battening down the hatches - it was a non-event here.  Instead of sweeping across our part of Wales it turned right, up the Channel, and sweapt across Britain with its skirts around Cardiff, rather than Carmarthen.  Phew.  It claimed 5 lives, including a 17 year old girl at the threshold of her adult life.  Life seems so unfair but perhaps it is destiny.  Who can say?

The photo taken across the paddock corner was Before the Storm, when we had some weather approaching (a gale and a half and heavy rain) and there was that peculiar yellowy storm light.

"Some" cats have taken up their winter quarters already, and don't give a hoot about the weather outside . . .  Here is Alfie, who has decided that the big shopping bag containing quilting material and bits and bobs, makes the best bed . . . though they all know they are not "meant" to go up on the table, they do the moment my back is turned:

Here - well known for her most peculiar choices of places to sleep - is Banshee, who thinks a box of Earl Grey teabags is the place to be!

I have been busy taking my ease, and getting better, and decided as my brain had gone walkabouts and piecing patchwork blocks was beyond it, I would do some of the repairs which had been sidelined all summer.  First, an old (1900ish) narrow loom quilt, which had been torn on the bottom and needed the torn bit removing, and a new hem done.

Here was a little indulgence from eBay, and full of fabulous quilts and ideas.

A while ago I found this little tray cloth, with some unsewn bits, at a car boot sale, so I took pity on it and brought it home.  I finally sat down with it yesterday and sewed the last few leaves and stems.  I am contemplating turning it into a cushion front, to make it more useful.

I began working on this last night.  It is a large tablecloth with a gorgeous pattern on it in just these two colours, orange and deep emerald.  It is 3/4 finished, but then the old lady who was doing it became ill and was never able to finish it.  I promised her daughter I would finish the embroidery, which I will, but then it will probably go on my Fleamarket stall.

It's lovely, but I know I wouldn't use it here.  I have a lot of smaller cloths which get used over little tables and this one is too big for that and too small for the big tabbles we have.

I wish I could say, here's one I did earlier, but no - this is a tablecloth I came across in my travels and will be listed on eBay later today.

We had a stroll along by the river yesterday afternoon, now my legs seem to be working again!  Water levels are dropping, but it is still pretty fierce.

Having mastered a fiddly recipe yesterday without too much trouble (Spiced Pear Bakewell Tart), I think my cognitive powers may now be restored too, so I am off downstairs to my sewing machine and the star quilt . . .

Sunday 27 October 2013

Today is Dylan Thomas's birthday

The view from Laugharne Castle across the Estuary -  a view that Dylan Marlais Thomas knew every ripple, sandbbar, pool and shadow of.  He was born today, 27th October, 1914, at No. 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea, and died, aged just 39, on the 9th November 1953, in New York. 2014 will be the centenary of his birth so I imagine there will be special celebrations in our part of Wales.  His biography is well-covered on Wikipedia . . . LINK

Poem in October

By Dylan Thomas
It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood   
      And the mussel pooled and the heron
                  Priested shore
            The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall   
            Myself to set foot
                  That second
      In the still sleeping town and set forth.

      My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name   
      Above the farms and the white horses
                  And I rose   
            In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
            Over the border
                  And the gates
      Of the town closed as the town awoke.

      A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling   
      Blackbirds and the sun of October
            On the hill’s shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly   
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened   
            To the rain wringing
                  Wind blow cold
      In the wood faraway under me.

      Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail   
      With its horns through mist and the castle   
                  Brown as owls
            But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales   
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.   
            There could I marvel
                  My birthday
      Away but the weather turned around.

      It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky   
      Streamed again a wonder of summer
                  With apples
            Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother   
            Through the parables
                  Of sun light
      And the legends of the green chapels

      And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.   
      These were the woods the river and sea
                  Where a boy
            In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy   
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
            And the mystery
                  Sang alive
      Still in the water and singingbirds.

      And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true   
      Joy of the long dead child sang burning
                  In the sun.
            It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon   
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.   
            O may my heart’s truth
                  Still be sung
      On this high hill in a year’s turning.

Such a beautiful poemSometimes he wrote so lyrically and the magic of his words is beyond compare, but other of his poems seem unfathomable to me.  We never studied him at school, nor was his work included in the A-level equivalent I did, or I might have understood him more.  So today I shall just have to think of his brief life and wonder to what heights he might have risen had he joined the Temperance Society . . . . 

The village of Laugharne, where Dylan and Caitlan Thomas lived for some years and where the poet was buried.

 HERE  the great Richard Burton reads the first voice in Under Milk Wood.  It gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

“A tiny dingle is Milk Wood
By Golden Grove ‘neath Grongar,
But let me choose and oh! I should
Love all my life and longer

To stroll among our trees and stray
In Goosegog Lane, on Donkey Down,
And hear the Dewi sing all day,
And never, never leave the town.”

You learn something new every day.  Until I was listening to Richard Burton's rendition of Under Milk Wood just now,  I never knew I lived so close to Milk Wood - or indeed, that it was a real place.  Golden Grove 'neath Grongar (hill) is in the Towy Valley close by us here.  Well well.  Now I must seek out Milk Wood . . .

The little tidal stream at the edge of the car park at Laugharne. 

Saturday 26 October 2013

Wild Weather on the Way

Autumn is well and truly with us now.  These fronds of bracken have been turning colour this past week, and on the bottom road there is more which is now daffodil-yellow in hue.  We have had a very wet week - rain every day, some of it incredibly heavy - so much so that when we have been driving we have chosen to pull off the road and wait for it to ease a little.  Monsoon rain, my husband tells me, and you get heavy rain like this with a warm front from the South-West. 

Needless to say, our river soon rose in spate - 4 feet in as many hourse - and soon covered the rocks on the bend by the caravan.  These pictures were taken on Tuesday.

Beneath the bridge, a tree with Y-shaped branches had already snagged up and was catching more debris as it passed.

Above and below, I was trying to show how choppy the water was - rearing white horses as it passed over rocks and pretty fast too - about 15 knots according to my husband.

The beach leaves are turning to Werther's Originals and Christmas Gold Coins overnight now.

This was the best choppy picture, unfortunately focus was on the leaves rather than the waves!

I am hoping that this short video from my camera shows you a little bit of the force and speed of the river.

Now we are waiting for the promised hurricane tomorrow night, and battening down the hatches here.  Keep safe everyone.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Cenarth and the stone of Curcagnus, an Early Christian Monument

Walking up from the river in Cenarth, you pass this pretty wee cottage with its garden full of Cosmos, still happily flowering.

Up the little hill and past the pub with its coracle on the wall.

Originally made from animal skins, stretched over a wooden framework of Ash or Willow, more modern coracles have a canvas covering, covered with tar or bitumen.  They would have been used in Britain long before the Romans arrived, and are still used in Wales upon three rivers - the Taf, the Teifi and the Towy.  Until late Victorian times they were in regular use upon the River Severn at Iron-Bridge, to avoid the toll on the famous road bridge.  More information can be found HERE.  There is a National Coracle Museum just across the road from the pub, but we didn't go there on this occasion.

Instead we made our way uphill to the Church of St Llawdogg.  Terra asked if it is still in use and I can reply in the affirmative.

Its great age as a religious site is suggested by the circle of yew trees, and the curcilinear churchyard.  It is situated just 100m away from the motte of Parc-y-domen.

This Medieval font dates from the late 12th - early 13th C and has faces around the bowl (5 in total), and these reminded me of the ancient Iron Age tricephallic stones (there is one inCarmarthen Museum in fact).  Its original site was St Tysilio's church, Llandisiliogogo.  The design is described as wave moulding with 4 human masks in relief.  There are some other photos HERE.
Moving things around seems to have been a habit in this area, as the wonderful Early Christian Monument in the churchyard - known as Maenchlochog 1 - was originally recorded (many miles away) as being at Llandeilo Church, where it was only 400m or so north-west of the church, close by Temple Druid Farm.  Nancy Edwards, in her Corpus of Early Inscribed Stones and Stone Scuptures in Wales, says that one source suggested it had been found 'at no great distance from a very large old camp'.  This was written down in 1776.  The 'old camp' gave both Bwlch y Clawdd and Temple Druid their names, although little other than a crop mark survives today.  However, inside this 'camp' there was a Neolithic chambered tomb (long gone) and two possible prehistoric standing stones. Perhaps this stone may have formed part of the Neolithic tomb or approach.

It is inscribed with the letters: CVRCAGNI FILIANDAGELLI and dated late 5th/first half of the 6th century.

This is translated as being: 'of Curcagnus son of Andagellus'.  Nancy Edwards suggests that this language is from the Irish Period 7 and the names are linked with other Llandeilo stones, including one with ANDAGELLIMACUCAVETI  and Ogham inscription on it. 

Her suggestion is that the ending of 'agni' suggests that Curcagni was probably an Irishman, late 5th/early 6th C, when the Irish aristocracy were resident in West Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.  For a much more detailed and scholarly analysis, and comparison stones, consult Nancy Edwards' tome on this topic!

And sideways on, to give you a chance to read it!

Just down from the church is this ancient Alehouse which is on the site of the alehouse originally built by members of the monastic cell set up by St Llawddog.  We must remember that in those days, ale was brewed for something safe to drink, water often being contaminated.

 St Llawddog's details I have finally run to earth via the National Library of Wales' Dictionary of Welsh Biographies:

LLAWDDOG , or LLEUDDAD , saint ( fl. 600? ), is said to have been the son of Dingad ab Nudd Hael , king of Bryn Buga (i.e. Usk ), and Tefrian or Tonwy , daughter of Lleuddyn Lwyddog . Few details are known about his life, but tradition maintains that he worked many miracles. He appears to have forsaken his father's kingdom in order to live the life of a religious recluse with his brother BAGLAN in Caernarvonshire . His later years are linked with the isle of Bardsey . He was chosen abbot of the island's religious community , and is said to have ended his days there. A Welsh ‘ Life of S. Llawddog ’ is preserved in N.L.W. Llanst. MS. 34 , of the late 16th cent. , and an early 18th cent. copy is to be found in Llanst. MS. 104 . The churches of Cenarth , Penboyr , and Llanllawddog in Carmarthenshire , and Cilgerran in Pembrokeshire were all originally dedicated to Llawddog . His memory is also perpetuated in the local topography of the places so named, in the form Lleuddad , in parts of the Llŷn peninsula . His feast-day is variously given as 15 Jan. , 21 Jan. , or 10 Aug.

Other research suggests that the discrete placement of churches dedicated to St Llawddog suggest the cult of a local saint (yet as elsewhere, such clusters were disrupted by the re-dedication of churches to more "fashionable"  - less "Celtic" - saints by Norman intervention.  Cilgerran - the closest church also dedicated to St Llawddog, became rededicated to St Lawrence and after half a millennia, it was associated with the original saint again.

But enough - I am off enjoying myself learning, and most of you will be shaking your heads and  telling me to keep taking the tablets!!!!

Monday 21 October 2013

You can tell it's raining when there are . . .

Wall to Wall Cats!

Little Whale has decided he likes Bunk Beds, and bagged the top bunk.

But Theo was quite happy with the bottom bunk . . .

And a sleep Banshee is often found on my office chair.

The others are in the kitchen (warm) or sitting room (warmer). Meanwhile, rain of Biblical proportions has been falling overnight and all day today.  We had to brave it and venture into town this morning, and in the 3 hours we were out, the river rose at least 4 feet.  It is more than from bank to bank as it is up across the rocks by the caravan, hurtling seawards with great intent, taking a tree we had earmarked as winter firewood with it.  Our fault, as we have been too busy/too poorly (the latter me) to harest it.  Let's hope it brings us a better-seasoned one than the green Sycamore it took away.

Much more of this (and more is predicted) and Theo won't have to dabble his paws in the pond to catch goldfish - he will be picking them up off the lawn!

I have been doing some quilt-making, but my poor brain keeps getting completely frazzled and I think I have probably unpicked half a reel's worth of sewing cotton from my mistakes, so I have laid it aside until I can concentrate again. 

This is a strip I did MANY years ago - a sort of Jacob's Ladder I think.  It was to grace the front of a jacket with a patchwork border.  Not sure what to do with it now . . .

I hope the weather is better where you are.  I hope to write the third part of the trip to Cenarth up for tomorrow.

Friday 18 October 2013

Beautiful Cenarth Falls

The Holy Well on the bank of the River Teifi at Cenarth.  Dedicated to St. Llawddog (St Ludoc) lived in the 7th Century and was a son of the King of Usk and according to legend, a great performer of miracles.  Although he is chiefly associated with dedications in North Wales, where he was Abbot of Bardsey, a number of churches in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire are dedicated to him. Indeed, the church in Cenarth is dedicated to him, so he was obviously prominent in this area for a while.  I will try and find out more about the Holy Well and any properties it was famous for when I sit down for a cuppa with Francis Jones' "The Holy Wells of Wales".

Well, much quick reading later, and very little reference to the Holy Well, or indeed, St. Llawddog.  Apparently when on Bardsey, St. Llawddog milked a cow over a well whose waters turned into milk for his visitors (good trick that!), but no further information about the Cenarth Holy Well.  HERE is a link to some stunning photographs and a bit of information about Cenarth.

Writing in the1180s,  Gerald of Wales described it as ‘a flourishing (salmon) fishing-station. The waters of the Teifi run ceaselessly over (the falls), falling with a mighty roar into the abyss below. Now it is from these depths that the salmon ascend to the.. rock above...'

View of the bridge across the River Teifi from downstream.  Look at the colour of those trees and grass - looks almost like late spring doesn't it?  If you ignore the keys on the Ash trees that is. . .  The holes in the bridge are to help the structure, especially when the river is in spate.

Downstream from the bridge, and looking caross to the stone slope which used to be edged with hurdles when they drove the sheep down to be dipped in the river each summer.  Men in coracles would help push them under and then guide them across and out the other side.

A photo taken from a little cabin containing historic photographs of the area (just visible in fact, behind the main with the coracle over his shoulders).

Further downstream again, to a little island in the centre of the river.  The light was very kind to me on Tuesday!

A more detailed photo of the bridge, showing the little cabin behind it in the car park.

The view upstream from the bridge.

Here is the river in spate.  Sorry for the quality of the photo, but it was behind a creased plastic envelope.

Click HERE  to see two more pages of photos of coracles and the river.

Here is the main channel of the river flowing through.  There was a chap and his wife who had set up a camera and tripod exactly where I wanted to go and stand, so I have had to work around them . . .

Isn't it lovely?  I wanted so much to be feeling well enough to go for a walk further upstream along the bank, but that will have to happen another time.

 I should imagine this Salmon fed a fair few.


Lastly, some local ladies in the Welsh hats which all women wore in Victorian times and earlier. These were definitely in their Sunday Best, with plaid shawls (Welsh wool of course).  The lady in the striped skirt to the left looks as if she was of mixed-blood, and I wonder was she a descendent of Cenarth-born Joshua Jones, born about 1841, who was living in Aberdare, Glam. by 1861, and with his wife, joined 150 or so others and sailed to found a Welsh colony in Patagonia.  They travelled aboard The Mimosa in 1865.

For archaeology of the area, click HERE.

For the Genuki page, click HERE.  Note the name of the Minister at the Bryn Sion Independent Chapel - Abednego Jenkin.  With a name like that I should imagine he had been destined for the cloth at an early age.

I'll be back later to try and add a little more to this posting.