Friday 31 January 2014

Busman's holiday - I hope you like antiques!

This dull wet grey January has seemed interminable.  Kept inside by the weather, we have fretted and grown bored and decided we needed a bit of English air to cheer us up again, so as the forecast was for a dry day yesterday, we got in the car and set off for Leominster, which is packed with antique shops so plenty to keep us interested.  In one of the shop windows, this piece of genius caught my eye!  I think the bottom of the can says something like "May contain feathers"!!!

The scenery was graced with a milky veil of mist.  Here is Weobley through the trees.  There is at least a little colour in the hedgerows now with the golden rain of the Hazel Catkins, and even when they have turned to yellow ochre, it still brightens the monochrome tones.  Yesterday's countryside was so soft and smudged with the mist and very comforting on the eye.

I was trying to capture the winter beauty of the trees, but it is difficult when one is hurtling past at 50+ mph!  The dirty flock of sheep were still folded in a big field of turnips (or similar) and as the weather had not improved with keeping in the intervening weeks, they were dirtier than ever and the only hint that they may once have been white sheep and not mud-sheep, was a grubby stripe down the middle of their backs!  Along the river before we turned across the Wye just short of Hay, the crack willows had been rent asunder by recent gales, and there were fallen branches and twisted wrecks of trees lieing broken on the river bank, trunk wood livid white.

If you're not interested in antiques, I should look away now, as there are quite a few photos coming up! This gorgeous little child's Windsor chair with crinoline stretcher was beautiful - but pricey!

A pair of bizarre gazelle-leg lamp-stands.  I've seen similar before so obviously in our Colonial past such things were considered de rigeur . . .  Whilst I wouldn't condone this sort of . . . design form . . . these days, I am of the opinion that it's a bit too late to change it.  The same goes for much old taxidermy really, and it is a good thing civilisation has moved on.

Along the same lines, the front end of a Water Buffalo . . .  Just the thing for a statement piece in a London flat . . .

I just loved the rough oak and patina of age on this little cupboard, but then my husband pointed out to me that it looked to be a made-up piece using very old pieces from perhaps a coffer or similar, and that certainly the hinges were much much later as they had been put on over the carved area.  This wasn't reflected in the price . . .

This little chest had SO much character and had definitely Seen Life (look at the bottom edge).  The top had bowed (see photo below) in the middle, and so the top end edges of the base had been modified to accept the dip of the bow.  Beautiful.

Something you don't see every day - a Lark Spit, probably Georgian.  I only knew what it was as antiques friends of ours had one in their shop many years ago.  It beggars belief that Larks were considered fair game, and there are recipes using just Lark's TONGUES . . .  The Romans loved them, along with stuffed Dormice . . .

Two cast iron loom lights (to hold candles).  Very rare - never seen anything of this ilk before.

My husband loved this old comb-back Windsor chair with its faint residue of red (oxide?) paint.

I love good honest pieces of furniture like this old table.  Legs simply turned on a pole lathe, with beautiful hand carving on the end planks.  WAY beyond our pocket though, but we have Good Taste!

So many things JUST to our taste.  Look at those old Costrels between the furniture.  These would have held cider or beer and been taken to the fields for the ploughman's and fieldworkers' morning "bait" - bread, cheese, perhaps raw onion, and good farmhouse cider or small beer to wash it down and refresh you.

Then it was on to Hay-on-Wye for a late lunch in the Sandwich Cellar in Backfold, a wander round the shops and market (Thursday is market day in Hay). A wonderful display of good ciders and beers in one of the shop windows.   Last time we were here I treated myself to an (illicit) bottle of Organic Cider (Dunkertons I think) and very good it was too . . .  None of your mass-produced rubbish for me these days.

A little woolleyness in a shop doorway.

I went for quality, not quantity, for our Library yesterday.  This little book is a 1923 reprint of a much earlier (Victorian) one and whilst it seems to be centred largely on Cornish folk lore, there are plenty of Devon myths too, and it is fascinating reading.  It wasn't the cheapest book (ahem, £20), but we will eat out of the freezer next week (it needs emptying) and in the meantime, I have called it my Birthday Present . . . a few months early!

Wednesday 29 January 2014

A busy day

The great de-clutter continues.  I just do a little each day and have even gone through my cookery books and magazines, pruning . . .  That is a BIG one for me as I love my cookery books and it is hard to shed any, but I figure there are plenty left to keep me going.

I also had a reshuffle of the books on this shelf, and got my "Farm" series books together (Tudor Monastery Farm added after this photo taken).  If I organize them now, when we come to pack LATER IN THE YEAR (power of positive thought about moving and all tha!), I will have things properly categorized - most of the other collections already are.

No longer needed - all to go.

I also got busy in the kitchen, and cooked up a Cheat's Chicken Pie.  Basically it is two chicken breasts, fried off in a little oil and drained, (or you can just add left-over cooked chicken from a roast, which is what I usually do), and add a tin of Campbell's condensed Chicken soup, let down with a can of water, add a few peas/mixed veg of your choice and simmer very gently until meat is cooked.  (Note: when cooking for fussy husband, there is a HUGE variety of things I cannot add to the meal, onions included!)

Roll out a sheet of ready-made flakey pastry and cook in a hot oven.  Voila!

Being a cheapskate, I trimmed off the last couple of inches of the rolled-slightly-thinner pastry, brushed it with milk, grated cheese over it and rolled it up into a knot to cook at the same time and provide a tasty snack:

Excuse battered old enamel plate - it's the one we cook Sardines on, and however much you think you have removed the oil, you are always proved wrong next time you use it!

The bananas now have a temporary new home - an old cracked cast iron skillet. I try to keep them seperate from the apples, oranges etc in the main fruit bowl, or else they get over-ripe very quickly.

Meanwhile, one of our neighbours came round and we had a lovely chat, and I got back to baking once we'd set the world to rights.  I had a tray of blueberries I had put in the fridge to defrost and forgotten aabout, so they HAD to be used up promptly.  As Steeleye Span played in the background, I rustled up some Blueberry Muffins (I have to say, these are even NICER when they are Raspberry Muffins!)  4 to eat now, and the other 8 now in the freezer.

Then I made a batch of Cornish Fairing biscuits (these are ginger biccies, basically, but SO much superior to anything boughten).

So, a useful day all in all.  I have a change of painkillers (v. short term) and they have helped me sleep better, and hopefully the pleuritic pain is under control again (it was ghastly from last week when Doc put me on a-b's that I KNEW wouldn't work). 

A day out in Leominster and Hay-on-Wye today, so I shall take my camera and report back later.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Abiding passions

After a miserable sleepless night (bad reaction to new stronger painkillers, which affected my asthma), I felt in need of something to cheer me up today.  Whilst my OH was checking out the auction, I had a wander round town and treated myself to Baking Heaven magazine - the savoury issue this time.  It has some fabulous recipes in it which I want to try out and I think at the weekend I will make a Beef in Guinness Pie (got the Guinness today).  This is like buying a cheap cookery book, as far as I'm concerned, and I will keep it for years and even then probably pass it on to one or other of my daughters.  We all cook from scratch, though I am probably more the baker and they are more main meals at this stage of their lives.

I have come a long LONG way from the first time I remember cooking something for a boyfriend - Mince with Herbs.  Oh dear Lord, it was truly AWFUL, grey fatty mince with green dots of "herbs" in it, no thickening agent, no colour and worst of all, no TASTE!  I am glad to say I was a quick learner.  I was not a food purist to start with - I was happy to buy ready meals, instant pizzas, burgers and what have you when I was first married to my first husband, but when you start cooking properly from scratch, and buying ingredients instead of meals, on the occasion when you grab a pizza to go from the chill shelf, because of time constraints or illness, it is always SUCH a disappointment.  The same goes for just about every ready-made thing I have bought hastily in recent years.  Your palate becomes used to proper fusions of flavours from fresh ingredients and all the MSG in the world isn't going to replicate that.  Baking has always been my favourite section of cooking though, and that I AM good at (says she modestly!)

My passions in life began in my pre-teenage years and have never left me.  I was given my first wild flower book aged 6 (an Observer book of course) and still love wild flowers, fungi, wild birds, nature and couldn't live anywhere except the countryside.  I began collecting Antiquarian horse books when I started my first job as an office junior, aged 16.  I still have pretty well all those books plus a whole lot more . . .

Books probably serve to reflect my deepest passions and indeed, I just LIVE for books too.  Archaeology has been another major interest, and although I am gradually going through my bookshelves to cull out the ones I will no longer realistically use, it is a difficult choice . . .

Amongst those staying . . . this is one end of my Scottish shelf.  The blue books right are 16 volumes of the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (of which I am a lapsed Fellow, purely on monetary grounds . . .)

These books I can bear to part with and they're  going to be sold.

I also collect the pre- and post-2nd World War Batsford books on aspects of Britain - historic houses, churches, towns, villages, countryside etc.  Below, another interest has always been Folk Lore and Legends, Folk Customs etc.  How the Medieval mind lives on!

Some of my countryside books.

The West Country section . . .

I have always had a small herb garden, and enjoy making simple herbal remedies and gifts using herbs and the bounty of the hedgerows.  These old magazines and booklets (apart from the Jekka McVicar) are SO early 1980s me!

One or two self-sufficiency type booklets nuzzle against my beloved Jeanine McMullen books, and the Building of the Green Valley.  I grew up backwards-looking, always living in the past.  This much was clear by the time I was 9 or 10 and my friends remarked on it. 

Crafting has always been important to me, especially making things by hand.  Here are some of the bigger material oddments (patchwork cottons are in storage boxes) and a few of my sewing magazines.

Sometimes I will be driven to sew and sew, or knit, or crochet, or embroider, and then the sun comes out and the lure of the garden is too strong, but it is ever a balancing act, and the underlieing loves never change - just get added to sometimes!

Fleamarkets and antiques fairs!!!  Whooppee!!!!

Sunday 26 January 2014

January Jugs

Well, we nearly didn't go to the car boot sale this morning as we knew it was going to be dire down there, due to the weather.  Plus buyers have also been very thin on the ground recently and when the dealers can't make enough to barely cover their costs, then they go elsewhere to sell - and who can blame them?  15 vehicles were sparsely parked inside the showground building and it didn't take long to look round today! 

Anyway, on one stall I noticed these pretty jugs, marked at just £1 each.  In my farmhouse kitchen, I have jugs hanging from the beams and although many of them are damaged, when they are hanging up, you don't notice the chips and cracks (or even staples on some of them!)  I knew they were coming home with me! 

The top jug comes under the loose category of Gaudy Welsh (though these were almost exclusively made in the Staffordshire potteries and not Welsh factories).  It has a hexagonal shape, with a Hydra-headed handle (like the other one I bought recently), and I haven't found a name for the design on it yet.  However, it does have silver and gilt gilding so to some purists, isn't classic Gaudy.  It dates from around 1820 (I think) and I love it anyway.  The little pewter flip top means it was used for hot water to top up the teapot.

This jug is very much later - the pattern (Shanghai) was in use from Edwardian times to the middle of the 1930s.  On the bottom it is stamped Losal Ware, Shanghai, Keeling & Co, Burslem and the pattern number painted on.  Again, it was a hot water jug and part of a tea service.  Not exciting, but pretty and will look nice on display.

They cheered me up anyway, and I needed cheering up as I had spent a really wretched night - unable to get to sleep for hours, and then woken after less than 2 hours sleep with very bad pleuritic pain.  I took painkillers, and sat up in bed in a woolley jumper, drinking Earl Grey and reading an old pony book from my youth.  Finally, about 5.30 a.m. I dropped off.  This necessitated a visit to the Out of Hours Doc at the hospital, and he decided that I had not been taking sufficient painkillers (well, Ibuprofen) to control the pain and reduce the inflammation (guilty as charged, as my tummy was getting sore from Ibuprofen and Steroids).  He prescribed stronger pills and a protective pill to stop my stomach being damaged by all the painkillers etc.

I shall start on those tomorrow, and in the meantime, at least my lungs sound clear (long may that continue), so let's hope I am going the right way.  I am gradually stepping down off the steroids now, and in 5 days will be off them completely and hopefully sleeping better.

Thanks for listening to my endless health moans and I hope you like the jugs.

Saturday 25 January 2014

The livestock - and deadstock - auction . . .

We'd not been there for a year or more, and not regularly for many years, but some friends were going to do the car boot element of the local monthly clearout sales at Ffairfach, Llandeilo, so we went along for a wander round.  There is always a poultry sale, and always the male of the species tends to outnumber the female, whether it be chickens or ducks.

Probably the best sellers are pairs or trios.  Buff Sussex here.

A nice pair of Muscovy ducks.  We used to have several, and Mathilda, the matriach, would have her breakfast and then fly to the top of one of the Ash trees in the paddock and sit up there all day until it was time for their evening corn, and bed . . .

Crested Cayuga ducks.  We had one Cayuga in our original set up (Esmerelda).  Unfortunately she and the two white Aylesburys (puddle ducks) wandered into our top field the first week we had them and were taken by a fox.  We found Esmerelda's body and - remembering the old maxim waste not, want not - she went straight into the oven in a casserole, and very tasty she was too . . .  She had been bitten through the neck, poor soul.

Numerous boxes of house clearance stuff was on offer in one of the outbuildings.  I found a box with a desirable (to me!) piece of Torquay pottery in it, but my husband soon said if I thought he was going to wait around hours for THAT lot to come up, I had another thing coming!

 The only bit of colour in the place!

Many of the car boot stalls were similar to this one (one of the smarter!)  Lots of tools, and useful "manthings" cleared out from garage, farm and shed.

A choice of locally-made chicken sheds were on offer in the deadstock auction.

More, ahem, useful deadstock offered in the auction.  There were actually people checking out that mid-field loo . . .

But as much of it looked like this corner, we didn't linger long.  We spent just £1 on a Millers Collectables Guide for 2006 which we didn't think we had, and were correct in our surmising.  I doubt we'll be there for another year now, although the May sale is always very very busy with the poultry side of things, and that's when they bring the best money, as you have a season's laying ahead of you.

The decluttering and hardening of heart over books continues.  Today I have removed a dozen good archaeology books (some quite collectable now) from my bookshelf in here, and will see if the good bookshop in town will express an interest.  Mostly Prehistory, with some Medieval and general archaeology.  Contact me if you would like a list.  (I live in hope!)

P.S.  I've had a restful afternoon and tomorrow evening's meal already cooked, and plenty to portion up for the freezer - I picked up an M&S recipe card and made Spanish chicken with Cannelini beans.  It has lots of smoked paprika, so should be nice and warming for a cold winter's day.  My OH and I have just watched Red2 which was entertaining.  Not sure if we will bother to get up to wander round the car boot sale tomorrow as it will probably be virtually empty - the forecast is dire (more wetness of the rainy sort).  I have decided today that it's GOOD to rest!