Sunday 30 November 2014

Walking through the tears

Sorry not to have made the promised postings, but I have one dear friend terminally ill with cancer and now my best friend (since we were 5) is very ill and in hospital and may well have cancer.

It is difficult to deal with, but as usual a good long walk has allowed me to think things through and the endorphins help.  I saw the first Primrose in flower on a sheltered bank near Colomendy - not sure if it is the last of this year or the first of next - the latter I will assume.  It has given me hope.  Where are we without it?  So if I go very quiet on here, I may be away at my best friend's house.

Here is Cobweb in the window of Carmarthen Antiques Centre.  I just need to make him up a couple of Christmassy rosettes to set him off properly.

Saturday 22 November 2014

The Strawberry Bed and other tales . . .

Here's one for you Vicky!!

We had a lovely day out in Pembroke today and found this at Chapel Antiques.

Back tomorrow with lots more photos, and then there are dozens of the castle for another post or two.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

It's stunning in our valley right now . . .

Just pictures today.  I don't think they need words . . .  Enjoy.

Monday 17 November 2014

A Dorset Owl . . .

It is Autumn in our valley now, and I couldn't resist taking a couple of photos whilst I was on my way to the Post Office this afternoon.  I hope to have a good walk along there tomorrow, but today I have been feeling very tired after the loooooooooong day at the Fleamarket yesterday.  It was a dire day for selling anything.  There were quite a few stalls outside, as it was dry and sunny, and that always bodes ill for us inside folk, who are considered "posh and expensive" (which we're not, we just like to sell our collectables having washed or polished or mended them first!)  Anyway, even the outside folk were moaning about not selling much, and apart from selling a few things to Dealers first thing, we sold only TWO things once the Fleamarket was open for business.  £30 worth!  Then my OH found his birthday present (a vintage pistol) so that was a big chunk of money out, and then he went for a look round outside and came back and announced he'd left a deposit on two sewing tables.  I immediately thought of Singer Sewing machine tables and thought he had gone quite mad.  Anyway, he went off with the rest of the cash and came back with these:

Two beautiful hexagonal-top Victorian Trumpet base sewing/needlework tables.  One, as you can see, has fabulous inlay on the top and is laid out as a games table.  The one on the left needs a good bit of tlc - beading to replace around the edge, polishing, and the interior restoring, but nothing we can't handle.  The one with inlay needs the pedestal base unscrewing (it's been glued and badly, which is why it looks wonkey) and some spilt ink hopefully removing from the top.  (Vicky - any tips?  I am going to try toothpaste first.)

Please excuse the after-Fleamarket clutter - everything just got dumped by my pink sewing materials box and my cantilever ditto.

Then I went for a wander, and found this beautiful old wooden costrel - still with remains of green paint on the iron strapping.  These normally sell for £60+ so I have never been able to indulge myself (having agricultural labourers so large in my family history, this feels like a link to them).  They were used to carry cider, beer, sometimes just water or cold tea, to the fields at harvest time, and left in the cool of the hedgerow bottom until it was time to bait the horses and have your own bait (usually a hunk of bread, a chunk of cheese and often a raw onion for company).

And here's the costrol after a little polish by my OH.  A good £12 worth!

Then, on the same stall, I spotted this and I knew EXACTLY what it was because I have been searching for one for more than 30 years now!  It is a Dorset Owl - basically an earthenware version of the wooden barrel costrel, and in a design which has been used since medieval times.  They were made by Verwood Pottery just on the Dorset border, and it just so happens that I bought a book about Verwood Pottery at the last Malvern Fleamarket, and it has been on the sofa beside me the last few days!  Serendipity or what?  It has a little chip in the mouth rim, but that doesn't bother me at all.  The price . . . I got it for £12 again.  She was asking £15 for each piece, but I haggled.  Talk about being over the moon : )  They sell for around £100 on Fleabay and in West Country Antique shops.

Here they both are in their new permanent home above my corner cupboard which has a lot of my sewing things in it.  A Gothic revival helmet in the centre . . .

I am currently restoring the velvet patchwork throw I got at Malvern in the summer - some of the velvet is so frail and is falling apart.

I'm also now at the quilting stage on my table runner.  I was sewing this bit at 4 a.m. this morning - having woken at 1.45 a.m. and been unable to sleep . . .

Another little me-present which I found yesterday.  I collect this series, for the counties which I love/which interest me.  Looking for Hampshire still . . .

Lastly, looking downstream.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Keeping busy

It's Fleamarket time again, and whilst I don't have any of these lovely beauties to sell tomorrow (I SO WANT that Arab bust in the front!) I do have several Beswick horse and dog pieces, and also two very nice cast iron statues of a mare and foal, and two Pointer dogs which I am hoping someone will fall in love with.
I have just been cleaning two old brass shell cases - well, getting them as best I can anyway - and cleaning and polishing some English leather driving reins.  Everything is packed - though only thanks to my husband's VERY creative packing did we manage to stow in the two rocking horses, Cobweb and Tommy, AND umpteen other things.  Let's hope it goes well tomorrow.

Whilst I was baking some Chocolate Blackberry Brownies to take tomorrow (by popular request!) I was listening to a wonderful programme on Radio 4 (Soul Music) about Shropshire broadcaster Sybil Ruscoe talking about the loss of her great uncle in WW1, and the programme also looked at her, and  of 2 other people's responses to A E Houseman's poems set to music, primarily George Butterworth's setting "A Shropshire Lad".  It was such beautiful music, and a very interesting and timely programme.  I'd never heard of Butterworth before, but will seek him out now.

What I really wanted to do was to sit down quietly by the fire, and read Derek Tangye's book "The World of Minack" which I discovered in The Works yesterday (£4) and treated myself to.  Well out of print, and just a diary with extracts from his books, but good illustrations and I have wanted to re-visit Minack in the last year.  After Tea I shall . . .

I will be up at 5 a.m. tomorrow, so it will be an early night tonight and fingers crossed that it is a good day.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

A very old quilt, and visiting a friend

Firstly, the very old quilt, which I found at the car boot sale on Sunday and fell in love with. I am not very good at dating from the patterns used, but I would hazard a guess at it being a hundred years old.  It has been loved and used and washed to death, and the shabby in shabby-chic is an understatement.  I love it (which is just as well, as I may end up stuck with it!) but it is SO soft and comforting.  I will try and get a photo of it laid out so you can see it in its entirety.  A little piece of social history anyway.

Yesterday I went to see my dear friend A, who I was an Uni with (we were both mature students), but who is sadly now terminally ill.  I always get together a basket of goodies for her - something home-baked (often biscuits, but this time Apple and Cinnamon Snickerdoodles), a little jar of home-made jam (Bramble Jelly this time), a magazine with good countryside photos in, a little piece of china, just small things to cheer her up and make it feel like it's her birthday every time I visit.  I also took her an Amarylis yesterday, so she has something to look forward to when it flowers in a few weeks' time, and a finished tablecloth which she had started embroidering and I offered to complete for her.

I was late getting to her as I drove up over the lanes past Horeb to get to a garage for fuel and that added half an hour to the journey (she lives about an hour away, in the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains.)  I did stop for just a minute to take a few swift photos of the scenery a couple of miles from her cottage.

It was a damp grey misty day.  These sheep were hopeful I had come to feed them!

I love the drive to A's, although the lane gets narrower and narrower, the closer I get to her! and I always hope I shan't meet something coming the other way.

I love the way the moss colonizes the banks, and along this stretch the roots of the Beech trees writhe and bury themselves in the stone walls, like arthritic fingers.

It was a lovely day - we talked and talked - and she showed me some old family photos and I took a couple of names to research for her as she didn't know what became of them.  One who she thought might have died as a child, as never any mention of her, survived till her 70s and married and had three daughters, so I shall try to trace them forward today.

It is very hard when you are made aware of your own mortality, and I know my friend isn't ready to go yet.  I only hope I can help her through her final months and she has happy memories to see her through.  We have had some lovely outings this summer, and next time I shall get some photos I took run off in town, so she can relive those memories for a while longer yet.

Monday 10 November 2014

Apple Dappy recipe for Sue over on Frugal in Suffolk

I promised this recipe to Sue after she had Not Enjoyed the version of this on a Co-op recipe card.  I have been making this for years, and it is divine.  It's even more divine cold, next day, with ice cream!  Sorry - no picture as I've not made it recently (OH deems it in the "fattening" category . . .)

APPLE DAPPY (Serves 6)

8 oz (225g) S-R flour
2 oz (50 g) margarine
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 pint (150 ml) milk
P:inch salt
1 tblspn Demerara sugar
1/2 level tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves or mixed spice
2 good-size apples (I use cookers, but dessert will do)


1 (washed) lemon or a little lemon essence
1 tblspon golden syrup
1/2 oz (15g) margarine
4 oz (100g) sugar
7 fl. oz (200 ml) water

Make syrup first.  Peel fine strips of lemon rind and squeeze lemon.  Put rind, juice and all other syrup ingredients into a pan and stir over a gentle heat until sugar is dissolved.  Leave to cool.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and rub in marg.  Mix to dough with milk.  Roll into 8" x 5" x 1/4" thick rectangle on floured board.  (20 x 13cm x 7 mm thick).

Peel, core and chop apples and spread on pastry.  Mix sugar and spice together and spribkle over apple.  Roll up pastry and apple like a swiss roll.  Then cut into slices about 1" (2.5 cm) thick.

Grease an overproof dish  and lay slices flat on it.  Remove lemon rind from syrup and pour over the apple slices.  Bake in a moderately hot oven, Gas6, 375 deg. F, 190 deg. C for about 30 mins.

Serve with cream or custard.

This is an old Devon recipe .

Saturday 8 November 2014

Some extra words for once . . . "FRIPPERY"

A scene on the Gower

Words - and time to commit them to paper even more so - seem to have forsaken me in the last couple of years.  I found some essays I wrote at Uni and was amazed at how erudite I was!  Ah, my brain has gotten lazy so I need to find a higher gear for it and get it moving again.  Whilst looking for some Family History notes today, I came across a short story I had written 30 years ago when I was a member of a writing group.  The meetings were so stimulating, and I can remember being given a word and as I drove home, my brain would be writing the story and I couldn't wait to commit words to paper when I got home.  So here is "Frippery", which has a touch of Thomas Hardy about it, a little peephole into someone's life:


"What foolish frippery is this?"  His fingers twisted around the necklace and ripped it from her neck, the glass beads spurting from between his fingers like drops of blood.  His breath stank of the raw onion he had eaten with his meal.  His eyes gleamed like a hawk's, an impression echoed in the high-bridged aquiline nose and thin lips.  She started back against the wall, dislodging the poker where it had leaned, forming the sign of three.  The heat of the fire burned her back as sh arched away from him, dropping her eyes and muttering, "'Tis a gift from an old friend, many years back, and I had quite forgotten it.  I thought as it was Christmas, I would wear it again."  With a knowing look and a final shove, he lurched away across the room, as she sank to the floor and gathered up the beads with a choked sob.  Why had it come to this?  A partnership once so promising, so happy, now so empty and where hate and fear nested in the place of love.

The flames greedily plundered the Yule log, dashing up the chimney like demons speeding to hell.  The flickering light reflected in the jugs adorning the dresser, weaving around their colourful designs, giving an animal-eye gling here and there in the gloom.  She took no solace from their home, their many possessions; from the parlour with its plush velvet paddedchairs, the mahogany frames carefully matching in his and hers cosiness; the nick-nacks on the narrow Pembroke tables, the gleaming oak table in the bay window, bearing geraniums in summer and an Aspidestra the rest of the year.  No solace from the well-stocked larder, the hams smoking in the chimney, the cash stuffed in an old sock beneath the mattress, and no solace, oh certainly NO solace in the marriage bed.  She grimaced at the thought of his drunken fumblings in the long dark winter nights, his coarse farmer's hands pinching and mauling her.  How had it come to this, from the delight of their wedding night when they had tumbled into bed with great anticipation and expectations.  Was it because she was barren?  That all the romping in the feather bed should have come nothing, no cease in her menses, no need, like her sister, for a penn'oth of Pennyroyal to make sure that no baby held in her womb that month.  She, who had six children now, and another due, she had need of Pennyroyal indeed, and it was not beyond her to come seeking a few shillings for boots come winter . . . money which came easily to her sibling, where children did not . . .

She fingered the beads, ruby-red, like the fruit of the Black Bryony which grew in the hedgerows hereabout, and the memories returned, the slender young man with a body so graceful,  toffee-brown eyes and soft curly hair, an artist who longed to travel the world and explore and take her with him.  She thought of the clandestine meetings in a nearby town, where they had planned a life so different from this.  His hands had been warm and soft as a dove's wing, and they lingered as they fastened the necklace, this necklace, round her throat, moving down to her shoulders as he pulled her towards him and kissed her throat, her cheek, her lips.  She had half pulled away, overwhelmed by her sudden desire.

 She had been an obedient daughter, and when, some years earlier,  her parents suggested Robert as a suitor, she had thought she had found true love.  He was wealthy, from a local farming family much respected in the community, he was their social equal, he was not a penniless itinerant artist. . .  She found him handsome, and reliable, and amusing, and he made her feel beautiful and desirable and important and she was the envy of all her friends.  Her lover went travelling without her.  A year later she had a letter, begging her to join him in France.  She burned it in the fire, watching the paper brown and blacken as the flames captured lost love and destroyed hope and  underlined misery.

                                                   *                           *                       *

The old lady's head dropped suddenly, and with a snort she woke, gazing round the room with sleep-fuddled eyes.  "Granny, Granneeeeeeeee!"  A child's voice made her smile as her great grand-daughter ran into the room, curly hair bouncing, brown eyes merry.  "I've got a KITTEN, I've got a KITTEN," the child announced importantly, holding out a ball of piebald fluff with eyes like saucers from fright.

"Come here child, and put puss on the floor."  Obediently the little girl clambered onto the old lady's ample lap, covering the wrinkled face with kisses.  She flung her arms round the old woman's neck, and snuggled in close.  "Is it nearly Christmas yet Granny?"

"Oh yes, my dear, it's nearly Christmas.  If you come with me, I have a present for you."  She led the child to the dresser, bristling with blue and white plates and a lifetime of jugs, their patterns reflecting the flickering light of the fire in the big inglenook fireplace, the Yule log sending pulsing waves of flames up into the cavernous chimney.  Her stiff fingers pulled out a little brown paper bag, which she pressed into the child's eager hands.  She held those hands in hers, tightly, and captured the child's attention.  "Promise me," she told her, "Promise me that you will hold these dear to you always.  They are so precious to me, and mean so much.  Your great grandfather once gave them to me - that was at Christmas-time too.  But he had to go away . . . "  The little girl opened the bag and pulled out a string of glass beads, red as drops of blood.  "Oh granny, they are so pretty.  They look like holly berries."  She began to dance around the kitchen, singing, "I've got a NECKlace, I've got a NECKlace," and the kitten shot across the flagstone floor and under a chair, tail like a bottlebrush, making the child laugh out loud with delight.  "Laura," her great granny's voice was suddenly sharp, "Don't tell anyone, it's our secret, remember?"  A tilt of the child's head showed that she had been acknowledged.  Once again the old woman sank into her chair, watching as the flames flickered in the patterns on the jugs, looking like animal eyes, blinking, winking . . .

Friday 7 November 2014

Falling from heaven . . . RAIN that is!

View from the little church at Capel-y-Ffin.

Well, autumn has arrived, and with the colder weather, so has the rain.  When I was busy doing things other than tidying up my garden, I should have done the night-shift out there to get it properly tidied.  Now that I DO have the time, the rain has arrived.  Ah well.  It can wait, it's not like we have a queue of people wanting to view - the market, after  promising signs in the spring - has gone dormant again.

Time to focus on indoor things, and I am currently assembling a quilt top.  VERY slowly I might add,  However diligent I am with measuring and double-measuring, there seems to be a mistake I have already made, requiring the stitch ripper to be doing overtime!

My head has been full of all sorts of blog-postings when I am out and about, and then I get home and they have fled my mind.  I see some beautiful scenery; watch a Buzzard sitting atop a telegraph pole stretch out his wings and then launch himself into the air; down a narrow lane a Merlin dives out of a hedgerow and skims the lane in front of the car, barely a foot off the tarmac; I see the last Buttercup flowering, such a vivid yellow now it is on its own and the hedgerow colours are fading; swathes of ivy in the hedgerows peppered with flowers and I wonder how many will be pollinated because bees are so scarce.

As I was at the sink yesterday, at dusk, I noticed a procession of tiny Wrens making their way into a little cubbyhole they made in the autumn, between two concrete beams across the outside window aperture.  They excavated the gap, leaving a little spoil-heap on the window-ledge below, and now cwtch up together to survive the winter months.  There are LOTS more of them in a similar spot above our bedroom window, where the bats live in the summer, though this year they had to share with a nest of House Martins - INSIDE the house!  I was amazed - we have never had House Martins outside the house as they don't consider there is enough of an overhang.  I never knew they might see a hole and think it was a Good Idea!  We watched them checking it out one day in late May.

I wish I had more time to read.  I always feel guilty if I sit down with a book in the day time, although I have a stack of them to read, and want to read my way through all of Thomas Hardy's poems and re-read some more of his novels.  I am drawn to Dickens again too, and want to re-read David Copperfield.  I am also sliding down a steep Edward Thomas slope again at present, and I just want to sit down and read every word I have on him.

I have finished the embroidery on a partly-sewn tablecloth belonging to my friend A, who is so ill (she has Pancreatic cancer).  So I will take that to her next week, along with a small basket full of goodies - it makes me feel good to assemble it, and make something edible, biscuits, scones, jam etc - along with a magazine, some flowers, a small piece of pretty china etc.  I will make some biscuits for her this weekend, either Lemon Curd Biscuits or else Sugar Biscuits, or perhaps some home made Jammy Dodgers.

Meanwhile, my patchwork table runner is close to being assembled, though I am going to go back to the bud I sewed last week, unpick and rework it as I'm not happy with the experimental result (the magazine just said to refer to the illustration . . .)  I wish I had planned the colours properly now, as it just "happened".  I had been sewing some little hexi flowers together in whatever material I had close to hand, and then bought this patchwork magazine and it had the hexi runner in it.  Hopefully the edging hexis pull it all together.

Meanwhile, it is home made soup time again, and my slow cooker is being used regularly.

Photo below from when we went to Hay with my poorly friend.  I need a bit of a colour fix this morning.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

All change in our valley . . .

It might be colder, but at least the sun has been out long enough to plan some walks.  Yesterday, in between showers, I did a leg-stretching walk just up the valley.  This is the view between the trees looking towards the Iron Age camp on the hilltop opposite, though there's a branch and a big covert of gorse concealing the margins.

The view upstream from the bridge shows that many trees have been hanging on to their leaves.  There is beech and oak along this stretch, and some alder too.

Downstream there is more oak and ash, and the ash trees at the side of our yard and fencelines have already shed their leaves.  The remains of the Rosebay Willowherb here are now bleached and almost without colour apart from the odd yellowed leaf.

A slightly different angle for the view up the valley, looking through the copse beside the little hill leading Northwards from the bridge.  This was once a grazing field, a bit wet, but good rough grazing, but then the owner got a grant for planting it up with native trees and these have grown on well now.

The lane up the valley - a very familiar view.

Burgundy pink leaves decorated bare twigs in the hedgerow.

The lane ahead was tempting, but then I noticed the gates wide open into another stretch of former grazing planted up with trees, and a quarry-waste road had been laid across it.  Of course, curiosity got the better of me then.  What was our neighbour J up to?

The tree plantings had been thinned out, but there are some lovely young trees growing on - lots of hazel, birch, some oak and a other indigenous species are thriving.  Hard to imagine we used to canter the horses across here . . .

Gosh, this had changed.  Once a footpath and on the left a picnic area, trees had been cleared and a broader vista of the valley has emerged.  The conifers on the left are at Horeb, I believe.

Then - desecration.  I remember this as a quite grassy path along the riverbank, with a few small alder and birch and hazel trees growing thinly in front of stands of older ash. A lot of ash woodland still remains (for the moment), and alder too, hence no leaves still on the trees.

Now the sylvan setting where we would see deer was laid waste.  Some of the ivy-clad ash has benefitted from felling, I don't doubt, but what a mess . . .

I had to remind myself that the clearance would allow all sorts of woodland plants to flourish, once they had the light, like these Foxgloves, who already seemed to think spring had come twice in the same year!

Meanwhile the river keeps on flowing, as it always has done in some shape or another.  This is nothing it hasn't seen before, since this is no way primary woodland, or even secondary.  Judging by the sizes of most of the remaining trees, this area could well have been felled for pit-props for the mines, or for trenches during WW1.  It certainly hasn't been managed woodland since WWII.

One last bit of sadness - the big old barn beside what used to be a picnic site has now been dragged down and all its wriggly tin rent asunder . . .  Nothing stays still.  My son would regret its passing, as he and his mates used to camp here on summer nights, or down beside the river, just where everything is being flattened and cut down.  Mind you, we will probably (hopefully!!!) be long gone from Wales when he returns from his travels (he goes on to NZ in January) and so it may well be a long time before he comes back along this valley to see what the passing years have done to it . . .

Right, we have sold the big old rocking chair at the Unit, so I had better polish up its replacement.