Monday 29 June 2015

Another busy weekend - Towy Valley vintage fair first

We spent Saturday doing a car boot sale associated with our local Vintage Show.  It was a long day and I was glad I took a good book to read.  I did have a wander round a little bit though, and took some photos to share with you.  It is a rather "blokey" type of event, and if I an honest, the way they have it now, without a main central arena for tractors to parade round in the afternoon, spoilt it for me.

. . . and the dog came along too!

Other canine visitors were enjoying the sunshine.

This is Molly, a rescue dog.  She had been used for breeding on a farm somewhere, and when no longer producing puppies, was driven a long way from home and dumped.  Neighbours of our friends who took her in after she was found wandering and starving, said that they had heard a dog yelping in pain, with much shouting and presume this was Milly being chucked out and beaten to chase her away.  All good puppy farming practice - though tieing their legs together and chucking in the river used to be favoured . . .   This usually happens around the age of 7 for brood bitches like this one, who had never seen the outside of the barn where she was kept to produce endless litters.  Only now, after several months of love and care is she starting to relax and realize that not all people are out to hurt her.  She's a lovely little dog and starting to become more friendly now, bless her.  We were lucky to have our stall next door to our friends and so we could chat all day.

A sneaky and rather blurred photo of our friend with his t-shirt sunhat!

Above and below, a steam powered mill for flour.

Another static engine, producing boiling water.

Some for Pat's (Weaver of Grass) husband and Sharon's (Mornings Minion) and any other tractor fans out there.

This is from a horticultural tools display.

Now - my OH's next project:

This one was my idea, after spotting it at an auction when we viewed last week.  It is solid oak and VERY heavy, but fortunately we managed to get it onto our wheeled trolley and down to the workshop without too much effort.

The ancient brown paint on the sides and very bottom of the front will have to go (mask on though, as it will be lead-based.)

Below: note the date carved inside under the - fetching! - blue paint.  1740.  When George II was on the throne and the year of the Great Frost, when the lowest average temperatures ever were recorded. On 1 August, the song "Rule Britannia!" was first performed at Cliveden, home of the Prince of Wales and three weeks later, the first issue of grog was handed out to the sailors of the Royal Navy . . .
I will show you the "after" photos in due course.  This is a "keeper".

Friday 26 June 2015

Keeping busy . . . and everything is coming up roses!

One of my David Austin roses - Graham Thomas.  Most of the roses on here are David Austin ones, or from David Austin.

We have been busy here - as always - my OH with his woodworking and making/repairing things, and me with painting and tidying up.  The tidying up has been in the yard/stables/barn recently where I am trying to sort out "useful" bits of wood from rubbish.  According to my OH 98% of it is useful, but I have had to take a stand!  I asked him if he intended to take the upright piano remains with us when we move.  The answer was no, so after I had swept all the generations of leaves out of the end pony box, we set to to move it.  My golly gosh but it was heavy and unwieldy.  It wanted to fall over, lean and generally be unhelpful, but we finally managed to manhandle it onto the little home-made trolley we have, on its back - which meant clearing the way in advance, and much moving of stuff waiting until we do the next Tip Run.  Going downhill was easy with it, and we shot around the corner with me avoiding the nettles and shoving left so we didn't go off the end of the concrete yard.  Then it was up and over, and my OH got the chainsaw started (finally) and cut the huge 4" x 4" pine struts off the back for firewood this winter.  I did try to tell him he could have left the middle ones whole and maybe used them for something, but he couldn't hear me above the noise of the chainsaw and had cut the middle one up before he heard me.

Anyway, we had a big bonfire and got rid of some more useless bits too - stuff that couldn't be used for burning on the log stove.  I got lots done, with clearing up that end box ready for bins of useful wood to be moved round from the hay barn (where the swallows are at present, so I can't work in there long for fear of stopping them feeding their babies).

Then I did some heavy duty weeding in the shallow flower bed in the middle of the yard.  It always gets terribly overgrown with determined grasses and weeds, and rarely looks tidy, although it's pretty when all the dark-coloured Aquilegias are in bloom.

A bright patch of colour at the edge of the stoney garden.  Alchemilla mollis and a tiny red Pink - Fusilier?

Charles de Mills.

Cardinal Richelieu

Jude the Obscure.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

Paul's Himalayan Musk.

I've forgotten the name of this one - not a David Austin rose, just a yellow one I saw and bought.

Roserie de l'Hay.

Another rambler from David Austin, but so many years ago (nearly 30) that I've forgotten who she is - a French name, that's all I can recall.

Meanwhile, in the afternoon I did yet more painting (nearly reached the end now), this time sprucing up some cupboard doors in the kitchen, now all a very pretty light jade green.  That's lightened up a dark corner.

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

An old Midsummer custom

I subscribe to Dark Dorset  and have regular emails from them about superstitions and folklore of Dorset.  Here is an extract from the latest one, which I hope they will not mind me sharing:

Midsummer Fire Leaping
"Many of these ancient customs are still continued, and the fires are still lighted on St. John's Eve on every hill in Ireland. When the fire has burned down to a red glow the young men strip to the waist and leap over or through the flames; this is done backwards and forwards several times, and he who braves the greatest blaze is considered the victor over the powers of evil, and is greeted with tremendous applause. When the fire burns still lower, the young girls leap the flame, and those who leap clean over three times back and forward will be certain of a speedy marriage and good luck in after life, with many children. The married women then walk through the lines of the burning embers; and when the fire is nearly burnt and trampled down, the yearling cattle are driven through the hot ashes, and their back is singed with a lighted hazel twig. These hazel rods are kept safely afterwards, being considered of immense power to drive the cattle to and from the watering places. As the fire diminishes the shouting grows fainter, and the song and the dance commence; while professional story-tellers narrate tales of     fairy-land, or of the good old times long ago, when the kings and princes of Ireland dwelt amongst their own people, and there was food to eat and wine to drink for all corners to the feast at the king's house. When the crowd at length separate, every one carries home a brand from the fire, and great virtue is attached to the lighted brand which is safely carried to the house without breaking or falling to the ground. Many contests also arise amongst the young men; for whoever enters his house first with the sacred fire brings the good luck of the year with him."
Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde, Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, 'The Baal Fires and Dances', 1887
This truly is an ancient custom, dating back to the Iron Age and the centuries which went before that time.  I am quite sure it wasn't just confined to Ireland either, but would have been throughout Britain.  I am intrigued by the imbueing of the hazel rods with magical powers by being lit from the fire.  There are strong links between this and  the Beltaine fires on 1st May.  Here is a link to Baal fires of the past, which were very similar and again, to protect the community against bad times and pestilence, but inherently linked to the worship of the Sun.  

Anyway, I am hoping that I got somewhere with you know who yesterday as I have to phone Sales today and take out my new contract, and a new home hub will come my way . . .  We shall see.  I worked off yesterday's angst in the garden, and cleared a barrow and a half of weeds from a stupidly small space.  In one cleared area I strewed pot marigold seeds saved from last year, which will keep company with the ones which have (slowly) grown from self-seeding.  Everything is SO behind this year.  I cleared another spot by the autumn raspberries, and put in three rows of vegetables - very belatedly, carrots, pak choi and some Italian lettuce.  These are covered over by a little plastic cloche thingy to keep off carrot fly and slugs and retain any heat.  Then it was back to painting and the shower room is now almost finished in a pale apple green (lighter than the grey-green we had in there before) - I just have 1/3 of a wall for a 2nd coat.  Then on the painting front there is just some touching up on the porch and I can begin the HUGE tidy up/put away which involves finishing clearing the barn out so that the less perishable things can go out there - even if just temporarily should we get a viewing this year as we are going back on the market next month.

On Sunday we are off  to Malvern Antiques Fair (which has some outside stalls too) and I can't wait.  It's our treat . . .

BT . . . and Witchcraft!!!

Above: Calming picture, much needed.

I have been having terrible problems with BT again.  How a company can have such a user-hostile means of communication and level of unhelpfulness which just falls short of reaching the moon is beyond me.  It's a wonder its employees aren't queueing up to leave as job satisfaction levels must be so low they are underground.

We had problems with our internet last week.  I had been painting the staircase on Monday - Wednesday.  On Tuesday it was a little iffy and took ages to load some programmes, but on Wednesday it wouldn't load BBC iPlayer at all in the afternoon, so I couldn't listen to the smorgasbord of Radio 4 programmes I had previously enjoyed.  I thought perhaps some rain had got into the wires overnight, and wondered if it was anything to do with the hissing hum on our phone line which we had been suffering for some months.

On Thursday morning there was no internet at all - the orange light was on the Home Hub, meaning it wasn't connected at all.  I - wrongly it transpires - assumed that it was our line, and phoned BT to get an engineer to call out.  One was booked for the following morning.  I had spoken to a chap who sounded like he was in Belfast first of all (or from Belfast, I know not), then I got India.  India agreed with me I had no internet, hence the booking for we're-nothing-to-do-with-BT Openreach to come out.

Broadband was back the next morning and I discovered, through a neighbouring blogger's blog, that there had been a huge broadband outage all over our area the previous day.  But BT hadn't mentioned that to me.  Openreach found no fault on my line but said the router needed replacing - that was what was causing the hiss.  Having had everything unplugged and then plugged back to test the phone line - and you don't get the hissy crackle until you are speaking to someone - we thought we still had a valid problem before his arrival.

Since then I have been tearing my hair out trying to speak to the right person within BT to amalgamate phone line and broadband (long story), open another contract so we got a free router, and make sure I wasn't going to be charged £129.99 for wasting Openreach time.  On Friday, I phoned the broadband dept. and a recorded message said that there had been a broadband outage in my area . . . why couldn't it have said that the previous day as I wouldn't have done anything then?

Someone was supposed to phone me back yesterday - and didn't.  I then made 6 calls, repeating the problems each time, and getting nowhere.  I tried on line first thing this morning and they assured me they would phone at 8 a.m. and pass me on to someone who would help. Nice Indian lady phoned as agreed, and passed me to a person who heard my tale of woe, and said they would get in touch with the accounts department (again, as they were on Friday) and then after hanging on for quite a while, they hung up!  I was LIVID by then.  I finally got through to someone helpful, but we seem to be at the same state of affairs I have been three times so far, and now I have to phone in the morning again and sort out my new contract.  Well, I'm not holding my breath.  Ofcom next . . . or perhaps a little witchcraft may be in order ..................

Saturday 20 June 2015

Catching my tail occasionally . . . and thoughts on things home-made.

I'm hoping you can read the recipe and method from this page.  If not, shout out and I'll put it up for you.

Thursday 18 June 2015

Walnut Loaf recipe

This is a breadmaker recipe, but what I did was to bring it to dough stage in the breadmaker and finish it by hand,. baked in the oven.

1 cup water, tepid
2 tablespoons walnut oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon czaster sugar
3 cups white bread flour
1 teaspoon yeast

To finish:

100g (3 1/2 oz) walnuts, roughly chopped

Place the first six ingredients in the baking pan.  Set the programme to Basic (or in my case, Dough).*

When the cycle indicates, add the walnuts.  At the end of the programme, transfer bread to a wire rack to cool.

*Remove dough from pan and put onto a lightly floured board.  Flatten a little and incorporate nuts, turning and kneading until all are incorporated.  Shape and put into a pre-warmed and well-oiled 2 lb loaf tin and leave to prove until well risen.  Brush with well-beaten egg and put in a hot oven (420 deg. Fan) with a dish of boiling water below it, which helps to give a crisp crust.

Ready in about 25/30 mins - check that the bottom is done and if not brisk to tap, turn loaf upside down and give it another 5 mins.

Yummy . . .

Garden, baking and Baby Yew Table

Welsh poppies, which have self-seeded themselves everywhere.

I was determined to get some baking done yesterday - I have almost been a stranger in my kitchen in recent weeks and have not had time to do more than throw together last minute scratch meals most evenings.  So, out came two of my well-used cookbooks:

And shortly afterwards, a batch of Blueberry Muffins (I may have had to eat one or two so these would fit on the plate . . .)

Blueberry Muffins were quickly followed by a Walnut Loaf, taken to risen dough stage in the Breadmaker, and then the chopped walnuts kneaded in and left to rise, before baking in a hot oven.  OH says it's nicer than a boughten one.  I should blardy well think so!!  I'll put up a fresh post with the recipe.

Pollen levels are ridiculously high, but the garden is getting so overgrown now and I just HAD to clear the Weeping Widow geraniums from one bed and then I could see where my Zepherine Drouhin rose was to stuff it through the plant support.

As you can see, the rose now just about fits in the plant-support (not meant for roses but a standard rose one wouldn't work) and I have some digging over to do.

A tad overgrown in the stoney garden, so I will have to wade in once the Aquilegias have set seed and have a good clear up.

Meanwhile my OH has been working on Son of Yew Table!!  This is a wee beastie we picked up for £2 at a car boot sale.  Someone had put a top and a shelf joined together on a hideous metal bracket shelf.  My OH saw potential in it, and the shelf is now made into supports.  I'll put up a photo when it's completed.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

One finished Yew wood table . . .

Well, I say finished - what I mean is fully assembled, and covered in oil, prior to being all polished up.  It isn't actually banana yellow on the edges, that's a combination of  daylight and the oil.

Above and below are taken with the flash, as despite the door being open, the far end of mum's kitchen is quite gloomy.  As you can see, I need to get scrubbing that floor again as OH has spilled some oil on it . . .  As you can see, there is the lovely old hoop back Windsor chair we bought recently, still awaiting attention, but looking nice even as it is.  You may also notice that the new central heating boiler doesn't fit in the cupboard any more, so my OH has to move the doors forward and put fresh surrounds up to take them.

We just love this table, with the natural grain of the wood, holes and scalloped edges.  Very reminiscent of George Nakashima's work in the 1970s, which is possibly what inspired Mick (my late friend Annie's late husband) to start making this.  Unfortunately, his increasing ill health prevented him from finishing it.  I think he would be pleased to see it finally finished.

Here are two lots of tidying up to keep me busy.  I began sorting out the barn on Sunday, but then realized that there was an occupied Swallow's nest at the back of the beam - and one fron last year which has been taken over by Someone Else judging by the dome of moss over the top of it.  So I had to come out.  However, I had made a big pile of "useful" cardboard boxes which had accumulated and we had a bonfire on Sunday evening to get rid of them and the brash which had also somehow accumulated at the bottom of the yard.  All the plastics at the front of this picture are waiting to be taken to the Tip on a plastics run.

As you can see, it's a total tip - this is where my hay bales used to be neatly stacked, and the feed bins for the horses in front of the hay.  Everything was swept within an inch of its life, back in MY DAY!  My OH is NOT a tidy person!

Anyway, I have been spending my time doing bits out in the garden, but with the pollen levels so high I don't like to stay out too long.  I am just about managing, touch wood, at the moment, by taking an extra bedtime dose of my steroid inhaler, and I have also started taking Spirulina tablets, which help control histamine levels.  So instead of gardening, I have been indoors painting up the staircase, which is now finished bar the backs of some spindles up in the attic, which I need to stand on a plank to do.  I have painted 3 doors today (2nd coat on one and then two with two coats to cover the light green which they were).  All this is in a soft cream colour from B&Q.  I shall be glad to get to the end of it, but there is SO MUCH tidying up and putting away to do, two big wooden floors to polish, curtains to make - all before 1st July if I can stick to my plan.

I'll get there - as long as the paddock isn't cut too soon.  If Next Door suddenly turns up to cut that, I shall be back on steroids and resting up, as my asthma will go off the scale with the pollen levels as they are and gone into astronomical increases from the flowering grass being cut.

Anyway, progress IS being made.  I shall put up a photo of the barn when it's finished.

Sunday 14 June 2015

My week in thoughts, especially about Britain and India in our Colonial past

So many things interest me.  So many things are captured by my mind and I mean to write them down on here, share them, but then they are overwhelmed by other thoughts, life events, business - I am sure you have all been affected that way.

At the end of last week we went to an auction.  Many of my late friend A's possessions were in it. The lesser things in boxes - many of them - lovely lanterns; a tall 3-layer ornate china display piece which is no longer in fashion; a box of wooden things which are now collectable and made a reasonable price, mainly as there was a nice old oak candle box in there; her carefully looked-after knitting machine, with extra boxed attachments - which made no money as they are out of fashion and few people would know how to use one these days - or indeed, want to.  A huge dinner set of china, which the auction house had managed to split and sell in separate lots (or perhaps they thought they would do better that way).  The workings of a grandfather clock in a box with some other bits, the auctioneer explained, which might belong to two other clocks from the same household.  He wasn't sure.  (So whoever bought the first box would need to either buy the other clocks (GOOD clocks, collectable) or liaise with the chap who had.)

These I could cope with seeing, although I had helped pack some of them into boxes and the last time I had seen them had been on the living room floor of her cottage.  What did give me a jolt though, was seeing her beloved spinning wheels displayed on top of tables at the back of the room.  They were SO part of her life and it seemed almost like a betrayal selling them.  I overheard two women discussing them - who were both spinners - so I said they came from my friend's home, and she only ever bought the BEST and I knew she would hope that they went to someone who appreciated and used them.  One woman said she had three already, but I laughed and said you can never have too many.  We weren't there to see them sold, so I hope that they did go to loving homes where they will be used and not stuck in a Unit like ours in some other town.

Anyway, we left after we had bought the items we were interested in, and drove on to Hay-on-Wye for lunch.  We followed our usual ritual of going to the Sandwich Cellar in Backfold, and as it was sunny, sat outside to eat our bacon  or sausage baps.  A male Blackbird was busy about our feet, searching for crumbs to take off to his hungry family.  He was very bold - or desperate - and the Proprietor said that he had even been known to fly onto the tables when people were still sat there.  We, of course, dropped a few crumbs for him and he grabbed - then dropped - a large one and there was a sudden flurry of brown and grey and a hungry Sparrow swooped and grabbed it and flew off, all without scarcely touching the ground it seemed!

Whilst in Hay, we picked up the details of a house we had seen, and very much liked, on line.  It was not far away, so we went for a drive-by viewing.  Well, we weren't keen on the village for starters, as it was purely ribbon development along an extremely busy A-road.  Whilst the house was set back perhaps 100 yds from this road, it was still too near - for my health (asthma) and for the cats, who would soon fall foul of it.  Plus there were two adjacent barn conversions which overwhelmed the house somewhat, so we did a three point turn and left.

The countryside is so lovely at this time of year.  I was driving, so didn't get to drink in as much as I would have liked to, but could still enjoy the cloth-of-gold fields of Buttercups, the nodding Cow Parsley on the verges, a sudden rash of pale pink in a damp ditch where the Ragged Robin thrived, Wisteria around cottage doors and the first rash of climbing roses against walls.  The same houses were for sale, with a few new ones and only a couple of sold signs up, yet the agent we had spoken to said they were selling lots of houses.  I always wonder if they just say that to bolster confidence in potential buyers (and sellers).

Today I have been researching the Delhi Durbar.  Not a topic I know much about, which is a shame as it is absolutely fascinating.  There were 3 held, the first in 1877 to proclaim Queen Victoria as Empress of India.  The second was in 1902/3 at the succession of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as Emperor and Empress of India (this was two weeks of festivities devised in meticulous detail by Lord Curzon, who was in the parade with Lady Curzon, in a GOLD howdah  beneath a GOLD umbrella, atop a huge elephant bedecked with gold and.flowing richly-embroidered cloth-of-gold tapestries which nearly touched the ground.  Some elephants even had solid gold candelabras attached to their tusks.  The durbar parade was described as "an amazing quarter of a mile of moving gold, gems and genealogy."  Everyone who was anyone in Indian society was there, Indian princes and Maharajas dripping with their most precious jewels which had been collected by their forbears for centuries.  The programme of events included parades of military might, dances, dinner, balls, bands, exhibitions and games of polo and other sports.  The Wikipedia entry, amongst others, gives you an idea of the size and splendour of this ceremony.  We have just realized that my husband's Great Uncle George was there, as a military bandsman with the 17th Lancers, so that will get me researching deeper and perhaps a post on what he might have experienced.

The final Delhi Durbar was in 1911, when it commemorated the crowning of King George V and Queen Mary.  King George announced the moving of the capital from Calcutta to New Delhi, thus strengthening the support of the Indian Princes - just in time for WW1, when of course regiments of Indian soldiers were sent to the Front.


My sudden interest in this period in history?  Well, I have recently bought a wooden box - an empty green baize-lined wooden box.  Nothing special you would think, seeing it from the front, but on the top is written "Leicestershire Yeomanry" and below it "Durbar Cup", which would have been presented to - I am pretty certain - the winning Polo team, probably from this 1902/3 Delhi Durbar, as the 1877 event was largely an official proclamation rather than an organized pageant and celebration involving hundreds of thousands of people participating or visiting.  I am thrilled to bits with its link to this fascinating period in our Colonial past.  The Leicestershire Yeomanry were Lord Curzon's own regiment - not that I think there was any Fifa-type fiddling going on over who should be overall polo champions.  Perish the thought!

A humble-enough looking piece of pitch pine, but the HISTORIOCITY of it - WOW!!  A real piece of history which, I suppose, really should go to the Regimental Museum . . .