Tuesday 30 April 2019

OK, I give in

As an Aries, this is something I have only ever said a couple of times in my life, but today is one of them.  I am absolutely worn out (well, we both are, tell the truth), with back-to-back Fairs at the weekend, and the steroids have kept me wide awake every other night from start to finish, and my body has been struggling trying to come back from the smoke-inhalation last week when we had to smoke the bee swarm from our bedroom chimney.  That was what really knocked me sideways as the steroids had been starting to kick in until that little episode.

The Fairs at the weekend were the finish of me as I didn't sleep Saturday night, though my dear friend Pam offered to take over my side of things if I wanted to go home.  I was absolutely choked by her kindness - it's when you are down and someone gives you a hug (as she did) and my eyes welled up but I managed to choke back the tears.  You know who your friends are at times like this.  Pam is worth beyond gems. . .

Anyway, consequently I'm still feeling the effects of that  long tiring day, although Tam came and helped at lunchtime and although I wrapped things up, she and Keith carried it all out. Then at home we had to unload it all again and reload the car again with masses of boxes of "stuff" to go off to auction yesterday.  Tam's off home today so we will be missing her. We all just about managed to stay awake to see Game of Thrones last night - thrilling stuff!

As I write this, I have a live auction running in the background, but they are selling the flatware (cutlery to normal folk) and the items we are interested in aren't for a couple of hundred more lots.  I am going to try and start writing a letter to an old old friend of mine (we started off as penpals when I was 18 and she was 20) and then I fancy starting the beautiful Arts & Crafts X-Stitch I bought at Wightwick Manor.  It is a de Morgan tile design of beautiful blue flowers (cornflowers?)

Thursday 25 April 2019

Another day, another problem

Slightly blurry cowslips above, and a better pic of the other side of the path below.

The bees still here, on outside of chimney, but a local chap is here to try and persuade them to leave with him (in a box).  He reckons they will probably swarm this afternoon as the sun is coming out again now.  Since we smoked them out, they haven't gone back down the chimney, which is a relief.  Update:  brave young man (old school mate of my son's) climbed up extremely tall ladder and SCOOPED the bees off with his arm!  I was inside, out of the pollen, but he told me what he'd done when he came in for coffee.  He was delighted to have a new colony for a super (think I've got that right) and the queen was still alive and with them - I was worried she had perished in the chimney when a clump of bees fell down into the fire.

However, the smoke from the bucket of oily rags has done my asthma no good - it was bad before that, but I'm now on maximum everything and still struggling.  I've spoken to my Respiratory Nurse and may have to go in for tests tomorrow.  I was getting better until we lit the oily rags in the bucket and I got a lungful or two of that and have gone backwards with my asthma.  Last year it was making chutney which also made it worse . . .  I'm not going back into our bedroom until there's a new carpet down (happening in the next couple of weeks).  

I didn't sleep at all last night - well, I think 40 minutes was all I got - and I had to take my inhalers early, so I am resting up inside today.  Tam's travelling down tomorrow, as she has a meeting at the Charity she works at on Monday, so will help with the Fleamarket on Sunday and take my place selling, bless her.  I shall sit and sew/read this morning, and quietly sort out what boxes of stuff are going to be taken to this weekend's Fairs this afternoon.  I may bake a cake.  But no going outside - had to take something to post this morning and wore my mask . . .

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Bee Swarm in our bedroom . . .

This was the sight that faced me when I went into our bedroom yesterday afternoon to start clearing my chest of drawers so we could move the furniture out as we're having a new carpet laid . . .  Needless to say, with a swarm settling in the chimney I had a sudden change of plan!  We used to have the bottom of this chimney blocked with a piece of chipboard but it had warped and when I was painting I removed it.  A bad move!  

We phoned our builder Steve, who happens to be a beekeeper and he advised us that these were probably just Scout bees, ahead of the swarm.  Sadly he was wrong (see picture below of swarm on chimney . . .)  So then he suggested lighting a smudge fire in the chimney to make it unwelcoming for them.  Don't worry he said, the ones in the window will be out before dark and then the swarm will probably come down the chimney as they won't be out overnight.  Then he really cheered me up by telling me that they would probably die over the winter anyway.  "But it's SPRING now!", I wailed!!

Anyway, this is a better photo taken this morning of the swarm - looks as it did last night actually! - and I am hoping they will take off for another victim.  Our next door neighbour up the hill had a swarm in her attic too - the Pest Control people turned up here looking for her (we're the centre of the postcode).  This warm weather has set them off early.  What was the old saying, "a swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay?"

My good man set too and effected a chimney block with the old piece of wood and Gorilla Gaffer Tape (will have to paint this over since Jungle is not a good look for a bedroom!) and all the bees are evicted now.  I have a few to hoover up from the Morning Room too as they came down the chimney there and then got stuck in the cobwebs around the window.  Says a lot about my housekeeping I know, but useful on this occasion!  I only clean the windows in there a couple of times a year, but now is obviously the time, ahead of the house going back on the market.

I must mention that Steve told me a wonderful tale of one of his mates in the local Bee Keepers Association, who was called to a swarm in a bungalow chimney.  This was a dormant chimney which wasn't used.  He lit a smudge fire which went up the chimney, then to his horror he realized that it was a chimney which must have been colonized by bees for many years when molten wax and honey (and dead bees) ended up in the fireplace - there was a terrific chimney fire and the bungalow burned down!!  So we had to cross our fingers mightily before lighting OUR smudge fire!!

Ah, the joys of country living . . .

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Malvern Monday Interval

Quite often before a Fair I don't sleep well.  I get all anticipatory.  However, on Sunday night I managed only an hour's dozing as my asthma suddenly got REALLY bad - my peak flow dropped from a perky 460 or so at teatime to just below 300 in just a few hours.  (I am assuming a re-run of last year's tree pollen response.)  I finally got up, bleary eyed, at 1.50 a.m. and came downstairs, hoping to sleep on the sofa, but no go.  I had maxed out on my medication, antihistamines AND inhalers, so Steroids it had to be.  The Dr gives me a course to have in the cupboard for emergencies like this.  They are helping me breath but the allergic reaction hasn't calmed down yet.  The alarm was set for 3.30 but I didn't need to be woken by it!  We were away for 4.15 and got there before 7 a.m.  I missed SO MANY stunning photos on the way - especially just past Hay as the mist across the Wye and the rising sun made for some stunners but typically the only time when we had cars behind us and couldn't stop.  I managed a few the other side of Hereford and the above photo and the header are two of the best.

Anyway, I managed - somehow - to get through the day, but my Fitbit counted over 23,000 steps as we explored Malvern Flea.  It was as big as I'd ever seen it (because of the lovely sunny weather), and we walked round for 5 hours, and STILL didn't do half the sheds or the Avon Hall, or indeed all of the outside stalls.  After 5 hours we were leg-weary and all Antiqued-out.

Vintage (French) stalls in the early morning light.  I loved those bee skeps on the original bases/runways.  Gorgeous.  Too dear for me though.

This lady had some interesting textile bits.

The Tribal Art man.  Not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket . . .

I'm not quite sure how commercial these French grave plaques are - can't imagine one as a feature in my garden anyway.

This lady had a really interesting and stylish stall.  Not the sort of things I can source at the right price unless I have a few days across the Channel, but I expect she had lots of customers.

Perhaps the most-loved teddy I've ever seen!



Above and below: something we would dearly have loved to buy (for ourselves) but at £200 it stayed there.  Probably mid-European and about 200 plus years old, and exquisitely carved.  Almost certainly a marriage piece - and about 6 feet tall.  GORGEOUS.

A spinning wheel which has seen better days . . .

Someone's take on a "gypsy caravan" - hmm, more like "shed on wheels"!!

Nice Daison art pottery vase on the left but I'd rather have flowers than pheasants, so it stayed there!  On the right is a stunning enamelled piece - I already have one similar.  He wanted £38 though, and I would have wanted it for £20 so I didn't even have the conversation (bit like an insult really, offering a dealer price on it.)  It was A/F (as found or at fault) too, though I couldn't see any obvious damage.  If it's meant for me, it will be there next time and there WILL be a conversation . . .

Another REALLY? for the bear at the front, but a very interesting solid copper stable ventilation piece behind.  £400 would have bought it.  Not one to carry back to the car though!!

The obligatory view across the beautiful farmland around Malvern.

Finally: above and below - my treat.  All £4 worth of it!  Some things just leap at you and I LOVED the dramatic design and colours of this.  It's been dropped and broken handle mended, and a hairline down one side, but that doesn't show up on a shelf.  It has a look of the Devon potters about it.

I am glad to report that after 36 hours without sleep, and mucho walking and driving, I slept like a log last night, as did Keith.  Today is more work - tidying up everything sewing-orientated which got bunged in my Sewing Room recently and now needs to be tidied properly so we can start moving the bedroom furniture in there as we are having a new bedroom carpet fitted in the next week or so.

Sunday 21 April 2019

Wightwick Manor Part II

This is a view of one of the guest bedrooms, the Oak Room, which dates to 1893.  When not in use, the bed folds up  and the piece of furniture looks like an ornate cupboard with wonderful painted doors and beautiful pediment . . .  "This room once houses the bed Charles II is said to have slept in when hiding from the Parliamentarians at Moseley Old Hall in 1651.  Geoffrey (Mander) bought it in 1913."

A poor photo of a lovely painting, and below, drawings of William Morris by, I think, Rosssetti.

A beautiful Suffolk chair from the William Morris "stable" so to speak.  This is the design that was made in the recent Arts and Crafts House programme on tv.  We had a lovely long chat with a very enthusiastic Volunteer and stayed along this part about 10 minutes or more.

One of the beautiful tapestries - it had to go to Belgium when it needed restoring.  It (and the chair/s) were in the Pomegranate Passage.  The Daisy Room, off this passage, held a display of pen and ink drawings by a youthful Rossetti.  I wasn't that impressed tbh!

Above and below: naughty dogs in the Day Nursery.  The top ones are painted by sporting artist Cecil Aldin.

This poor puss had been in the wars!

A blurry photo of Keith in the kitchen.  A splendid range.

Above: faux food.

The table set for the servants' meal.

Another gorgeous range, and real food.

A close up of the small "range" next to the big one.

We went to the FABULOUS exhibition of William de Morgan's ceramics.  I absolutely adored his Persian-influenced pieces.

Just a few photos to whet your appetite.  More when I can fine time to put them up in the next couple of days.  I'm still busy as a busy thing in house and garden, but making great progress - today it was painting the cart shed and chicken shed doors, and then painting of a different kind when I went round what was mum's flat, painting all the solid oak doors and windows we had put in when we rescued it from being a derelict Dairy.  We have also been doing battle with one of our earliest flowering roses - a Banksia which romped away whilst I turned my back and has put out flailing branches some 12 feet long which I have tried to pin to the wall so they can flower and then they will be cut back as they will put out fresh growth again.  It's beautiful BUT a real thug (Thelma take note!!)

Thursday 18 April 2019

A brief gardening interlude

Just to let me draw breath before I do the next post - we have been SO busy here, working on the house and garden to get it up ready to go back on the market.  The garden is really taking shape now, which is a relief.

I did battle royal with the Paul's Himalayan Musk, 10 feet sprays of Brambles and their conjunction with Kiftsgate moving the other way!  Of course, it meant you could see right into the farmyard, so we put trellis at the back of the rose arbour, and stretched half a roll of weed suppressing membrane right across, and then bought two rolls of split bamboo. We are getting another tomorrow to finish off the left hand corner.  Now, I would have started left to right, but my Dearly Beloved wanted it done the other way round for some reason . . . so of course it was 2 feet too short . . .  I'm planting it with clematis, nasturtiums and other climbers to cover it quickly.

It looks a bit raw at the moment but I have some green wood stain I may slather over it to tone it down a bit.  We had to cut the Corkscrew Hazel back severely as it was taking over half the garden, and now have a bed beneath it I have planted up.  Against the green wire "trellis" we put up we have planted a Clematis Montana rubens on the right, and a later blooming white Clematis to the left (its name escapes me).  A whole bag of compost went on to tidy it up.

Today I have been carrying on ripping up the Yellow Archangel (Dead Nettle) which has romped its way round the garden and the top of the yard too.  Bloomin' stuff - won't have it in a future garden, that's for sure.  It had tangled with masses of Ground Ivy, and Nettles popped up too, so it's been quite a job digging them all out.  Anyway, these remaining plants are meant to be there and I've put a sack and a half of compost down and planted Gladioli - Purple in this bed, and White under the Corkscrew Hazel in the previous photo.

The Apple Tree bed has also been weeded and covered with a bag of wood chips.  It's costing me quite a bit to get it all up together for the new launch of the house on the housing market, but needed doing.

Have a lovely Easter.  I will try and make the other Wightwick Manor post at some point over the weekend.

Wednesday 10 April 2019

Lunch in a loosebox . . . or Outing to Wightwick Manor - Part I

I have been wanting to visit Wightwick Manor (pronounced "Wittick") for a long time.  This wonderful Arts and Crafts house on the edge of Wolverhampton was owned by the Mander family and bequeathed to the National Trust in 1937.  HERE is a link to more about its history and the Mander family. 

I hardly need to say that Wolverhampton (on the outskirts of Birmingham) is a long way from Carmarthenshire.  We set off about 7.45 and "my" route took us around Kidderminster which slowed us down a bit.  Keith's route home (via Ludlow) was  faster and took us through some lovely Shropshire countryside.

This is the drawing room, with a lovely grand piano with marquetry work, topped with three William de Morgan plates.  The framed picture to the right is embroidered and has music notes in lines across it too.  I was tickled by the little pelmet curtain across the front!

This lovely fireplace is an Italian Renaissance one of about 15590, lines with hand-painted de Morgan tiles.    Fabulous brass Fire Dogs.  (Vesey?)

One wall of the Library, with its beautiful tiled fireplace.

Another gorgeous fireplace with fire dogs.  I disremember which room this was.  Possibly the drawing room.

"Three stunners" - Rossetti's drawings above a mid-18th C dresser with another de Morgan plate just in view.

If you saw the programme recently on the Arts & Crafts House, these were the very fire irons that the artisans had tore-imagine in the Arts & Crafts House series on tv earlier this year.  Rod, a bladesmith and metal worker, did a fabulous job on his.  

This fabulous room is the Great Parlour.  Below: more de Morgan craftsmanship.

This drawing upstairs took my eye - this lady had such a kind face.  Pattypan - she reminds me a little of you.

A sumptious four poster bed with a lovely bed-cover worked by William Morris's talented needlewoman daughter, May.  I asked our eldest daughter for a book about her textiles and it is brilliant.

Another guest room,  the Acanthus Room, with William Morris wallpaper and a bed which was made  around 1860 (either in England or Italy) re-using inlaid pieces of Italian marquetry, mother of pearl and ivory panels dating from c.1700.

In the same room two beautiful pictures - the one above by Burne-Jones and possibly the bottom one too.  This top one is believed to be Julia Duckworth, who was Virginia Woolf's mother.  The eyes were amazing.

More  tomorrow.  I am still tired as a tiredy thing after 8 hours driving (shared with Keith of course).

The new header photo was taken last May in the Usk valley.