Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Spring is springing it's way

Although I'm still waiting for signs of spring in the garden it has most certainly arrived at our local garden centre. We decided to have a mooch around at Trentham this morning, even though it was very cold and windy, just to have a break from the house. We'd spent the weekend at home cleaning and de-cluttering and waiting for viewers to come and look around. As you can see from the photos below, the spring flowers were looking wonderful.

I could have bought loads of plants to put some colour into the house and garden and to cheer both me and the house up but I came home with just one little yellow primrose for the vast sum of 89p. It has found a home in the conservatory, or sun room in estate agent's jargon, with the daffodils I bought at the week-end and last week's tulips which are just at that wonderful stage where they open up and then droop and become like little sculptures rather than flowers.

There was disappointment again this morning with feedback from the estate agents, who rang whilst we were doing our mooching - well we were actually looking at a black and red plush pterosaur in the children's toy section - the first viewers thought that the front drive was too small, now we've had three cars parked on there when we've had visitors but apparently these people also have a van and a caravan to park as well as a couple of cars. The second viewers are still just looking around and ours was the first house they had viewed and they haven't even got their house up for sale yet. I'm getting really fed up now. One good note from this week is that we have been asked by Royal Mail to work for them again over the Easter period. We must have done something right at Christmas then. I had no idea that lots of extra mail was sent for Easter; people must send lots of cards and presents but surely they don't put chocolate eggs in the post!!?

Miss Chloe decided earlier in the week that she liked the tulips as she basked in the sunshine in the conservatory- Ha, no - I must learn to call it the sun room.

Over to You

This meme came winging it's way to me from Carol. I'm not really too keen on them but I promised her I would use it and this one amused me so here are my answers:-

What is your favorite word? joyous

What is your least favorite word? turgid

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? reading or watching a Shakespeare play,the sound of the cello, listening to Bach or Hendrix.

What turns you off? dirt and bad smells

What is your favourite curse word? bilgewater

What sound or noise do you love? The sea lapping against the shore

What sound or noise do you hate? The scraping of metal spoons on metal pans

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Librarian

What profession would you not like to do? Rodent Control Operative

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?. You took your time!

I'm not passing it on - take it and have a go if you want.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A bit of Controversy

Last week we went for a walk along a section of the Cauldon Canal that we hadn't been on before. As you know from previous posts we've walked quite a bit of both the Cauldon and the Trent and Mersey Canals in the last couple of years but this stretch was new to us. We parked close to the canal at Stockton Brook and joined the path going towards the city. The paths were quite good to walk on and as it was a lovely sunny day there were plenty of walkers out and about. At the beginning of the walk we found two rather interesting sculptures and paused to cross the canal and take a closer look at them.

As you can see they are made up of different images in different mediums all to represent the industries and well known connections of Stoke-on-Trent. There are bottle ovens, pieces of pottery, cups and saucers, bowls as well as Reginald Mitchell's Spitfire and the porthole presumably because Captain John Smith of the Titanic came from Stoke too.

Unfortunately the glaze from one of the embedded pots was frost shattered and the two people who looked at the sculpture before us placed the piece on top of the sculpture. I hope it will be found and mended before too long.

As we walked away from the sculpture across the bridge we were stopped by a couple out walking who wanted to know what we thought of the sculpture. We discussed its merits for a while and it appeared that the cost of the sculptures and the pathways had been around twenty thousand pounds. The couple approved of the new pathways but were quite scathing about the sculptures - for three reasons. Firstly because they didn't think they fitted in on the canalside, secondly they thought the embedded pots were 'naff' (their word) in that they were not indicative of the beautiful pottery and china made here but rather cheap and tawdry looking and thirdly they didn't like the fact that British Waterways had used a non local sculptor, but one who has done work for them on other canals in England and Wales.

The sculptor is Anthony Lysycia whom the couple had met and pronounced a very nice chap but felt that there were local sculptors who could have done just as well.

As we left them to carry on with our walk I was thinking about what they had said about the sculptures particularly with regard to the embedded pots. It would have been a shame to use anything other than ordinary, everyday pottery as it may eventually be vandalised (I sincerely hope not but we are living in strange times at the moment) and also for every beautiful piece of Wedgwood, Doulton or Minton made over the years there have been far more everyday wares made, maybe cheap and 'naff' to some but full of interest to others.

The second sculpture was bathed in dappled light and shadows so was harder to photograph but had a similar theme to the other one. So it would seem that some of the residents of Stockton Brook are reserving judgment on the sculptures and are concerned that the grants of money have been used in this way. I wonder?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Golden Glory and a bit of Jane

I know, you wait for ages then two posts come along on the same day but I just had to show you this photo. It was taken last night when we had one of the most glorious sunsets I've ever seen.

Actually no reproduction could do it justice as the colours changed so quickly from yellow to gold and then to orange before turning pink and then dark red before disappearing. I gazed and gazed for ages. Over the back of the house it was almost pitch black but out at the front we had a spectacular display of light and colour.

I've just found this quiz on Rosie's Wuddled Murds blog and I couldn't resist having a go seeing as I'm having a rather lazy day to day. Which Austen heroine are you ?

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Still with an Austen theme. Sarah at This Closet isn't Big Enough has started an interesting new blog called A Jane Austen Fan and it is well worth a visit.

Collecting Postcards - Part One

I mentioned in my last post a 'hobby' that seems to have come to a standstill since I've had my digital camera; that is collecting postcards. I'm not sure if it can be called a hobby as such but more something I've always done. I'm not an avid collector and don't necessarily go to postcard fairs or antiques shops looking for them, although I did when I produced a postcard book on Spalding. It was an interesting thing to do but my collecting is more to keep a record or to hold a memory than for historical or monetary value.

I think you could safely say that postcards were the e-mails or texts of their day. At their height of popularity in the early 20th century it is said that you could post a card to your local butcher in the morning with your order and that it would be delivered to your door, presumably by the butchers boy on his bicycle, by tea time the same day. The postal service was that good. I do have some old postcards that have been in the family for many years and I treasure them mainly for the messages written on them by my grandmother and her sisters. Many of them sent as birthday cards, others with simple messages like 'uncle is much better now' and 'will be home on the 3p.m. train, Wednesday next.'

I started to keep the postcards I bought in albums like the one above but I still have loads in banded piles and some still in the bags they were put in when I bought them. There must be a couple of hundred of them, I haven't really counted but below are some of my absolute favourites.

The Suffragette cards are from the 'Purple, White and Green - Suffragettes in London' exhibition held at the Museum of London in 1992. The Gwen John paintings are from the 'Gwen John - An Interior Life' exhibition held at the Barbican Art Gallery, London in 1985. The L. S. Lowry paintings are from The Lowry, Manchester and possibly the latest of my collection. Nestling together are postcards of wonderful works of art that have caught my eye over the years. Bronzino's painting of Lucrezia Panciatichi from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence visited on a very hot day of about 32 degrees
in 1990, it was so cool and beautiful inside away from the glare of the sun. Eduard Manet's painting of Bertha Morisot from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris the most wonderful place but visited after a long walk along the Seine where my foot was bitten by some insect or other just where my sandal strap rested on my ankle, by the time we'd seen all the galleries my foot was so sore that we had to visit the pharmacy across the street to buy plasters to protect the bite from the pressure of the strap. The 14th century carved rabbit is from St Mary's Church, Beverley, Yorkshire visited in the days when we used to meet with friends and spend the weekend at concerts which were part of Beverley's annual early music festival. The rabbit is said to be the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's White Rabbit in 'Alice in Wonderland'. I've always loved the Art Deco designs of Clarice Cliff and this is one of my favourites - the 1930s Crocus design coffee set in the Potteries Museum, Stoke on Trent.

My next aim it to try and get all my postcards into albums not only to protect them but also to make it easier to look at them and to pack and move them - when the time comes - to our new home. Finally, the post card below was bought from a shop on Mont St Michel, it reminds me of hot sunny days in France and the smell of fresh, apricots on the market stalls there.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

February is.....

Daffodils in jugs around the house and making marmalade with Seville oranges

Making something heart shaped for Valentine's Day.

Finally being able to get out into the garden and starting to clear the winter debris.

Seeing the first stirrings of this year's rhubarb.

and deciding which seeds to use for the coming season.

Of course this year things are different as the house is being sold and we don't know if we will be here for spring and summer. So the tidying of the garden is not just for us but for prospective viewers and hopefully (fingers crossed!) buyers who, if we plant the seeds will benefit from the produce.

The weather has been so wonderful this week with days of bright, clear sunshine and evenings of sumptuous red and pink skies. We've been able to have a few ventures into the garden to start clearing up ready for Spring. On Tuesday we drove over to Nottingham to visit friends which was very pleasant and this morning we walked around Trentham Lake and sat at the lakeside cafe with warm cups of coffee - my fingers were freezing as today is considerably colder than the last few- and chatted to a lovely gentleman and his family mainly about photography and the difference between film and digital cameras. I think we all decided that digital was easier and more adaptable but that there was nothing to beat the mood and clarity of black and white photos.

I've been meaning for a while to write a post about one of my hobbies which I've suddenly realised has been affected by my possession and use of a digital camera so much that it is something that I don't do anymore. I'll expand on this in my next post.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Red Sky, Steam Trains and Chocolate Cake

Last night there was the most magnificent red sky a good indication of fair weather again today. We had to buzz round cleaning here and there as we had someone coming from Nottingham to view the house at midday. Since Christmas we've had a few more viewings but again like us, the people concerned are waiting for buyers - we are all in a Catch 22 situation.

After the viewing we popped over to the Consall Country Park and walked down to the canal and railway. It was so warm that the weather felt more like April than February. People stopped to chatter and twice we were asked the way to something or other. I love the Churnet Valley and especially this little area where the steam railway, the River Churnet and the Cauldon Canal all meet each other near the Black Lion Pub. I just managed to photograph the train as it left Consall station - as there was a witch in a black pointed hat leaning out of the window at the station and a picture of a wizard on the front of the engine I'm assuming, as it is half term this week that it was something to do with a Wizard/Harry Potter theme.

The it was home to tea and a slice of chocolate cake - bliss.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Day out around Alrewas

Yesterday was such a beautiful day that we decided to visit a place we had been planning to go for ages and never got round to, due to one thing or another. We set off through Stone and headed out to Rugeley, getting a little confused because the new bypass was open - interesting in itself because it took us right by the power station which had always appeared in the distance on the other side of the town on the original route. We detoured a little in our search for the village of Alrewas passing through the lovely village of Armitage before we eventually found Kings Bromley and the turn we needed. We passed through Alrewas intending to stop and walk on our return and headed out towards our goal - the National Memorial Arboretum. We spent a couple of hours walking around this wonderful, peaceful place which was suffering so much in the wet weather. The River Tame which runs at the back of the arboretum had burst its banks in places and many of the tree lined routes and in particular the Road Peace garden, were squelching underfoot and standing in pools of water. Apparently 10,000 pounds worth of trees have been lost this last year because of the wet weather. Of course everyone wanted to view the latest fixture the amazing Armed Forces Memorial and as you can see it is stunning in proportion.

We then returned to the village of Alrewas, parked and walked by the Trent and Mersey canal. The sun was so bright that I could hardly see to walk along the towpath let alone take photographs.

Along the towpath we passed the church of All Saints and then wandered through the old village around the church and back to where we had parked the car near the bridge over the canal.

Below is one of the pretty houses in the centre of the village - I love the chimneys on this one.

Then it was on to Fradley Junction where we ate our picnic. Afterwards we walked along the towpaths either side of the canal. In the photo below you can see where the Trent and Mersey Canal joins with the Coventry Canal.

Monday, February 04, 2008

What did you Say?

We were talking the other day about 'sayings' not just the proverb ones like 'too many cooks spoil the broth.' 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush' and 'a stitch in time saves nine' but ones we remembered from childhood. The mother of one of my friends always used to say 'hmm - when Nelson gets his eye back' for something that would never happen and 'it's not a prizewinner but..' for something she wasn't too proud of. Grandma used to say 'she's no better than she ought to be' and 'he's his father's son alright' - maybe this one is in the same vein as 'a chip off the old block'. I remember things like 'well I'll go to the foot of our stairs' - used when people were surprised by something and 'Do you live in a barn?' - if you didn't shut the door behind you. The last one could become really localised and changed to 'Do you come from Warsop?' a place not too far from where we lived. It is said to come from the fact that many of the cottages in Warsop had 'stable' type doors which opened at the top or the bottom and that many of the folk left the top ones open. Others I remember are 'it's brass monkey weather' and 'do you want a picture?' - used if someone thought another person was staring at them. I think that perhaps some of these 'sayings' come from the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire areas we were brought up in but many were probably more widespread.

There are others too that people say like 'a leopard never changes its spots,' 'elephants never forget,' 'a little bird told me'. and 'out of the mouths of babes.' Also things like 'you can't have your cake and eat it' and 'as cool as a cucumber.' There are absolutely loads of these.

I heard one the other day that I hadn't heard for ages 'Piffy on a rock bun' as in 'they left me standing there like Piffy on a rock bun.' Now this one got me thinking that I hadn't made rock buns for ages so today I got out the trusty Be-Ro recipe book and made some.

Mmm - very tasty and they used up the last bits of mixed dried fruit and mixed peel left over from Christmas cake making. Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday and therefore Pancake Day. I remember coming home from school on Pancake Day and finding Mum in the kitchen making piles of pancakes which we ate with sprinkled sugar and juice from freshly squeezed oranges which we used to eat afterwards tearing the flesh from the skins and pith with our teeth. I think we will try some tomorrow omitting the sugar, of course.

In the meantime does anyone else have sayings they remember from their childhood?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Coming Home

Today was my niece's wedding day. We decided to travel to Chesterfield via the A50, A38, up one junction of the M1 and into Chesterfield. Luckily the traffic was light and there were no hold ups so we arrived in Chesterfield in good time. The ceremony itself was lovely and afterwards we headed out to the hotel where the wedding lunch was to be held. The party began to break up at about three-thirty and we all said our goodbyes and wished the bride and groom well.

We decided to travel back across country and drove through Cutthorpe and down onto the main road through Baslow, into Bakewell and headed towards Monyash and Hartington. The road from Monyash was quite icy but the views across the farmland were spectacular. The white of the snow giving the landscape a new dimension, a feeling of light and crisp clarity that was quite wonderful.

The evening crept in as we travelled watching the sun sink in the sky, it's light and colour changing rapidly as we sped towards home. It was quite exhilarating.

I just thought you would like to see a photo of the wedding cake - equally spectacular in it's own way. Nearly everything was edible - the top layer was a chocolate fudge cake, the bottom a traditional fruit cake. It was too pretty to cut straight away.