Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Friday, 22 September 2017

Look, What Can You See?

Guess who this is looking out of the window with her daddy? I've no memory of it of course, because it’s about sixty four years ago. Dad was around thirty one or two, but looks older somehow. Perhaps it’s the bow tie; not something I saw him wear very often in his life. He was clearly trying to get me to focus on something, rather than look at the photographer, and I appear a little bemused.

It’s a shame that light got into the camera and I’ve been unable to enhance this any more to sharpen up the image, which is tiny anyway. I seem to be wearing my best frock (with a good hem to let down as I grew) and baby shoes with buttons. I’m not sure what the top garment is; perhaps a knitted bolero or something similar with short sleeves. On the window ledge is a biscuit barrel. We always had one and it usually contained a mixture of Rich Tea biscuits, Custard Creams and pink wafers. In later years Mum told me she had to stop re-filling it, as Dad was eating too many with his evening cocoa!

I’d probably just learned to walk and was still a bit shaky on my feet; in any case Dad is making sure I don't fall and his arms are encircling me. I may not have a memory of it but it’s how I like to think of my father. He was a very tactile, protective and loving man. He also showed me many things in my life. He had an artist’s eye for detail and encouraged me to observe things before trying to draw or paint them. “Look, what can you see?”  but sadly I didn’t inherit his artistic talents.

For more windows and small children looking out, visit this week’s Sepia Saturday, where our prompt image is young Prince Charles looking out of Buckingham Palace on the occasion of his mother’s coronation.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Make Do and Make Believe

Children have the ability, which sometimes as adults we lack, to imagine everyday objects into an adventure. As a parent and teacher I have witnessed chairs and tables being utilised to make dens, cars and boats. I have recollections of my own childhood, using my mother’s ‘clothes horse’ with sheets draped over, to make a tent, into which I would gather my favourite toys; teddies, dolls and books. On seaside holidays the sand could be shaped into anything we wished, not just a fairy castle or mermaid’s tail.

Am I being a mermaid here in 1955?  

My own children in the mid 1980s whilst visiting their grandparents, used cushions, chairs and a tennis racquet to fashion a car (or motor-boat) that would take them and a family of dolls of on a trip somewhere.

We built a ship upon the stairs
All made of the back-bedroom chairs,
And filled it full of sofa-pillows.
to go sailing on the billows.                 
Robert Louis Stevenson; A Good Play

By 2010 our twin grandchildrenwere sailing away in a sand boat, with beach spades for oars.

When I am in my ship I see
The other ships go sailing by.
A sailor leans and calls to me
As his ship goes sailing by.
Across the sea he leans to me,
Above the wind I hear him cry:
“Is this the way to Round-the-World?”
He calls as he goes by.
      A.A. Milne: Nursery Chairs

Where shall we adventure today that we’re afloat,
Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
To Providence, or Babylon, or off to Malabar?
Robert Louis Stevenson: Pirate Story

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is ‘Chldren Riding a make-Believe Horse’. They have used some objects (probably with adult help) to fashion a vaguely horse-like shape. I hope they didn’t try to feed their horse as he has a sharp muzzle! The little girl has a whip made of grass, but she seems to be unwittingly tickling her brother’s nose with the end of it.

City of Vancouver Archives. Public Domain

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Weep if You Must

If I should die before the rest of you,
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone.
Nor, when I'm gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must,
Parting is hell.
But life goes on,
So........ sing as well. 

(Joyce Grenfell)

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Goats of Lanzarote

Majojero goats roam the hillsides of Lanzarote and graze quite happily on vegetation found in our volcanic landscape. 

It’s our delight when walking or climbing volcanos, to see the goats, usually grazing in herds spread across the hills, or occasionally we are amazed to watch a lone goat nimbly leaping across the rocky terrain. The goats are well cared for and managed according to strict guidelines, in large farms, as these ones near the village of Uga.

We like to climb up the Femés Ridge and see the goats, especially when the kids have been newly born. Sometimes they get themselves separated from their mothers and emit a pitiful bleating - like this one filmed by my husband. The kid's mother was only a few metres away and he quickly caught up with her.

The goats are an important part of the island economy; the meat is used in stews and casseroles, but of course it’s the milk which is most important for the goat farmer, both as a drink and for making into a variety of cheeses. 

The island is dotted with goat farms many of which sell the produce from their dairy (quesería) at a farm shop, like our favourite in Femés, not far from where we live. 

The cheese is made from goats belonging to the Queseria Rubicón, and there are several varieties to choose from. We like the semi-curado (aged for about three months ) and the curado (mature for about six months). these are rolled in different flavourings  like pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)  or gofio flour. 

If you buy a whole cheese they will shrink wrap it for you, ideal for visitors wanting a taste of Lanzarote to take back home.

The annual Fería del Queso in Playa Blanca

We have annual food fairs called Fería del Queso y la Cabra ( Cheese and Goat Festival) where it’s possible to buy a book of tickets - each worth a euro - and exchange them at the many cheese, wine and tapas stalls. There are also cooking demonstrations and stalls serving from huge paella dishes. There is live music and happy, celebratory atmosphere. Combined with our almost endless sunshine, needless to say the fairs are popular with tourists and residents alike.

Examples of some of the tapas we can exchange for a ticket. My daughter is pointing to the Queso Blanco or Queso Fresca, a young cheese, sometimes made with a mixture of goat and cow milk and served, as here with sweetened gofio slices.

The white cheese is also a main ingredient of a typical Canarian Salad, consisting of cheese, beef tomatoes, sweet white Lanzarote onions, dates and sweetcorn. 

Homemade Canarian Salad; easy to make and delicious to eat with olive oil, black pepper and crusty bread

In true Sepia Saturday tradition I have to include an old photograph. This one appears in several places around the island, often enlarged and used to decorate the walls of restaurants. I found a copy in Villa de Teguise in a traditional style restaurant called Cafetería Cejas. A caption from me would be superfluous as I think I’ve milked this subject long enough. Instead click on the link to see what other contributors made of our sepia prompt picture this week.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Beggar’s Bridge to Crane Bridge

This is my family in 1988, on our holiday at Egton Bridge in North Yorkshire. We weren’t playing ‘Pooh Sticks’ just posing on a famous packhorse bridge called ‘Beggar’s Bridge’ over the River Esk at Glaisdale, not far from our holiday cottage.

I was looking for a suitable illustration of a packhorse from around the time that the bridge was built in 1619 by Thomas Ferris, but instead I found this one from,

 'Chambers’s  encyclopaedia; a dictionary of universal knowledge for the people’ published in 1871*

which also gives the following definition:

PACKHORSE, a horse employed in the carriage of goods, which are either fastened on its back in bundles, or, if weighty, are placed in panniers, slung one on each side across the horse’s back. The saddle to which the bundles were fastened consisted of two pieces of wood, curved so as to fit the horse’s back, and joined together at the ends by other two straight pieces. This frame was well padded underneath, to prevent injury to the horses back, and was firmly fastened by a girth. To each side of the saddle, a strong hook was attached, for the purpose of carrying packages, panniers, &c. Panniers were sometimes simply slung across the horses back with a pad under the band.

The panniers were wicker baskets, and of various shapes, according to the nature of their usual contents, being sometimes long and narrow, but most generally having a length of three feet or upwards, a depth of about two-thirds of the length, and a width of from one to two feet. The packhorse with panniers was at one time in general use for carrying merchandise, and for those agricultural operations for which the horse and cart are now employed; and in the mountainous regions of Spain and Austria, and in other parts of the world, it still forms the sole medium for transport; though the mule has, especially in Europe, been substituted for the horse.

I found the above image of Salisbury, in a book called ‘Vanishing England’ (1911)* which the book describes as:
‘A small Gothic bridge near the Church House, and seen in conjunction with that venerable building it forms a very beautiful object.’ I know that bridge, over the River Avon, very well from the many years I lived in Salisbury, and of course it looks very different today and has listed status. It made me wonder if it had once been a packhorse bridge. Apparently its first archival mention is in 1300, but the name Crane Bridge was not used until the 16th century.*** The bridge has seen various changes, additions and widenings over the years. The artist appears to have presented a somewhat foreshortened view of the bridge as, according to ‘A History of the County of Wiltshire: Vol 6’ written in 1962,***

 "The present bridge is part of one of six stone arches standing in Leland’s time, is a 15th century structure with four splayed arches, having traces of a smaller and lower archway at its Eastern end. The south side of the bridge was taken down in 1898 and re-erected to widen the road.”

Salisbury became an important centre of the wool trade among others, as well as holding regular markets and fairs, and so it’s reasonable to assume that a packhorse bridge would not serve at a time of growing commerce in an important cathedral city.

Vanishing England* concludes that:

“.......old Bridges are fast disappearing and are being substituted by the hideous erections of iron and steel. It is well that we should attempt to record those that are left, photograph them and paint them, ere the march of modern progress, evinced by the traction-engine and the motor-car, has quite removed and destroyed them.”

Fortunately, the hundred years since the book was written, have seen the massive advances made in technology and we now live in a digital age where seemingly everything is catalogued. Nevertheless I’ve done my bit here. I hope you’ll enjoy it, along with other contributions to this week’s Sepia Saturday.

To end where I began, here is Beggar’s Bridge again on a beautiful postcard** printed between 1890 - 1900.

*Internet Book Archive via Flickr Commons

**Public Domain: File:Whitby,_Glaisdale,_Beggars'_Bridge,_Yorkshire,_England-LCCN2002708348.jpg

***A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6, ed. Elizabeth Crittall (London, 1962), British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol6 [accessed 29 July 2017].

Friday, 21 July 2017

Blessing the Boats

Here in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, we are in the middle of a week-long fiesta* to celebrate the Patron Saint Carmen. The actual Saint Day is 16th July and from that date on towns and villages on the island hold their own celebrations. Here, and in Puerto del Carmen, there are churches dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Carmen, reminding us that fishing was once the main source of income. At the beginning of the week, the effigy of the saint is paraded through the town. All week we have the fair and lots of activities for young and old, and at the weekend we have live music and fireworks.

On Sunday, the saint is paraded once more, to a highly decorated boat, where she is placed in full view of the surrounding flotilla, whilst the locals and tourists watch from the prom. The old tradition is that she blesses all the small fishing vessels and the fishermen pray for bountiful catches during the coming year; these days anybody can join in. A few years ago, our friends invited us aboard their boat to join the flotilla. I’m not good on boats, but we actually had a good time.

I remember it was all fairly chaotic towards the end, when the circle broke down and it became a bit of a free for all! Sailing back towards the sunset however, gave us a view of Playa Blanca we don’t often see. At this time of year, I remember that day with fondness, and I have good memories of my friend, who sadly died the following year. She was calling out to her husband to move away from some of the boats who were ‘bigger than us’.  This year we’ll be watching from the safety of dry land.

You may have to zoom in to see the Virgin - she’s under the palm arch.
The crowds line the prom.
Organised chaos!
That’s quite close enough!
A welcome view of home. You can see that there are no high rises here, due to influence of the artist and visionary, Cesar Manrique, who was born here. That’s ‘our’ volcano, Montaña Roja.

Join other contributors to this week’s Sepia Saturday, where our prompt image was a family watching TV aboard a boat.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Dog Days

This is my childhood companion, Kim, posing in a shopping basket in the early 1960s. He had a real basket to sleep in of course, as the two rather grainy pictures below show. Most of the time it would be stationed in the warmest spot in the kitchen. It was where he would retreat to when tired, bored, or had very occasionally fallen out of favour for some misdemeanour.

The basket was easily transported in the car and would accompany the family on holiday, along with its owner. It got taken into the garden on sunny days, when the humans would sit on a picnic blanket or chair. Usually Kim would join the humans, as the blanket looked far more inviting.

The poet Elizabeth Barret Browning died on this day in 1861. She was a woman who was unwell for much of her life, and her faithful companion, a spaniel called Flush, is the subject of two of her poems. Flush spent much of his time on the couch with Elizabeth, unlike the tiny dog in this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt image, which comes to us courtesy of The Past on Glass on Flickr.

This little chap (or lady) belongs to the Mitchel. L. and that’s all we know; except that it was photographed by David Knights-Whittome, whose remarkable work is being cleaned, catalogued and researched by staff and volunteers of the Sutton Archive. He certainly had a way with animals, especially dogs. I wonder what made him photograph the Mitchel dog inside this basket, and why leave the brush and toy dog in the picture? It certainly makes for an interesting arrangement.

Elizabeth Barret Browning’s poem in praise of Flush, shows us that the love  and devotion he gave to to his sick mistress was returned in equal measure.

This dog only, waited on,
Knowing that when light is gone
Love remains for shining.