Thursday, 22 March 2018

In Which I Feel A Little Barmy

Bob and I have greatly enjoyed watching "Back In Time For Tea" - featuring the Ellis family from Bradford, encouraged by fellow northern lass Sara Cox, and historian Polly Russell [a proper southerner] as they travelled through ten decades experiencing the meals of a typical working class family. Much as I loved the Robshaws, going back for their dinner, I think that this series was even better. Maybe that is because Giles Coren wasn't involved in the programmes [I thought his Dad Alan was brilliant, and find his sister Victoria very witty - but GC isn't my cup of tea at all]
I was interested that the young people in the family [Caitlin, Freya and Harvey] commented on how much more bread featured in the diets of years gone by "Now it's just something on the side of a meal". I suspect Lesley, in her 21st Century kitchen, is quite health conscious and serves less bread to her family. They seemed a lovely group, and entered into the whole experiment with great gusto.
One thing Sara Cox was obsessed with was the Barm Cake. That's the Bradford/Yorkshire name for a simple bread roll. It gets its name from the barm - the froth on fermenting malt liquor, which provides the yeast for the dough.
Then last Saturday, St Patrick's Day, I came across a traditional Irish recipe, for barmbrack. This is a fatless, fruited loaf - believed to get its name from two Garlic words- bairin and breac, which mean bread, and speckled respectively. 
Following Felicity Cloake's recipe , I made some barmbrack - but used two smaller loaf tins. One to take on the train to London for snacking on my journey to WWDP committee, and one to leave behind for Bob.
That's FC's picture by the way! I didn't paint mine with sugar syrup, it would have made it rather sticky to transport. And I omitted the whiskey [sorry Bob!] It does seem there is no definite barmy connection between barm cake, and barmbrack. And don't even mention President Brack O'Barma. 
The national debate on what to call a bread roll fascinates me - this useful chart shows that an awful lot depends on where you come from...
I have come across all of these names before- except scuffler - 
What does your family call these things?

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Poop! Poop!

Sadly not the happy sound of Mr Toad driving around...
...but rather the very generous gift of a seagull last Tuesday on our lovely day out together.
My beautiful yellow SeaSalt jacket was liberally bespattered all down my left sleeve and over my back.
Bob leapt to the rescue and was able to remove most of the offensive material with a handful of tissues. 

Fortunately it happened as we were about to come home and not at the start of the day. The other good thing was that I had recently purchased [on offer for National Trust members] a twin pack of NikWax TechWash, and Wash-In Waterproofing. I have had the jacket for 15 months and it was beginning to look grubby anyway. So I tried it out.You wash the garment in the machine with the first liquid, then, without removing it from the machine, wash again with the second [short spin]. 

Then you allow the garment to dry naturally. It was all very straightforward - and I have to say I am really pleased with the result. The grubbiness on the cuffs had gone, and there are no traces of the green and brown bird-poop stains. I was initially sceptical- it all seemed too easy, but this was an excellent result. The NT offer has finished, but you can pick up these twinpacks online for less than £10, and that is enough to treat 3 garments. 

It was certainly worth it to restore my jacket to a clean, re-proofed sunshine yellow condition.
This post was not sponsored by NIkWax - but I wanted to endorse these products because I think they're good...and I know that a number of you out there have yellow waterproof jackets from one manufacturer or another, and may be considering splashing out on a bottle of two.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Fairy Tales

The blossom has come out on the tree in the front garden during this past week. It is pink and lovely. It reminded me that whilst sorting out some stuff recently, I came across two examples of Cicely Mary Barker's 'Flower Fairy' illustrations.
One was a birthday card sent to me in 2012 by my friend Marilyn [I found it being used as a bookmark in one of my embroidery books] It has the Almond Blossom Fairy on it - with CMB's accompanying poem.

Joy! the Winter’s nearly gone!
Soon will Spring come dancing on;
And, before her, here dance I,
Pink like sunrise in the sky.
Other lovely things will follow;
Soon will cuckoo come, and swallow;
Birds will sing and buds will burst,
But the Almond is the first!
The other thing I found was a ceramic tile- a Christmas  'keepsake' gift from my SIL Denise for Liz when she was still a baby. It has a picture of the Rose Fairy on it. I've kept it safe  for over 30 years, but now passed it on to Liz for Rosie.
Best and dearest flower that grows,
Perfect both to see and smell;
Words can never, never tell
Half the beauty of a Rose—
Buds that open to disclose
Fold on fold of purest white,
Lovely pink, or red that glows
Deep, sweet-scented. What delight
To be Fairy of the Rose!
I never imagined back in 1982 that one day Liz would have her own sweet rosebud! CMB illustrated her 170 enchanting flower fairies, with botanically accurate blooms, back in 1923. Each fairy had an accompanying poem. You can find them all here. As well as details of all the fairy illustrations and books, there are colouring sheets, activity ideas, and details of Flower Fairy events. There's a FF facebook page too. I found a lovely little biography of CMB here.
She was a devout Christian and gave much of her artwork to Christian fundraisers and missionary organisations. Even Queen Mary purchased one of her paintings. 
I love this painting of a 1930s mother and child on a cold day, making toast for tea!

Monday, 19 March 2018

Clean Teeth

Bob's just finished a brilliant sermon series on the book of Amos. I love discovering just how relevant the words of an Old Testament prophet are. One verse which struck me quite forcibly was this...
"Cleanness of teeth" was an idiom for lack of food. If you haven't eaten a good meal, then you won't have any debris left in your mouth. But the more I thought about this, I began to reflect on the people in our country who use Foodbanks. 
I know that these people are genuinely struggling to survive - and I am glad we have a 'Blessing Bin' at our church, where people donate tins etc, and these are collected weekly by our local Foodbank Team.
I've read lots of 'frugal bloggers' who say they economise by brushing their teeth with bicarb, or salt or just plain water. I really don't like that myself- First thing in the morning, I like to have a minty fresh mouth - and when I brush my teeth after meals or at bedtime, a bit of paste on the brush is important for me. When the girls were small, and our income was minuscule, 'new toothbrushes' were a significant family event [in the Christmas stocking, with the Easter Eggs, and for the summer holiday] But if you are on a really limited income, you're probably cutting back on all 'non-essential' spending. Maybe you have enough to eat - because of the help from the Foodbank -  will you want to spend money on toothpaste? 
I'm also aware that many women experience 'period poverty' - they cannot afford sanpro each month. The sense of uncleanness and lack of dignity must be awful.
I'm getting into the habit of buying an extra tin or two whenever I do my grocery shop, to go into the Bin. 

Last week I bought toothpaste, brushes and 'feminine hygiene' items as my donation. 
When Aline and Nadia took our shoeboxes out to Romania at Christmas, they told us how delighted the teenage girls were to find stuff like this in their parcels. Proper sanpro [[not rags] is a real treat for them.
After the Grenfell Tower fire, Liz told me she had taken underwear and sanpro to her local donation point. "Mum, you can happily wear a grubby 2nd hand jumper for a few days, but clean pants are much more important" 
Above the door of the Walworth Clinic, in Southwark - just round the corner from where Rosie, Liz and Jon live, is this plaque, put up in 1937, bearing a quote from Cicero
I am not sure I totally agree with it - but I do believe that to be really healthy, people need both good diets and good hygiene practices.
I want children to have clean teeth at bedtime because they have been able to brush them, not because they have not eaten an evening meal.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Through The Square Window

Thomas Hardy's first career was as an architect. He designed his house at Max Gate - and involved the family business in its construction. The Hardy Brickworks made the materials, and the Hardy Builders put the place up. His father declared that Thomas was 'the most difficult client he had ever worked for'
As we went round on Tuesday, the guides were quick to point out special features that Hardy had insisted be put in - sliding screens in the dining room windows, so passers by could not see him eating, and internal windows round the servants' staircase to allow more light into the upstairs corridors, and many other details.
But the one that interested me was the large window in his study. J M Barrie, the Scottish writer had said of Hardy "He looks through a window and sees things that nobody else sees"
If you look at the window behind his desk, you will see that each of the four sections has 12 small square panes, surrounding one larger square pane.
The guide pointed this out to me. He said "Hardy chose the clear centre panes deliberately. He wanted to see what was in the world outside and not be distracted by having to focus on the cross in the middle of the frame in front of him "
The guide then changed the subject and started talking about the problems in the Hardy's marriage - Emma was a devout woman of faith, but Hardy had no time for all that. Sadly it was only after her death that he realised how much he had loved her.
It is only two weeks till Easter. It occurs to me that as a Christian, my world view is affected by what happened on Good Friday- that as I focus on the Cross and God's grace, this is not a distraction, but rather a way to make sense of it all. The Way, the Truth and the Life. 

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Enjoying Dorchester To The Max

The final part of our Dorchester trip on Tuesday was to visit Max Gate, the home of Thomas Hardy, now in the care of the National Trust. Thomas, born 1840, had grown up in a little cottage just outside Dorchester, where his father was stonemason and builder. He trained as an architect and worked in Dorchester and London, and in 1870 was sent to St Juliot, Cornwall on a commission. Here he lodged in the Vicarage where he met Emma Gifford [sister-in-law of the vicar] She was bright, intelligent, well read and the same age. They fell in love, she encouraged him in his writing - and in 1874, the year that 'Far from The Madding Crowd' was published, they married.
Hardy decided he wanted to moved back to Dorset - so in 1885, he had a house - Max Gate - built to his own design, on the east side of Dorchester, just three miles from his birthplace. He would often walk across the heath to visit his mother on a Sunday afternoon. This house was built to his own design, and he lived here with Emma and their grumpy little dog "Wessex" till Emma's death in 1912.
Two years later, he married his secretary, Florence Dugdale. She was almost 40 years his junior. They were at Max Gate till Hardy died in 1928, and Florence remained till her death 9 years later in 1937.
Here is a picture of Thomas, Florence and Wessex in the grounds of Max Gate in 1924
So Emma and Thomas were here for 27 years, and Florence was here for 23 years - but for 9 of those years she was a widow.
The house is really interesting, do look at the pictures on the NT site.
Kate, Hardy's sister, made the property over to the NT in 1940 - she wanted it to be kept in his memory. The contents were auctioned off [except his study furniture, which went to the museum] For many years, the Trust had tenants living in the house, then for the last 5 years, it has been properly open to the public.
Because the rooms have been re-furnished nothing is 'precious' - so you can sit on the armchairs, play the piano, turn the wheel on the sewing machine in Emma's boudoir, and sit at the desk in Hardy's study. You can even stroke the toy dog, Wessex, who perches on the sofa. 
Here's Bob sitting at Emma's typewriter in her 'boudoir', and me in Hardy's study. She and Hardy were not happy at the end of her marriage, and had separate rooms. How sad!
After Emma's death, a distraught Hardy turned the perpetual calendar to March 7th, the day they met. It remains unchanged to this day.
The house is well worth a visit- you can see the Pet Cemetery [including the grave of Wessex] and in the old kitchen you are able to make your own hot drinks and sit together round the table [I've never done that in any NT property before]
There is a sense that the man has just popped across to see his Mum at her Bockhampton Cottage and he will walk back in at any moment. 
This is where he wrote Jude the Obscure, Tess of the D'Urbevilles and The Mayor Of Casterbridge.  In this relatively austere Victorian property, he entertained many famous people
  • writers; J M Barrie, Rudyard Kipling, R.L. Stevenson, H G Wells, G B Shaw
  • poets; W B Yeats, A E Housman, Siegfried Sassoon
  • others; Ramsay Macdonald, Marie Stopes, Mrs Patrick Campbell, Gustav Holst, T E Lawrence [who regularly nipped over on his motorbike from Bovingdon Camp] and Edward, Prince of Wales
There are flowers in the urns and vegetables growing in the kitchen garden. Do check out the lovely pictures on the NT website!
A very pleasant home. Not all the rooms are accessible to the public- I was a little disappointed I could not go into the 'Bicycle Room'. There are members of my family who'd really appreciate having a room solely designated for the storage of their velocipedes!

Friday, 16 March 2018

Dippy In Dorchester

 10am - into the Museum. The Dippy Team were very friendly, not at all dippy! You can check out the National History Museum site for details of how their great plaster model of a diplodocus is touring the UK this year.
In the great hall of the museum [cast iron work designed by one of the guys who worked on the Crystal Palace] is Dippy. And hordes of excited children visiting him. 

The floor of the Hall is an exposed Roman Mosaic, the only one in Europe which Joe Public can trample all over!
The Guide was explaining that the pomegranate and leaf pattern in the corner is the signature of the person who made the mosaic.
He also said there was even more mosaic to see underneath Dippy's plinth. I shall have to return after the dinosaur departs, and before my free ticket runs out

Here we are by the Jurassic Coast, so of course Mary Anning gets a mention.
There is a facsimile of a page from her commonplace book. I just love what she wrote, 200 years ago.
 And what is woman? Was she not made of the same flesh and blood as Lordly Man? Yes; and was destined doubtless to become his friend his help-mate on his pilgrimage but surely not his slave, for is not reason Her’s also? 
Upstairs, a room of more fossils, and a room devoted to Dorset writers, especially Hardy. There was a recreation of his study- he'd instructed that his desk etc should be bequeathed to the Museum, and also a feature on The Woodlanders. Two stunning smocks on display. What fabulous stitchery!
In the 'Victorian Schoolroom' Bob was very taken with the Swivelling Stand. With the top one way it is a lectern for someone to stand and speak - and the other way it is a Prie Dieu, where a person can kneel and pray. No we are not getting one at Church!
We scooted round the Gift Shop, avoiding teatowels, books and soft furry dinosaurs, and left the Museum around midday. On to the next stop of our Dorchester Day...
update - just had this email from blogfriend who cannot post her comment [Thanks Sandra - yes Dorset is indeed a great county]  
The parishes around Almer, Anderson, Wint. Kingston have a village magazine called The Red Post and I think The Worlds End pub nearby also has a history of poor people being transported.  Hope you enjoyed Dorchester...our village school visited Dippy en masse earlier, the children were all very inspired.  I hope you continue to enjoy Dorset, I feel we have a lot to offer here.  Good luck. Sandra.