Tuesday, 23 June 2009

An interesting little museum, some more garden pictures, and incredulity at some Health and Safety measures.

When I was doing my feature writing, we would often just go out for a mooch around in the car, taking the odd turn here and there, just to see where it led, and on one afternoon in early summer, about ten years ago, it led to the little building you can see below. This is the Shell Museum at Glandford in North Norfolk (http://www.shellmuseum.org.uk/) - Glandford itself is a tiny hamlet of half a dozen houses or so, most of them with this Dutch gabled fanciness. It's another of those really small, really quiet places... a haven away from the busy road we had been travelling on, which leads to the coastal villages of Cley, Blakeney and Wells, some of my favourite places to visit, out of season, when it's quieter. The Museum is run purely thanks to donations being a small, private trust which receives no public funding at all, or didn't the last time I checked.
The village itself was built around 1900 by Sir Alfred Jodrell of nearby Bayfield Hall, and the beautiful little church alongside the Museum, St. Martin's, was built by him in memory of his Mother. It's main claim to fame though is the carillon which plays religious tunes every few hours. The Museum itself was built in 1915, is the oldest purpose-built museum in Norfolk and claims to house the finest collection of seashells in the country. Apart from the shells it also has cabinets of curiosities really... Victorian shell-covered boxes, a cannonball from Cromwellian times, elephant's teeth, just a glorious mish-mash of all sorts of interesting items, though the stars are the shells themselves. If ever you are in this part of Norfolk, it is well worth a visit.
I have been busy taking photos in the garden, since I discovered the button that allows me to take close-ups without the blurring. Marvellous things, handbooks that come with cameras and gizmos... trouble is, I have no patience for reading them, so my patient husband does the reading, and then does a precis of the important bits! After hearing me moan about not being able to get clarity with the photos, he read the book and lo and behold! There is a button you select when doing really close up shots. Hurrah! So, these are the delphiniums, obviously.

This is the lovely white rose which scrambles up an iron archway... covered with rust spots on the leaves it may be, home to aphids it definitely is, but the scent is gloriously sweet and delicate.

This beauty sadly has a rotten name... Stinking Iris... at least that is what you gardening types told me it was when I put up a picture of the plant, minus flowers, but with seedpods of bright orange seeds. The markings are beautiful, but what a shame about the name.

This is my raised veggie bed.. yesterday I picked the first of the salad leaves, and today I planted a second row of carrot, salad onions and the lettuce. It is VERY warm today, even at half past eight in the morning, the skies were clear bright blue, the sun was quite hot, and I know now that I shall have to spend the rest of the day indoors, until later this evening at any rate.

There are two types of honeysuckle growing in the garden, though only one of this particular variety, which grows up and around and through a holly tree, and the deep pink flowers look quite spectacular against the glossy green foliage of said holly.

And this is part of what is, undoubtedly, the best fabric conditioner in the world. The other two elements are sunshine and a good breeze... this honeysuckle, rampant in many areas of the garden, is happily taking over one side of the small laburnum, growing all over it, clinging to branches, providing a lovely scented home for the goldfinch's nest, and in the warmth of the sun, the smell is quite intoxicating... and as it is growing along branches near the washing line, and up the washing post itself, which is mainly hidden in the laburnum anyway, the smell transfers itself to the washing. I don't use conditioners and softeners, finding the scents too manufactured and heavy, but with this alongside the washing line, and lavender plants beneath it, what more do I need anyway?
Health and Safety.... now we are all used to hearing about new regulations put out by this body of people, and whilst I agree that many of their outpourings are sensible, necessary too, there are some which beggar belief. Like... children no longer allowed to run in school playgrounds apparently. Why? Because they might fall and injure themselves. Aah, diddums. Isn't that part of growing up, taking the knocks in life, in every way? In craft lessons they are no longer allowed to use empty egg cartons because of the risk of salmonella, which I have been told could cling to the box, being transferred there from any infected eggs, so maybe I'll give them that one. But not using the inner tubes from spent toilet rolls because of the risk of infection? Not sure I'll give them that one though! And teachers, apparently, are supposed to wear goggles when using blue tack, glue sticks.... why?
And here endeth my blog for this week. A week which promises to be warmer and sunnier than last week, good news for most people, but being a bit of a killjoy, I prefer it cooler myself, and loved the rain we had last week.
Enjoy yours, whatever your preference, and thanks for dropping by again.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Everything's coming up... well, pink actually!

As a little girl, I never wore pink. Maybe my mother thought it would clash a bit with my freckles and red hair, but my favourite dresses were both blue, one royal blue with with a red-spotted sash around the waist, and the other was in a mid-blue and white toile du jouy type of fabric. No, pink never featured much in my life, in fact it wasn't even a colour I particularly liked. I didn't dislike it you understand, I just never thought of me as a pink person. Well, then I became the pinkfairygran, by which time pink had begun to creep into my life. Pink accessories began to appear in my wardrobe, nothing more adventurous than scarves or gloves, though pink wellies are on the agenda!

But as an adult I have always loved pink flowers , and the pink rose and gerberas are among my favourites. I love daisy-type flowers, even ordinary little daisies, and the flowers on feverfew, right up to the big and blousy type above. I have no luck growing them however, these are from a bouquet my husband bought me at the weekend... one advantage of letting him do the shopping on his way home from work is that I get a bunch of pretty flowers!
But we have lots of pink flowers in the garden, like the little cranesbill above, and the beautiful foxglove below. These both grow like mad in the garden, in fact down at the bottom of the garden we have a bit of wild area where foxgloves and grasses are left to their own devices, along with opium poppies and honeysuckle which rampages over and amongst the lot of them. We also have tidier pink shrubs, like one of the spirea family, and peonies, as well as an unidentified plant or two.

Now I know a lot of ladies love to get flowers on Valentine's Day. I love to get flowers any old day, and don't celebrate Valentine's Day anyway. But last year, out looking round shops, not something we do often as I find it totally boring as a rule, we were in a lovely cookshop, and this fab kettle caught my eye. The shape of it is seductive, you can smooth your hands over its pink roundedness, like a piglets' bottom I would imagine, and the colour is just gorgeous, and goes with the kitchen perfectly. Not that it's pink you understand, but I do have a tiled splashback which is of a patchwork design I devised twenty years ago, with cream, beige, coffee, and the odd pink one here and there. Anyway, I was lusting over this kettle, positively drooling, and my husband asked the lady to wrap it, and said HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY as he presented me with it. Not as romantic as flowers to some maybe, but it was what I wanted more than flowers.

And so with a pink kettle you have afternoon tea, with a few pink accessories. The cosy hides a brown betty teapot, and the plate came courtesy of a friend, along with a matching teacup and saucer, neither of which my husband will wash as he is afraid of breaking them. Again, they please me enormously, visually. And the French fancy pleases me inwardly!

Some of you will know I make my own cards, for birthdays and Christmas and as notecards too. These are just a small sample of my current stock, with a pink theme.

I love my journals, collect them and can't resist having a nosey in a stationery shop when I get the chance. The one below has a lovely pink leather cover, so I can write in the journal, take it out and put it with my others, which are kept in an old suitcase. I will probably decorate the cover of it, as it is rather plain cardboardy type, fine when concealed within this gorgeous pink leather, but a bit nude and sad without. The wonderfully soft pink leather gloves were a Christmas present from my youngest son several years ago, and I love wearing them. I was a bit precious about them at first, not wanting to wear them in case they got soiled or spoiled, but then I realised beautiful things are meant to be used as well as admired, and by wearing them, well... I can use and admire at the same time!

A while ago I showed my collection of pink wool, this is just a small part of it, being gathered for a comforter/afghan or 'snuggly' as I call them. The idea is that you put all the wools in a basket, and just draw out a couple at a time to work together, knitting in garter stitch, changing colours every row or second row, but leaving a long length of the wools when you start and finish, so it is ready-fringed when you have finished. I have yet to start this, I am enjoying seeing all the wools massed together on a shelf in my craft bookcase, so much so I am loathe to start using them!! But I will, maybe in autumn, which is the season to be doing something like a snuggly, don't you think? When your thoughts turn to Sunday tea of crumpets and French Fancies or a slice of Victoria sandwich.... of warming thick homemade soups for Saturday lunch, with home made bread... of comforting hotpot with dumplings, and sponge puddings with homemade custard... of walking in the woods, kicking up crispy leaves, wrapped up in warm coats and scarves and gloves, and going home to hot chocolate or frothy coffee and a bun. Not something to knit when it's warm and sunny and salads the order of the day for lunch! Who needs a comforting snuggly then?

I love romantic comedies, and anything with Hugh Grant along those lines is fine by me. As is everything with Julia Roberts, and as these have a pink cover, I thought I would include them... you will see another favourite in there, both in film and book form, anything by Jane Austen is good for just relaxing on a quiet afternoon, any time of year.. though best in winter or autumn I find.

And it wouldn't be me without a mention of books. I was surprised to find there are quite a lot in my collection which have pink covers, these are just some of them.

Amazing, for a non-pink person, just how much pink there is around me. I was going to include a photo of my 'pink'-ing shears, but thought that might be stretching it a bit too far!!
Have a lovely week ladies.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Ramblings about our love of anything 'vintage', charity and the age of chivalry.

I find it a bit disturbing that I come from an era where the clothing, music and so on is nowadays described as 'vintage'. How the heck did this happen, I thought 'vintage' was like really old. Heavens, does that mean I am heading that way......

There seems to be a proliferation of vintage clothing fairs up and down the country, though of course the big ones seem to miss out East Anglia, this not being an uncommon occurrence it has to be said. It's almost as if this little bit of England that sticks out into the North Sea is invisible to organisers of events. Luckily, though, we have our own thank you very much, and the Vintage Lovers Fair is one such event. The most recent was held at Blakeney on the North Norfolk coast, and was a feast for the eyes. I won't go into it here, but you can access it, if you are interested, via www.kitschenpink.blogspot.com and they are holding another in the village of Heydon on 2nd August.

Heydon is one of those charming villages which are often found off the beaten track, and is in fact one of only a handful of villages in Britain, perhaps no more than a dozen, which are privately owned, in this case by the Bulwer-Long family, who own everything... shops, houses, hall etc. And reading about the fair being held there reminded me of another such village, only this time much smaller. Rougham is one of those village where you feel you are stepping back in time. When I first came across it back in the 90s, it was one of those days when we were out for a mooch of a drive, a turn left here, right there and see where it leads. In this particular instance it led us around a corner and into a scene straight off a typical, even 'vintage' maybe, chocolate box lid.

Owned by the North family, the village seemed to consist only of some tiny cottages, a half timbered house or two, a large Hall seen down a winding driveway, with an old huge dovecote where 999 pigeons were kept in the old days. A handful of council houses, and a post office (at that time) and not much else. No street lighting and when we approached there were children playing safely in the road, with ducks waddling across it. It intrigued me, it was like a village lost in time almost, and so I did research, and eventually interviewed the matriarch of the family who lived in her own dear little house set apart from the Big House, and wrote a piece for the Norfolk Journal which was printed in 2000. The photo above is of the well-head in the centre of the village, dedicated to the memory of Marianne North, who was born in 1830. As a young woman she travelled the world with her father, and always, wherever she was, she painted. By the time she was in her early forties, her father had died, and she set herself the task of painting flowers from all over the world, and off she went, with her maid. At the end of this, she had a collection of over 800 paintings and having become friends with Hooker, the head of Kew Gardens at the time, she had a gallery built there to house her works of art, where they can still be seen.

Rougham, like many places in Norfolk, isn't on the road to anywhere, so retains this air of calm and whilst it may not be to everyone's liking, to live somewhere so quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of town and city life, it has its attractions for many people who really want to get away from it all.

But to return to the subject of 'vintage', how much of the 'stuff' handed in to charity shops could be called 'vintage' and how much just plain old tat. Like many people I have been watching the Mary Portas television programmes about charity shops, and how she plans to turn around the fortunes of one in particular. And no doubt like many people I was also gobsmacked at the things people leave in bin bags outside the shop door when it's shut, or hand in. A used baby nappy is the one item which springs to mind immediately... a yellow jacket that was so stiff it stood on its own... surely the people who stuff these items into a charity shop bag don't really think anyone would want to buy it, not even for charity? Is it that as Mary says, they see a black plastic bin bag and 'rubbish' immediately springs to mind and so that's what they chuck in it? With no thought to the resale value, or the health of those who have to unpack these bags.. and why didn't the volunteers have plastic gloves? I give to charity shops whenever I can, but only ever give decent things with some life in them, cleaned first if clothing, but more often than not it's jigsaws, or books, or something I have knitted perhaps. It seems a shame there are many who don't care what it is they put in the bag, so long as it's out of their way.

At the other end of the scale, I was hanging around the local tip the other day.. sorry, recycling centre... waiting for husband who was disposing of some old bits of wood and plastic, and watched a woman in one of these ugly petrol-guzzling vehicles, which was stuffed with black plastic bags. She was taking things out of the bags, asking for directions as to which container they should go in.... she had shoes, hardly worn, clothes the same by the looks of it, lots of decent looking stuff that was just being thrown away. I wished I had more gumption about me, to be able to go up to her and ask her to please take the good stuff to the charity shops, or give it to me and I'd do it.. but I didn't. I kept my mouth shut and wondered once again at the vagaries of human nature.

Part of which, amongst the gentlemen of this world, seems to be chivalry. Or at least it was. Are boys still taught by their mothers to respect women, to hold doors open in shops when a lady is going in or out, to give up their seat on the bus for a lady or older person? I caught sight, briefly, of the lovely Peter Bowles on 'The One Show' the other evening, and Adrian Chiles felt he had to mention that Peter had stood up when the female co-presenter came into the studio, and only sat down when she had. He seemed to find this remarkable somehow, yet surely, it's what a gentleman does? My own dearly beloved always opens the car door for me, holds doors open for me and any other woman, and won't sit down at the dinner table until I have. Do we still set great store by such niceties do you think? Some say women's libbers spoilt it for us women, that poor men no longer know what they should do for the best, maybe the one male who comments on my blog will have something to say on the subject?

Enjoy your weekend, the sun is shining and summer is back... for now!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Storms, storm-chasing, bits of knits and that.

Well, I don't know how the rest of you got on yesterday with the stormy weather... I know that about half an hour to the south of us they had a terrific hail and thunderstorm, other areas had thunder and rain, and several gardeners I know were worried about their baby crops out in the garden. This is my raised bed, and after the heavy rain and thunder I was keen to get out and see how the plantlets had fared. All were well... from the top are lettuce, salad onions, beetroot and carrot... I appreciate you can't see the salad onions and carrots all that well! They were the last to germinate, and the beetroot and lettuce are at that stage where they are nearly ready to be thinned. I am hoping for some warm weather to dry out the saturated soil today. I also have some tomato and sprouting broccoli plantlets in peat pots, in a home-made cold frame alongside the raised bed, and although they got a good drenching, they have survived the heavy rain, as have some stringless bean plants we bought at the local garden centre at the weekend... along with a chocolate cosmos, snapdragon and double white hollyhock, for the cottage beds. But it's amazing how resilient little plantlets can be isn't it? One week they have nothing but lovely warm sunshine and a kind person sprinkling them with cooling water first thing in the morning and in the evening... then WHOOSH, down comes this heavy rain. But they bounce back, thankfully.

Are any of you interested in the programmes on ITV about storms and storm chasers? My husband can't understand the fascination with storms, the sense behind the people who chase or follow them and often find themselves in quite scarey situations. But I can... storms fascinate me, not so much the hurricanes they are showing this week, but the twisters of last week I found incredible to watch. And a good lightning storm is something else isn't it?
Vanessa on her blog, had been talking about a ladies afternoon club who had been knitting buildings in their village, and it reminded me of this little terrace I knitted decades ago. Of nowhere at all, just a jumbly of little houses, knitted separately then stitched onto a piece of fabric, and mounted onto a piece of plywood. It has moved house with us about five times I think. In the same year, I must have had a thing about knitting things like this because I also knitted a wallhanging for a friend, of her back garden, as seen from above... rows of veggies, beds of flowers, a tree or two, a shed as well. And I did one of a landscape too... grey slatey wall in the foreground, then fields of different colours, hills, sky, with clouds and the odd bird embroidered on after. I haven't done anything in this 'creative' line since then though.
At the moment I seem to have a thing about knitted bags and this is the third I have made, a fourth is under construction as well as one in a chevron pattern. This is in a tweedy wool, and as you can see from the photo below, is lined as well. It's not big, measuring about ten inches across by eight, plus handles, and obviously not one of these capacious ones you can stuff all but the kitchen sink into. No, this is a more genteel size, the sort of bag I would take with me on one of our mooching about, let's go down here and see where it goes, type of days out. When we pack up the picnic basket and just go.... inside I will have a small purse, handmade in Chinese silk and given to me by an old friend, and just big enough for a bit of loose change and a credit card, a small pack of tissues and not much else. What else do I need?
It was on one of our days out we decided to investigate some of the tiny hamlets around this part of Norfolk. They consist usually of nothing more than a few houses, maybe a large farmhouse, sometimes a small shop or pub, but more often than not, not the latter! Babingley is one such place, on the Sandringham estate, and consisting of a handful of pretty old cottages and a fabulous social club, a big old log cabin of a building which always has gorgeous hanging baskets on the verandah, and sits nestled amongst pine trees. These are on the main road, and then tucked away down a side road opposite is the church of St Felix, along with a few large houses.

The church is built of corrugated iron.. I first wrote about it in 'Suffolk and Norfolk Life' back in the 1990s, when it was undergoing restoration. Up to that point, it is fair to say it was a sad and sorry sight, despite still being used as a church. The outside was peeling, thatch was green or missing altogether in places, window frames rotten. But then money was found for restoration, and the picture above is the result. Often called 'Tin Tabernacles' these little churches used to be found in many places around the country, but as you can imagine, time and weather takes its toll if the fabric of the building isn't looked after, and often it isn't, through nobody's fault really. By the mid-19th Century galvanized corrugated iron sheeting was developed, strong, long-lasting, easily moved to where it was needed and easy to use for buildings. There were even catalogues of buildings that could be bought, like flat-packed furniture... you could buy a chapel seating 150 for about £150, double the number of souls to be seated and it would set you back about £500, and by the end of the 19th Century, there were hundreds of these iron churches. This one is beautiful, it has a wonderfully rustic simplicity about it, and inside, like all churches, it has that certain something, that special feel.

Flowers... who amongst us doesn't appreciate a bunch of flowers, and a bargain. When the two come together, magic!! This is a couple of bunches of sweet williams, sold as a BOGOF at my local Tesco's, and as I love the flowers, I couldn't resist. Well, I could have, but as someone famous said, I can resist anything but temptation.... who was it? Did someone say it or have I made it up? Anyway, they are beautiful, sitting on the hearth in the sitting room, whilst the gorgeous peonies below, from the garden, along with some lime green alchemilla and white nigella, sits on the dining table in the conservatory, where I can see them from the kitchen and from my chair in the sitting room. They are just gorgeous, next year I hope to have more, of a different colour to this deep carminey pinky red, which the camera and light didn't do justice to. Much like myself really...

I hope you are able to enjoy your own gardens as much as I enjoy mine, and thanks for dropping by again.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Reflections, a Rolf Harris moment, and why isn't my square, square... or flat?

Yesterday was the 23rd anniversary of my kidney transplant, and during the day I reflected on what had been happening at that time, all those years ago. I can remember it as if it were only last year... the panic when the early morning call came to tell me there was a kidney waiting for me at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge... the mad dash to take our sons to my inlaws who, very luckily, lived only a ten minute drive from the hospital... then once at the unit, I totally relaxed. Now anyone who knows me well will know what a revelation this was/is. I get anxious about going for check ups, going to the local surgery, white coat syndrome with knobs on, which doesn't help my already raised BP! But waiting to go into surgery, I felt so calm and peaceful, and at 2.30 that afternoon, after waiting four hours, down I went to theatre. I remember a lovely anaesthetist asking me to count backwards from ten... then nothing until that evening when I partially awoke to find my husband sitting where he had been all day, at my bedside, patiently waiting. He had actually been home to his parents, seen the boys and eaten a meal, but didn't stay away long. Every day I give thanks for this gift of life, it is just such a wonderful thing to give, and to receive. There have been a couple of news reports on local television about people who have had transplants recently and the rather unusual circumstances surrounding them. One had been waiting two and a half years, the other ten months. This is not long to wait at all, and I sometimes wish they would make a fuss of some of the hundreds of patients who have been waiting over five years, some many years longer, when they finally get a transplant that will transform their lives. Hundreds die each year, waiting....
So this is a copy of a very old photo of said in-laws, Gus and Ellen, taken at Southend a few years after WWII ended. Neither is with us now, lovely mum-in-law.... it was her birthday the day of my transplant, so she had been in my mind as well. She was my second m-in-law, and such a contrast to the first, a dragon-in-law if ever there was one. I always vowed I would be more like the second than the first... sadly, it turned out more the other way around I think! But I just love this photo, it always reminds me of a spiv and his girl, out for the day.... Dad laughed at that notion!
And this is a pretty nosegay picked from the garden to decorate the celebratory Sunday lunch table, a meal we cooked together... and now today I regret that extra bowl of home-made trifle!But in here are peonies, heuchera, nigella, mini foxgoves, dogwood foliage and three of the many wild poppies which grow every year down one side of the driveway. They range in colour from white through to deepest carmine pinky-red, with so many variations in between - pale pink edged with a dayglo pink, mauvey grey striped with pink or white. Of course, they only last a day inside, but even so.... there is also some red valerian in there, which grows down the other side of the drive, the space in the middle is getting narrower as the season progresses, thank goodness we don't drive one of these ugly, huge gas-guzzlers, there wouldn't be room!
And now for the Rolf Harris moment.....

Can you tell what it is yet?

I need help identifying this very tall shrub. Planted about eight years ago possibly, as a small 18 inch thing in a pot. Now it is between 12 and 15 feet tall, is a fabulous conical shape as I hope you can see by the picture below.

It is evergreen, has shiny mid-to-dark green leaves, and at this time of year produces delicate panicles of flowers, almost lily of the valley-ish in appearance, but not smell... they smell a bit soapy, not particularly pleasant, tiny creamy white flowers that open. Does anyone have a clue please?

The next query is this.. why isn't my crocheted square, square, or flat. It is a bit wavy as you can seen, and definitely not square. Maybe I am a tight worker and it's pulling. So I tried another deliberately working looser than is normal for me. Nope.. that didn't make any difference. So does anyone know why, please?
Hope you all had a fandabbydozy weekend, the lovely weather we should apparently be making the most of as this is the last day of the high temperatures and clear blue skies. For now anyway.