Wednesday 30 May 2012

Thank you Perpetua

Wild  purple spotted Orchid - the garden is full of these. They gravitate here from the land around us, and rather cleverly seem to settle in the pre-existing pots of flowers. There are half a dozen in this pot nestling up against a Phormium whose large strap leaves can be seen in the background.
I have just been awarded a beautiful Sunshine blog award by Perpetua, the first I have ever received, but for all of her kindness and generosity, I have declined to accept it fully.
It feels very ungracious of me, and not at all the way I was brought up. We are relatively new to each other’s blogs but Perpetua came immediately to my aid when I had a blogspot problem. I love visiting her blog, her posts are always interesting and intelligent with a nice touch of humour. I consider her a blogger friend.
The reasons for my partially turning it down are that it would be impossible for me to pick my favourite blogs, as the British entertainer Bruce Forsyth would say 'you are all my favourites'. I love to receive your comments, and it is especially gratifying when blog friends tell you that they have enjoyed something you have written or photos you have taken.  I do the blog because at this moment in time I really enjoy the creative process and making contact with you all.  I hope that one day my Grandchildren may enjoy reading my family memories and recollections. It feels as if I have my own little magazine and that I am the Chief Editor, the Designer, the Compositor, and the Tea Girl all rolled into one.
My offering to you all and my grateful thanks are some flowers from the garden. To Perpetua in particular and to all friends who visit wherefivevalleysmeet - thank you - Rosemary♥♥♥
Cercis siliquastrum still flowering
Nectaroscordum siculum
Hardy geranium Johnson's Blue
blossom on Swedish Hornbeam tree
The part of the award I am prepared to do is reveal a few things about myself.

Favourite colour: I like to wear black, charcoal grey and navy-blue which I can accessorise with brighter colours. 
Favourite animal:  I absolutely adore hippopotamus, especially the pygmy variety.
Favourite number: I do not have a favourite number, but I like dates such as 12th December 2012 (12.12.12)
Favourite drink: It has got to be coffee, but when returning from a day out or holidays, I am always dying for a cup of good traditional English tea.
Facebook or Twitter:  I have a Facebook but do not use it.
Your passion:  If you read my blog you know my passions only too well.
Giving or getting presents:  Not bothered about receiving, but enjoy giving. However, I love getting presents from the Grandchildren who make me the most amazing things

Favourite day:  Everyday is a blessing, but end of the month, pay day, is good.
Favourite flowers:  Impossible to answer. My favourite flower is the one that is just opening when I visit the garden first thing in the morning.
Since writing this post I have just received, in the context of my favourite animal,  this wonderful, rare pygmy hippo set in amber from my blogging friend Mark

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Norman carvings

Tucked away down the pretty narrow country lanes of Herefordshire, and close to the Welsh border is the remarkable little church of St.Mary & St.David, Kilpeck. It is home to the finest collection of Romanesque sculpture in England carved out of red sandstone. 
courtesy Philip Halling via wikipedia
Built in approximately 1140 it has survived almost intact and unaltered to the present day. 
Its sculptures somehow survived the iconoclasm of both the Reformation and the Civil War, and the interior escaped major Victorian renovations.
The magnificent south door showing the Tree of Life in the tympanum. Around this are two orders of arches, the inner arch being the earlier and more interesting. Some of the figures are from The Bestiary, a popular medieval guide in which real and mythical beasts are used to represent moral teachings. The right-hand pillar has a capital representing a Green Man figure.
Inner arch over the south door showing an angel and mythical beasts in the outer arch.
 The Green Man with leaves spewing from his mouth
Snakes, tail of one in the mouth of the other. This may represent new life since the snake is reborn by shedding its skin each year. The snake also represents healing through the virtues of it venom.
A Hound and a Hare.
The entire exterior roof line around the church is decorated with carved corbels, originally 89 in total. A few are missing, but most are intact and in excellent condition. It is generally presumed that they were intended to teach lessons to medieval man. Some were probably suggested by Hugh de Kilpeck founder of the church. Many seem to be simply entertaining or the ideas of the individual carvers.
The church is famous for its Sheela-na-gig, an 'exhibitionist' figure which can be seen on numerous other churches of the same period. Interpretations are many, and include: the unattractiveness of lust, a Celtic fertility symbol, or a goddess. 
Two heads from the interior of the nave - a Ram and a Lion.
An extraordinary ancient holy water stoup, with hands around a pregnant belly.This originally stood by the door, where worshippers would have ritually washed before entering the church. It is much older than the church and is even considered to be pre-Saxon.
all images via wikipedia

Sunday 27 May 2012

May morning patrol in the garden

The Dracunulus Vulgaris is growing rapidly. Its palmate leaves showing their stripes, and its stems their leopard skin spots.
Found on the lily plants, four of these red Lily Beetles. 
They are very destructive, its either the lilies or the beetles! I know he wasn't there an hour before, and look how he has nibbled that leaf already. He is now off further down the leaf to make a nice big hole!!!
Special thanks to Olive♥ for encouraging me to watermark my images. This is my first attempt.
Big thank you to Gina♥ for pointing me in the direction of how to make these collages.
These are my first four attempts at collages with slightly differing borders. I prefer No. 4 followed by No. 3, but would welcome any opinions.
The original of this last collage I have withdrawn and reposted again after receiving helpful advice from Mark

Friday 25 May 2012

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein 1533 - Signs, Symbols and Meanings in Art (No.5)

The Ambassadors' - National Gallery, London
In many of Holbein's portraits there is much more to them than initially meets the eye. This painting was commissioned by Jean de Dinteville, who we see standing on the left. He was sent to England by King Francis I of France as an ambassador to protect the interests of his country. The man on the right is also French; he is Bishop Georges de Selve, who was in England on a secret mission in the spring of 1533, a time when the English were on the brink of formally leaving the Catholic Church. Holbein, meanwhile, had left Basel, and was living and working in London.
This strange smear is actually a disembodied skull that has been highly distorted by extreme foreshortening (anamorphosis). Only if viewed from a sharp angle does its true appearance become apparent.
The skull is the ultimate memento mori. All things on earth are transient, including the people and objects in this painting. When we position ourselves so that we can see the skull as a skull, the other, supposedly realistic objects are in turn distorted. The moral is that death is everywhere, but we do not recognise it. When we do finally make out its shape, life in turn becomes twisted and blurred.
The piece of furniture behind the men is known in England as a "whatnot", on which scientific instruments are laid out. These mark the pair out as being men of learning, of the kind who were at that time shaking the foundations of old beliefs. This was the age of Copernicus, the first astronomer who developed a theory which placed the sun in the centre of the universe, instead of the earth. Amongst the objects displayed are a celestial globe, a Polyhedral sundial, a cylinder sundial, a Quadrant, and a Torquetum (a medieval astronomical instrument) along with Peter Apian's arithmetic book.
The lute is a symbol of harmony, but on this instrument a string has broken. This may refer to the increasing discord between Catholics and Protestants at that time. The hymnbook is open to texts that do not upset either party and may represent Holbein's plea for a unified Church.
The globe shows Europe in the most prominent position, and Africa below it. Even the place in France where Dinteville's castle stood can be made out. 
Hidden away, where it is difficult to spot is the presence of the crucified Christ. It is behind the curtains in the upper left hand corner. This raises the portrait to a higher level, as does the skull: despite their status and intellectual activities these men remain sinful and mortal human beings, and answerable to God.
There are many other messages in the painting - the skull lies on a mosaic floor based on the Cosmati Pavement in Westminster Abbey situated before the High Altar. Within the mosaic is a cryptic prophecy which according to medieval interpretation symbolises the world, or the universe, and its end. The carpet on the upper shelf is notably oriental. Such carpets were often integrated into Christian imagery as symbols of luxury and status.
The painting has caused much controversy over the years. One Science Historian, Professor John North, analysed the scientific and mathematical elements shown in the painting. He calculated the time given in the portrait as 4 pm on Good Friday, 11th April 1533, 1500 years exactly after the Crucifixion, with the key to the painting to be found in the small crucifix.
If you are in the National Gallery, London, do visit The Ambassadors painting. Find the broken string, look for the hidden crucifix, and then go to the side of the painting, twist your head on one side so that you can make out the skull, and look for all of the other signs and symbols that I have not even mentioned.
PS. There are just a handful of brass letters remaining of the original long inscription within the Cosmati mosaic, but fortunately it was transcribed centuries ago. It names the king, the chief craftsman as Odoricus, gives the date in a tortuous riddle, and then mysteriously suggests that the world will last for 19,683 more years.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Flying the flag

courtesy Mail online

We are told we are in a double dip recession, our friends in Europe are having a Euro crisis, and what do we Brits do, why? we spend millions and millions on the Olympics, and just for good measure a few more millions celebrating the Queen's 60th Jubilee, this all adds up to many billions. You could be forgiven for thinking that we British are a little crazy. I can say this, being British born and bred; although I do admit to some Huguenot blood in my veins from my maternal grandmother, whose surname was Jacques. 
The Queen's Jubilee Water Parade on the Thames will be a recreation of Canaletto's famous painting of the Lord Mayor's Parade in 1746. The Thames is half the width it was then and runs twice as fast, but there will still be over 1000 boats and flotillas in the parade. 
Detail of Canaletto's painting showing St. Paul's Cathedral
courtesy Mail online
Before we start our Jubilee celebrations, however, there is just the little matter of the Olympic flame having now arrived on our shores from Athens.
via wikipedia
It is steadily making it's way all around the country, and arrived with us today. People are joyously linning the roads, waving their flags and cheering the flame on it's journey. 
The Town Crier
The flame from Mount Olympus
I should not be so cynical - it was a really happy, jolly atmosphere, the sun was very hot, and you could see that it was a magic occasion for the children. They are really what it is all about.
As a postscript, I learn that Fred Goodwin, the shamed former Royal Bank of Scotland boss, is one of the names in a list of 60 individuals judged to have had most impact in Britain over the past 60 years. The criteria for selection stated that it should be made up of 'men and women, whose actions in the reign of Elizabeth II have had a significant impact on the life of these islands and/or given the age its character - for better or worse'. Worse being the operative word in his case. What an indictment, he lost his job and his knighthood, but he can now add this new accolade to his CV.

Monday 21 May 2012

Does anyone know what this flower is?

All will be revealed sometime on Wednesday morning - 23rd May.
23rd May
I am very impressed, I do not think that I would have guessed correctly myself.
Three of you have the right answer:-
Olympia - who says she will tell me how she found the name!!! and says she has more information on this. Looking forward to the ending of the mystery Olympia.
Karen - who just got it right, but said it was pink, well it is isn't it?
Paul - who took an analytical approach to solving the problem as he said he would usually recognise the flower in profile. 
it is the simple meadow flower Trifolium pratense - Red clover
Big thank you to you all for giving it a go♥♥♥♥♥
p.s - we are enjoying really hot weather this week. We had our lunch outside yesterday, but had to retire indoors as the sun was too hot!!! 

Saturday 19 May 2012

The greening of the English shires

I have been suffering with a cold for the past few days. You know that woolly headed feeling, burning eyes, and lethargy. Today I thought it would be a good idea to take a walk in one of the five valleys below where we live, and see if I could blow some of the cobwebs away.
We commenced the walk at the old Canal Keeper's House. The walk meanders on the level separated by a Victorian neglected canal on one side and the river on the other. It is a walk I like as there is always plenty of interest. Lovely trees, the canal, the river, wild flowers, birds, and it is possible to peek over the walls and hedges into lots of gardens.
overgrown canal - there are plans to rejuvenate it in due course.
Wild garlic growing in profusion
The river meandering along the ends of the cottage gardens
At this stage the river opens out into a small lake. 
Swan guarding the lake
Cow Parsley
Dandelion seed head
A road to be explored next time
At the end of the walk a big blazing bonfire.