Wednesday 30 January 2013

Landscape and Man - No.1

Over many centuries, man has not caused discord in the beautiful valleys and hills in the Cotswolds but has embellished and enhanced it. He has created a harmonious patchwork of gardens and trees along with buildings, and walls made out of local stone to compliment the landscape.
Lych Gates
Rest awhile
Bus Shelters
The iron rail is to keep the cattle and horses out - they have freedom to roam on the commons - the handcrafted tile feature inside the bus shelter shows local sites
Yew trees
This Yew hedge is thought to have been planted in 1710 and is over 40 feet tall - giving an idea of the scale
Several people have commented on the roof tiles, so here is an extra bit of information about them.
They are an important part of the Cotswold's architectural heritage. Archaeologists working on Roman villas in the area have discovered that the Romans also used cotswold stone for their roofs. They are a very valuable resource, and sadly in the dead of night they often disappear!!! The stone for the tiles is oolithic limestone dating from the Jurassic period, but it is now suffering from a limited supply. The special stone is extracted from the ground and left to lie for a few days before splitting so that it still retains some of its natural moisture. The smallest tiles are used at the peak of the roof and gradually get bigger as they go down the roof as can be seen on some on my photos above.

Monday 28 January 2013

Nova Scotia Part 2

Continuing Nova Scotia from Part 1
Once we had met up with my brother and his wife and picked up our hire car, we were all keen to go Whale watching.  We discovered that the best place to go was Brier Island. Getting there is complicated as it necessitates going on two small car ferries. We found ourselves a quaint  b/b near Digby Neck close to the first small ferry terminal, and set off after an early breakfast. We had not been able to book places so we hoped that if we got there first we would be in with a chance. The ferry went to Long Island where we then had to get another car ferry to Brier Island. It was our lucky day we all obtained tickets for the whale boat trip which would last several hours.
via wikipedia
Whale watching boat on Brier Island
We set off in a dense bank of fog it was really erie and sailed out into the bay for an hour without seeing anything. We could hardly see each other let alone see any whales. Suddenly we became aware of blowing water noises, and the captain of our ship said whales were nearby. We looked excitedly at each other, and just hoped that the thick fog would lift.
The captain told us that the Bay of Fundy is a summer feeding ground for many species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). The bay's strong tides drives nutrients to the surface, which feed the plankton, which then attracts schools of fish on which the cetaceans and birds feed.
Suddenly the fog parted, we sailed through it and out into a beautiful clear day. What we saw, I can only describe as a boiling, bubbling cauldron of sea. Lots of birds were sky diving, fish jumping, whales throwing up water spouts, we just did not know where to look first. As quickly as the activity started it completely died down. Someone asked the captain if there was any chance of seeing a humpback breach, which of course he could not answer. Just as we turned our gaze from him, a whale breached. Those at our end of the boat all gasped and those at the other end of the boat missed it!!! That was our one and only whale jump.
via wikipedia
My sister-in-law managed to catch the tail of the humpback as it disappeared.
and she caught a delightful school of porpoises jumping in unison.
last two photos courtesy my sister-in-law

Sunday 27 January 2013

All the snow has gone

The flowers have emerged from under their white winter blanket. This is the triumphant face of nature in adversity.

Saturday 26 January 2013

My Dear Mr. Snow

Being totally frank and honest, it is time for you to go...... 
during this past week you have graced us with your presence. Your visit has been welcome - a promise now fulfilled..........
You've enhanced our forest.......
waved your magic wand around our garden, but ......
it is time for you to pack your bags, your task is now complete. Lets bid each other fond farewells and say adieu.....
........warmer days are written right across the sky.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Nova Scotia - Part 1

via wikipedia
Evening in Halifax, Nova Scotia
It is little wonder that Nova Scotia is called New Scotland it bears a strong resemblance to the Scottish lowlands, and many of its inhabitants originated from Scotland. In fact our flight from London was almost empty until it landed at Glasgow to pick up the majority of it's passengers. We flew over the Gulf of St. Lawrence which dramatically was covered in ice floes.
Rose bay Willow Herb covers much of Nova Scotia
one of my own snapshots from the time
via wikipedia
Dalhousie University taken in 1871
Our visit was in the early 1990's when H was invited to a conference at Dalhousie University by Prof. Elisabeth Mann Borgese, the youngest daughter of Thomas Mann, the renowned writer - Death in Venice. We had met her at various environmental conferences, particularly in connection with the oceans. She was a recognised authority of the Law of the Sea and for a long time was the only female member of the Club of Rome. She was an extraordinary women and could travel around the world carrying only a very small holdall containing her change of clothes and wash kit.  She married the anti-fascist Italian writer Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, 36 years her senior, by whom she had two daughters. At her home situated on a remote spit in Nova Scotia she lived alone, but surrounded by animals including a chimpanzee. She said that one of her dogs could play the piano, which greatly amused us. However, my brother, living in Toronto, heard her being interviewed on Canadian radio talking about the dog, and in fact, heard the dog play the piano on the programme!!! It is known that the chimp once had a bit of a rip roaring time in the house, charging around smashing everything up with a hammer left by a workman. He had watched the workman hammering away and thought he could do the same.
another of my snapshot photos - no digitals then 
 Halifax Park
Nova Scotia in the early 1990's resembled a life that we remembered ourselves from years ago. The people had perfect manners and politeness, in fact if you wanted to cross the road, a car would just stop and wave you over. The Park Keeper, wearing a uniform, would blow his whistle at youths riding their bikes, and they would immediately get off and walk with them. People attended church wearing hats and gloves - a world long forgotten in many places.
When had finished at the university, my brother and his wife flew down from Toronto to meet us. We hired a car for a week and set off to tour Nova Scotia together. 
via wikipedia
The lighthouse at Peggy's Cove - one of the places we visited on our tour around Nova Scotia. 
Continued in Part 2.
Elisabeth Mann Borgese died in 2002. We both consider it to have been a great privilege to have met her. She was one of life's colourful characters, the sort of memorable person you come into contact with only rarely throughout your lifetime.

Monday 21 January 2013

Cabinet of Curiosities

Corner of a cabinet painted by Frans ll Francken in 1636 
A cabinet of curiosities was a term used in Renaissance Europe for objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined. They were known by various names such as Cabinet of Wonder, and in German Kunstkammer (art room) or Wunderkammer (wonder room). Today we would categorise the objects included in such a cabinet as belonging to natural history, geology, ethnology, archaeology, religious or historical relics.
Johann Georg Hinz - a Wunderkammer (1666)
The frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum depicting Ole Worm's cabinet of curiosities.
I suspect that many of you will have little objects around your home, on shelves, in drawers or you may even have a cabinet which holds things that you find curious and interesting. They do not necessarily need to be of value but are little treasures to their owners that may be reminders of travels, gifts given, or simply objects that have been found or bought and which we, their owners, are fascinated by - just like our ancestors before us.
My cabinet of curiosities holds many objects, most of which are small and are made or gifted by family and friends. Others are objects that we have picked up on our travels.
actual size
Once we had a Chinese family stay with us for a few days. They had a delightful little 4 year old daughter called Ida. She had never been in the countryside before, and was puzzled and even a bit nervous when she saw the very large cow 'pats' on our common. H came to the rescue by making her a poo-stick. She became very animated, skipping and  jumping through the grasses looking for them and pointing her stick with glee when she found one. On her return home she drew this little picture for us and her mother machine embroidered fabric onto it.
actual size
This small painting was done for us by a friend who is a botanical artist.
actual size
A small paper Christmas tree made for us by one of our granddaughters in Norway.
actual size
H was given this little seahorse by fishermen at Ismailia on the Suez Canal, they had found it in their nets. 
Did you know that the male seahorse is equipped with a brood pouch. When mating, the female seahorse deposits up to 1,500 eggs in his pouch. He then carries the eggs until the seahorses emerge fully developed, but very small. Once the tiny seahorses are released into the water, the male's role is done.
Did you notice that there is also a seahorse in the first painting by Frans ll Francken?
actual size
As a child I recall seeing glass tubes filled with this coloured sand from the Isle of Wight and being intrigued by it. When we visited the island ourselves one of the things that I wanted was a little bottle of this famous Alum Bay coloured sand.
My grandmother inherited money from the Darwin-Huish family - I wrote about the Darwin tobacco jar here. Because of the inheritance she and my grandfather were able to travel by ship around the world. This is a snapshot from their journey which I believe was in the early 1930s. I think that they must have been in their mid 50s but look much older than people would today. In fact my grandmother still looked like this when she died in 1959. I have a shell that she brought back with her. She used to tell me to put the shell to my ear so that I could hear the roar of the sea.
actual size
I recall my grandmother saying that she found it on a beach in Australia, but maybe my memory is playing tricks on me. I cannot imagine finding such a glorious shell on a beach.
"Listen to the oceans Granddaughter dear"
actual size
A small American very heavy silver dish with champlevé enamel work around the edge. This dish intrigues us as we know nothing about it. H has visited Panama, and believes that this dish shows the canal.  Was it a souvenir from the Panama-California Exposition? The 1915 Exposition was held in San Diego to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. If you click on the photo it is possible to see one ship entering a channel with two others waiting in the background to pass through. A mystery object to us.
If anyone has any ideas about the enamel motif, please do comment.
A treasured birthday card made by our grandson.
The fascination with this object comes from the wood that it is made from...
York Minster via wikipedia
This little squirrel was made from English oak removed from the beam of the central tower of York Minster following restoration work. It is interesting to reflect that the original wooden beam was made from an oak tree which was probably already a well established tree and growing in 1066 when William the Conquerer arrived. When we first purchased the squirrel it was imbued with the smell of incense following hundreds of years of being in the Minster.
These images are slightly bigger than life size
Two Chinese junks carved from fruit stones - the bottom one has lattice shutters that open and close revealling people inside.
Time now for me to close the shutters too - I may reveal some more little curiosities another time.
first three images courtesy wikipedia