Friday 31 May 2013

June - Très Riches Heures

The month of June shows the Hotel de Nesle, the Duc de Berry's Parisian residence, and Sainte Chapelle clearly on the right looking much the same as it does today. It was possible to see the same residence in the month of May but only the rooftops were visible. 
It is hay making time - the men are scything the meadow in unison, whilst the ladies are raking and stacking the hay into neat piles.
The slate roofs of the Palace rise against the blue Parisian sky, and if you click on to the picture it is possible to see the minute details in the background. The river Seine flows past the meadow edged with willow trees and an inlet of bullrushes. A ferry lady has just dropped someone off at one of the palace entrances and he can be seen running up the steps to the palace doorway. There is a beautifully manicured garden tempting us over the palace walls and once inside a covered stairway with people going up and down. When clicking the image it is also possible to see one of the maidens has her foot still within the uncut grass.
Once again the blue tympanum at the top carries the chariot of the sun making its yearly cycle through the heavens, and the June zodiac signs of Gemini the twins and Cancer the crab.
This book of hours is a form of breviary where the prayers are intended for recital at the canonical hours of the liturgical day. Canonical hours refers to the division of day and night for the purpose of prayers. The regular rhythm of reading led to the term 'book of hours'.
A Breviary consists of a number of prayers and readings in a short form. 
Month of July here.
Flaming June by Fredrick Lord Leighton
Hoping that June lives up to its reputation - that the sun shines on all of you spreading its warm golden rays of happiness to us all. This last May day on the cusp of June has started well with the sun high in the sky, the butterflies flitting around, and the birds singing.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Landscape and Man - No.2

Cotswold architectural features showing Churches, Cottages, War Memorials, and Tombs.

The original steeple for this church was demolished in 1563 because it was too heavy for the supporting arches. It's truncated spire is now topped with an unusual and distinctive coronet.
Arlington Row, Bibury built in 1380 originally as a monastic wool store, but converted during the 17th century into weavers' cottages - William Morris described Bibury as "the most beautiful village in England". 
War Memorials
The Stonemason's own tomb
These are known as Cotswold table top tombs
Cider with Rosie - Edge of Day -  As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. Here Laurie Lee rests in his beloved Slad Valley
Landscape and Man No.1 here.

Monday 27 May 2013

Flower quiz answer

Five lovely bloggers got it correct - in the order that they arrived.........
Celia Hart at purple podded peas 

Saturday 25 May 2013

Flower Quiz

This is flowering in our garden at the moment. Each flower spike carries about 20 blooms. The interesting thing is that there appears to be two distinct flowers all the way up the spike with different colouring and different stamens. The flowers are hermaphrodite. This means that they have perfect flowers with both sexes represented in one flower. I have read that once a flower has been pollinated by the bee it then turns from having a yellow patch to deep pink. One of the flowers here has not been pollinated, one is just turning pink and the other has turned completely pink.
If anyone gives the correct answer I shall save their comment until after I have given the name of the flower, which will be Monday evening 27th May at 22.00 hours GMT.

Friday 24 May 2013

In an English country garden

How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
In an English country garden?
Daffodils, heart's ease and phlox
Meadowsweet and lady smocks

Gentian, lupin and tall hollyhocks
Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, forget-me-nots

In an English country garden
The garden painting is by Helen Allingham 1848 - 1926 an English watercolour painter and illustrator of the Victorian era. She is particularly known for her paintings of pretty cottages and their gardens. Her paintings were an idealised picture of country life - the cottage gardens could not always have been filled with so many flowers or inhabited by pretty girls with nothing better to do than play with a kitten or wander amongst the chickens. The reality was much harsher, but she did attempt to record a way of life and a type of vernacular architecture that was disappearing even as she painted.
via wikipedia
To answer Gina's question - Lady's Smock - a wildflower which grows in the meadows and gardens - botanical name Cardamine pratensis, and as Wendy pointed out - loved by the Orange Tip butterflies.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Shanghai to Hangzhou

This is the fourth and last post on China - previous post here.
Shanghai today  
Shanghai in the 1980s
Owing to the delayed flight from Qingdao to Shanghai our time in the city was cut short. We were taken all around the city in a car to see as much as possible, but other things that had been arranged for us had to be cancelled.
The highlight was being taken down the Huangpu River in the Harbour Masters own ship. We were the only guests on his two storey vessel apart from other Shanghai officials and our minder Madam Wu. He wanted to show J the river and point out their shipping and environmental problems whilst seeking his advice. We were served all kinds of refreshments, and then on the return journey he laid on a banquet.
Travelling down the river with the Harbour Master - the young girl was the Interpreter
Comparing my Huangpu River images with a contemporary photograph shows the huge changes.
Neither of us can remember how we got to Hangzhou but I think it must have been by train as it is only a 3 hour trip from Shanghai. 
Hangzhou is everything you imagine China to be. Lakes full of lotus flowers, with temples sitting on little islands which are crossed by bridges. When Marco Polo passed through in the 13th century he described it as one of the finest and most splendid cities in the world. West Lake, full of fresh water is the most famous lake and is surrounded by hills and gardens, dotted with pavilions and temples - one romantically called Three Pools mirroring the Moon.

We were taken out in a boat with our minder, Madam Wu, and one of the Marine Scientists. The man rowing the boat was so absorbed in watching H and myself that he nearly rowed us up on to one of the little stone ornaments sitting in the middle of the lake. This almost resulted in us all being thrown from the boat into the deep water with unknown consequences. Fortunately I noticed what was going on and managed to shout out a warning, and thus prevent a diplomatic incident. Whatever would the UN have thought if their man in Hangzhou and his wife had ended up floundering in the middle of a lake?

In Hangzhou we had some memorable banquets. One evening the dish we were presented with was so magnificent that the whole restaurant came to a standstill to watch what was happening. Chickens had been wrapped in Lotus leaves from the lake and then smothered in mud and baked. Once cooked the mud was ceremoniously broken open to reveal the succulent chicken.  We were also served river crab, until then I had thought that they only lived in the sea.
During the month long trip we had lots of interesting experiences - a Chinese acrobatic display, the ballet, visit to Beijing Zoo, and a particularly memorable dish of sea slugs and jelly fish. We could never have envisaged the huge changes that have since taken place in China during what is a relatively short period of time.

Saturday 18 May 2013

Blue Magic

Nature creates blue magic around this time of year in British forests and cliff tops stretching from Scotland in the north to Cornwall in the far south -  it's bluebell time.
British bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside act. You cannot pick them or dig them up. If you have bluebells in your garden then most likely they have been bought at a garden centre and will be Spanish bluebells, Hyacinthoides hispanica. Unfortunately the Spanish bluebell is more vigorous and can crossbreed with the native bluebell creating a fertile hybrid. This is threatening them as it dilutes their unique characteristics. 
British Bluebells
The British bluebell has varying shades of blue (sometimes white, rarely pink) tube-like bells with the petal tips curled right back.  They hang mostly to one side of a nodding stem. The stem nods more as the flower matures, flowers smell sweetly - the pollen on the anthers is cream coloured. The anther is the disc at the tip of the stamen where the pollen collects.
Spanish bluebells are pale blue, sometimes pink or white. The stems have flowers all around them and are upright. They have almost no scent and the bells are a true bell shape with the petals flaring out - it has blue pollen on its anthers.  Seeing them together it is much easier to spot the differences.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

A late Elizabethan country house

It is about 20 years since we visited this glorious house, and both of us remember it well - its impact is lasting.
Montacute House was built in 1598 by Sir Edward Phelips, whose family had lived in the Montacute area since at least 1460. They were yeomen farmers before their rise in status.
Built in what came to be considered the English Renaissance style, the east front is distinguished by its Dutch gables decorated with romping stone monkeys and other animals. The windows of the second floor - the Long Gallery are divided by niches containing statues, a feature copied from the Palazzo degli Uffizi in Florence - at Montacute the figures feature the Nine Worthies. The Nine Worthies are legendary figures who personified chivalry in the Middle Ages.
The elaborate walled garden is complimented by twin garden pavilions in the far corners.
A long "cloud" clipped yew hedge
Newly restored Orangery
Coming through the main entrance door to the left you then pass through this double arched stone screen leading into the Great Hall. Made in the renaissance style, the proportion of the screen's ionic columns suggests an uncertainty of classical elements so newly introduced to England during the 16th century.
The Great Hall showing portraits of the Phelips family
At the end of the Great Hall is a rare plaster panel depicting an example of rough justice dating from 1600. On the left a henpecked husband has a drink whilst looking after the baby. His wife catches him and hits him with a shoe. A neighbour reports the incident to the village and the husband is punished by having an uncomfortable ride on a pole, whilst the locals mock him. This is known locally as the "Skimmington Ride". You can read about another Skimmington Ride in the "Mayor of Casterbridge" by Thomas Hardy.
A richly coloured stained glass window in an anti chamber off the hall showing the Phelips coat of arms.
At either end of the house are two wonderful golden stone stairways leading up through the house, both of which culminate at the top of the house in the Long Gallery. It is said that during wet weather the Phelips children would lead their ponies up these stairs to ride in the long gallery.
The Hunter - dated 1788 is one of a series of tapestries based on an earlier set woven for Louis XlV at the Gobelins factory in Paris.
Lord Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston Hall, Derby, rented Montacute in 1915 and had this secret bath installed in a wardrobe in his bedroom.
Italian Majolica dish made c 1600 depicting Bacchus in a landscape with animals and flowers - Dear Gina - took this one is for you.
Lets rest awhile and enjoy afternoon tea.
In 1823 the estate was inherited by William Phelips but eventually he became insane; an addicted gambler, and apparently incarcerated for his own good. Sadly for the family this was after he had gambled away the family fortune. In 1875 his son took control of the estate but this huge house was a drain on limited resources. Selling the family silver and art works delayed the inevitable by several years, but by 1911 the family were forced to let the house and moved out. The Phelips never returned.
Sadly there are no photographs allowed in the Long Gallery which is the longest in England. However, the Long Gallery alone is worth a visit. It is full of wonderful royal portraits from the national collection held by the National Portrait Gallery, London and on show here in partnership with the National Trust. There are more than 50 Tudor and Jacobean portraits including Henry Vlll and Elizabeth l and a fascinating series of paintings of monarchs from the late medieval period showing Richard ll, Richard lll, Henry l, Henry ll, Stephen, Edward l etc. and various courtiers.
Queen Elizabeth l - National Portrait Gallery
Turning off the highway, then through the iron entrance gates, in your horse and carriage......
......the house awaits you for your country weekend spent with the Phelips.......
.....enjoy your stay!