Tuesday 28 November 2017

Pyclets (pikelets) - a Childhood Memory

In 1864 Mr. Monk opened a Crumpet and Pyclet Bakery in Derby. He and his sons baked whilst the women sold them from a barrow situated beneath the large entrance archway leading to Derby's Market Hall.
Interior of the Market Hall
As a child, trips into town with my mother, usually ended with us visiting Monk's barrow to buy pyclets or crumpets for tea. Sometimes she purchased their oatcakes too, which are large and flat like a pancake, then heated for breakfast with a topping of crispy bacon and an egg.
Until she died in 1963, Emily Monk sold pyclets "every day bar high days and holidays". The baton was then passed to Rose (pictured) who continued the tradition until 1974. A combination of the Oil Crisis and the growing rise of supermarkets spelt a lack of interest from the younger members of the Monk family and Derby Pyclets passed into history.

 I was in our local Waitrose shop and to my delight discovered that pyclets (pikelets in the shop) have recently been resurrected.
Pyclets and crumpets are similar, both are made on a gridle, but traditionally pyclets are made using buttermilk, they are thinner, lighter and airy.  Crumpets are much thicker, equally tasty and good, but normally made using sourdough.
Pyclets like crumpets are eaten toasted then topped simply with butter; they can also have either a savoury or a sweet topping. A drizzle of honey, a spoonful of conserve, or even some lemon curd. A savoury topping could be marmite, stilton cheese with chopped walnuts or maybe a slice of smoked salmon accompanied by a spoonful of horseradish and dill cream. The connotations are endless, they are very versatile, but you can use whatever happens to take your fancy.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Amber Glow

 Late autumn colour is still plentiful here, especially from the many large Beech Trees.

Walking through our neighbourhood Beech wood in the bright autumn sunlight is both rewarding and uplifting
The high or the low path?

Monday 13 November 2017

The Kennet & Avon Canal

Begun in 1724, the Kennet & Avon Canal is 87 miles long, and has a total of 105 locks. It incorporates some fine examples of early engineering skills.

The Caen Hill, Wiltshire stretch of the canal, has the longest continuous flight of locks in England. It was begun in 1794 and took 16 years to complete. There are 29 locks built in three distinct groups which have a rise of 237 feet, and cover a 2 mile stretch of the canal. 
On the first section at the lower level there are 7 locks spread along the canal for ¾ of a mile - the next 16 locks painstakingly climb up Caen Hill in a gradual ladder until reaching the top. These 16 locks are followed by the final 6 locks which then convey the canal through the town of Devizes and beyond. For a canal boat to negotiate all of these locks it takes a minium of 5 - 6 hours.
Moored at the bottom of Caen Hill, and awaiting their accent are two canal boats, but it was late afternoon, the lock keepers gone home, so no more boating activity until morning.

The canals are a haven for waterfowl - a flock of Canada Geese along with a male and female Mallard

and a flight of swans overhead
At the top of the hill

and dusk is rapidly approaching.

The swans fly off into the sunset,
and the boats that climbed Caen Hill during the day, moor up for the night, before proceeding on their journey. 

Saturday 11 November 2017

Armistice Day

Today two minutes silence are observed at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month to remember when hostilities formally ended following more than four years of battle during World War 1 - poppies are worn as a symbol of respect. 
In Cheltenham Spa Town Hall 9,000 individually handmade poppies - some knitted, others made from fabric - have been draped to form a waterfall in one of the buildings smaller entrance halls.
The Spa Well situated in this small hallway features an octagonal counter complete with Doulton Ware inserts and urns. This originally dispensed Spa Water transported from the splendid Regency Pittville Pump Rooms in Cheltenham. Unfortunately, these health giving waters, which were so sought after by wealthy Regency visitors, are now only available to sample at Pittville. Health waters, which once tasted, will almost certainly ensure that you will not return for more!!!
Unlike most town halls, this building is a public venue and not the seat of the borough council, which is housed in the nearby municipal offices.  
The hall was built at the turn of the c20th to accommodate the many balls and concerts which featured in the town's extensive social calender. Cheltenham Town Hall was quite literally built for celebrations.
Today the Town Hall is used for concerts, banquets, meetings, dances, balls, exhibitions, conferences and is one of the major venues for the many Cheltenham festivals held throughout the year. 
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
  The torch; be yours to hold it high.
  If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

Monday 6 November 2017

Asian Objet d'arts

Set deep in the countryside are a cluster of old barns that we enjoy visiting especially when searching out interesting gifts.

They are filled with eclectic artifacts that the owners have sourced from several Asian countries - some old, some early to mid 20th century and some reproductions. 
 A painting of the Empress Dowager Cixi - circa 1890
Old teak cow bells from Rajasthan - they make a delightful, mellow, throaty sound
The elegant 1930s Japanese lacquered pot with spout was for pouring sake
Calligraphy brush stands used for jewellery
Silver Miao Tribal necklace from Guizhou in SW China

along with a silver Miao Tribal headdress 
It was an invited Open Day; Visitors were plied with tasty, freshly made Asian snacks that kept magically appearing from the tiny kitchen.

Wooden ghee pots, ladles, and more cow bells hanging from an old peg rack, but do we really need an old ghee pot or a cow bell? interesting to see but I think not.
Chinese rice jar
There were lots of things to tempt us, but we resisted.
We particularly admired these Rajasthani lacquered dhubbi boxes also from the 1930 period.
However, we did successfully fulfill our quest, and returned home with some pretty Indian bangles for all the girls.

 which we hope that they will enjoy finding in their Christmas stockings.