Thursday, 31 January 2019

'By Jove it's cold out there!'

During the night Jack Frost spread his icy fingers across the garden and left a dusting of powdery white.
When the sun hangs low in the eastern sky,
Caught in the trees that shiver shy,
Red as the robin that flits nearby,
Sing hey, for a frosty morning!



When the lane is a-glitter beneath our feet,
Powdered with crystal, delicate, sweet, 
And the quiet pond is a silver sheet,
Sing hey, for a frosty morning!
Come out, come out, while the sky is red,
over the crunching fields to tread,
Ere the frost in the kindling sun lies dead,
Sing, hey for a frosty morning!
Enid Blyton

No going out on a cold frosty day for me.......
photos were all taken from inside.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

More Dolls

Due to the interest shown after the previous post I have been encouraged to delve into the cabinet again. 
This is a Sinhalese Devil Dancer - the different head masks have various attributions - dragons, cobras, birds etc. The Devil Dance was a unique practice in the southern part of Sri Lanka. It was performed to free a person or place from demons, evil spirits or bad luck caused by malignant spirits. It was also done to cure a patient from certain ailments. 
This doll wasn't bought when we visited Sri Lanka last June, but was purchased 40 years ago following a visit by my husband.
These two dolls came from Cuba. Whenever we could we have bought dolls made and sold by local artisans and not manufactured dolls, but of course, that is not always possible. Handmade dolls, on the whole, tend to have more character and authenticity about them.
 The majority of our dolls were actually bought by my husband when he travelled the world for the UN. Apart from enjoying seeing them the dolls were a way of giving our two sons, who were very young at the time, a sense of the people and the places that he visited.
This doll comes from Monrovia, Liberia. This handmade doll depicts a Monrovia lady carrying her baby on her back whilst crushing grain. Life In Monrovia is extremely tough, Malaria is rife, and recently they have had that terrible outbreak of Ebola.

These dolls were handcrafted in a Romanian Communist co-operative and represent various different regions in the country. They have a particular charm but belie the terrible situation in Romania for most of the population. We visited at a time when Nicolae Ceau┼čescu was the President, but neither we, nor the wider world, had any idea about the corrupt regime he administered until the uprising that happened several years after our visit. 

To finish some British dolls. Although manufactured in a small doll specialist company owned by Peggy Nisbet, each and every doll was individually designed by her. No longer produced, her last doll was made 20 years ago. 
I was asked the size of these dolls and on the whole most of the dolls are about 8/9 inches (20/23cms) tall - some are a bit smaller and some slightly larger.
I will not be showing any more dolls - there are far too many still lurking in the cabinet.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Costume Dolls

Years ago when travelling at home and abroad collecting costume dolls was something that people tended to do. I say home and abroad because I do have a selection of British dolls too. However, as a consequence we have a cabinet full of them. Will they ever become desirable objects? I have my doubts, but having said that one or two do stand out as being quite unusual or special. One doll in our collection is the same as one I saw recently being sold as a 'vintage' sailor boy. My sailor boy was bought for me as a six year old by my grandmother. 
She purchased it on the Empress of Scotland when she sailed to and from Canada where she stayed for a few months with my aunt, her daughter. 
He is certainly not in mint condition as he has been greatly loved and sadly has lost the ribbon around his cap which read The Empress of Scotland. However, I would never part with him as he brings back fond memories of times spent with my grandmother. These sailor boys were made for cruise ships by Norah Wellings a talented artist and designer of cloth dolls. She started her career with Chad Valley becoming their chief doll designer. Eventually she left and began her own business called The Victoria Toy Works.
The doll below is from the Japanese Meiji period, and is well over 100 years old. 
She is a Geisha girl wearing a lovely red hat. Her silk kimono is hand painted with trails of wisteria blossom, and my understanding is that her hands and face are glazed with crushed oyster shells (Gofun) which creates the bright white finish.
The way this doll is dressed is both authentic and accurate.
Maybe I will open the cabinet doors again one day and have another exploration.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

The Cotehele Winter Garland

Cotehele House sits on the Cornish side of the beautiful Tamar Valley, a valley separating Devon from Cornwall. The house is hidden down narrow deeply wooded high banked lanes making finding the property difficult. We decided to switch on our Sat Nav - a big mistake, as the terrain proved to be far too confusing for it to cope. Instead of arriving at Cotehele we ended up stuck in the middle of a very remote farmyard!!! 
Cotehele House was founded in 1300 but the current architecture is mostly early Tudor dating back to 1485. 
In its 62nd year of making, the Cotehele garland has now become a winter legend. All of the flowers are grown at Cotehele using flower seeds sown at the beginning of each year, and then harvested as early as April. Each year around 40,000 flowers are cut and dried, but this year a record number of 45,000 flowers were placed into the garland thanks to our long, hot summer. The Tudor Great Hall decked out with the 60ft long floral garland is a lovely sight to see.

A video of the 2016 garland
The making and installing of the garland begins in October - the 2018/19 winter garland was made using flowers in shades of red, white, and blue along with small military style ribbon ties to mark the centenary of the end of WWl.  
A 9ft jaw bone stands either side of the doorway. It came from a 61ft Fin whale that was washed up on Colona Beach, Bodrugan in Cornwall on the 2nd January 1875.
Victorian print showing the actual whale
This year there is an additional attractive and colourful display by Dominique Coiffait showing 20,000 linocut flowers which he created on paper to form a frieze running all around the lower walls of the Great Hall. Dominique ran a series of workshops where visitors and children helped him to cut out the thousands of flowers. Hidden amongst the flowers, which are all representative of flowers found throughout the year in the Cotehele gardens, are letters, photographs, and postcards sent home by local Cornish men and boys who were away serving in the the war.
'Forget me not'

It would be lovely, should the opportunity arise, to vist Cotehele again and see the gardens during the summer months.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

I wonder

if the sap is stirring yet, 

If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate, 
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun
And crocus fires are kindling one by one:


Sing, Robin, sing;
I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring. 
I wonder if the springtide of this year 
Will bring another Spring both lost and dear; 

If heart and spirit will find out their Spring, 

Or if the world alone will bud and sing: 
Sing, hope, to me; 
Sweet notes, my hope, soft notes for memory. 
The sap will surely quicken soon or late, 
The tardiest bird will twitter to a mate; 
So Spring must dawn again with warmth and bloom, 
Or in this world, or in the world to come: 
Sing, voice of Spring, 
Till I too blossom and rejoice and sing. 
Christina Rossetti
Found in the garden today.