Tuesday 22 December 2020

Christmas Time

T'was the first Christmas night during Corona,
and across much of the world 
the unfolding nightmare continued.
The beastly virus changed and 
 mutated a spike protein that it uses
to bind a human receptor.
Nurses and doctors collapsed from exhaustion. 
Old folk aware of the dangers
tightly shuttered their windows, 
whilst awaiting a call for their vaccination,
an escape route from all the mayhem.
Now as the virus continues to spread,
father gathers his strength, 
mother hides her anguish from the children, 
but everyone pulls together on this
different Christmas journey.
But keep calm and carry on, 
the outlook appears far brighter  
apologies for any likeness to Clement Clarke Moore's poem
"T'was the night before Christmas"

Wednesday 16 December 2020

A Pre-Christmas Walk around a house called Baddesley Clinton

It was a bright December morning for the latest of our pre-booked/timed outings to visit the grounds and surroundings of an early Tudor architectural gem built within a moated setting.
Anglo-Saxon settlements in England started to develop during the middle of the 5th century following the fall of the Roman Empire, which ruled here for nearly 400 years. At some point a Saxon man called Baeddi, Badde or Bade, probably a farmer from the Avon Valley, drove his cattle into the ancient Forest of Arden, where he made a clearing for them to graze. The area would have been protected from predators with a large deep ditch and wooden palisades to form an enclosure. Such a clearing was known as a 'leah' or 'ley' - hence Badde's Ley. It is most likely that a homestead built from timber or stone close to the enclosure would have been added at a later date. However, although no remains of any building have ever been found it is known that Baddesley Clinton has Saxon origins. 
The entrance to the house is one of the most visually pleasing architectural ensembles in England, with its combination of bridge, moat and crenelated gatehouse. Its stone and brick work and interesting windows relate the building to various architectural periods, but all blend harmoniously together.

The house and estate were home to the Ferrers family for 500 years, and despite being short of money from time to time, it passed from father to son for 12 generations. 

The Ferrers had several of their own armorial arms installed into the windows. 

This Crown glass is a very early type of window glass. The process of making crown glass window panes was perfected by French glassmakers in the 1320s, notably around Rouen, but they kept it a trade secret. As a result, Crown glass did not appear in this country until after 1678. Modern versions of this glass seen today tend to be referred to as Bullseye or Bottle-end glass.
Although the interior of the house is currently closed to visitors, it was possible for us to enter the inner courtyard.
When this large, strong door is firmly locked, the owners must have felt totally safe and secure within........... 

..........this inner courtyard.
Several of the inner courtyard doorways featured a stone carving of a horseshoe, but why were they hanging the wrong way up? In England hanging a horseshoe facing upwards in a 'U' shape is said to keep evil out and bring good luck into your home. However, in France they hang horseshoes the other way round to allow the good luck to pour out upon those who enter beneath. 
The explanation for this must be the fact that the Ferrers family were descended from Henri de Ferrièrs, a Norman nobleman, who was Master of the Horse to William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.
Time for a brisk walk around the grounds, a picnic, then home.

Most of the trees are now bare, but there is still beauty to be seen within their sculptural structure.

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Quick & Easy Dhal Dish

With less than two weeks until the festive season, 'time is of the essence'. Any short cuts to make life just that little bit easier are welcome. This Indian Dahl dish fits the bill, especially if you have a Slow Cooker. It gives four generous portions which are nourishing, sustaining, and cheap.

300g yellow split peas or red lentils,
1 large onion chopped,
tin of chopped tomatoes,
two carrots finely chopped,
5/6 Cavolo nero (Italian black cabbage) leaves shredded/stems removed,
one inch chunk of freshly granted ginger,
two cloves grated garlic,
1 tspn cumin,
1 tspn chilli,
2 tspns turmeric,
10 curry leaves,
1 green fresh chilli, finely sliced,
700ml veg. stock,
freshly ground black pepper &
natural sea salt.
Chop and prepare all of the ingredients, place in a Slow Cooker along with the stock and tinned tomatoes, add all of the spices, leave to cook on high for at least four hours or until the yellow split peas or red lentils are soft. Serve with Indian bread - naan, chapati, roti, or whatever you prefer. 

Friday 4 December 2020

Coughton Court

Having left home in glorious bright end of November sunshine we were surprised to discover Coughton Court surrounded by a mist which appeared to be rising from the R. Arrow, a river which runs along the periphery of the property. On reflection, it was the perfect setting for a building that holds an historic place in England for its roles in both the 1583 Throckmorton Plot to murder Queen Elizabeth 1, and the 1605 Gunpowder Plot. 
Coughton Court is home to the Throckmorton family, and has been for over 600 years.
As we ventured along the riverside walk glimmers of sunshine gradually started appearing through the mist.
Several tributaries travel across the estates land on their way to meet up and join the R. Arrow.
In 1583, Francis Throckmorton devised a plot, being just one of a series of attempts by English Roman Catholics, to depose Queen Elizabeth l of England. They wanted to replace her with Mary Queen of Scots who at the time was being held under house arrest in Carlisle Castle. However, the plot failed as a result of intelligence and surveillance, Francis was duly arrested, and executed the following year.
When it came to the Gunpowder Plot 22 years later, the then owner of Coughton Court, Thomas Throckmorton, prudently went abroad with all of his family having first let the house out to one of the plot's chief conspirators, Sir Everard Digby.  Apart from acting as a safe house for Jesuit priests, it was also used for hoarding arms, ammunition and horses, ready for the uprising that was meant to follow the assassination of James l and his Government.
At the back of the house is an Elizabethan style garden courtyard, which was designed by the then owner Clare McLaren-Throckmorton and her daughter Christina in 1992. It's an attractive area, which admirably compliments the surrounding Tudor architecture.
As the day brightened and the mist dispersed it was possible to admire and appreciate the fine Tudor Gatehouse being the main entrance to the property. It's hexagonal turrets and oriel windows are designed in the early English Renaissance style.
This is the oldest part of the house - 1536, but it is flanked by later wings designed in what became known as Strawberry Hill Gothic, popularised by Horace Walpole.
click here to see Walpole's house

Saturday 28 November 2020

Autumn has Almost Finished

.....many leaves have now finished tumbling to the ground. Don't be sad, it is Mother Nature's way of protecting her trees, and making sure that they survive the coming winter and beyond. If the leaves stayed on the trees during the winter months, and new ones didn't appear in the Spring, then our lovely trees would have no way of processing food for themselves. 

Autumn Fires

In the other gardens

And all up in the vale,

From the Autumn bonfires

See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over,

And all the summer flowers,

The red fire blazes,

The grey smoke  towers.

Sing a son of seasons!

Something bright in all!

Flowers in the summer,

Fires in the fall!

Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Along Memory Lane

Eldest son, a Geologist, lived with his family in Norway for several years - a country that we always enjoyed visiting and loved. On our first trip over to see them, I recall going to the local supermarket with my daughter-in-law, a visit which made me smile, but one which I also found to be confusing. Everyone, apart from me, was wandering around filling their baskets, seemingly oblivious to the various extras sitting on the counter tops and along the shelves. So grab yourself a shopping basket, I will take my camera, and join me on an "expedition" around the aisles of Helgø, a Norwegian Supermarket. 

I wonder what British Health & Safety Standards would think of an adult stuffed polar bear sitting on top of a counter selling cooked meats and pâtés?
There must be a storyline here, but I have no idea what it could be.
Did the supermarket owner buy a taxidermy 'job lot'? Or was he a frustrated collector whose wife wouldn't allow him to keep them at home!
The cheese and wine counter
It wasn't just the stuffed animals, but also the scenic dioramas that accompanied them.
This is a revamped old post - the picture quality is poor - they were taken with my first small digital camera. 

Friday 20 November 2020

Relish Small Pleasures

We are now two weeks into our second lockdown. The first time round Spring was in the air and there was a certain amount of novelty to it. This time, winter is creeping in, and with Christmas on the horizon it’s hard to imagine how it will be celebrated.
The news about the vaccines has given us more hope for the future, and we should all be grateful to the many scientists who have toiled away during this difficult period to find a solution for the world’s current plight. Seemingly the Oxford solution is just a matter of days away from an announcement, but they have already stated that their vaccine is particularly ‘encouraging’ in adults over the age of 70years. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 94% effective in the over 65s’ - this scenario was something that had previously had a large question mark hovering over it. 

The departure of “Dom” from Downing Street too is good news, but perhaps the less said about that the better. 

During the last few days the weather has been dull, and gloomy, but we took a chance and booked Thursday of this week to visit a National Trust garden. Luckily their gardens are still open, but you must book your slot online - the dates for each week are released every Friday morning. Yesterday, the day of our visit, was a perfect day, blue skies, a slight nip in the air, but clear and bright. We visited Tyntesfield in North Somerset, a Victorian Gothic Revival house with extensive gardens and parkland, and just a stone’s throw from Bristol. Originally called Tyntes Place, William Gibbs, purchased it for his growing family in 1844. He completely remodelled the exterior of what was a simple regency house into the Gothic extravaganza that exists today. All of the interiors were richly decorated and furnished by the country’s leading craftsmen.

Unlike several of Bristol's successful businessmen, Gibbs did not make his money on the backs of the ‘slave trade’. His fortune was made by importing ‘guano’ from Peru, a country which granted him the sole monopoly on all trade with Europe and North America.

"You expected to be sad in the fall.

Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and..... 
their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light.
But you knew there would always be the spring,as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.
Family chapel, the design of which was modelled on the flamboyant Gothic architecture of Sainte Chapelle in Paris.