Sunday, 29 July 2012

Olympic Fun

It's been a pleasant week weather wise culminating in a very good opening presentation of the 30th Olympiad, the London 2012 Olympic games. Hate is an awful word and I rarely if ever use it. However, I hate all the detractors, the whingers, moaners, spiteful media and people who are just so negative, their ulcers must be on overtime.

Instead of being negative over sport, why don't they sit back and enjoy the spectacle and learn a few things. It is interesting that the cost of the opening ceremony was £27M which is a lot of money albeit it had a global audience of over 100 million. One footballer, sold to Liverpool FC last season cost £35M. For goodness sake put it into context and go and find something else to moan at - or preferably, try and see some good in something.

There were several highlights for me and Mr Boyles vision was very well portrayed. I think one Los Angeles newspaper called it 'very British.' Certainly, and why not.

I got  a little damp today as I cut the grass surrounded by black clouds and eventually a short but heavy shower put paid to the gardening today although this weekend has seen lots of work emptying and tidying our garage ready for the conversion into a bedroom. 15 years of accumulated spider skeletons are hidden in various corners.

I hope you have a great week, and wherever in the world you are reading this from, I hope your Olympic team do well.

Chat soon


Saturday, 21 July 2012

Beauty and the Beast

A bee on my dahlia flower this morning
Pyracantha will be familiar to some gardeners; it's a shrub which has beautiful cream or white flowers in spring and lovely berries for the birds in winter. The berries come in a number of colours, but predominantly cream, orange and red. Blackbirds and pigeons love the berries, especially in late winter when there's nothing much left.  This year's tiny young berries are here already. 

Pyracantha - before pruning
However as with much that is beautiful in the garden, there is a dark side to this hardy bush. 

Pyracantha - after pruning
This evergreen shrub, its common name 'firethorn' as the name suggests has thorns. If you want an effective barrier or to deter potential trespassers, then pyracantha is for you. The young thorns on new green growth are fairly soft, but wait a few months and those thorns on hard wood can grow up to about two inches in length and are like needles. They are truly awful. I cut mine back today because it was getting out of hand and it is advisable on this scale of job to use electric shears or large hand shears rather than small secateurs and without doubt gardening gloves. But beware, gloves are probably still not thick enough to prevent your hand being skewered so pick up cut branches gently and dispose of rather than compost.

'Akantha' - thorn
Although bitter, apparently pyracantha berries can be made into a very nice jelly, but I don't think the birds would be too happy. A member of the apple family, the name pyracantha apparently is first seen in the 1660s and is a mix of Greek pyr - fire and akantha - thorn.

My first water lily of the season
You may recall that I've talked about nothing much else but the weather this year, i.e., the rain, but the summer has finally arrived with some fine weather, blue skies and sun. It's hot. I read Donna's blog who comes from central Illinois and they are in a very bad drought, so I hope some of the rain we've had can find its way over there for her. The power of thought probably brought us rain so lets wish rain for Donna and her community.

We're having some building work done soon to convert a garage to a bedroom and a morning room to another bedroom which will give our children who are still at home larger bedrooms rather than the cramped ones they have at the moment so the house will be in a bit of a state in the next few weeks. The trick is to empty the garage which tends to be a junk room (it's never seen a car in the fifteen years we've been here.) Wish me luck!

Chat soon


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bramshill, an English Country Seat

Bramshill House (south west front)
Its been a busy week this week with a trip to the other end of the country from sunny Yorkshire (from time to time) to rainy Hampshire which from here is 'down south.' The two day trip was a days travelling down there on Wednesday and a workshop on Thursday and travelled back the same day which meant a long day in all. It's a long way to travel just for a workshop, but it was important and ultimately, it will be very useful.

Bramshill House lake
I stayed at Bramshill College, now owned by a quango of the Home Office and it's set in beautiful open grounds in beautiful countryside. The college buildings are fairly modern and well appointed for residents/students and the site has many facilities including its own lake. However, the pièce de résistance is the old manor house which stands overlooking glorious  Hampshire countryside.

Regrettably not open to the public (although there are open days), the Jacobean house is a wonderful example of English Building opulence of the 17th century and of course as with all old large houses, it has its fair share of spirits, (and I don't mean drink in a bottle). Regular readers will know I am a Spiritualist, but I'll give a history of this beautiful old house before I tell one or two sad tales of yesteryear which has lead to many ghost sightings over the centuries.
Details of the south west frontispiece and it includes one of my favourite images - a green man
Edward, Lord Zouche
In 1605, the 11th Baron Zouche of Harringworth, Lord Edward Zouche (pictured left courtesy of Wikipedia) built Bramshill House on the site of a 14th century manor house in the Parish of Bramshill or Bromeselle. Nothing remains of that original house save for a single four foot nine inches thick wall. A travelled man and a diplomat, he was not a brilliant politician in the highest echelons of government, lacking some of the shrewdness required at the time of political and social upheaval in England. The house itself took 20 years to build, mainly through Lord Zouches' lack of money (many other large houses of a similar size were built in about 4 years). Zouche died in the house and although the whereabouts of his remains are unknown, he never lived to see the house fully completed and died without a male heir.

The small lake next to the house where, legend has it, the Black Prince drowned in 1376, although the evidence suggets that he died elsewhere of cancer or multiple sclerosis
King James I visited the house in 1620 and after World War II, the exiled King Michael and Queen Ana of Romania lived at Bramshill. Sadly, Edward the Lord Zouches' only lasting legacy is the house itself.
A storm approaches from the south west - time to go
Allegedly the 3rd most haunted house in the UK, ghostly sightings are stuff of legend and there have been many sightings, even in modern times and made by credible witnesses. There are too many to mention here, but I will cite you a couple of the most popular stories, again courtesy of material informally published by the college.

Today inside the entrance hall to the house stands an Italian oak chest known as the Mistletoe Chest. The story goes that a beautiful Italian Ginevre Orsini was married upon a Christmas Eve in 1747. After the wedding and the wedding breakfast, the bride, carrying a sprig of mistletoe challenged her husband  to find her in a game of hide and seek. Her husband and family spent many hours and days searching for her to no avail. The heartbroken family left and started a new life in France.  A few years later, they returned to their ancestral home and in preparation for their arrival, a servant opened the old oak chest to look for some linen.  The chest was locked from the outside and when it was opened, revealed was the body of the bride, in her wedding dress still carrying the mistletoe.  The chest was imported into the House from Italy and the ghost of Ginevre came with it. 

The ghost of a beautiful young lady dressed in white, presumably Ginevre, has been seen often in the house and indeed whilst lodging at the house, the King of Romania asked staff to move his children to another room to prevent them from being disturbed by the lady in white who regularly walked through their bedrooms at night. The White Lady.

A Grey Lady, a member of the Cope family (who bought the house in 1749) has been seen for many years is still seen even today and she is always accompanied by the scent of lilies. This lady dressed in grey with blonde hair is always said to be sad and has been seen with tears rolling down her face. However haunting is not the exclusive job of women and there are many male spirits at the house including one man dressed in tennis gear. Ronald, the son of the last private owner of the House, Lord Brocket who died after falling from a train

There are stories of an old man with a grey beard as well as a gamekeeper accidentally killed by an arrow fired by the then Archbishop of Canterbury in 1621 whilst hunting. The nun in the chapel, the green man (Henry Cope), the Black Prince near the small pond, the gardener at the lake and the little boy on the terrace are just some of the other stories of ghostly sightings at this wonderful old house.

Sleep well

Chat soon


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Double Bubble

Today's blog is a double hatter, two stories for the price of one; a report on Cottingham Day yesterday 7 July and a visit to Burnby Hall Gardens in Pocklington, East Yorkshire today.

I had my stall with my partner in crime Linda in the Darby and Joan Hall in Cottingham for the Cottingham Day celebrations in East Yorkshire, a day celebrating the best of the village and what a fabulous day it was and the weather shone like high summer - well done Mother Nature for smiling on us just for one day! The day was fantastic and a huge success.

Our stall
I met two old school friends, neither of whom I have met for 39 years and many other friends came to say hello. I also met a friend who was in the Cottingham Dramatic Society with me a lot of years ago. We sold a bit on the stall and had a wander round the village centre and saw all sorts of stalls and events, vintage cars, a parade, Her Majesty the Queen look alike, music, games, food and fun. I was carrying quite a lot so didn't take my camera which is very unusual but I took some photo's on my phone which isn't quite the same, but here they are:
Someone's been busy polishing
Vintage and not so vintage motorcycles
Village green taken over to keep the kids happy
Vintage cars
Today I went with a friend to Burnby Hall Gardens in Pocklington, East Yorkshire, which I've been to in the dim and distant past,  to see the magnificent ponds with the nations collection of water lillies and a hungry shoals of hundreds and hundreds of huge koi carp set in beautiful gardens.

The gardens are run as a trust for the benefit of the community, left by the former owner Major Percy Marlborough Stewart who died in 1962. There is a very good modern visitors centre, a small museum and a lovely cafe. There is a small collection of birds in an aviary and hidden gardens. There's a children's play area and a Victorian garden. You can even buy some of the plants which can be found in the gardens. The prices are reasonable to get in and you should put at least two or three hours to go round everything. There are regular events, band concerts and displays for the public.

Just bear in mind the pictures show a tiny fraction of the lake and huge number of lillies (I don't know how many but there seems to be hundreds) in many acres of water. Here is an amazing bit of nonsense footage, but shows you the size, quality and voracious nature of the Koi carp in the lake:

Hope you've had a great weekend.

Chat soon.


Friday, 6 July 2012

Rain, Rain, Rain

If us British folk didn't have the weather or a British (actually he's Scottish) tennis player in the Wimbledon finals for the first time in a thousand years, we wouldn't have much to talk about. Yet again the weather dominates the headlines today as more rain deposits itself on the bulk of the UK and flooding alerts are too numerous to count. Even after the rain has stopped, and there's more forecast, river and stream levels continue to rise as flood water comes off the land.

At 35 metres above sea level, we don't have too much to worry about in terms of flooding but the grass is squelchy to walk on and plants have been damaged by the latest heavy persistent rain.  Elsewhere in the East Riding of Yorkshire, roads have been closed and homes flooded for the second time in a year. 

I was going to be party to a paranormal investigation in Lincolnshire on Saturday night, but that's been abandoned as most of it is outside and the ground is sodden.

Still on Saturday, it's Cottingham Day. Cottingham was where I was brought up. Allegedly the largest village in England (I don't think that was ever true), it's a pleasant place and Cottingham Day has been going many years. In my childhood, the fields between Cottingham and Hull were home to a show-jumping competition hosting the most famous names of the day such as Harvey Smith and other international renown stars.

These days it's much less opulent as the weather has wreaked havoc from time to time and the fields do flood. So tomorrow with my business partner Linda, we have a stall in the Darby and Joan Hall in Finkle Street safely under cover selling our angel items - part of the arts and crafts section.

It is a coincidence, but the Darby and Joan Hall has personal connections with myself and my family. The Hall has been the home of the WRVS (Women's Royal Voluntary Service) and my aunt Marjorie and her mother, my grandmother Daisy Alice were both active in parts of the service. 

My mother still serves Friday lunches at the Hall for the elderly.

My lovely Aunt Marjorie in her WRVS uniform (parts of the picture were coloured years ago) at a flower show in the Darby and Joan Hall.
The opening ceremony at the Darby and Joan Hall, Cottingham on 31 December 1954, my grandmother Daisy Alice circled at the back on the left, my aunt Marjorie on the right at the back.

It took me a while to find the pictures which I scanned many years ago from an album belonging to the hall.

Keep dry!

Chat soon