Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Odsbodikins* and nonesense

*Just to clarify, odsbodikins was an oath first coined by
Henry Fielding (the author of Don Quixote) in 1734.
A bodkin is a thick, blunt, wide-eyed type of needle used
for drawing tape through a hem.  Now let us begin .....

Silver needle case, Prague 1870.  The scoop at the end of the bodkin was
used to take wax from the ear to apply to the cotton making it not only
easier to use but also waterproof.  Yeuk.

Needles and pins may not be quite such common household items
as once they were but still, in this modern high-tech world, no
self-respecting needlewoman would be without them.  They haven't
come up with an app to replace them yet but give it time.

What bright spark designed this packaging when just one jab from it's
contents could bring a dirigible crashing to the ground?

Back in the days of my granny old Ada Hendriks, a Court
dressmaker by profession, they were the vital tools of her trade.
She once managed to swallow one of the many pins she would
always hold at the ready between her pursed lips unlike Mary
Rose who sat on a pin - Mary rose!  But I digress as usual.

The caption for this pin cushion can only be "Rome wasn't
stitched in a day."

Before I lost my "thread" I was trying to tell you that, with boring
regularity, she would chant out in a sing-song voice "See a pin and
pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck.  See a pin and let it
lay, all the day you won't have any!"  That woman could cast a shadow
over the brightest summer's day in the whole of Bright Summer's
Day Land.

Not really my cup of tea.

In the Middle Ages, needles and pins (which were often used to fasten
clothing) were relatively expensive and husbands gave their wives
"pin money" for their explicit purchase.  This gave rise to another
tedious old rhyme which runs:

"Needles and pins, needles and pins;
When a man marries his troubles begin."
(Stick it to him girls!)

Sewing needles made with bone, shell or thorns have been around nearly
as long as man himself (or should that be woman?) and in London in the
1600's needle makers formed themselves into a guild and worked alongside
the tailors who were all based in Threadneedle Street in the City, hence
the name.  Not to be left out the Pinmakers or "pinners" formed a guild of
their own which must really have given the other lot "the needle".

Clap your hands and they all fly away.

In 1536 when Henry VIII (the one with all the wives) brought about the
Dissolution of the Monasteries, he nearly brought about the Dissolution
of the Needles too - the monks were renowned for their needlemaking.
But then the "pin" dropped and Henry passed an Act in 1543 encouraging
others to manufacture good needles and pins.  Oooof! - they might have
invented velcro a bit earlier had he not done so.

A "Zen cushion"

Now I must stir myself and get on with some digging or I fear I shall
get pins and needles in my bum from sitting too long.
Gadzooks, stick me if I don't.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Counting rhyme, or is there more to it than that?

One, two buckle my shoe.
Three, four knock at the door.
Five, six pick up sticks.
Seven, eight lay them straight.
Nine, ten a big fat hen.
Eleven, twelve dig and delve.
Thirteen, fourteen draw the curtain.
Fifteen, sixteen the maid's in the kichen.
Seventeen, eighteen she's in waiting.
Nineteen, twenty my stomach's empty.


Most of you will probably have some distant recollection of this
old nursery song which dated back to late eighteenth century USA.
It is believed to have originated around 1780 in Wrentham,
Massachusetts and was first published in a book called Songs for
the Nursery in London in 1805.

If you thought that it's sole purpose in life was as a stealth tool to
teach children to count they you'd be wrong because there's much 
more to it than that.  The lyrics, for want of a better description,
actually tell the tale of a typical day in the life of a lace maker
back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

One, two up they get and buckle on their shoes.
Three, four nip downstairs, tap on the door and into the
workshop (no long commutes in those days).

Five, six pick up the bobbins as it's most likely that's the type of
lace they were making, although this could be a reference to the
sticks used in conjunction with lace making machines of the period.

Seven, eight lay them straight all ready to commence work.
Nine, ten a big fat hen is the name often used for the lace makers
pillows that supported their work.

Day passes - work over!

Eleven, twelve dig and delve, nip out the back and gather some
veggies for supper.
Thirteen, fourteen draw the curtains as it's time to get cosy.
Fifteen, sixteen the maid's* in the kitchen preparing the evening meal.
Seventeen, eighteen she's "in waiting" all ready to dish up.
Nineteen, twenty the lace maker's little tummy is rumbling so someone
say grace quick so the meal can begin.
(*Maid was a term for a young girl at that time and didn't mean servant.)

A big fat hen.

And now it gets silly because I couldn't resist adding a bit of my own:

Twenty one, twenty two take the dog for a poo.
Twenty three, twenty four a quick sweep of the floor.
Twenty five, twenty six a game of cards, some parlour tricks.
Twenty seven, twenty eight off to bed, it's really late.

Night, night lace maker.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

All that history just a short squelch away

St Nicholas, Buckenham should really be renamed
St Nicholas the Forlorn standing as it does in splendid
isolation amid the fields to the north of the River Yare
and quarter of a mile from the nearest road making it
approachable only on foot via a muddy footpath.

St Nick's

It's one of only five churches in Norfolk to have a slender,
completely octagonal 13th century west tower.  There's even
an additional 17th century dovecote, lined with brick nesting
boxes, half way up - coo!  Inside, the almost baroque in style,
tower arch was infilled with lace-like tracery as part of the
19th century restoration work.

Entrance to the bell tower

The bell cast circa 1290 and one of the oldest in East Anglia
was nicked in the 1970's and never recovered although it beats
me where you could stash a bloody great bell for very long
without a few questions being asked.

It's always angels

And to top it all off the stained glass above where the altar
once stood is by none other than SC Yarrington of Norwich.
I just knew you'd be impressed by that!

The ancient font

This hauntingly lovely old building is no longer used for regular 
worship and, after extensive wanton damage inflicted
by architectural vandals during the 1960's and 1970's it is
now thankfully in the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust.

Can you see the ghostly chorister too?

It's both a sad place, because of the widespread green mould
and scarred walls, yet at the same time joyous because of all
the treasures it still contains for the curious to seek out.
Anyone may enter at any time as it's never locked offering
sanctuary or a place for quiet reflection - even, in my
case, shelter from a sudden downpour.

Oh!  I nearly forgot to mention .......
the jolly little foot pumped organ is still in perfect working
order.  How do I know?  Because I couldn't resist belting out
a couple of verses of onward Christian Soldiers on it with
my cousin Jan singing a lusty solo in the choir.  
Magnificent - goosebumps (if not thunderbolts) all round!
Naughty girl Julia, be sure your sins will find you out.

Please close the door when you leave.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

St Patrick's Day

An Irish Prayer

May God give you .......
For every storm - a rainbow;
For every tear - a smile;
For every care - a promise
And a blessing in each trial.

For every problem life sends
- a faithful friend to share;
For every sigh - a sweet song
And an answer for each prayer.

A four-legged Irish Guard on parade for St Patrick's Day.

A Long Dog Prayer

PS  And could he sort out an Irish wolfhound for
me please if he just happens to find one going spare?

Monday, 14 March 2016

Afternoon tea

"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour (or so)
dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea."
Henry James


Dunston Hall front facade

Afternoon tea is the most quintessential of English customs which was
first popularised by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, in 1840.
Evening meals, at that time, were served fashionably late at around
8pm and poor old Anna used to get the nibbles well before that.

Not your average greasey spoon!

It was she who kicked the whole thing off by inviting a few friends to
join her for a cup of tea and a slice of cake about 4pm and by 1880
it had blossomed into a social event.  Upper class bints and members
of the aristocracy would get themselves all tarted up before getting
stuck into their high teas and this delightful custom still continues today.

We weren't the only VIP's who'd rocked up for a cuppa!

Think cucumber sanies with the crusts cut orf, scones with cream and
jam, cakes, pastries and Ceylon tea all served up on the best bone china.
Think Claridges, the Dorchester, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and
you've got the picture.  My friend Angela, who was the birthday girl
last weekend thought Dunston Hall.

Very posh apples and pears.

The hall is a mock Elizabethan, Grade II listed building in the village
of Dunston, in the fair county of Norfolk.  Construction began in 1859
to the design of the architect John Chessell Buckler and records show
that it occupies the site of a much earlier post-medieval building.

You could certainly see what you were eating.

Dunston Hall was derelict for a time and was renovated and opened as
a four star hotel in 1993 to much acclaim.  It stands in 150 acres of
wooded parkland and boasts an 18 hole golf course, indoor swimming
pool, two fine restaurants and 169 en-suite bedrooms.  It's quite a gaff!

Mock-Elizabethan chimneys nearly as good as Hampton Court.

So last Saturday seven of us girls swanned off in a convoy, done up to the
nines in our posh frocks on a wave of perfume.  We sipped with little
fingers raised, we nibbled with starched white serviettes on our laps,
we gossiped, we laughed, we put the world to rights and we had the best
of times but we didn't hit the champagne until we got back to Acle and
none of us had to drive any more.

Touch of the William Morris about thi window.

Whose birthday is it next - I'm getting peckish again?

Now that's a frame just begging for a sampler in it.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Second World War mystery

Whilst on a trip to see my cousin's new house only a
few miles away from the Lock-Up we came across a little
piece of history - one of the intriguing Norfolk red barns;
a story closely guarded by the Official Secrets Act
until recent years.

Back in 1941 a young Flight Commander returning in his
Blenheim from a bombing mission over Germany spotted an
anomaly on the ground below and circled back for a second 
look.  What he saw were straight lines and arrows made out 
of piles of lime (used widely in the local sugar beet industry)
all of which were in close proximity to a big red barn.

Beighton Red Barn

The find was reported and a blanket of secrecy was immediately
thrown over the matter.  The sites discovered were around the
villages of Sporle, Beighton, Cantley, Halvergate, Paston,
Guestwick and South Repps.

Were they intended to be secret enemy landing strips or were
they cunning British Government decoys laid out to draw German
bombers away from the real airfields?  Norfolk being both very
flat and bordered by the North Sea was the ideal home to the
many airbases constructed at the time.

Nothing to do with this story, I just like the picture.

So - cunning ruse or sinister enemy plot?
You'll have to decide for yourself because, despite the release
of the MI5 papers, the conculsions of the inestigation have
never been released.  And all on my doorstep - whatever next?

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Written in stones

Man at work

The Syrian migrant and sculptor Nizar Ali Badr is a bit of a mystery
and one which I'm not having much luck solving.

No one seems to know exactly where he came from nor indeed his
present whereabouts.  His last known address was 
Lattaquie in Syria.

The only discernible fact seems to be that he reflects his life and
circumstances through his work and that his story is told with
very plain, ordinary old stones like you'd pick up on the beach.

I'm not even sure if this is really his true identity as the more I
delve the more the name Jabal Safoon crops up as well.  Are they
one and the same person?  I really don't know.

But what really is apparent is that the stones speak to him and
then he, in turn, speaks to us through them.  And its quite a
tale - peope, love, children, joy but also sadness, war,
death and exile.  Nizar Ali - his life in stones.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Short and curlies


If there's one thing I've noticed about stitchers over the years it's
that, beside an abiding passion for sewing, which can at times
reach manic proportions if not kept firmly in check especially
in the stash department, most of you seem to share your lives
with a furry chum or two.

Bugger off, I want to sew.

As you know, I've had my fair share of four legged companions
who've slept all over my current projects, nested in my sewing
basket, trodden all over my threads with muddy paws when I'm
not looking and even, on one occasion, played tug of war with a
sampler they'd stolen from the washing line.

Not my knitting please.

The one thing they all had in common was that they somehow managed
to get their hairs stitched into my work.  Many's the time that strands
of hair that simply wouldn't brush off have actually become an
integral part of the fabric, stubbornly refusing to be removed even
when I've taken my best tweezers to the blighters.

Those of you who wondered why I called the sampler "Flemish Giant"
need look no further.

But I have to admit that today was a first.
I don't currently have any animals (three fat goldfish don't really count)
neither have any come to visit recently which might explain away the
presence of a wiry thread of hair I spotted sticking out in the
middle of a recently executed carnation head.

Was it anything to do with you Scrut?

Oh! the shame of it dear stitchers.
I knew instantly from whence it came.

I've finally gone that extra mile and, inadvertently I might add,
stitched a little strand of my DNA into my work -
it was an errant pube!

At the beginning of this post you will have seen my warning so
you view the following image at your peril
- it's a "nutscape" and the keen eyed amongst you will
instantly see that it contains "flash" photography,
certainly has graphic content and contains "nuts",
Have a nice day.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Shedding for Beginners - Chapter II

or to put it in layman's terms, nought to shed in thirty minutes!

I've travelled in worse.

You could instantly tell that it was going to be a smooth
ride with C & C Sheds of Great Yarmouth, when
they picked me up from the Lock Up in their lorry.
This did, as you can imagine, raise an eyebrow or two and
caused net curtains to twitch, as I clambered rather inelegantly
up into the cab and dug myself a space to perch among
the empty take-away boxes, coke cans and sundry items
of discarded clothing that lay strewn about.

The "boys" hard at work.

There was also a very heavy smell of fag smoke clinging to
the interior of the cab and it's not until you've been smoke
free for many years that you come to realise what a vile
pong it actually is.  And there speaks a reformed 40 a day girl.
I really don't know how I found the time to smoke all those
looking back on it.

I wonder where my sewing lamp will go?

Once safely up the slope and past the heavy security gate
installed to stop vegetables staging a break out during the long
hours of darkness, the "boys" were eager to begin.  I use
the word boys advisedly as the boss at C & C Sheds had
definately not picked out his tastiest two labourers for the job.
Still you pays your money and you takes your chance and
I got what could only have been his uncle and great grandfather.
Better luck next time when I decide to have an extension added.

That's a raspberry cane in case you're wondering.

The sleepers which form the base were tossed onto the
chosen site with an alacrity born of practice.  They were swiftly
followed by the floor panel.  Then with much hammering
and the occasional soft cuss lost on the wind The Savoy on
Plot 19 swiftly took shape.  A quick dab of creosote on any
exposed untreated surfaces, a squirt of mastic as the window
was inserted and we were almost there.

All done and dusted.  Welcome to The Savoy!

I discovered at this juncture that neither of the boys had any
sense of humour. With a very straight face, I told them
not to go into the shed to finish off unless they took their boots
off as I didn't want my new floor made all dirty.  They were
already undoing the laces before the penny dropped and
I don't think either of them saw the funny side.

Better to be on the inside pissing out than on the
outside pissing in I always say!

The cheque writing ceremony passed without hitch or hindrance,
 we shook hands on the matter and they left me standing all
alone on the allotments next the marshes with my beautiful
new shed.  Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

Chapter III coming soon - What to put in a shed!