A very few of my experiments are for sale on my website very cheaply if you're interested, as I hate to throw things away. However, selling is not what this blog is about - I'd have starved to death years ago if it was - it would make me happy if you just enjoy the processes.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Snippets from Manchester.

I was told today that Birthdays are good for you. It's a proven fact apparently, because the more you have the longer you live!

I went to Manchester today to see DD1 and to celebrate her birthday.

I used to think I was a country girl but really I would miss the hubbub and bustle of a town, so I guess I'm not any more. But, there are limits, and Manchester is a large city and is too busy for me, certainly to live in. However, it's delightful to see it's people who are wonderously adventurous in many ways...so many middle aged women with red hair, so many young ladies walking round Primarkani in their hair rollers, and let's face it, it is a city that MUST have a wonderful climate with lots of sunshine, because all the people have such strong tans. Mind you, I think it must be pollution that turns the effects of the suns rays a lively orange colour.

We had lunch in footballers/wags restaurant land, a most enlightening experience. It was hard not to stare. Here's me pud! Thats a layer of cream and strawberries topped with meringue, then a layer of strawberry ice cream, then a layer of more meringue, topped with cream, sauces and toasted almonds. Burp.

DD's dessert came with a candle and three gorgeous waiters to sing her Happy Birthday.

Manchester, as far as I can tell, didn't suffer from the Luftwaffe in quite the same way as say, Coventry, Bristol, or London, and so many of the older buildings remain, sandwiched between the usual high rises.

This little chap on the left was climbing up the outside of a bank.

Finally, have a look at this brewery chimney which was in the car park. We parked underneath it so we could find the car easily, but had our fingers crossed that the chimney wouldn't fall down on it! 

What I wanted to show you is about half way up...can you see it? It's a buddlea growing out the brickwork. Isn't nature truly brilliant?

Very little to live on up there, and precious few butterflies to attract, but give life a go eh?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Well, they made me laugh

I looked at this for a long time before I saw the sandals underneath the curtain.

Go on then, which are you??

Monday, 16 August 2010

Dinner in the workhouse.

Alas, as I get older I get worse and worse at this cooking lark. Visitors this weekend were treated to lumps of various shaped nutrients and food groups (yellow, green, brown, whitish) but not much in the way of delightful fine dining. Would that I could give up entirely and eat out every day.

To the left is a photo of the theatre in Stratford. It is now nearing completion with just the road works and pavements to put in.  I've promised myself some extra visits to it in the coming years as I love the theatre and don't go often enough.  We'd been to Carluccios for the usual coffee and Chocolate Fiorentina

This little tiny butterfly/moth has perplexed me as I'm unable to identify it. It was no more than 1 to 1.5 cms across it's wingspan and was sitting happily on the marjoram. Anyone know what it is please?

A few days ago now I visited and posted about a trip to see Southwell Workhouse, and some of my friends think I have a too rosy view of life in them.  So, I've been doing some research and it's been very interesting. Hands up anyone who thinks of Dickens with Oliver Twist saying "Please sir, can I have some more", when I say the words gruel, or workhouse?

I have been back to original sources for your edification and entertainment and I plan to regail you with snippets for the next few posts!. ......

In 1737, Richard Hutton a workhouse steward, records the improvements he was able to make to the inmates diets.  He records that the diet of John Wilson, whilst he was sick for a period of 6 months,  regularly included....a pint of claret, half a pint of wine, fish, oysters, cheesecake, a 1/4lb of chocolate, 1/2 double refined sugar, 1/4lb of biscuits and conserves of roses with juleps. He also gave a recipe for Frumety, a popular pudding of the day, and which I share with you.

"Take 2 quarts of hull'd boil'd wheat, a gallon of milk, two quarts of cream, and boil them till they become pretty thick, then put in sugar and the yolks of eight or ten eggs well beaten, three pound of currants plump'd by being gently boil'd in water; put these into the furmety, give them a few walms and it will be done."

An acquired taste perhaps? But then again, my visitors might have preferred it to what I dish up!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Volcanoes in Warwickshire.

Definition: Volcano - A mountain on fire.

Compton Verney is a local art gallery about 20 minutes drive away through the Warwickshire countryside. A couple of months ago we paid a year's entry subscription, so we can now visit whenever we want.

These are a few photos of the grounds. The place is privately owned by the Moore family of Littlewoods Pools fame.

A new exhibition has just opened there called Volcanoes: Turner to Warhol. It's jolly good and well worth a visit if you're in the area. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to get round all of it as it's a very comprehensive and well researched exhibition which we both liked a lot.

The owners Private Parts (!)

 The lake/river in front of the house.

This large stone is a piece of art not a a huge rock left by a passing glacier. It's by John Frankland 2001 and is called Untitled Boulder. You are not allowed to climb on it. Harumph - on all fronts if you ask me.

Interspersed with the pictures, cartoons, sketchbooks, books, photos etc was geological information explaining the facts or otherwise portrayed in the various images.  This was fascinating in it's own right, but next to the paintings, it was enlightening and entertaining.

For example, the shape of a volcano depends on the type of magma underneath (magma being lava before it reaches the surface air) and many of the images shown for volcanos are false. This is because the average slope on a volcano is about 30 degrees and not like the little pointed mountains so often portrayed. Above is notelet I bought with the image of Mt Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai (1823) on it. His volcano is about 60 degrees!  Beautiful though.......I love the colours.

There were several paintings by him there and it's inspired me to have a play with making flat, detailed, images without using tone to give a 3D effect.

I felt that with the exception of Andy Warhol's Vesuvius,  the most dramatic paintings and the two that were my favourite images were Pierre-Jacques Volaire's (1729-1792) depiction of Vesuvius Erupting at Night,  and Turner's, (1775-1851) The Eruption of the Souffier Mountains.
                              Turner                                                                   Volaire

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Upton portraits

Yesterday was another shameless day spent in pursuit of pleasure and tea. I've posted about Upton House before so will leave only a link here.

I like to visit as there are two of my favourite portraits there. The first I've also shown you before of a rather charming young man dressed in red indian gear garnered from the States during the 19th century. Again, I long for time travel.

The second portrait I adore for the skill involved in painting it. It's of Martin Ruze and was painted in 1612 by Frans Pourbus the Younger. If you look very closely at the brush strokes, it's a marvel and makes me feel that my attempts are clumsy and overworked. You can't see a great deal of detail of the fabrics in the photo, but trust me, they are wonderful!

I have begun to try and work on the painted textile piece and have realised the information I have available in the Muybridge photos isn't sufficient enough.

So I am taking the enormous step of paying for a model to pose for me. Exciting stuff!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Stroll with a rain cloud

I've decided to try and get some regular exercise now that I don't have the dog to take me for walk.  DH and I went for our usual cup of tea at Charlecote Park but decided to have a constitutional and a stride out around the park, looking for deer which we found (below)

Unfortunately the sky started to look very black, and it seemed that our very own personal rain cloud was following us around. Eventually it caught up with us and a deluge followed.

We ran for the sanctuary of the Orangery and a cup of finest Twinings.

It's not possible - because I didn't think of it when I took the piccies - to show you the scale of this. It's a little play house and is just taller than DH's 6 foot, but not that much.....say 8/9 foot high.  You'd have to bend down to get through the door.

It belonged to the children of the Lucy family who must have had such an amazing time in it. It's got little tables and chairs and a tiny tea service etc. Even it's own fireplace - which works!

Finally another tree. I thought it looked fabulous and stark. All the photos were taken with my new phone...which I can just about understand.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Southwell Minster and Workhouse..I ramble on a bit.

It's taking time to realize that I can go through life without looking at my watch all the time. Being sans dog means no walkies to have to get back for 3 times a day. I can get up when I like and spend the afternoon in a pub if I want to. Odd.

Sooo, yesterday, we spent the first whole day out that we have done in ages. We visited Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire, and then on to the Southwell Workhouse.

The minster was a beautiful building and we had lunch in it's cafeteria. Sadly it involved lentils and gave me wind!

When my children were younger, I used to pin poetry to the loo walls. (hey, what can I say? I was a keen Mother!) At Christmas time, this used to change to seasonal poetry, including Christmas in the Workhouse, which used to reduce us all to tears.  So it was with mixed feelings that I entered Southwell Workhouse.

Workhouses were built to discourage the poor from claiming poor relief. The 1834 Poor Law made local Parishes responsible for the welfare of paupers, so the response by ratepayers was to build new purpose built work houses for their care, whilst at the same time cutting the costs involved. Eventually there were 600 Union workhouses across the country.

The idea was to make the conditions inside harsh and uncompromising so that people tried to manage without going into them. The dread in Victorian society was that able bodied people who could work, wouldn't, because life was easier for them to scrounge off the Parish ie "the idle and undeserving." (a saying which is available tattooed around the mugs and gruel bowls on sale in the shop)

 So, we have to assume that they succeeded in that and you only went to a workhouse if there was no alternative. There was space in the Southwell workhouse for 158 paupers from 49 local parishes. On arrival, families were split into male, female and children, and were kept separate.  Clothes were taken and stored for when they left, and a uniform given. Everyone was washed and examined by a doctor, before being taken to their workplace/dormitory.

The old Poor Law divided the poverty stricken into three categories: the 'able-bodied' poor who could not find employment or as they called them, "the rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars who were to be whipped or otherwise punished for their disinclination to work", and the 'impotent' poor such as the old sick or handicapped, who were to be relieved in almshouses.

Life was hard and people went hungry.... punishments were beyone harsh; the one that always gets me is for an 11 year old boy who was hung for stealing a gooseberry pie; an action probably caused by hunger, but deemed a capital offence as it was a crime against property and ownership. No quarter was given, and no sympathy for the plight of a small child.

The new Poor Law divided "inmates" up into Able-bodied, Old and Infirm, and Children, and each had it's own section in the workhouse, with the Masters (who looked after the whole workhouse) quarters in the middle where he could observe closely. His wife was the Matron, and they looked after the entire building with 4 helpers, one of which was the children's teacher. Medical help, and other help, was given by part timers who came into the workhouse when paid to do so.

Every able bodied person was expected to work for their keep. The women cooked, cleaned and looked after the housekeeping and the men did stonebreaking, hole digging, oakum picking, and many other boring menial tasks. They were deliberately interminable to discourage people from entering, or staying longer than absolutely necessary. Whitewashing walls seemed to be a job done very frequently at Southwell.

Having said that, and looking at the positives, the workhouse was completely self sufficient, having it's own cows for meat and milk and large gardens for growing produce. The entire workhouse was cleaned from top to bottom every week, and was proud that it was without fleas or bedbugs...something extraordinary for the period. Food was protein heavy, and inmates were fed 3 times a day. There were tobacco rations for the men, and boiled sweets for the women. Everyone got up at either 6 or 7am depending on the season, and worked for 12 hours. They had an hour for breakfast, an hour for lunch and half an hour for supper. They all went to bed at 8pm.

This photo is of the toilets. Holes in the ground with a wall for modesty.

Children were separated from their parents from the start and were kept apart (even the staircases were separate for men/women/and children....an amazingly clever criss crossing of stairwells that you could only see the underneaths of) This seems cruel, and was, but each child received an education which they wouldn't have received outside the workhouse. It was viewed as a way out of poverty, which I thought was quite enlightened.  It's my personal opinion, that in the days before birth control, segregation may have come as a relief to some, especially as the mortality rate for women and children was extremely high.Remember also, that we still, in this country, send very small children miles away from home, to boarding schools, supposedly for their educational and social benefit.

Now, having said that, there was an assumption by the Victorians that able bodied people could work and were being lazy and therefore had to be punished for it. But the poor law was aimed primarily at agricultural poverty, and took no account of the lack of available work caused by the growing Industrial Revolution. This caused even more disastrous problems before people like Booth and Rowntree emphasised the importance of economic factors..unemployment and low wages...rather than moral factors in causing poverty.

It wasn't until 1948 that the national system of poor relief was finally ended when the National Insurance Act of 1911 began to provide social insurance and it was gradually extended to become universal in 1946. For which we say Thank The Plop For That, and even though the NHS and Welfare State occasionally limp along, it was an attempt, a start, at equality and care for everyone. Knowing that if you or someone you love is sick, and will receive medical treatment regardless of who or what you are and that it is free for everyone, is a comfort beyond measure.

Sorry to rabbit on...I like social history! See what an afternoon sans dog will bring you!