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, 30 April 2011

Where there's life there's hope.

I'm not sure you can see this, but look closely at the trunk of the tree. It's mere fragments; an outside crust of bark; a husk with no middle.

Yet, it's begun to grow vigorously from the merest, tiniest, bit of sappy wood.

Confirms the fact - which at times I have great difficulty believing - that everything really wants to live if it can. (Except humans I guess)












I've also spent some time lately watching 16 nests in a heronery. Lots of chicks which excite me no end. However, I'm refraining from telling you where or giving pictures as there are anglers around who would do harm to the birds simply because they take food from rivers they want to fish in.

Bad day to dye!

I wasn't going to be, but, ended up glued to that Wedding Thingy yesterday.

I wanted to spend the day dyeing and tried to do both things at the same time which probably explains why the dyeing colours turned out to be a bit odd. Oh, I was also making batches of ice cream too. I might have got a little distracted!


The colours I was after were a turquoise blue with orange.

The orange mix I sometimes use is 1tsp fuchsia or magenta and 2tps yellow or gold mixed; the blue was a straight forward turquoise from the pot.

The 4 batches had differing amounts of the dye mixes in each.

So three colours mixed, should mean that all the dyed pieces go together. Not on this occasion. I like the texture of space dyeing as opposed to low emersion/bag/bottle dyeing, and am pleased with that,  but the colour results are a little grim.

Ode to Annabel by Procion MX dyes in turquoise, yellow and magenta.
(sort of!)

When shall we three meet again?
Never.
We worked her hard, but all in vain.

When the hurlyburly's done,
When the battle's lost and won.
When dye is cast into the soda measure
You reaped no luck and gained grim pleasure.

Fair is foul and foul is fair
You didn't love us, you didn't care.
Wedding and ice cream spent your time
You made a mess, try not to whine.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Easter break and time to start again.

We've had some lovely visitors over the Easter period which means very little has been done on the creative side.

I have a "studio" but when we have visitors, it doubles up as a dining room and means everything has to be cleared away. This is sometimes a good thing, as I get myself into a right old pickle with bits and bobs all over the place, and a good sort out lifts the spirits.

However I'm back in a nice tidy studio again, and whilst I ponder my next creation I thought I'd revisit this painting on the left. I've been playing around with perspectives and colours and have overpainted a few times already. I didn't think it was a good idea to cut the painting into pieces by putting a tent pole on the right hand side, but it's where I want to hang some lanterns for interesting lighting effects (she says, hopefully!)

I think I may take out the chap with dreadlocks playing the guitar at the back and replace him with another drummer seated at a drum set. But, I shall put it aside again for a while to let the paint dry and carry on with a textile piece.

I've signed up for a life drawing class at the beginning of May with Neil Moore as I feel in need of refreshing and learning drawing skills. It's in Shottery which is a very pleasant hamlet just on the outside of Stratford upon Avon town centre. If you fancy sharing the day too and saying hello or catching up, details are on his blog.

I have recently been in touch with an old school friend or two, and am going to make a wall hanging as a present, inspired by Mediterranean colours and lizards. So perhaps a spot of dyeing ought to be next.

I also went to view the Life (Measures of Time) that is currently hanging in the Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum. Very difficult thing to do I think as I always make my own toes curl; one of the reasons I hurtle around the FOQ seeing everyone else's stuff, but avoiding mine. Anybody else ever feel that I wonder?

Just thought I'd leave you with this photo of the Dell. You should have heard the bees on this lot last week!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Ginger Ice Cream with Poached Rhubarb

Now that Easter is over and my visitors have gone, I thought I'd share a recipe for the above with you. Please feel free to cut and paste if you wish.

I sort of knew ginger went with rhubarb, but haven't tried it. When I saw this recipe from Gordon Ramsey, I thought I'd give it a go. It's lovely, and eveyone seemed to enjoy it, so I can heartily recommend it. I have a new ice cream maker so it was a doddle. I suppose you could still make it without by whipping in stages as it freezes.

Poached rhubarb (it goes a lovely shade of pink if you can leave it in the fridge for a couple of days or more. It's supposed to keep for a week in the fridge.)

400g rhubarb
250g caster sugar (seems a lot when you're measuring it out, but was just right; not too sweet)
500ml water
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped

Ginger Ice Cream

250ml whole milk
250ml double cream
15g fresh ginger, peeled and grated very finely
6 large egg yolks
80g caster sugar
40g stem ginger in syrup, sliced into thin matchsticks (optional)

Rhubarb: Trim tops and ends and cut into 3cm pieces. Put sugar, water and vanilla pod and seeds into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat slightly and simmer foir 2-3 minutes until the syrup has thickened slightly. Tip in the rhubarb and poach for 3-5minutes until just tender but still holding its shape. Remove rhubarb with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl.

Boil the syrup for 8-10minutes until reduced by 2/3rds to a syrupy sauce, and pour over the rhubarb. Leave to cool and chill.

Ice Cream: Put milk, cream and grated ginger into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl. When the milk and cream begin to bubble up the sides of the pan, remove from heat and slowly trickle it into the egg and sugar mixture stirring continuously. When fully incorporated, strain into a clean saucepan (you really don't want the ginger there anymore) Return to a low heat and stir constantly until the mix will lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. You have custard!

Remove from the heat and stire in the stem ginger. Leave to cool. Pour into and ice cream machine and churn until almost firm. Transfer to a container and freeze.

Ginger Ice Cream with Poached Rhubarb

Now that Easter is over and my visitors have gone, I thought I'd share a recipe for the above with you. Please feel free to cut and paste if you wish.

I sort of knew ginger went with rhubarb, but haven't tried it. When I saw this recipe from Gordon Ramsey, I thought I'd give it a go. It's lovely, and eveyone seemed to enjoy it, so I can heartily recommend it. I have a new ice cream maker so it was a doddle. I suppose you could still make it without by whipping in stages as it freezes.

Poached rhubarb (it goes a lovely shade of pink if you can leave it in the fridge for a couple of days or more. It's supposed to keep for a week in the fridge.)

400g rhubarb
250g caster sugar (seems a lot when you're measuring it out, but was just right; not too sweet)
500ml water
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped

Ginger Ice Cream

250ml whole milk
250ml double cream
15g fresh ginger, peeled and grated very finely
6 large egg yolks
80g caster sugar
40g stem ginger in syrup, sliced into thin matchsticks (optional)

Rhubarb: Trim tops and ends and cut into 3cm pieces. Put sugar, water and vanilla pod and seeds into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat slightly and simmer foir 2-3 minutes until the syrup has thickened slightly. Tip in the rhubarb and poach for 3-5minutes until just tender but still holding its shape. Remove rhubarb with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl.

Boil the syrup for 8-10minutes until reduced by 2/3rds to a syrupy sauce, and pour over the rhubarb. Leave to cool and chill.

Ice Cream: Put milk, cream and grated ginger into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl. When the milk and cream begin to bubble up the sides of the pan, remove from heat and slowly trickle it into the egg and sugar mixture stirring continuously. When fully incorporated, strain into a clean saucepan (you really don't want the ginger there anymore) Return to a low heat and stir constantly until the mix will lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. You have custard!

Remove from the heat and stire in the stem ginger. Leave to cool. Pour into and ice cream machine and churn until almost firm. Transfer to a container and freeze.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Looking at some favourite paintings to get some ideas

I've posted about Upton House before and I paid another visit today. This time it was to look at the paintings rather than the house.  I just wanted to see the ones which are fast becoming favourites. I like to study the brushwork and composition, and also look for inspiration from the meanings and processes involved. My memory isn't very good so I need to keep checking!


 (photo of the tulips in the 1930's garden - perfection in pink)


Having a camera on your phone is ideal to take little shots to remind you of things. They are not as clear as a more powerful digital camera, but handy. Much quicker and easier than a notebook and sketching, even if there's a few blurred outlines. National Trust properties usually allow you to photograph these days, but not all, so it's best to check rather than take my word for it.

 Now this chap on the right is an absolute favourite from a painting point of view. I love it for the details of his clothes and his skin tones. The beard and wrinkles are just perfect.

The volunteer steward saw me looking and said that it was her favourite too and didn't he look kind?

I didn't argue but to me his eyes are so shrewd. He's a man with undercurrents of hardness. He was Henry 3rd of France' Secretary of State, so not a man given to naivety. He was 84 when this was painted so he got to a ripe old age; not easy for many reasons, so I think he knew how to look after himself.


This one has "Rembrant" underneath, but isn't.

I love the light reflecting on the fabrics.


 Love the horse. The muscles are so wonderfully done. This is a small painting of one of the French kings. It measures about 8" square.
 I absolutely love this one on the left. It's called Death of the Virgin by Brugel (the elder)

As you can see it's very very dark on the whole left side and you can see people in the shadows if you look. The focus is the light from the candle being held in front of the Virgin. It casts wonderful shadows into the room. Spell binding. I could gaze at it for hours.

Conversely, these two give me the creeps.

I'm really interested in using gold leaf in paintings. I have tried bits as experiments only, but I like the effects of it in backgrounds.
And another icon with gold leaf and egg tempera.  I'd still like to try a small miniature sized painting soon, but I have to get to grips with layering techniques, and there just so much to do...I need another few hours per day please.

It came out like this....

 It didn't turn out to be anything spectacular as you can see but there are definite possibilities and I will begin working on it today.  It will alter substantially from this!

The chemical water (as opposed to straight water) did help to fix the colour after all. Very little came out in the washing process meaning that it all took.  I think I would use it again for painting.

This looks just like the underpainting I do for a portrait, so I'm hopeful.
Life - Measures of Time, will be at the Leamington Spa art gallery and museum from Friday until middle of June, if anyone is around and wants to look.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Another one begins.

I made this hanging on the left a while back, and I'm using it as inspiration for another piece.

In truth, as it evolves, the new piece bears little resemblance, as the subject matter is so different. I have used the idea of a moon though, and the format of strongly divided areas with horizontal lines.














The first thoughts were to do something related to yesterday's posting on tulips, but things often change as you get stuck into them, and although my ideas for formats and colours remain the same, the subject matter has morphed back to more hogweed. I know, I know, more hogweed! They're just such a useful shape.



So, I have soda soaked my cotton, and have waxed some lines on the surface for texture. I've used soy wax...a new thing for me. I'd heard it's a lot easier to wash out than batik wax so have my fingers crossed. I hate that waxy residue you get with batik even when you take great care to get it out.



The cloth when dry, was put onto the easel, and I used pencils and marker pens to decide on the lines and broad areas of colour.

This photo shows how many times I changed my mind.


 Then it was just a matter of preparing to dye.

You don't need heaps of photos of someone dyeing, but I will tell you my problems and errors this time around.

I use bin bags as sheeting under my soda soaked cloth so that it's easy to wrap for curing. One goes on the top as I paint to stop the dye mix drying out. It stops working if it does.
 Today I used chemical water which is a mixture of Urea and Calgon with warm water. Normally I don't bother but thought I'd see if it made a difference.

I then thickened this with manutex (seaweed) Now, I should have looked up the recipe for mixing manutex but didn't. I went by the proportions on the label, and ended up with something far far too thick for use. It was then a real pain to thin down.

In the end I mixed my dye powders with water and then combined this with the manutex.  What a palava and a mess.



I'm using just 3 colours. A warm yellow, like orange, a dark clear blue, and black.








I want the top section with the moon to be fairly light, so the dye mix has a lot of manutex in it to lighten the colour (less dye, more manutex = lighter colours)

And so on down the cloth, changing the amount of dye according to how I felt.




The bottom section was to be almost black.  I decided to use a ruler and make marks on the cloth before screen printing over them with black.

The colour always takes immediately, so the first colour you use is hard to alter, which can be useful as in this case, or a problem if you make a mistake!


Everything is wrapped in plastic, curing, for 24 hours. I'll let you know how I get on.  If it's not very good (who can say at the moment) then it will be a great opportunity to add other things to it to make it better.




Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Tulips

This is a page from one of my altered books.

The crosses in the background were put on after seeing a winner in a local art competition. The artist had filled a piece of A3 paper with small crosses done with a biro. I believe it's abstract expressionism, but it's winning caused a furore.

So, I doodled biro crosses on my tulips, which could be cross stitch, amongst text perhaps, rather than abstract expressionism!





 I have some beautiful tulips in the garden at the moment. I love the way the sun shines through the petals to make them glow. So warm, so vibrant.


I thought I would do some preparitory work on a piece involving orange tulips but with the design more as the altered book.

Just thinking out loud for the moment.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Clevedon Pier

Clevedon is a very small sleepy town on the coast of the Bristol Chanel in North Somerset, England. Not much of a beach, because there's no sand, but there's rocks to climb on and seaweed to slip on. Its at it's best on a stormy winters evening, when the waves crash over the wall, and into the road which passes right next to it. Enormous fun dodging the spray.

It's such a little sleepy place that sometimes it's not open! We've turned up at 4 o'clock for a spot of tea to find everything shut and no one around.  Check for signs of life before setting forth! 


The Pier
It's an assumption on my part that piers exist all around the world, and they probably don't.

A pier is a platform on legs or pillars projecting from the shore into the sea, usually having places to eat and entertainment at the end.

On the left is Clevedon Pier, which is one of the few original Victorian piers in existence.




Why do a posting about Clevedon Pier? Well, it's because I spent an awful lot of my youth playing around this area and it's sort of close to my heart.

I recently went to a school reunion, and I ended up here simply because I couldn't stay away; I had to visit.

I had tea and cake on the end of the pier, in the afternoon sunshine, watching the waves and the seagulls. Tea was in a paper cup and the cake had icing and a jelly sweet on top, and was served on a paper plate. The cake was ever so slightly hard around the edges. Bliss. Anything more lavish would have been wrong and not in the spirit of the thing at all!
The two small pictures on the right are old images from postcards and newspaper articles showing the original pier before the disaster in the 1970's (a disaster which is in no way connected to myself or my misbegotten youth.)







It was built in 1869 and cost £10,000 (you know how I like to try and update you on the costs of things, so this is the equivalent of £712,000 today, if you use the retail price index for your guide, and £5,980,000 if you use average earnings.)


It is the only intact Grade 1 listed pier after Brighton's West Pier partially collapsed in 2002 and then caught fire in 2003.

Clevedon is on the coast of the Bristol Channel which has the second highest tidal range in the world, so it was designed with thin legs which withstand the water pressure better than thick ones. Hence the elegant look.

I understand it was built with a job lot of steel bought from Isambard Kingdom Brunel's failed Barlow rail system in South Wales.

In 1970, following routine tests on the load capacity of the decking, the whole of the middle section fell into the sea. I remember that at the time, the council, who owned the pier, weren't going to spend money on renovating it, and wanted to demolish it, but following a public enquiry and lots of pressure from interested people, including John Betjeman, a Preservation Trust was formed and they began fund raising. They sold brass plaques which you could buy with your name engraved on, and these were fastened to the boards and seats along the entire length of the pier.















Very sadly, the Pier Hotel, literally next to the pier, and where I did a fair bit of illicit drinking is boarded up because the owners couldn't afford the repair work needed. I believe however, it's now been sold for development and is going to be a hotel and flats. I wouldn't mind one, I admit.
 In 1995 a Lottery grant enabled the full restoration to begin and it was completed in 1998; it was dismantled and taken away to nearby Portishead - where I lived - in order to restore it. It was actually opened by the great great grandson of the Chairman of the original Clevedon Pier Company, which was very appropriate.

















View from the tearoom back along the pier to the old part of the town.













Gazing out to sea whilst eating cake.








Below, in the very far distance, is the new bridge spanning the Bristol Channel. It takes traffic to and from Wales. It's called the Second Severn Crossing  It's highly amusing because there's a toll to go into Wales, but it's free to come out and go into England. Why??

I put the camera right up against the planks, so you could see the gaps between them.

Not everyone likes walking on piers because of the vertigo inducing gaps. You can see the sea, and the structure whether you want to or not.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Looking backwards

Looking backwards is filling my time at the moment. Reunions and family trees.

I'm also working on a project which isn't ready to show yet, but I'll leave you for now with the finished Bamboo 2 piece. I've played around with the painting a bit more and now consider it done. It will be at foq.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The best fruit cake in the world?

Not a textile posting as you will gather, but I was thinking about sewing when I was cooking if that's any consolation.

When I was expecting my first child, I went completely off fruit cake and didn't eat it again for 28 years.

This Christmas, probably because I was inspired by a TV programme, I thought I'd make one. I tentatively tried  a little bit and loved its moist squishyness.  It's very easy to make and you can make it at the last minute as it can be eaten a couple of days after baking, but probably improves with keeping a bit! Why keep such delights for Christmas?

So, I consider myself cured of the pregnancy food fad of hating fruit cake, and having just finished making another one,  I'm sharing the love, and a good recipe.

Fruit cake - best ever.

2lbs mixed dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, prunes, apricots, whatever you have and like)
1/2 pint dry cider.
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
6oz nuts (almonds, hazlenuts, pecans, again whatever you like) I used dessicated coconut and ground almonds as that's all that I had.
8oz butter
8oz soft brown sugar
4 eggs
8oz plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
At least 6 tblsps of apple brandy, or brandy, or rum (whichever you have, it's for pouring over whilst warm...the cake that is, not you)

Method:

Chop any large pieces of fruit so everything is the size of a raisin.

Put the fruit in a pan with the cider and bring to the boil, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool. The fruit should absorb all the liquid, but if it hasn't pour it away.

Cream the butter and sugar with the rinds of the orange and lemon. Add the eggs and mix well.

Stir in the flour, with the spices. Add the chopped nuts and dried fruit, adding enough lemon and orange juice to make a soft dropping consistency.

Put it in an 8" cake tin, which has 2 layers of greaseproof paper. Wrap a thick layer of brown paper or newspaper around the tin, and secure with string. Place the tin on a baking sheet with more brown paper between the baking sheet and the cake tin.

Cook at 150C for 3/4 hours. - if it's getting too brown, put some newspaper or brown paper over the top.

When the cake is cooked, and while hot, prick it all over with a fine skewer and pour over the apple brandy etc. Leave for a further 2 hours before removing from the tin.  I mix my grog with the remains of the fruit juice for extra tang.

The best fruit cake in the world?

Not a textile posting as you will gather, but I was thinking about sewing when I was cooking if that's any consolation.

When I was expecting my first child, I went completely off fruit cake and didn't eat it again for 28 years.

This Christmas, probably because I was inspired by a TV programme, I thought I'd make one. I tentatively tried  a little bit and loved its moist squishyness.  It's very easy to make and you can make it at the last minute as it can be eaten a couple of days after baking, but probably improves with keeping a bit! Why keep such delights for Christmas?

So, I consider myself cured of the pregnancy food fad of hating fruit cake, and having just finished making another one,  I'm sharing the love, and a good recipe.

Fruit cake - best ever.

2lbs mixed dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, prunes, apricots, whatever you have and like)
1/2 pint dry cider.
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
6oz nuts (almonds, hazlenuts, pecans, again whatever you like) I used dessicated coconut and ground almonds as that's all that I had.
8oz butter
8oz soft brown sugar
4 eggs
8oz plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
At least 6 tblsps of apple brandy, or brandy, or rum (whichever you have, it's for pouring over whilst warm...the cake that is, not you)

Method:

Chop any large pieces of fruit so everything is the size of a raisin.

Put the fruit in a pan with the cider and bring to the boil, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool. The fruit should absorb all the liquid, but if it hasn't pour it away.

Cream the butter and sugar with the rinds of the orange and lemon. Add the eggs and mix well.

Stir in the flour, with the spices. Add the chopped nuts and dried fruit, adding enough lemon and orange juice to make a soft dropping consistency.

Put it in an 8" cake tin, which has 2 layers of greaseproof paper. Wrap a thick layer of brown paper or newspaper around the tin, and secure with string. Place the tin on a baking sheet with more brown paper between the baking sheet and the cake tin.

Cook at 150C for 3/4 hours. - if it's getting too brown, put some newspaper or brown paper over the top.

When the cake is cooked, and while hot, prick it all over with a fine skewer and pour over the apple brandy etc. Leave for a further 2 hours before removing from the tin.  I mix my grog with the remains of the fruit juice for extra tang.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Cholera.

 I have an interest in sewerage and water pipes. I think it might have started when I used to work for a water company dealing with general enquiries from the public, and was amazed at the things people would put down their toilets............ and would want back if they could be found....such as their false teeth.

Part of my training was to visit sewerage works and pumping stations.  There's a whole army of people out there you know, keeping us clean and preventing us dying from dread diseases such as cholera. Thank goodness they're there. We pay high rates for clean water and sewage disposal and probably never think much about it, but it's a grotty job done by and large, by uncomplaining people, such as the man who goes down several times daily in big boots to scrape the 10ft grilles of the inlet pipes clean.

The Welcome Foundation has an exhibtion at the moment, images of which can be seen here:   http://www.wellcomecollection.org/whats-on/exhibitions/dirt.aspx


 On the left is a piece of wooden water pipe dug up from Clerkenwell in 1895. It's in Chirk Castle.

 It's a relic of London's 1st clean water supply; 61 kms of pipeline from the Chadwell and Amwell springs in Hertfordshire, built between 1608 and 1613 by the New River Company.




In an earlier posting about Waddestone Manor (link on sidebar) I mentioned how hard life was during Victorian times if you were poor. Bad water and no sewerage were just part of the problem......

.......Sanitation was by cesspit where it existed, and it was common for urine to leak out and into the surrounding soil, into the cellars where people lived, and even into the wells where people drew their drinking water from.

Here's another 19th century report describing cholera victims, who were "one minute warm, palpitating, human organisms - the next a sort of galvanized corpse, with icy breath, stopped pulse and blood congealed - blue, shrivelled up, convulsed". Cholera causes profuse vomiting and diarrhoea, dehydrating the body so rapidly and severely that the blood thickens and the skin becomes deathlike and blue.





Early Roman lead piping bringing clean (albeit poisoned by lead!) water from springs into the walled city of Chester.



These building blocks were also Roman, and were often used to bring in fresh water.








Cholera arrived from Asia over 1,000 years ago, but was only seen in Europe after 1817. It caused 7 widespread  pandemics, killing thousands. For example in the summer of 1849, 33,000 people died in 3 months; 13,000 of whom lived in London.

If you caught it, you had a 50/50 chance of survival. Here's a newspaper extract, describing conditions in London.

1) Henry Mayhew, Morning Chronicle (24th September 1849)

We then journeyed on to London Street, down which the tidal ditch continues its course. In No. 1 of this street the cholera first appeared seventeen years ago, and spread up it with fearful virulence; but this year it appeared at the opposite end, and ran down it with like severity. As we passed along the reeking banks of the sewer the sun shone upon a narrow slip of the water. In the bright light it appeared the colour of strong green tea, and positively looked as solid as black marble in the shadow - indeed it was more like watery mud than muddy water; and yet we were assured this was the only water the wretched inhabitants had to drink.

As we gazed in horror at it, we saw drains and sewers emptying their filthy contents into it; we saw a whole tier of doorless privies in the open road, common to men and women, built over it; we heard bucket after bucket of filth splash into it, and the limbs of the vagrant boys bathing in it seemed by pure force of contrast, white as Parian marble.

In this wretched place we were taken to a house where an infant lay dead of the cholera. We asked if they really did drink the water? The answer was, "They were obliged to drink the ditch, without they could beg or thieve a pailful of water." But have you spoken to your landlord about having it laid on for you? "Yes, sir and he says he will do it, and do it, but we know him better than to believe him."




Sadly, it is not a disease of the past for many peoples of the world.

It is, as we know today, an acute infection of the small intestine by the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae, which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea leading to dehydration. The disease is contracted from food or drinking water contaminated by faeces from a sufferer. Cholera often occurs in epidemics; outbreaks are rare ingood sanitary conditions.

After an incubation period of 1-5 days, symptoms commence suddenly, and the resulting dehydration and imbalance in the concentration of body fluids can cause death within 24 hours. Treatment involves intravenous infusion of salt solution; tetracycline eradicates the bacterium and hastens recovery. The mortality rate in untreated cases is now over 50%. Vaccination against cholera is effective for only 6-9months.


However, in the summer of 2000, a team of scientists in the US led by Claire Fraser deciphered the entire genetic makeup of the cholera microbe. It is hoped that this will enable drugs or vaccines to control the disease in the undeveloped world.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Chirk Castle. Pugin, etiquette, and dungeons.

This is the second posting on Chirk Castle. The art of the fletcher (arrow maker) is here

Chirk Castle was built in 1295 by Roger Mortimer, who was a warlord to Edward 1. The outsides haven't changed much but the insides are much less stark and show many different styles because the castle has been lived in for over 700 years.

It was built as a fortress to subdue the Welsh.  It's in a place called Wrexham just over the border into north wales, and is now owned by the National Trust. Directions here.

The entrance is above and on the right is the internal courtyard, which leads to things such as the laundry, chapel and dungeons.


There is not much information in the rooms, just the bare minimum, so if you're planning a visit and want to know about what you're looking at, you'd better cough up the £5 for a guide. This is unusual for the NT and was a bit disappointing.
 The Cromwell Hall

Redesigned by Pugin in the 1840's in a neo-Gothic style. He put in the stained glass windows and some of the heavily carved furniture.
 The fireplace dates to 1845 and bears the arms of Col Robert Myddelton Biddulph (cracking name!) who commissioned Pugin to design the hall.

The display of arms and armour dates from the Civil War.
And up the Grand Staircase. They call this style "Neo-classical" and it replaced the old tudor stairs.

The open door leads into the State Dining Room.




 The table is laid with 18thC glassware, with a huge French ormolu and crystal chandelier. The clock above the Adams fireplace is a bracket clock in the Boulle manner made by Charles Balthazar of Paris in the 18th century.

18th Century Dining.

Having your dinner wasn't a simple thing. There were lots of rules. 

The host entered first escorting the most socially senior lady followed by the hostess and the highest ranking man.Once they were seated the remaining guests were free to choose their seats. This gave heaps of opportunity for flirting and knee groping.

Each meal had two courses and a dessert. But each course could consist of up to 25 different dishes. All the dishes were placed on the table together but in a balanced and attractive way. Guests sampled only those placed near their seat. Only the soup, which would have been eaten first was hot; the remaining dishes would have been eaten cold.

The second course had as many dishes as the first but they were all lighter, All the plates, cutlery and cloths were replaced. Dessert was served with the cloths removed. It consisted of foods that could be eaten with fingers like cheese, confesctionary, cakes, nuts and fruit. Dinner like this would take around 2 hours. After which the hostess would rise and lead the women guest out, leaving the men to drink.

Ice creams and sorbets were made in only the most wealthy of households. The castle has its own Ice House, sunk deep underground in which ice was stored. Specially built shallow ponds were built and allowed to flood the ground in winter so the resulting ice could be cut up and layered between straw inside the ice house, to preserve it all year round.

Before dinner, both men and women changed into elaborate dining clothes which were often heavily embroidered and jewelled.

The Saloon


 This ceiling was repainted in the mid 19th century in colours chosen by Pugin.
 17th century tapesty from the Flemish tapestry workshop at Mortlake established by James 1. Depicts scenes from the story of Cadmus, King of Thebes.
 Delightful box.  I asked what was inside but no one knew.


I liked this little chest, but was also amused to know that these chairs, marked GR and ER were the chairs the family sat on at the last 2 coronations. Apparently you can buy your chair as a souvenir. Fancy that.





 The Long Gallery (aptly named I thought)

31 metres long by 7 metres wide. It was completed in 1678.

 These two painted panels are the same age as the hall and are firescreens.
 A wonderful box made out of ebony inlaid with ivory and tortoiseshall. Inside it's silver and oil paintings on copper panels depcting the life of Christ.

It was given to Sir Thomas Myddleton by Charles 2, who helped restore the King to his throne, after England got a bit fed up with puritanism.
 The King's bedchamber.

Charles 1st (the one that was beheaded) stayed at Chrik, reputedly here although a lot of what you see wasn't there at the time.
This bed dates from 1700.

The ribbed ceiling of the bedroom, stone fireplace, and grained paintwork are Pugin's work again. The flock wallpaper was hand printed in 1991 from a large fragment found in the room.
 This chair was in a room leading to the Document Room.
 More photos of libraries.
 A cosy corner. Information from here becomes a bit thin. There wasn't much to be had unfortunately and the free short guide doesn't tell you anything about these next areas of the castle.
 Random piece of embroidery/stump work.

 The Servants Hall. 

This room was converted from a plumbers workshop in 1762. The tables were arranged so that the higher servants sat nearest the fire, and the lesser ones by the door.


 Adams Tower.

This part of the castle is unaltered since 1310. The walls are 5m thick (yes, 5 metres!)

Inside the tower is a spiral staircase that leads down to the dungeon, which is partly hollowed out of the rock. 15 French prisoners were kept here by Henry V after Agincourt.

It was here that we met the Fletcher (link above) who told us all about making arrows and chain mail.





 The dungeon steps leading down into the bed rock. Very steep and worn. nb you NEED the rope to balance.




 At the bottom of the stairs you enter this small room. The floor is uneven and worn. It was very dark, with just a little light coming in from the slits high up in the walls, leading to the outside.




This is the amount of light they let in. Also it has to be said, the fresh air would have been welcome. But it must have been bitterly cold.