Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seeing the world in black and white

England is abloom with daffodils and blossoms; there is plenty of colour However, I m fascinated by the black and white houses. Not all are Tudor, I love that Mock Tudor here is something that happened in the 18th C!! In NZ, it happened in the 1970's!
 In Shrewsbury or Hereford, can't remember now but both towns are black and white house heaven! Do click on the image, hopefully in its bigger size you can see how very higgledy piggledy this place is.
 Shrewsbury? Hereford? Sorry! What amazes me is that you will find 17th C houses/shops with a Boots Chemist or a Costa's cafe in the bottom of them. Talk about two centuries living together!
 This one leans ominously over the street-look how crooked the windows are! The leaning I think was built in but as these jutting out second storeys are not really supported by anything, it may also be down to time. Me, I wouldn't be standing in the window jumping upside down, all I'm sayin'.
 Isn't this a cutey! And take a look at the door and frame! The doors on these places are amazing. I'm doing a whole blog on doors one day. Hereford.
 The Old House in Hereford town square. It's a museum and the upper rooms are full of furniture from the time. All bedrooms interconnect upstairs as was the Tudor way, and the labels suggest that the curtains on four poster beds were not just for warmth but also privacy!
Oh My Giddy Aunt! This is Umbrella Cottage just 30m down the road from our B&B in Lyme Regis. Amazingly it was built in the 19th C! Early on mind you. It was a Toll house originally. So far it tops my Favourite House list. I've not seen any others like it. Has anyone else?
These are a mere sampling of the buildings we've seen and I've photographed. So much house bling, so little time!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tor Blimey.

Glastonbury is such an amazing place. Famous for its Tor, Abbey and well. Among other things. The Tor is a challenge difficult to resist, and as it is also the easiest place to find, sticking up so much, we headed there before doing anything else, took a deep breath or three, and tackled it. All nearly 600ft of it.
Mysterious and spiritual, the Tor and its tower dominate the Glastonbury skyline.

 Proof I was there! It nearly did for me but after managing to climb to the top of the hill in Incheon, no way was I letting this one defeat me. And it was worth every gasping breath and aching muscle.
 Using the camera zoom to spy on the residents of farms around the base of the Tor. That white thing in the back yard looked familiar...
...Only In Glastonbury will you look down upon a beautiful Somerset landscape, and spot a yurt in someone's yard!
Incidentally, while in Glastonbury you can buy any type of healing crystal, hippy clothing, book on magic, ethnic jewellery, ceremonial cloak, spell or potion, etc, you cannot buy a pair of knickers or socks! It is very much geared up for tourism. But charmingly so. And there is a town called Street only a mile away that sells lots of high st stuff and that's where the vast majority of very normal Glastonburians do their clothes shopping!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring is busting out all over!!

What a brilliant time to come to the UK. A slightly risky tactic as if winter hangs about, it can be pretty miserable. But really, it is Spring all over and the flowers and blossoms have been busting out while we are here. We are seeing it unfurl almost before our eyes and WOW.
Today in the grounds of Shrewsbury Castle, where we turned up 15 minutes ltoo ate to get in, I took some closeups of the glorious spring flowers. And some long shots too.
 A spectacular border of daffodils, tulips and other things leading up to the Castle doors.
 Tulip variety 1
 Magnolia? David thinks so. For all I know it's a cabbage so I believe him!
 Tulip variety 2
 Tulip variety3
Impossibly pink primroses in my landlady's front garden. No wonder Carltonware were so inspired!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

That's what I call a kitchen!

We landed up in Glastonbury and after climbing the Tor (more on that some other time) we went to see the abbey ruins. I could write a book about them, so fascinating, but I am going to focus in right now on the Mother of all Kitchens.
 This is a kitchen. It's the size of a 3-bed house and about four storeys high. Only one room inside though.
 One of the four fireplaces set up like it would have been in the 16th C, when it was last used.
 Another fireplace. There is one in each corner, in fact they ARE the corners, with a hood across for the chimney. It was a beautiful day, quite warm, but it was chilly inside the kitchen. Thank goodness as with those fires going it would have been roasting!
 The ceiling and a window.
Me trying to get a photo that captures the grandiosity of the space.
This is the Abbot's Kitchen. It didn't serve the whole Abbey, just the Abbot and his immediate staff, guests and visitors! It does give one a sense of how important the Abbot of Glastonbury was, until Henry 8 came a long and ruined it all. Pillock.
Perhaps my efforts to renovate kitchens in the past few years are unambitious? Me, I'd happily LIVE in this one! Maybe with better heating, and not from one of those big draughty fireplaces...

Why I pulled the plug on Bath

I was so excited about going to Bath. What diehard Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer fan would not be? I even know the names of several of the streets.
We got there mid afternoon and we were tired. The town is like dodgem cars - lots of windy, one way streets and strange intersections, and heaps upon heaps of traffic. We finally found our hotel only to find it was not exactly walking distance back into town. And it wasn't anywhere as nice as it thought it was. So, we had a few hours of relaxing in our room before venturing forth again for dinner.
Bath is expensive. Very. We settled for a plate of chips and a drink each, 8GBP. The only good thing to come of it is that the pub in question was quite pretty, and had bone chine teacups and saucers as tealight holders. Very effective, especially the whiter ones.  Then home to bed.
The next day we headed out, determined to make the most of our day in Bath. Wondering where all the famous architecture and streets were, I realised that if one looks UP, there they are. The Georgian residential part of Bath is built on a pretty steep hillside. So we went to take a look. At least up there there was no traffic.

 Peeking thorugh someone's front gate, I saw this amazing Wendy House. It's practically a granny flat!
Typical example of the Georgian terrace houses and garden. Not THE Georgian Terrace of course, that is amazing but there are heaps of pics of it online.
By the by, these streets are steep and quite a haul up from the town below. I wonder if this contributed to the demise of Bath as a fashionable place to go - I can imagine ladies hiking up that hill in Regency stays, but once corsets started to reshape waistlines and dresses got heavier and more cumbersome, I'd be making excuses not to go!
By 11am I confess we had had enough and we ran away to Wells and Glastonbury. I never went to any museums, not even to the Jane Austen Centre. I am so chcken! But honestly, the place is a bunfight and I think it requires a stop of several days and better planning and concentration that we were capable of by then.
Can you forgive me??

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy Early Birthday to me!!!

I have big everything. Big feet, big body, big wrists, big head. Shoes, necklaces, watches, hats; they never fit me. Shoes have improved, but ladies watches, much jewellery especially costume stuff, rings, bangles etc, never do. I live with this, oi vey.
Hats are the worst. My head measures 62cm and I've not met a soul with a bigger head. Hats usually stop at 56cm.
Why am I telling you this? Not to get empathy, but thank you if you feel for me, it's always nice to be 'got'. No, it's because today in Glastonbury, I found something so amazing I just had to have it. I am not sure how to get it home yet.
Fans and friends and family and followers, I present to you my new tophat. It fits. And yes, you are not imagining it, it does have a pair of steampunk goggles around it. I couldn't resist! Why would I! The only time I will wear it is to do steampunk (mind you, that sounds like Famous Last Words type talk) so when presented with such an exquisite accessory at a very reasonable price that I doubt I could make myself, I folded.
And in the very same shop (called Lilith, btw) MrC bought a fantastic black coat.
I think Glastonbury is my spiritual home. I thought Bath would be but it WAS NOT (more on that later). Wells and Glastonbury totally, utterly rock.

English Coffee - an oxymoron I have come to dread.

We were warned that the English didn't really understand about coffee. But being warned and living with it are two different things.
They just do not get it. The coffee is tasteless, the beans stale. Quite upmarket cafes still serve filter coffee, or plunger coffee, less upmarket places sell instant.
But the thing that has fascinated me (a good distraction from wanting to scream in the middle of many a cafe) is the way they make latte.

 The very patient lady behind the counter at Wells Cathedral Cafe was perplexed as to why I wanted to photograph her making our lattes. They fluff/heat the milk, then pour the 'coffee' into it.
It takes on this layered look. It is almost always served in these tall glass mugs (handles are turned away from camera). Yes I know that having coffee so milky is not very staunch, but at home a latte or flat white TASTES OF COFFEE too.
If you order a flat white, you usually get a black coffee and a jug of steamed milk.
*sigh* Mojos I hope you are ready for our landing at Wellington Airport. No sweeter welcome could I have!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Strawberry Fare...

Well, it's spring here and there are strawberries from Morocco in the supermarkets. I don't really believe in importing something as essentially local as strawberries, but I do LOVE strawberries.
I love them so much, when I found the most exquisite embroidered dupion, I had to have two metres.
The fabric inspired me so much, I used it as the inspiration for my first, ever, tattoo!
Nev the lovely tattoo artist in Rye, took a photocopy of a motif from the fabric and adapted it for the style. IT HURT. Like billyo. Then afterwards like bad sunburn. Wincy ouch. But now it is almost healed.
So, do we approve? I am quite chuffed and keep looking at it!
By the way I wanted Nev to sign it and he did, the oval with the wiggly line is his mark; it represents the scar across his thumb he got when he was younger. It is more brown than green because tattoo green is a jadey cold green I don't really like.
When I have time and inclination I am having a tiny Elizabethan butterfly added to it.

Hitum, Titum or scrub

Disclaimer: If you have never read or heard of Mapp and Lucia, nor seen it on dvd, it is set in the 1920's and is about the cut and thrust of social supremacy in a small village. Delightful and hilarious stuff. Think P G Wodehouse with an extra 50 IQ points and better female characters. I have all of the books and the DVDs of the fab TV series made in the 1980's, for anyone who is interested. 
These are the three dress codes in Tilling, the village brought to us through the pages of Mapp and Lucia and E F Benson's other fabulous Lucia books. Hitum was for dinner parties, Titum for formal day occasions and Scrub was whatever you are wearing at the time.
Rye, a stunning village on the South Coast of England, is indeed the Tilling of the books. Now that I have been there myself it is so apparent, and the TV series filmed in 1983-87 used the village, although they changed things a bit - choosing different houses from the ones in the book because of accessibility, photogenicness etc.
Rye has Hitum, Titum and Scrub all of its own.
Moi on Mermaid Street, still cobbled and featuring some of the prettiest teashops, houses and guest houses a girl could ever dream of.
The Bell, 14thC Inn on The Mint (Rye is short on Streets and long on evocative names like The Mint, Wish Ward etc)
or possibly Tightum: the steps up to the top of the church tower. I did not take this picture - David made the climb and had to turn sideways sometimes to do it, which pretty much put me out of the picture for fitting up the stairs! I am very impressed that Mapp ever made it herself, in search of evidence to condemn Lucia's pretences at Italian and reclaim her position as Queen of Tilling. It failed of course.
Rye had the best op shops and antique shops of anywhere I've been and I purchased quite a hoard. Some treasures though I left behind included these lovely tapestries in the window of a shop

 Early 2oth C sampler of sorts.
 Far more modern and far cheaper, but still pretty.

I feel I should revert to Hitum for the last image, which is of Lamb House; the Mallards of the books. It is not that impressive from the outside, being jammed into a corner like that, however the wall is to its impressive garden and it has been the home of Henry James and E F Benson over the years.
I have pinched a photo of it from the other side off the National Trust website, I'm sure they won't mind:
It was not open when we were there, such a pity. Can you imagine the garden parties on this lawn?!
And of course, it is from Rye/Tilling that I have brought away the piece of art that I will wear forever more...but more on that later!
Lucia may even have approved. Mapp definitely would not.

Cathedral bling

Religious or not, you just cannot beat a cathedral for bling. Fabric, stone and glass are the favoured materials, with tapestry, mosaic, carving, molding, gilding, painting, sculpting and probably a zillion other techniques employed in the process.
Altar cloth, alas much faded, in Salisbury. This is in a side chapel dedicated to a female saint, so I thought the introduction of exquisite textile work was highly appropriate. Date forgotten, at a guess, early 19thC

 As if the gorgeous vaulted ceiling isn't enough, there is added this gorgeous fresco work. This is in the prayer chapel at Salisbury.
 A closer up shot of the beautiful, delicate painting
Gloomy bits of cathedrals are really hard to photograph and with no access to Photoshop I'm having to leave them as I tok 'em. This is the ceiling of the entrance hall into Cirencester Cathedral. It has an art nouveau feel to it don't you think? Very forward thinking of those 13th C masons!
I have many more but until I can photoshop them, they will have to wait.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sorry about the multi posting

but I have had no end of hassle getting online for the past few days and so I am trying to catch up. I am conscious that I am posting about architecture a lot, and there is plenty of it to write about too.
I'd like to post about other things but I don't have the photos to go with these words so I apologise.
We've stayed at B&Bs every night - now that can mean a bunch of things here. It can be someone's house, or a pub, or a hotel even. We've tried them all.
Initially we were going to wing it by going to the town information office when we arrived and getting  lace that way but the first two times we tried this it failed miserably, so in the end we committed to a few days of stops and booked via 't'interweb a good forward supply of reasonably priced accommodation.
I've shown you the gorgeous Bell Hotel at Faringdon, run by the King and Queen of Lancre, just the loveliest people! From there we went to Plum Cottage, run by more lovely people who were laid back and intelligent and it turns out do a great deal of fabulous community work. From there we changed our mind about using the next booking as its position relative to where we needed to go the next day was all wrong so we headed East along the south coast to see how far we could get. I fixated on a town called Peacehaven because I had visions of the prettiest seaside resort, such a great name. It turned out to be a dump and a half! We are tired and fed up at this point but battle on to Newhaven, which was nicer, and finally got a room for the night from the lady who say No. No breakfast laundry, wifi, MILK - she was very friendly but cheerfully indisposed to put herself out at all. Still, a nice enough room.
And so it was with great relief that we ended up in Rye at Wish House, with the most delightful Rowena and Paul. A gorgeous mock Tudor 18th C house crammed with interesting artifacts from their travels abroad, but alas no wifi. We loved Rye for many reasons, and I will post about them soon I am sure.
And so here we are in Buckingham, or rather about four miles north of Buck at Lillingstone Lovell at The Gables with the lovely Nicola. This place is so fantastic! We were greeted with home made meringues and raspberries and cream and a cup of tea! This house is a tardis and there are a total of 7 of us staying here - us, two lads attending the motorcycle event tomorrow, two ladies attending a local spa resort tomorrow and one electrician working on a local project. I can understand why The Gables is so popular - Nicola is delightful and the house is so comfortable, and the prices very reasonable.
Anyway, there is a must have for any B&B owner: A Large Rescue dog. Everyone has had a rescue dog (i.e. one from the RSPCA or similar) that is a mutt of the most mixed lineage, and all have been attention loving softies. We love dogs so it's been part of the fun!
We have paid between 40GBP and 65GBP a night for a double room, including breakfast everywhere but Newhaven (50GBP without) which compared to NZ is outrageous, but as the only two things I can pinpoint as being MORE expensive than at home are accommodation/housing and petrol, I guess this is to be expected. And incidentally there has been only a loose correlation between cost and quality.
I thought I would feel a bit intrusive staying in someone's home but it has been a real pleasure. Meeting these delightful people, their pets and families and hearing their stories (Nicola had us all in absolute fits today telling us a few stories of her experiences to date!) has been as much a part of our holiday so far as the cathedrals, shopping and village snooping!
My only pic is this one of Twix, the pub dog at The Bell, who is part huskie and part german shepherd. He is HUGE and fluffy and loves attention. But not so much having his photo taken!

Living in an icing bag

Would you? Live in an icing bag I mean. When we got to Kent and East Sussex, it appeared to be all the rage.
 One for chocolate, one for vanilla perhaps?
An extra one for pink icing?
The mind boggles! I did have vague recollections of seeing these or reading about them but after consulting some locals it turns out the icing bags are oast houses. These were built in the 19thC for kiln drying hops. The nozzle on top is a chimney cowl. Converting them into homes is very de rigeur.
I do worry about the British though, with their straw roofs, icing bags and frankly pretty crazy building techniques over the years, none of which seemed to involve either straight lines or right angles! My father would have a fit if he saw them! hehehe

What God has joined, let no man rip asunder...

..unless it is a church! The 14thC church at Selsey on the south coast, was split at some point, and most of it was moved from a tiny marshy bit of land at a place called Church Norton, into Selsey itself.
I don't know why this happened but given the sheer stony weightiness of the main Church, it's a pretty impressive undertaking.
 This is the Chapel of St Wilfred, formed from the sanctuary of the original church. You can really tell at the south wall is so plain!
 Excuse the crazy angle, but isn't the ceiling amazing! It was such a delightful little chapel.
 This is St Peters, the main bit that they moved block by block, to this new site, about four miles away. It has a 'new' sanctuary, which you can just see cut off on the right.
Inside St Peter's. The ceilings of the two definitely suit each other.
I had a mad idea that since this was the closest thing David has to a home town, that we could have our marriage blessed or renew our vows or something. unfortunately there was no one at either church even though they were both open to the public, so it never happened. Ah well. :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Vanity of Mankind - as shown in its churches!

While pootling around Merry England we have stopped at a range of churches, from smallish parish churches to the huge cathedrals, which frankly make current attempts to dominate with phallic high rises pretty tragic. Given the technology available, the cathedrals we have seen so far - Cirencester, Winchester, Salisbury and Chichester, are mind boggling. As they are meant to be of course. It was all about reminding the population, and the king, that the church was both huge and mighty. And God of course.
I could write fifty posts about them and I probably will write a few but the first thing I noticed about them is how many dead people are buried IN the churches. In the floor, in the walls, it's really pretty ick if you dwell on it. But that's how they rolled. And of course, the grandeur of one's tomb was very important to one's own grandeur.
 A particularly fine example of lat 19th C Arts and Crafts copper, probably they should probably stop polishing it though. This is in Salisbury Cathedral. The fashion for interment in the church had passed by then but memorial plaques were de rigeur.
 14th C, covered in carved graffiti! Salisbury
 Tudor Maximalism in Salisbury. It's great that they have painted it up as it would have been.
 In a Norman church in a wee village called Uffington. His nibs was a big benefactor in the late 16th C. He looks very restful, and casual compared to the very formal tombs in the big cathedrals
 Heaps of people are buried under the floors. Ick! But the reason I chose this one is because it uses the Old English for of The, which is the letter eth (looks like a Y) with an e above it, which is where the whole Ye thing came from. It's tosh - eth is pronounced 'th' as in 'the' and 'that'.
 These guys are so cute! His head rests on his helmet and he holds his gauntlet instead of a sword, and notice that he and the Missus are holding hands? Talk about your 14th C love story...this is in Chichester Cathedral.
In Chichester again, this very plain tomb is from 1121! It predates the whole fancy pants tomb trends. Quite moving.
So there you go, 1000 years of interment trends.