Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Too grumpy by far

I seem to be in ‘grumpy old woman’ mode today. Don’t know why because it is lovely outside. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the newts are basking and the tadpoles wriggling around in the pond, the washing is drying on the line, the lawn is freshly cut and the cats are snoozing in various parts of the garden (one on the seat, one under the heather and one under the gooseberry bushes). Therefore my unease must stem from my walk down into town, not just that but from my visit to the supermarket. Yes, that is where the answer lies. So in my best ‘grumpy’ voice, here we go:- Why do people crowd you at the checkouts? It is very rude. It is usually a couple working a pincer movement on you. She unloads pushing you forward all the time with the trolley in your back, he barges past you and lurks in the window area. When the person being served in front of you, to whom you are giving enough space to carry out their monetary transactions, moves away from the till, you move down to start packing your bags, after about four items have entered your bag the man moves forward and starts to collect and open carrier bags and then stands there watching every item you place in your bag and if you hesitate for a split second over where to place items in your bag, he sort of tuts. You then move back to punch in your pin number but the woman is in the way with the trolley and really resents having to move back an inch or two so you can complete your transaction so she pushes through behind you glowering at you until you move your trolley away. Grr and double Grr – I felt like saying ‘Would you jump in my grave as quick?’ but it seemed rather churlish to do so. Outnumbered you see.

As I walked back home I passed a piece of graffiti on a wall ‘School is crop’ now is this:

a) A new corruption of a word by the young and does it mean something completely different?
b) A mis-spelling of ‘crap’?
c) An inability to form letters correctly?

As I passed the nearby school the little ones were out in the playground cycling around on their bikes. One child said to another ‘Get out of my way, you fool*.’ This saddened me – a very small child with a teenage attitude. I really worry for the future when these kids are not taught to consider other people’s feelings and the fact that some people may not move as quickly or as efficiently as others. This awareness used to come with age but I find increasingly that it doesn’t anymore. Hey, ho, back to the garden.

*The child did use the word 'fool' , a teenager would use something rather more explicit, I think.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

And Trim came too

We had an old friend to stay with us over the Easter weekend and yesterday we drove her back to Spalding. On the way we stopped off at the small town of Donington to look at the new statue of one of my heroes, Captain Matthew Flinders. When I worked in the local Museum we had a gallery dedicated to Matthew Flinders and I was privileged to be able to do research at the archives in Lincoln and read quite a few of Flinders’ letters home to his family and fiancĂ©e Ann Chapelle. The bronze statue is very attractive but much smaller than I expected and stands at the road side in the market place where his family home stood for many years. Poor Matthew, who is considered a hero in Australia, is little known in his homeland. He died at the age of 40 in 1814 just after publishing his book ‘A Voyage to Terra Australis.’ His cat Trim who sailed with him and also stayed with him during his captivity on the island of Mauritius is depicted at his feet. His grandson was the noted Egyptologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Corner of the Artist's Room

I was interested to learn that there is a new book available whose plot revolves around one of my all time favourite paintings by my very favourite artist.

I first saw ‘A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris’ many years ago at the Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield. I fell in love with its simplicity and its tranquility. It is has a stark masculinity and yet, at the same time, is very feminine. I love the glow of light from the fine netted window which gives the viewer a fleeting glimpse of the outside world. I saw the painting again in 1985 at the Barbican in London as part of the exhibition of Gwen John’s work called ‘Gwen John- An Interior Life’ I still treasure the catalogue I bought then and look through it often.

The room in question is 87 Rue du Chereche-Midi, where Gwen John lived on the top floor from 1907 until 1909. It was during these years she became the model and later the lover of the sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Although the new book doesn’t get a particularly good review, I will still read it. I can’t not, can I?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Hope to Castleton

We set out early today and drove across country through Ipstones, Longnor and Tideswell to Hope. The air was clear as we traveled through the patchwork quilt of fields all lightly touched by a soft sprinkling of snow, the hills in the distance sparkling white in the sun. We arrived in Hope and after parking we crossed the road to have coffee at Woodbine Cottage where we mingled with other sturdy booted, wooly hatted walkers sitting around the warm log fire the air redolent with the smell of coffee and wood smoke. Suitably refreshed we wondered down past the church, over the river and took the public footpath to Castleton. The path was quite muddy in places and the wind almost took our breath away as we gazed at the ruins of Peveril Castle in the distance on the hillside above the town. Each field was dotted with sheep and suckling lambs who gazed nervously at us as we struggled to climb the stiles without slipping and landing in the quagmires below.

Castleton was quiet – quieter than at Christmas – when the town buzzes with folks viewing the lights. We looked in one or two shops and the new heritage centre which was very interesting. We were wondering about the walk up to the castle but just as we stepped outside again the sun disappeared and the rain began to come down. We decided then to go back another time to visit the castle. As we came out of the bookshop the sun came out again so we walked back to Hope and drove home calling into the large bookshop at Brierlow Bar where I couldn’t resist buying a couple of books – ‘Letters from the Fens’ by Edward Storey and ‘The Waves’ by Virginia Woolf – the cost for both just £4.98. I love days like today.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Cork Cutters and Ferrule Makers

I was searching through a box of old photographs and family papers when I found a very old card signed by my great-grandmother. Now this was one line of my family tree that I hadn’t researched as much as the others. It being my father’s mother’s side of the family on her mother’s side – try to work that one out after a glass of sherry. I knew that Sarah Ann or Sally, as she was known, had, according to the 1881 census, come from Birmingham with her brother Robert into Derbyshire, presumably for work, and from the parish records that they had both married and stayed there. I knew their father’s name was also Robert (deceased at the time of their marriages in 1875.) My sister who has a subscription to Ancestry was able to find the family for me on the 1851, 1861 and 1871 census returns and how fascinating and moving it turned out to be.

In 1861 the family was living in a courtyard in the St Martin’s District of Birmingham. That is, of course the Bull Ring area, as the church there is St Martin’s. They lived in Court No 10 in house No 2 and Robert (senior) worked as a Gun Implement Maker, his wife Mary Ann worked as a Brace Stitcher (whatever that is) son John, age 12, as a Cork Cutter and son Robert, age 10, as an Umbrella Ferrule Maker. Sarah was five and there was a younger brother Joseph aged 4. By 1871 Robert (senior) and Mary Ann had died (only in their forties) and John and Robert (junior) are lodging together in St Martin’s. Sarah Ann is in domestic service with an architect in the Lady Wood area of Birmingham. Within 4 years they are living in Derbyshire and settling down there - I'd love to know how this came about. At the end of 2004 we visited the Back to Backs in Birmingham, little knowing then that I was looking at the type of houses in the very same area where my ancestors would have lived and worked. A very salutary lesson, indeed.