Friday, March 28, 2008

Silver Tree in the Rain

Quite a few times recently we've driven by this amazing sculpture which is just off a roundabout in the city centre and at the back of the Potteries Shopping Centre. Today, having parked in the centre itself, we decided to walk up and take a look even though it was raining quite heavily. There are quite a few of these community art installations around the city but this one, for me, stands out from the others because it has a fluidity and delicacy about it. It somehow looks right, whereas some of the others are heavy and too solid in their surroundings.

It stands in the new plaza entrance to Central Forest Park which was created, in the early 1970s, on the site of the old spoil heaps of Hanley deep pit, which had closed in 1967. The sculpture, designed by Denis O'Connor and called "Tree Stories' is 21ft high and is surrounded on one side by an arc of 26ft multi-coloured lights. Inspiration for the tree came, according to the local paper, from work done by school children from two local schools who created motifs of things that symbolise what the park means to them.

As you can imagine there are many points of view about this and the other installations. Again going by letters and comments in the local papers there are three strong themes coming through. Firstly, there are those who like it, who feel that this sort of thing is needed to help in the promotion and regeneration of the city and to help residents take a pride in their city. The sculpture is part of the Greening for Growth project and has been paid for by Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund. The second view, held by quite a lot of folks, is that the sculpture is a waste of money and that the city council should spend tax payer's money elsewhere on things like health care, care homes and cemeteries. Of course, all these services are funded from different pots of money which can't be moved around between differing needs; the sculpture wasn't paid for out of our Council Tax.

Many people objected because real trees had been taken down and replaced by a metal tree, but according to council representatives the trees that were there were overgrown and the area unsafe as it was ill lit - now it is open, visible and well lit, therefore safer for people walking into and out of the park. They have also planted new trees, the same in number as those lost. Residents in flats opposite it were opposed to it for two reasons; they felt that youths would congregate around the tree and use the flat area for skate boards, even though there is a proper boarding area in Central Forest Park. The other issue was with the lights and the fact that they shone into peoples' bedrooms at night time - I can quite see that this might be a problem.

So, all in all, another controversial sculpture to think about. I have to say that I like it and intend one day soon to go back and look at it when it is illuminated - I expect it will look stunning.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Marmalade Cake

Recently I decided to make a marmalade cake. I liked the look of the recipe in Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries, and had been meaning to have a go at it for some time. As we had several jars of homemade marmalade, a new packet of golden caster sugar in the cupboard and a huge navel orange lurking in the fruit bowl I had no more excuses. It all went together very easily and cooked just the way the recipe said it would. He did say to pour the icing over the cake so that it ran in dribbles down the side; as you can see from the photos - that's what I did. It tasted wonderful, soft and moist with a tangy orange flavour, the icing really adding to both the texture and flavour just as he said it would. As you can see from the photo below - it only lasted a few days.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Walking in the Woods

This morning we went for a long walk around the King's Wood at Trentham. We parked at the Monkey Forest site and walked past 'Ariel Extreme', where the staff were just testing the tree top walks ready for the day's visitors, and into the wood where we were lucky enough to see a group of hinds at a distance running from one place of cover to another. We strolled back to our car along the lakeside and called in the cafe for a cup of coffee. Just as we got back to the car a sleet storm started. I think we had the best of the day.

My bargain pot of tulips which I mentioned a few posts ago are just in flower now, as you can see from the photo above. Also in flower is one of our scented geraniums. This one is called Attar of Roses and is my favourite of all the scented ones we have. The others are mostly lemon scented and we have one that smells of nutmeg too. Apparently there is a lavender scented one which I would love to own. I just love them all. Below is a close up of the Attar of Roses geranium.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Memories of France - part 1

Over the last few days we have been sorting through all our old photographs and negatives and Paul has been scanning them. We noticed that quite a few of the older photographs and especially the negatives left in wallets have deteriorated in condition. The photos we had placed in albums are still ok. I've just been looking through some of the photos already scanned and found some from our last holiday in France, which I thought I would share with you.

The photo above was taken on a really hot day in the shade of the huge ruins of the wonderful 'L'abbe Hambye' a 12th century Benedictine abbey set in the wooded countryside of the Manche district of Normandy.

A small cafe in Dol de Bretange, Brittany, where we had a wonderful meal before going to a concert in the Cathedral.

The scene from our hotel bedroom window in the pretty town of Villedieu-les-Poeles.

A rather misty, atmospheric view of Mont-Saint-Michel from the beach at Cherrueix, which is a glorious expanse of open coast in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel.

A typical windmill or Moulin of the style that are found dotted along the Brittany coastline, this one is at Mont-Dol.

The harbour at Barfleur. We called here on our way down to Quineville to visit the 'Musee de Liberte'.

I'll be back with some more photos of France in a later post.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Early Easter and late nights

I heard on the news recently that Easter this year is the earliest it's been since 1913, and snow is expected in some areas of the north and east. I've known one or two snowy Easters in my time. I particularly remember one when I was a child when we were going into North Wales - Llandudno I think - for my sister to play in a hockey tournament. We got caught in a snow blizzard on the Snake Pass in Derbyshire and I remember my Dad saying 'there is a pub along here somewhere called the Cat and Fiddle' just as we came to a standstill. After the blizzard subsided and we could see where we were the pub in question was just a little further down the road and we hadn't been able to see it.

I've been pottering around with knitting an Easter bunny - not a great success as I've sewn the ears in the wrong place and made him look rather disgruntled - and making yellow gingham lavender hearts. It's a good job that I'd started the preparations early, even the little Easter cakes are made. All this has come to a standstill now as the long hours (6p.m. - 2a.m.) at Royal Mail have taken their toll and I'm too tired to think straight, let alone knit, sew, bake cakes or even potter on the computer; it's taken me a couple of days to finish writing this post. Three shifts done and four to do, I'm counting them down then I think Easter for both of us is going to be lots of rest - hope there is something good on TV. We were hoping to get some walking in over the weekend but as the long-range forecast doesn't look good, that idea may have to be abandoned.

I hope everyone has a lovely Easter.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I mentioned in my last post that I'd been tagged by Rosie so here goes:-

4 films I'd watch again:- This was hard as I have several favourites but topping my list are Amelie, Enchanted April, Shakespeare in Love & Truly, Madly, Deeply - coming up behind are Ladies in Lavender, A Very Long Engagement, Gosford Park, Stage Beauty, Howard's End, Room with a View, Much Ado about Nothing, In the Bleak Midwinter, Peter's Friends, Brassed Off..... I could go on :)

4 places I've lived:- Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire - what can I say - I'm an East Midlands girl who has strayed into the West Midlands.

4 TV shows I watch:- of course these change as to what is showing at the time but at the moment I'd say:- Lark Rise to Candleford, Lewis, Trial and Retribution & Love Soup are the favourites. I adored Cranford and like things like Foyle's War, Waking the Dead, Silent Witness and Midsommer Murders. Also like QI, and recently Kingdom, Robin Hood and Primeval.

4 Places I've been:- Florence, Sienna, Paris, Edinburgh

4 people I e-mail:-
well this won't mean anything to anyone but:- Jean, Pauline, Wendy, Graham - plus many others.

4 things to eat:- assuming here it means favourite things? vegetable lasagne with fresh green salad, fresh fruit salad, warm scones with jam and a good cuppa, pizza.

4 places I'd rather be:- At home in a comfy chair, with a good book and a cat on my lap, sitting in the garden in the sunshine listening to the sounds of summer around me, walking somewhere in the Manifold Valley, walking on a beach as the tide is going out.

4 people to Tag:- Sarah, Sissy, Jen, Paul

Hope you four don't mind being tagged; you don't have to do this if you don't want to :)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Three Years Ago

Three years ago on March 14th 2005 I started this blog. I knew very little about what I was doing and what I wanted to achieve but I knew I wanted to get started. I can't even remember where I came across the idea of blogging or what particular blog had influenced me to have a go myself. It was with great trepidation that I pressed the publish button wondering what would happen, well the answer is nothing much for the first few weeks; I may have been talking to myself but I was enjoying it.

The thing I notice most about my first posts and those I write now are the technological accessories I now have access to to enhance each post and also the layout of the blog. Mostly photos, of course. When I started I didn't have a digital camera so the early posts are mostly just my words. I learned how to do links. I had no additional photos to decorate the blog with and the stat counter and visitor map were only added in the last year but all wonderful additions - I enjoy seeing where l visitors come from.

Last but not least was that I began to get a few comments from people and some of those people are now regular visitors and I'm thrilled that you all return and leave encouraging comments it means so much - thank you, I love to see you here and I love to visit your blogs.

My very first post was about a walk on the Cromford Canal ( not much change there then) and seeing the little dab chicks. I notice too that in my first few posts I always had a highlight of the day and a gripe of the day - that soon disappeared though.

So to commemorate the start of this blog it's back to where I started, dab chicks or little grebes on the Cromford Canal - I took this photo a short while ago when we visited Cromford on a very sunny day in late February.

Below is a photo of Wheatcroft's wharf on the canal, this is now one of the two cafes at the site.

Of course, now we have even more technology I can show you a little film too; here are the dab chicks in action.

I've just noticed that I've been tagged by Rosie so I'll be back over the weekend to do that; later today I have training with Royal Mail ready for next week's work. Have a great weekend.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tommy in the Lloyd Loom Chair

Here is Tommy in his favourite chair in the corner of the conservatory. Actually this is one of my favourite chairs too. It is an original Lloyd Loom, dated underneath - August 1939. Well it survived those six years of World War which is more than the Lusty factory in London, where the woven paper chairs were made, did. The works near the East India Dock were destroyed by the Luftwaffe on 7th September 1940; it being a Saturday the factory was closed and the only fatality was the factory cat. Poor puss - you enjoy your chair in his or her honor Tommy.

We also have another Lloyd Loom chair in a slightly different style and this one has a matching laundry box.

The top of the laundry box has an embroidery in silk under it's glass top. I don't know if this was original to the box or placed there later. I know that two members of the family were embroiderers so perhaps one of them did the work. I think maybe they did as I have a table cloth and napkins with the same 'crinoline lady' on them.

It is very pretty but sadly faded and watermarked as this laundry box and indeed the chairs have been in constant use as long as I can remember, which must be from about the age of 4 onwards. I would dearly love to know how it might be conserved but I expect I would be told to take it out of the lid and lay it flat in acid free tissue in an acid free cardboard box and keep it out of the light. I know this would preserve it but I really don't want to separate it from the box after all these years. Also I now know that we should have used special paint, like the Farrow and Ball paints, to repaint the chairs and next time we paint them we shall do so. I had the chair and box in my bedroom as a teenager and was allowed to take them with me when I got married and left home. Over the years the chairs have been painted again and again. The top chair was originally a darker green and the other chair and box were blue.

When we lived in Spalding in Lincolnshire a new Lloyd Loom factory opened up on an industrial estate in Pinchbeck which is very near to Spalding. Some of the new contemporary goods are wonderful and I covet several items, in particular this chair, but I still love my old Lloyd Looms and wouldn't ever want to part with them.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Morning Walk

It was such a lovely morning that we decided to have a walk at Greenway Country Park which is just up in the north of the city. We parked the car in the car park which was very quiet; just us and a few anglers taking advantage of the calm and bright but sun free morning. We walked down to one of the lakes and it was absolutely blissful. We saw many birds just flittering amongst the branches and peering inquisitively down at us from the trees above. There was a colourful display of bright robins, the yellow and blue of the little tits, and the warm colours of the nuthatch. We also saw a couple of jays and a woodpecker after we had been invited to find him by his hollow tip tapping in a nearby tree.

All around us were happy and contented birds gearing themselves up for the spring that I'm sure they can feel just around the corner. The grebes below went through their courtship ritual for us, I wish I could have recorded the sound of their calls.

The squirrel below was delighted to see us, he stopped and watched us, then danced across the little bridge parapet towards us, finally settling at the base of a tree right by my feet.

I held out my hand and the squirrel came towards me, I just wish I'd had a nut in my fingers because I'm sure he or she would have taken it from me, as it was my lavender coloured Thinsulate gloves just didn't cut the mustard and the squirrel eventually moved away from us and scampered down towards the lake. Paul managed to get the photo below whilst the squirrel was eying up my fingers to see if I had anything tasty for him.

After our walk we set off towards Bagnall and one of our favourite places for coffee, Jackson's Garden Centre. Here we had a mug of coffee and scone close to the wonderful, warm log fire.

The smoke from the chimney goes up through the glass roof and the lovely smell of woodsmoke drifts over the garden centre as you walk round. I was pleased to bag a bargain of five potted tulips for just two pounds.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A visit to Cromford

Cromford is a place we visit quite often and a place we pass through quite often too on our way to visit family in Chesterfield. When we visit Cromford we always park at the mill and walk along the canal and have a cup of coffee in either of the two coffee shops there. I can count on one hand the number of times we've actually walked in the village itself and I was determined this time to have a good look around. Cromford has an interesting history but it's appearance today has everything to do with one man, Sir Richard Arkwright. Son of a Lancashire tailor, as a young man he worked for a peruke (wig) maker and then set up his own barber's shop. Whilst scouring the country for hair to make his wigs he became fascinated with the textile industry and set about designing his own cotton spinning machine. To cut a long story short he moved to Nottingham, patented his machine with the help of others but then found financial constraints meant another move and Cromford was the ideal place to harness the water power from the River Derwent. Below is a photo of the mill as it is today. Up on the hill is Rock House, Arkwright's first home.

Before he moved to the one below - Willersley Castle.

We started our walk near The Greyhound Hotel which was built by Richard Arkwright in 1778 for business men and visitors to Cromford. Apparently a bank was incorporated into the building. The clock is the original. The shops to the right of the Greyhound were market stalls. Richard Arkwright obtained a market charter in 1790. This area would have been a very busy place in the late 18th century with people coming from miles around to shop, bank and do business.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the village for me are the wonderful rows of three story, grit stone cottages built around 1776/77, for the mill workers. Originally they had a living room at ground floor level, a bedroom on the first floor and on the second floor, well lit by windows either side would have been frame work knitting rooms. Kitchens and bathrooms were added much later. The photo below shows some of the cottages on North Street.

Below are more cottages, this time on the main street, these have little garden frontages.

The village pond, seen below is well used by ducks and geese. Across the other side of the pond is the area of Scarthin which has connections with the lead mining industry. The miners used to live there in little cottages at different levels, many of which have been demolished over the years.

Running at the back of the market place where The Grehound Hotel stands is Scarthin and this road leads to the Post Office (up for sale with business, five bedroomed house and annexe) and one of my favourite places.

Scarthin Books is a wonderful, treasure trove of rooms and floors of books, anything and everything you could want. Books high up the walls, books lining the stairs, poky little back rooms full of books both old and new.

It also has a coffee shop, hidden behind a moving shelf of books; you can see the tables in the mirror on the back of the door.

I think I'll stop here now for a well earned coffee break and I'll continue with more about Cromford at a later date when, to celebrate a special anniversary, I'll take you along the canal to see some Dab Chicks.

White Rabbits

Hurrah, it's the first of March today and I managed to say 'white rabbits' before I said anything else. When I was a child my mother always used to tell me that if the first thing we said on 1st March was 'white rabbits' we would get a nice surprise. I wonder where this came from? Does anyone know? Did you do the same? I've heard of 'pinch punch, it's the first of the month' are there any others?

Last night was extremely windy and about half an hour after we'd gone to bed there was a bang and a clunk as if something had hit the roof just above us. Oh, no we thought, a tile has gone. This morning I got up first and ventured outside, in my dressing gown, to take a look. At the back of the house were three pieces of guttering but I couldn't see where they had come from. By the time we were both up and dressed Paul went out and looked at the guttering and declared it not ours. It had blown from next door, hit our roof and blown over the house into our back garden. Unfortunately, our neighbours only had that piece of guttering mended last summer and had to pay the earth because the builder had to put up scaffolding so they are not going to be happy this morning.

Well they do say that if March 'comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb'.

Wind and earthquakes this week seem to have spurred the frogs in our pond into heights of activity - Paul has reported the goings on in his blog.