Monday, July 28, 2008

The Old House

I've always been fascinated by this house. It is called Doveleys Manor and stands just off the main road from Rocester to Ashbourne. We have visited Doveleys Garden Centre quite a few times and peered at the house and wondered about it.

Yesterday we dropped in after our walk around the lake at the JCB Factory and saw a notice that I'm sure I hadn't seen before inviting people to walk around the grounds. Well, we didn't have to be invited twice so off we went through the grounds to the woodland walk.

The house is empty at the moment but it isn't by any means derelict. It looks as if some work has been going on on one side, the other side is still in need of attention and there were plenty of house martins dipping and swooping and popping to their nests under the eaves.

The house was built in 1831 and added to in later years hence the date above of 1875. From the White's Directory of Staffordshire of 1851 I found that the house was the seat of T P Heywood, esq and that it was known as Dove Leys. I assumed that T P Heywood is the TPH of the initials in the second photo, that M H was probably his wife and that they were responsible for the later additions to the house. In order to verify this I looked at the Census returns for 1871 and found living at Doveleys Thomas Heywood and his wife Margaret, 4 daughters, 2 sons and a family friend. There were 10 servants including a valet, a general servant, a laundry woman, a cook, a scullery maid, 2 nurses and 2 housemaids. At the back of the house lived a butler and his wife their three sons and two lodgers who were the coachman and his wife. It was a large household; no wonder the Heywoods made extensions to the house.

The morning was warm and sunny and the short walk through the cool woods took us close by the River Dove which was flowing quite rapidly through the fields at the side of the house and garden centre on its way down through Rocester and past the old cotton factory there. When we got back lots of people had arrived and were setting up umbrellas and small gazebos on the lawn in the coach turning circle at the front of the house. As there were huge bowls of water, plenty of shade and lots of beautiful dogs around we asumed that a dog show would be taking place at some point in the afternoon.

I thought you would like to see a photo of the sculpture in the lake at JCB, if you look closely you can see a heron perched on the gull on the left and a black swan underneath the one on the right. There are many water birds here, including the black swans, herons, egyptian geese, barnack and barnacle geese. We also spotted a runner duck. It is a popular place for both locals and visitors to stop and take a walk and for children to feed the ducks.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dock and Burdock

Below is a photo of some burdock. To add to my post on Dandelions and also to that on Superb Combinations, I thought I would include the burdock because one of the things I remember about my childhood is the bottles of Dandelion and Burdock.

They were delivered every week by the Corona Man and we would have a bottle of Dandelion and Burdock as well as a bottle of Lime and Lemon and I think something called Cream of Soda. My memory here is hazy because we also used to have a weekly delivery from the grocery shop in the nearest small town to our village. The owner, Sid, was a friend of my Dad's and he used to call by and sit and have a cup of tea and chat as well as making his delivery, collecting his payment and writing the next week's order in his book. I have been searching in some of my cookery books for a recipe for Dandelion and Burdock but could find nothing. I eventually found a recipe on a super blog called The Wild Drink Blog - it was interesting to read how to make it but I think this may be a step too far for me so we have been lazy and bought a bottle from the supermarket to see if it still tastes the same as I remember.

It doesn't seem that different but I guess it probably has far more additives and preservatives than the stuff we used to drink. Still it was nice to bring back memories for a while.

Another combination of plants I remember from childhood are nettles and dock. The leaves of the dock plant were very handy if you had been stung by nettles which I seem to remember happened quite often. As children we used to play in the fields and around the woods without a care in the world and I have memories of sitting by paths rubbing my legs with a dock leaf to relieve the stinging feeling on the skin.

Those were, of course, the days of endless sunshine, of playing in each others gardens, with mother's clothes horse up-ended and covered in a blanket to make a tent; of making mud pies and baking them in the sun and 'pretending' to sell them to each other as bread and cakes. Dad would come out into the garden with the watering hose and we would don our swimming costumes and jump and play in the spray of water from the hose and scream and giggle with joy whilst Mum waited on the side lines with towels and a cooling drink. Days never to be seen again, I think.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The train now standing........

Our nearest station is about 20 minutes walk away. The trains that run along this line travel every hour between Derby and Crewe. When we first moved here about 12 years ago it was a different story.

Back then the line ran between Skegness on the East Coast and Crewe. It would pass through Boston, Sleaford and the village of Heckington where you can see the eight sailed windmill from the train and the pea room craft centre and tea room was in the station yard. I don't know if that is still there but certainly the windmill is still quite a tourist attraction. The train then ran its course to Nottingham, Beeston, Attenborough through to Derby, Tutbury, Blythe Bridge and thence to Stoke-on-Trent, our little station being the first it called at on its way through the city towards Kidsgrove and Crewe. A few years later the train stopped running between Cheshire and Lincolnshire and would terminate at Nottingham. Now in the last year or so it only goes as far as Derby. I wonder how much longer it will last?

It does seem to be quite well used and I've travelled to both Derby and Crewe a few times in recent years to get to other places like Nottingham, Chesterfield and quite strangely Shrewsbury. I always think it is odd to go north to Crewe to then travel south again to Shrewsbury, but so be it. The train company that runs trains on this line is Central trains but the train which came into the station was from south-west trains.

In the photo above you can see evidence of industry past in the tops of the old bottle ovens or pot banks; all that remains of one of the pottery factories which proliferated across the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. On the other side of the station is evidence of the 'new' industry of today - otherwise known as Tesco.

Again, when we first came here the land now occupied by Tesco was where a swimming pool and council refuse site used to stand. Presumably when the Council sold the land to Tesco they negotiated a deal and Tesco provided a new bus station - which was needed because the old one was horrible. This is situated just opposite the station and the two together are known as the Longton Interchange.

Below is Longton Town Hall another relic of the 'glory days' of the potteries and a fine one too. A number of years ago now various townspeople and traders formed a group to save the town hall and succeeded; its future is always in the balance but for now it seems to be safe.

The town hall was one of the first buildings I could see from the train when I travelled through from Boston one cold Friday evening not far from Christmas on my way to spend the weekend in Stoke. Paul was working over here then but we hadn't sold our house in Spalding and I was still working there. I just remember seeing it all lit up with Christmas lights as we passed by - it was such a cheerful site after a long, tiring journey.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ratatouille and Roses

I wish I could say that all the vegetables in the basket above are from our garden but no such luck I'm afraid. Just the courgettes and the garlic are ours, the rest courtesy of the local market. So what are we eating this weekend? There's the makings of a ratatouille in the basket and a cauliflower cheese. Sometimes we just make cauliflower cheese; other times we make cauliflower and macaroni cheese together and add a few chopped tomatoes and sliced mushrooms all in one dish with the sauce - delicious.

When we cook the ratatouille sometimes we fry the ingredients and at other times we roast them in the oven on a tray and then put in a pan or casserole and add the tomatoes, both ways are delicious but I expect the roasted one is healthier as you use less olive oil. The mixture can be left overnight and cooked again the next day and if you add some passata, either home made or from the supermarket, it really enriches the flavour. We serve it in different ways too, sometimes with plain French bread, or with garlic bread and, favourite at the moment, on a bed of couscous. It's a very good way to get your five a day. If you follow it with a fresh fruit salad you feel very healthy and virtuous.

I was thinking about my happiness list in the last post and realized that I hadn't added many sounds to the list and I should have done because there are sounds that lift your spirits and make you happy. Sometimes the sounds are quite moving, making the hairs on the back of your neck prickle or bring a lump to your throat. For me it's things like bird song, church bells, church and Welsh choirs, the sound of a cello, bagpipes, the tinkle of a harpsichord, wind chimes and people with mellifluous voices reading poetry or prose, the voice of Scott Walker. I know some of those things people will hate, like perhaps the church bells or the bagpipes but I find them quite wonderful.

The weather is so dire again and most of our flowers have been spoiled by the wind and rain; amazingly I managed to catch these lovely pink roses before they are dashed to pieces. I don't know what variety they are, they have been here since we moved in, but they come back year after year with hardly any help from us.

As you can see we decided to have the pasta and cauliflower bake this evening so it's ratatouille tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fifty things

I found this on Mibsy's blog and thought I would give it a try. The idea is to list 50 things that make you happy. I haven't listed them in any particular order of most happy to least or anything like that, I've just kept popping back to the list as I've thought of things:-

1. being safe at home with loved ones on a dark winter's evening especially Christmas Eve
2. early mornings in summer
3. misty autumn mornings
4. sitting around a table with good friends,food and conversation.
5. sitting in candle light
6. letters in the post
7. visiting old houses, abbeys and ruins
8. visiting art galleries and museums
9. wandering around gardens
10. walking by the sea
11. walking in Derbyshire
12. Being in Bath or York
13. or Lyme Regis
14. or St Ives
15. or Southwold
16. or Staithes
17. or Shrewsbury
18. Paris
19. Sienna
20. Bookshops
21. eating fresh apricots, raspberries or gooseberries
22. morning coffee
23. almond croissants, pain chocolat and Breton Far
24. peas straight from the pod
25. home baked bread
26. the smell of warm cat fur
27. the scent of lavender warmed in the sun
28. rural France
29. the salt smell of the sea
30. the smell of fish and chips on the sea front
31. cool crisp cotton sheets
32. long cotton skirts
33. corduroy or velvet jackets
34. smooth polished wood
35. cats all, but mine in particular
36. watching the sun set
37. turning crisp new book pages
38. sitting on a beach watching the tide come in.
39. curling up on the sofa or bed with a good book
40. sitting in a theatre waiting for a Shakespeare play to begin
41. sitting in a church or cathedral listening to early music
42. the early morning sun
43. squirrels red or grey
44. trees in autumn
45. soft, white snow
46. warm summer evenings
47. walking home on moonlit nights
48. the call of the curlew
49. colourful beach huts
50. the scent of sweet peas

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Well I Never

We are going to have lots of plums this year, the branches are heavy with fruit so we will be able to make pots of jam and plum crumbles. Lovely!

We also have black currants, the blackbirds are feasting themselves on these but we have enough to make a few pots of blackcurrant jelly.

The lavender can be dried and used for lavender bags.

And, I can't quite believe that we have an olive, can you spot it? I bought this plant as a little cutting from Woolworth for 99p not really expecting it to do much of anything but look at it now.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rain Stopped Play

Tell me, where has summer gone? Was it ever here? Was it that hot weekend we had in May? Who knows? The garden is wet, soggy and looks completely abandoned. The lawns desperately need cutting. We have mushrooms and toadstools growing in amongst the clover and the rose petals are blowing in all directions. Damp looking birds huddle on roof tops and shelter under branches, all the sounds and vibrancy of a typical summer garden have gone.

The poppies are here today and gone tomorrow dashed by the wind and rain their short flowering time cut even shorter by the inclement weather.

There is a small hint of better days to come; the sweet peas are growing strong and have been taken out of the green house now but will they ever flower if they don't get any sunshine?

Who knows? I drift in some sort of limbo between work and home gazing out of the windows onto a dreary, cold looking canal, unusually devoid of leisure boats, at work and onto the sodden garden at home, without any energy or inspiration to do anything.

I feel like one of Chekhov's three sisters, sitting and longing, not to go back to Moscow but to experience the warmth and delight of summer, just for a few days, please?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Books, Books, Books and A Book Meme

As it is July I'll do another review of books read as I did in April for the first three months of the year. I was going to do a list of them all but I think I'll mention just a few of my favourites.

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E M Delafield I read very quickly, was very entertained and laughed a lot. I intend now to find the other diaries and read those too.

The Priory by Dorothy Whipple. I was intrigued by this as Mrs Whipple lived in Nottingham and based her descriptions of the Priory on one of her favourite places - Newstead Abbey, home of the poet Lord Byron. I liked her style of writing and her characters were wonderful, I liked them, then I didn't and then I did again. The book was published in 1939 and covers the two years before the outbreak of the second world war. I shall certainly read more of her books if I can find them.

From the Lighthouse to Monk's House by Katherine Hill-Miller is about the sense of place within the works of Virginia Woolf. The author takes us to the places that influenced Virginia Woolf throughout her life and also gives a guide to visiting the places to look for yourself. Since we moved to Stoke-on-Trent a few years ago I've been trying to gradually read some of the books of the city's most noted writer Arnold Bennett. So far I've managed The Man from the North, Anna of the Five Towns and Old Wives Tales. My latest acquisition, courtesy of the Oxfam shop, is a collection of his short stories The Grim Smile of the Five Towns. I've read three of the stories so far and keep dipping into it between other books.

A Cure for All Diseases by Reginald Hill and Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid. Two of my favourite crime writers. A Cure for All Diseases carries on from The Death of Dalziel and certainly made me chuckle. Beneath the Bleeding is the latest in the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series and as good as any I have read and kept me turning the pages. I love the relationship Tony and Carol have.

For light entertainment I've discovered Adele Geras this last year and have read two more of her books A Hidden Life and Hester's Story and enjoyed them both. I also read, very quickly, the book written by the now famous blogger, Petite Anglaise aka Catherine Sanderson.

Friday, July 04, 2008

the book meme

I've borrowed this book meme from Sarah's blog. I know she doesn't mind. It's a list of books and you are asked to:-

Bold - those you have read.
Italicize - those you intend to read.

I've put my own comments at the side where I felt compelled to say something.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen - I really ought to read this one day!
2.The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte - did this at school in my second year, then for A level
4 Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling - seen all the films - I know it doesn't count
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - I've read quite a lot of the plays and some of the sonnets but I can't say I've read the complete works yet.
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier - keep meaning to read this.
16 The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres - seen the film, that'll do for me!
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown - as No. 38
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen - the first Austen I ever read.
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - my first and favourite Dickens, read at school.
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley - again did this for A level, disliked it!
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I always wonder who chooses these books and what insight it gives them? It is very random as there are many other wonderful books that aren't on the list. There is no Virginia Woolf to start with, no Oscar Wild, no Elizabeth Gaskell and no George Eliot to name just a few. Anyway, I guess ours it not to reason why. It must seem odd that I have read all the Jane Austen works listed except Pride and Prejudice, I must rectify that but I have seen so many adaptations of it I put it off because I know the story. Anyway, there you are; below are some of the titles from my book shelves you can tell how long I have had them from the book covers.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Where the Apple Fell

In continuation of the two Cambridge and also the Peterborough posts our next port of call was, as I said, connected to my visit to Trinity College. I mentioned in passing that Sir Isaac Newton had studied at that college and also that I had sat amongst the statues, which included one of Sir Isaac in the chapel there. After our morning in Peterborough we set off towards home. A picnic lunch at Bourne Woods was followed by a visit to Woolsthorpe Manor, birthplace of the man himself.

This is the kind of house I like to visit, small, modest and so full of history. Don't get me wrong I love to visit the grand stately homes but I feel drawn to more modest places. I remember visiting here many years ago when we first went to live in Lincolnshire and had always wanted to return.

The staff were very welcoming and friendly and eager to explain all about the inside of the house. Sorry photos weren't allowed inside but the house downstairs had a sitting room to the left through the door, a large kitchen with a huge fireplace and curtained bed for the servant. Through the back was a reconstruction of a 17th century farmhouse kitchen with lovely replica salt glaze dishes and strewn herbs. Up the stairs, just inside the door, were two bedrooms. To the left was the room in which Sir Isaac was born, his father died a short while before his birth and when the baby arrived earlier than expected he was, according to the guide, small enough to fit into a pint pot and was not expected to survive. He lived to be 84. To the right was the bedroom Sir Isaac used when he returned to Woolsthorpe in 1665, to escape the plague in Cambridge. It was in this room that he did his experiments on the composition of light and devised his reflecting telescope. At the back of the house, in a third room, is an exhibition about Newton's family and his step-family.

The photo above is of the sitting room window on the side of the house. In the orchard opposite the front of the house is the famous apple tree which influenced the scientist's thoughts on gravitational force when he saw an apple fall from the tree.

I've just realised that I'm assuming that everyone will know about Newton's Life. If not here is a link to find out more. Since our last visit the barn has become a Science Centre where modern day experiments have been set up for a hands on experience as to how Sir Isaac Newton worked out and proved his theories.

After playing with some of the exhibits in the science centre and having a quick cup of tea in the little cafe there, we set off towards home. As we drove along the A50 images of all the wonderful things I had seen over our two days away whizzed around my brain and I realised just how lucky I was to have seen them all.

Thank you

What a lovely gesture. The Dutchess has passed on this award to me. It is for 'talent and creative energy' - I only hope I can live up to that ideal. I am honoured to receive it. I have to nominate five others whom I think deserve the award so here goes:-
Valerie at Acorn Moon, Rowan at Circle of the Year, Mibsy at Classical Calling, Steph at Curlew Country, Rosie at Wuddled Murds. Hope you all enjoy the award as much as I enjoy reading your blogs. Links in my sidebar.

Once again, my dear Dutchess, thankyou - oh, and for the lovely flowers, too!