Friday, April 18, 2014

Father, forgive them

Music: The Crucifixion by Sir John Stainer (1840 - 1901)

Image: Memorial window in the 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, to the children killed in the 1963 bombing of the church. Given by the people of Wales. Details here

Monday, April 14, 2014

A touch of Tudor splendour

Given the slippery nature of time I shouldn’t be surprised to realise that it’s already more than two weeks since we arrived up here in the North-West Highlands after a most enjoyable 90th birthday celebration weekend for DH’s mother, which I haven’t even mentioned yet.

We assembled on the Friday afternoon at the home of DH’s youngest brother in Southport for an evening of family chatter before the big day itself. At 90 one doesn’t want to spend the day too strenuously before one’s birthday dinner in a local hotel, so it was decided we would go out in the afternoon for a gentle stroll around a local historic property, Rufford Old Hall, near Ormskirk.

Rufford Old Hall was owned by the Hesketh family for some 500 years until it was handed over to the tender care of the National Trust in 1936. The original building, which dates from around 1530, was a late mediaeval hall-house, though now only the Great Hall survives. Its elaborate and highly decorative half-timbering is both beautiful and impressive, though I couldn't help thinking how many oak trees it must have taken to build it.

Wonderfully carved screen 

Spartan dining

 Hammerbeam roof with angels - highly unusual outside a church

In 1661/2 a new wing was built at right angles to the original hall which, being brick-built in Jacobean style, contrasts very clearly with the hall’s black and white timbering. The house was further extended in the 1820s to give the building we see today

A touch of extra glamour is given to the house by the possibility that the young William Shakespeare himself may have acted in the Great Hall in the early 1580s when he was working as an assistant teacher in the household of a local landowner.

Detail of the screen

And this is meant to be movable?

The house is surrounded on three sides by formal gardens and on the fourth by a branch of the Leeds to Liverpool canal, giving it an air of great tranquillity and timelessness and a feeling of being very far from the hustle and bustle of modern life. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our tour through four centuries of English domestic architecture and came home very ready to relax with tea and birthday cake before sprucing ourselves up for our evening out.

The doors would have given access to the lost wing

The photographer photographed - DH and his beloved camera

The birthday girl herself

Sadly, the sunshine we enjoyed that afternoon didn’t last and our journey up through Scotland on Mothering Sunday was notable for the mist and murk which conspired to hide even the grandest of the mountains we drove through. That’s Scottish weather for you!

Monday, April 07, 2014

It’s no use!

Despite the ever-lengthening daylight, there just aren’t enough hours in my day. Since our arrival on the north coast just over a week ago and very late at night, I’ve barely stopped. The first couple of days were spent unpacking and recovering from the long, tiring journey and then the social whirl started with my first visit to Knit and Natter last Wednesday morning. Since then I’ve been out for much of the day every day except Thursday and my first free day this week is Friday.

I have a post simmering gently on the back burner, but there are a lot of photos to be gone through and worked on and background information to research, so it will have to wait until I can step off the merry-go-round. Music practice takes up a chunk of every day and I’m busy keeping my promise to catch up with your blogs, which I’ve sadly neglected in recent weeks. I can hardly expect you to take the trouble to read and comment on my blog if I never return the compliment.

Ben Loyal with his cap of cloud

So to keep you entertained until my mad frenzy settles down again and I too stop chasing around for a bit, here’s the latest, and very appropriate, escapade of Simon’s Cat.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Notable by her absence

That phrase sums up rather well the relationship between me and blogging for the past couple of weeks or more, ever since I was finally able to get back to full activity. Everyday life has taken over and it’s been good for me to get away from the computer for a while. The last three months have been very sedentary and I can feel the impact this has had on my general fitness, so it’s great to be busy and active again.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t missed you all, but I’ve been making up for lost time, particularly with music practice, plus a multitude of jobs around the house. The advent of some real spring weather has been another distraction, though that seems to be on hold again, with frost and wintry showers being the order of the day over the past few days. 

Dawn on a frosty Sunday morning

A sign of spring pushing through the debris of a long wet winter

Now DH and I are busy getting ready to be on the move again. The very small campervan has just returned from the garage with a new speedometer cable and a spruced-up gearbox and is raring to go. DH has even given its exterior a reluctant wash and brush-up, a great concession from one who firmly believes that road dirt has a protective function where vehicle bodywork is concerned.

On Friday we will travel to Southport, where we will be celebrating my dear mother-in-law’s 90th birthday this weekend. From there we will head north on our spring migration to the north coast of Scotland and the glories of the North-West Highlands. Having only managed a two-week visit there in the whole of last year, we can’t wait to arrive and settle in for a good long stay. We have no TV there and I’m looking forward to catching up with you all in the quiet evenings which are one of our great pleasures when we’re away. See you then….

Friday, March 07, 2014

Starting all over again

Towards the end of January the nice nurse who discharged me from hospital after my emergency hernia operation issued dire warnings of what might happen if I didn't avoid all strain to my newly-repaired stomach muscles for the next six weeks. Being a biddable sort of person when it really matters, I've obeyed her instructions, despite chafing at the restriction, so this is how I've been filling my time apart from blogging.

Rather too much of this

And quite a lot of these

A pair of these for me

And another for DD

Some of this - sermons and Lent talk

Now, finally, the six weeks are up and I’m looking forward to my new-found freedom. OK, it comes with some disadvantages, such as no longer having any excuse for not giving the vacuum cleaner its accustomed exercise, but it does mean I can finally get back into the swing of things and do something more physically demanding than knitting or desk work.

One of the casualties of this enforced period of rest has, of course, been clarinet practice. Playing a clarinet is very hard on the stomach muscles, which means that, after only a month of learning, I've had six weeks when I've not been allowed to blow a note. This afternoon I waved DH off for another visit to his mother, so this weekend I can practise to my heart’s content. What’s the betting that when I dust the cobwebs off the clarinet tomorrow, I’ll be back to my initial squeaks and odd notes? Ah well, I'd better take a lesson from Fred and Ginger...

Some images via Google