From dinosaurs to fish: from butterflies to rainbows: and back to dinosaurs again

William began his day yesterday by lining up his extensive collection of dinosaurs (thank you, Ben and Alex).  Please note the previously unrecorded vaccosaurus right in the middle there.

Then we went to the Horniman Museum, as we so often do.

We had to visit the Aquarium, as we so often do.

We had to visit the new Butterfly House, so William could show it to me.

And we had to visit the new exhibition about colour, The Rainbow Revealed.  Here’s William, sitting in the light tent, soothed by the calming green light that followed the vigorous energizing magenta.

Just before home time, we came upon this dinosaur.  He lives out his days in the primaeval forest created in the Horniman Museum Gardens.  The primaeval plants are currently protected from the winter storms by very unprimaeval plastic, which slightly spoils the effect.

A fine day.

Click on any image to see it full size.  These are smart phone photos.  Not so smart really.

Snapshot Saturday: An (almost) free sweet treat

Windfall apples.

This photo appeals to the part of me that can’t resist a good scavenge.  The part of me that as a four year old, willingly got up at four o’clock to go mushrooming with my mother on the abandoned wartime airfield near Sandhutton.

The part that went gathering rosehips at school in the autumn to send away to be made into Delrosa rosehip syrup; and has always gathered blackberries in season, to jam, jelly or quite simply devour whilst picking.

We discovered that the inhabitants of rural France think just the same way.  Nobody ever leaves home without an ‘au cas où‘ bag – ‘just in case’ they find some walnuts, almonds, mushrooms, wild cherries or mirabelles.  And neither did we- that bag was often full by the time we got home.

Now we’re back, we hunt down the biggest, purplest sloes to lay down bottles of sloe gin for winter evenings.

And in autumn we never walk through the village without rescuing windfall apples from the path, disregarded by the trees’ owners because they quite simply have too much fruit in their own gardens.

Here’s some of last autumn’s haul, being transformed into blackberry and apple jelly to spread on toast after a chilly winter walk.

In response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Sweet.

Click on any photo to view it full size.

Life without TV

My Spanish teacher Javi wanted to know what life was like without TV.  It wasn’t a burning question for him. All he really wanted me to do was practice using pretérito imperfecto and pretérito indefinido, which definitely made the conversation more difficult.

All the same.  He was quite interested.  He discovered that I had first seen the television only a few hundred metres from his little flat in Sandhutton, because that is where I too used to live.  My mother was the village schoolmistress, and we, together with about a dozen other chosen ones, had been invited to watch the Queen’s coronation on the one television in the village, newly bought for the occasion by a more prosperous farmer. (Note to self: remember Elizabeth’s called Isabella in Spanish.)

A 1950s TV set. Don’t be fooled by its solid appearance. It’s really quite tiny. (Steve McVoy Wikimedia Commons)

We all crowded into his sitting room, and peered at the screen, very likely a 9” screen, as fuzzy images of the Queen in her carriage, the Queen in Westminster Abbey paraded before our eyes.

This was the kind of image we saw. Black and white and fuzzy and small, it was still thrilling to see these moving pictures, even for a five year old. (Wikimedia Commons)

And that was that for me and television in my childhood, as my parents were fiercely opposed to having one of those contraptions in the house, especially when there was so much entertainment to be had from the radio – I mean wireless : so long as you remembered to turn it on some two minutes before your programme was due to start, so it could warm up.

Our radio was something like this. It had heavy batteries that had to be taken every now and then to be charged at the shop down the road. Tuning it was quite an art too. Hilversum, anybody?

There was the Home Service (pretty much Radio 4 in dinner jackets), the Light Programme (Radio 2), and the Third Programme (Radio 3).  And that was it.  Except for me, and teenagers everywhere, Sunday evenings on Radio Luxembourg with its  diet of pop music was required listening, under cover of pretending to be in my bedroom doing my homework.

At friends’ houses when I was little, I occasionally saw shows like ‘Andy Pandy’, or the distinctly odd ‘Muffin the Mule’ in which a wooden puppet clopped about on the top of a grand piano at the behest of his mistress Annette Mills.

Muffin the Mule (Wikimedia Commons)

Later, as a teenager, I’d escape on Saturdays and watch the hugely popular satirical show ‘That Was The Week That Was’.  My parents watched it too when they got the chance.  But they still didn’t buy a television, and I could have no part in the constant school chatter about what had happened in last night’s ‘Emergency – Ward 10‘.  The advent of colour television in the early 1960s passed me by.

David Frost, presenter of ‘That Was The Week That Was’ on the cover of the Radio Times, This magazine was obligatory reading for the dedicated radio listener or television viewer in the days before the schedules were published in the paper and online. (Wikimedia Commons)

What you don’t have, you don’t miss, and television didn’t form part of my life till the 1970s.  It’s not hugely important now.

As to Javi.  I don’t know why he asked.  He hasn’t got a TV.  There’s always i-player and his laptop.

Snapshot Saturday: Secret Ripon

Ripon has been a city for well over 1300 years.  Founded by a saint – Wilfred – it’s been under the control of the Vikings, the Normans, and more recently Harrogate Borough Council.  It’s been a religious centre, a market town, a textile town.  These days it’s no longer so important.  But those of us who live here tend to like this quiet unassuming place with a past to be proud of.

Come for a day trip, and you’ll head straight for the Cathedral, built and destroyed and rebuilt several times from the 7th to the 15th centuries.

Ripon Cathedral, now as in the past peeps from behind ancient narrow streets.

You may make for the Workhouse Museum, the Prison and Police Museum and Courthouse Museums, and learn about the lives of the deserving and undeserving poor of former centuries.

After that though, we could go and look for a Ripon not mentioned in the guidebooks.  It was by chance that I found a charming  oasis of calm, tucked away yards from the city centre and known to few.  It once housed a non conformist early 19th century ‘Temple’, of which all that remains is the Dissenters’ Graveyard.  A secret, quiet place, you’ll have it all to yourself.

 

Walk further up the road and you’ll find The Crescent, set back from the road behind a spacious gardens.  Now as then, back in the 19th century when the houses were built, it’s a fine address.  Lewis Carroll thought so,  He used to visit friends here, and compose songs and stories for their daughters.  There’s a blue plaque to prove it.

Day trippers tend to go home for supper.  Which is a pity.  Wednesday visitors could go and watch bellringing practice in the belltower of the Cathedral.  Hearing the bells tolling rhythmically and tunefully for practices, weddings, and on Sundays is one of the joys of Ripon life.

 

Day visitors miss out too on seeing the Ripon Hornblower setting the watch, as the postholder has done every single night since 886 and the time of Alfred the Great.  The Wakeman, employed by the city, blows his horn in all four corners of the market square to announce the watch is set and that citizens can sleep safe in their beds (these days the watch is provided by North Yorkshire Police I suppose). Then he goes off to tell the mayor, who may be watching tv, having a bath or an evening down at the pub, or at the cinema … no matter.  The mayor needs to know.

I could show you the Leper chapel, or the house where Wilfred Owen lived.  I could take you down ancient ginnels, or along the canal which was Ripon’s transport hub once upon a time.  Or you could make your own discoveries.  It’s a city you can enjoy exploring in your own time.

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is called Tour Guide.  Click on any image to see it full size.

This post is for you, Ros.  You’re a friend I would never have met except through blogging.  And you’re coming to visit us soon.  Where shall we explore first?

The panto is over. Long live Cinderella.

Before Christmas, I promised you an alternative version of Cinderella, prompted by a session we’d had in my writing group.

Well, dear reader, I wrote it. And no, I’m not going to share it, because what I found out was that I have no talent for, nor interest in writing fiction. What I produced was workmanlike and …. dull. Which is a shame, as I enjoy reading fiction, every day of my life.

But you did ask, so I’ll share a synopsis with you.

Grizelda and Gertrude lived with their mother in straitened circumstances since their father, a knight, had been killed in the Holy Land during the Crusades. From necessity, and from a belief, uncommon at the time that all are created equal, these God-fearing girls and their mother worked alongside the only remaining servant in running the household. Nevertheless, their mother eventually remarried. Her new husband was a widowed nobleman with an amiable if empty-headed 14-year-old daughter, Cinderella, over-indulged by a friend of the girl’s dead mother and whom she called her ‘Fairy Godmother’.

The two older girls tried to include Cinderella in their simple hard-working way of life, but she resented their efforts, regarding them as dull and boring.

One day, an invitation came from the King to all noble families. He was holding a summer ball to celebrate his son Prince Charming’s 21st birthday, in his summer palace outside the nearby town of Fantasienstadt. Grizelda and Gertrude didn’t want to go at all. Cinderella did, but as she had only just turned 15, her father stood firm and forbade it however much she and her godmother pleaded, raged and stormed.

At the ball, the two sisters, big-boned and gauche, found few dance partners. They looked on as a bewitchingly beautiful young woman arrived and straightaway attracted the eye of Prince Charming. She looked not unlike Cinderella. All evening she and the prince danced, until suddenly, just before midnight, she ran away, screaming in panic. She didn’t even stop to pick up the delicate sparkly shoe she lost in her hurry to escape.

The next day, a royal footman came to the door, bearing this same shoe. He needed to find its owner. Cinderella astonished everyone by claiming it was hers, and proved it by running to fetch its partner. She was swept off to the palace by the footman, and the rest is history.

Ann Anderson (1874 – 1952). Cinderella escapes from the ball in a great hurry.

Later, Cinderella explained that her godmother had borrowed all the finery, together with a splendid carriage, so that she could get to the ball. But she had to be home for midnight, when it was to be returned.

And Grizelda and Gertrude? Just one ball had been enough to convince them that the trappings of a noble life were not for them. They both entered a convent, where they lived in devotion and service for the rest of their lives.

Snapshot Saturday: from Pyrenees to Pennines via books, a cup of coffee,a skein of geese …. and an elephant

The WordPress photo challenge this week is ‘Beloved’.

I don’t think the humans in my life whom I love would be happy for me to plaster their images all over the blogosphere.  I have no pets, beloved or otherwise.  So I’ll have to look a little further.

Here’s a little miscellany of images, beloved images:

  • The Yorkshire Dales, whose rolling hills, bisected by ancient drystone  walls I missed so much during our years in France.
  • The Pyrenees, from their richly flowered springtime meadows through to winter, when their rocky slopes are covered in deep snow, and which I now miss every single day.  I’ll miss the shared picnics on our walks together, when our French friends pooled resources, and we ate everybody’s offerings of home-cured sausage, local cheeses, bread, home-baked cakes together with wine and somebody’s grandfather’s very special eau de vie.
  • Springtime daffodils.  Every year I go into deep mourning when they wither, die and finally become untidy heaps of dying leaves.  I’m happier now as they thrust their sheathed stems through the hard soil, promising to flower soon- but not quite yet.
  • There are books: I need a pile beside my bed to get me through the night.
  • A single, perfect cup of coffee from Bean and Bud in Harrogate.
  • Skeins of geese flying overhead mark the seasons here, and I love their haunting, raucous cries.
  • And so on….

I’ll end though with this.  I wasn’t beloved of this elephant in Kumbakonam,  Tamil Nadu, who was only doing his job when I visited him ten years ago on my Indian Adventure.  But I felt beloved and very special when he raised his trunk and brought it down upon my shoulder – his very distinctive way of blessing me.

Elephant in the temple of Adi Kumbeswarar, Kumbakonam, ready to give me his blessing.

Click on any image to see a slideshow of the photos, full-size.

Getting ready for Christmas 2020

Every autumn we gather sloes from the hedgerows.  Every autumn we make sloe gin, and lay it down for the Christmas of the following year.  And every Christmas, we find ourselves sampling some of the hooch we made a mere three months previously.

With so little willpower at our command, what on earth has persuaded us to save a few bitter oranges from our annual marmalade making bonanza to concoct Seville orange gin this January?  This recipe by Maria Dernikos admonishes us to make it, and leave well alone for three whole years.  Good Lord, we might be dead by then.

Ready for action with gin and oranges.

It’s dead easy.  All it needs is gin, the thinly pared zest from a few Seville oranges, a couple of cloves and lots of sugar.  Bottle the lot, put in a cool dark place, and agitate daily till the sugar has dissolved.

After that, I think our only option is to try to forget all about it.  And perhaps we could remember it just one month shy of the three-year requirement, and drink a small glass of it on Christmas Day 2020.

PS.  With the juice from the pared Seville oranges, I made Seville orange curd.  This recipe is a bit sweet for my taste so I added some lemon juice.  Thanks Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall!