Everyone knows that when a castle or a church tumbles into ruin, it’s an opportunity for the locals. All over Europe and beyond, once majestic buildings have found new uses as humble farm labourers’ cottages, or a house for the local blacksmith, or … whatever’s needed really. Round here there are at least two houses whose builders hadn’t merely appropriated the stone, but also reinstated the windows found in a tumbledown place of worship.
This house is two farm-workers’ cottages knocked into one. The original tiny dwellings have been here for centuries: but being humble didn’t stop them from having fine windows once part of a church that no longer exists.
Not far away is a handsome farm house. That too benefits from a spot of recycling.
I have another blog, now more or less discontinued, called Notes on a Family. I wasn’t so much concerned about a wide audience, as about recalling my family and personal history for my children. It’s one of my regrets that I never talked enough to my parents about their own past. To my Polish father, who came over, like so many of his countrymen, during the war. To my mother: a clergyman’s daughter. He himself was Cambridge educated, despite being raised in poverty in a large family. Why did I never ask her how that came about? I was born in Yorkshire, but spent most of my childhood in London. All of these stories are told in my blog, and others too.. Here’s one from 22nd May 2016, for Fandango’s Flashback Friday.
ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER SCHOOL
A few posts ago, I told you about my first London school. It became pretty obvious to my parents that it simply would not do. But still … I was a Bulge Baby, born, like so many thousands of others, shortly after World War II ended. There was still enormous pressure on school places. My mother had found a good job teaching classics at Mayfield School, a Girls’ Grammar School in Putney, so really needed a place for me in a Putney school, so we could travel to and from school together.
There were no places.
Finally, they found somewhere. It wasn’t a state primary, though, but a tiny, old-fashioned private school, Ebley House School. Even for the time, its fees were modest.
It was a funny old place, run from a church hall, because its original premises had been bombed during the war.. The head, Miss Egleton seemed a rather frail old lady, with wispy hair gathered into a skimpy bun. The only other teacher I remember was Mrs. Coate-Bond, whom my mother thought rather racy, as she read the left-leaning Manchester Guardian.
The ‘babies’ or kindergarten class, were in the vestry, and the rest of us were divided into two groups, Lower Transition and Upper Transition, and worked at opposite ends of the hall. Once I passed the 11+ and got to grammar school, I realised what an old-fashioned seat of learning it was compared with the lively places my new friends had been to. I remember some of the lessons:
We copied line after line of this stuff, with scratchy steel dip-pens which at the least provocation spattered unwashable ink onto our books and over our cardigans.
PE: We didn’t change out of our ordinary clothes, but stood just as in this picture here, doing star jumps, running on the spot and similar. No games pitches, therefore no outdoor games.
Monday mornings after break were worst. The boys went off to …. hang on, I have no idea what the boys did. The girls did embroidery. Tray cloths. Every single week. We gossiped instead, of course. It took weeks and weeks to complete a cloth. At the end of every class, we’d line up and show what we’d done that week. It was always a total exaggeration. The only times we were compelled to put a bit of effort in was on those rare occasions when we had to start a new cloth off, and we really couldn’t pull a fast one about our achievements. Like every girl in the school, I loathed Monday mornings. It put me off sewing for life.
Most of the other lessons were reasonably conventional for the time. I enjoyed English, spelling, maths, singing, and scripture (though I wondered for years why a good man like Jesus would promise to make his disciples ‘vicious of men’). At play time, my earnest little friends and I wrote, illustrated and put together magazines with an extremely limited readership ( just us, I think). In my final term, I wrote a dashing tale in which boarding school chums (modelled closely on the girls in Angela Brazil‘s school stories) got the better of a dastardly burglar. It was performed at the school prize-giving.
In the morning, I travelled to Putney with my mother, and at the end of the school day, walked over to Mayfield to return home with her. When I was eight, though, she got another job teaching Classics at Fulham County School. By then we were living in Victoria. So every day I walked to the station, crossing two busy main roads. I caught the Tube, the District Line to East Putney, sometimes changing at Earl’s Court.
Then there were two more busy main roads to navigate. I was a nervous little thing, but it never occurred to me to be frightened of this journey, which is not one the average eight year old would do alone these days, I think.
It wasn’t a stunningly exciting education. But I was happy enough. Apart from the time when I missed almost a whole term because I was in Isolation Hospital. But that’s another story.
I thought immediately of the year we came back from France, 2014. That was the year too when the Tour de France came to Yorkshire. We went Tour de France mad, and some people even decorated their houses in red spots in honour of the King of the Mountains.
I remembered Brian, the dog my elder daughter had. No dog is spottier than a Dalmatian.
I thought of a bubble-producer extraordinaire we met in London once, delighting children of all ages.
There was that extraordinary murmuration of starlings that took place over our house. It’s an annual treat round here. Thousands and thousands of starlings polka-dot the sky. And afterwards, leave the car spotted and dotted.
Or what about Seville orange trees with glowing orange fruits brightening the winter Spanish streets – and then lying discarded as the season ends: until we come along and bag up a kilo or two to transform into marmalade back at home?
But then I thought about spots and dots in the here and now. Spots and dots in England mean rain on the window, rain on the windscreen. So I begin and end my post with weather, English style.
But … one more thing. No rain = no welly-boots. No welly-boots = no cheery whimsical feature in a garden just down the road.
Last week, I showed you wisteria on the front of the house. Today, we’ll sneak into the walled garden and look at the clematis framing one of the windows in our neighbour’s house – there it is in the featured photo. And here’s the lilac, just coming out:
And here’s the view from the kitchen window – the lilac’s still budded, but soon it will be fully out – for one week only – before becoming once more a rather unremarkable shrub.
I may produce more lilac for Jude’s Life in Colour: two shades of purple to go at in just a few days. But I promised another window view for Ludwig’s Monday Window. So here we are.
Since the Yorkshire Dales – or other popular destinations – are understandably still not keen on receiving hordes of visitors, we’ll have another Virtual Walk, and revisit a post written in May 2014, shortly after we returned to England.It’s for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, and for Jo’s Monday walk.
ANOTHER DAY IN THE DALES
Burnsall – Howgill – Middle Skyrehome – Gill’s Laithe – Troller’s Gill – Appletreewick (often pronounced Aptrick locally) – Kail Lane – and Burnsall again
What’s not to like in a walk that passes through places with such enticing names? It was Rosemary who led the Ripon Ramblers yesterday and she’d organised not only a splendid walk with varied Dales scenery, but a warm sunny day too. Here are my picture postcards from the day. Click on the images you’d like to see enlarged, or to have a slideshow.
This is the time of year when the outside of our house, and the one to which we’re attached deck themselves in scented clouds of wisteria.
There’s lilac below the kitchen window: that’ll bloom very soon: already the tightly furled buds are loosening and hinting at the soft mauves and purples that will emerge. That’ll be for next week then.
We’re less than a week into the month of May. Let’s mark the arrival of this lovely month by celebrating Beltane.
BELTANE AT THE ‘STONEHENGE OF THE NORTH’
May 1st 2016
Not much further than a mile from us as the crow flies, lies Thornborough Henge. It’s a prehistoric monument consisting of three giant circular earthworks. Constructed 5000 years ago by the first Neolithic (New Stone Age) farmers, it was probably an enclosure for their ritual gatherings. The Henge became an important centre in Britain for pilgrimage and trade, although its exact purpose still remains a mystery.
It sends shivers down my spine to think that this ancient piece of our history lies just a short walk from our home.
We can visit it any time we choose, simply to tramp round and try to imagine it in its heyday, and we’ll have the place to ourselves. Not on May Day though. Today is the Gaelic feast of Beltane, half way between the spring and summer solstices. It’s a day to mark the beginning of summer. Sadly, today is very cold, rather windy and a bit wet.
Back in pre-historic times, rituals were held on this day to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Bonfires, deemed to have protective powers, were lit. For many centuries these practices died out. But nowadays, at sites like Thornborough, pagans, Wiccans, New-Agers and lovers of history and tradition gather once more to celebrate the renewal of life and growth.
Today I was there too. For an hour at least, for the opening ceremony. Brrr! It was cold.
I was strangely moved. The Green Man, representing rebirth and the cycle of growth was our Master of Ceremonies. He invited us all to join hands, whether friends or strangers, in fellowship, and shout out three times the invocation to new life. We hailed Brigantia, Celtic goddess of Northern England. Then at his bidding and as he sounded his horn, we turned to the east and welcomed the summer rains. We turned south to welcome the sun (who was coyly absent today), to the west to welcome summer winds, and to the north where the wolves apparently are.
Then a man, naked from the waist upwards save for his covering of woad-coloured paint, leapt among us bearing the flaming torches which would offer us all protection over the coming months.
And that was the ceremony over. Dancers entertained us. They seemed to me to owe much to flamenco and to middle-eastern belly dancing traditions, but we all cheered them on with enthusiasm.
I shan’t be there this year for the closing ceremony. I’m still thawing out. But weather permitting, I’ll certainly go along next year. Will you come along too?
I’m sorry to say I’ve not been since. I would have gone this year, but … cancelled … Covid.