Sunday, 18 March 2018

Through The Square Window

Thomas Hardy's first career was as an architect. He designed his house at Max Gate - and involved the family business in its construction. The Hardy Brickworks made the materials, and the Hardy Builders put the place up. His father declared that Thomas was 'the most difficult client he had ever worked for'
As we went round on Tuesday, the guides were quick to point out special features that Hardy had insisted be put in - sliding screens in the dining room windows, so passers by could not see him eating, and internal windows round the servants' staircase to allow more light into the upstairs corridors, and many other details.
But the one that interested me was the large window in his study. J M Barrie, the Scottish writer had said of Hardy "He looks through a window and sees things that nobody else sees"
If you look at the window behind his desk, you will see that each of the four sections has 12 small square panes, surrounding one larger square pane.
The guide pointed this out to me. He said "Hardy chose the clear centre panes deliberately. He wanted to see what was in the world outside and not be distracted by having to focus on the cross in the middle of the frame in front of him "
The guide then changed the subject and started talking about the problems in the Hardy's marriage - Emma was a devout woman of faith, but Hardy had no time for all that. Sadly it was only after her death that he realised how much he had loved her.
It is only two weeks till Easter. It occurs to me that as a Christian, my world view is affected by what happened on Good Friday- that as I focus on the Cross and God's grace, this is not a distraction, but rather a way to make sense of it all. The Way, the Truth and the Life. 

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Enjoying Dorchester To The Max

The final part of our Dorchester trip on Tuesday was to visit Max Gate, the home of Thomas Hardy, now in the care of the National Trust. Thomas, born 1840, had grown up in a little cottage just outside Dorchester, where his father was stonemason and builder. He trained as an architect and worked in Dorchester and London, and in 1870 was sent to St Juliot, Cornwall on a commission. Here he lodged in the Vicarage where he met Emma Gifford [sister-in-law of the vicar] She was bright, intelligent, well read and the same age. They fell in love, she encouraged him in his writing - and in 1874, the year that 'Far from The Madding Crowd' was published, they married.
Hardy decided he wanted to moved back to Dorset - so in 1885, he had a house - Max Gate - built to his own design, on the east side of Dorchester, just three miles from his birthplace. He would often walk across the heath to visit his mother on a Sunday afternoon. This house was built to his own design, and he lived here with Emma and their grumpy little dog "Wessex" till Emma's death in 1912.
Two years later, he married his secretary, Florence Dugdale. She was almost 40 years his junior. They were at Max Gate till Hardy died in 1928, and Florence remained till her death 9 years later in 1937.
Here is a picture of Thomas, Florence and Wessex in the grounds of Max Gate in 1924
So Emma and Thomas were here for 27 years, and Florence was here for 23 years - but for 9 of those years she was a widow.
The house is really interesting, do look at the pictures on the NT site.
Kate, Hardy's sister, made the property over to the NT in 1940 - she wanted it to be kept in his memory. The contents were auctioned off [except his study furniture, which went to the museum] For many years, the Trust had tenants living in the house, then for the last 5 years, it has been properly open to the public.
Because the rooms have been re-furnished nothing is 'precious' - so you can sit on the armchairs, play the piano, turn the wheel on the sewing machine in Emma's boudoir, and sit at the desk in Hardy's study. You can even stroke the toy dog, Wessex, who perches on the sofa. 
Here's Bob sitting at Emma's typewriter in her 'boudoir', and me in Hardy's study. She and Hardy were not happy at the end of her marriage, and had separate rooms. How sad!
After Emma's death, a distraught Hardy turned the perpetual calendar to March 7th, the day they met. It remains unchanged to this day.
The house is well worth a visit- you can see the Pet Cemetery [including the grave of Wessex] and in the old kitchen you are able to make your own hot drinks and sit together round the table [I've never done that in any NT property before]
There is a sense that the man has just popped across to see his Mum at her Bockhampton Cottage and he will walk back in at any moment. 
This is where he wrote Jude the Obscure, Tess of the D'Urbevilles and The Mayor Of Casterbridge.  In this relatively austere Victorian property, he entertained many famous people
  • writers; J M Barrie, Rudyard Kipling, R.L. Stevenson, H G Wells, G B Shaw
  • poets; W B Yeats, A E Housman, Siegfried Sassoon
  • others; Ramsay Macdonald, Marie Stopes, Mrs Patrick Campbell, Gustav Holst, T E Lawrence [who regularly nipped over on his motorbike from Bovingdon Camp] and Edward, Prince of Wales
There are flowers in the urns and vegetables growing in the kitchen garden. Do check out the lovely pictures on the NT website!
A very pleasant home. Not all the rooms are accessible to the public- I was a little disappointed I could not go into the 'Bicycle Room'. There are members of my family who'd really appreciate having a room solely designated for the storage of their velocipedes!

Friday, 16 March 2018

Dippy In Dorchester

 10am - into the Museum. The Dippy Team were very friendly, not at all dippy! You can check out the National History Museum site for details of how their great plaster model of a diplodocus is touring the UK this year.
In the great hall of the museum [cast iron work designed by one of the guys who worked on the Crystal Palace] is Dippy. And hordes of excited children visiting him. 

The floor of the Hall is an exposed Roman Mosaic, the only one in Europe which Joe Public can trample all over!
The Guide was explaining that the pomegranate and leaf pattern in the corner is the signature of the person who made the mosaic.
He also said there was even more mosaic to see underneath Dippy's plinth. I shall have to return after the dinosaur departs, and before my free ticket runs out

Here we are by the Jurassic Coast, so of course Mary Anning gets a mention.
There is a facsimile of a page from her commonplace book. I just love what she wrote, 200 years ago.
 And what is woman? Was she not made of the same flesh and blood as Lordly Man? Yes; and was destined doubtless to become his friend his help-mate on his pilgrimage but surely not his slave, for is not reason Her’s also? 
Upstairs, a room of more fossils, and a room devoted to Dorset writers, especially Hardy. There was a recreation of his study- he'd instructed that his desk etc should be bequeathed to the Museum, and also a feature on The Woodlanders. Two stunning smocks on display. What fabulous stitchery!
In the 'Victorian Schoolroom' Bob was very taken with the Swivelling Stand. With the top one way it is a lectern for someone to stand and speak - and the other way it is a Prie Dieu, where a person can kneel and pray. No we are not getting one at Church!
We scooted round the Gift Shop, avoiding teatowels, books and soft furry dinosaurs, and left the Museum around midday. On to the next stop of our Dorchester Day...
update - just had this email from blogfriend who cannot post her comment [Thanks Sandra - yes Dorset is indeed a great county]  
The parishes around Almer, Anderson, Wint. Kingston have a village magazine called The Red Post and I think The Worlds End pub nearby also has a history of poor people being transported.  Hope you enjoyed Dorchester...our village school visited Dippy en masse earlier, the children were all very inspired.  I hope you continue to enjoy Dorset, I feel we have a lot to offer here.  Good luck. Sandra.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Spotting The Signs

We had a really interesting Day Off this week. In fact we crammed so much in that |I am going to post about it over a few days! I've wanted to go to Dorchester again for a while - out first brief visit was back in 2015, and I felt that we did not do the place justice. Furthermore, I knew that our Salisbury Museum pass would also get us into the Dorset County Museum. I had a long list of things to see and do [Bob is very patient]
So we set off just after 8am intending to have breakfast en route. A few miles outside Dorchester, as we drove along the A31, I suddenly said "red fingerposts! I forgot to check up on the location of the red fingerposts" Dorset has four of these, and somebody at church had told me about them. These brightly painted posts have a dark history; they were were markers or reference point for illiterate guards who were escorting prisoners from Dorchester prison to Portsmouth from where they were transported to Botany Bay, Australia. Being unable to read, the guards used the distinctive sign as an indicator to the correct road to take. There are four in Dorset, including one on the A31 trunk road at Anderson, between Bere Regis and Wimborne Minster. The others are located at Benville Bridge, Hewood Corner and one near Poyntington. Near to the latter is Botany Bay Farm where prisoners were held overnight in a barn, now largely destroyed. The substantially built barn at the farm was used as a cell for the prisoners when they were held on their first overnight stop. Only the base of the barn walls remains now after the building burned down in the 1930s. I'd looked all this stuff up a couple of years ago, and even found a picture online of the A31 post, in very poor condition. 
Anyway, almost immediately I'd remembered about the red fingerposts, we came upon one just ahead of us. Bob turned into a side road and I got out to take a picture.
One side of the road is the modern green sign, the other the old red post.
It was restored by a team of local volunteers last summer and now is resplendent in its new coat of scarlet paint.
As I have researched this subject, I have discovered two myths which need debunking;
First, red fingerposts marked the journey of convicts en route to transportation NOT the site of gibbets
Second, the phrase "one for the road" simply means "have a drink before you go" it does NOT relate to a non-existent custom of giving a condemned man a drink before he was hanged. In fact the wonderful Snopes site has pin-pointed when people started sharing this false information on the internet- January 2010. [I frequently use Snopes to check my facts - it is reliable and useful, especially with those dreadful, false 'warnings' which friends persist in sharing on Facebook]
So, another Dorset Site of Interest ticked off on my list, we proceeded into Dorchester. As the Museum website suggested, we parked in the 'Top O Town' car park [opposite the Baptist Church]. Then we had breakfast - in the A35 Cafe at the end of the car park! The tea and bacon rolls were good- not quite so sure about the Decor. There were sad strange soft toys dangling from the ceiling.

After breakfast we set off on the 2 minute walk to the Museum, it was 10am and the doors were just opening. And in a subsequent post, I shall tell you what we saw...

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

I Hope I Never Stop Learning...

...there are lessons to be learned [and re-learned] every day. If somebody thinks they know everything, then they obviously don't.
So what things have I learned - or relearned - in recent weeks?
Some trivial, some useful. Some things are 'life hacks' - others just bits of general knowledge which amused me.
1- I first posted this one more than seven years ago on a Top Tips for Christmas Post  In extremely cold weather, put your clean underwear on the radiator before you go to bed. The joy of warm pants on a freezing morning is a small treat to make you smile as you start the day.

2- If you are planning to cycle to the supermarket for groceries make sure to carry a basket, do NOT push a trolley round the store. If you are carrying a basket, you'll stop loading it when it gets too heavy - with a trolley, it is easy to forget just how much weight you can safely carry in your bike panniers
3 - Monday March 12th was National Napping Day, according to my friend Mags. But further investigation revealed that's only in the USA - it is the day after they put the clocks forward for Daylight Saving. We have to wait a couple more weeks. However, I was excited to discover the German word for nap is strichrichtung. Then I found that was for nap in the sense of the pile on fabric [so, cocoon me in corduroy, nestle me in needlecord, envelop me in velvet...]
4-if booking train tickets for a Sunday, check about engineering works. I forgot last time, and the journey took twice as long as I'd expected.

5 -if your daughter is thoughtful enough to give you a rainproof saddle cover, remember to put it in when you padlock the bike outside the store. It is no fun cycling home with a damp bottom!
6- Although matin is the French word for morning, a matin√©e was originally any type of daytime performance. In England the word has come to mean just afternoon events. Babies do not usually go to the theatre - the term 'matin√©e jacket' refers to a short garment worn for an afternoon outing. 
7 - Even if you are really looking forward to watching the latest Scandicrime in Real Time, record it anyway. You are bound to fall asleep before the end of the episode! And try not to stress out about the fact you are planning to travel on the London Underground next week.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Paloma Blanca [a free knitting pattern]

A friend gave me a little bag at church the other week - it contained 3 balls of white baby wool [one ball started] and a rather elderly pattern for a baby's matinee jacket. The problem - the wool was 3ply, and this was her only pattern for that weight, and she could not manage to make it work. She said she'd had three goes, and pulled it out, and was fed up with the wool and the pattern, so thought I could use it.
An irresistible challenge. I set to, and it took me three attempts to make sense of the pattern. And when I had, I really didn't like it. It was holey, rather than lacy - and I felt that for a small baby, the holes were big enough to trap little fingers. 
But I didn't have a 3ply pattern anywhere in my stash either [yes, I know, I was surprised too!]  I asked in a local woolshop. "We don't really sell 3ply any more, but I have some shawl patterns" But these needed more than 3 balls of yarn."Why don't you knit it up with 2 strands to a double knit pattern?"
I spent ages trawling the internet, and finally found one on an Australian site - a simple V neck cardi.  But [a] the Oz knitting terminology was not familiar to me, and [b] it was an all over "Greek Key" type of pattern over 8 stitches and 15 rows. Undoubtedly attractive, but too complicated for my Saturday night knitting in front of the TV. 
So I modified the pattern and come up with this...
I have called it Paloma Blanca because it is white, and I used Dove Stitch
Dove Stitch is possibly not its proper name - but I call it that for my best friend. Her farming family have used this pattern for classic V and round neck pullovers for a number of years  [Chris gave me a copy some while ago, and I still haven't got round to knitting myself one] It is easy, and slightly more interesting than regular stocking stitch, but less complicated than moss stitch or fisherman's rib. Basic pattern is for just 4 rows.
Row 1 knit, Row 2 purl, Row 3 K1, *K1P1* repeat to last st, K1, Row 4 purl.

PALOMA BLANCA -Baby's Cardigan in Dove Stitch
Fits 3-6 months, chest 50cm
Required; 75gm 3ply wool, pair each 2.75 & 3mm needles, 5 buttons

BACK - Cast on 80 sts with 2.75mm needles. Work 15 rows in K1P1 rib. Change to 3 mm needles. Work 48 rows in Dove Stitch [as above] Keeping pattern correct, cast off 2 sts at beginning of next 6 rows, and k2tog at each end of next row. [66 sts] Work 41 rows. Cast off.
LEFT FRONT- Cast on 40 sts, with 2.75mm needles. Work 15 rows in K1P1 rib. Change to 3 mm needles. Work 48 rows in Dove Stitch [as above] Keeping pattern correct, cast off 2 sts at beginning of next 3 right side rows, at the same time k2tog at end of each right side row. [31sts] P2tog at end of next row. Now k2tog at end of each right side row 8 more times [22 sts] Keeping pattern correct, work until 96 rows of Dove Stitch pattern completed [to match back]
RIGHT FRONT- Work as left front, reversing shapings.
MAKING UP - Sew shoulders, sew in sleeves and side seams.
BUTTON BAND -  With 2.75mm needles, cast on 8 sts. Work 4 rows in K1P1 rib. ** row 5 K1P1, cast off 4, K1P1.   row 6, K1,P1, cast on 4, K1,P1 rows 7-16 - work in K1P1 rib** Repeat **to**4 more times [5 buttonholes]. Continue in K1P1 rib till band is long enough to go all round front edge. Cast off. Sew in place, sew on 5 buttons. 

Dove Stitch is great because the ridges make it easy to count the rows!

Monday, 12 March 2018

Mothering Sunday - Part Two

Just a brief report on yesterday's service at Church
[1] The Quiz was interesting - the women beat the men by 13 to 5 - so they clearly remembered their Bible stories better!
[2] The little bags of primrose plants [thank you Glenacres Nursery] beautifully decorated by the children, were well received by all present - and some were taken to those older ladies who were unable to come to church.
[3] You remember the Tree Festival in December? Well look what has happened to all those squares. It took a while to sort them - not all were the same size, and we did have almost 50% knitted in Wilko Jade Green. So one blanket had all the larger squares in a central panel with  multicolour edge strips. But we ended up with four blankets to display this morning - ready to go to the Biggin Hill Romania Trust.
All in all, a very satisfactory morning. Thank you to the Nursery, the Bag Decorators, and the Craftspeople - oh and especially to the team operating the PA system this morning, which was playing up badly.