Wednesday, 28 January 2015

A Week In View

My cactus (Rhipsalis grandiflora) is in flower.   This is exciting for me because although I've had it for a few years, this is the first time it has flowered. 

I am making some wrap around aprons to wear while I'm cooking or doing my chores around the house.  They are such useful garments; I remember my grandma and my mum always started off in the  morning by putting a "housecoat" or "pinny" over their clothes to protect them and keep them clean.  I suppose the "pinny" has fallen out of favour (except for those horrible joke ones with pictures of the bits of anatomy we normally keep private) because the jobs we do around the home are less dirty now than in days gone by.   I remember my grandma black-leading the range, polishing  brass and stoning the front step.  Looking after a home in those days was hard physical work.  At the risk of sounding ancient, I also remember the copper boiler in the kitchen, laundry blue and the mangle, all of which were part of the weekly laundry routine.  Without the convenience of a washing machine, modern washing detergents and easily washable clothing, mum and grandma wanted to keep their clothes clean for as long as possible, hence the "pinny".

I have modern household appliances and have never black-leaded anything in my life (it was always too messy a job for me to help mum and grandma with) but I am going to take a leaf out of their books by covering up my nice clothes with my wrap around apron

Friday was a cold frosty day perfect for a day out, so N and I went on a visit to Raglan Castle.  We spent a couple of hours having a good look around and then had our picnic.   I love a picnic and even Sainsbury's mushroom soup and some crusty bread tasted special when eaten outside.  After eating we drove into Monmouth, which is a lovely little town and one I want to go back to soon to have a proper look around.

Monday, 19 January 2015

A Week In View

I've been listening to a cd recording of Harriet Walter reading Middlemarch.  I've never read the novel;  I did start the book when I was in my early twenties but for some reason put it aside after a few chapters and never picked it back up again.  I missed out on such a treat for such a long time.  But "Hurrah" for audio books that I can listen to in the car.  I am obsessive about arriving early: for work, for appointments, for meet ups with friends..., and I arrive almost everywhere long before I'm due.  Being able to sit back for 10 minutes and listen to the next instalment of a good book has been pure enjoyment.

Although so far this winter we haven't had a proper snowfall here in this neck of the woods, it has been cold and windy.  Jacket potatoes are the perfect comfort food for lunch after a cold morning outside.   I filled these with leeks and Gruyere cheese and they were delicious.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

A Week In View

Christmas Roses (Helleborus niger) are one of my favourite winter flowers and I was so pleased to find them on sale when I popped into the supermarket this week.   I couldn't resist buying some to put in a pot on the terrace.

I am interested in all things astronomical so I  just had to sign up for a free, short Open University course studying the constellation Orion.    The course started this week with a basic introduction but sadly since the start of the course. the sky outside has been cloudy so I haven't actually been able to see the constellation in all its glory.   The course leader, Monica Grady has asked participants on the course to take some photographs of Orion.  I'm not sure my photography skills are going to be up to this but I'm waiting for clear skies so that I can at least go out and try.  

When I was out walking during the week I came across a beautiful ivy bush (Hedera helix) covered in black berries.   Seeing the ivy made me think of the carol "The Holly and the Ivy" and why, although ivy is in the title, it is not mentioned again beyond the first line.  I came home and did a small amount of  research into the folk law connected with ivy, and into the carol.   I read that there may be some lost verses relating to ivy and that there is also an old folk song about holly and ivy in which holly is considered masculine and therefore "good" while ivy is feminine and "bad".   I wonder if that is why any "lost" verses ended up excluded from the carol?   I can't consider ivy to be "bad": it provides nectar for insects in the autumn when other flowers are in short supply, and berries for birds in winter.

Friday, 9 January 2015

A Year In Books - January 2015

I found the "A Year In Books" posts last year when I serendipitously found the "A Circle of Pine Trees" blog.   This year I thought that as well as being a reader I would be a participant as well so here's my first post for "A Year in Books":

Hopefully I will have the time to read more than one book this month, but if I do only read one it will be The Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz.  I read a lot of books written by authors from the Middle East.  The Harafish is a series of episodes in the lives of several generations of an Egyptian family so I think it will be an interesting journey through the way the politics and history of the region affected the lives of ordinary people, as well as being a good family saga.

I've also recently picked up a copy of Kenneth William's Diaries and my intention is that during the month I'll be picking my way through that as well.

My health wasn't very good in December and I feel like I spent most of it asleep.  However I did re-read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, a perennial favourite of mine; and East Wind, West Wind by Mahdi Issa Al-Saqr, which is set in Iraq in the 1950s.  It's a story, about life in a camp at an oil well, told from two different perspectives both describing events that occur among the British managers who run the oil well.  It's a mix of scandal, gossip and eventually betrayal.   It was an enjoyable read.

Monday, 5 January 2015

A Week In View

Sunday was definitely one of those "In The Bleak Midwinter" days. There was a hard frost overnight and the earth was standing "hard as iron" with "water like a stone".  I saw this patch of daffodil shoots when I was out for my afternoon walk.  I'm sure there are many more cold(er) days to come before the spring arrives, but these are a sign that even in the depths of winter we are looking forward to a New Year and what is to come.

On the subject of the New Year, I have always been unsuccessful at keeping New Year resolutions, but one that I am going to try very hard to keep in 2015 is to do some knitting for charity. As part of the Ravelry 15 in 15 group that I've joined, I have pledged to knit 15 items for charity over the coming twelve months. Knit a Square is one of the charities that I am going to knit for this year.

The Yule edition of "Elk Lines" arrived this week. This is a story, written by Sylvia Victor Linsteadt, who also writes the blog  The Indigo Vat.     Elk Lines is sent one chapter at a time throughout the year. I am enjoying reading it very much: It is a mixture of magic realism and nature writing and I always look forward to receiving the next installment. There is a joy in the anticipation of having to wait for the next chapter to arrive and I get a thrill when the thick, decorated, envelope arrives in the post.