Soundscapes and Shield Maidens

Hello All

What a different place the world is before dawn. Blinkered by the night I enjoy a soundscape uncluttered by daylight’s congestion. The bicycle wheels go round and murmur along the tarmac, small bumps create metallic tinkling as the pannier grip clinks against the frame and the brakes squeal to slow me on the downhill run. Beyond the cycle’s pleasant chattering the wind flutters the leaves, stirring their dried brethren along the pavements, the river rushes over small weirs booming as it bottoms.

All joy … until the rain or frosts bring greasy and slippy surfaces when my soundscape may be something like ‘crash, bang, wallop’! But for those of you who worried be reassured I now have a jaunty red helmet to keep my napper safe.

Sadly while I am feeling virtuous and energised by all this extra exercise a good friend is proper poorly. AFl has been amazingly strong and as we share a love of things Viking I thought a little gift might be in order.

You may recall my trip to Roskilde earlier in the year with No 1 Daughter:

That’s right the home of the fabulous Viking Ship Museum. Well while I was there perusing the museum shop (those places are so damn irresistible) I found a small gem:

A long ship pastry cutter to add to my collection of needle-felting templates. At last an opportunity to use it. After all every Shield Maiden…

… needs her own long ship. Thor’s strength to you AFl.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Something in the water

Hello All

Wednesday 4 July 2018 – Part 2: Ambleside

Leaving Grasmere, Wordsworths and Shelleys behind JG and me boarded a returning 555 bus to travel the short distance to Ambleside.

The Armitt Museum is one of the smallest but most intellectually compelling museums I know.

Snuggled within the grounds of Charlotte Mason College the Armitt is a unique combination of library, museum and gallery.

The Armitt was founded as a library by Mary Louisa Armitt – known to her friends as Louie – to foster the exchange of ideas among the local community. And what a community!

Ambleside in the 1800s and early 1900s was the centre of a remarkable intellectual culture in which many of the key players were independent women. Amongst these were Mary Louise and her sisters, Sophia and Annie Maria; Harriet Martineau; Annie Jemima Clough; Charlotte Mason and famously Beatrix Potter. A powerhouse of polymaths. But had you heard of them all? I certainly hadn’t …. and I live on the doorstep!

The Armitt’s “A Woman’s Place: Ambleside’s Feminist Legacy” rectifies this.

Here are the inspirational women we met (no photos allowed so bear with my scratchy portraits):

Founders of the Armitt Library – the Armitt Sisters

Sophia, Annie Marie and Mary Louisa Armitt were seriously gifted sisters originally from Salford. Each had her own area of expertise and talent, botany, music, English literature to name a few.

Thankfully Mary Louisa ignored Ruskin’s advice to keep to women’s activities. I don’t think he would have included in those the founding of a library and we would have been all the poorer.

There is definitely something in the Ambleside water as the talented Armitts were not the only women of note drawn to the area.

The first female sociologist – Harriet Martineau (1802 -1876)

This rather doe-eyed portrait probably belies the steely woman Harriet was. Born into a Unitarian family of Huguenot ancestry she travelled widely (in those skirts?!) and was a proponent of higher education for women. Her interest in social theory earned her the ‘first female sociologist’ moniker.

She was a woman ahead of her time:

“If a test of civilisation be sought, none can be so sure as the condition of that half of society over which the other half has power”

… and there were more…

First Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge – Anne Jemima Clough (1820 – 1892)

While losing out in the portraiture stakes (sorry Anne) Ms Clough certainly did not lose out when they were handing out brains and humanity. Anne Clough was a suffragist (akin to a suffragette but earlier and non-violent) and like Martineau was a promoter of higher education for women becoming the first principal of Newnham College, Cambridge University.

While in Ambleside (where else?) she opened a school at her home Eller How for local children. Fascinated by her stories and travels her pupils couldn’t resist being drawn to her and learning through her informal methods of teaching. Moving south to help her widowed sister-in-law she initiated a scheme for peripatetic lectures which blossomed into the development of a new Cambridge college.

Homely and good humoured, like the children at Eller How, Anne Jemima’s students cherished her. While not a natural administrator her humility and ability to admit when she was wrong allowed her to work creatively and successfully with her colleagues.

She sounds great and is a bit of Her-story I have never learned about.

Home Education and the Teacher’s Teacher – Charlotte Mason (1842 – 1923)

Best known in these here parts for being the light behind the teachers’ training college set up after her death Charlotte was also a supporter of home education. She co-founded the Parents’ Educational Union to provide resources for home educating parents and published the Parents’ Review a regular publication with articles on home educating.

Perhaps because of this Charlotte is well known in North America. Infact we learned that a large number of American and Canadian home schoolers visit The Armitt to find out more about her.

Last but not least …

Naturalist, artist, writer and conservationist – Beatrix Potter

(Oh the sacrilege.)

Living in an age of change Beatrix expertly followed her own path. Through her much loved Tales of Peter Rabbit and other children’s books Beatrix an astute businesswoman ensured her financial independence. She earned enough to engage in farming, assemble a great estate and become a Herdwick sheep breeder. All this from an expert on fungi!

Beatrix supported The Armitt and thanks to her beneficence the museum holds an amazing collection of her scientific drawings. They bowl you over with their detail and some are even hard to distinguish from photographs. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to see Beatrix Potter’s academic work it is astonishing.

You still there? I couldn’t stifle the urge to share these inspirational women with you I hope you enjoyed meeting them.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Keep on marching…

Hello All

Wednesday 4 July 2018 – Part 1: Grasmere

The sun continues to shine, moors and heaths burn and reservoirs run dry. Welcome to the new California! Thankfully the Women of Cumbria are going nowhere. They are a sturdy bunch – hot? phah! – so the march of the modern women (me and JG) continues … even if I am sweating …. sorry …. glowing like a Gloucester Old Spot (oink!).

Hopping on the 555 Stagecoach Bus from Kendal – choosing seats on the shady side of the top deck – we set off. What a corker of a day. We visited two museums and ‘met’ a host of incredible women.

Settle in a comfy spot with a pot of your favourite brew – I am now mainlining green tea – a lengthy post lies ahead of you. And there is another to follow. No rest for the wicked.

Described in my trusty copy of Hyde and Pevsner as sitting in a ” Pastoral, Samuel Palmerish setting under the beetling fells…” Grasmere deserves its enduring popularity with visitors. Amongst those visitors were the Wordsworths, sister and brother Dorothy and William. Our day kicked off with a visit to their one-time home, Dove Cottage.

Once a wayside inn Dorothy Wordsworth initially occupied the panelled downstairs room in this 17th century whitewashed cottage.

Got to love the quirky terrier. What a rascal he looks.

On this hot day the cool of the homely kitchen and buttery was welcomingly refreshing.

Dove Cottage a place of “plain living and high thinking” saw Dorothy and her brother William at their most productive (1799 to 1808). However the cottage was soon crowded by William and his wife Mary’s growing family together with the coterie of the great (and often stoned) literati of their day it was no surprise that Dorothy moved to one of the smallest and coldest rooms she probably needed the peace and a good (if nippy) night’s sleep.

Up to fifteen people sometimes slept at the Wordsworth’s. Snug to say the least.

How inviting the garden would have looked. No wonder William treasured the time he spent at the top of the garden overlooking the house and fells from his moss clad retreat.

It seems that daffodils were not the only flowers on his mind.

No gardening pun intended but if I seem to have wandered from the Women of Cumbria path here I come tripping (almost literally those olden days folk had smaller feet than mine and their steps were not designed for clodhoppers like me) back onto it.

Dorothy was a wonderful writer and much ‘borrowed’ by her famous brother. William was influenced by her detailed descriptions of nature. Her “Grasmere Journal” probably inspired “Daffodils” together with William’s acclaimed guide to the Lake District.

Next door to Dove Cottage is the Wordsworth Museum and another woman who could easily have slipped under the shadow of a famous man. Can you guess who she might be?

Couldn’t get JG to pose. Can’t think why?! You of course guessed our visit was to learn about Mary Shelley in the latest exhibition in the museum’s Women Behind the Words series:

Mary Shelley (born in 1797) was a woman of many talents: a novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer and travel writer. It fair puts you to shame. “Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus” was born out of a stormy night’s challenge amongst friends when she was 19 years old (nineteen!!). Her other works include “The Last Man” set in the future of…the 21st century! Don’t want to worry you but we are all doomed.

Curated by Fiona Sampson to coincide with the publication of her book “In Search of Mary Shelley” the exhibition reveals an intelligent and radical woman. Mary’s life was beset by tragedy, the drowning of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and the deaths of three of her children, yet she devoted herself to looking after her only surviving child and her career as a professional writer. No mean feat for any woman in the 19th century. It is good to fly the flag for her, Dorothy Wordsworth and the other Women Behind the Words.

There’s a whole bunch of fabulous women to come…watch this space.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

I will take up my pencil

Hello All

While we are enjoying* this extended period of warm weather here in the UK it is good to get out and about. I fear all too soon we will be saying ‘Do you remember the summer of 2018?’ Much as we used to say ‘Remember the summer of ’76?’ (you perhaps have to be longer in the tooth for the latter … check with your parents … grandparents).

So at the invitation of my friend KS and her son AB I jumped on one of my favourite buses – you guessed it Stagecoach 555 – to Keswick with one destination in mind.

It is years since I visited this little gem of a museum and in the meantime it has moved out of the old factory site – production has now moved to Workington a short-ish bus ride away – to a purpose built unit in the old factory grounds.

If you wondered where pencils came from ponder no more! The first pencil was made in Keswick, here in good old Cumbria – once called Cumberland around these parts – over three centuries ago. Glad they have kept the Pencil Museum in Keswick as it is ever popular with visitors of all ages and it seems only right to keep it in the birthplace of the pencil.

For the outing I became part of KSs family (ticket) and enjoyed the delights within for free. The staff were super friendly, we all got pencils (which we kept) and opted to share a quiz sheet.

We crouched through the replica graphite mine adjusting our eyes to the darkness and watching out for the ‘miners’ frozen in their perpetual task of extracting graphite for our beloved HBs. Then all was light as we emerged into the bright and airy exhibits’ hall.

Keswick Pencil Museum boasts many quirky artefacts. Such as ….

The longest pencil in the world. It is true, it is verified by that bible of such peculiar facts The Guinness Book of Records. There is even a certificate to prove it:

Along with the huge are the small. There is a fascinating display showing how MI5 commissioned specially hollowed out pencils – to carry maps – topped with rubbers (erasers) that hid a handy compass. I learnt a lot about the humble pencil: how many are made a year (lots and lots); what sort of wood is used (clue: it comes from a tree) and what was used as an eraser before the rubber (who would have thunk it!).

Amongst the displays were many wonderful collections of pencils

The damage to this lovely old example tells a more recent tale of Keswick’s history. It shows how high the flood waters rose during Storm Desmond in 2015.

Now to another gem…literally

To commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 Derwent crafted a special Diamond Jubilee Pencil. Only two were made one was presented to the Queen (money always goes to money!) and the other is displayed at Keswick.

The Diamond Jubilee Pencil is a work of great skill. It is made from graphite taken from the original mine and was crafted by means of the traditional methods used before 1832. To top it off the crown is encrusted with 60 diamonds supported by white gold lilies to symbolise royalty. KS and AB wondered whether the Queen uses hers to write her shopping lists. I do hope so…I hope she writes all sorts of lists,’tis the simple pleasure of us humble folk!

We finished our tour with one of the Calvert Trust sheep which was commissioned by Derwent and formed part of the Herdwick Trail in 2016. Derwent’s sheep was decorated to resemble a dry-stone wall. A very colourful wall! each of the ‘stones’ were coloured using Derwent’s Inktense blocks and the lines between them were made with Inktense pencils and blocks.

One final look back:

before browsing the wonderful shop, drooling over the colours, pencils, brushes, pastel blocks and inks and then toddling over the road to Kat’s Kitchen for some cold drinks supped while viewing the beautiful landscape that surrounds Keswick.

I opened with a part quote from Vincent Van Gogh in the title. To close I bring you one from Stan Laurel:

You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must always be led!

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

* The sunny weather is not bringing joy to all. My heart goes out to the numerous firefighters, soldiers and volunteers that are working day and night in awful conditions on moors and heaths to douse and control numerous fires. Mx

What now?

Hello All

Safe and sound at home what to do now?

Cook.

Plentiful seasonal rhubarb from a friend’s garden (thanks JG) makes up a wonderful mixed fruit crumble topped off with a dollop of coconut cream

Craft.

Meeting up with friends for a crafty day is an immense and productive pleasure.

As is a session of solitary ‘just one more row’ late night knitting to get you to the finished cardigan.

But crucially there is always The Quest … March March!… Women of Cumbria I am back.

Time is running short on visiting a couple of the exhibitions before they finish so meeting up with ‘she of the rhubarb’ JG we were off on our latest mission.

Our destination was Penrith and Eden Museum for the “Lorna Graves: Memories of Belonging” exhibition. Truth to tell we were not expecting much. So we spent most of the day exploring Penrith.

It’s quaint emporiums.

It’s places of worship. St Andrew’s Church in Penrith is a hotch potch. The tower dates from 1397 yet the nave and chancel are Georgian

Those chandeliers by the way were a gift from the Duke of Portland as a reward to the parishioners for their efforts in defeating the Scottish army in 1745. We are on much better terms with our northern neighbours now!

I wish you could hear this clock – built by Aaron Cheeseborough in the early 1700s – a magnificently deep “tick tock ” emanated with each swing of the pendulum. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

In the beautifully blossom bedecked churchyard we went in search of The Giant’s Grave (who would want to miss that?!)

And his thumb

Turns out they are different giants. The Giant’s Grave consists of 6 ancient tombstones including the Scandinavian type Hogbacks. It dates from around the tenth century AD and has been moved from it’s original site in the cemetery. It is variously thought to be the grave of Owen King of Cumbria (920 -937) or Sir Owen Caesarius (aka Sir Hugh or Sir Ewan) a great boar-hunter. When opened in the seventeenth century the grave revealed the remains of someone with very long leg bones (sic) and a sword….but thankfully no boar. Oink.

As to the Giant’s Thumb it is a Norse Wheel Cross marking a separate burial in about 920AD. Not surprising to find such remains here. Penrith is a cross-roads for Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Norse cultures. Seems like Denmark has followed me home!

Now all this is grand but will not help us with our quest. Unbeknownst to us we had saved the best till last.

Penrith and Eden Museum is housed in the old Robinson’s Church of England school

The building is something of an exhibit in itself. The school’s history dates from 1670, although the construction is probably older, and was established by a wealthy grocer named Robinson (surprise!) as a school for poor girls. These girls were to be taught to read, work lace, knit and “other matters proper for young girls to learn and practice” (ideas on a postcard please).

In return the children had to “refrain from swearing, lying, stealing and quarrelling”. Some things never change. In the late nineteenth century the building was used as an infant school and remained as such until April 1971 when it closed.

Today the building holds a Tourist Information Office together with a small museum of artefacts relevant to the area.

Not sure about the Penny Farthing’s pertinence but it certainly suited the window position.

Oh yes The Quest!

The pennant heralded the wonderfulness of the Lorna Graves’ exhibition inside. Sorry but I cannot share any photos. It is understandable that photography was not allowed (I always ask first) but also a shame as I don’t think I have ever been as moved by an artist’s work as I was by the drawings and sculptures of this local ceramicist.

Lorna Graves (1947 – 2006) was born in Kendal and grew up on the land around Hadrian’s Wall. Having studied Earth Sciences she became an artist and back home in Cumbria found her inspiration in the landforms and ancient art of the county.

Her work is simple yet striking. The Raku pieces in particular radiate an ancient and spiritual quality that reflect her words:

“I feel the past pushing up against me from below: the herds of animals and the vegetation, the people and their dwelling places, the winds and floods, the times of peace and times of war, the chanting in the temples…”

Her archaic forms of beasts, women, shrines some glinting with gold lustre all drew me in. It was quite mind-blowing.

Dragging ourselves reluctantly from the Lorna Graves exhibition (we were really surprised at how brilliant this exhibition was) we set off for the train home. But Penrith had not finished with us as who can ignore a ruddy great castle? Especially when it is right opposite the train station.

Oh well in for a penny….

Hello Penrith Castle!

A friendly cat welcomed us to this monument to Anglo-Scottish relations (honestly we are all friends now).

Built in the late 1300s the castle was altered over time becoming in the 1470s under Richard Duke of Gloucester (soon to be Richard III – some of us up North like him!!!) a major residence. Thankfully in time it’s presence was no longer required. The castle fell into disrepair and what we see today is thanks to the excavations and conservation undertaken in 1923.

Penrith is a treasure chest, of things to see and enjoy, often overlooked by visitors to the Lake District. We had a full and fabulous day and The Quest is one amazing exhibition nearer completion.

Before I go: congratulations to KC and JR on the arrival of your gorgeous baby boy SP. He is beautiful and I hope the cardigan fits soon!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Roskilde

Hello All

Thursday 19 April 2018

Before I go on to extol the wonders of the very very delightful Roskilde just bear with me for that promised word about food…

After thirty or more years as a vegetarian bumbling my way along I decided to join No1 Daughter and take the plunge and become … vegan. I know just too hip and trendy for one such as me and good grief what a struggle to make a decent cup of tea without dairy milk! (If you are interested hemp milk has proved the most successful alternative).

Being shallow I turned vegan mostly for my own health and weight control but much as I love a salad sometimes – 12 hours on a train definitely qualifies as one of those ‘sometimes’ – I just want a calorific stodge-fest. On arrival in Copenhagen we had to resort to U.S chain Hard Rock Cafe. It was fantastic (fajitas if you are asking) but we really wanted to eat local and following a lunch at another chain Wok and Go the next day we were determined to make a better fist of things. Hurray for the Happy Cow app!

After a couple of foodie disappointments on Day 1 in Copenhagen we eventually got our act together in Roskilde so you will notice a spike in the ‘this is what we had for lunch’ pictures. Feel free to whizz past if they are not your cup of tea … no pun ….

Now to my happy place Roskilde. Only 20 minutes by train from Copenhagen Roskilde lies at the head of a fjord and is home to the (I have died and gone to heaven) Viking Ship Museum (brace yourselves for LOTS of ship photos) and the stunning Roskilde Cathedral.

But we start with our quest for good grub. Tucked away just off the main street on Rosenhavestraede we found the cosy little Satchmo Cafe. Lots of goodies were on show, our mouths were watering …. and bless her the wonderful owner and her colleague made us up a vegan platter each. Heaven. (Food photo alert)

She also threw in some energy balls and heaps of useful tips about where to go and eat in Copenhagen. As we sat chomping happily in the cafe’s sun trap terrace we were in no hurry to leave.

And yet the long ships were calling. After a quick visit to the local Tourist Information office where we were again given lots of information and two maps – one for following and one for inspiration – we set off through a sun-drenched park for the museum, those long ships have quite a loud call.

Pipe down boats … I am showing you off to the readers now.

To quote No 1 Daughter this is where I ‘got my geek on’ …. well really!

OK there may be some truth in that … here comes that photo fest of the 5 scuttled Viking ships used as barriers to Roskilde Fjord way back when (1060 to 1070AD). The ships are both trading vessels and long ships and the museum goes into depth about how they were resurrected and rebuilt. They are things of craft and beauty.

And with all this seafaring wonderfulness on view what’s a woman to do but have a go:

Erm may have been looking in the wrong direction … watch out for that iceberg…

As you can probably guess I had a fantastic time enjoying the displays about experimental and maritime archaeology together with the ships themselves and even a small hemp weaving display.

No 1 Daughter did very well. No doubt soothed by the wonderful location of the museum she humoured her old mum’s weakness for things antiquarian.

But the day was too glorious to stay inside for long. A stroll along the fjord was called for.

A walk back along the water and through the park brought us again to the centre of Roskilde and to it’s wonderful Cathedral.

Inside one can stop and think a while

And contemplate the intricate iron work and trolls!

The troll motif adorns the wrought iron grating to the Trolle family burial vault – definitely have a sense of humour these folks – where the Trolle tombs have been housed since 1600.

You can also view the tombs of most of Denmark’s royal family. Even the present queen, Queen Margrethe II, plans to be interred here. Ermmmm. Time to get back out and enjoy the evening sunlight with an al fresco supper and a short train trip back to Copenhagen.

I have wanted to visit Roskilde for many years it did not disappoint. Roskilde is now top of my must re-visit list.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Keeping crafty

Hello All

Inspiration has struck! Thank you Women of Cumbria.

Having seen several local suffrage stories I felt (no pun intended…) the time had come for me to make a small homage to the suffragettes. What better way for me to do this than …. needle felting! Ok it’s not chaining myself to Parliament nor enduring any kind of hardship for the cause (although those needles really..really smart when they stab a finger or three) but a little Suffragette Roundel was just the reminder I wanted.

Here’s what I did:

1. Gathered together my needle felting goodies: merino wool tops, foam mat, needles (36 worked best), pastry cutters for shaping and preserving my fingers (although not always!) and a cup of tea…of course.

2. Pressed merino tops into the pastry cutter and got felting to make flowers in the Suffragette colours of white, purple and green. I turned the woolly flowers over regularly so they didn’t stick to the mat as I stabbed away with the barbed needle (oooch ! ouch!) and then I finished them off free-hand in order to tidy the edges, give them definition and add a central dot of black (a friend says my flowers always remind her of liquorice all sorts…I know what she means).

3. Using the same method as the flowers (but with a different template) I made enough leaves to insert between each flower.

4. Played about with the layout of my six flowers and leaves.

5. Fired up the old glue gun (Kendal Cousin don’t get excited!).

6. Completed my Suffragette Roundel by attaching the felting to an embroidery hoop.

The Roundel is now a cheery but a 2018-relevant welcome to our home.

All in all it has been a satisfying crafty week. Invigorated by last Saturday’s visit to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival with the Crafty Ladies and the lovely goodies bought there for future projects

I realised I had better get a move on with some old projects. Those last seen tucked away in cloth bags that whisper to your conscience every time you try and scootle past.

With the companionship of a couple of crafty friends and a day set aside to get cracking with those dreaded works in progress I managed yesterday to get moving with a jumper for Peanut (lucky it is massive as I was seriously worried she would have outgrown it by several years before it got finished…).

BRD and KS it was great to be crafting together and also see your wonderful projects blossoming. Thanks for spurring me on. Keep crafting.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx