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

Book not on a train – ‘Lamentation’ by C J Sansom

Hi All Gosh how I have missed you. But in case you have not missed me I am starting small … a book review. No more train journeys now but buses instead and I am sorry but the bumps and corners mean there is no chance of any “Book on the Bus”…. baarf alert. Anyhoo in case you are eating back to the book. I have been a fan of C.J. Sansom’s Tudor lawyer Shardlake since … well since ‘Dissolution’ the first novel in the series (there are now 6). So no way would I be skipping the latest Shardlake offering from this accomplished writer. Set in the Summer of 1546 and the last months of Henry VIII’s life “Lamentation” re-unites the reader with Lincoln’s Inn lawyer Matthew Shardlake.

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Drawn into the deadly intrigues of the Court in order to protect Queen Katherine Parr Shardlake soon puts his life and those of his friends and household in peril. Matthew seeks the stolen ‘Lamentations of a Sinner’ a confessional tract written by the Queen. Shardlake knows he must find ‘Lamentations’ before it is revealed to the King and the Queen is arrested for treason or even heresy. The gruesome punishment for heresy opens the book when the tortured ‘heretic’ Anne Askew suffers a grisly death by burning. Sansom leaves us in no doubt about the dangers facing our reluctant hero. A tale of religious extremism and intolerance – sadly some things never change – in which the author brings to life terrifying times of intrigue and betrayal. However … I confess there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as Matthew relays information to the Parrs. A bit of judicious editing would have helped the flow of the narrative I feel. Nonetheless a good read that leaves me awaiting the next in the series. Until next we meet, Moke.

Happy 2015 and welcome to new projects

Hello All and a very Happy New Year

Well here we are 2015. Flying along through the new millennium. I wonder how they felt in 1015? Muddy? Worried about the way Cnut The Great was looking at our monasteries? Thank goodness times have changed, now we look forward to the latest Nordic Noir (especially Sarah Lund’s Faroe Isle knitwear), love the way some of us have names that end in  -son thanks to our Viking ancestors and admire the beautiful wool crafts the Norse created then and now.

If I’d any sense (and ability) I’d have lined up a wonderful Scandinavian knitwear project. You know the sort: a highly patterned cardigan with ornamental metal clasp fastenings…drool…. Although that day may come for now I recognize my limitations and present you with (fanfare) the first socks of 2015 on the DPNs.

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As you can see the going is slow due to all the little twisty cables. Nonetheless the knitting is tactile-y pleasing as the yarn is Rowan’s ‘felted tweed’ a beautifully soft mix of Merino and Alpaca (I get no payment for saying this!).

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Holidays finished and it is back to work. But it also back to one of my favourite haunts, the library. Good friend BS recommended a book by Jacquetta Hawkes and with a little help from the wonderful, knowledgeable, helpful, hardworking staff (you know who you are!) I was soon excitedly clutching a copy to take home.

‘A Land’ is a revelation. A history of the formation of Britain and its people written by a brilliantly gifted woman who brought to her writing such rich poetic humanity. Her use of Isaac Newton buried under a deluge of apples is typical of her ability to convey information – in this case stratification – memorably and with humour. Thanks B, as always a superb recommendation.

Plenty to keep me inspired and busy through the still dark evenings of January.

I wish you all the best for a happy and healthy 2015.

Until next we meet, Moke x

PS Thanks to my friend Jackie at ‘Knitting With Heart’ I am reliably informed that 2015 is The Year of The Sheep. An excuse (if one were needed) for twelve months of woolly wonderfulness. Yippee! Mx

 

 

Twinkle Twinkle

Hello All

When I was a library lady one of my favourite tasks was to lead Toddler Tales every Monday morning. It was a great way to start the week. The chaos of little people, parents, grandparents and carers all momentarily calmed by coming together to sing rhymes and listen to stories.

Most beautiful of all was the sharing of nursery rhymes which all the generations could share. Simple couplets so ingrained in our memories that we instantly recall them as soon as the first magic words are said. One such has to be “Twinkle, twinkle little star”. It brings a little tingle to the back of my neck recalling how sweet it was to hear old and young voices combined to sing this lovely poem.

And what brought about this happy memory? Good friend B sent me a link to a crochet pattern! Thanks to a free Moogly pattern you can use up your yarn scraps to make your own little stars.

With a couple of minutes to spare, a few basic tools,

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and even the scrappiest of scrap,
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you can make up a simple decorative star in a trice. Have fun trying different yarns and hook sizes

and perhaps add another point

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to create your own perfect twinkling star.

Ah well time to hook up a few more stars – it’s kind of addictive – and start thinking about presents and cards and all things Christmassy….eeeeekkkk …… maybe I’ll just enjoy making stars and keep Christmas thoughts at bay until December.

 

Until next we meet, Moke x

PS Sorry I vanished last week but my internet went off!!! Zut alors! Mx

 

 

Melange

Hello All

I feel all to pot! I’ve missed a whole week of blogging. Here then is a melange of life’s events over the last fortnight.

I started last weekend with a walk into town popping into Williams’ Wools to buy a ball of worsted wool – yes just one! don’t know how I managed to restrain myself with so many beautiful yarns to choose from  –  to knit (KNIT?!) a pair of fingerless gloves.

Having bought my veg and eggs on the market I visited the library. I was hoping to find a book on knitting that would help me brush up on my knitting skills. But I couldn’t find quite what I needed.

However later that evening when I met up with a few old friends (old in as much as I have known them along time not old as in aged….hope I’ve dug myself out of that one). AJ produced some surprise gifts. Things she had seen that she thought we’d like. Here was mine.

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Exactly the kind of knitting book I had been looking for! A book that will help me with techniques I have long forgotten.

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Good friends can certainly read your mind. THANK YOU AJ, for the now well thumbed book.

Confidence boosted I found a pattern on Ravelry by Marielle Henault for a pair of cable fingerless mitts. Needles at the ready off I went.

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Now…it is sometime since I have knitted anything in a cable stitch and I confess there has been much cursing and pulling back. But I think I have finally got it and the pattern is looking good, front

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and back. DSCI0212

With a nip in the air I had better get on with them.

JG and I have been looking forward to visiting Walney Island for some time. JG has never been there and I wanted to look at the chalets by the ocean to see if one of them could be a home for me and my trusty old cavalier. This was the weekend we had earmarked for the trip.

Joined by JG’s friend R off we set to this little island. Walney is attached to Barrow In Furness on the mainland by a road bridge . Excitingly the road lifted up as we waited to get on the island to allow a flotilla of tall masted yachts through to the channel. Magical.

Both tips of the island have nature reserves and the views are amazing. Through the static caravans of the South End Holiday Park you can even see Piel Island and it’s medieval castle.

Walney is a stunning place to be. But could I live there?….

After a good look around Walney JG had booked us a table for lunch at the locally famous Bosun’s Locker on Roa Island. After all that fresh sea air a lunch of home made cheese pie, chips and peas was very welcome. In fact it was such a hearty meal that I don’t think I’ll need to eat for several days!

Mind you I somehow managed a slice of cake and a cuppa while sitting in R’s beautiful garden. And guess what? this melange can end as it began with a hint/whisper/clack/click (?!) of knitting and happy dreams of projects to come…. DSCI0208

Thanks to JG for organising a lovely day out and to our guide R (who has also loaned me her Tea Cosy book).

Until next we meet. Moke

 

 

 

Book on a train – ‘The Time Keeper’ by Mitch Albom

Hello All

A short post for a short read with great depth: “The Time Keeper” by Mitch Albom (2012, Sphere, London. ISBN 9781847442253). DSCI0171

This is the story of Dor the man who invented the measurement of time and thereby condemned mankind to clock-watching and himself to thousands of years as a hermit doomed to hear the pleas of humanity to give them more time, make time pass….

It is also the story of two of those that cried out to him, awkward teenager Sarah Lemon and terminally ill business man Victor Delamonte. Dor is finally released from his cave because only he can make them understand the fundamental truth about existence.

This unusually constructed novel is both gripping and thought provoking. I couldn’t put it down. It questions our modern obsession with time and contrasts it with an era when people were more concerned with survival in the moment. Exquisite.

Happy reading.

Until next we meet. Moke x

Book on a train – “The Lady’s Slipper” by Deborah Swift

Hello All

Time for a book review methinks. So if thou wilt follow me let me introduce thee to the wonderful debut novel of Deborah Swift “The Lady’s Slipper” (2010, Macmillan New writing, London. ISBN 9780230746879).

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In 1660 Alice Ibbotson of Westmorland risks everything to collect for propagation the rarest of British orchids the Lady’s Slipper. By stealing onto the property of ex-soldier turned Quaker Richard Wheeler to lift the plant Alice sets herself on a path from which there is no going back.

Through this one act Alice is estranged from Thomas her husband, becomes disenchanted with her botanical patron Sir Geoffrey Fisk and through the machinations of housemaid Ella could forfeit her life for the murder of herbalist and wise woman Margaret Poulter.

The story is largely set in Westmorland against the backdrop of a country struggling to heal the wounds of civil war. It is an era of suspicion, fear and intolerance.

I never met either of my grandmothers they both died when my parents were young. My mother’s mum had been a Quaker and I have always been interested in this thoughtful and peaceful religion. Deborah captures the early days of Quakerism when this radical pacifist movement was considered a dangerous hotbed of dissent needing to be stamped out and ridiculed. In times of political and religious violence a belief in peaceful resolution is a brave stance, where fear is coupled with bigotry it is a dangerous one.

It’s exciting to read a story set in your home county. Even more so when that county is called by its old name of Westmorland – rather than the bland Cumbria by which it is known today. Deborah has an incredible eye for detail enabling the reader to visualise, smell, hear and touch, the heady mix that was turbulent seventeenth century life.

Eager to follow the adventures of Alice and Richard through this atmospheric and cracking tale the pages turned all too quickly. With relief I am glad to see that Swift has published more books so it won’t be long before I immerse myself in “The Gilded Lily” and then “A Divided Inheritance”.

Happy reading.

Until next we meet, Moke x

PS To read Deborah Swift’s blog follow this link https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3297217.Deborah_Swift/blog