Friday, 23 October 2015

Five on Friday

Hello, thank you for calling in.  Thank you, too, for your messages about my last post - if I have brought the Battle of Trafalgar to life for some readers, I am absolutely chuffed.  Today I am linking up with Amy at Love Made My Home so if you have the time, please hop over there and see who else is joining in this week.

Last Sunday afternoon the Best Beloved and I went to Bridgnorth, a pretty old town on the banks of the River Severn, for a little walk.  The sun didn't come out from behind the thick clouds but the air was still and too warm for coats and we took our time.  Here are five good things about Bridgnorth:
1. The River Severn
We walked along the east bank of the river, which divides High Town from Low Town (I know, it's so quaint, isn't it?). 

We passed a very small patch of neglected ground which is marked by this plaque (you might want to click on it to enlarge it for easier reading) -

If you studied the Industrial Revolution for O-Level History (I know, that dates me) you will know about Richard Trevithick.  The locomotive built here was named Catch Me Who Can and was exhibited at a "steam circus" in London: it went round a circular track at a top speed of 12mph(!) pulling an open carriage full of passengers who paid a shilling for the thrill.

2.  The Cliff Railway
The top of High Town stands more than a hundred feet higher than the river and if you don't fancy climbing one of the seven sets of two hundred-odd steps or the steep roads to get there, the funicular railway is great fun - very old-fashioned but just right.  Some people use it for their daily commute to work!  It is, apparently, the shortest and steepest in the country and a return ticket costs £1.20.  Built in 1892 and originally powered by water but converted to electricity in the 1940s, the original carriages were replaced in 1955. 

3.  The Castle
Very little remains of Bridgnorth's twelfth century castle as most of it was blown to pieces by parliamentary forces on the orders of Oliver Cromwell in 1646 after the royalists who had retreated there surrendered during the Civil War.  The part of the keep which does remain leans at an angle of fifteen degrees, almost four times that of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  It looks precarious but it must be quite safe because it doesn't appear to have shifted during the last 369 years!

4. The Severn Valley Railway
This steam railway runs between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster and although we didn't take a ride this time, from the Castle Walk we sat and watched an engine gather its head of steam before it chugged away over the bridge. 

5. The Views
King Charles I visited Bridgnorth twice in the seventeenth century and as he gazed out from the Castle Walk, he declared it "the finest view in all my kingdom.".  The views have changed a lot in almost four hundred years since then, but probably not unrecognisably and they are still pretty fine (and even better when the sun shines).

If you ever get the opportunity to visit Bridgnorth, it's worth it - you could even go when the lovely shops, pubs and tearooms are open.  I do. 

See you soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x  

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Trafalgar Day

Hello.  Thank you for the kind comments and messages you left for me after my last post.  October is turning out to be a difficult month, but I am able to enjoy the beauty of the mists and mellow fruitfulness.  Today, however, I'd like to talk about something different.  Allow me, if you will, to take you back to 21st October 1805: King George III was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the kingdom had been at war with France for twelve years (on and off) and by this time, the threat of invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte and his forces felt imminent.  If you like, think of Horatio Hornblower and Richard Sharpe.  This was the day that Admiral Lord Nelson led twenty-seven ships into battle against thirty-three French and Spanish ships in the Atlantic Ocean just off the southwest coast of Spain, west of Cape Trafalgar, and destroyed twenty-two enemy ships without losing a single one of his own.

Nelson's masterstroke was to divide his fleet into two parallel columns and sail them perpendicularly into the enemy line.  At the head of one column was HMS Victory, led by Nelson himself, and at the head of the other, HMS Royal Sovereign, led by Admiral Collingwood, but I do not intend to give you a history lesson here.  I reckon that most of you know the outcome, that although Admiral Nelson won the battle, he lost his life there that day, shot by an enemy musket, and has been feted as a great British hero ever since.  No, I shan't go into battle tactics.  Instead, I wish to take you further down the line of eleven ships headed up by HMS Victory, to the ship at the back, HMS Spartiate, a 74-gun (for which read "cannon") ship of the line under the command of Captain Sir Francis Laforey, Baronet.  

On board HMS Spartiate were sailors and and Royal Marines, identifiable by their scarlet jackets as they stood on deck and shot at the men aboard the French and Spanish ships. One of these Marines was twenty-nine year-old Private John Rendle who had joined up four years earlier, lying about his age because men had to be under the age of twenty-five in order to enlist.  They also had to be unmarried, perhaps because the work was so dangerous that any wife was likely to be widowed before too long?  John was born in 1776 in Washfield in Devon, a rural, scattered parish a couple of miles outside the town of Tiverton with only a few hundred inhabitants.  Employment opportunities were few and he earned a meagre living as an agricultural labourer before he went to Tiverton on 9th October 1801, took the king's shilling and donned the scarlet coat.  And now here he was, playing his part in the Royal Navy's most famous battle.

The Fall of Nelson by Denis Dighton

By the end of that day, five of Spartiate's crew were dead and twenty wounded, including one Marine...but it was not John.  The ship, according to The Trafalgar Roll, "had her foretopsail yard shot away, and her masts, yards and rigging in general were a good deal damaged" and she returned to Plymouth for repairs.  John stayed in the Royal Marines until September 1814 when, aged thirty-seven, he was discharged because of chronic rheumatism - which, I think, is hardly suprising after thirteen years spent on wooden ships. And his pension after thirteen years of service?  Twenty-one days' pay.  That's all.  He returned to Tiverton and found work as a labourer.

There are many memorials to Lord Nelson in the UK.  One of them, known as The Nelson Monument, was raised on Portsdown Hill, just north of Portsmouth Harbour, in 1807.  Do you know how it was financed?  The Royal Navy took two days' pay from every man who fought at Trafalgar to pay for the monument.  So, not only did these men risk their lives, they paid for the privilege of doing so!  There doesn't seem to me to be much glory in that.

So, today I am raising a glass to Private John Rendle, my great, great, great grandfather.  The Royal Navy may not have honoured him, but I do.

Happy Trafalgar Day

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

A Flat Start to the New Year

Hello.  Thank you for bearing with me, I have been neglecting my blog.  Actually, I have spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I have read and appreciated your comments, but I just haven't been able to write anything.  It's all felt very odd.

Like many people whose lives are determined by the rhythm of academic terms, September usually means New Year - for children there are new shoes, new bags, new teachers and sometimes new schools.  For adults there are new routines and often new adventures and new horizons as children grow older and become less dependent.  I have always liked September, partly because of these new possibilities, partly because I like the return to routine after the sprawling school summer holidays and partly because it opens the gate to Christmas (I have printed that word in a tiny font because really, it's far to early to talk about it!), and I do really love Christmas.  September also brings Autumn, which is my favourite season. 
This year, however, felt different and I am not really sure why.  Perhaps it's because the summer was so disappointing: the weather was warm but, apart from about three days in July, not hot and it rained a lot, almost every weekend, I think.  I had hoped for some camping trips - there are so many destinations on my wishlist - but apart from a weekend in July and our folk festival trip, we didn't go anywhere because the weather was too poor for short trips.  We did have two wonderful long weekends away at short notice, but four lovely weekends do not a summer make.  So at the end of our seven week school break (seven weeks! ) I felt very unsatisfied and not really ready to move on. 

Or perhaps it's because the Best Beloved doesn't have enough work at the moment and I am very anxious about how we will manage the winter expenses.  Or perhaps it's because I slowly realised that a relationship which I thought was a personal friendship is actually merely a professional friendship, and I am mourning the perceived loss of that imagined personal friendship.

So, September came and brought with it the sunshine we missed in July and August, but my spirits were low.  Here is the hawthorn tree outside my bedroom window, laden with haws beneath a blue sky.

For the last few years I have cycled around the parish foraging for blackberries, crab apples and elderberries to turn into jewel-coloured jars of hedgerow jelly, but this year I had no heart for it (for which I heartily apologise to The Beau, who is very keen on it - I am afraid you are on the last of last year's jars and the cupboard its bare).  Nor will there be any blackberry vodka to sip on Christmas Eve this year.  We celebrated the equinox on 23rd September with a proper pudding: it had to be apple really, it could have been plum but the Best Beloved doesn't like plums so it really did have to be apple, especially as I was given a bagful of them from the curate's garden, and I turned to Delia for her baked apple and almond pudding which is delicious hot or cold (I served it hot with a dollop of thick cream). 

Yummy, and extra good for being naughtily eaten during the week!  I thought that it might be a turning point as I really wanted to show you at the time, but I just couldn't do it.  And even though I was unexpectedly offered a new job and am now earning Real Money (a very small amount) for the first time in almost three years, I couldn't drag myself out of the slump, not even to write my monthly family history post, and I usually love writing those.

Then the Sunday before last I was reading the Observer Magazine and I saw a Waitrose advertisement which read "Autumn.  Britain's warmest season" and something just clicked in my head.  I had found a way to write!  I do LOVE autumn for its warmth, its colour and its fruitfulness: the rich reds, oranges, yellows and burgundies of the leaves on the deciduous trees and shrubs, the acorns, beech mast and conkers which ripen and drop from the trees, the fungi which spring up from the damp earth.  I love lighting tealights along the mantelpiece as night falls and later on, when it's cold, we shall light the fire.  We have so far enjoyed blue skies and warm sun - the Best Beloved and I went for a walk that Sunday afternoon in short sleeves, in October!  Dragonflies and butterflies danced around us and my spirit lifted itself up and joined in, gratefully.  The leaves are beginning to turn but this is only the starter, the main course is yet to come. 

And here, for no other reason than "just because", are a few pictures of our afternoon at Lilleshall Arboretum, which is lovely because (a) there are lots of trees and (b) it's free.

See you soon (I hope).

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Five On Friday (on Saturday!)

Hello, thank you for popping in.  It's been a while, but today I am linking up with Amy at Love Made My Home  for Five on Friday.

So here, in no particular order, are five things which I really enjoy about this early part of autumn.

1.  Lighting tealights

I do like candlelight and as darkness falls earlier now, I light tealights along the mantelpiece and enjoy the cosy glow which emanates from these red glass holders.  

2.  Shawls

Although we are enjoying warm, sunny days, the evenings are chilly, not cold enough for a frugal person to put the heating on but chilly enough to be uncomfortable when I am sitting down.  The solution to this is a shawl around my shoulders, just right.

3.  Woodland bounty

This is my hawthorn tree, laden with haws (and therefore full of birds which feast on them). The woods are full of acorns, beech mast, conkers, pine cones, the fascinating fruits which used to adorn infant school nature tables when I was a child.  When my girls were little they always took "nature bags" with them when we went out for autumn walks so that they could collect this bounty and bring it home to pore over and play with.  

4.  Toadstools

Up from the earth they spring at this time of year.  I find them fascinating, so many different types, all taking their part in the complex ecosystem.  I even quite like the ones which have appeared in my lawn this year, although I don't think the Best Beloved is very keen.

5.  Summer flowers In My Garden

I was really taken by surprise last Sunday when I rounded a corner in my garden and found a bed full of pink hardy geraniums flowering their heads off.  I associate their flowers so much with the summer, as I do the buddleia which you can see in this photo, that to see them in October feels like a bonus, a real extension of the summer season, a reminder that the boundaries between nature's seasons are not concrete but that one leads into another as a river estuary leads into the sea.

Thank you to Amy for hosting these lovely Friday blog parties, and to everyone who is joining in this week.  I'll be hopping over to visit during the weekend, so why don't you?  Click here to go to Amy's post and when you get to the bottom, you will see who else is sharing their Five On Friday.

See you soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x