Saturday, 16 July 2011

Allotment Photos

And more pictures, because I can :)

Bee in chives


Captive strawberries

More flax

More bee in chives

There are more, as ever, on my dA profile.

Early Summer at the Allotment

(Late June-ish)

Once again transport problems have prevented our being at the allotment much, but things are growing on pretty well. we've got raspberries and redcurrants and cherries and blackcurrants and strawberries and apples and rhubarb (NOM).

There's also potatoes and tomatoes and pumpkins and sweetcorn and onions and cabbages parsnips and radishes and lettuce and spinach and carrots and broccolli and peas and beans and courgettes and all kinds of wonderful things to eat in a few months time!

The lovely Amanda's lovely Mum has given us some cucumbers to replace the ones I destroyed, and there's chervil and basil to go in at some point.

It was a lovely day, and nice to get some physical labour done in the light and the air instead of sitting and writing indoors :)

Photographs: the boys, hard at work in the evening; redcurrants; peas; flax; salad.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Pretty, Pretty Pictures!

You may remember me posting a while back about some artwork that my good friend Limlight was working on for me in exchange for some knitted projects. Well, the work's all done at both ends now and I'm happy to say we're both pretty chuffed :D

The hats Limlight asked me to make were great fun, and I blogged about them over on my craft blog; they were both on a sci-fi theme and were really satisfying to make. She chose them both because they were cool hats and they were from two of her favourite shows: Ma Cobb's Firefly hat and Starbuck's Mandala hat, and here they are!

Jayne Cobb's 'cunning' hat that his Ma made him :) (sans pompom, which went on later)

Hat based on the mural on Starbuck's wall (Battlestar Galactica, as if you needed to ask!)

The pictures I asked Limlight to create for me are based on characters from my Harry Potter fanfiction Dreams and False Alarms (which I've heard is quite a good read, hint-hint!) - well, my versions of some of Rowling's characters, anyway, and one of my very own. Here they are, in all their glory:

Severus, Amelia and Remus; Amelia Brown, the new Muggle Studies Professor at Hogwarts has something of an effect on these interesting young men...

Amelia and her cousin Hermione Granger, being cousinly and winding each other up - it's Hermione's third year and she's beginning to develop that famous fiery temper!

I think these pictures are absolutely brilliant, and I can't think Limlight enough for bringing my character and her friends to life! By the way - unless your name is munchkin, Limlight or Rowling, mitts off :p

Much Ado About Hogwarts

Most of May and June are a bit of a blur now - mostly involving preparing to move house and large quantities of rain, along with the passing of my wonderful Grandad.

One thing I do remember though (largely because provides you with a 'published' date) is starting a new Harry Potter fanfiction. I've been working on A Given Value of Safe - the sequel to Dreams and False Alarms - for a while (along with my proper novel, Daffodils in the Twilight), and needed a bit of a break. A few of the lines from Much Ado About Nothing kept rattling around in my brain and I decided to have a play (hah) with fitting it into a Marauder-era story - you know, try new styles, have different characters to mess with, see what new techniques I could fiddle with - and I'm having a great time! It's not how I intended it to go - the characters seem to have more say over what happens than I do in some chapters - and I really didn't intend it to be this long, but for some reason it works! I'm learning lots about how I write and what does and doesn't work in a narrative, I'm playing with poetry and prose and I get to get up close and personal with one of my favourite plays :D

Oh, and the reviews don;t hurt my self-esteem, either ;)

If you want to read it (please, please, please!) it lives on and is called Much Ado About Hogwarts. Along with that pretty 'review' button. You know you want to!


(Easter 2011)

When we visited Guisborough priory with my Mr's family I managed to take some pretty cool pictures, if I say so myself (which I do, so there) and I've decided to share a small selection (more can be found on my dA profile).

Cornflower, up close and personal: one of my favourite summer flowers; there was always a group of these growing around the bottom of my grandparents' pear tree back in Biddulph.

Footprints in well tilled earth: kind of reminds me of those fossilised footprints they found...

The Horsfall Destructor: what to get that evil genius who has everything.

Me and my Mr. Read a book about someone's shadow coming alove once - i wouldn;t have minded if they had at that point :) (yes, yes, I know I'm soppy).

Sunlight through some tree or another. Feel like I should know which one... don't, though.

Easter 2011: Guisborough Priory

(Easter 2011)

Continuing the monastic flavour, we went off to Guisborough to have a look around the ruins of the Augustinian priory there. Much less survives here than at Mount Grace, but what does is still pretty spectacular. There appears to be a small army of volunteers keeping the gardens in check, including a large cottage-garden area with a beautifully restored and oddly huge dovecote in the middle. Much of what is left has been robbed out - presumably as building materials for the village that appears to have grown up in the forecourt of the priory. The great eastern window is still in tact, however, along with part of the cloister; the quality of the building work is indicative of the kind of wealth and status enjoyed by the priory during its life. The window looks very strange, standing as one great wall despite the disappearance of its supporting structures.

A lime grove has been planted in an area beside the priory known as the monks' walk; the limes, the tallest (and, as any palynologist will tell you, a very old) variety of deciduous tree in Britain, stand guard over a memorial garden where the remains exhumed from beneath the priory church during excavations there. The clearing in which they are buried is surrounded by carved pieces of stone from the priory, beautifully maintained flowerbeds and a woodland garden. The ground is covered (at this time of the year) with bluebells and wild alliums, and the dappled sunlight spills through the lime trees that appear to have formed their own cathedral of wood about the burial ground. I honestly cannot think of a more peaceful or beautiful place to be buried in all this world.The woodland garden has been very skillfully planned to provided teaching and meeting areas with seats made from sawn up logs, natural habitats for insects and fungus and a general area in which volunteers can relax. It seemed that every time I turned around in the garden I found some new secret place amongst the leaves and flowers. It was a little like being in my own head - in that it was more or less how I imagined parts of the world I'm writing about. There was even an ancient and wonderfully rusty garden incinerator tucked away against one of the walls.When the priory shut for the night we had a brief foray into the churchyard next door, which has some of the most interesting gravestones I've seen in a while (sorry, I know I have bizarre hobbies), including an amazing carving of a skull-bat (probably soemthing to do with the idea of 'king-death'). One stone simply had initials on... their mourners probably couldn't afford more, but it's that grave that I remember most out of all the beautifully carved specimens surrounding it. How perverse of me.

We also had a nosey through a hedge at a church school that was set up in the Elizabethan period, which also had some intriguing architecture (in this case, largely obscured by the hedge) and was quite beautiful. In a nearby field we were astonished to find an entire colony of llamas (no, really), who seemed monumentally uninterested in a party of strange bipeds who were stood waving at them... There was a wonderful moment when I turned around to find Poom attempting to attract their attention using semaphore, but unfortunately all our attempts at communication were spurned.

A good day, though, all in all - leading to a large volume of photographs appearing on (you guessed it) my dA profile.

Photographs: The extraordinary east window through which you can just see the distant dovecote; the lime grove memorial garden; meet me amongst the wild alliums; the Almighty Skull-Bat and the lonely initials; no, really: llamas!

Easter 2011: Mount Grace Priory

(Easter 2011)

With the beautiful sunshine it seemed foolish to be inside on such a nice day and once everyone had let their lunch settle we drove out to Mount Grace Priory, a spectacularly in-tact Carthusian house in North Yorkshire - listening to the Young 'Uns on the way. It's a beautifully kept site, with stately manor gardens, a lot of chickens, the restored 17th century manor house (in the guest hall of the abbey) and the abbey ruins themselves.

The abbey began life as a Carthusian charterhouse in 1398 and is therefore of an unusual design for a monastery. Most monastic orders lived communally, but the Carthusians chose to live in individual cells; really, they were more like hermits who came together only for protection - they tended to keep their worship separate too, only meeting together in the church for matins, mass and vespers. The church, therefore was quite small and plain, reflecting the small amount of time the monks spent in there, while the cells were in fact small houses - actually, not that small. Each monk was entitled to a living / eating area, a small and very well lit scriptorium, a small but cosy bedroom and an upstairs workroom. The cells all had a garden which the monk maintained, along with an enclosed private cloister. During the nineteenth century one of the cells was reconstructed to a very high standard based on available information. It's really cool!

Unusually for the time there was also running water, including an outside lavatory over a channel of running water. Apparently the Carthusians were experts at plumbing, particularly the provision of clean drains and running water, and their Houses have gained something of a name for it. Mount Grace was fed by three wells built on the freshwater springs from the hillside above the Priory. This water would then be collected in and distributed from a water tower at the centre of the Cloister using a system of lead pipes and drainage channels.

The abbey was built, expanded and rebuilt in several stages during its life, leaving a wonderful series of building traces across the site; the chronology built up from archaeological investigations on the site is well worth a look. Some time after the suppression of the house during the reign of the opportunistic Henry VIII the site was taken over by Thomas Lascelles in 1654, and he rebuilt the abbey guest house into a fine example of a seventeenth century Manor house, much of which has now been restored. A fine section of red painted plaster has been identified and left exposed to provide visitors with a glimpse of what at least part of the manor house would have looked like.

We had a great time clambouring about the ruins in the unexpected April sunshine - Mount Grace Priory is well worth the visit. Again, got loads of great pictures (well, I think so anyway), which can be found on my dA profile.

Photographs: the woodland surrounding the priory; the bedroom in the reconstructed monk's cell; one of the wells or spring houses; Peter trying out the facilities; the Usual Suspects.

All facts have been mercilessly stripped from the information boards on site and the far superior guide book written by English Heritage.

Easter 2011: Saltburn in the Mists

(Easter 2011)

Me and the Mr went up to visit his family for easter and we had a brilliant time - going out to somewhere interesting every day! When we headed up it was in that random week of blistering sunshine, so of course the first afternoon on the coast was spent with so much sea-mist we couldn't even see the beach - it was brilliant! Strangely eerie, absolutely freezing and very beautiful. Stubborn folk as we are, those of us not attending mass all had ice creams, despite the cold; we had a good walk up and down the pier and along the beach, meeting up with my Mr and his Mum at a pub when some of the mist had cleared.

Had the chance to take some brilliant photos, many of which can be seen on my dA profile.

'Where'd the sea go?'

Disappearing pier.

Wanderers in the mist.

The funicular lift (apparently) to nowhere :)

Cliff-top folly.

Clearing Ben and Poom's Garden

So, it's been a while since I posted (I know, I know, again), for a variety of reasons, including finding out that we had to move house, moving house, and the illness and passing away of my dear and wondeful Grandad. I've gone into it in more detail on my other blog, but suffice it to say I'll be doing some catching up on the blog front.

(Sometime in mid-April)

Spent a few days this week taming Ben and Poom's garden - they moved house in the winter and their garden is something of a jungle. After a while I could sort of see where the original garden plan was going - before a few years of neglected pruning there would have been a winding path leading to the back of the garden with woodland flowers like japanese anemones and primroses along the edge. Then, further back from the path were flowering shrubs and dark foliage. At the back of the garden were raspberries, both the usual varieties and a variety of golden fruiting raspberry, redcurrants, blackberries and blackcurrants. The front beds are full of flowers: spring bulbs, clematis, wallflowers and pansies. I even found a tree none of us knew was there inside a buddlea. Oh, and there was pampas grass. I hate pampas grass.

As you can imagine, after a few years with no one looking after the plants it all went a bit mental. Surprisingly the buddlea was the easiest to deal with - largely because Ben and Poom wanted to keep it, so it largely just involved cutting back. The expanding hazel thicket took more time, and a good deal of help from my Mr and Tom; I still haven't quite finished with the laurel, but I defeated the larger of the two pampas grass bushes and helped my Mr take out the second.

At school we used to call it slit-wrist, and with good reason - even being within three feet of the damned stuff means cuts on arms and legs and faces. It was a proper ****er to get out, I can tell you: several feet deep and about two foot thick with dried grass and snail shells - some of which were still alive. Urgh. I have to say, I've never seen the point in a plant that looks sort of ok-ish for approximately two months of the year and ragged and hideous for the rest of it, is so big that it kills off anything nearby and so vicious that you start bleeding of you even look at it. I mean, why do they plant it in schools, for Gods' sake?

Anyway, it took some time - as you can see from the photographs, which don't look like I've made any progress at all, other than greatly increasing the pile of sticks in the front - and I'm not yet finished, but it's going to be a lovely garden again soon.