Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hundreds of art books for free

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a great resource for anyone interested in art - hundreds of art books and catalogues can be downloaded for free from their website. Things that would cost a lot of money in book form can be downloaded in pdf form and read on your computer or tablet. The link for the Metropolitan Museum Publications site allows you to search for a title or keyword. There is the added advantage that in the US, if someone takes a photograph of an out of copyright work and the only thing in the image is that work, then the photograph cannot be copyrighted. Any image of an out of copyright work thus becomes public domain. This isn't the case in the UK, unfortunately.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Making Hermione's beaded bag

Kate asked me to make her a beaded bag for her Hermione costume, and of course I agreed to that before I had searched the web for pictures of Hermione and her bag.  And then gulped.  It was looking like a lot of work!  I found some fabric in a local charity shop and (as she knew) already have a large quantity of beads and threads, and decided that instead of making it in segments as some other crafters have done, I would make a circular design bag and add sections of velvet to that. 

Making a circle with pen, thread and drawing pin
I started with a large square of fabric, and used a pen on a string to make a circle of the required dimensions.  I then made another circle in a contrasting fabric for the lining, and sewed the two together, right sides out. I made a channel for the strings for the bag by sewing two circles about an inch or so apart, and cut a hole in the fabric to let me thread them through.

I started to bead and embroider velvet sections to go onto the bag - one of the youtubers who demonstrated their bought bag online kindly told me that the "official" facsimile bag has eight sections of velvet material and so I made those separately, and then sewed them onto the bag.

Once all the velvet sections were sewn onto the bag I began to embroider between the sections.  On the official bag these sections seem to be quite crude straight embroidery, but I made mine a bit more magical with swirls and spirals.

I beaded every other one - I was beginning to worry about the weight of the bag, which is bigger than the facsimile and of a heavier more sturdy material.

I made a base plate out of cardboard covered with fabric and joined a tassel to the middle of that and embroidered it.  I had a lot of problems working out how to attach it.  From looking at the facsimile I think the sections are gathered a bit before being attached to the base plate, but that looked terrible, so I just went for a straightforward attachment.

I'm leaving the silken cords very long for the moment.  Kate is coming to stay tomorrow, and so I will check with her to see how long she'd ideally like them.  Apart from some extra beading around the baseplate and the edge, I think it is more or less done!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Taking stock

The crocus is flowering
I moved to Lincolnshire just over a year ago, in December 2013, having lived all my life on the outskirts of London.  I'd intended to blog my way through the experience, and I did make the odd post here and there, but I think I needed time to assimilate what had happened to me.

Usually when people move, they have some link to the place that they have chosen, whether that is a family link of a link to a new job or just a desire to live there for some reason.  My reasons were entirely practical:  I needed to find a place where I could afford a house, where we were near to transport but had the normal things, shops and doctors in walking distance.  I approached the search like a job, having been let go at the end of a monthly contract I had the time to search while at the same time looking for somewhere to live.

Initially I looked at places closer to London.  My son's girlfriend's father was in hospital in London and likely to stay there and so we needed good transport links to London for her, and of course my family still lives around Uxbridge and Hertfordshire (mostly) and so I wanted to be able to travel back to see them.

I collated the houses in my price range, with the number of bedrooms I needed, with a small garden, close to a station, with shops in walking distance, and haunted Zoopla and Right Move and estate agents' websites.  I compiled secret boards on Pinterest, afraid that if I posted them to my public boards someone would swoop in and gazump me before I'd had a chance to visit and view.

I fell in love with a house in the Lincolnshire fens, which had virtually none of the things I said I was asking for, but which I loved dearly, but head governed heart when a report showed that the walls were gradually parting company with each other and would need a lot of remedial work.  I might have been tempted if it had been close to a station or good coach route, but the half hour bus ride to the nearest town was the clincher.  And so I continued to look.

I must admit that it wasn't love at first sight when I saw this house, but its resemblance to the house I had loved made me want to see it, and once I had walked through the door, and especially once I had seen the garden, I was hooked.

A year on, I have found a few things to dislike.  There seems to be coal ash in the vegetable garden, which is not very healthy, and I must put in raised beds or use pots for growing things, and had to allow my prize marrows and sweetcorn to rot.  The central heating was not very efficient and terribly expensive to run, and I have replaced it with a modern boiler and taken out the ugliest fireplace in the world and replaced it with another radiator.

But in general, I have found a house I can love, and can forgive the damp in the bedrooms and the cracks in the plaster.  I once heard Lucinda Lambton say that she kissed the walls of her house in Berkshire beause she loved it so much.  This is the first time I have felt that way about a house I've lived in.

The countryside around the town is beautiful, I love the wolds and the little villages.  It's a pleasure to drive out and find mysteriously winding roads.  I didn't look at the countryside much when I viewed the house, because we travelled from the A1 and most of the way it is fairly flat and uninteresting, it's only as you pass through Market Rasen that the wolds begin to undulate and the landscape which looks so English and so untouched comes into view.

There's so much more sky, and the weather changes fast.  The air is crystal clear most of the time, although the large number of coal fires around the town make it a bit more dusty in the winter, something that I blamed on my own coal fire until I took it out and found the black dust is still the same.  There is a sharpness to the air which you simply don't get in London, except on rare autumn mornings when the cold of dawn burns off with the sun.  The wind that I was warned about does sweep in off the Lincoln plain, but the weather is often warmer and dryer here than forecast for the rest of the country.

I've started to look in the right place on weather maps - the habit of looking to the west of London is hard to break - and I've started to think of myself as a member of this town.  Everything seemed so familiar the first time I came here.  There are places in South London which seem entirely alien to me, even though I have lived in and around London for so long.  But this place seems like home.

I did what everyone told me to do, and waited to make changes to the house or the garden, to find out what lurks in the garden borders and to work out what I would like to do with the house.  The garden has a lot of bulbs in it, and these are breaking through for the second time since I moved... crocus and snowdrops are flowering already and the first signs of spring propelled me out of the front door to prune the roses before it was too late yesterday.

I've not really embedded into the community yet.  I volunteered for a few weeks at the Air Ambulance shop, but felt I was wasting my time, doing something which many volunteers could do instead of using my talents.  I offered to put things on ebay, or to paint and renovate the things they were throwing away, but they declined, and making the odd dash to London was very inconvenient for everyone, as they couldn't rely on me being there.  So I stopped.  I've volunteered for the business improvement group, (now disbanded) and joined the rail user group.  The people here seem very kind and open.  When we stayed in Tealby shortly before we moved, everyone warned us that shopping would take longer in Market Rasen because everyone is so friendly, and that's true.

So... this is a new start, a new year, spring is starting to shoot, and I will try to blog more regularly than I have.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Romans in Lincolnshire

"TimeTeam2007" by Original uploader was Bedoyere at en.wikipedia Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
On a whim, and as an antidote to the very boring videos I have been having to watch in learning about search engine optimization, I searched for Time Team videos set in Lincolnshire.  I barely expected to find anything, because I am so used to there being a blank where Lincolnshire should be in any list or directory, but there were several Time Team episodes set in Lincolnshire.

Season eight has an Anglo-saxon cemetary in Lincolnshire, season nine has Ancaster on Ermine street in Lincolnshire.

Then there's Wickenby which was episode four in season 15.  Wickenby is about five miles from Market Rasen, and the episode I watched covered a dig there.  There appeared to be both Iron Age and Roman remains in the field in Wickenby, and interest in the site was partially aroused by metal detecting finds on the site - lots and lot of brooches and coins and stuff, including a marvellous metal bowl.

Tony Robinson appeared to be surprised that the Romans had penetrated rural Lincolnshire, as though it were shocking that they had deviated from the Ermine Way, the roman road which goes through Lincoln on its way to the north, but actually there are a lot of Roman remains in this part of Lincolnshire.  Three Roman kilns have been found in Market Rasen, and there have been a lot of finds in Osgodby, which is north of Market Rasen.

It was interesting to learn that not a lot is known yet about these smaller places - most of the finds for Roman Britain are within the context of the larger towns and forts which the Romans lost no time in erecting around the country.   Smaller places, where, it was suggested, the Roman way of life may have arrived and affected the way in which the native lived their lives, without an accompanying Roman population, are much less known.  It made me wonder if the recycling which the team thought was happening at the site (metal and stone) was actually being done to take advantage of the new market which the Roman invasion was offering - as they seemed to be of the opinion that the site was in use quite soon after the invasion in the first century AD.

It made me want to go and dig up the back garden, although I controlled that impulse.  Not only has the ground here been very disturbed because the house and garden have been in use for 160 years, but the weather is nippy and the ground is pretty hard at this time of year.  Archaeology is definitely a summer activity.

I was very disappointed when I visited the local museum at Lincoln, because I wanted to gain a clear picture of the history of Lincolnshire, and they seemed to have been diverted by the addition to the national curriculum by Egypt and invasion forces into including an overall history of the country and not a specific history of Lincolnshire or Lincoln.  Those things that were in the cabinets, stone age tools and other finds, were very poorly labelled with information.

It seems as though the history of the period of Roman invasion and settlement is not very well understood from a domestic and small-scale settlement point of view.  In the programme the Roman expert Guy de la Bedoyere suggested that a lot more will become known about these things in future years, but that little was known about it at present.

I visited his web site, which has qute a lot about the different legions which served in the Roman army, and about where they were stationed.   He is now working as a teacher at Sleaford.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Transport rant

Market Rasen station - I think someone must have been having a bonfire
I am coming up for my first year at Market Rasen.  I do love it, and I am deeply in love with the countryside, but I am beginning to get really rather cross about certain things.  I chose my house, which is five minutes from the train station, because I have children in their teens and twenties with friends and family around the country, and I wanted it to be easy for them to get to see them.  I also had hopes that we'd be able to get jobs in Lincoln, which is the nearest big town.

While I was able to commute back and forth down the Metropolitan Line to Aldgate every day in London without a problem - and find about 15 other ways of getting there if there were problems on that line, there are only two ways of getting to Lincoln on public transport:  there are three trains in the early morning, or a bus once an hour.

However, despite the fact that one's best chance of being able to get a job is in Lincoln, if you're wanting an office or shop job with normal opening hours, there's not much public transport to help.  The 6.22 will get you to Lincoln at about twenty to seven.  Pretty early for a 9-5 day.  The 7.39 will get you there at around 8am - again pretty early for a 9-5 day, but wait, there's quite a good chance that you won't get on the train at all.  Having come from Grimsby, and being a single carriage train, there is every chance that you may fail not only to get a seat but to get on the train at all.

The situation is just as parlous on the way home.  So if you were lucky enough to get a job working 9-5 in an office somewhere in Lincoln, you'd have every chance of having to spend at least the first hour of the day kicking your heels in a cafe somewhere, and the last hour too.  And if you don't manage to get on the 7.39am train?  You'll be waiting two and a bit hours for the 9.55am! 

I had no conception of the difficulty of living in a small town if you don't drive.  It is true my son does drive, but he's in University at different times every day, and some days has to leave at 6am to do a shift at BBC radio Lincolnshire.  It would not be an easy option.

What annoys me the most is the lack of any understanding that this is a problem locally. The new local plan calls for new housing to be built all over the area, with hardly a mention of the inadquate public transport provision *anywhere*.  I plastered the plan with my objections to this fact, but the other members of the Market Rasen Rail Users Group tell me there is very little interest in the poor train service locally.  In fact the representative from the Country Council left before the service on the Market Rasen line was discussed. 

You can't even go into Lincoln for a film or a meal, if you don't own a car and don't want to shell out £40 each way for taxis.  The trains stop before 9pm and the buses earlier.

It's annoying that the people in authority point to the line as it is and decide that there's no demand for an increase in services... and that the local train line, East Midlands, and the government can't make up their minds who is responsible for the level of service contracted to East Midlands - or who is empowered to change that.

I realise that a rural and less populated area such as this pat of Lincolnshire can't justify the sorts of high level of public transport I am used to in London... but this level of service doesn't even reach a basic baseline.  It's appalling.  And listening to the huge number of trains which pass through the station without stopping -feeling themeven, as the floor and ornaments rattle - is just adding insult to injury.

If people could rely on a good and frequent service to Lincoln, I can guarantee that it would be used.  How to prove that in absence of the service, I do not know.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

At home with the cold callers

There's nothing guaranteed to get my blood boiling quicker than a cold caller, most especially one who seems to be running a scam.  Since I moved to Lincolnshire I have noticed a distinct increase in the sorts of PPI, you've had an accident, how's your loft insulation? calls.  I'm not at all clear how these work, but when challenged for company names and details the callers invariably ring off.

I'm registered with the telephone preference service, and I regularly report people who call me repeatedly.  One would have thought that BT or other providers might be able to tell if a company is operating a somewhat dodgy operation:  if they are making dozens of phone calls and choosing to withhold their number, I would have thought that technology had advanced far enough for BT to be able to isolate the number and run some checks on the company.

One company which didn't withhold their number was Charter Legal, who have phoned me more than once despite my pointing out I am registered with the telephone preference service, and despite promising to remove me.  They appear to be offering some sort of ringfence to protect your assets against the government - at least that was what I understood from their cold caller girl.  Their website actually states the opposite.

In general, though, the companies which do this sort of cold calling are virtually indistinguishable from the bogus callers who claim to be policemen with your credit card details or Government researchers wanting to know if you have claimed your pension rights/PPI repayment etc.  I'd ban it, and put fines in place for those who carry on.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Goltho: the enclosure where marigolds grow

There's an official walk through the Limewoods and around Goltho which I found online, but which claims to be seven or over nine kilometres (depending on the route chosen).  We were mostly interested in the deserted mediaeval village which once clustered around Goltho church, which appears at the end of the official walk, and so we decided to do just the end of the walk.

Unfortunately the map is a poor one, which doesn't reflect what is found on the ground, nor do I think it is right about the distance - we walked for a good 40 minutes from the Wragby Market Place carpark, which is where you are instructed to leave your car, to reverse the end of the walk and get to Goltho church.  It would have been possible to drive to the place where the footpath takes one across the field, and cut that walk by 30 minutes.  I wouldn't say the walk from the market place to the footpath is particularly beautiful or interesting, although parking might be a problem.

So, from the Market Place, we walked down Bardney Road until we passed the Wragby maze and conifer centre, and then turned right and walked until we had passed the bend in the road.  It was a lovely autumn day.

Crossing the ploughed field using the unploughed grassy path, the wind was high but the weather was warm and sunny and it was exhiliarating, rather than cold.  We climbed a small path, crossed a bridge and then followed the track of the public right away straight across another field... not knowing that the site of a motte and bailey castle was buried in the field to the left of our pathway across to the church, which is clearly seen on Google Earth.

Goltho was founded in the Roman period, it is believed, was inhabited in the Anglo Saxon period and really flourished around the 12th century.  However, poor harvests in the 15th century led to its abandonment.  It can't have been completely abandoned then, as some of the gravestones in the churchyard date from the 19th century, but there is precious else to record the village as it used to be.

 I love the paradox of the name... Goltho sounds like the name of a village in Mordor, as Eelco remarked, but "the enclosure where marigolds grow" sounds romantic and pretty.  There were no marigolds today.

Strangely wikipedia says that the church was founded in 1530, by the Grantham family of Goltho Hall, although they say the village was deserted in the 15th century.  There is little to see nowadays, although the countryside is stunning.  Parts of the church including the roof were destroyed by fire in 2013, the most likely cause being a lightning strike. 

I think we will need to make a return journey to see the village properly and also the Limewoods nearby.  We were on our way to a celebration lunch, and the table was booked for one o'clock, and so we tried our best to take the most direct route back to Wragby.  Even so, I had to ask my sons to walk on ahead and get the car, as I knew that I was slowing the whole party down and we'd miss our booking.  We had a lovely meal at the Ivy in Wragby and then returned home via the Sunnyside Up farm shop in Tealby.