Tuesday, 29 May 2018

This and That but Mostly Books

There's been a lot of sorting going on here lately. I'm gradually re-arranging, decorating and generally de-cluttering this old house so that it suits me, rather than me and the two children who are both now definitely grown up and gone. I have long term plans to turn my son's room into one big craft room full of weaving looms (note the plural), my new spinning wheel (which I haven't got yet) and lots of yarn and craft books. In the short term, each room is having a big turn out. I think I may be single-handedly keeping the local charity shops supplied at the moment.

I have to admit I'm not doing all this on my own. I'm not very good at sorting and get discouraged easily. Halfway through and with big piles of stuff all over the floor, I have a tendency to creep away and close the door on it all. Luckily my daughter is extremely good at sorting and she keeps me in order. She and her partner have just spent the Bank Holiday weekend here and we got so much done. If I tell you that there were 23 bags of garden rubbish and a car full of stuff for the charity shop, you'll have some idea of how hard we worked.

We were too busy to take photos (and anyway, I'd prefer not to have photographic evidence of all that mess) but I can show you my new / old chairs in the front room. I finally found a suite to replace the tatty settees I'd had for donkey's years and, like most things I buy, it was secondhand, this time from Brackley Antiques.

I'm not a fan of modern, squashy chairs so this upright settee is ideal for me. It's firm and at last I don't need my back cushion to sit comfortably. I also got two armchairs and, as you can see, the cats took to them straight away.

That's Linnet in prime position on the back (she likes to supervise the outside world) and Tolly sprawled on the seat. He obviously missed the 'cats always sit tidily' lesson as he nearly always lies like that, often with both sets of paws crossed. 

All this sorting has rather got in the way of knitting but I have finally finished my Helicopter blanket. Mind you, I nearly cried when, after knitting lots of silly little shapes to fill in the edges, I realised I still had to knit the borders.

Hundreds and hundreds of stitches. I got them done in the end with the help of my latest audiobook, Rebecca. The blanket is now blocked and ready to be photographed and written up as a pattern.

Last weekend my son and I had one of our regular trips to Stratford, this time to see The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich at The Swan. It was a great play and, as normal, we also had a look in the secondhand bookshop. It's called The Chaucer Head Bookshop and I'd recommend a visit if you're going to Stratford. This time I found three treasures, one familiar and two new.

The familiar one was another Flora Klickmann book to add to my collection. Flora Klickmann was the editor of The Girl's Own Paper in the early twentieth century and also wrote many books, including quite a few needlework titles. This is the one I found ...

The Little Girl's Sewing Book

I was particularly excited to find this as it's the companion volume to another one of her books that I already have.

'The Little Girl's Knitting & Crochet Book' is a bit tatty but they're both great books with nice illustrations. Here are just a couple of pages from the sewing book.

They also have lovely adverts for wool long gone.

My next find also harks back to the early part of the twentieth century, this time to seaside holidays in the 1920s and '30s.

The artist Fred Wilde was born near Manchester and published three books in the 1980s, inspired by his childhood. This one conjures up all the magic of an English seaside holiday and many of the scenes are as true today as they were all those years ago. Who hasn't had one of these days on holiday in a typical English summer?

This next picture is one of my favourites. The author recalls being able to get a pot of tea with cups and saucers and a jug of hot water to take on to the sands - all for three shillings. Now there's a practice I'd like to see revived. A picnic's not a picnic without a cup of tea.

The last book I found is one of a series of anthologies that I'd never seen before. It was published in 1954 and is edited by John Hadfield who specialised in this sort of book. He also edited many editions of The Saturday Book, an annual anthology published between 1942 and 1975. And yes, I collect those too.

Anyway, this one has some interesting and unusual choices of poetry and prose, together with lovely art. 'A Contemplation Upon Flowers' by Henry King (written before 1630) is illustrated by a Dutch flower painting by Jan Davidz De Heem.

I'm very fond of Dutch flower paintings; I took my children to see an exhibition of them at the Dulwich Picture Gallery many years ago and I can thoroughly recommend these paintings to capture children's interest. They're bright and beautiful and there are often little creatures to spot amongst the flowers. I see that Dulwich have got an Edward Bawden exhibition on at the moment. I shall have to go to that; it will follow on nicely from the Ravilious exhibition that I've been to several times recently at Compton Verney (buying a membership card was worth it for this exhibition alone).

One more page from this book ...

Gerard Manley Hopkins and Stanley Spencer - what an inspired juxtaposition. Here's the first verse of the poem, written in 1877 and so fresh and modern.

                                          Glory be to God for dappled things -
                                          For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
                                          For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
                                          Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches wings;
                                          Landscape plotted and pieced - fold, fallow and plough;
                                          And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

Hopkins is best read out loud I think. I've discovered Spencer's paintings recently through the art historian Dr Liv Gibbs who regularly shares his paintings on Twitter. Do have a look at her Twitter feed; she tweets lots of interesting art every day, often with a topical theme.

And now I must stop. As normal, it's taken me hours to write this; I always think I'll just do a quick blog post and then get carried away - so much to talk about. 

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