Monday, 19 May 2014

A WalkThrough a Wood

Through a wood, past a bridge and some sheep, over some stepping stones...

Time to catch up, talk, notice details, snap photos, enjoy the mild spring weather. Nothing better than a day like this.

Sunday, 18 May 2014


I love to play with my post titles. They are often silly private jokes. I chose this one mainly because how often will I get to talk about a 'manhunt'? No, it doesn't refer to a police chase. Nor is it about that song from the movie Flashdance. Is that telling my age? Well, no matter.

Somewhere I have a photo of people running up and down Cheviot, but for now,
Wallington Hall will have to suffice as illustraion.

I believe this is related to a 'hash'. (No, it's not food either, but does involve drink). The first time Bill and I encountered a 'hash' was on our first visit to Sydney. Jane knew we were into running and so she looked for an event we could join in. The Sydney Hash House Harriers was celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a hash involving Baileys and Guinness, if I remember right.  It sounded really daft but we went along for the fun.

As they did it, a course was planned in advance and marked with symbols indicating which way to turn. The hash course has loads of false trails which you don't know are false until you find the symbol telling you to turn around. The faster runners of course found and deduced the false trails first, often catching the slower runners about to enter and able to warn them off taking that turn. The result is that slower runners should follow more or less the true course, letting faster runners do the work of travelling the extra distance of the false trail. It is a way of letting runners of all abilities run together, after a fashion. People shouted 'on-on' a lot and I think there was some guy running around tooting a bugle (an allusion to a Fox Hunt - the kind done on horseback - no doubt). Halfway through the run there was a bandstand with tots of alcohol on offer. Can't say I've ever run under the influence before then or since. It doesn't help much.

When we finished running there was a 'barbie' (cook out) and a meeting in a pub where new people were required to 'down-down' as in chug a half pint of beer. Other people seemed to get beer poured on their (new) trainers. It was all a bit mad. Bill says it's all very 'public school' (upper class), ex-pat stuff. Which according to the HHH history, is true.  Jane & Chris joined for a while, though they were more of the walking persuasion and Jane was 'Hon Sec' (honourable secretary) for a while. She sent us HHH t-shirts for Christmas that year. 

Wikipedia dates Hash runs back to 1938 in Malaysia, but they apparently based their runs on what Brits called a 'paper chase' that dates back to 1880s, which is in turn based on the Elizabethan game of 'Hunt the Hare' or 'Hunt the Fox'. The Paper Chase involves a lead runner dropping bits of paper for his chasers to find.  The 'hare' or the 'fox' are usually the faster runners in a group. 

What has all this to do with Wallington Hall? Well, it seems that George M. Trevelyan, whilst in his undergraduate days at Trinity College, Cambridge, was a co-founder of a race in the Lake District, sometimes called the Lake Hunt and sometimes referred to as the 'Trevelyan Manhunt', beginning in 1898. G.M.'s (disinherited) nephew was involved in this race for forty-two years and so far as I can tell, it is still run, but by two separate groups.  There is the Trevelyan Manhunt and there is possibly a manhunt run by Trinity College, Cambridge.

Though, given the 'health and safety' considerations raised by this author, it may have fallen by the wayside for Cambridge students. In any case it is clearly considered an historical and hallowed tradition by some, even important enough to mention in their obituary.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Disinherited Son

The son that was effectively disinherited by the donation of Wallington Hall to the National Trust, George L. Trevelyan, sounds like an early day hippie to me (he's even got long hair).  He imagined his family was descended from a knight of King Arthur's round table; granted, Sir Trevillian sounds like Trevelyan.  He is called a founding father of the New Age philosophy, you know metaphysics, spritualism and self-help psychology stuff. 

Sir George Trevelyan.jpg

I guess when your worldly goods have been given away before they become legally yours, it's just as well to get a more spiritual outlook on life.

In addition to being one of the first trained teachers of the Alexander Technique, he was associated with the Findhorn Foundation near Moray, Scotland, a large 'intentional community' (commune). I've never visited an 'ecovillage' but it sounds interesting. 

In addition to all the spiritual and educational ideas, Trevelyan was involved with another activity, a tradition begun by his uncle, my favourite George M. Trevelyan. I'll tell you about that in my next post.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Trevelyan's Friend and Family

If you didn't read all about Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan the other day - and I'd be dead amazed if you did - you won't have read what his friend, Beatrice, said about him.  But first, a bit about her.

File:Beatrice Webb, c1875.jpg
Beatrice Webb
Photo from Wikipedia

Beatrice Webb (nee Potter) 1858-1943) co-founded the London School of Economics and Political Science, or LSE, which suggests she was more than a pretty face with a well-endowed purse.  Through her interest and work in the area of social work and economic theory, she gave us the term 'collective bargaining'. As well as helping create the LSE, she was also active in the Fabian Society and in the formation of the Cooperative movement. She was altogether an amazing woman.  So now you're all set for the next pub quiz.

My cousin Frank, in Glasgow, once remarked that having seen some of the amazingly grand houses in Britain he was astounded that there hadn't been a revolution here like there was in much of Europe in the late 1800s, early 1900s.  I think it might well be in part because of the work of the aristocrats with socialist leanings. 

Anyhow, what Beatrice Webb said about Sir Charles is 

[He is] a man who has every endowment - social position, wealth, intelligence, an independent outlook, good looks, good manners.

File:Charles Trevelyan 1899.jpg
Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan (1870-1958)
(photos from Wikipedia)

Sounds like a good catch, eh? His wife, Mary Katherine Bell apparently did nothing more exciting than bear the next baronet, who was effectively disinherited when Sir Charles donated Wallington Hall to the National Trust.  However her half-sister's name rang a...never mind.  I once did my best to read a biography of Gertude Bell, but didn't manage. Perhaps I'll try a different one some time. Surely the life of the first woman to cross the Sahara Desert is worth reading about.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Witches Broom

As we set out from the house one of the first things we saw was this tree with 'lumps' in it.  We speculated about whether this was mistletoe, but I was pretty sure that had green leaves and white berrys.  Mistletoe was the state flower of Oklahoma when I was growing up, but it seems some people want it to be an 'Oklahoma rose' instead. Next thing you know they'll be wanting to ditch the scissor-tailed flycatcher, our state bird.  These lumps, however, just looked to be a bunch of twigs. Vivien thought it was some kind of nest, but I wasn't sure I wanted to see what would come out of those big ones.

This is apparently an example of Witches' Broom, a deformity caused by many shoots growing from the same point. Wikipedia seems uncertain as to the specific cause of this, but the lumps do serve a useful purpose for some widelife, providing them with nests, so Vivien was right on that.

Funny how people are so ready to name things as supernatural. I don't think they look at all like a broom, but maybe brooms were shaped differently in the past.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Wallington Hall

Since Bill bought us National Trust membership when we visited Seaton Delaval Hall last month, Vivien (a long time member) and I have a whole other set of places to visit. Granted, there aren't many National Trust properties up here in our area, a reason Bill has previously resisted joining. However, Vivien pointed out that one can return again and again, useful since there is so much to see it's always a good day out. She is very fond of Wallington Hall and now I can see why.

We stuck to the gardens on this trip - and didn't even manage all of those; we still have loads to explore! Vivien was patient enough to let me take over 200 photographs. I shall resist showing them all to you and try to get better at the art of a short post (don't hold your breath). This isn't likely to be one.  

There are two local families associated with this estate, the Blackett's and the Trevelyan's.  I've not encountered the Blackett's much as yet, except that their name creeps up on road signs and the like.  I've a real fondness for one particular Trevelyan, as he is the author of my favourite social history book, about which I've written on several occasions. George Macaulay Trevelyan's name is also found in hallowed places like the Lit Phil Library.

The National Trust leaflet says this:
Gifted to you by Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, socialist MP and ‘illogical Englishman’, our 13,000 acre estate has something for everyone.

Naturally I had to read about Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan and find out how he was related to G. M. Trevelyan.  (Sir Charles was G.M.'s older brother).  I found interesting snippets to share, but I'm going to put those in drafts to accompany other photos. 

Another ha-ha!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Dressing Windows

In Europe there are many houses with doors and windows right on the pavement, where people walk past at eye level. Putting up some sort of screen is necessary for privacy, but in Britain this is further complicated by the need for light. Once one becomes accustomed to natural light, the artificial stuff just isn't the same.

I've noticed some of the window dressings in the cities we've visited and snapped photos of them for inspiration (but can I find them?). We've lived with our large bay window in the kitchen being a bit of a goldfish bowl for some eighteen years and I'm only now deciding I'd like to try for a bit more privacy.

Ghent, Belgium

The typical solution here is lace curtains (which Vivien tells me is now 'very old lady'). I don't mind 'old lady' at all but I was thinking more in terms of the Continental approach of just bits of lace in interesting shapes. They wouln't protect from a peeping Tom, but we have a few feet of yard and a brick wall between the bay window and the pavement, so I'm not so worried about that. One benefit of being close to neighbours is that there are lots of people around to observe unsocial behaviour. Besides, I still have drapes that close at night.

I'm collecting ideas for this project. A few things caught my eye in a home decor shop in North Shields the other day, from chiffon 'swags' to machine crocheted pieces intended for chair backs and arms (now that I would call 'old lady'). I was originally thinking of picking up the odd doily here and there and having a go with red dye. However, hand made bits at the flea markets don't come with a fiber content label and only natural fibers will hold dye; also I'm choosy about the shade of red.

I checked out the yarns available, figuring I could manage a granny square or some double/treble crochet.  I haven't decided yet how to approach this, as the three windows are different sizes, two about 30 x 40" and the centre window about 40" square.  

Any suggestions?

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day in the U.S.  If you come here regularly you might remember that this occasion falls in March here in Britain and they call it Mothering Sunday.  I don't do much about commemorating either one, my mom being gone now for nearly 25 years. Besides there's not a day goes by I'm not thinking about her on some level.

I remember a conversation with Mom one year when I had sent her roses on Mother's Day. I think I must have sent white ones, those being my personal favourite, and she explained that 'technically' (in Southern parlance) white roses weren't appropriate, because they meant one's mother had passed on. I never had heard that before or since, though Sanda from Halcyon Days knew about this tradition (living in the South and all).

For some weird reason while reading Abroad this thought about white roses came to mind, so I looked it up.   When reading Abroad (link), for some reason this came to mind, so I looked it up. It would have been better had I given Mom red or yellow roses.  

The meaning behind colours of roses doesn't always apply just to Mother's Day, however.  According to this source

White roses are sometimes call the "flower of light" and are the bride's flower. They symbolize unity, sincerity, loyalty, purity, and a love stronger than death. White flowers can be mixed with red to emphasize the meaning of love, while white buds are an appropriate gift to a young girl from her father.

This might explain why the inside of Mom's wedding ring (now my wedding ring) says '14K White Rose'.  I didn't inherit a lot from Mom that I would have liked to: 

she was naturally skinny, having a lanky build and long legs; 
she had endless patience;
she was wonderfully artistic, able to do fashion sketches, oil colours, photographic colouring, sculpting and every kind of needlework;
she had beautiful hands

I did inherit her eyes. I'm working on the patience...

File:Mrs. Herbert Stevens May 2008.jpg

And I grow white roses in my garden, though they haven't bloomed yet this year. When they do, I will look at them and remember that "love is stronger than death".

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Cooking Demonstration at the WI

April's WI meeting was a cooking demonstration by a lady named Christine Rogers. She does it all right in front of us - no TV tricks involved  - and makes it all look easy. She did all this in one hour and fed us dinner. Actually, most cooking is fairly easy with a bit of planning and organisation. We've all just been brain-washed into thinking it is really hard so we'll buy more convenience products; mind, she uses convenience foods in the demonstrations which is partly how she managed to do so much in so short a time.  I would probably only attempt one or two of these at one time and would do more from scratch to save money.

Anyhow, she doesn't always provide recipes, so I took notes. I'll share them here in case they inspire you.  (I hope I got this all right - if anything looks really crazy to you, please let me know).

Curry Pasta Salad
- saute a diced red onion in some oil
- cook some pasta spirals (shapes hold the sauce better than spaghetti) - I think she cooked about 500 g (a whole packet as they are sold here)
 -add a dessert spoon (between a teaspoon and a tablespoon) of madras or rogan josh flavoured paste from a jar to the saute'd onion (Indian food shops sell this)
 - 2 tablespoons of apricot jam also goes in with the onion
- coat the cooked pasta with a little mayonnaise, then add the onion mix and some raisins
- garnish with tomato slices and serve warm

Cold Chicken Salad
- start with nuggets of cooked chicken (apparently one can buy bags of this at the supermarket); she used two bags; cooked turkey or ham would also work in this recipe
- chop up some spring onions
- halve a cucumber and scrape out the seeds with a spoon (they are too watery for this dish) and then chop the cucumber 
- slice a mango length-wise, one cut on either side of the stone; on each half make a grid of cuts (slice vertically & horizontally) and then parallel with the skin to add diced mango to the salad (might work well with peaches or pineapple if mango is not available)
- add handful of coriander leaves
- add juice of 2 or 3 limes (depending upon how juicy)
- drizzle with vegetable oil
- can make the day before and chill overnight

Bean Salad
This is best the next day, after the flavours have had time to marinate.
- diced red onion
- a selection of tinned beans (she used kidney, garbanzo and something else...)
- diced red and green bell pepper or you could use a tin of corn or some peas
- dress with honey mustard dressing from the supermarket

Fruit Salad
- 2 large oranges, sliced
- 3 small tomatoes, sliced
- sprinkle with chopped spring onions

Orange Torte with Almonds
She did bake the cake ahead of time. She told us how:
- 3 eggs
- 8 oz of caster sugar (I've yet to get my head around the different types of sugar, I'd probably go with just regular sugar, but this might not be right)
- 9 oz of ground almonds 
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- whisk the egg and sugar
- boil a whole orange (!) for one hour and then blend it to a pulp; add to eggs and sugar, add ground almonds and baking powder
- cook for 50 minutes in the oven (she didn't say what temp - I'd look up other similar cakes and experiment)
- serve with blueberries and vanilla yogurt
- lasts in the fridge 2-3 days (not in our house it wouldn't!)

She's always full of tips and ideas, eg buy salmon fillets from Lidl, wrap in parma ham slices and bake for 8-9 minutes. Doesn't that sound delicious?

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Day Out in Cramlington

People laugh at the odd places Vivien and I find to go for our jaunts.  Some attribute this weirdness to my being foreign, others to my frugality, perhaps others just check us off as eccentric. Am I bothered?

I was originally drawn to Cramlington when some of the craft ladies raved about Yorkshire Trading Company in the Manor Walks shopping centre there.  It is a fabulous place, reminiscent of the old 'five and dime' shops of my youth, the ones that had sewing fabrics and patterns as well as virtually everything else one might need. Yorkshire Trading Co. has more a craft / quilting section than dressmaking, but it's fascinating all the same.  

The Village Green

That black plaque by the door says 'Surveyors House' and it's for sale for
about £325,000. In addition to 4 bedrooms, an enormous back garden and
those gorgeous south facing windows, it is just across from the church yard with the pink trees. Want to look inside? If you're quick, you can see it HERE.


We first dropped in one day as part of a tour of that part of Northumberland focusing elsewhere. In addition to liking the 'haberdashery' (a delightful word I never saw in common use til moving to England), Vivien noted that there was an older part of town that looked interesting, the original village perhaps, but we were out of time.  So, on our next day out we returned for a longer look.

St. Nicholas Parish Church

See why spring is my favourite season here?

Cramlington is a 'New Town' along the lines of Milton Keynes down south. 'New Town' has the connotation of being cheap, 'modern' (as in stark) architecture and very pedestrianized and cycle-friendly. I'm all for walking and cycling but it does sometimes mean that driving there and finding one's way around is possibly a nightmare and best avoided.  So this is the main reason I've not been. Saying that, I've done a race that used to start at the leisure centre (gym) there, but I (a) didn't drive there or (b) look around at all, so I don't count those visits. 

The original village green (I think)

War Memorial with I, II and 'other conflicts'

Reminds me of the chess game in Harry Potter.

That building in the back is the "Working Men's Social Club" - serves cheap beer.

It goes almost without saying that Cramlington was also a 'pit village' associated with coal mining. When coal mining was shut down in the Thatcher era many of these villages virtually disappeared and most that remained didn't fare well, which is probably what provided the inspiration behind 'New Towns'.

So, given the 'New Town'  rep, I was - silly me - surprised to discover that the beginnings of Cramlington (town) go back to the Manor of Cramlington, documented in 1135. A register of chaplains (part of medieval households) begins with John the Clerk of Cramlington (Brits pronounce that word 'clark'). This explains the unusual name of the place we had lunch.

One of several pubs serving food.

Abandoned School House, sure to be re-developed.

More pubs around the Village Green.

An old church, then bar/restaurant, recently sold  

After lunch we just wandered around the village. It was a lovely sunny day and of course that makes everything look nicer. Sunny isn't always a reliable indicator of the temperature, but on this particular day we actually carried our coats, my first time this year. By my reckoning we walked about five miles!

We visited the charity shops about 1.5 miles apart. We admired the church yard (St. Nicholas, built 1865-8, in the Gothic style) and the war memorial in the village green. There were several pubs in the village serving food, which seemed to indicate that the newer estates of the New Town still come into the village of an evening/weekend to eat and drink. Between the "No Smoking" laws and the recession, pubs have had a hard time of late.  

I dragged us down to the train station, curious that the train from Newcastle north to Morpeth and to Edinburgh would stop at a tiny place like Cramlington. It turned out to be an ordinary modern-ish station, nothing Victorian.

Of course most every nook and cranny of Britain was once connected by rail back when it was state supported and few people owned cars. Since being privatized only the profitable rail routes remain, so the commuters from Cramlington must make it worth their while.  I only knew about this station because I once worked with a woman who commuted to our office near the Newcastle Central station. 

On the way to the station we admired some of the older houses on Station Road, some set well back from the road with large south-facing front gardens beautifully landscaped to provide privacy. Other houses were closer to the road with enormous back gardens.  At the end of the terrace was small road leading to a public footpath that crossed a large green. In the distance were green hills common in this area - they are spoil heaps consisting of waste from pit mines; also the large graceful wind turbines. I like them, but I don't really near any. I'd much rather look at a huge white whirlygig than a large concrete chimney with smoke coming out.  Anyhow there was a public notice that residents were petitioning to have it declared a 'village green', meaning they were trying stop the construction of new homes there on the green. 

I snapped a photo of a large double fronted (meaning windows on both sides of the front door, a slightly prestigious feature to have) house with lovely large stone bay windows facing south. As we were walking away I noticed a man in one of he windows on the phone and he was waving furiously at me. I wasn't sure how to respond - I'm guessing he didn't want his house photographed - so I just smiled and waved back before walking away. I'm slightly sympathetic, perhaps it was rude of me even though I was only admiring the place. On the other hand I thought him a grumpy old git; it wasn't like I went into his front garden and snapped a photo through his enormous window. Out of (delayed) courtesy to his sensitivities I've omitted the photo of his (dilapidated, old) house here.

On our way back to the car from the station, we noticed a terrace of bungalows (what Brits call one-story houses) near the railway station.. Curious as to whether they were built by the railway or were for minors, we chatted with a couple of ladies sitting in their sunny front (west-facing) gardens. They seemed quite proud of their former miners' cottages, built around the turn of the last century.  Given that man's reaction, I didn't even think about photographing the fronts of these bungalows. 

We noted at the back the identical extensions, the remaining outbuildings (at one time the toilet facilities) and the ubiquitous laundry lines. When ever I see the latter I always think what optimists Brits are, planning barbeques, picnics and hanging their laundry out.

Blue doors used to be the toilets / earth closets!

Five identical extensions, probably done by the Council all at once.

Do you go exploring around where you live?