Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Name That House

When I first moved to England, one of the first things I noticed they did differently was addressing post (not to mention calling it post instead of mail).  I don't think I ever got my head around the punctuation business, putting a comma at the end of each line, or even after the house number.  It didn't take me long before I decided that there must be a correlation between the number of lines in one's address and the prestige of one's address.  For example, an address in the US might be

Ms. Shelley S. House
55 Blogger Street
Google, OT  01234-5678

and you would add USA at the bottom if sending it from abroad.  If I wanted to be posh here in Britain, I'd try to eek it out:

Mrs. Shelley S. House,
The Brick House,
55, Snooty Lane,
Posh Village,
Postal Town,
NE99 0DR,
Great Britain

Actually, I think you lose points if you have to put a house number and street name, but you can probably only get away with this if you live in The VicarageThe Old Rectory or The Old Post Office in some tiny rural crossroads, in which case you would chock up loads of prestige points for
(a) being rural and (b) having a landmark house.  The post office has rules about all this these days, though.  You can name your house whatever you like but it still has to have a number and a street name. 

Now, if you live in Beechfield TowerLauder Grange, Shirley Lodge or the like, I completely understand the house naming business and if you're like me, you could spend days wandering through the listings of this particular real estate business.  I must admit that when I owned two houses in Oklahoma City, I referred to the one on Pennsylvania Avenue as 'Penn House' just for convenience.  (Do you think I could have got more rent if I'd painted the name on the house?)

More frequently, though, the houses here with names are more like The Cottage, or Sunniside, Tyne View or something house, which is particularly boring.  I do think that having an older house with the name engraved on the stonework above the door gives a bit more authority to this convention, but it would never occur to me to get one of those little ceramic plaques for the front wall.

Until now. 

I was doing some filing and realised I was just going to have to remove some material before more could go in.  One of the fatter folders contained the paperwork for my house that the mortgage company handed me when I paid them off.  (Yes, I know it should be in a bank deposit box somewhere, not in my filing cabinet.)  I'd never looked through the file before, but I opened the plastic package and found the original sale of the property by the Duke of Northumberland (I believe it will have been the 8th Duke) and learned the names of the builders.  The early deeds are written on large, folded sheets of stiff paper with fountain pen and give the street and town of the purchasers, ie Mrs. Ellen Purchase, formerly of Saltview, Gateshead, and the like.  The house was built in 1920 as I've always known.  What I didn't know was that it was given a name at birth, so to speak.  It was christened Seaholme.  

'Holme' is apparently a Danish word for 'island'.   Trust me to find a Sea Island in the North Sea.  There is a suburb with this name in Melbourne, AU; also a company in the UK that rents marquees; and we are twinned with a holiday cottage for rent in Rye, on the SE coast of England.  The rest of the internet listings have dropped the final 'e' and I'm just not having it. 

Personally, I want it to be crystal clear to the emergency services precisely where they can find my house if I need them.  However, I've been weighing up whether and where I might display the name, given I have no stone work over my front door.  I've seen some names painted or written in leaded glass work in the window above front doors, but on the whole, I'm leaning towards continuing in anonymity, at least until I get my next set of address labels printed - or maybe I should add it to the name of this blog!?  Yes, I still think naming houses is rather silly, but this is a fun finding anyhow.  Must remember to check with the neighbours about their house names - none are displayed in our immediate vicinity - as I'm pretty certain they will all have been given names when they were built.

If you want to think up a name for your house - where ever it is, here are some tips to get you started.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Life in a Cold Climate

A few weeks ago Bill showed me a cash point (ATM) that I'd not yet discovered.  In the window of the shop next to it was a poster with a thermometer.  I took a photo to share, but uncertain that the text would be legible, I've re-typed it.  You'll have to imagine the thermometer in the middle.
<>    <>  <>   <> <>   <>   <> <>    <>   <><>  <> <>  <>  <><>  <>    <>   <> <>   <> <><>   <>
Southerners turn on the heating

+50 degrees

Geordies sow the first seeds of spring

Southerners shiver uncontrollably


Geordies sunbathe on the Town Moor

Southerners’ cars won’t start


Geordies drive with the roof down

Southerners wear coats, gloves and woolly hats


Geordies swim in the North Sea

Southerners begin to evaculate


Geordies hold first BBQ of summer

Southern England closes down


Geordies throw on a t-shirt

Southerners cease to exist


Geordie lasses go up the toon for a nite out

David Attenborough produces new series


Geordies dig first leek trench of the year
Even Attenborough gives up


Geordie lasses hoy on more lip gloss

Alcohol freezes


Geordies drink at home because the pubs shut

Microbiological life starts to disappear


Geordies start to think about t-shirt with long sleeves

All atomic motion stops


Geordie lasses hoy on fake tan

Hell freezes over


Sunderland win the cup

 Now you see what I have to deal with?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

An Autumn Walk Continued

We are continuing our walk from yesterday.  After all the fresh air and nature, we ventured through Bath Terrace, which ends in The Arcade that goes into Front Street in Tynemouth Village.  As Vivien remarked, can't you just see the carriages passing through?

On this street as well the gardens are opposite the houses, though with some of them now in flats, one wonders who gets the garden.  Somehow I don't see these folks sharing the use and maintenance.

The people who live at the end of Bath Terrace definitely have a sense of humour.  I only spotted the rather obvious sign on the gate post.

Vivien spotted the fake tree with the fake birds.

And the statue of the dog hiking its leg on the lamp post.

There are flats in the arcade for sale. not to mention those terraces.  For the price, I can't say they excite me much, but I love looking at estate agent websites. 

The disadvantage here are the many pubs on Front Street.  Tynemouth is a party town at the weekend, though it was incredibly quiet when we were there that Thursday afternoon.

The sun was low in the sky and flocks of birds circled the castle.  We walked along the Parade to the Grand Hotel.  I took Vivien into the Copperfields bar, thinking it might be a traditional pub her husband would like.

Warkworth Terrace sits behind a green and overlooks the sea.  I especially love the window box painted black.  As we passed there was an older couple seated there, with newspapers and tea I imagine.

Another friend had mentioned the Country House Tea Rooms to us a while back, but we'd never been.  It definitely needed exploring and we definitely needed a cup of tea.  We found the place all decked out for Christmas.

That thing in the middle is a pram...necessary nuisances,
they are.

I remembered the place as being an antiques shop, and apparently it is the same owner who changed her business from selling antiques to selling tea and food. 

The place is packed at the weekend. Then again, it is tiny. 

I can't imagine how she got much furniture in there before.   

Then again, when there isn't much space to decorate then it is affordable to be lavish in the decor and to have each thing be exquisite.  I might eventually manage to bring that lesson home [imagine Bill choking with laughter].

Upstairs is a bit of a surprise.  Black decals on the walls, a lamp (not shown) made of a woman's legs, the shade her skirt.  Black sequinned pillows.  Not to my taste, but fun all the same.  

I wonder what Santa will make of those Christmas stockings?

I love finding new places like this.  Don't you?

Friday, 25 November 2011

An Autumn Walk

My friend Vivien has perhaps inadvertently become part of my exercise programme.  I can't bring myself to run more than three days a week - if that - and I've yet to identify a Pilates or yoga class that works for me.  In the meantime there are the joys of a long walk.  It is good of her to come on them with me and so I try to make them interesting.  Last week we walked around Tynemouth village and surrounding area.  You'll already have seen much of it, but I never get tired of the beauty that I find there.

As we passed the park a large black bird was flapping and croaking about something.  It was Vivien who spotted the cat high up in the tree, looking contentedly around.

I was pleased to see some colour in the trees; autumn here isn't very dramatic.

We visited the medieval graves I've told you about before.  Then we headed for the car park that overlooks the river.  We also visited Collingwood's monument.  I've mentioned him before as well. 

The plaque on his monument says

This monument was erected in 1845 by Public Subscription to the memory of Admiral Lord Collingwood who in the "Royal Sovereign" on the 21st of October 1805 led the British Fleet into action at Trafalgar and sustained the Sea Fight for upwards of an hour before the other ships were in gun shot, which caused Nelson to exclaim, "See how that noble fellow Collingwood takes his ship into action"

He was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1748 and died in the Service of his country on board the "Ville de Paris" on 7th March 1810 and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.

The four guns upon this monument belonged to his ship the "Royal Sovereign"

I climbed as far as the steps went.  It was a long way up.

The views were good, but it was a little scary coming down.  We would have gone out on the pier, but it was shut for painting.

Then I led her along the path that comes to the cricket pitch. 

This row of houses is on a road called The Spanish Battery.  Wikipedia
says this is about Spanish mercenaries who manned the guns on the
headlands in the 16th century -  to which I say codswollop!  Must
do some local history research to confirm, but I'm sure it was because the
guns were the defense against the Spaniards!
Then we wandered along the terraces of houses that overlook the river...the grand old houses, not the new flats or the council housing. 

Collingwood House

One house on Priors Terrace, which is now six apartments, was once the home of Annie Maud Burnett, the first woman councillor for North Tyneside and also a former Mayor of Tynemouth.  The houses on - aptly named - Collingwood Terrace face south - a desireable feature in a cold climate - and have view of the river and the sea.  Apparently, what I would consider about the best of the houses, having a south west facing aspect with three floors of bay windows, is apparently also aptly named Collingwood House and has an apartment available to rent.   I have also learned since that walk that the private garden on the west side of Northumberland Terrace is called the Duke of Northumberland's garden. 

Of course with Google maps, you can drag the little yellow man down onto the road and take this same walk with us, did you realise?

In addition, they have quaint little walled 
gardens across the road from their front doors.  I was surprised when I first saw this sort of thing - gardens apart from the house - and even more surprised when Vivien remarked on how unusual it was.  I have seen several examples around this area, in fact there were more examples on the route that I had planned.  However we will save that for tomorrow.

For now, let me say a big thank you to my lovely friend Vivien.  Her company, along with the fresh air and the natural beauty we saw, did my sad heart a world of good.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


 It was this time last week that I lost a dear friend.  Whenever the subject line of an email is a person's name, particularly their full name, it isn't going to be good news.  Even so, I had to read it several times before it soaked in that my friend Joanne had died.  Yes, the Jo that commented on this blog, along with  her husband, Rick.

I'd not known of her diagnosis with breast cancer.  As the daughter of a cancer survivor I can believe that she was confident that she, too, would 'beat' it.  From what Rick says, I can't tell whether it was the cancer or the aggressive chemo that killed her, but in either case her passing has come as a very sad surprise.

Joanne was my oldest friend.  She knew me when I was a newlywed - the first time.  She knew me before I had haircuts.  She knew me before I had a college degree.  We stayed in touch for over 30 years, in spite of two big moves, across four and a half thousand miles.  Part of my history has vanished.

Bonnie, Joanne, Shelley, Rita
Yes, I know my eyes are closed, but this is Joanne's prettiest smile. 

We met when I was in my early 20s and had taken an exciting new job as a secretary.  I'd practiced my typing on a broken down second-hand typewriter for months to pass the test that would allow me to escape being a filing clerk.  Joanne worked in the office down the hall and our bosses both reported to the same woman.   She was a Northerner from Duluth, so not as in-your-face-outgoing as some of us Southerners; it took a while to get to know her.  At some point we started having our morning coffee break together and we carried on doing so for the next seven years.  Longer than the allotted 15 minute breaks, I must admit; our jobs were so soft back then!  So long as the work got done on time and everyone else got their breaks, no one much cared.  We talked about work, about family, shared our love of needlework, brainstormed solutions to various problems, swapped recipes.   Neither of us ever had children of our own and though we both grumbled about the trials of ex-wives and step-children, I give her full credit for sticking the course when I did not. For her perseverance, she enjoyed a more-than-20-year marriage and got the pleasure of three grand daughters.

Amazing how young we all looked, not to mention thin.  On reflection, the
hat was  probably a mistake, but the least of the mistakes I made on the day.

When I mentioned being afraid of my dentist, she sent me to her brother-in-law, my first experience of pain-free dentistry.  I sent her to a great hair-dresser, at least until he became too expensive for either of us.  She 'listened me' through my first divorce and she told me about her first husband having ended his own life several years before she and I met.   She gave me a bunch of pillow cases she no longer used, having embroidered them with 'Mr & Mrs', wedding bells and other similar patterns.  I never minded that they were hand-me-downs but appreciated the neatness of her needlework.  (When I first took up cross-stitch she told me the back of my project was the biggest mess she ever saw; I took more pains after that!)  When I used her pillow cases I always thought about how hard her experience must have been and it made whatever I was disgruntled about seem a minor thing.  

Joanne was part of my second wedding and I was part of hers.  I still have the yellow porcelain rose she gave me on the occasion of her marriage to Rick.  It was not long after then that I changed jobs from being a secretary to being a professional.  Over the nine years of night school in which I finished both a bachelors and a master's degree, Joanne listened to me talk about my coursework and applauded my good grades.  My new job only took me one floor away, but I rarely had a coffee break anymore; if I did, I arranged to meet up with Joanne.    It was a real loss, not visiting with her daily, but I chalked it up to the cost of moving up in the world.

When I was leaving Oklahoma City for Salt Lake, I had an open house one day and called it a 'house cooling'.  My reasoning was that after two yard sales I still had loads of stuff still to get rid of and why not give it to people who came to say good-bye.  It seemed a good idea at the time, opposite to a house 'warming' where people brought one gifts.  Joanne was one of the few people who got lucky; she let me know she liked the knitting magazines she found in her take away bag. 

We exchanged small Christmas presents for several years. I think of my Mom when I put her Christmas ornaments on my tree each year. I also think of Joanne when I add the ones she made. Ever practical, they were plastic cross-stitched kits that posted well and arrived intact.   Joanne and her sister-in-law Nancy came over to England to visit not long after I moved here, when London was still an exciting place for me. They had the Tube figured out better on their own than I could explain it. I remember visiting the Portobello Road market and wandering a bit too far before I realised that dusk approached and I didn't like the area at all. In spite of being tired we all managed to walk a fair clip back to a more comfortable neighbourhood.

How does one characterise a friendship?  What are the gradations that apply:  closest, longest, most reliable, funniest, most interesting?   Joanne saw me through some of my most turbulent years.  I never knew her to be anything other than kind (except maybe about that cross-stitch).   Someone has described Joanne as 'gracious' and it's an excellent word for her.  She was always a calming and steady presence, ready to listen and ready to laugh.  She had a lovely laugh that made me feel I'd scored points if I gave her cause for it; we were both very serious by nature and any giggles that came along were better than champagne bubbles. 

I keep telling myself we weren't really that close, never on the phone to each other daily, never in and out of each other's houses, we sometimes went months without contact.  I shouldn't be that upset about her passing.  It hasn't worked. I've still soaked most of my hankerchiefs and lacked the energy to get on with anything useful for much of the past week.

These sorts of surprises tend to make me want to pat the ground around me, to make sure it's still there; to cast around to family and friends to make sure they are still there.  It wasn't but 10 days before her passing that I accidently sent an email to Joanne my friend, instead of Joanne my cousin, and got it back with a note telling about her Christmas baking plans.  I guess it was all a surprise for her, too.

I'm sad too, silly as it sounds, because I've lost not so much a faithful reader as a member of my mental audience.  Joanne was one of the people I always had in mind when writing here, sharing photos and such.  Whatever I publish from here on, it will be with some sadness that I didn't get to share it with Joanne.

Of course, however I feel about it, my loss is nothing compared with that of her husband, her mother, her siblings.   There will be the many people at the Monaco RV rallys throughout the Midwestern States who will be also be surprised and very sad to hear of her passing.  There are any number of people about whose death I would not have been surprised to hear; Joanne certainly wasn't on that list.  It just goes to show that we can never know which leaf clings tightest to the tree or which will next fall.    

So, what to do?  Not much I can do at this distance.  Contact another old friend in Oklahoma who still working our our old office; donate to the American Cancer Society as requested;  visit Joanne's Facebook page and save some more recent photos of her (whatever happens to FB accounts when they are dormant?); copy and save the obituary that appeared in the Oklahoma newspaper; keep in touch with Rick. 

Go for a walk around Tynemouth with a British friend I've known for most of my years here and enjoy her company, the fresh air and the beautiful autumn scenery.  Do the long list of things that are in front of me every day and even more so this time of year.  Wait for the healing that time and acceptance will eventually bring.

My friend Joanne with Buddy Joe, who also misses her.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Fairy Capsule Wardrobe

In all that literary and artistic excitement I forgot to share the only faerie photos I was actually able to snap, not that they are great, but you'll get the gist.

The idea of a capsule wardrobe is incredibly seductive, but I am not personally acquainted with anyone who has managed it.  I've seen it defined as anywhere from 6 to 20 pieces - per season - with 'reserves' - not counting....t-shirts? shoes? outerwear? exercise clothes? sleepwear? 3 pairs of jeans=1? 

There are endless lists of the 'must-have' pieces (trench coat, white blouse, etc), but they don't make a capsule wardrobe even though there are generally about 10 or 12 on the list.

When I select my colour of the month I come as close as I am ever likely to come of wearing only a limited number of clothes.  This last two years has been an awakening to how few clothes one actually needs, but for how long I could stay interested in that small sub-set, I'm not sure.

Advice on this subject is everywhere - not including women's magazines:

A 10-item wardrobe from Daily Connoisseur
The house burned down approach from Second Cherry
Of course, Gok has something to say on the subject
Even Wikipedia offers advice
And, from the woman who is blamed credited with initiating the idea, Susie Faux

However, I note that even a faery apparently needs nine pairs of shoes (crocheted thread with tiny pearls) and a dozen pixie hats.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Great Bustard!

I must confess, I don't spend much time thinking about extinct or even endangered species of animals. Do you?

I say, I say, Great Bustard's the name, jolly good, what?

I thought this bird was such a handsome fella - he made me think of a British Colonel stationed in India with that fierce eye and that enormous 'tache - so I snapped his photo.  Turns out he's not extinct, only endangered.  This poor guy was shot down in his prime, apparently, as the whiskers only sprout when they are in their breeding season.  Kinda sad, when you think about it.

I also snapped part of the text next to his display and so can also tell you about the Kakapo, in critical danger with only 131 members left - and all given names.  Personally, I think Kakapo is a pretty good name, too.

This is Felix.  Why does he remind me of
Barry Manilow?

And finally, we come to the Great Auk - all gone, but not forgotten.  He makes me think of Alice in Wonderland or something, and sure enough, these creatures have appeared in children's literature, though Lewis Carroll's books are not listed. 

Well, that's my public service announcement for this week.  Don't go killing anything unusual, you hear, not even for your museum!  One day, soon enough, there will only be the rats and the cockroaches left...

Friday, 18 November 2011

More Flowers in My LIfe

I found myself remarking on someone else's blog that I knew I'd grown up when I quit rebelling against my parents and starting trying to be more like them.  I don't expect I'll ever have half the talents or skills my Mom had or be half as smart as my Dad, but I like to think that I am still striving to learn from the example they set me - both the positive and negative.

A neighbour planted sweetpeas running up tall sticks.  I've never had much
luck with sweetpeas - I never seem to think tall enough.

Mom's gardens were always spectacular.  I still have her notebook where she made sketches of plans, by season, height and colour.  According to a garden planning DVD we recently got from the library, two further characteristics to consider are form and texture, but I'm unlikely to ever achieve anything like a professional looking garden.  I'd settle for just having more flowers in my life. 

We had a glorious show of orange, even better than the photo I took, this summer.  I just dumped all the out of date flower seeds into the front patch and this is what happened.  They were brilliant while they lasted, but I expect they were annuals and won't return next year.  So, I started thinking about what  other flowers I would want.

No doubt these flowers are not 'properly arranged' but
they made me very happy anyhow.

I always caress the lavender plants I pass to enjoy the scent in my hand, so lavender went on my list.  I often do that cliche thing with roses, so they went on the list as well.  The inside of Mom's, now my, wedding ring is stamped with 'white rose' in spite of being 14K yellow gold.  I 've always loved white roses and now do even more since the opening scenes of Downton Abbey.  (How's that for successful merchandising?)

Sarah gave us this amaryllis last Christmas and it blooms over and over
again.  When it's not doing this thing it lives in the back porch until it
is ready for show again.  Brilliant gift idea; and, it matches her Dad's car!

Large purple irises are another flower I associate with Mom's garden and I always loved the furry bits inside.  I'm sure I spent a good deal of my childhood with pollen on my nose.  It's rare to see anything but miniature irises in this neck of the woods but I'm hoping I've found some large ones,  We won't know til they come up. 

These are in a neighbour's yard.  Love the burgundy and dusty pinks, but
some of these are grey-ish as well...

When I first lived in Salt Lake City I was amazed at the tulips that came up through the spring snows and whilst I hope not to be having that much snow here, I think bulbs always have a place in a lazy person's garden, so we bought some black tulips, white tulips and some hyacinth.

I've long wanted a 'cutting garden' but Bill didn't care for the idea, until I started bringing in the droopy flowers - I can't abide a flower that can't hold its head up - for the dining table.  Turns out he meant he didn't like the idea of rows and columns of flowers, or something like that.  I'm learning he makes all sorts of dogmatic statements that he doesn't really mean, so I ignore much of what he says these days.  I do hope to have some sort of colour in the house this next year, as it really does lift the spirits.  You can be sure I will share photos of anything that works!

So, we made a trip to a couple of garden centres and came home with eight lavender plants, six rose bushes (3 white, 2 pink and one orangey-red that smells nice), and dozens of bulbs.  The one thing on my list - and it has since expanded - that we didn't buy was a hydrangea.  Since visiting Wales, I've finally come around to liking hydrangeas; must show you those one day.  Aren't Welsh hydrangeas glorious?  Many of the plants around here turn grey and much as I like that colour in principle, I think there is enough grey in the sky, the sea and the river.  I don't want that colour in my garden!  I've learned since that one can influence the colour of a hydrangea by manipulating the soil.

However, the garden centre wanted £40 for a plant and I thought that was silly.  At least having already spent about £50 it wasn't going to happen.  I was reminded by Anna of how much I like the money plant, also known as honesty (money and honesty are both good things, too, right?).  And these pumpkin looking things one of the neighbours has.  I think they are brilliant.... Chinese lanterns they are.  We may need to take out some of that expensive brickwork to get all this in! 

Admit it - you want more flowers in your life, too, don't you?