Thursday, 28 February 2013

Romance and Tragedy...

Can you just about make out the names scratched onto this window in the bar at the Spread's David Niven (the actor) and his war time bride, Primula.  David Niven was stationed at the Stourhead Estate during 1941 and his new bride was able to join him at some time during the year.  During the war Officers were stationed in the main house, but I couldn't help wondering if the couple had actually stayed in the same room as we did for their romantic breaks!
Displays in the pub recount the details of the wartime love story.  Apparently it was a real 'whirl-wind romance' - the couple only met 17 days before their marriage.  Over the next few years the couple had two boys.  Tragedy struck in 1946, when the family had moved to America.  Primula died while attending a dinner at Tyrone Power's house.  After dinner, while playing hide and seek, she opened what she thought was a closet door but instead tumbled down the basement stairs and onto the concrete floor. She died shortly after.
An area to the south of the estate was given over to an airfield.  Part of it survives and is used by the National Trust as an overflow car park in the busy summer months....
Appart from this concrete perimeter road, you have to look hard to find other evidence of the WW2 years.  The former control tower has actually been converted into a house, and it's crisp clean lines work remarkably well.  Sadly I couldn't photograph it for you - because we were being watched by the owners!  We discovered one small concrete guard position on the far side of the field and these shelters tucked away in a wood, about 2 miles from the estate.

Mark and I love looking for this kind of 'hidden history'.
I'm still 'home alone' for a few more hours....
I was going to 'do the romantic thing' and drive to meet Mark at Birmingham International Station around now (9.15).
Unfortunately unexpectedly heavy traffic in Paris resulted in him missing his Eurostar.
Fortunately he has a car at the Land Rover Factory (which is fairly close to the station)
He's running about 3 hours behind so he's going to make his own way home....
I hope that he's mastered the art of coming in quietly!!!!!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Remembering Blue Skies and Warmth..

The early mornings were generally crisp and cold last week. I liked to pop out of the pub
each morning before breakfast and take a few photos of the lake...
After a nice 'full English' breakfast we headed out across the estate to explore the quiet areas that most visitors didn't have time to find.
We walked this old road several times. 
It used to lead into a village that completely disappeared in the C.19th..

More visitors to Stourhead also make their way to Alfred's Tower (about 2 miles from the main house).  In the summer months it's possible to climb to the top and admire the views over three counties.  The Tower is on the edge of a hill and can be seen from miles around.

We also discovered further lakes down the valley.
There's a thatched house on the right - what a wonderful place to call home!

On a couple of occasions our walk took us onto White Sheet Down.
It was difficult to capture the scale of the 4000 year old hill fort - this is just one small corner.
I was brought up fairly close to the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire.
Both these places have a similar feel of 'ancient presence'...
I'm back at work now AND 'home alone' this week.
Mark has had to go to Paris for business, which is something that happens very, very rarely.
He was extremely grumpy about the trip this morning -
 but I've had some texts this evening saying that they were just doing a bit of sight-seeing.
He's alright really - he's just some-one who has always prefered to sleep in his own home.
Tom and I are fine...
I cooked what I fancied for dinner.
I left school when I was ready - rather than having to wait for my lift.
I am in control of the TV remote.
Having said that, I don't fancy this as a permanent life-style!
Welcome to my new followers.
I hope that everyone is having a good week.

Friday, 22 February 2013

A little bit of heaven...

This has been my 'back garden' for the last few days.... the beautiful Stourhead Estate on the Wiltshire and Somerset border.
Purely by chance, I discovered this little pub in the middle of the estate. 
It's just up the valley, at the head of the lake, in the first photo.
Mark and I had the tower room (in the middle of the second photo) for the a ridiculously
cheap mid-winter rate.

It was very much like staying with a wealthy maiden aunt...
(Not that I have one of these - but a girl can dream...)

The bedroom was furnished with antique tables and cupboards.
All of it had seen better days - but it was spotlessly clean and charming...

Here were our immediate neighbours - Stourhead House (owned by the National Trust)

The weather has been great so I've got loads of photos that I'd like to organise into
a couple more posts.
Thomas is delighted to have us at home again -
but it feels slightly claustraphobic to be back in our 1990s modern box!!!!
I think I was born for a slightly grander life.....!!!!!!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

You couldn't make it up..

I have just come home from the set of 'Waterloo Road'!  (For any non-UK readers, this is a secondary school based TV soap with the usual daft story-lines).  I wish I could tell you all the gory details but - for professional reasons - I've got to be a bit careful.

So... here are the edited high-lights.

A member of staff has been making wild e-mail allegations about a piece of blu tac and her handbag.

Many staff are refusing to talk to each other.  One member of staff has been hiding most of the day in my classroom.

Some-one actually walked out of school and is talking about refusing to come back.

As a sub-plot another member of staff has completely alienated their area of the faculty through a sequence of highly inappropriate comments.

Music seems to be the only area where any sense of sanity reigns....  Although it has to be said that we DID briefly consider making a few small blu tac figures and placing them outside the office of the offended member of staff.  (Common sense has prevailed since then and we're keeping our distance.)

More seriously, a Year 11 class have rebelled and my boss is being 'hauled over the coals'.  I'm just waiting for the cameras to start rolling.  You really couldn't make this story up!

Two more days to half-term.........!

Monday, 11 February 2013

What's in the box......

My grand plans for a quiet weekend of crafting rather fell appart - for all the nicest reasons.  On Saturday morning Mark and I decided to potter down to Tewksbury (a short hop down the M5 from Worcester).  It's an interesting town, with a beautiful Abbey church, black and white buildings and a nice range of quirky shops.  There's still an independant book and music shop, proper cafes, specialist food shops, antique shops and loads of charity shops with a nice range of good stock.  Tucked away down an ancient alleyway there's also a map shop - which specialises in second hand maps of all periods.

Now it has to be said that Mark adores old maps.  We have a considerable collection filed away in cupboards and drawers, and displayed on shelves and the walls.  It soon became obvious that I wasn't going to get him out of the shop very easily!  I actually went off to have a mooch around - then felt guilty because I wasn't helping to sift through the 1000s (literally) of maps in this shop.

When I got back I found Mark in the back room clutching this old leather box, with a slightly stunned expression on his face.

"Look," he said.  "It looks like a complete set of Cyclist's Touring Maps"  (The exact set that he's been chasing on a piece-meal basis for about 12 months).   "It's a no-brainer,"  I said.  " You've got to get it.  Find out the price and I'll give you an advance on your birthday money if necessary."

So we pottered off to find the owner of the shop in the other room.  He explained that there were actually two maps missing from the set - the two which covered the London area.  This is the area of least interest to us anyway so it didn't put us off.  We agreed an extremely good price and brought the set home.  Crafting time was sacrificed to do internet research.

By mid-evening we'd established that Stanfords (a travel book company which I believe still exists in London) had sold these leather-boxed sets between 1905 and 1911.  The circle of leather in the lid should hold a small device for measuring distances on the maps.  There should also be small leather straps that go under each set of maps to make it easier to lift them out.

We also discovered that one of the duplicate maps that Mark had already collected was an older edition - printed between 1901 and 1905.  Along the way we also picked up that there's a similar boxed series of maps for Scotland (with only 29 sheets) and that Bartholomew's Maps were an Edinburgh company.  Coincidently there's even an exhibition about the company on in the city at the moment. 
There still a little mystery.  The box has a pair of initials on the front - "T.B.".  We know from a slip of paper in the box that the set was re-sold in Oxford at some stage.  Unfortunately there's no other clue to flesh out 100 years of history. 
It's definitely got pride of place in Mark's collection.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Homemade with Love

On Monday afternoon I stopped in WH Smith for a few minutes and started to brouse through the crafting mags.  I'd actually got this month's 'Molly Makes' in my hand when I noticed a new publication...
Now I'm really strict with myself when it comes to this sort of purchase - difficult choices had to be made because only one mag was going to be allowed through the front door!  I decided to go with the new one and it's great.  The articles and projects are divided into six areas - texture, colour, taste, vintage, fun and up-cycle.  There's some great photography and projects ranging from simple (which suits me) to things that appear pretty advanced.  I was particularly interested in the article about Artists Trading Cards - which prompted a bit more web research and some low-level creativity last night. 
I suspect that Mark is going to have a quiet weekend - crafting projects call!!!!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

2013 Resolutions - An update

Here's me (far left) and my friends at a charity ball last night.  I'm sorry that it's a little blurry - I had to take a photo of a photo and that never works particularly well.  We went to a very nice hotel in Stratford on Avon and had a great meal, followed by dancing until the early hours.  I have to say that I've felt a little 'jaded' (maybe hung-over.....) today!
I'm making mixed progress on my 2013 resolutions.  I AM making the effort to be more sociable during the week - rather than focusing entirely on work.  I've made the effort to catch up with people where contact had 'slipped' a little.  Yesterday I had coffee with some-one who I haven't seen for 6 months.  I've gone to car club meetings with Mark and enjoyed the occasional meal out with friends or family.  Tomorrow night most of the ladies in this photo are meeting up for supper at a local gastro-pub.  My Mum, one of her friends and my sister will also be there.  I'm really looking forward to it.
I have made substantial progress on the imaginary conversations with toxic colleagues front.  Rather like a bad habit, I am training myself out of the mindset.  It's still difficult at times - but I have found that I my brain actually responds to words like "Woah - stop this.  It's not going to help....!"
I'm not into a groove with my walking yet this year.  The cold and snow, and the flu have all conspired against this resolution.  I've found that I'm still very 'chesty' when I try to power walk so I've been forced to amble for the moment.
As for my plans to learn German..... Oh dear!  I've got a basic textbook from school, and I've looked out an old phrasebook and dictionary, but I just haven't had the right kind of mindset during January.  I think I'm going to have to pin my hopes on the half-term holiday (which will be coming along fairly soon).  The problem is that I'm actually quite fluent in French due to my weekly conversation lessons.  I also have Italian to AS standard - so my cranky old brain isn't keen on the idea of going right back to basics again!  I'm determined to do this though - Mark and I have booked an epic holiday of touring through Germany in the summer.  He's no linguist, so I will have to be the one who talks to the garages if anything goes wrong with the car (we're taking the one that he built!).
Isn't it nice to see the back of January....
Hope that you all have a great week.  Welcome to my new followers.  Jx