My “Window Wanderland” display, in the three windows of an upstairs bay, as seen from the street in the dark February night – and including the unforeseen problem of condensation around the bottom of the apple tree!
This post was started not long after the first Window Wonderland event in our village in February 2017, but sat at the back of my computer unfinished until now! We’ve had two more of these events since then, more on those in a future post.
Our village held its first Window Wonderland event recently, organised by a neighbour (the idea started in Bristol and has become global now, click here to find out more); it’s a charmingly inventive way to brighten the evening streets after the glitter of Christmas has been put away and there still seems to be a long stretch of dark nights to get through before spring arrives – we couldn’t not take part! No theme was specified but I decided to use the event as an opportunity to look back at the past of our house and its surroundings – a topic I’ve always been interested in but the fascination and the urge to learn more has been growing. So I created three images for an upstairs bay window that offered a visual micro-history of our part of the village – and being a bird lover a few resident and regular visiting species appear too! So here are the multiple-layered stories behind each window. Continue reading →
The village of Pill, my home in North Somerset, clusters (once attractively I hear) around a deep, muddy, tidal creek formed by the Martcombe Brook rising just a couple of miles south of the village. A ‘pill’ is the West Country and Welsh name for a tidal creek – there are several pills along this stretch of the river, each identified with its own prefix, our old, ‘proper’ name is Crockerne Pill, see below for explanation. The Martcombe Brook spills into the River Avon, two miles or so south-west from where it joins the Severn. Shirehampton is only the river’s width across from us (but a different world Continue reading →
Five years or so after the Pill orchard was handed over to the local community in about 2004, a group of committed volunteer enthusiasts (which later became the Friends of Watchhouse Hill) began to organise improvements to the hill area and a reclamation process began on the orchard. Workparties (that are still regular events) vigorously tackled the brambles and the neglected trees were pruned Continue reading →
It’s Old Twelfth Night, ‘Twelvey’, 17th January, the date of Twelfth Night in the old Julian calendar before they played catch-up in 1752 to reclaim those accumulated days that we’d lost through miscalculation, or was it just carelessness? This is the traditional day, down ‘ere in the West Coun’ry anyway, when we do our Wassailing – treating the orchard trees to a hullabaloo of singing and saucepan bashing to drive away the evil spirits, Continue reading →
Is this a uniquely English pursuit? Nature tamed and tormented at the local flower show.
Over the last few months I’ve encountered a range of ‘stuff’ – exhibitions, books and articles – that has English written through it like seaside rock; some are featured here, more may follow in future. It seems there’s been increasing debate about this elusive quality of Englishness going on for a while now (centuries really), and clearly there’s been some specific focus on the topic lately – the forthcoming Scotland vote on independence is churning up an awareness of the UK nations; the wild aspirations of our national football team had some people’s blood up for a while in the summer and much was made in the media of the Commonwealth Games a few weeks back – I was intrigued to discover that the English ‘national anthem’ played at the Commonwealth Games was ‘Jerusalem’ – but it’s only now that I seem to have become attuned to the recent output on Englishness.
Ten years ago, I was commissioned to create a poster to help mark the 20th anniversary of Bristol’s twinning with Oporto/Porto in Portugal – one of the nicest commissions I’ve ever been asked to do! I had proposed the idea to the Twinning Association way back in the 1980s and it lay dormant for a long time, but the anniversary provided an opportunity that I jumped at. Continue reading →
I started writing this last summer, not long after a visit to Spitalfields in the East End of London but since it was no more than a record of a day out it seemed a bit pointless. However, it was a very intense and stimulating day that’s stuck in the back of my mind, and since the visit last year some intriguing information about my own and my partner’s family histories has emerged that is closely, and unexpectedly in my case, tied to the locations we visited.
Clearly ours are not the only families to have relatives whose circumstances have sucked them in to London in search of work in difficult times; ours followed the Rivers Lee and various tributaries of the Colne in the late 19th Century from the city’s rural fringes 20 miles away during an agricultural depression, but others came to this London village from 17th century France, 18th century Ireland, 19th century Russia, and 20th century Bangladesh.
Playing with the idea of place portraits – I’ve returned (thanks to stimulus from friends) to an almost abandoned book project in the new year, now (with great sense of satisfaction) completed. It’s a miniature version of the book/artwork you can see here. I like the idea of having something you can carry around in your pocket that could be reminder of Continue reading →