Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Miscellany

A little bit of catching up here as I never did the Sunday bit of last weekend - we went to the Museum of East Anglian Life which could easily have the word 'rural' in its title as that is what East Anglia basically still is. There have always been a lot of Romani travellers in Suffolk and the museum has a small exhibit about them including some fascinating recordings by an old Romani lady telling about their way of life including some interesting bits about the herbal remedies that they made and used. Above is a traditional bender tent which is what the gypsy people lived in until the mid-19th century when the traditional vardo (caravan) started to be used. The benders were made from a framework of saplings tied at the top and covered in canvas which was held down by stones.

The interior of a vardo showing how highly decorated they were - this one could use a little bit of restoration! They look small but the gypsy people lived an outdoor life so needed only a place to sleep.

I find the Romani people very interesting, they carry a huge fund of knowledge of the natural world and especially the uses of herbs. My interest is increased by a family legend that my grandmother had some gypsy blood. I have no idea whether there is any truth in this but I can certainly see why people would think it was so. My dad also had her jet black hair,high cheekbones and swarthy skin. I got the high cheekbones and fairly dark skin but not,unfortunately,the black hair.

However, back to the Museum, this is one of the room settings, a lovely cottage kitchen. Though not so lovely if you actually had to use it. My gran (the one in the photo above) had something similar but smaller with a cold water tap, a shallow stone sink and a big mangle in it. She did have a gas stove though the old range still provided the heat in the little living room. This is getting bad, I keep wandering off the subject!

This fabulous old machine is a chaff cutter which would have been powered by a steam engine. It cuts straw chaff, hay and oats into very small pieces, it is then mixed with chopped mangolds, swedes, sugar beet pulp and is given to the cattle and horses. The straw is much easier for them to digest when it is cut small so they gain more nourishment from it. This information all came from the man who owned and was restoring it. Cesca and I were standing by it making all kinds of unlikely guesses as to what it was for and I don't think we'd have come up with the right answer if we'd stood there for the rest of the day.

Gabriel and his other granny standing by one of the steam rollers - Gabriel looking rather doubtful about the whole thing:) I remember quite clearly when these were a common sight wherever the roadmenders were at work. I used to love the smell of the tarmac - still do but usually they only patch the roads up these days instead of replacing whole sections so there isn't much tarmac to smell.

George looking highly unimpressed by his brother's driving skills!

On Tuesday Steve, Hannah, Kaitlyn and Lucy came over for the afternoon and we went to Padley Gorge for a walk. The wind was bitter on the road above but once we dropped down into the trees it was fine. This is the Burbage Brook which runs through the gorge, once forming part of the boundary between Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

Hannah, Kaitlyn and Lucy ( yes, she is in there!) striding out along the rocky path through the woodland which is mainly oak and birch with alder along the river.

It was difficult to take a photo that gave any real impression of the steep sides of Padley Gorge. Some parts of the path are very steep indeed especially if you aren't quite three yet. Kaitlyn walked the whole way holding my hand on the very steep parts while Steve helped Hannah who had Lucy strapped to her in a Hugabub. There were one or two very muddy patches which I carried her over but that was because she only had ordinary shoes on rather than wellingtons. No whingeing either - a real little trooper. We pretended we were intrepid explorers :)

My evenings have been spent finishing this blanket for Lucy. Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while may have a sense of deja-vu and you'd be right, you have seen it before. This is the fourth time I've done this pattern, one for each grandchild but a different colour for each. To be honest this has taken ages, I feel as though I've been knitting it for years! There are 48 small squares in it as well as the border so the sewing took nearly as long as the knitting. I'm going to make something really, really small next - I have in mind a dishcloth. Watch this space!

And finally, I was researching on Google for a detour I have in mind as I go down to Sussex later this year. I can't remember how long it took me last time to get from Avebury to Winchester so was trying to get some clues and came across this little gem which made me laugh:

Arthur Tour to mysterious southwest England
Meeting time 12.00 noon. He will take you to Winchester in his tour bus. ... probably built around 3000 BC)

Now that's a trip I'd like to take - King Arthur as guide and a 5000 year old tour bus :)


kate smudges said...

I was just reading a book that talked of the Romany. They must have been fascinating people. This tour must have been so interesting. I love seeing the old agricultural machinery.

I hope everything is going well with you. Gabriel has really grown since I last saw a picture of him, as has Kaitlyn.

Janet said...

I especially enjoyed this post because I've always had a fascination with gypsies. The caravan is interesting, and some of them are so beautiful with all the colors and designs.

The baby blanket is so pretty and I can understand your desire to make something small next time! After making four of the same thing I would want a change up, too.

Bovey Belle said...

What a stunning baby blanket - I wish I could do complicated patterns - but I can do the basics, so mustn't complain.

What a GREAT day out at the Museum - just up my street. I would have guessed at the chaff cutter too - the one we used to work at the riding stables when we were 10 (!) was much more basic than that.

As for the possible Romany blood - there have always been some wherever I lived and I know the "look" well - reckon your gran has it.

You love the same music as me too - just sitting here listening to Lark Ascending with tears pricking my eyes (always does that to me) - and the Thomas Tallis too.

That country kitchen reminds me of my ex-husband's great aunty's kitchen in Dorset - even in the 1970s she still had just that very same cold water pump and stone sink, and of course, no bathroom and the honey-bucket sanitation was up the garden a ways.

I too have fond memories of the steam rollers and the lovely smell of hot tar!

Avebury to Winchester would be under the hour - depends on hold-ups, roadworks and which route you take.

Sal said...

The museum looks fascinating.I love visiting museums like that!
And your knitting is so lovely.I could never knit as well as you!

Gretel said...

Golly, I remember benders from peace camps in the 80's, didn't realise where they originated from. One of my favourite illustrators is a woman called Beshlie, she is quite elusive, as she and her husband are travellers, but if you google her name, her books come up - marvellous work.

Rosie said...

It looks like you have been having some lovely family outings over the last few days - your blanket is beautiful. When we lived in Spalding as well as the museum I worked in there was also a Romany museum set up by the Boswell family. I remember them coming to our history group to give a fascinating talk and slide show on how they took their Vardo from Spalding up to the Appleby fair in Cumbria. I think the museum is still operating.

PAT said...

Wonderful post, Rowan! I love it when you wander of the subject! Very interesting!!

I love the photo of the G'kiddos on the John Deere!

Tammie Lee said...

Your pink blanket is lovely!
I would love strolling in that wonderful forest.
AND; those first two photos take me into my imagination which actually feels like memories, wonderful memories.

hippymummy said...

I too have had facination for tales of Gypsy folk. We have the same rumours of gypsy bllod in our family. At one time to admit such things would've been shameful but these days it's something to be proud of! It seems you and i have similar interests in many ways. I look forward to your posts so thankyou for that xXx

Anonymous said...

That museum trip looks really interesting! The types of living shelters are really facinating. Thank you for sharing your adventures! And thanks for visiting my blog.

Unknown said...

Hello Rowan,

A new header - leading us to who knows where?!

Equipment from another era is fascinating and makes one grateful for modern conveniencies! When I was a child and we holidayed in Yarmouth, we would stay en-route with a great aunt in King's Lynn. Her rear kitchen resembled a lean-to and seemed most primitive. There was also a water pump in the yard!

Lynda (Granny K) said...

Lucy's blanket is beautiful Rowan! I'm sure that if you can make that, you will find crochet easy-peasy.

Popping bubbles in melted tarmac, one of the treats of childhood!

Mary said...

Growing up there was a Romany camp in the woods nearby. One girl actually attended my school sporadically, then they moved on. They were exceptionally colorful and had traditional caravans. Thanks for sharing this info. I think your Gran definitely had gypsy blood from her coloring and bone structure!!

Have enjoyed your recent comments Rowan - my busy life and massive computer problems have prevented me from getting around to everyone, sorry. Am now enjoying all your travels.........and the sweet grandchildren.

Happy Spring........I'll be home soon and am hoping for good weather in Devon!

Anonymous said...

Yoo Hoo Halloeeeee! Your blog post about Lavenham gave a friend much pleasure as she used to live there, although she's an Essex gal. She asked me to say that to you on her behalf. Some people will just not get their heads round this century or even latter part of last!

FireLight said...

Rowan, the header photo of the lane is just enchanting. I would love to be strolling down this path. Your needlework has produced a treasure. One of my favorite tours in England was a trip to Dorchester after having read and discussed The Mayor of Casterbridge in a seminar. We toured a museum of old farm implements there. Also, many of the buildings were marked as specific places in the novel, for example, Barclays was the Corn Market. It was fascinating. Avebury is a personal favorite of mine. Thank you for all the wonderful photos.

OhSoVintage said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. No, I wouldn't have guessed what the machine was either.

Granny Sue said...

My mother told us we had
Rommany blood, and your photo of your granny looks so like my granny it's astonishing. Mom said many in the family have had "the sight" as she called it. My sisters and I were surprised when we found that most of us shared an ability to "know" things beforehand. A little eerie, that.

Lovely post, Rowan. I completely enjoyed it.

Hollace said...

You do such interesting things on the weekends. Thanks for sharing them in photos.

My mom-in-law has made a crocheted blanket for each of her grandchildren, and she has 15 of them! On the last one she was making granny squares and lost count of the squares already done, so it ended up fitting a king-sized bed with 400 squares left over! =)

Margaret said...

Thank you so much for this post! Gypsies have always fascinated me as well. I've never had a chance to the inside of a vardo--thanks for sharing!

Sheila said...

Lovely new banner, it looks so tranquil.
I recall gypsies from my childhood as well, they frequently came door to door selling pegs, and ribbons.
Also small leafless branches, decorated with small pieces of coloured wax.
Many years ago I read the H.E.Bates stories "The Darling Buds of May", and they travelled in a vardo.
Sad to think they were burned after the owners died, but that was the tradition. It's nice to be able to see inside the one in your photo.
Your g/children are very good little country folk, it's lovely to see them walking and enjoying the countryside with you.

Karen said...

Hello Rowan
Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind comments :)
What a wonderful day out you had. It looks an interesting place to visit. I love those old gypsy caravans. So much work went into the decoration and making them beautiful.

Sarah Head said...

Lovely post, Rowan and I am totally in awe of Lucy's blanket. Did you work to a patturn for each square or did you have it all in your head? It is beautiful.

If you are interested in Romany herb recipes, have you read Juliet de Blairacli Levy's books? She spent a lot of time with New Forest Gypsies during and after the Second World war and their lore is included in her own. She has an interesting take on wormwood and many other things.

Rowan said...

Sarah, the blanket is done from a pattern, I'm afraid my talents don't extend to creating my own:) I've heard of Juliette de Blairacli Levy but assumed she was American. When I look I discover she was born in Manchester which is not that far from my own home town of Macclesfield. Will investigate her further, thanks for the suggestion.

Aub said...

Juliette de Blairacli Levy started to train as a vet. but was disilusioned by methods , she studied holistic herbal methods. Her books include: The Complete Herbal, The Complete Herbal of Farm and Stable, The complete dog and Cat Herbal, and a book on Romanys. The titles are as corect as I can remember them