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.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A R Quinton

I first came across the artist A R Quinton years ago in a series of little cookery books that I found in a bookshop in Bakewell. I started collecting them as I really enjoyed looking at the cover illustrations and I also discovered that the recipes in them are actually very good. There must be about forty of these books now and I have 31 of them. Only the early ones in the series have illustrations by AR Quinton though, the later ones use other artists from the same era. The painting on the front of the Kentish recipes is of Smallhythe where the actress Ellen Terry lived. DH and I visited the house a few years ago and it still looks very much as it did in the painting. All the photos will enlarge if you click on them by the way.

In the same shop I eventually came across this book illustrated by Alfred Quinton and I enjoy it as much for the artwork as for the prose. In fact let's be honest here - the artwork is definitely the real reason that I love it!

When I'm in Suffolk I like to spend time exploring the lanes and villages that are off the main roads. Brent Eleigh is one of the places I came across and the view of this beautiful house is pretty much unchanged - only the geese and the horses are missing. If you click on the link it will take you to the post where I wrote about this village along with my photo of the house.

I would love to walk into this painting of Bossington in Somerset, it looks idyllic. I wonder whether it's still the lovely, quiet lane that appears here - I do hope so.

Gradually I came across one or two more books full of A.R.Quinton's paintings, some like the one above were second hand. Alfred Robert Quinton was born in 1853 in Peckham, London. He studied at Heatherley's Art School and by 1880 was sharing a studio with another artist at New Court, Lincoln's Inn. His watercolours were regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy and two of his paintings were bought by the then Duke and Duchess of York the parents of our present Queen. From the early 1900s Quinton travelled all round England painting local scenes which were published as postcards by the firm of J.Salmon Ltd. He paints the kind of rural scenes that appeal to me immensely and he has left a wonderful pictorial record of the England that existed before the advent of the car.

Another book of paintings, I enjoy just leafing through these and slipping back in time. It also goes with me if I'm travelling in areas where I know he painted so that I can try and find the villages and cottages.

This is Kersey in Suffolk then and now - certainly still recognizable as the place in the painting though the large tree has gone and the ever present cars and telegraph pole have appeared - neither improve the view! Most of the cottages have been done up too and have lost some of their charm as a result.

I discovered that there are lots of the Salmon postcards to be had so I have started collecting a few of the village and cottage ones. They are quite hard to find as many that are on ebay are views or of places like Oxford or Windsor. They are very nice but it's the rural ones that I really like.

This is my favourite book as it has a biography of A.R.Quinton along with lots of his paintings and a great deal more information about rural life in late Victorian and Edwardian times than appears in the other two books.

One of the paintings in the above book is this one of Cockington in Devon, it brings back a lot of happy memories for me as we always spent our annual holiday in either Paignton or Torquay when I was a little girl and we always went to Cockington. The painting is of the forge which dates back to the 1400s. When I was a child it was still a working forge, now I believe they sell miniature horseshoes to the tourists. Cockington is definitely one of those 'never go back' places I think, I'd rather remember the quiet, pretty village of my childhood.

Oh dear, I'm afraid I'm going to have to add all these to my book pile - the top of the pile too! I'm still ploughing through Mr Ditchfield's Vanishing England but I shall be rather glad when I've finished it and can move on to Alfred Quinton.
Blogger does seem to have come back to normal now so hopefully it will stay that way. I really didn't like being locked out of my own blog!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Other Book Pile

This pile of books mostly came at Christmas and I'm afraid I've actually bought one or two (or even three!) since then. These are mostly fiction and four of them I've already finished.

'Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day' is a gentle book and a delightful story set in (and written in) the 1930s. Miss Pettigrew is a governess who goes to the wrong address for a job interview and gets involved in the life of a nightclub singer. I really enjoyed reading this.
I've also read both the Laurie R King books, they are the latest in a series about Mary Russell and her husband Sherlock Holmes! I've enjoyed all of them and am now waiting for the latest one to appear in paperback. I've also read Nancy Mitford's 'Christmas Pudding' as Christmas seemed the obvious time for a book with that particular title. It was OK but nothing to get over excited about.

Next on my list is going to be this which is the story of a farming family in Surrey during the Second World War - always a favourite period of mine.

There is quite a thick section of photographs in the centre and I'm looking forward to getting to know this family. It's going to take over from 'Vanishing England' for a while. I was wrong about having read this one before - I was thinking about another book by the same author called 'Rural England Cottage and Village Life'. The latter is an altogether delightful book illustrated by the paintings of A R Quinton. .Vanishing England' is, I fear, rather heavy going and will have to be read in chunks sandwiched between more entertaining affairs!

'Hedgerow and Wildlife' is a little book for dipping into and is small and light enough to carry with me if I want to have it handy on the spot. As it says on the cover it's a guide to animals and plants of the hedgerow and I especially like these illustrations showing the winter silhouettes of the three trees. It's mostly the written word though and would need to be combined with more specialist books on trees, wildflowers etc. It's more a starting point than anything else.

Rowland Parker was a retired teacher who lived in an old cottage in a village called Foxton in Cambridgeshire. He became interested in the history of the cottage and the people who had lived there before him and this book is the result of 12 years of research done (published 1973) before researching houses and families became a popular pastime. Thanks to John from By Stargoose and Hanglands blog for bringing this one to my attention. His blog is well worth reading.

'The Island Queen' arrived in the annual Christmas parcel from my friend in New Hampshire. It's a novel but about a real person. Celia Thaxter made a wonderful garden on the island of Appledore, one of the Isles of Shoals which lie 10 miles off the coast of New Hampshire. It should be interesting.

The remainder of the Christmas pile of books - I really did rather well for new books:)

I'm very taken with this hat and shall be acquiring some Noro yarn to knit it up very shortly. Now that the weather has turned much colder and the ground is frozen I shall be able to spend time reading and knitting - since New Year the weather has been so mild that I've spent a lot of time working in my garden. Winter seems to have reasserted itself for the moment though so it's back to the more usual January pastimes.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

A Winter's Tale

I have a great many books - shelves and shelves of them in fact. Some I have bought and never quite got round to reading properly and others I haven't read for many years. A couple of days ago I decided to gather a pile of these together and put them on a small table next to the sofa so that I can spend some of the dark winter afternoons and evenings reading or re-reading them.

Vanishing England is one of the pile that I've read in the past but I want to make a few notes of the places and buildings mentioned this time and see whether later this year I can look for some of them to see whether they have indeed vanished. If they are still there it will be interesting to see how much they have changed from the time when the book was first published in 1910. There's quite a lot on East Anglia so those I may well be able to check on when I'm visiting Neil and Cesca.

England is A Village I have read not just once in the past but several times, it was written during the early months of WW2 and published in 1940 and describes a country village life that is now long gone but one that I can just about remember.

Something else that makes this one of the books I would grab if there was a fire are the lovely illustrations by Denys Watkins Pitchford, they are so atmospheric.
Denys Watkins Pitchford is the real name of the author of three of the other books in this pile - 'The Wayfaring Tree', 'Tide's Ending' and 'Dark Estuary'. 'BB' was not only an artist but a wildfowler, angler, conservationist and superb naturalist.He was responsible for the re-introduction of the rare Purple Emperor to a wood in Northamptonshire which is now one of the best sites in Britain to see this beautiful butterfly. I own 16 of his books at present and hope to acquire more but the ones I don't have tend to be expensive as they are very collectible. The two I want most are 'A Summer On The Nene' (a really good copy is over £100 - by some distance!) and 'Indian Summer' which ranges between £40- £110! There is every chance that one of these will be joining my collection this year:)

These are the two little books sitting on top of the pile, there are two more in the series which are on my book wish list. Published in the late 1940s they are simple guides to what you might see through the year in each location. 'A Walk Down The Lane' begins

"It is damp and raw on this Winter's morning, with heavy clouds, cold,clinging mists,mud and sodden grass; chilling to the very marrow of ones bones. The lane takes on a forbidding appearance. Nature is in her nakedness and the trees shiver as Boreas, the great North Easter, blows through them."

That pretty much describes many winter mornings on the lane that leads up to Blackamoor where I walk every day with B Baggins.
The other three are 'A Walk In The Woods', 'A Walk By The River' and 'A Walk O'er The Downs' - I rather suspect that the author lived in Sussex:)

This photograph comes from Seasons of Change and shows a woman plaiting rushes into baskets. Many women supplemented the meagre wages of their ag lab husbands by making lace, straw plaiting and other rural crafts in the 19th century. The book itself chronicles the impact of the Industrial Revolution on rural life between 1850 and 1914. It is profusely illustrated with photographs throughout. I've had this book a long time but have never yet done more than leaf through it.

From the same book comes this photograph which shows how quickly people forget how hard life was only 100 years ago - the lifetime of my grandparents! This is John Brinkworth still working as a hedger and ditcher at the age of 81! No old age pensions in those days, you had to keep on working as long as you could and then if your family couldn't support you it was into the Workhouse. My mum was born in 1910 and all her life she was terrified of having to go into hospital because she associated hospital with the Workhouse. Of course many hospitals did begin life as the local Workhouse which was definitely not a place where you would want to end your days. I do seem to have strayed off the subject a bit here don't I? :)

A modern reprint of book originally published in 1952 and full of all kinds of interesting bits and pieces about the countryside and country life as it was then. I was 6 years old in 1952 and regularly walked 5 or 6 miles with my mum along local country lanes, my dad worked on Sundays so in Spring, Summer and Autumn mum and I usually went out walking taking a picnic lunch with us. We used to sing as we walked - The Happy Wanderer, Daisy,Daisy (Lend Me Your Bicycle Do),The Gypsy Rover, It's A Long Way To Tipperary and lots of other songs. It was a different world then.
Edited to add:
Did anybody notice? I was walking up the field back to Short's Lane this morning when I started singing to myself 'Daisy,Daisy, Lend me your bicycle do' when I suddenly thought 'LEND ME YOUR BICYCLE'? By the time I reached the lane I was laughing out loud and singing the proper words ''Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do'. What on earth was I thinking last night when I wrote that? Talk about a senior moment!

The Time Travellers group has a little sub group devoted to researching the Brigantes tribe which ruled a large area of Northern Britain. Cartimandua was queen of the Brigantes at the time of the Roman conquest so she is going to be my introduction to the Brigantes about whom I currently know very little indeed.

Another book I've had a good while and still not read, it's about the history, folklore, wildlife and people of the Fens - a very special area of England most of it barely above sea level which until very recently was remote from the rest of the country.

The Fens are famous for the wonderful array of wildfowl, waders and other birdlife to be found there. Here also can be found the fen raft spider, this is the UK's largest and rarest spider, one I trust I shall only ever see from a distance and preferably not at all!

So that is that is my reading for the next few weeks. I think you can glean quite a lot about me from those titles. There is of course another pile - the new books that arrived over Christmas! That's for another post though.