A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thrifty or OCD

My mother was thrifty, she was extremely thrifty. It was, I believe, as a result of several things.

First, she was a "Child of the Depression". She lived on a ranch at that time, so she never went hungry, but it was impressed upon her that many children did. I'm guessing that it was impressed upon her by her mother, who came from a long line of thrifty Germans. So secondly, it was genetic.

Thirdly, knowing that her father had lived to nearly one hundred, she was very frightened of outliving her money. As it turned out, she lived to 98 and never quite outlived her savings - but she was definitely getting close. Being in my late sixties, I can well understand that fear.

Fourthly, waste was a cardinal sin to her. If only our world had a fraction of that concern, how much better off would we be.

Lastly, she had at some point decided that she wanted to leave both of her children (as well as her only grandchild) a certain sum of money. I can only guess at the motivation for this beyond the obvious - love.

Her thrift was always obvious, but until her later years it was quite admirable. I don't recall as a child ever going without anything I needed, and I know she often went without so we could have things we wanted, but didn't really need. (You'll note I haven't mentioned my father in this post. That is because Mom handled the money and it's dispersal, Dad just handled his share of the acquisition.)

In her later years however, she went beyond thrifty and often tiptoed around miserly. I completely lost count of the plastic containers - with and without lids - she squirreled away neatly in her spare cupboards. She was not a hoarder in any sense. I think as she pushed each new container up into the cupboard she had completely lost track of how many were already up there.

I remember once when I was trying to clear some space in her sewing room, I asked her to go through her fabric stash with me so we could hopefully donate some of it to charity quiltmakers. As I pulled fabric out of cupboards and drawers and chests - she had more pieces of fabric than plastic containers - she began to cry. "I had no idea," she said tearfully, "that I had so much fabric." She was mortified that at the age of 89 she had accumulated all this unused fabric. To her 'donating' was alarmingly close to 'wasting', so she asked if I would use it. Aside from the issue of space, I couldn't even pretend that I would use any of the yards and yards of 1970's polyester. Somewhere there are a lot of children sleeping happily under handmade turquoise and orange polyester quilts.

So now as I watch for signs that I am turning into my mother, I often wonder (and secretly hope) that I will begin to show signs of thriftiness. It is a quality I've never really gotten a grip on. The problem is, when I find some small sign that I might be becoming just a little frugal in my old age, I worry that it is just a sign of my encroaching OCD.

My question then, is this: I find that I now spend an alarming amount of time and energy scraping every last bit out of bottles, jars, and cans, or perching bottles upside-down for days to drain the very last drop. Am I at last learning the rewards of being thrifty? Or am I just getting more OCD?

Just a fraction.......

The neatly sorted stacks of fabric in my studio are probably the answer.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Bit of a Mystery

The wonderful thing about digital cameras is that you can take an unlimited amount of pictures while on vacation and then sort, delete, enhance, and organize them all when you get home. The horrible thing about digital cameras is that you feel COMPELLED to sort, delete, enhance, and organize them all when you get home...or at least I do. In truth I rather enjoy it all.

This morning, as I was reliving a walk down the Strand towards Trafalgar Square (while sorting, deleting, enhancing, and organizing) I came upon one of those photos that leave you wondering exactly why you took it in the first place. This is the photo...

My first thought was that I had been amused by the Coke ad on the bus. I only know one person named Laura and I only see her six or seven times a year, so that didn't seem likely. Then I remembered - it was that narrow row of windows running down between the two buildings. Surely it must be part of one of them, but it had clearly been built long after one of them and long before the other.

I went to Google Maps and zero'd in to see if there was an entrance at ground level that would give me a clue - perhaps a walkway through to the Thames Embankment. There is a portal, but it is covered from top to bottom with metal grills, locked gates, and signs reading "Fire Exit" and "! Keep Clear". Behind the grills it is black and foreboding - I can't imagine it being any easier to get out of than to get in.

But there are books and things visible in the windows - there must be either tables or desks against them. Then I notice the railings at the top, you can get up onto the roof! Why would that be possible? Looking for any clue, I went back to Google Maps and magnified as far as I could. I found what looks to be a human figure standing behind that railing, not a real person, but a cut-out like you find in theater lobbies or maybe an Antony Gormley figure. Whatever was there when Google drove down the Strand, it's not there any more.

So now that I know why I took the picture, I find myself left with more questions than when I started. One of these days, when I have nothing better to do, I may spend an hour or two on the internet seeing what I can find...I'll let you know.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

London, Looking Up

My first visit to London proper was for one full day in 2007 so I had to choose carefully. I made a visit to Covent Garden (which captured my heart), explored the Tower Bridge from top to bottom (see Mixed Blessings post), and took one of the open top bus rides all around London.

Three wonderful things came from that first bus ride. Firstly, I got an overview of London's layout which has stood me in good stead. Secondly, all those unexplored brilliant bits have kept me coming back whenever possible. Thirdly, and probably least important, I discovered the upper level details of London's buildings. Sitting on the top of that double decker bus one comes face to face with the amazing ornament that decorates London first floor exteriors (that would be our second floor), and from there one can hardly avoid looking further up. Instead of seeing the whole building, as you tend to do from street level, you see the lovely little bits that Victorian and Georgian architects stuck on every possible space.

The amount of stone work in central London is mind-boggling, it must have kept hundreds,
if not thousands, of stonemasons busy for years.

And so you get in the habit of looking up, which can yield great rewards - not just carvings, but windows, brick work, and tile work.

The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Near Covent Garden.

On the Strand.

The photos above were all taken in my first three days in London...there will be more.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Making up for a late Spring...

Maybe it was the late spring - not just at home in the Pacific Northwest, but spring was even later and colder in England. Maybe it was the four years of stifled longing. Whatever it was, a visit to Cath Kidston in London was my downfall. Cath Kidston is largely about florals - so many florals you can actually smell them.

Headbands, boxes, totes, sneakers, hankies, keychains...and purses.
Powder, hand lotion, baskets, baby towels, pillows...and purses.
Oven mitts, dish towels, hankies, sneakers, ribbons, mugs...and purses

Florals with a capital F...pink roses, white roses, red roses, big roses, little roses, little daisies, and to top it all off - polka dots. I'm far from the classic ultra-feminine type of woman (I rather fancy I'm more of the platinum blonds type in the black cocktail dress that catches James Bond's eye) but I do have a fondness for what I consider old-fashioned wallpaper florals.

Lots of prints to choose from.

It wouldn't have been so bad if I had stopped with my splurge in the London shop, but after maintaining my self-control while passing the shop in York no less than a half-dozen times, I lost it in Harrogate. When no one was looking, I snuck off to the Cath Kidston there. It was this shop that started me off in 2009 and this time I left with bags full of bags.

You guessed it...purses.

When I went through customs, the inspector cocked an eye at me as he scanned down my list, "Stationary" (I'm a fool for greeting cards with brilliant art), "Souvenirs" (Just a few Liverpool Football Club keychains and one - just one - mug), "Mustard" (England has such wonderful mustards), "Jewelry" (Just a few cheap pairs of earrings and one gorgeous jet necklace we'll talk about later), "Purses....Purses?". I pointed to the flowered bag hanging so beautifully over my shoulder, smiled sheepishly, and said simply, "Cath Kidston". He nodded solemnly, stamped my papers, and waved me through.

I was a bit disappointed. I had planned to show him the matching wallet.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Savoy

"To stay at The Savoy is to follow in the footsteps of Sir Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Maria Callas, Claude Monet and Katharine Hepburn." Other footsteps to follow in would include George Gershwin, Lena Horne, Noel Coward, Edward VII, Enrico Caruso, Charlie Chaplin, Harry Truman, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Babe Ruth, Laurence Olivier, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand, The Beatles, and numerous others.  The Savoy Grill is under the management of Gordon Ramsey. The British premier of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was held in the hotel lobby. Just for the record, this is not the Savoy at which there is any 'Stompin'" going on.

It goes without saying that we did not stay at the Savoy, their rates start at L450 per night. However, the moderately priced London hotel we did stay at was just across the street so we got a good look at it - at least until the scaffolding and wrap went up on our building.

This is the Art Deco main entrance to the Hotel. Somewhere in the background there hovers a doorman in full livery including top hat. The topiary cats at the front however, are fake.

The Savoy buildings cover a lot of ground between the Strand and the Thames, so in addition to the hotel there is the theatre on the left of the entrance and upscale commerce on the ground level of all the buildings.

The Savoy Theatre
The Savoy Tailors Guild - a wonderfully decorated storefront.

The hotel opened in 1889 and the style is a mix of Art Deco and Edwardian, upon which history is literally writ large.

I've never really had a taste for luxury at this level, but that may simply be because I've never had a taste of luxury at this level. Oh well, maybe in my next life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoy_Hotel  worth a read-through

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Journey Continues

Well, we are home...mostly unpacked, but still in the throes of jet lag. But for me, the journey is far from finished.

I'll be working my photos, working my journal, and proudly sporting my various Cath Kidston bags. (Yes, I went nuts in the London Shop and then topped it off with a nostalgic visit to the Harrogate store.) As I sort, edit, and post my photos I'll be writing out my memories here - so stay tuned, I have just a few short of 3,000 photos to work.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fresh Air Feet

Every traveler knows that shoes can make the all the difference. You need two pair of comfortable walking shoes - that's the basic minimum, along with good socks that will wick moisture. Anything else (dress shoes, flip-flops, etc.) is optional.

I have two pair of comfortable walking shoes and I have switched between them as one is told. I have several pair of thick socks which have kept my feet dry. I have had no blisters, sore toes, or any other type of foot problem. Well, there has been one small problem...

After almost a month of long days in those shoes and socks, my feet are crying out to be bare - not just over night, but for days...a minimum of 48 hours...no, more than that...a week at least!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Angels of St Paul's Cathedral

As you approach St Paul's Cathedral you are overwhelmed by the majesty of Wren's masterpiece and the crowds of tourists. Eventually you back away from the crowds and bring your eyes down from the heights and look around the churchyard. The first thing that caught my eye was a series of columns topped by glorious sculpted heads. They are five angels, the work of Emily Young - brilliant counterpoint to the incredibly ornate decoration of St Paul's itself.

This will give you an idea of their placement
It is impossible to stand back far enough to take them all in at the same time and sadly, their placement is such that several of them have backgrounds that, while convenient for those of us from Seattle, leave much to be desired.


Yorkshire Dales

If we had to choose our favorite day from this trip, I think it would be a tough call between our tour of Suffolk villages and the drive through the Yorkshire Dales. I don't have the energy for a thousand words, so I'll make do with a few photos. And yes, it really is that green.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Haworth Churchyard

As previously noted, Haworth Church and the Bronte Parsonage are at the top of a long, very steep hill. The first view of the churchyard is striking in that the gravestones are thicker than any I have seen before.

And there were A LOT of them...

A little research explains why. As the bodies decomposed, everything ran down hill. The water system was at the bottom of the hill and by the time science had advanced far enough for them to figure it out countless residents of Haworth had died from the effects of tainted water.
     *40,000 people were buried in this churchyard
     *41.6% of children in Haworth died before the age of six
     *The average life expectancy was 24.

This gravestone is in memory of Simeon who died at 1 year, Susey who died at 4 years, Nancy who managed to live until 20, and Robert who passed at 10 weeks.

Life must have been very grim for the residents of Haworth.

Guest Blog....

My son-in-law has kindly offered to retell the following story. You will see from the photo how steep the hill up to the Haworth Church is. Thank goodness there is parking at the top of the hill!

While sitting in the lounge at Ascot House in Harrogate, just before retiring for the night, we met an elderly couple from Lancaster. They were very interested to chat with us, as they had been to America many times and loved to talk travel (those many times included 23 trips just to Disneyworld, guess they liked it). One of the most interesting tidbits we picked up from them was a story of Haworth during the Second World War. The lady of the couple was a young girl during the war, and was sent by her mother 'out to the country' to be safe from any possible bombings. She stayed with an aunt (who turned out to be really just a friend of her mother's) near Haworth, and said that she was constantly fascinated by the bus that drove to the top of the big hill there, as it carried not only people, but also any packages that people near the bottom needed to deliver to the top.  She recalled her first experience of this phenomenon, watching in amazement as a very elderly lady hailed the bus, and instead of boarding, handed the driver a covered plate of food, asking for it to be dropped to her husband, working at the top of the hill. For an entire summer she spent most of her time watching the bus go up and down the hill, in awe of the way it connected the community like no city bus ever would.

York Minster Looking Up

Like virtually all cathedrals, York Minster is in the heart of the city. Rising majestically above the crowds and surrounding buildings, they are wonderfully photogenic - until you actually try to take a picture. That's when you find you would need to be at the top of a very tall building in the vicinity to even begin to capture all of the building, and that doesn't even address the distortion. So you make the obligatory effort and then crop out the crowds at ground level and you can at least show what the building looks like...sort of.

Then you concentrate of the small bits, an effort that is truly never-ending.



As you lean farther and farther back, trying to catch the lovely bits at the very top, you are in danger of falling over backwards.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bits and Bobs

I'll share a few little things that have amused or amazed me along the way...

A shop window in York on Stonegate
In London, approximately 5 foot by 7 foot...made of M&M's.
Street art in Neal's Yard in London
The church cat in St Paul's Church (the Actor's Church) in Covent garden
A really brilliant busker in Cambridge - jazz violin a la Django reinhart

Betty's at Last

It took two and a half weeks, but we have now reached York...and Bettys, Bettys Tea Shops that is. There are two of them in York, two more in Harrogate (where we go next), one in Ilkley, and one in Northallerton. On this trip, we won't visit all of them, although, after last night's meal I wouldn't have any trouble convincing my daughter and son-in-law to change our itinerary to that effect. My son-in-law was expecting tea and scones, white linen napkins, gorgeous fruit tarts, layered chocolate, and the chatter of women's voices. He found all of these at Bettys, but he also found rosti and caramelized onion chutney.

As I walked into St Helen's Square in York, the sun suddenly broke through and shone directly on Betty's. I'm not making that up, it really did.

With the tinkling piano playing "Tea for Two" in the background (I'm not making that up either) we were waited on by a lovely woman with 33 years of service under her belt. By the time we were ready to share a dessert, we pretty much left the details up to her. 

Our waitress, deep in concentration, scanning the room to make sure that all her customers were well taken care of. 

More than enough for the three of us - chocolate and raspberry torte with raspberry coulis, mixed fruit and cream.
Today, the kids will be visiting the Jorvik Center and Barley Hall and I will be wandering around Stonegate and the Shambles. They'll be getting a taste of historical York and I will be spending money and taking pictures - but we'll meet up late this afternoon at Betty's. We'll all be having rosti's again, that's for certain, but the jury is still out on what we'll have for dessert.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cold Night in Whitby

It was a sad leave-taking from West Stow Hall, it had been a brilliant week and we would truly miss our hosts and Suffolk. It was a long drive north with serious travel delays and rain showers. But as we eventually reached the smaller roads of the North York Moors we cheered up. Sheep in every direction makes for a pleasant way to travel, and a quick but exciting stop in Scarborough when we hit the coast made us anxious for our eventual destination - Whitby.

Whitby..... Mecca to England's Goth community and the town where Bram Stoker's Dracula first came ashore. The site of the imposing gothic abbey ruins as you approach from the south is as striking as one's first sight of Stonehenge.

We were thrilled and excited, but most of all we were tired and cold and hungry. So we dumped our luggage in our little B&B in the heart of Old Whitby and braved the freezing cold blustery winds to find Hadleys - highly recommended as being just as good as the much more famous Magpie but with shorter lines. I doubt that there were any lines at The Magpie - not many tourists about - we just knew that Hadleys was much closer.

We were greeted warmly and served speedily - I was even allowed to substitute mushy peas for the chips with my Whitby Prawns. All of our meals were really excellent, but when the last bit was cleaned from our plates, we were faced with a real dilemma - Sticky Toffee Sponge or Treacle Sponge. Since we had pledged ourselves to no more than one desert split three ways per meal on this trip, it was left to me to decide.
I opted for the Sticky Toffee Sponge, it was a good choice.
Today we will explore the Old Town, shop for a piece of jet jewelry, and visit the Abbey. It is still bitterly cold and they are posting wind warnings, but I figure it will only add to the atmosphere of this wonderful old fishing town.