Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Holy Grail?

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Every time I travel I expect to find the “Holy Grail” of fabric, vintage finds or craft treasures. You know what I mean? That serendipitous item that always eludes but the thought of it also encourages the search. Well Italy was no different. I was certain that I would find cheap silk in Como market! Hello? Who on earth ever sells SILK on a market? Ah well I can dream! I thought that I would find that gorgeous bijoux craft emporium selling beautiful yarn! How wrong can you be?

What I did find was inspiration in the architecture, churches and tapestries. The craft work in the actual buildings is amazing and wonderful. The history is the very being of the country.

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This picture was made famous by the book “The DaVinci Code” as it portrays not twelve disciples but eleven. The twelfth person at The Last Supper is Mary Magdelaine leaning over Christ’s shoulder.

Solid silver alter, Bergamo image image imageThe ceiling of the Duomo (Cathederal) in Bergano is so beautiful. How did the artist manage to actually paint it!  This alter is made of solid silver! ( I wouldn’t like to clean it) Have you ever seen such ornately carved pillars as these-and they were outside! This HUGE tapestry was worked in the end of the 16th century by Flemish artists. The tapestries were commissioned to cover and protect painted murals underneath.

I must apologise for the quality of the image of the Last Supper. It had to be just point and shoot.

Perhaps I did find the elusive Holy Grail! Perhaps treasure is what you see when you look carefully!

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Bernina Express

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One really exciting trip when I was I Italy was a journey on the Bernina Express along the World Heritage site to Saint Moritz Switzerland. The Bernina railway is a single-track 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) metre gauge railway line forming part of the Rhaetian Railway (RhB). It links the spa resort of St. Moritz, in the Canton of Graubünden, Switzerland, with the town of Tirano, in the Province of Sondrio, Italy, via the Bernina Pass. Reaching a height of 2,253 metres (7,392 ft) above sea level, it is the highest railway crossing in Europe and the third highest railway in Switzerland. It also ranks as the highest adhesion railway of the continent, and – with inclines of up to 7% – as one of the steepest adhesion railways in the world

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The railway is a World Heritage site which took me to St, Moritz.

I had looked forward to the visit to St Moritz but was disappointed to find characterless buildings, uber expensive shops and not many people around. There was a beautiful frozen lake on which the winter sports season had just finished. There was certainly no charity shops!! Actually St Moritz was all “fur coats and no knickers” which had no sole. I did invest in coffee and streudal which was OK but nearly required a mortgage

Italian Lakes

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Hi nice people! I’m still having a hard time at the Italian Lakes! Weather is mixed but not bad at all. I am staying on the shores of Lake Como opposite  beautiful Bellagio actually that’s not fair as its ALL beautiful! We took a ferry across the lake to visit Bellagio, a village clinging to the mountainside. There was an abundance of steep “alleyways” lined with shops and paved in cobbles. Sadly we arrived during the extended lunch ” hour” that appears to last up to three hours, and many of the shops were closed. I suppose that this saved me from myself and helped me to save money!

image image imageI adore the local architecture which can only be described as shabby chic, probably the original. Locals don’t seem heavily into home maintenance as all the houses are flaking ombré shades of yellow and terracotta-beautiful. There are many stunning villas along the lakeside. Many have not been opened up yet and remain shuttered. Apparently these huge villas are owned by uber rich Italians and even Russians. They are opened for the families for about two weeks a year if that. What a shame! The villas are left to be run by housekeepers and caretakers. I must see if George Clooney needs a housekeeper!

WordPress Wednesday-Charabanc

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A good old fashioned word, now sadly out of date, which aptly describes my current holiday in Italy.

Charabanc

A horse-drawn charabanc at Windsor Castle in 1844.

Charabancs on the “Grand Tour” connecting the Corris Railwaay to the Talyllyn Railway, passing Tal-y-llyn Lake around 1900
A charabanc or “char-à-banc” /ˈʃærəbæŋk/[1] is a type of horse-drawn vehicle or early motor coach, usually open-topped, common in Britain during the early part of the 20th century. It was especially popular for sight-seeing or “works outings” to the country or the seaside, organised by businesses once a year. The name derives from the French char à bancs (“carriage with wooden benches”),[2] the vehicle having originated in France in the early 19th century.[3]

Although the vehicle has not been common on the roads since the 1920s, a few signs survive from the era; a notable example at Wookey Hole in Somerset warns that the road to the neighbouring village of Easton is unsuitable for charabancs.[4] The word ‘charabanc’ was in common usage until the middle of the 20th century but was deleted as obsolete from the Collins Dictionary in 2011.[5]

Introduced in the 1840 as a French sporting vehicle, the char à bancs was popular at race meetings and for hunting or shooting parties. It could be pulled by a four-in-hand team of horses or a pair in pole gear. It had two or more rows of crosswise bench seats, plus a slightly lower rear seat for a groom, and most also had a slatted trunk for luggage. Initially used by the wealthy, they were later enlarged with more seats for school or works excursions and tourist transport, as a cheaper version of the tourist coach. The first charabanc in Britain was presented to Queen Victoria by Louis Philippe of France and is preserved in the Royal Mews.[6]

Before World War I, motor charabancs were used mainly for day trips, as they were not comfortable enough for longer journeys, and were largely replaced by motor buses in the 1920s.
Motorized charabanc, early 1920s.
The charabanc of the 1920s tended to last only a few years. It was normal at the time for the body to be built separately to the motor chassis, and some were fitted in summer only; a second goods body would be fitted in its place in winter to keep the vehicle occupied.

Charabancs normally were open, with a large canvas folding hood stowed at the rear in case of rain, like a convertible motor car. If rain started, this had to be pulled into position, a very heavy task, and it was considered honourable for the male members of the touring party to assist in getting it into position. The side windows would be of mica (a thin layer of quartz-like stone).

The charabanc offered little or no protection to the passengers in the event of an overturning accident, they had a high centre of gravity when loaded (and particularly if overloaded), and they often traversed the steep and winding roads leading to the coastal villages popular with tourists. These factors led to fatal accidents which contributed to their early demise.

Factory day outings (Annual Works Trips) in the 19th and early 20th century were quite common for workers, especially for those from the northern weaving mill towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire during the wakes weeks. The 1940s and 50s were relatively hard times due to national recovery being slow after the Second World War; rationing was still evident and annual holidays had not really become established for poorer workers such as weavers and spinners, so a day’s outing to the seaside was a rare treat and all that some workers with large families could afford. “Charabanc trips” were usually only for adults, again due to finance. Occasionally the mill owner would help to pay for these outings, but this was not always the case.

The charabancs, or coaches, were pretty basic vehicles; noisy, uncomfortable and often poorly upholstered with low-backed seats and used mainly for short journeys to the nearest resort town or the races. Some working men’s clubs also organised days out and these trips were often subsidised by the clubs themselves from membership subscriptions that had been paid throughout the year. A few pence a week would be paid to a club or mill trip organiser and marked down in a notebook. This would be paid out to the saver on the day of the trip as spending money on the day. This day out would often be the highlight of the year for some workers and the only chance to get away from the smog and grime of the busy mill towns.

Later, in the late 1960s and 1970s, as the mills prospered and things improved financially, the annual “Wakes week” took over and a one-week mass exodus from northern mill towns during the summer months took precedence over the charabanc trips, and a full week’s holiday at a holiday camp or in a seaside boarding house for the full family became the norm, instead of a single day out.

Cultural referencesEdit

The charabanc is notably mentioned in Dylan Thomas’s short story “A Story”, also known as “The Outing”.[7] In this piece the young Thomas unintentionally finds himself on the annual men’s charabanc outing to Porthcawl. Within the story the charabanc is referred to as a ‘chara’ in colloquial Welsh English.

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee features a 1917 charabanc outing from rural Gloucestershire to Weston-super-Mare.[8]

Vince Hill’s A Day at the Seaside begins with the line “Climb up little darling, into the charabanc”.[9] The song, written by Les Vandyke, came fifth in the 1963 Song for Europe competition.[10]

A char-a-banc also figures prominently in Rudyard Kipling’s short story “The Village That Voted The Earth Was Flat”[11]

Char-a-bancs are mentioned in Dorothy Edwards’ book The Witches and the Grinnygog in the chapter entitled “Mrs. Umphrey’s Ghost Story”. In it, Mrs. Umphrey tries to reassure the ghost of Margaret that the char-a-bancs are not the chariots of devils.

“Peaches”, a single by The Stranglers makes reference to a charabanc, with vocalist Hugh Cornwell explaining to the listener how he will be stuck on a beach “the whole summer” after missing a charabanc.

In Agatha Christie’s “The Dead Harlequin”, from The Mysterious Mr Quin series, the young artist Frank Bristow reacts angrily to the older Colonel Monkton’s dismissive (and presumably snobbish) attitude towards charabancs and their use in tourism.

Charabancs appeared several times in John Le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl.

The Jethro Tull song “Wond’ring Again” by Ian Anderson uses the term: “Incestuous ancestry’s charabanc ride…” [12]

ReferencesEdit

“char-à-banc”. Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.
World Wide Words: Charabanc
charabanc – Britannica Online Encyclopedia
Flickr (2008-04-28). “This road is not suitable for charabancs”. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
Bates, Claire (22 August 2011). “Use them or lose them! Aerodrome and charabanc become obsolete as they are scrapped from dictionaries”. The Daily mail (Associated Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 3 December 2013.
Smith, D. J. (1994). Discovering Horse-drawn Vehicles. Osprey Publishing. pp. 85–86. ISBN 0-7478-0208-4.
The Collected Stories, by Dylan Thomas. New Directions Publishing, 1984.
Stage adaptation of Cider with Rosie at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds.

Lake Como

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Here I am sat overlooking Lake Como,Italy. A wonderful location and “very Italy”!

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We travelled overland to Dover UK, across the English Channel and through France. Here we overnighted in a lovely hotel. We then continued into Switzerland and on to Italy. Long journey but worth it to get a feel of the countries and arrive in this great location.

Today we travelled all around Lake Como, visiting towns and villages en route. The architecture is wonderful! All the buildings are those Italian faded colours and very shabby chic. we saw Villa Oleandra-Laglio where George Clooney resides. We called for tea but he was out. Shame!

I couldn’t find any charity shops and fabric shops were closed! The high end couture shops were open so we gazed in admiration but didn’t touch. Hey ho! When I win the lottery…..Still I’ve got Como market to look forward to later in the week and Como is the birthplace of silk manufacturing so watch this space! Does anyone know how to sew silk?

Lush Stash

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I have been sorting out my stash. Thinking about it, I have multiple stashes, all of which I love and are no calories! I have a fabric stash, a yarn stash, a magazine stash and my lovely, gorgeous Lush stash! Today it was the turn of my Lush stash. I took off the wrappers, smelt, felt and nearly devoured my collection of Lush soaps, bath bombs and massage bars. I now have them perfuming my bathroom until I can no longer resist and actually use them.

I do have a few favourites. I adore the current Golden egg but have (unwillingly ’cause I wanted it) sent it to my Gorgeous Granddaughter.

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I saw this Golden Egg demonstrated in the Chester Lush shop and it is glittery beyond belief! Granddaughter you will SPARKLE! I photographed it on one of my many China dishes which I pick upmassage, in Charity shops for pence. This one is Wedgewood and cost £1.

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This blue and white Vintage China tray is holding a French Kiss and Shades of Earl Grey Massage Bar. Very romantic and gorgeously lovely. The Shades of Earl Grey contains lemon and Bergamot oil. The massage bars are held between your warm hands to soften and then massaged into the skin.Mmmmmmm. The French Kiss is a Bubble Bar with luxurious lavender and Rosemary with extra virgin coconut oil. Fab!

The Vintage China tray is my current favourite soap tray and it is fairly unusual to find a square tray like this. I suspect that they were originally bought to hold sweets or similar. It is a truly vintage piece of China and always lives in my bathroom.

Happy days! What better stash could a girl want? I’m off to Italy at the weekend so not sure if I will mange to talk to you whilst I’m away. If I see an Italian Lush shop I will let you know. Hopefully there will be many photo opportunities. See you soon!

Wordsmith Wednesday/Abstentious

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Abstentious

PRONUNCIATION:
(abs-TEN-shus)

MEANING:
adjective: Self-restraining, especially in eating or drinking.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin abstinere (to hold back), from ab- (away) + tenere (to hold). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ten- (to stretch), which also gave us tense, tenet, tendon, tent, tenor, tender, pretend, extend, tenure, tetanus, hypotenuse, pertinacious, detente, countenance, distend, extenuate, and tenable. Earliest documented use: 1839.

USAGE:
“Ballplayers … have popped up at water polo, diving, and softball, cheering for Canadian teammates and downing a beer or two, unlike most of their abstentious fellow athletes.”
Ken MacQueen; Now or Never; Maclean’s (Toronto, Canada); Aug 30, 2004.

Interestingly this word contains all the vowels in the correct order!

I think that I might put this word on my fridge door and it might help me to be more abstentious!

Nanna Amy’s Curtains

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I make no excuse for the fact that I have blogged about these curtains before on a previous blog because I adore them. They were made by my Nanna (grandmother) in the late 1940s early 1950s. Despite having lost three fingers from her left hand in an industrial accident in approximately 1918 Amy Kennedy went on to be a proficient needle woman.

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These curtains are embroidered around three sides (you can’t see the hem) with detailed solid stitches. Nanna used linen to sew on and the curtains are also self lined. I am lucky enough to have two identical pairs of these curtains which suit my small cottage windows perfectly. They wash well but need to be treated with great respect if they are to serve another generation.

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Nanna left a mini stash of embroidery which I love dearly. It is fantastic to use these items as it makes me feel as if she is still with me in some way.

Nanna Amy’s other claim to fame is that she was an active member of St Johns Ambulance Brigade. Following her life altering accident as a young woman, the wire factory gave her a job in the “Ambulance Room”(factory first aid room) where she worked for the rest of her life as a nurse. Her role as a volunteer “nurse” with St Johns took her to Liverpool during the bombing of the docks of World War 2. Here she stayed for the worst days helping the injured with emergency first aid. What a woman!

I am so proud of my Grandmothers achievements that I am thinking of her today on Mothering Sunday here in the UK. With this thought may all women, mothers or otherwise, have an exceptionally good day today.

Hatty Hare

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At last! I’ve completed something! Finished! OK she’s only six inches tall but she’s wearing a lovely dress. Her eyes might be a little crossed but she’s very cuddly. Her name is Hatty Hare. She was made from double knitting in a couple of evenings. Her head, body and legs are knit in one piece, with her arms added later. This means minimal sewing up and easy stuffing.

She’s now cosy in a padded envelope (with a few other things) heading over to the North East as an Easter gift for my Gorgeous Grand daughter. But yippee I’ve finished something! One less PHD                ( Project Half Done) in my stash.