28 Oct 2012

Living History

This morning we paid a visit to a Living History Fair at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground here
 which is a ten minute drive away from where we live.  It is mainly for 're-enactors' to get their equipment for when they are staging battles etc.  But you know what, the stallholders really know their stuff.  Everything they sell is really authentic and it was like walking back through the pages of history.

We got involved in several long discussions with different people.  The armour maker, for instance.
All the armour on show was made to fit him, he made this fantastic glove with gold articulation, no one else would be able to wear it.  Depending on what period you were aiming for it could cost you up to £5,000 for a full set of armour.  Apparently only nobleman would be able to afford to wear the suede tin-plated armour shown in the background.  The chain mail was fantastic and would take a week just to make one square foot, and only then if you knew what you were doing.

The whole hall smelled of wood, from the crossbows, bows and arrows and staffs, and particulary the leather goods. 
These shoes reminded me of the type that Blackadder wore in the first series.

I had a long chat with this lady who was weaving braid for a fellow stallholder to hold his stockings in place.  I mentioned that I was making a needlepoint cushion and told her how hard I found it.  She said that if you looked behind some of the old tapestries they are very messy so I was in good company.  In Tudor times they had weaving halls and because of the need for the tapestries not to get damp they were warm places to work and the money was good.

Each and every stallholder was dressed in their period of choice, it really was like stepping back in time. 

This lady was selling brews and ales

There was authentic food honey cakes and pastries.

Pottery, Roman glass reproductions, and Celtic jewellery.  These re-enactors really go to a lot of trouble to get every detail right. 
Right down to leather laces, toggles and wools for weaving.

Before we left I had a good chat to a lady who made handmade leather books  she also made authentic ales and showed me her handwritten recipe book.  Apparently in York they found a diary  full of a bakers recipes, which she had replicated, using her own hand-made ink. 

They really do go to a lot of trouble, it must be so time-consuming - a man who had a stall selling medieval washing items was very informative.  He was wearing handmade leather shoes with ties, which would have been his only pair as an adult, he had made some wooden pattens to wear in wet or muddy conditions  which were hinged where the toe joints went.  The shoes would have been too expensive for most people, in modern money they cost him £25 a few years ago.  I saw shoes and boots on sale from £150 upwards.

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit, we felt a little under-dressed as even the visitors were wearing costumes, we passed Hussars and someone who looked like he had just come in from Rourkes Drift.  There were monks selling mead and scribes.  If ever one of these Fairs comes to somewhere near you and you love history - it will be well worth having a look.

24 Oct 2012

Tiny Houses

A couple of weeks ago we went to a wedding in Surrey, we had booked into a beautiful manor house hotel for two nights, the rooms were lovely.  I got to thinking wouldn't it be great to live in just one room with everything on hand that you could possibly need.  A bed, two easy chairs, a desk to write at with a chair, bathroom, refridgerator, kettle and wardrobe.  What more could you need?

Of course you would have to get rid of most of your possessions, down to the bare minimum - for the minimalists out there it would be ideal,  but for the collectors and hoarders amongst us it would pose a problem.

Accomodation in Camberley

I remember seeing some footage of a movement that seems to be taking over in little pockets world wide - that of Tiny Houses.  In cities where space is as a premium, living in small spaces has become 'the thing'.

Definitely not enough room to swing a cat, and lots of practicalities to sort out - a bit like living in a small caravan.  If I chose to live this way, the hardest decision would be what to get rid of.  Where would I put all my books for instance?  Would there be enough wardrobe space for all my clothes?  Everything would have to be pared down to an absolute minimum.

Will's Teepee
Imagine the feeling of freedom, cutting everything back down to basics - getting rid of all the accumulated junk that we all have lying around.  Being able to pick up sticks with everything you own in a couple of large boxes.

Shortage of land, the population explosion and expensive mortgages - these must all be factors in choosing to live this way.

Here is what Jay Shafer has to say:-
 since 1997 I have been living in a house smaller than some people's closets. I call the first of my little hand built houses Tumbleweed. My decision to inhabit just 89 square feet arose from some concerns I had about the impact a larger house would have on the environment, and because I do not want to maintain a lot of unused or unusable space. My houses have met all of my domestic needs without demanding much in return. The simple, slower lifestyle my homes have afforded is a luxury for which I am continually grateful.

I'm not sure I could do it, or bear to get rid of a lot of my favourite possessions, I am sure I would get claustrophobia sleeping in a tiny roof space - but it seems to be becoming more popular, especially in America,  and it would certainly be a perfect answer for young people who aren't able to save the huge deposit for a mortgage or paying extortionate rent for something they will never own.
Well - what do you think - could you do it?

1 Oct 2012

A Word for Autumn - Celery

I have just cut my first lot of celery from the kitchen garden - I was rather excited as I have never grown it before - it brought back memories of my childhood.
When I was young Sunday tea time meant a tinned crab or salmon salad with a vase of celery as a treat.  How many other salad ingredients had their own special vase.  It was felt that the only way to keep celery crisp and fresh was to keep the stalks in a little water in a vase and was used as the centrepiece of the tea table.
this is what ours looked like

Here is what A.A. Milne has to say on the subject of Celery.

 A Word for Autumn
By A. A. Milne

Pinned Image

LAST night the waiter put the celery on with the cheese, and I knew that summer was indeed dead. Other signs of autumn there may be—the reddening leaf, the chill in the early-morning air, the misty evenings—but none of these comes home to me so truly. There may be cool mornings in July; in a year of drought the leaves may change before their time; it is only with the first celery that summer is over.
  I knew all along that it would not last. Even in April I was saying that winter would soon be here. Yet somehow it had begun to seem possible lately that a miracle might happen, that summer might drift on and on through the months—a final upheaval to crown a wonderful year. The celery settled that. Last night with the celery autumn came into its own.   2
  There is a crispness about celery that is of the essence of October. It is as fresh and clean as a rainy day after a spell of heat. It crackles pleasantly in the mouth. Moreover it is excellent, I am told, for the complexion. One is always hearing of things which are good for the complexion, but there is no doubt that celery stands high on the list. After the burns and freckles of summer one is in need of something. How good that celery should be there at one’s elbow.   3
  A week ago—(“A little more cheese, waiter”)—a week ago I grieved for the dying summer. I wondered how I could possibly bear the waiting—the eight long months till May. In vain to comfort myself with the thought that I could get through more work in the winter undistracted by thoughts of cricket grounds and country houses. In vain, equally, to tell myself that I could stay in bed later in the mornings. Even the thought of after-breakfast pipes in front of the fire left me cold. But now, suddenly, I am reconciled to autumn. I see quite clearly that all good things must come to an end. The summer has been splendid, but it has lasted long enough. This morning I welcomed the chill in the air; this morning I viewed the falling leaves with cheerfulness; and this morning I said to myself, “Why, of course, I’ll have celery for lunch.” (“More bread, waiter.”)   4
  “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” said Keats, not actually picking out celery in so many words, but plainly including it in the general blessings of the autumn. Yet what an opportunity he missed by not concentrating on that precious root. Apples, grapes, nuts, and vegetable marrows he mentions specially—and how poor a selection! For apples and grapes are not typical of any month, so ubiquitous are they, vegetable marrows are vegetables pour rire and have no place in any serious consideration of the seasons, while as for nuts, have we not a national song which asserts distinctly, “Here we go gathering nuts in May”? Season of mists and mellow celery, then let it be. A pat of butter underneath the bough, a wedge of cheese, a loaf of bread and—Thou.   5
  How delicate are the tender shoots unfolded layer by layer. Of what a whiteness is the last baby one of all, of what a sweetness his flavor. It is well that this should be the last rite of the meal—finis coronat opus—so that we may go straight on to the business of the pipe. Celery demands a pipe rather than a cigar, and it can be eaten better in an inn or a London tavern than in the home. Yes, and it should be eaten alone, for it is the only food which one really wants to hear oneself eat. Besides, in company one may have to consider the wants of others. Celery is not a thing to share with any man. Alone in your country inn you may call for the celery; but if you are wise you will see than no other traveler wanders into the room, Take warning from one who has learnt a lesson. One day I lunched alone at an inn, finishing with cheese and celery. Another traveler came in and lunched too. We did not speak—I was busy with my celery. From the other end of the table he reached across for the cheese. That was all right! it was the public cheese. But he also reached across for the celery—my private celery for which I owed. Foolishly—you know how one does—I had left the sweetest and crispest shoots till the last, tantalizing myself pleasantly with the thought of them. Horror! to see them snatched from me by a stranger. He realized later what he had done and apologized, but of what good is an apology in such circumstances? Yet at least the tragedy was not without its value. Now one remembers to lock the door.   6
  Yet, I can face the winter with calm. I suppose I had forgotten what it was really like. I had been thinking of the winter as a horrid wet, dreary time fit only for professional football. Now I can see other things—crisp and sparkling days, long pleasant evenings, cheery fires. Good work shall be done this winter. Life shall be lived well. The end of the summer is not the end of the world. Here’s to October—and, waiter, some more celery.