Sunday, 23 December 2012

...from the East Riding, on camels

This is the time of year when bishops do things like sleep under the stars on bales of hay in order to... in order to... well, they have their reasons, best expressed by themselves. I didn't intend to go down that path, (and I'm not a bishop nor likely to become one in my lifetime), but somehow ended up feeling I'd strayed in that direction when I set off for Hull on the bike during the current wet wet windy weather. The real reason I'd gone was because of that line beloved of nativity plays which goes something like 'And there came wise men from the East riding on camels*'. You only have to make the 'r' in 'riding' into 'R' to see the joke round here, so when it was rumoured that there might be wise men and real camels on the streets of Hull, I thought it an unmissable event, and somehow going over on the bus didn't seem to give the event the required solemnity (and my bike IS my 'cycle of prayer').

*I know, I know - the camels have somehow strayed from the book of Isaiah 60:6 into the nativity story.

Vanessa & Kier
I suppose I'd been unconsciously looking for a pilgrim route to fill some kind of void left by doing the camino to Santiago de Compostella in 2010, but little by little the road to Hull has somehow become that without trying. My trip over to see the drawings by Leonardo last Tuesday was quite eclipsed by the appearance of a star in a window in Gordon Street; several stars, all of them paper, and I had to go and take a pic of them. The makers, Vanessa and Kier, kindly came out to tell me , a complete stranger, how I could make my own, and I'll explain that fully in a separate blog entry. These originals are made from A4, and the miniature one in the jar above was made from little squares 4.5 cm across. 

This story could be very long, or very short, so since I am as tired as I got at the end of a real camino-day, I'd better make it short. I set off early on the day of the nativity performance, and was able to see the first camel unloaded onto the street outside Hull City Hall. By then I'd ridden 7 miles across from Barton, and was feeling a bit wet and soggy myself, and getting colder by the minute. Striding through BHS I sqeezed out the wet from my 'waterproof' gloves and was told off by the staff, at which point I realised I had made some kind of transition from looking like 'nice lady in discomfort' ("How can I help, madam?") to having a bit of a bag-lady look, and began to know just a little bit of how it might feel to be actually booted out as an undesirable. Didn't they know my hands were seizing up with wet and cold and I wanted to find a radiator to dry my gloves on? Of course, I was able to retreat to Cafe Nero and get a hot choc and bowl of porridge, so I didn't really get a taste of being in proper distress. (I was somewhat feather-bedded in my 'bale of hay'-type experience.)

Camel-stop for fish & chips
Anyway, waiting for this very special nativity play to begin, it was as though something had come and grabbed me when I felt a wave of camino-ness wash over me, and real tears started to flow as the an air of anticipation grew among the crowd, many of whom had had no idea that there was to be a major event staged in Hull that day. It was catching. It's best if you have a look at this: Nativity Live rather than me posting endless pics, though I can't resist the one of the moment when one of the camels decided it liked the smell of fish and chips, and poked its majestic head into the shop before being persuaded to carry on. Poor thing had only a couple of hours' standing outside in the rain to look forward to, so I congratulate the handlers on their powers of persuasion. But those stately creatures really made the day. (And see THIS! Surprise!)

I reconnected with that feeling of being part of a crowd - a rabble even - that can be so enjoyable, and we made our way along the narrow streets to Holy Trinity church, where the play continued in 'Bethlehem' after its start in 'Nazareth'. The church choir sang carols, punctuating the narrated story, and this perhaps was where there was disappointment - the crowd did not join in en masse; but this is why we need such a performance anyway, to re-ignite the faith in some way, to help them catch the excitement again. But why should they?

Oh look, I completely forgot to say that on the way over the bridge, there were these strange orange beads lining the path, 'just like the camino' with its yellow arrows. Did I pick any up? A few; and then on the way back, I scooped up great strings of them, since no-one else had: they had their chance! (Mind you I only met one person on the bridge in total today). A bit of a bio-hazard really, but somehow enchanting, and set me off thinking camino thoughts unexpectedly.

So 'at the end of the day' what came of it all?

Just one thing really; the day of the paper stars, I thought 'we are squandering the kindness of strangers'. There is so much goodness in people, that we have made a real mess of this world in organising it so that it isn't getting a proper outing. There's something wrong, many things, and don't expect me to list all of what it is - make your own list. One thing I'm really concerned about is how we don't share out work and its rewards fairly. I don't see that the move towards a more secular society is making anything any better. There was the sense that the world is crying out for some good news, and might the Christian gospel actually have something to say?
The journey back towards the Humber bridge was grey, grey, grey, wet, wet, wet; and the windows of the well-to-do houses in Hessle displayed their nicely-trimmed trees in a long and impressive line-up. I don't think I know what to make of any of it, yet; but I had to read T S Eliot's poem again: The Journey of the Magi and start all over again. I'd regretted leaving my star-in-a-jar at home, but somehow in the end it seemed right, and I was glad to come home to it. T'owd man was Jospeh-like and carpentering a ladder for a bunk bed in preparation for little people arriving, and I was tired and grumpy once the exhilaration of the ride had worn off. I'd called in at a big Sainsbury's where a seemingly alien people were indeed clutching their gods, but wasn't I clutching them too? ("Can you see if they have any DRY Madeira, love?)

Maybe I should end with a pic of a woman in the camel-gawping crowd; but she is turned the other way, and has just seen the young couple who are to play Mary and Joseph. She's got it, hasn't she?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

"Rowett does not flinch" + fruit loaf recipe

Are we what we are, or are we what other people make us make ourselves? A complicated-sounding question in need of unpacking, and unpacking is what I will soon be doing, as I have to go to London soon to retrieve my exhibits from Southwark cathedral refectory. It's been a great experience for me to have to work steadily for a year (and I did it without too many ridiculously late nights!) in order to mount the exhibition, including working out solutions to problems like how best to display the work, given it has to be portable, and how much explanation to provide so that the work doesn't just drop down a 'Can't see what she is getting at; oooh this chocolate cake is lovely!' hole (which it might have done anyway, since a 'refectory' setting could never be the most meditative space, unless it were a silent one in a monastery or whatever; see below).
Slightly disappointing colour reproduction though

 Putting work 'out there' for public viewing and getting reactions to it takes a certain amount of steeliness too. Its genre was initially produced with the full intention of the work staying in my hands, or perhaps held on opposite sides by me and someone interested in the text to which it refers, with the pieces being a way of helping some thoughts to bubble up from the depths of our minds on the text's possibilities. (I quickly scrubbed the word 'meaning' there, because 'possibilities' was much more what I wanted to say.)

So who was making me make myself into something other than what I am? It was the review in the Church Times wot did it. It's become a bit of a mantra with me, whatever the to-do list tells me to do, I now take the phrase from the review, 'Rowett does not flinch!' and am also happy that 'domesticated' and 'homely' are the adjectives combined with this phrase. (Yessss! At last it's OK for me to be these things, now we've arrived in this post-post-modern age! 1980s, you have nothing to lose but your shoulder-pads!) I see myself in my apron, with mouth set in a grim line as I sally forth to clean out the garage or whatever other task I have to do in the absence of a man to till the ground (though he's great at bringing me beer in the bath, which tendency I regard as a fair swap).

So this description of my ways is pleasing to me, and actually helps me get through the day! I might have been lily-livered before but now I see myself as another sees me, and the not-flinching aspect, which might have been hidden or even non-existing, is brought into play a bit more than it might have been; 'cos now I have the little saying, 'Rowett does not flinch' to reach for. So is it maybe making me flinch a lot less than I might have done, and thus is not merely a description of me, but also has an effect in shaping me? If the latter is true, then there is a great lesson there if you live with someone of whom you think 'It would be good if he were just a bit more......'

I know; t'owd man is going to be very suspicious if he reads this. 'Darling, you are SUCH a whizzo at polishing my shoes'. (OK, OK he does the beer bit, and sometimes there are mussels in their shells in white wine sauce, or some other bath-friendly snack with it too, yes, you're right, that ought to be enough).

And what of the 'domesticated and homely' aspect? Well I did make some cakes the other day, and here is the recipe, given to me by a good friend, and it is one handed down in her family, so is an old Lincolnshire one. The cake is sooooo good, t'owd man says it ought to be locked up.

Win's Nana's Fruit Loaf. 

1 1/2 lb SR flour
3/4 lb butter (add a pinch of salt if your butter is unsalted)
3/4 lb sugar
1 1/2 lb mixed dried fruit, inc. cherries if liked
1 1/2 tbsp golden syrup
1/4 pt milk
6 eggs

Warm the milk and dissolve the golden syrup in it.
Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, like when making pastry.
Add sugar and dried fruit, then stir in the eggs, milk + golden syrup. Mix well.
Spread between 3 2lb loaf tins, greased or lined with paper cases.

Bake on gas 3/ 160C for half an hour on the centre shelf, then turn down to 150C for 1 hour.
(Keep testing with a skewer or cake thermometer - a great invention by the way; I found I didn't need to bake them for quite as long as this; it depends on individual ovens).

It's more crumbly than the Victoria sponge kind of cake, since it has a lot more flour, and the butter is rubbed in, not whisked with the sugar first. I also added a dash of almond essence, the genuine stuff, to the milk in mine, 'cos I like almond flavour. Win says it would be OK to replace some of the flour with ground almond too.

Serve buttered. Yummmmm!


And here is some of the text of that Church Times review, the bit that applied to my work, with my comments boldly in square brackets:

"Last year, Southwark Cathedral, where Bishop Lancelot Andrewes was buried in 1926, hosted an art competition to mark his work as one of the translators of the King James Bible in 1611, writes Nicholas Cranfield.  The competition was won by a photographer, a printmaker, and a "textile exegete" [I know, I know - quotation marks are necessary for this title I have invented for myself] (Features, 23 September 2011).  The same three artists [I'm flattered! I'm an artist now, after a lifetime of 'What do you do?' 'Er.... I'm not sure really... I stay at home and....'] have been invited back again this year and offered the unsatisfactory space [I'm glad he said this, as I thought I might just sound to be whinging when I said people couldn't get up close to them] of the refectory walls to display their latest work. The little exhibition, however, is a delight [I must hang onto this phrase, to encourage me when I need it], even though it was wholly ignored [I had noticed this too] when I visited...... Vivienne Rowett last year made a dress for Sarah [and Hagar as well]. Here she has picked "Lucy Locket lost her pocket" to inform her making of patchwork pockets [it's actually applique looking like patchwork] that deliberately copy earlier (18th-century) peg bags [Pegs! When did I mention pegs?!] or burses [surely a misprint for 'purses'; OK then so I'm wrong: burse]. Each contains the text of a psalm. "A pocket, like a psalm, can be made of well-loved old materials... both carrying memories and being a repository for new things, new meanings," we are told. Each is intended to tell us something about the psalm, and Rowett ["Rowett"! Love it! I've made it!] does not flinch [You know I love this too!] from trying [I tried very hard] to explore the hard sayings of Psalm 137 in a domesticated, homely way. Tony Kenyon is an illustrator. His work, which I found the most satisfying...... [Oh well then 2nd or 3rd prize for me here then]"


So has all of this made me a changed person? I'd better ask t'owd man. I plan to be more unflinching, more homely and domesticated, and to make to-do lists and ignore them and go off on my bike whenever I want to, especially to catch the sunset. Here's an idea for today: Leonardo in Hull , and for fuel for this project I think I'm going to make a porridge milk-shake for lunch, a delicacy I discovered in the Lake District. Just whizz up some left-over porridge with some milk and a dash of nutmeg, maple syrup.... whatever. Don't knock it till you've tried it.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Outside is good

What's a girl to do the day after such an adrenalin rush as the start of an exhibition of one's year's work? Go to the woods of course, and start a new campaign. It was in defiance of the rules on adults not being allowed on the equipment that I went on this ride (and it was a day when children are at school); it seems to me that a) children are bigger these days b) we ought not to allow such ageism, and I hereby campaign for the setting up of adult adventure playgrounds; much better than gyms. Outside is good.  The Barton-upon-Humber youth centre has closed down, and with it, the indoor skateboarding park. I repeat, outside is good. When will we learn?

My manifesto for a better Britain would therefore include the building of adult adventure playgrounds, all free of course; slow food; bigger gardens; and the setting aside of a day when activities will  be scaled down, a quiet sort of day when we do sport rather than spectating it.

It's not a manifesto for turning the clock back, but for acting on the information that tells us that such moves would be good for us all. What's stopping us? Why aren't we doing the things we know would be good for us? I know, economics, economics, economics; but very short-sighted economics. It would be possible to do things differently. If we replaced the word 'the economy' with 'the church' every time the word was used to explain why something good could not happen, some beneficial change made, then we would very rightly be a despised institution.

And no, I didn't fall over off screen.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Escaping from evensong/ 50 shades of grey

Friends, I am here! I have never really been away, only I have been very busy, and Facebook packed up on me, and I went all awol. I have been out for many a bike ride when I might have been blogging, such as this one here. Somehow, technology all went buggerup for me of late, and I had to get a new camera to replace my new camera, and a new phone cos I got RSI from a normal amount of texting on a phone that I think must have come from Victorian days when heavy metal was the thing you used for everything. Sure there were other things that gave up on me too. So when Facebook played up, I think my mind had a kind of cork put in it, and being busy didn't help.

So to celebrate my return to virtual life, I thought a blog entry was needed, a traditional one including pictures of Humber mud or fog or summat, some of work in progress, and maybe even the garden if I can. so here it is. This video was the famous Escape from Evensong event, when I had it all planned out, bike togs under perfectly normal Sunday Best. I had the times of the tides and the sunsets carefully stored in my head, and knew I had to get away before the end of evensong, or I would get stuck in a traffic jam at the door. So I parked my bike next to the font, then during the last hymn - a real sacrifice to miss the voluntary on the organ at the end - I scooted to the back, removed the Sunday Best and left it folded with the hymnbooks - t'owd man was sure to see it and take it home - and scooted off to the Humber in search of the Perfect Sunset that I had omitted to photograph in my quest for speed the week previously. I think it was the last summer sunset, and I missed photographing it! A streak of orange reflected on the evening muddy shore when the tide was low! Awesome! Awful! And THIS is what I got to replace it..... and I was fascinated by the streak of white on the horizon, and it seemed to be coming towards me so I turned on the little machine.....

And yes, I DID get wet!

Rothko Sunset 

All my work so far

I know, I know, Rothko dealt mainly in red; but we don't DO red much here on the Humber (except the fab sunset I failed to record, grrrr!), so this will have to do. It isn't a lot, but this will have to be the new blog for now. I have of course been busy on My Life's Work, and here is some of it displayed on the washing line. Oh dear, it's covered up! Well perhaps you will come back here sometime? I will be blogging some more. I'm very busy just now  as you know, my exhibition starts Nov 6th, and I have about 20% of the work still to do. But we might get there.

I decided it needed a bit of colour after all, so here is the start on Ps 84, as I'm sure you knew. Also displayed with Robert Davidson's commentary on the psalms, 'The Vitality of Worship'. This has been my constant companion for months, on my desk, at my bedside. Sadly, he died last week. He will live on. But as Woody Allen said, 'I don't want to live on in the hearts and minds of my audience, I want to live on in my apartment'; as do we all, and we want it for our friends too. But better to live on in the hearts of others than not, and Robert Davidson most certainly will.

And let's end with a bit more colour from the last of the summer flowers. Actually, these have only just come into their own as I sowed and planted them late; but what a lovely bonus for early autumn. Good! This blog post started out all grey, and it has progressed from that to this luminous display. There will be more, when I can; bear with me if you enjoy any of this, and thanks for coming back.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Garden of delights

Long grass with a purpose
I'm in a bit of a garden mood just now; that's probably because we did a dinner for friends last night, and the kitchen is still in need of time spending on it, and I'm trying to avoid it. But the garden IS a delight to be in, and I just thought I'd do a few hours on it when I don't just cut the grass, which I do every 4 days. I told myself I really need to do a session in between the grass cutting, when I clip, tie up and weed. So today I tried to do just that, and the place is getting towards a 'tended' look. This is what I want to achieve; not a spend-a-lorra-money-on-it look. We HAVE spent a lot on plants in the past, but now it is a self-supporting system, with an efficient composting area which is the gold mine of the place. What it craves is a gardener on her knees. So today I reconnected with the delight in the place, and these are some of the things that I found while trimming, weeding, savaging even. The long grass round the apple trees is deliberate, but I was going to give it a tiny bit of a trim but had to change plan: these nasturtiums are floating on it, and I can't do anything till they finish.

18thC brick wall
We do have a lovely bit of wall, a run of 18th C brickwork. It's hard-going keeping it from being overrun by ivy. I do like ivy, but we have plenty of it, but not much 18thC brick wall.

Ghosts of Christmas trees past

I don't throw anything away; here are the ghosts of two Christmas trees past. They will come in useful for something, I know they will. The one on the left was jolly good at not shedding its pine needles - a posh one we got a couple of years ago.

Along with using my laptop in bed, I'm not really 'allowed' nasturtiums as they tend to run amok on the veg plot and elsewhere, but you know already that I have them. These are some huge leaves on a variegated one, which I tend to expect are going to be small and perfectly formed and acceptable, but then this giant turned up.

Variegated nasturtiums that just happen
Unplanned colour scheme
And look at the colour combination created by the arrival of nasturtiums under the cool blue of the eucalyptus bush (I intend it to stay a bush).

Another blue thing I found today
A wild blue thing I found today
This blue wild geranium appeared from nowhere in this weedy border, and I love that shade of blue. Only today I bought a linen dress in the same colour from the hospice shop, already broken in and softened by many washes.

Holly the Dolly
I discovered that what we call Holly the Dolly was alive and well when I'd done some clipping at the base of the 18thC wall. We had a lot of tall skyrocketed holly trees when we first moved in in 2005, and this was one of the sections of one I chopped down to a stump, which sprouted again; they always do, and you can do topiary on them then. She used to be even more anatomical, but now she has matured into an older lady she looks less brazen.

T'owd man's beard is flowering
It gives me great pleasure when a wild species starts to feel at home in my garden, and I have two old man's beard plants, now rampaging about the place. They are both supported on structures about 6 ft tall, one a holly stump, the other a dead shrub from the very harsh winter of 2010-11. They seem to be going to flower this year, yippee!

Spectacular light in spring. The walnut tree dances for joy, doesn't it!
I didn't seem to take a pic of anything very spectacular today (so let's find one!); the joy was in a lovely feeling of abundance and just tidying up the edges, but hopefully not getting in the way of any exuberance.

Hair-burning opportunity! I'll be careful, really I will!
So now after all that exertion, I'm going to get myself in the bath by the light this huge scented candle that a dear friend gave me who knows how much I love my bath. She asked me what the colour scheme of the bathroom was; it's, well, whatever there is around, and this looks pretty good to me. Maybe tomorrow the boots will come off the windowsill.


The grass. I go on about it. This is what it looks like on a good day.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The stripper

It's summer, I believe, and I must apologize to all my readers, if I have any, for the sparse nature of blogging these days. It's not as though there aren't lots of things that I regularly sound off about to t'owd man or anyone else who will look as though they are listening. For example, I was busy on Ps 119 and had the Olympic opening ceremony playing on the laptop, just to see what it was all about, and just as I was doing the bit  for 'Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path' (I know, I know - we do lapse into KJV don't we?) the Olympic flame was being lit. If you missed it, then this is worth looking at so you can nod knowledgeably about the Rowan Atkinson or whatever. Olympic highlights
Unfinished Ps 119
Pic from the Wiki article
I did watch the whole thing, but am not sufficiently steeped in popular culture to get the full value of it. The fact that this psalm illustration has pointy bits drawn from Arab lattice work patterns had also made me think of the Shard that has been put up in Southwark, financed by Islamic investors. I have watched it being built, and somewhere have a pic of it; I had no idea that it was the tallest building in Europe. Somehow its shape made it look just like a kind of playground spike, that I almost wondered why I was photographing it. My eyes sort of shrank it The Southwark Shard ; which just goes to show how we can be terrible judges of the size of spaces and structures.

Olympic flame
So I'm really busy just now trying to fit working on the Project in between maintenance of the house and garden - the grass is always with us and has to be done every 4 days or it gets out of hand - and no-one accuses me of being a diligent housewife, but I do try to bring in the harvest and process it, and lately I've spent about 2 hours a day on reducrrants, stripping and freezing. The bush still seems to have loads on it even though I've worked my way along it. You'd have to be really starving to have to get every last one off; I wonder whether anyone ever does? But they do look beautiful in a colander waiting to be processed.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Come ride with me!

East Yorks must be the best place to ride a bike. I had to stop every few hundred yards to take a pic; the landshapes were just so good.

Trees on legs (a giant caterpillar?)

Lashings of
Hockney colours and shapes

Sturdy tree ahead
We were in 'lashings of ginger beer' mode, and we also got two great pies from Roberts and Speight in Beverley, and I mean great. Ended the day in the Wolds Inn at Huggate. This is all Hockney country, and you can see why he is so passionate about it; his colours are hardly an exaggeration. Hockney you tube As I often say when we are somewhere good, it is 'Just Like The Camino' (JLTC), and we were even treated to some little yellow or orange arrows painted on the ground to remind us; well it was the eve of St James's day.


Those hedgrow/roadside plants inspire so many artists... I love this artist; you will probably have seen her stuff on greetings cards etc: Angie Lewin

 So steeped I am in the psalms just now, that I can't see even a muddy puddle without thinking of the pilgrim psalm 84 'Passing through the valley of Baca ['weeping'?] they make it a place of springs'.
But I tried a new thing, which was the Biking Video. Sadly, t'owd man was supposed to be on it behind me, but somehow he wasn't there. I gather he stayed put, shaking his head sadly and ready to call an ambulance; so although I swing the camera round for you to see him, he doesn't appear. Most of the roads we were on were single track and gravelly, but this was a bigger one with opportunity to let rip. It's the reward for a lot of uphill stuff.

T'owd man relaxing at journey's end in home-made shorts (we don't do Lycra much).

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Happy St James's day!

Fire from/for heaven
The title really speaks for itself. I really warm to the 'sons of thunder' and their fiece loyalty, as in 'Shall we call down fire from heaven, guv?' attitude. There are some of us who are a bit worrying for anyone throwing a party, and I imagine the same was true of them - whatever would they do next? The hula hoop factor; sometimes it works, and sometimes it lands on someone's head when you throw it out of the bedroom window - I know, mine did, fortunately he was OK about it.

So this is what we did at a bit of an unplanned party when the Barton Botafumeiro arrived; we had to put it through its paces, with thoughts of health and safety to the fore as you can see.

And then today, t'owd man did a blessing of it in church. It was admired by all who went up to look at it; presumably anyone who was not keen on the idea of the thing ignored it. It's a small replica of the one in Santiago de Compostela. Enjoy! We do!

The real botafumeiro

But I love this next one -Those notes.... the sound of the crowds whooping like children at the seaside, and the way the priest manages to forestall any cheering by leaping in swiftly at the end with his 'Oremus!'... and the first notes on the organ; Geoff did us proud at this normally music-less eucharist by thumping them out at the end and bringing tears to our eyes.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The great and the good.

A founder member at the FMB pub. Cider, naturally!
Memsec departs from Hull station, with Philip Larkin
I know I shouldn't.
This is not an official record of the SOTS Meeting! Rather it is a record of what took Memsec's eye when she remembered her camera. Thus many wonderful moments are not recorded, such as when Hugh Pyper was presented with his Olympic towel after his 'From Zion to Olympus' paper. (Our current president has a good eye for suitable gifts.)

Here goes....

Retiring hospitality sec Elizabeth Harper has kept SOTS in order for many years.
Assembling cheerfully for the yearly Outing
Travelling cheerfully; Janet is looking forward to resting from SOTS accounts.
Outside Manchester Town Hall
Descending with promise of Tea in the town hall. I was tempted to say 'Jacob's ladder',
Tea in the elegant depths
The bee became a symbol for Manchester's hard working population
This Manchester building has been unfinished for over 10 years. Why do I think of Babel?
T'lads in the 'Ford Madox Brown'.
Home again in Lincs with treasure from the African art exhibitions across Manchester: highly recommended.
...and the grass got cut.
(Yes, your thought is correct: photo taken in spring, hence shadows of bare branches of walnut tree)