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dovegreyreader scribbles



a Devonshire based bookaholic, sock-knitting quilter who was a community nurse once upon a time.



Updated: 2018-04-17T00:15:00+01:00

 



Still in Pursuit of Edward Thomas

2018-04-15T22:23:16+01:00

My penchant for writing down the names of the inns and pubs of In Pursuit of Spring (more than seventy by the end of the book) is only matched by Edward Thomas's obsession with noting the names and epitaphs in...My penchant for writing down the names of the inns and pubs of In Pursuit of Spring (more than seventy by the end of the book) is only matched by Edward Thomas's obsession with noting the names and epitaphs in churchyards, and it is something that has really made me pay attention.  I wandered across to the village church (in Sydenham Damerel, the neighbouring parish to ours but nearer to home) a few days ago with a notebook in hand. We can see the church from here and on a high summer's day it looks quintessentially Devon ... I'm envious because this parish has an original copy of its tithe map framed and on display in the church and thankfully it can't have been in there when the church suffered the devastating fire in 1957. The tower and the bells survived but only one chancel was rebuilt. I walk over to St Mary's several times a week, and I frequently amble between the graves, reading the headstones and wondering, but I have never taken notes before. Well, after a very engrossing hour with my notebook I realised that if ever I have a novel in me (very unlikely) there was surely a story to be written here, though it might be a bit miserable.. I could include James and Elizabeth Giddy Jasper whose son Robert died on April 2 1858 aged three months followed by another son Richard aged 2 3/4 in 1859. I usually feel sad when I see these gravestones, but I spent some time imagining their lives before the sadness...much better. In fact perhaps there was an epidemic of something in 1859 because Richard and Eliza Freeman lost Mary Ann that year too, born in April, died in July. " Cease to grieve for children taken early from a life of pain. Ripest fruit is quickly shaken, Death to them must needs be gain." And what on earth happened in the Serpell household... Eliza wife of Samuel died on January 25 1879 aged thirty years along with their son Samuel aged six days " Not dead but sleepeth." But maybe there was some happiness in the preceding months, just a bit in the midst of the hardships. And I'm thinking all these people probably knew each other, were friends and neighbours with the church at its centre, because unlike ours it is a tiny parish, a very knowable community and one that, unlike ours, didn't benefit from the benevolence of the Duke of Bedford. The Duke slowly bought up vast tracts of land in Milton Abbot and provided copious employment; I always envisage the Sydenham Damerel-ites having to fight for their livelihood in comparison. In fact I imagine a bit of rivalry, maybe a touch of envy because if you worked for the Duke you at least had a modicum of security. I had been dipping into The South Country by Edward Thomas when I came across this... 'The names of the local families - gentle and simple - what histories are in them, in the curt parish registers, in tombstones, in the names of fields and houses and woods.' And with it comes the encouragement to make notes and explore... 'Better a thousand errors as long as they are human than a thousand truths lying like broken snail-shells round the anvil of a thrush.' I'm not a historian, I'd be dangerous if I was, so I suspect I'm going the long way around the hedges to discover what I am about the local field names along with the people who lived here in the mid-nineteenth century. Hours spent online in the library where I have free access to Ancestry and cheap printing, so the Textithe project has my full attention now I have a stitching method that feels right. I've finished the piece about the fields surrounding us here and it is now hanging on the kitchen wall, but one of the things I noticed on the 1842 tithe map were a number of farms around us that have long since vanished, swallowed up by their neighbours, no longer in existence, their names unknown by all but a few in 2018. It seemed a natural progression to quilt[...]



The Walking Season

2018-04-12T19:20:47+01:00

Whilst taking nothing for granted, I would like to think the summer Wednesday Walking season is almost upon us. The portents are looking favourable. My Walking Friend and I were determined to keep our boots a-roving through the winter if...Whilst taking nothing for granted, I would like to think the summer Wednesday Walking season is almost upon us. The portents are looking favourable. My Walking Friend and I were determined to keep our boots a-roving through the winter if we possibly could, but we have been meteorologically  thwarted. We have managed a few forays but really neither of us fancied the inconvenience of a fractured neck of femur, so we have done a great deal of sewing and chatting at her kitchen table, while her border collie snoozes away next to the Rayburn, glad of the reprieve. It hasn't stopped us heading up to Fox Tor Cafe for soup though...Parsnip & Parmesan still our most coveted. We are not quite out of the snow zone though because we can both recall the year our men were called out with the Dartmoor Rescue Group to search for someone lost in deep snow at the end of April (1981) and there was the year Ten Tors was abandoned because of snow in May. But we are almost there and this week felt like a turning point as we limbered up with a favourite walk up and over the Staple Tors ( Little, Middle and Great) and onto Roos Tor and the cairns beyond. The moor has been properly scoured and bleached by ice for the first winter in a while so the grass is looking an attractive shade of blonde right now and the clouds were looking very jolly too. You might be able to see the 'rock basin' marked on the map at Roos Tor. As is always the way with these things I only find it when I am not looking for it. so here it is last September... It was such a clear day that we could see across to Plymouth & the Tamar Bridge...   Last time we went to the Cairns (little more than a small circle of rocks) we were plagued by a mini-swarm of very cross black bees (in the middle of nowhere) this time nothing to report, just space, and skylarks ascending all around us and the sort of complete peace and  path leading onwards that we relish. And the best news of all... It was Parsnip and Parmesan soup when we finally trudged into Fox Tor Cafe.   [...]



Pearls Before Poppies - The Story of the Red Cross Pearls ~ Rachel Trethewey

2018-04-09T16:25:13+01:00

I've had a very big book Pleasing this week, in fact several, so here's one of them and it followed on from an email from author and historian Rachel Trethewey. Rachel wrote the definitive book, Mistress of the Arts, about...I've had a very big book Pleasing this week, in fact several, so here's one of them and it followed on from an email from author and historian Rachel Trethewey. Rachel  wrote the definitive book, Mistress of the Arts, about Georgiana Duchess of Bedford and our local environs here around Endsleigh, now a hotel but once the Duke and Duchess's holiday 'cottage', and we were lucky enough to hear Rachel talking about the book at Endsleigh too, here a few extracts from a 2010 blog post... '...Mistress of the Arts the reason we all know locally that years ago it took someone from the village three days to plump up all the feather mattresses when the Bedfords were planning a local sojourn in their holiday cottage. Fascinating then to hear the background to the writing of the book, the countless phone calls around the museums to check the existence of letters from Georgina which unearthed some really unexpected gems, including the love poetry of one ardent admirer of the Duchess (one of many it seems). Lord Holland fired with the sort of imagination you'd want an admirer to possess when he manages to capitalise on the shortage of words to rhyme with Duchess, and so settles frequently on 'crutches'.The research proved an invaluable insight into Regency life with marriage for dynastic reasons, for life and for the heir and the spare, but infidelity rife and accepted practice. In the end, after fruitless trips to Ireland and the archives of the Abercorn family, into which Georgina's daughter had married, it was the Devon Records Office that produced the research jewels for Rachel Trethewey, an archive of every bill and receipt for monies paid out by the Bedfords in the construction of Endsleigh. In total £120,000, the equivalent of £4 million today.Within those records fascinating details...Georgina joined the Tavistock Subscription LibraryHer favourite scent was Esprit de RoseShe regularly bathed in asses milkBut all was not lost on the research trip to Baron's Court in Ireland, the seat of the Abercorn family. Here were revealed the sketches by Edwin Landseer, almost certainly Georgina's lover (yes, another one) and whilst poetry may not have been Edwin's bag, art was and the sketches revealed an intimate, tender and sensuous evocation of their love, much like a photo album. The drawings seemed as fresh as the day they had been drawn and in the words of Rachel Trethewy, the 'distance between the past and the present evaporated'.Georgina, exiled from Endsleigh by the family after the death of the 6th Duke, died in Nice in 1853, sadly a trip to Nice could not locate her grave.   Rachel and I met on several occasions thereafter and had also done an event together at Dartington, with Justin Picardie, on Justine's book Daphne (Daphne du Maurier),so it was good to hear from Rachel last week with news of her latest book and the offer of a copy. As both a historian and a journalist Rachel's research is always diligent and thorough, and will translate into a highly readable account so I was on tenterhooks waiting to see this one. Pearls Before Poppies - The Story of the Red Cross Pearls, this information from the publisher's website... In February 1918, when the First World War was still being bitterly fought, prominent society member Lady Northcliffe conceived an idea to help raise funds for the British Red Cross. Using her husband’s newspapers, The Times and the Daily Mail, she ran a campaign to collect enough pearls to create a necklace, intending to raffle the piece to raise money. The campaign captured the public’s imagination. Over the next nine months nearly 4,000 pearls poured in from around the world. Pearls were donated in tribute to lost brothers, husbands and sons, and groups of women came together to contribute one pearl on be[...]



In Pursuit of Edward Thomas

2018-04-04T18:17:05+01:00

It is the anniversary of the death of Edward Thomas today so there will be a couple of posts dedicated to him this week. 'Winter may rise up through mould alive with violets and primroses and daffodils, but when cowslips...It is the anniversary of the death of Edward Thomas today so there will be a couple of posts dedicated to him this week.   'Winter may rise up through mould alive with violets and primroses and daffodils, but when cowslips and bluebells have grown over his grave he cannot rise again: he is dead and rotten and from his ashes the blossoms are springing....I had found Winter's grave; I had found Spring and I was confident that I could ride home again and find Spring all along the road.' I'm not sure what Edward Thomas might have made of the month of March 2018. It would all have been a terrible trial on a bicycle that's for sure. Devon has had double the usual rainfall and been the wettest county in the UK, we can vouch for that. But it rained in March 2013 too, whilst Edward Thomas was on his cycling journey In Pursuit of Spring, so what did he wear... I have a feeling it was a suit, tie and a mackintosh but he has something to say about the whole waterproofing situation... 'I have also discovered that sellers of waterproofs are among the worst of liars, and that they communicate their vice with their goods. The one certain fact is that nobody makes a garment or suit which will keep a man dry and comfortable if he is walking in heavy and beating rain...' What would Edward have made of lycra and breathable Gore-tex... 'At first thought it is humiliating to realise we have spent many centuries in this climate and never produced anything to keep us dry and comfortable in rain.' I seem to remember we were still getting wet in the 1970s, Gore-tex had only just been invented and most of us were still making do with gaberdine and and ridiculously luminous cagoules. Mine was bright yellow, you saw me coming from a long way off.  'We must solve the question by complaint and experiment or by learning to get wet - an increasingly hard lesson for a generation that multiplies conveniences and inconveniences rather faster than it does an honest love of sun, wind and rain, separately and all together.' I tell you, Edward rightly has a real bee in his bonnet about all this, and when you think he still had the trenches to come. In Pursuit of Spring and Edward Thomas and I reached the last stage of our journey on March 31st having set off on March 21st (I got a bit of  a head start on 15th)  Edward and his bicycle actually arrived in the Quantocks of Somerset on March 28 1913, but I was lagging behind a bit (puffing up those hills behind him). It all seemed like double-quick time to me and made me think what a joy the arrival and ready availability of a bicycle must have been in 1913. Few cars passed us on the road and I suppose the only other means of transport to cover this route would have been by horse or on foot. We did cross a few railway lines but most of the journey has been off the beaten track. I have found so much to love about this book, especially the descriptions of landscape and place. enough to make me think that plenty of people have surely followed in Edward's cycle trail and repeated this journey (if there isn't a book on it there really should be) though I suspect they might have paid more than four shillings a night for board and lodging. Take the city of Wells for example. Wells is one of my favourite Cathedral cities and within a day's journey of us here. If we go to Bath we often go via Wells where I have a fondness for pacing out Mary Rand's Tokyo Olympic Gold medal-winning jump inset in brass in the pavement near the Cathedral. As he approaches Wells, Edward Thomas sets the scene... 'At a turning overshadowed by trees, at Dulcote, a path travels straight through green meadows to Wells, and to the three towers of the Cathedral at the foot of a horizontal terrace-like spur of o[...]



The Egg Count...

2018-04-08T19:50:06+01:00

293!! Which means the winner is AnnP who guessed 294. A book in the post to Ann dreckly. That was fun, thank you for having a go everyone, and thank you to Rebecca for the suggestion that I take some...

 

293!!

 

Which means the winner is AnnP who guessed 294. A book in the post to Ann dreckly.

That was fun, thank you for having a go everyone, and thank you to Rebecca for the suggestion that I take some eggs along to the Endsleigh Salon Book Group this week. It's a plan.

 

 

 




Guess how many eggs...

2018-04-07T17:45:18+01:00

Some fun for Low Sunday, apparently named because events are less exciting than those of the Sunday before in the Church's Easter calendar (but please correct me if I'm wrong). One local church, where I sang in the choir many...Some fun for Low Sunday, apparently named because events are less exciting than those of the Sunday before in the Church's Easter calendar (but please correct me if I'm wrong). One local church, where I sang in the choir many years ago, always used  Evensong on Low  Sunday to celebrate a local men's walking group called the Gilders & Colts and it was one of my favourite services. The singing would raise the roof and the spirits no end. Anyway, last Saturday, driving across to Cowslip Workshops, my driving glasses broke. The arm fell off, the screw was lost in the detritus of the foot well of the car and I stopped off in Launceston en route to get them repaired. This would involve taking them into the first optician I could find. 'I'm really sorry, this is a bit of a cheek, but could you mend my glasses for me?' I asked the young woman at the counter. ' I didn't buy them here though...' 'Oh that doesn't matter,' she said,' of course I'll mend them for you, won't be a tick.' And she disappeared off round the back.  Perched on the counter was a large jar full of mini-Easter eggs and a sign. 'Guess the number of eggs and win the jar - 50p a go.' The shop was empty and quiet. I had a quick glimpse at the clipboard and all the previous entries...1452... 980...457... 161. So I stood there and did a bit of mental arithmetic based on no formula whatsoever to while away the time. Presently the young woman reappeared with my glasses, repaired and cleaned. 'How much do I owe you?' I asked. 'Oh no charge, you're very welcome...but maybe you'd like to enter the Guess How Many Eggs  competition.' 'Oh yes, of course I will...but I don't really want to win them because we'll eat them all,' and we laughed. I mean really, it's Type 1 Diabetes and a trip to the dentist in a jar isn't it. I always find these things really hard to judge, except obviously not on this occasion because a week later I got a phone call and am now the proud owner of a jar of chocolate eggs (as yet unopened). Now fear not, I have no plans to post the eggs off to anyone, but add your guesstimate in comments (just the one) and I will post a book to the person whose guess is exact or nearest to mine... and if hundreds of you guess correctly Magnus will do one of his famous prize draws to choose a winner. Ready, steady GUESS...       [...]



Call the Midwife ~ Jennifer Worth

2018-04-18T21:45:10+01:00

A few weeks ago, at the end of another memorable series of Call the Midwife on BBC 1, I had a bit of a pang. And whilst I dare say plenty of people switch the TV off the minute they...A few weeks ago, at the end of another memorable series of Call the Midwife on BBC 1, I had a bit of a pang. And whilst I dare say plenty of people switch the TV off the minute they hear the theme music followed by the dulcet tones of the Vanessa Redgrave voice-over, Bookhound and I are settling down to watch in that Never Miss An Episode way that we do with a series that we really enjoy. We’ve watched every episode of every series, and all the Christmas specials. The babies slither out week after week and cords will be cut, there will be traumas in the clinic, Doctor Turner will diagnose something else obscure ( for the era) and I'll try to beat him to it , Sister Monica Joan will wander off on another amusing frolic of her own, Nurse Crane (we adore Phyllis) will be a right softie underneath her no-nonsense exterior. Meanwhile caretaker and handyman Fred will sort yet another plumbing disaster and we love it all. I'm always intrigued by the old midwifery ways...remember Chummy delivering the breech baby, letting it dangle by its head for a while, and I'm hard-pushed (sorry) not to think I see real joy on everyone's faces when a baby is born. There have been weddings and funerals and personal crises galore (come back soon Cynthia) and real life weddings and births; the vicar (Jack Ashton) and Trixie (Helen George) have had a beautiful baby of their own, and somehow I'm in danger of conflating the original book, with the fiction of the series, with the reality of the now. It is sixteen years since I bought and read Jennifer Worth’s book in its very first edition published by Merton Books.  My copy quickly did the rounds of the health visiting team at the time, because two of my colleagues had worked as midwives with those very same nuns in the East End of London. We had some fascinating diversions at our team meetings for a while as they shared their memories. So it has been a fine refresher to take the book off the shelf and look at it again, not least to be reminded of Jennifer Worth's preface... 'In January 1998 the Midwives Journal published an article by Terri Coates entitled Impressions of the Midwife in Literature. After careful research Terri was forced to the conclusion that midwives are virtually non-existent in literature. Why, in heaven's name? Why in heaven's name? Fictional doctors strut across the pages of book in droves, scattering pearls of wisdom as they pass. Nurses, good and bad, are by no means absent. But midwives? Whoever heard of a midwife as a literary heroine? Yet midwifery contains within itself the very stuff of drama and melodrama every child is conceived either in love or lust, is born in pain and suffering followed by joy and elation or tragedy and anguish. A midwife attends every birth; she is in the thick of it, she sees it all. Why, then, does she remain a shadowy figure hiding behind the delivery room door. Terri Coates ended her article with the words : " Maybe there is a midwife somewhere who can do for midwifery watch James Herriot did for veterinary practice." I read those words and took up the challenge Jennifer Worth July 2002  In the book, all names were changed and The Midwives of St Raymund Nonnatus was also a fictional name. The 'real' Nonnatus House was actually St Frideswide’s Mission House, and the nuns were from the Community of St John the Divine; there is a very revealing and interesting first-hand account  of life working with the nuns here. But how real it all seems now as I browse the pages and read about  Sister Julienne, (small and plump in the book in contrast to Jenny Agutter's screen portrayal) . And remember awkward but adorable Chummy (Miranda Hart.)   Here is Chummy, desperate to b[...]