Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Do you keep your old Christmas cards? I do.
I'm sure you've heard the rumour that the tradition of sending actual printed greetings cards is dying out - stamps are too costly, cards are a waste of trees, virtual cards are more fun, only old people send them etc. etc.
Sometimes I look through my Christmas card collection and have a sentimental wallow, remembering the past. It's not quite the same with e-cards.
Mr N's cards are always chosen with care and...
come with words to warm my heart - and a different message every year!
Some were sent from overseas.
This patchwork card came from Japan, handmade by Japanese pensioners. My old school friend in Yokohama teaches English to senior citizens.
I love this hand drawn card, made by an elderly lady artist I once knew. She had serious mental health problems but loved to create little watercolours and line drawings - see the lonely old man in his muffler on a bare wood chair, while his beloved pets have the cosiest places and a present each!
What a cruel Santa!
Aged 10, Master N's confidence in his own brilliance was a little misplaced!
A last card from Dad.
If I'm still around when "proper" cards disappear, I shall put up some favourites from the collection - come to think of it, why am I waiting?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


...feathers, was that I couldn't resist them!
Finely carved in mahogany, they just happened to be attached to the rather nice antique mahogany secretaire bookcase I found recently. It was to be the perfect early Christmas present for Mr N who has been longing to have his own desk in our overcrowded sitting room! The purchase was made, the object delivered - what next?
Three days of heaving, shifting, cursing and despair, that's what. To make space for it we had to cut another bookcase in half in order to get it out of the room and around an awkward bend in the stairs, in the hope that we might reassemble it at a later date, in another crowded room. When we'd stripped the walls of pictures and argued about the perfect location for this princely piece, we realised that we'd uncovered a nasty stain on the wall - not damp, thank goodness - but still requiring urgent attention.

Nearly done, but not without some rather symbolic difficulties, I have to say.
Remember this one, with his dissolute ways, who later became Geo IV ?
"I never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder."
 His own mother, Queen Victoria, said that!

And what about this one?
Those three words, "Prince of Wales", should have warned me - trouble ahead!


Tuesday, 25 November 2014


We escaped down a snickelway in York the other day. We had both been in danger of over-dosing on all this stuff...

This particular snickelway (a recent addition to the Yorkshire vocabulary, snickelway is a combination of snicket, ginnel and alleyway, coined by Mark W. Jones in 1983) is called Hornpot Lane.
Cow horn has always been a cheap and plentiful material. It has been made into many useful items over the centuries: spectacle frames, spoons, window panes - and pots. Here is one we found recently.

This pot - or beaker - was made to commemorate the opening of the Thames Tunnel in early Victorian London, circa 1843. Back in York, the snickelway led us to the 12th century Holy Trinity Church, close by the Minster.
17th century box pews.
This squint hole is in the wall of an enclosed chapel, where lepers were once permitted to attend church services.

15th century stained glass.
Restored, we left peace behind and got back to what was required of us that day.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


I love to buy antique albums. Sometimes they are full of coloured scraps, sometimes drawings and watercolours by the owner or by friends. If you find a name and some dates it might even be possible to discover a secret story.
This one had a name,
Anne Mayers Burton.

Inside there was a painting of Anne's home, Taverham Rectory in Norfolk, where her father Robert was vicar - and a date, 1852. I was able to find out that Anne was born in 1839 which means she was 13 when she painted the Rectory.
She filled the album with charming pictures, some of country life and others of Cromer, on the North Norfolk coast, where she probably spent summer holidays.
There was another clue - a drawing of a genteel house in Brasted, Kent. This was owned by Anne's maternal grandfather, John Pollard Mayers who was born in Barbados, as was his daughter Sarah, Anne's mother.
Anne died in 1856 aged just 17. I wonder if she knew about her grandfather's family history? His family had owned sugar plantations and slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries and, in the early 1830s, John Pollard Mayers fought for compensation after slavery was finally abolished. He owned over 700 slaves and received at least £16,000 from the British government - which would be worth around £10,000,000 today. 
What would a well-to-do vicar's teenage daughter have thought about slavery, 20 years later, in the 1850s?
Perhaps she would have preferred playing with Spot to contemplating the past.

Monday, 3 November 2014


I've said it before, I know, but the top-most room at Nilly Towers, with its prime position on the Great North Road, affords a view of all manner of bizarre and bewildering activities (quite handy if you have time for an addiction to curtain twitching.) This was the scene at midday on Saturday.

"Quick Daddy, they might go before we get there!"

This is a serious business!

We never did find out who ploughed the straightest furrow, but they all looked very smart - except for my rusty antique favourite, there, in the middle!