Monday, 28 July 2014


...only connect.
Yes, E M Forster, I'll second that and, in my tiny world, the internet has opened up many new ways of connecting. Apparently this is not so for everyone; The New Yorker recently published the news that psychologists have concluded that Facebook can make you sad, breeding a sense of failure and loneliness. This phenomenon occurs mostly when online consumption of the social network is passive. Looking and envying. Those of us who use the internet creatively - bloggers, twitterers, online business owners etc. tend to find it very life-enhancing. Not to mention the wonder of instant, free contact with friends and family around the world.
There are minor niggles - sometimes the spam box gets pretty full of puzzling messages and requests. This was what I thought a week or so ago when an unusual email arrived containing a very brief note that went something like this:
I like your offers and I enjoy to read your blogs. The oil will be good only with bread and a little salt.
Horst Antes.

This puzzled me - I didn't think it was suspicious, but I could not remember ordering a bottle of oil and the only things I am offering to the world are antiques on Ebay and some rather silly stories about life with Mr N, on my blog. Then I forgot about it until the postman knocked at the door a few days later...
...and delivered this gift!
But who is Horst Antes? I found him here on Wikipedia.
Professor Antes is a well-known German artist and sculptor, whose works are in many collections and galleries including MOMA in New York. In recent years he has discovered another talent, the production of fine wines and - yes - olive oil! His sculptures can be seen outside, in public places.
Often depicted is the monumental, mysterious figure of 'Kopffüßler' or Head-Footer.
I hope this blog post sends out a positive, friendly message...
...thank you very much Professor Antes - and thank you World Wide Web!

Sunday, 20 July 2014


In theory the above event was the reason we fetched up in Whitby this weekend, and very jolly it was too, with plenty of these.

Whigmeleeries or whimsical, fanciful ornaments! In fact we were looking for any excuse to re-visit lovely Whitby and also escaping from yet another scary weather forecast. We hoped that sea breezes at the coast might save us from the imminent and possibly life-threatening heat-wave.

Captain James Cook, adopted son of the town, looked out over a misty seascape. Storms were predicted.

These jaw bones are a reminder of the town's whaling history.
The mist cleared - in Whitby there are many things to see and do.
Boat trips,
quaint shops,

and folky street entertainers.
But we were heading up these steps - oops, fast forward.
We were heading up these steps (all 199) to the ruins of Whitby Abbey.
Blue skies arrived at last, at least for a while...
...and life was sweet.
Or it was until Mr N saw these.
"I always knew Whitby was our spiritual home," he said.


Monday, 7 July 2014


OK, yes, I admit it, we were running away from The Tour de France, but as we made our way through the Yorkshire Wolds, past Sarah Beeny's classy wedding venue, Rise Hall, and onwards through the hinterland of the eastern East Riding, we did not ignore the event completely. We lingered by this interesting shop window in Pocklington...

...and I risked my reputation (as a bit of a prig) when I snapped these commemorative cookies in the window of Thomas the Baker's, in Beverley.


While Mr N purchased his lunch-time butty inside the shop, I was accosted by a happy, boozy band of Geordie pensioners, down for the (horse) races. "Eee, flower, I'll buy tha some if tha'll share them wi' us. Gan on, divvent resist!" I didn't know whether to be flattered or affronted.
I had regained my composure by the time Burton Constable Hall came into view.
It is very sad to say that this wonderful house is overlooked by most people - if it was almost anywhere else in the country it would be feted as a treasure house, but, at the moment, it is a neglected gem. It is full of beautiful works of art, antiques and amazing furniture. The rooms look as if their occupants have just departed and the décor is varied - arsenic green Victorian wallpaper, flat Georgian terracotta, olive and grey, 1970s acid yellow.
Sumptuous bedrooms which the late incumbent, John Chichester-Constable, arranged in the 1970s in an unsuccessful bid to tempt rich American paying guests.Previously, in 1964-65, he managed a local rock band from Hull - the Hullabaloos. They were also a bit of a flop.
Memorial plaits of hair from two sisters who inhabited this room - did arsenic from the wallpaper hasten their deaths?
It is difficult to choose a favourite room in this dazzling house, but  flying dragons make the Chinese Room truly fantastic. 
The most notable member of the Constable family was 18th century collector, antiquarian and Grand Tourist, William Constable (1721 - 1791). The dusty remnants of his Cabinet of Curiosities await restoration, in pleasing disarray.

And there is more, outside the grand house...

The Constables have held the estate for more than 700 years, and also the hereditary title of the 46th Lord Paramount of the Seigneury of Holderness, which theoretically gave them the income from all wrecks washed up on the coast. In the 19th century, these included the carcase of an unfortunate sperm whale, which died after beaching at Tunstall in 1825.
The whale’s skeleton was mounted on a wrought iron framework in the grounds of the estate in 1836, where it came to the attention of Herman Melville, who would write Moby Dick 16 years later. In chapter 102 of that great book, Ishmael poses the rhetorical question: “But how now Ishmael? How is it, that you, a mere oarsman in the fishery, pretend to know aught about the subterranean parts of the whale?”
The answer comes: “At a place in Yorkshire, England, Burton Constable by name, a certain Sir Clifford Constable has in his possession the skeleton of a Sperm Whale. Sir Clifford’s whale has been articulated throughout; so that like a great chest of drawers, you can open and shut him, in all his long cavities — spread out his ribs like a gigantic fan — and swing all day upon his lower jaw.
“Locks are to be put upon some of his trap doors and shutters; and a footman will show round future visitors with a bunch of keys at his side. Sir Clifford thinks of charging twopence for a peep at the whispering gallery in the spinal column; threepence to hear the echo in the hollow of his cerebellum; and sixpence for the unrivalled view from his forehead.”

In 1992 the Burton Constable Foundation was established, following negotiations with The National Heritage Memorial Fund (which provided a generous endowment) and the admirable Leeds City Council. This established the Hall and its important art collection in public ownership.
Burton Constable Hall - please have a look if you are ever in East Yorkshire!