Friday, 19 December 2014

My Moost Happi Palace


There are few places that have captured my heart the way that Hampton Court Palace has. I have visited it countless times over the last 9 years or so. I have been there in the morning, the afternoon and, once, at night time with nothing but a candle for guidance. 

If you ever get the chance, their Ghost Tours are well worth your pennies.


Before anything remotely retro made it's way into my wardrobe, I was -  for a fair ol' while -  obsessed with The Tudors. A like that turned love from about the age of 8. An interest that morphed into obsession with men in tights and murdered Queens.


One Queen in particular has always been at the top of my "I must know more!" list and I doubt she will ever be toppled. The fact that Anne Boleyn walked the pathways , played cards and, in all probability, danced in the Great Hall never fails to make me smile


The Palace is Baroque -  and no less glorious - in part and it is only by the good graces of the William III's coffers running dry that there are any Tudor parts left at all. It could of all been brick dust and lost forever.

For shame.


Visiting on a weekday in Winter is always my most treasured time to go.  I was lucky enough to go this year as a day-early birthday treat from The Beard.

There was a waft of oranges and cinnamon coming from the chilly catacomb kitchen corridors that run under the Great Hall. They are still now -  empty -  but I love to imagine them in their prime. Bustling with staff balancing trays of roasted meats and pewter goblets of wine. Of the heat coming from the working fireplaces. Of the smell of pies and pottage.


I have never been to one of the Palaces Tudor cooking events where meats are roasted over the flames nestled in the deep recess. There is something in me that longs to try some traditional dishes created in a kitchen that fed such a notorious King. 

And if it came in one of those lovely glazed pottery bowls -  all the better.


I often ponder what Cardinal Wolsey really thought of falling out of  Henry VIII's favor, leading to this brick extravagance being handed over as a gift. Completed in 1515  -  and celebrating 500 years shortly - H-8 overtook it as a Royal Palace in 1529. I wonder how that went down, for real. Was it a fumbling "For you? Why, for sure, my lord!" or a "Yesssss, please do enjoy..." hissed out through a gritted teethed grin while a tear rolled silently down the Cardinal's cheek.


I always feel that I discover more facet's to the Palace each time I visit. It always feels familiar, but occasionally seems as though it has shifted in some way. Like the moving staircases in Harry Potter. I stride off, confident in knowing what lays behind a particular door, only to discover something that I have not seen before.

I like that it always has new snippet of history to show me.


But there are some parts that have remained the same for near on half a millennium. 

Half. A. Millennium. 

These paving slabs and walls. The working, all seeing part of the Palace. The bits that a gajillion feet have walked upon and a million shoulders have brushed. The mirrors used for reflecting candle light and the faces of visitors. 

Including my own.





Thursday, 27 November 2014

Oh, how the Roses Cro(chet)...

Somewhere, in the distant past, I had a wedding brainwave. I decided that I did not want traditional wedding flowers of any kind. I felt that, for us and the thrifted wedding we had planned, they were a terrible waste of money. I didn't like the idea of them being in the photo's forever, but rotting on a compost heap somewhere. I debated the idea of having them freeze-dried, but figured I would always be worrying about breaking them and then they would be gone forever on account of my cackness. 

 

So I decided against them. They were not to be real bloom. Not for myself, the bridesmaids (my Aunt and the Marvellous M), or the wedding party button holes. Or all 85+ guests button holes. Oh no. I was going to save us money. 

This was the driving force. 

I spent a time staring longingly at immense Pintrest boards, stuffed full of knitted bouquets and and their ilk. Oh, they were so pretty and unique. I looked into having something made, but it stretched way outside my smidge of a budget. I even tried to learn how to knit for the occasion (hey, Rebecka, it's over a year on and I am still just.not.getting.it!!! ~ but thank you so much for your patience on that cold January afternoon). 

I thought about giving up. 



And then I remembered how much, slightly , it only has one stick marginally better at crochet I was when I had given it a bash. I had mastered making a chain (I have some very nice red "tinsel" to prove it and my friend Lisa to thank for bringing this craft into my life) and I would jolly well learn how to do the rest. By crook or by hook.


Now then, I learn a lot faster by watching than by reading, so I knew a kindly video'd tutorial would be in order. Little did I know I would find a whole Crochet School just sitting there waiting for me. I decided to find a rose pattern that I liked and learn how to do all the stitches that it mentioned. It was a long slog -  and some of my first ones were floral abominations in woolen form. But, slowly, I got it and one day it clicked. I was ready to move on to the wedding wool.



I had decided on pink, white and green flowers for the bouquets, pink for the wedding party and yellow roses for all the guests. With the Pagan/Edwardian/Vintageness of the whole thing, I wanted everything to have meaning. We chose yellow on account of their symbolism of Friendship, New Beginnings, Joy and Happiness. Over 200 roses, a 6 month stint of making them at every possible moment (for reals -  on the bus, in my lunch brake, on the train) they were all ready and bagged. I drew the line at making the leaves, mostly because I found them cheaper than the wool online and The Beard is a dab hand with a needle and thread. 

They truly were a team effort.




After many a panic of "do they even look like roses?...do you think they look like roses?... look at this.. what does it look like to you? Does it look like...a...rose??..." they were bundled into an old suitcase and given to guests on the day.




They formed part of the wedding favours and it warmed my soul to look out across the congregation to a sea of smiles and yellow dots. It was well worth every moment of effort and guests still make mention of them now. Every guest kept them, and the ones that were over-made shall be added to a wedding blanket I am working on.

Which is lucky, as I can no longer remember how to make them.






Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Land Girls & Lumber Jills Remembered


The National Memorial Arboretum is set in 150 acres of woodland in stunning Staffordshire. I had been expecting it to, mostly, be a lot of dedicated trees. However, alongside the boughs and branches there are a whole heap of other memorials. To the ATS. To the Post Office. To the Navy. So many groups are represented with permanent memorials. It is well worth a visit if you are in the area. I would recommend a sturdy pair of shoes. The place is vast.

And a few short weeks ago, as Blighty was battered by some pretty hefty winds, the Beard and I headed there for a very special unveiling. As the winds howled and the clouds rolled over us in hues of white, gunmetal, purple,and deepest grey, dumping stinging rain on us at regular intervals, a gathering of very awesome ladies had arrived to finally see a memorial to their personal contribution.


Although I was hovering somewhere near that back for the official bits, with a camera that was just about to give up the ghost (6 years of being flung around the bottom of various bags will do that to a photosnapper), I did manage to grab some pictures of the statue. I have followed the progress of this artwork and was thrilled to see it in person. 

With arms linked, axe and pitchfork in hand and a dead rat at their feet, the Land Girl and the Lumber Jill stand proud for many more generations to come. 

Despite the weather and the Royal wait of 45 minutes due to the winds and helicopters not being the best of friends, there was laughter and smiles all round when the memorial was dedicated.

Seeing the statue reminded me of one special former Land Girl I met on VE Day 2010. I had a brief chat with Iris Halfpenny on that day, but had not seen her since at any other events. Sadly, I missed her at this one.

So, imagine my surprise when, looking through photos of the day on the WLA Tribute FaceBook page, I spied a familiar face. I am sad to have missed her, but am so pleased that she and her friends wore a full uniform. 


Copyright Express & Star

A very special thank you to Susan Crawford and her wonderous Wartime Pullover that has raised a whole heap so far and is still available for purchase. 

A massive merci buckets to all those social media savvy friends who helped promote the charity via their own blogs & Twitter feeds. You rock.

The WLA Tribute fundraising was promoted here ~ and still is as funds for maintenance are still needed ~ and I am thankful to all of you who spared what you could to make this memorial a reality. 





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