Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Stone dragons

….Talking of dragons….and of course stone…visiting Lincoln cathedral recently we could not help but be overwhelmed by  the sheer scale and beauty of the cathedral perched high above the surrounding landscape. 
Many cathedrals contain dragons and gargoyles with hideous faces and twisted bodies - and we have often wondered why these devilish characters were given house room in such Godly locations. 
The origin of gargoyles in church architecture is apparently linked to a legend of a fierce fire breathing French dragon named La Gargouille, (are garlic fumes flammable?).
As the French legend goes, the head of the dragon was mounted on a newly built church in Paris having been slain by a Saint.
The word 'Gargoyle' also shares a common root with the word 'gargle'; which comes from 'gargouille', and the French word for 'throat'. A true gargoyle is a waterspout and a carved creature that does not serve the purpose of a drain pipe is called a 'Grotesque'.

Lincoln  Cathedral has it's own special fiendish Grotesque known as the Lincoln Imp.
According to 14th-century legend, two mischievous creatures called imps were sent by the Devil to do evil work on Earth. After causing mayhem in Northern England the two imps headed to Lincoln Cathedral where they smashed furniture and tripped up the Bishop. An angel appeared in the Angel Choir and shrieked at them (sorry, that was me reliving having young children)…ordered them to stop.
One of the imps sat atop a stone pillar started throwing rocks at the angel whilst the other imp cowered under the broken tables and chairs. The angel turned the first imp to stone and the second imp escaped. The imp that was caught and  turned to stone can still be found, frozen in stone, perched on top of the stone column in the Angel Choir. 

Legend has it that the second Imp escaped to Grimsby and continued his bad behaviour there until he was caught and turned to stone after receiving a whacking. He can be seen still clutching his backside and presumably perched on the naughty step.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Fire Dragon

We just had to share this picture of Polyanthus Fire Dragon as it is a freezing cold, frosty day and yet glancing into the garden our eye is caught by what looks like a small fire glowing in the large copper wash tub on the terrace. It's a new Polyanthus and It produces spectacular flame coloured blooms that are larger than usual and stand tall on sturdy stems.

Just the thing when it's cold outside… where's the Sloe Gin?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Teasel teasing

A beautiful day in the country and a walk with the dog is essential. Even in the depths of January there is plenty to see in the landscape . We have to push our way through swathes of teasels which then catch on our clothes and won't get off despite brushing and picking. This made me think about how I had heard that teasels used to be used for 'carding' wool fibre ('teasing' out the wool)  and I thought how on earth was this achieved given that the teasels are impossible to remove and that the wool would end up tangled up in prickly seeds - not the intended end result I'm sure.
Anyway, for those worried about this fact as I was, apparently the teasels used for carding was a special type of teasel called the fuller's teasel. Fullers were the tradespeople who felted the cloth after weaving and also raised the nap with the use of the teasels which were set into a cross shaped frame. These hand held frames were eventually superseded by the teasel gig. This consisted of a large cylindrical drum which was coated in teasel heads. The teasel gig's teasels were maintained and replaced by an specialist 'teasel man' who travelled from mill to mill. The Fuller's teasel has apparently got different spines on the seed heads so that they don't get caught up and ruin the wool.

So now you know.

Not so slow Sloe Gin

This blog entry somehow escaped being published in Autumn but the fruit of our labour was well worth it so I though we should share it even though it's late!

As John Keats once said - ok….'said' may be under egging the pudding … but anyway...

Ode to Autumn

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
  For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

It's that time of year again when we stop fighting the urge to hang onto (fading, faded, gone) summer  time and give into the inevitability of winter approaching. 
Tidy up the borders, plant bulbs , batten down the shed and greenhouse after the first gales threaten to take them away to Oz (yes getting a bit late for this I know but when you are time strapped…)

Anyway, the best part of this time of year is producing Sloe Gin (and for the first time Sloe Whisky) - such a simple yet worthwhile task.

All you have to do is :
- Half fill a (sterilised) bottle with Sloes (freezer overnight so the skins split to release the juices)
- Top up with Whisky or Gin
- Add 2 tablespoons of caster sugar (you can add sugar syrup at the end if it's not sweet enough)
- Shake every other day for a few weeks and leave in a dark place
- Come Xmas - DRINK……it's a beautiful thing to have after a long country walk and THIS is what makes winter worth looking forward to!