Sunday, 1 February 2015

"Oh! I Do Like to be Besides the Seaside!"


What a happy chance encounter our 'deal' at "The Café Porlock Weir" turned out to be. Owned by a couple who had previously worked in various high end establishments across the country before opening a restaurant with rooms in this sleepy fisherman's creek. The seafood we ate was fabulous, worthy of any fine dining establishment, delicious flavours with a memorable presentation.
There is another, decidedly quirky establishment in Porlock Weir, Millers at the Anchor. We could have stayed there on a 'deal' too. The Anchor has been opened by Martin Miller who publishes The Miller's Companion to Antiques & Collectables. Miller and his daughter Tanya have created a hunting lodge by the sea! It is filled with Martin's own antiques, some of them decidedly idiosyncratic, help yourself bowls of fruit, and sweets, all of which can be washed down with Martin's own award winning Gin!
Sitting over the entrance door into Miller's!!!
The remains of a partially collapsed World War ll pillbox with five machine gun openings overlooks the bay. 
Watching Thatchers at work, it was surprising to see the quick progress that they made. They were about to commence on the roof ridge - being a Gamekeeper's cottage it might be 'topped' with a woven pheasant  
Does anyone recognise this flower growing wild and in profusion along the bottom of the walls and hedgerows? It looks very similar to Ransoms - wild garlic minus the smell, but that doesn't flower until April-May. The plants leaves have the appearance of clumps of Muscari, as per those around the telephone box below

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Durslade Farm


High flying Swiss couple Iwan Wirth, Manuela Hauser, and their four children have recently setup home in Somerset; a landscape steeped in Arthurian myths and site of the legendary 'Avalon'.
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Dealers in cutting edge art and design, they own contemporary art galleries in London, New York City, Zurich and Los Angeles. 
In 2012 they received planning permission to renovate a mid C18 century Somerset farmhouse and its outbuildings; the whole complex is now open to the public
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A version of the celebrated giant spider, Maman by the French-American Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) can be found lurking in one of the courtyards 

A giant stainless steel milk pail sculptured by Subodh Gupta is placed near the original 
 Granary sitting on staddle stones - is this Conceptual Art? 
Admission is free, but donations to their chosen charity the 'Somerset Wildlife Trust', are welcome. There is an ambitious arts centre with a gallery, bookshop, learning room, restaurant, farm shop and a 1.5 acre perennial meadow designed by the Dutch master landscape designer, Piet Oudolf.

Winter

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Summer
They have an artist in residence programme which encourages integration within the local community and the benefits accrued to them by living in idyllic surroundings. 
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The restaurant is in a former cowshed - in the dining area there is a vibrant neon central light by the late American Jason Rhoades (1965-2006) 
The 18th century farmhouse itself is used for visiting guests and artists, but can be rented for family holidays, wedding parties, etc.
Did you notice the white undergarments hanging on cables -  they light up the sky in the evening!
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There is a great buzz and a lively party atmosphere down on the farm

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sea Fever

Here in Britain we are an island people defined by our coastline and the silver seas around us. Over the centuries the sea has afforded us protection - she inhabits our souls. Her ever changing moods can be peaceful, gentle and calm, or tempestuous, malevolent and threatening. She has largely forged and dictated our history, shaped us, and made us who we are. Waves large and small have ebbed and flowed around our shores from eternity - time and tide wait for no man, but I will return again shortly.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

British Treasures No 3 - Wallpainting

In 2011 a couple living in a 16th century house in Somerset were removing wooden panelling from their drawing room wall with a view to restoring and painting the walls behind. As the panelling was removed they saw eyes appearing from beneath the flaking plaster, and restoration experts were called in to remove the layers of ancient plaster. Underneath the plaster was discovered an enormous 20 foot high mural dating to around 1530. The Somerset home had once been the summer residence of Thomas Cranmer and what is now the large drawing room had been his Great Hall. Cranmer was the Arch Deacon of Taunton, Somerset who eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas Cranmer was the man who set up the structure of the Church of England after helping Henry Vlll break away from the Catholic Church.
Thomas Cranmer - Portrait by Gerlach Flicke 1545 - National Portrait Gallery
As the mortar was carefully removed their shock deepened when a perfect vision of Henry Vlll complete with golden crown, a long-handled orb, and a sceptre stared back at them. The once hidden wall painting is now considered to be of great national importance.
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King Henry Vlll
By chance they recently discovered that the mural has a hidden message. A postcard the couple had commissioned of the mural fell to the floor falling with the king's head pointing towards them, thus revealing the portraits more sinister side. As they looked more closely, they realised that the devil was in the detail!
When viewed upside down or through a wine/ale glass, as it would have been in medieval days, the portrait of the king on his throne is transformed into a vision of Satan with goat's eyes and horns.
Whilst the portrait would have been an overt expression of loyalty, the hidden message suggests it was commissioned by someone with quite another view of the monarch who had made himself head of the Church of England in place of the Pope.
During the 15th and 16th century there was a great fascination with optical illusion and secret messages hidden within paintings. 
If you squint whilst looking at the bottom image Satan is clear to see.
British Treasure No.2 here 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Is Spring Around the Corner?

So far it's been a funny old winter. There will be a couple of wet, chilly, grey days followed by a day of brilliant blue skies when it actually feels quite mild in the sun.
Berries remain untouched by the birds
Garrya elliptica - Silk Tassel Bush makes a pleasing addition in my winter garden
Grow the male bush it has superior tassels up to 8 inches long which gently swing to and fro in the breeze
Snowdrops are in bud
  Hellebores emerge from their sleep
soft early morning frost rapidly disperses into sparkling clusters of crystals 
The January sun
invites brisk walks through the countryside
 but there is a cautionary message at this time of the year - snow could still be on its way!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

In praise of the lemon♥

l  for lemon  +  l  for love  = lemon love♥    
lemon trees - Sicily 2012
What could be better than the juice of a lemon added to salad dressings, drizzled over fish and pancakes too? Chop some tarragon add lemon juice and pour over chicken before roasting to enhance the flavour and
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  then imagine a delicious slice of lemon meringue pie? 
"When life gives you lemons" - make marmalade!
A bowl of lemon slices with Verbena leaves 
Top of my list in "duty free" is the fragrance of Citrus Verbena by L'Occitane en Provence. 
Picture a warm summer evening strolling in the hills of Provence surrounded by the aromatic scent of wild Verbena then add a twist of citrus from freshly picked lemons - a delicious summer fragrance all wrapped up in a bottle - spritz generously and enjoy.
(this is my personal choice I am not endorsing this product) 
 a refreshing glass of iced water topped off with lemon 
Small slices of sunshine
The three old copper engravings were done by Johann C. Volckamer published in Nuremberg during 1708-14. They are from Volckamer's Nurmbergische Hesperides.  Most of the engravings in the Hesperides are devoted to citrus fruits which are positioned above views of gardens and palaces in Germany, Austria and Italy. They are a unique and delightful combination of botanical illustration and landscape.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

British treasurers No.2

King Alfred 'The Great'
A line engraving c.1750 by George Vertue
In the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford there is a very special Anglo Saxon treasure approximately 1150 years old - the Alfred Jewel. It was discovered in 1693 by a labourer digging for peat at Newton Park in North Petherton, Somerset. North Petherton is near Athelney, where in 878 King Alfred the Great took refuge from the Vikings and later founded a monastery.
Sir Thomas Wrothe, owner of Newton Park, became the owner of the jewel. He later presented it to his uncle, Colonel Nathaniel Palmer, a former member of Trinity College, Oxford, who bequeathed it to the university in 1717. He intended that it should go to the Bodleian Library, but a year later his son Thomas, decided that it should be deposited in the Ashmolean Museum.
The Alfred Jewel
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The Alfred jewel is made of polished rock crystal. Below the crystal and crafted in cloisonné is a figure thought to represent one of the five senses 'sight'. The crystal is set in pure filigree gold, and has cut out lettering around the edge inscribed AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN - Alfred ordered me made.
Recent opinions have decided that it is an aestel or pointer used for following the text in a manuscript or gospel. The pointer would have been held within the mouth of the mythical dragon probably made of ivory, and kept in place by a rivet which is still in situ. 
King Alfred and his daughter Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians depicted on a 13th century genealogical chronicle in the British Library, London

British Treasure No.1 can be found here.
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Footnote
Over the Christmas period a group of amateur treasure hunters found
a hoard of more than 5,000 rare Anglo Saxon coins showing the heads of
King Ethelred 'The Unready' and King Canute. They are thought to have a
value of over one million pounds. The coins have been described as being in
mint condition with a 'mirror like' finish. They were found buried in a lead
container in a field in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. This is one of several 
large and exciting treasure trove finds that have been made during 2014.