Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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Missing him already

Joe has been home for the Easter break, it was as though he brought the fair weather with him, the sun shone brightly each day he was home.

No one could say he is a typical student,  one that lies in bed until lunch time*, he caught the 04:35 train from Cardiff, for two reasons he said, one it the cheapest ticket ( he is his fathers son) and two it gave him an extra day at home.  He arrived  at the station in the village, in time for us to pick  him up and collect breakfast from the bakers, and a couple of bags of pet food for Spud the dog and Jammy the cat from the pet shop too.

We seem to have packed a lot into a few days, and yet it’s been very relaxed. The hen house has moved, an old stone gate post has had the ‘stone henge’/ ‘engineers live here’ treatment of rollers and crowbars to move it up the yard, windows have been re-glazed, the drain from the pond cleared ( we are sorry about accidental the demise of a frog though). Friends entertained, ice cream devoured, a birthday celebrated a wedding anniversary toasted to.  Time sat chatting in the sun. Too much chocolate eaten.

Now he’s returned to Wales, and his the world of work and study, his bedding is washed and  on the line.

Duvet

Then the thunder clouds rolled in, a fist full of  delicious warm sunny days and 21consecutive days without rain came to an end, and I had to bring the laundry in.

*OK he does sometimes, but if motivated by a bargain or an archery competition, he will be up and gone before first light.

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You have reached your destination

We meandered our way through Shropshire, and the South Wales coalfields, to reach Cardiff, our boy Joe has been working in Cardiff on his industry placement year, what a cracking time he’s been having (he’s studying civil engineering at Swansea University). There is a very handy campsite, near the city centre, (book it is you can it is fully booked more often than not) this allowed us to catch up (and feed, what student doesn’t want mum and dad to turn up and take them out for dinner?) with Joe in the evenings and we got to have a good mooch around the city, with Spud the dog, close at hand.

We were on the doorstop of The Museum of Wales, at opening time, along with a large number of school parties, but we were swift of foot, and savvy to getting ahead of school parties, before teacher could raise their clipboard, we were off and in, to see astronaut Tim Peake’s *landing capsule, which has been touring the UK, it’s got a bit of a Sutton Hoo look about it, in the background, the parachute with which it drifted down to earth or came down with a bump, depending whose story you believe.

Tim Peake 8

It was very well lit, so you could see inside, not much room to swing a cat…

Tim 1_

it looks kind of basic doesn’t it, compared to the smart phone or tablet you might be reading this blog on?

Tim Peake 4

We were comforted to see, that if all else fails, there is a ring bider or two you can refer to for instructions what to do next.

Tim Peake 5

Not sure how you recharge it though.

Tim Peake 2

It looks like it took a bit of a knock, I’m sure a bit of body filler or gaffer tape would sort it though, no harm done.

Tim Peake 3

https://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2016/06/Soyuz_TMA-19M_landing

*Tim Peak is a bit of a hero in our books, not only for what he did in space, but with what he continues to do educating  and encouraging young people into studying  STEM  sciences and with his involvement of  The Scout Association

 

 


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Just my cup of tea

I have a little china cup, once upon a time it lived in the glass fronted cabinet in the ‘front room’ of my great, great aunt’s house, one of those late Victorian rooms of heavy furniture and creaking floor boards, the lids of the china teapots in the cabinet rattled as you walked across the room.  Here she is seated, centre, I don’t remember her a being very jolly,  but I do remember, in the 1970’s her then white hair, had a nicotine stained quiff of yellow,

Jenny

Time passes and the little cup then moved on to my mum’s dresser, and now it lives in my cabinet of curiosities. It’s marked Coalport China

Coalport white_

I thought I might find out a little about it at the Coalport Museum.  What I discovered is that my plain little cup has some much grander cousins (excuse the shaky photo).

Gold teacup

It seems Coalport sold undecorated china, and it was often decorated by other companies to their specification. I prefer my little white cup, just the way it is,  I like its simplicity.

I can’t think that this little print came from the dour great Aunts house, it seems far to whimsical for her taste, but who knows.

Chinacup

 

 

 


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Tale of Two Trees

A couple of years ago I purchased two Victoria Plum trees,  it was purchase made of nostalgia, Mum always used to buy me a bag of plums on our holidays each year, in my memory they were delicious, over the years I have deduced that they must have been Victoria plums, however these days they don’t seem very easy to find in the shops.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with two trees of plums, Mr Uphilldowndale doesn’t like them, it will be the mad apple lady all over again.

However as time passes I’m not convinced the two trees are siblings. Have I been sold a pup, or is one a late developer? They are growing a few yards from each other, same amount of light etc.

Exhibit one

Victoria left_

Exhibit one, buds

Victoria left bud 2

Exhibit two

Victoria right

Victoria right blossom_

As a foot note, its true what they say, when you plant a tree you always wish you’d done it five years earlier…

 

 


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Cast in Iron

Shoreacres asked in my last post, about the difference between, cast and smelted  iron, the answer, both the long and the short versions can be found in the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron   But perhaps more readily accessible is this website

I enjoyed Shoreacres comment, this is what I love about blogging, things you’d never have known about, but for the comments of fellow bloggers…

This is so interesting. Now I’m trying to remember the difference between cast iron and smelted iron… I just learned that the difference is between cast and wrought iron. Wrought Iron is iron that has been heated and then worked with tools. Cast Iron is iron that has been melted, poured into a mold, and allowed to solidify. The difference came to mind because when I lived in Liberia, there still was so-called “Kissi money” circulating. It was made of iron by village blacksmiths, and circulated into the last century along with various other currencies.

I rather like the idea of a village blacksmith knocking out their own currency, a kind of quantitative easing?

There were many thing in the museum, made of iron that surprised me, whilst I’d seen garden benches before, I’d not seen household furniture, here a table chair and wall cupboard, how on earth did you fix a cast iron cupboard to a wall,? That’s what I want to know. It’s difficult enough hanging a picture at this house, with its ancient plaster.

Coalbrookdale furniture .jpg

As we left the museum, I was sad to see the nearby Coalbrookdale Foundry, the gates locked and in a sad state of dereliction, our old AGA would have been made there. It served many uses in our home from warming the dog,  To drying all manner of things

Snowy Mk11 Drying.jpg

And whilst our oil fired AGA is no longer with us  (it went on to a new home and will be working away somewhere) we now have a dual fuel range cooker, made by the same company, but not  it seems at this foundry.

I find this newspaper image so sad and poignant, as the employees left for the last time, after 309 years of production, they tied their boots to the iconic gates.

 

 

 

 

 


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The sum of the parts.

We’ve been been travelling around a bit over the last few months, and it’s time I caught up with my blog posts.

We took the train to Birmingham, to visit Soho House, Soho House was home to the entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, from 1766 to 1809,  it was January, it was raining, we didn’t linger on the outside, so here is sunny photo, to get you in the right frame of mind. Rather elegant isn’t it?Soho house Copy

Matthew Boulton, was a member of the Lunar Society

Soho House was also a favourite meeting place of the Lunar Society, a leading Enlightenment group. The Lunar Society would meet every month on the night of the full moon to dine, conduct experiments, and discuss philosophical matters of the day.

Members of the society included Erasmus Darwin, James Watt and Joseph Priestly who all gathered around the Lunar Room table and engaged in a lively exchange of ideas which inspired many new discoveries and inventions.

They would meet in this room

Soho house 5

To dine

Soho house 4

and no doubt have a glass of wine or two

Soho house 3

They were an amazing group of people. One of Mr Uphilldowndale’s ancestors was a member.

They were led by the larger-than-life physician Erasmus Darwin, a man of extraordinary intellectual insight with his own pioneering ideas on evolution. Others included the flamboyant entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, the brilliantly perceptive engineer James Watt whose inventions harnessed the power of steam, the radical polymath Joseph Priestley who, among his wide-ranging achievements discovered oxygen, and the innovative potter and social reformer Josiah Wedgwood. Their debates brought together philosophy, arts, science and commerce, and as well as debating and discovering, the ‘Lunarticks’ also built canals and factories, managed world-class businesses — and changed the face of Birmingham.

It seemed there was nothing they weren’t interested or curious about, this is one of Boulton’s creations, made from Derbyshire Blue John stone,  I have a little Blue John, but nothing on this scale!

Soho house 1

This is Boulton’s study, where they conducted experiments and studied fossils,

Soho house 7.jpg

I suppose those evenings must have looked something like this! (with added dramatic lighting)

Fixed size image

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump

as this painting is by one of the Lunar Society members, Joseph Wright of Derby. Note the moon visible through the window.


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The Day After the Guns Fell Silent

I’ve tried to imagine what it was like as the troops started to come home. To a landscape that had changed forever.  And wondered what those who came home, brought home with them.

Farewell_.jpg

 

Memories so horrific, that they could never be spoken of, so horrific that they haunt the subconscious twenty four hours a day. Shattered lives, broken bodies and minds, the camaraderie of shared experiences, disbanded.

Peace Poppy Cornflower

Flowers of remembrance, Flanders Fields Museum Ypres Belgium

We went to the local park, its a memorial park, with a war memorial, we gathered round at 11am, for an act of remembrance and of course two minutes silence. The rain stopped, a wind shook the trees, and a drifts of amber coloured beech leaves drifted down on us, it was easy to think of them as poppy petals.

It was special, and a lot of people had worked very hard to make it so. As just a few weeks a go a mighty oak had fallen and smashed the memorial, it was  quickly made safe and temporary repairs put in place (fortunately they panels inscribed with names, survived the impact).

There has been a lot to learn about the Great War. I’ve been discussing and reading about how  those grieving (and there can’t be many who weren’t) coped in the aftermath of WWI. It seems that it  many ways, open display of grief was suppressed as it seemed like the only way of coping. Maybe its something we’ve made a habit of?

It made me think of the other fallen oak I’d seen this year, in the Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres

Ypres Oak slice_

The dark stains are caused by the wounds of war

Oak detail

I’ve heard grief described like this, as rings within a tree, grief is not something that goes away, or is ‘got over’; its wounds stay there, inside, time passes, but the wounds, like in the damaged rings of this tree, are there, deep within and hidden from view, but always there.

Lest we forget.