Wednesday, 25 May 2016

British Eccentricity on show at Chelsea

If Heath Robinson were alive today he would probably feel right at home in the Harrods British Eccentrics Garden. Spinning trees, shrubs that bob up and down, a flower border rotating around an octagonal folly, window boxes repositioning themselves and a roof that tips its hat!  

Diarmuid Gavin the brains behind the garden excels at the unconventional. In 2011, he designed a garden which he suspended 82 ft in the air!  In 2012, he recreated Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree, see previous post here. This year he pays homage to English cartoonist William Heath Robinson. “I like to have a bit of fun and try something new,” he explains.    

Heath Robinson best known for his cartoons of fantastically complicated machines died in 1944, but his madcap inventions have never been forgotten. To describe something as Heath Robinson is to portray something complicated in a funny way which is not particularly practical. The British Eccentrics Garden may not be practical, but it is certainly funny.

Imagine your surprise if you found yourself walking through this garden;

I agree with Diarmuid this garden sums up everything that is wonderful about Britain.  You don’t have to be mad to live here, but it certainly helps! This is British eccentricity at its very best.

William Heath Robinson pictured at his desk in 1929 via 

How about you – love it or loath it?

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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The Author behind the Pseudonym

Have you ever wondered why Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote as Lewis Carroll? Or why Theodor Seuss Geisel better known as Dr. Seuss had not one but two pseudonyms? Find the answers in the following infographic reblogged with the kind permission of Jonkers Rare Books.  

The Author Behind the Pseudonym #Infographic

I've been playing the literary name game and came up with Bobby Anne Harding for a possible pen name. This combination of my nickname, middle name and mother’s maiden name has quite a ring to it don’t you think?  If I wanted to disguise my gender, I could use the shorter and more masculine sounding Bob Harding.

What pen name would you / do you use?

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Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Every Cloud ...

Today I would like to introduce you to a new blogging friend. I'm not sure how Colleen and I met, perhaps I left a comment on her blog, or maybe she left one on mine. Actually thinking about it, I probably found her via the lovely Carolyn at Draffin Bears. The how and why isn't really important, I'm just happy we met. We've been in touch for a few weeks and gradually realised we share many common interests. We are both ex-booksellers with a fondness for vintage books (naturally), animals and nature. 

In one of my emails to Colleen, I recounted a story of an encounter with a fox. Colleen suggested sharing the story with you assuring me you would love it. I hope you do, but if not you must blame my new found blogging friend!  :-)  Before telling you about the fox, I should probably share a little background information. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know all this so please feel free to skip the next bit

I live in a small village close to open countryside but for a long time I hardly noticed. Intent on running a business I spent my days sitting behind a desk or travelling around the country visiting auctions and book sales. Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis (brittle bones) which I'm afraid to say I rather took with a pinch of salt. I was given several different types of medication and after six years progressed to infusion therapy, which is prescribed when a condition can no longer be treated effectively by oral medications. Eighteen months ago, I was told none of the treatments had worked and the likelihood of incurring fractures to my spine and/or hips was becoming a real possibility.

The last time I wrote about this, I was several months into a new regime of daily injections, plus walking, Pilates and Tai Chi. The course of injections came to an end last week, and I'm now awaiting the results of a bone density scan.  In the meantime, I've closed March House Books, walked many hundreds of miles, and continued to enjoy Pilates although sadly Tai Chi and I parted company.  I feel a hundred times fitter than I did last year, and I've found a whole new world just outside my door.

So back to the story … on a very blustery day at the end of April, I was following a footpath I hadn't previously walked. It was very overgrown in places, and before long I came to a stretch which was completely impassable.  Never one for giving up or turning back I decided to veer slightly off course in the hope I could rejoin the path further along. This took me into a farmer’s field where I really had no business to be. Walking directly into the wind and keeping tight to the hedge, I was intent on negotiation the boggy ground caused by several days of rain. The combination of soft ground and the wind blowing towards me must be the reason the fox didn't know I was around until I was practically on top of it. To begin with I wasn't exactly sure what I was looking at. Russet in colour, curled up in a ball and fast asleep, it could almost have been a large cat. Until it opened its eyes and fixed me with a steely gaze. Gulp!  Seconds passed before the fox slowly rose to its feet, did a graceful about-turn and slunk through a hole in the hedge.  I stood still for several minutes, but the fox didn't reappear. I cursed myself for not having a camera, but even if I had I'm not sure I would have had the gumption to take a picture.  I was raised on a farm and spent my early years playing in the woods and fields, but that is the closest encounter I've ever had with a fox. 

My camera has not left my side since that blustery day at the end of April. I've re-traced my steps several times in the hope of catching another glimpse of the fox but to no avail. 

We live in a beautiful part of Somerset, where the changing seasons ensure there is always plenty to photograph, but that didn't prepare me for this...

Can you see? In the midst of all those twigs and branches are a family of badgers!  I must have walked past this spot every day for weeks without being aware of their existence. It’s my understanding that badgers are nocturnal animals spending their days in underground burrows or ‘setts’ and only venturing out after dark.  I took the photographs on Friday afternoon of last week.  I have no idea why the badgers were out and about. It was a warm still day which is how I came to hear a slight rustling in the undergrowth.

I've walked the same path a couple of times since Friday but the badgers are nowhere to be seen, hopefully they are safely back underground. I can't tell you how privileged I feel, first a fox (scary and magical at the same time) and now a family of badgers. A win on the lottery couldn't make me any happier than I am right now.

Before I go, I would like to share these words;

I took my tray out to my secret garden and sat on the edge of the water lily pool in the warm sunshine. There is nothing like warm sunshine enveloping my body to give me a sense of well-being and a warm hug! The extra surprise to send my feeling of well-being soaring was an adorable frog who sat next to me on the edge of the pool and an aerial dance by many beautiful blue dragonflies to entertain me as I enjoyed my breakfast.  

Don’t you think that is just beautiful?  I do. To read more please visit Colleen at Appreciate beauty everyday

Have you encountered anything unusual while out walking?

Photographs; Henstridge, Somerset, Spring 2016 Barbara Fisher

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Books from my Bookshelf - Black Bramble Wood by Mollie Kaye

This is the second in a series of books written by Mollie Kaye The first book in the series Potter Pinner Meadow featured in an earlier post which you can read here should you wish.

Black Bramble Wood is a gloomy sort of place, inhabited by all kinds of creatures but none as scary as Mr. Gingertail the fox.  He lives in a house with an extremely large lock on the front door and bars on all the windows. Not that anyone would want to get in! 

Farmer Wraggs (you may recall him from Potter Pinner Meadow) lives very close to the wood, and in a corner of his farmyard lives Mrs. Prudence Pumelow and her nine little piglets. Eight of the piglets are very good, but Perkin the ninth little piglet is very naughty.

One sunny autumn day, when the leaves are turning red and yellow Mrs. Prudence Pumelow sends her children out blackberrying. She gives each of them a small basket, an acid drop to suck, and a warning not go anywhere near Black Bramble Wood... “People who go into the wood don’t always come back!” 

The sun is shining, and the hedges covered with ripe blackberries and soon all the baskets are full. All that is except for the basket belonging to Perkin’s, he picked a great many blackberries but the only thing that was full was his tummy. “Ooooh, Perkin,” said his brothers and sisters, “no blackberry pie for you.” Perkin looked at the hedges, but the remaining blackberries were all out of reach. “I shall go to Black Bramble Wood,” said Perkin Pumeloe “and I shall get more than any of you!” The eight good little pigs were horrified! “You will never come back” they said “pooh," said Perkin before tilting his little black snout in the air, picking up his basket and heading off towards the wood.

By the time Perkin reached the wood the sun was low in the sky and the trees were casting long spiky shadows. The bramble bushes, however, were covered with hundreds of big, ripe, juicy blackberries, and he picked and picked. Going from one bush to another, he failed to notice he was getting deeper and deeper into the wood. When the sun was almost gone Perkin decided it was time to go home, but he had wandered so far into the wood, he had quite lost his way.  Frightened and alone Perkin sat down on a tree root and squealed.

Just then a fox with a large ginger tail came into view. “Dear, dear, have you met with an accident?” he asked. “I've lost my way,” sniffed Perkin “How unfortunate," said the fox.  “My name is Mr. Gingertail.  Perhaps you will allow me to show you the way?”   

Presently, they came to a dwelling under a bank.  “My humble home,” said Mr. Gingertail.  “Come inside for a few moments while I find my muffler, the evening air is rather chilly and we still have a long way to go.” Now it just so happened that a little red squirrel busy gathering acorns for his supper heard Mr. Gingertail and called “Don’t go in there... run!”   Perkin replied, “Shan't” rather rudely and followed Mr. Gingertail into his house.

A little while later Mr. Gingertail came out of the house, locked the door and walked away.  The little red squirrel waited until he was out of sight and then hurried to the house and tapped on one of the heavily barred windows. “Are you all right?” he called.  “Help!” squealed Perkin.  “He says he’s going to f-f-fatten me up to make a p-p-pork pie for his birthday p-p-p-party!” 

The little red squirrel promised to help before hurrying away to look for Professor Fluster-Whuffle. He was sure the professor would be the very person to devise a plan of escape for a captured pig. Professor Fluster-Whuffle declared the matter to be a very simple one. Firstly, remove fox, secondly rescue pig. “It may sound simple," said the squirrel looking rather doubtful. “But how does one remove a fox?” “Ah," said Professor Fluster-Whuffle taking an egg out of his pocket. “This is an old Starling’s egg I found lying about and kept it in case it should come in useful." “The egg if broken would be sure to have a most unpleasant smell, we will drop it down Mr. Gingertail’s chimney, and then we will be quite certain he will leave the house."

The Professors plan may well have worked had the egg not met with an accident before the pair arrived at Mr. Gingertail’s house.  “Now what can we do” asked the squirrel. But then he had an idea “I know” he said, “on the other side of the wood beyond Gold Gorse Common there is a kennel,  we could ask the hounds to chase Mr. Gingertail out of the wood.” “Capital idea" said the Professor. “Now we just need some woodpeckers to peck open the lock.”

News of the rescue plan soon spread, and the trees around Mr. Gingertail’s house became crowded with birds eager to watch.  

Presently, the front door opened and Mr. Gingertail came out carrying a pail. Snarling at the birds he proceeded to the pool to fetch some water. Suddenly, from far away, came the sound of a hunting horn.  Mr. Gingertail dropped the pail and ran as fast as ever he could.


 As soon as Mr. Gingertail disappeared Professor Fluster-Whuffle called “Attention! One! Two! Three! GO!” How those woodpeckers worked!  Chips of wood flew in all directions as they pecked away at the lock, and it wasn't long before it fell to the ground with a loud bang. The door flew open and out rushed Perkin Pumeloe.  Guided by the birds, he dashed through the wood and across the fields, and he didn't stop running until he reached the farmyard.

Mrs. Prudence Pumelow being so pleased to have him safely home quite forgot to scold Perkin for his disobedience.  Nevertheless, from that day on he was the best little piglet in the entire farmyard.

Two things strike me about this story.  Firstly, the mention of a pack of hounds chasing a fox and secondly the good pigs portrayed as pink while the naughty pig is very definitely black.  I have a feeling this might be considered politically incorrect by today’s standards. What do you think?

M.M. Kaye, (born Aug. 21, 1908, Simla, India—died Jan. 29, 2004, Lavenham, Suffolk, Eng.), British writer and illustrator who captured life in India and Afghanistan during the Raj in her immensely popular novel The Far Pavilions (1978). The daughter of a British civil servant working in India, Kaye spent her early childhood there. She was sent to boarding school in England at age 10. After graduating from art school in England, she found work as an illustrator and soon began to write. She married a British army officer in 1945. Before achieving worldwide success with The Far Pavilions she wrote a number of children’s books (as Mollie Kaye), several detective and historical novels and three volumes of autobiography. [Encyclopaedia Britannica.]  The illustrations in Black Bramble Wood are all by Margaret Tempest.

Thanks for your visit...

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Sew in Love with Vintage Sewing Patterns

I haven’t done any dressmaking for a long time, and I don’t suppose I will start again any time soon, but that didn't deter me from buying these. I saw them in a charity shop priced at £2.50 ($3.58US) for the four, and it was love at first sight. I've seen patterns for sale at vintage markets, but they can be quite pricey, and I've always felt I needed to know more about them before splashing out. However, these were so inexpensive I figured it was a good way to start a collection.  

Home economics was mandatory when I was at school, one week we cooked and the following week we sewed. I much preferred the sewing and continued to make my own clothes throughout my teens and early twenties.

There is something very satisfying about opening a pattern, pinning it to the fabric and watching as a new creation slowly takes shape. Mini dresses were easy and fun to make. Fitting zips was the most difficult bit, especially as all my sewing was done by hand. Mum had an ‘old fashioned’ sewing machine, but it and I never got on.

This is something completely new in the collecting line for me so I've been doing a little online browsing and found a super website called Vintage Stitching if you are into sewing or collecting patterns, you might like it too. 

I have a lot to learn, but I'm eager to start collecting and these are at the very top of my ‘want’ list…


I also like some of the menswear ones like these sharp suits

and these bell-bottom slacks.

There is an interesting article at Collector’s Weekly for anyone wanting to find out more about vintage patterns. You might also like this blog post from Melly Sews; That pattern cost how much?

Thanks for your visit, your comments are always welcome. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Oliver Herford's Book of Animals - Part Two

A second helping as promised…

The Tortoise is, to say the Least,
A very Contradictory Beast.
Though he may walk the wide world o'er
He cannot step outside his Door.
The Slowest Creature 'neath the Sun
He's Noted for a Race he Won.
Ignoblest of Created Things
His Shield has Many Quarterings,
and Lastly, though Devoid of Hair
His Combs are Famous Everywhere.

This noble Beast - But, why discourse 
Upon the Virtues of the Horse?
They are too numerous to tell
Save when you have a Horse to Sell.
No Beast has done so much as He
To elevate Society.
How could Society Get on
(Or off), my child, if He were gone?
We owe him Much, yet who can say
He ever asked us to Repay?
Ah, Child! How Bright the World would be,
If Creditors were All as He. 

Oh, shun the Crocodile, my child;
He is not Tractable and mild,
Nor like the Dog, the Friend of Man.
He's built upon a Different Plan,
He is not Diffident or Shy,
He will not shrink whey you say "Fie!"
and though he's said Sometimes to Cry,
Be not Responsive to his Wail,
Nor Pat him if he wag his Tail.
This Picture's true to Every Line
Except the Smile. (The Smile is mine.)

This Pleasing Bird, I grieve to own
Is now Extinct. His Soul has Flown
To Parts Unknown, beyond the Styx
To Join the Archoeopteryx.
What Strange, Inexplicable Whim
Of Fate, was it to banish him?
When Every Day the numbers swell
Of Creatures we could spare so well:
Insects that Bite, and snakes that sting,
and many another Noxious Thing.
All these, my Child, had I my Say,
Should be Extinct this very Day.
Then would I send a Special Train
To bring the Do-do back again.

The Devil fish, or Octopus,
Has often been Held Up to us
To typify the Greedy Lusts
Of Grasping Syndicates and Trusts.
This Picture (from an Early print)
Gives us, if true, a Fearful Hint
Of his Great Size, and throws some Light
On his tremendous Appetite.
But let us, Child, whate'er we do,
Give the poor Devil fish his Due!
The Picture, I forgot to say,
Is Quite Untrue in every way.
The Moral's Plain as Plain can be:
Don't believe Everything you See. 

Oliver Herford’s Book of Animals
With pictures by the Author.
Published by Bickers & Son, London, 1906.

This one hundred and ten year old book is not in the best of condition. It has been used and enjoyed over the years, and that is what gives it its character. If you would like to know more about Oliver Herford, please see last weeks post here.

Could this be the 'early print' referred to in the Octopus poem?

*Pierre Dénys de Montfort , 1810

Thanks for calling in, have a great week.

*Pierre Dénys de Montfort  was a French naturalist, remembered for his pioneering inquiries into the existence of the gigantic octopus. Wikipedia 

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