Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Build up the bonfires  - Now the seasons turn
 Welcome in another year and let the old one burn
Build up the bonfires, light the candles bright
All the hungry spirits will be coming by tonight.

 Light the bonfires; another year has flown
Gather friends around you Don’t spend the night alone
 Sweep out the courtyard to greet the coming year
 Lay a handsome table Your visitors are here

Build up the bonfires - Now the seasons turn
Welcome in another year and let the old one burn
Build up the bonfires, light the candles bright
All the hungry spirits will be coming by tonight.

 Here come your sorrows, all your old regrets
 every broken promise and every unpaid debt
 Perched on your shoulder yearning toward the flame
 Pour them a glass of whiskey and greet them all by name

 Build up the bonfires - Now the seasons turn
Welcome in another year and let the old one burn
Build up the bonfires, light the candles bright
All the hungry spirits will be coming by tonight.

 Now make them welcome Offer them release
Offer them atonement and pray they may find peace
Give them your blessing but do not let them stay
Beat on the cans and the pots and pans
and send them on their way

Build up the bonfires - Now the seasons turn
Welcome in another year and let the old one burn
 Build up the bonfires, light the candles bright
All the hungry spirits will be coming by tonight.

Greetings at Samhain - the ancient Celtic New Year. This is another song from the album by Blanche Rowen and this time I've found the track on Youtube!
This will be my last post for a while as I'm off to the USA this weekend with my daughter. We're visiting the Deep South this time - mostly in Savannah but also five days in New Orleans so that should be fun -and probably exhausting too if I know my daughter:)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Weekend in Suffolk and a Surprise

I spent last weekend in Suffolk with my son and his family and unlike most of the rest of the country Suffolk had mild,dry weather until Sunday night so we were lucky. On Saturday my daughter-in-law packed up a picnic and off we went to West Stowe Anglo Saxon village. I always enjoy going there and seeing the experimental archaeology, this is The Farmer's House one of the houses all of which are built in the position where one of the original excavated buildings stood. The idea is that all the buildings are constructed differently in order to test theories as to how they were originally constructed. Excavation has provided some clues but a good deal is educated guesswork.

These two black pigs were busily hoovering up the acorns that had dropped from an overhanging oak tree. They seem to be permanent residents at West Stowe as they have always been there each time I've visited.

I found this hand drawn map really interesting as it gives you a real feel of how the village might have looked.

This is placed over the entrance to the Mead Hall at West Stowe, below the zoomorphic design is a sentence written using Runes but sadly I have no idea what it means. The Mead Hall was a place of feasting, singing and the telling of ancient stories, communal feasting was an important part of Anglo Saxon life.

Inside the Mead Hall which was actually very dark but of course at night it would be lit by the fire in the central hearth and by flaring torches which would throw shadows everywhere - very atmospheric for the telling of tales:)

The very regal tribal chieftain Gabriel guarded by his faithful thegn George!

West Stowe is also a country park with various woodland walks, there were plenty of fungi about, I'm putting three photos in the hope that someone, (Roy maybe?), can identify them for me. I did wonder whether this one is orange peel fungus?

This one I can't even guess at!

The shape of this makes me think parasol mushroom but are there various types or just this one?

This is the bit the boys enjoyed most - the play area:)

This is what you get in your garden when you live in the middle of nowhere - a covy of English grey partidges!  Not a great photo as it was taken through glass but it was lovely to see them. There are lots of them around and I invariably see some when  I'm driving down the lane.

The real reason for my visit to Suffolk was that Neil and Cesca wanted to organize a treat for me as a 'thank you' for helping them out during the summer. I didn't know what the treat was going to be until Saturday teatime when they told me that I was going to Colchester for 'An Evening With Ray Mears'! If they had thought all year they couldn't have come up with anything better :) Ray was absolutely brilliant, he spoke from 7.30pm until 10.40pm with just a 20 minute break. There was a large screen which showed superb photographs and video footage illustrating his talk which was largely about the Boreal Forest in the first half but afterwards covered many other areas including South Africa which was wonderful for me as I've seen for myself the animals and landscapes he was talking about. Afterwards he signed copies of his autobiography and in spite of the huge queue of people and the lateness of the hour he took time to exchange a few words with each person and then shake hands. Heaven knows what time he finally left the Hall as it was 11.15pm when we finally got out and there were still plenty of people behind us. I have to say that Ray Mears is a thoroughly nice man and exactly the same as he appears on TV. As weekends go this was a very good one!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Four Seasons

Breezes blow through the woods in springtime
Roots drink deep from the wakened earth
The young leaves shine in the quickening sunlight
Dance the song of the new year's birth

The dance goes on and it's never ending
 The circle turns and the singer sings
The year turns round but the woods in springtime
 Do not care what the winter brings.

 When the leaves are long in the days of summer
 And the light drifts through them cool and green
 The great trees stir in their dreaming sleep
 And sing slow tales of the years they've seen

 The dance goes on and it's never ending
 The circle turns and the tale unfolds
 The years turn round but the wood in summer
 Has no thought of the winter's cold.

Blackberry, hazel, and elderberry
Hang heavy and ripe in the shortening days
Bright as a banner the autumn leaves
Burn red in the old sun's dying rays

The dance goes on and it's never ending
The circle turns and returns again
The year burns on but the wood in autumn
Gathers itself for the winter's pain.

When winter bites and the leaves are falling
Through the hawthorn cold winds run
Through the dwindling day the cruel-leafed holly
Keeps safe the memory of the sun

The dance goes on and it's never ending
The circle turns and the singer sings
The year grows old but the winter wood
Still holds the memory of the spring.

The Four Seasons By Brian Pearson (From the album "Tam Lin")

 I discovered this song only recently on a CD called The Dance Goes On by Blanche Rowen and Mike Gulston. I absolutely love the words, they are precisely what my blog is all about. I've tried to find a Youtube rendering of it but sadly there doesn't seem to be one.
I've been really busy over the last couple of weeks hence the lack of posts and comments. Must do better!

Monday, September 23, 2013

German Apple Cake

A couple of recent posts about apple cake recipes by Granny Sue at Granny Sue News and Reviews and Jo Ann at Scene Through My Eyes inspired me to make a German Apple Cake and post up the recipe. I used to make it regularly when my children were all at home but haven't made one for several years. It makes a lovely pudding served warm with single (pouring) cream.

 The recipe came to me from my great friend Linda many moons ago and I've scanned the page from my recipe folder.  If you click and enlarge it you'll be able to read it without straining your eyes:)

This is the cake at the stage of adding the spicy apple mixture and before putting the dollops of cake mixture on top. I had a slice with my lunch and as DH was out and hadn't got back before I went out myself I left a note saying 'edible but not great' as I didn't think I'd beaten the batter enough before putting it all together and baking it. When I got back a rather large portion had disappeared and he was highly enthusiastic about it. Then my daughter called in on her way home from work and spotted it. Another slice disappeared 'Mmm that's good' she said. She remembered it from days of old. I still think I can do it better and make it look more attractive. I may have another go tomorrow but that one will go in the freezer!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Autumn Equinox

Today is the Autumn Equinox when the hours of  darkness and daylight are equal. This is a time of ripening fruits, berries, nuts and seeds which hold the promise of new life when  Spring comes round again. They also hold the promise of continuing life for the birds and animals who depend on them for food during the long, hard months of winter.

I love both of the illustrations that I've used in this post, the one above is by Angela Jayne Barnett and is just perfect for this month. September brings the completion of the harvest season when all the crops are safely gathered in and in days gone by this was celebrated by all those who worked on the land - a rather more robust celebration than the feeble shadow that passes for harvest festival nowadays! Although I confess that I have always loved the rousing harvest hymn 'Come, Ye Thankful People, Come' - largely because of the music that it is sung to:)

Come, ye thankful people, come
raise the song of harvest home,
All is safely gathered in
ere the winter storms begin

From today we begin the long, slow (we hope!) descent into winter as the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer. Already the bracken is turning brown and the first  red, yellow and bronze leaves are appearing as the trees begin to withdraw the energy into their roots ready for the long winter's sleep. The circle is turning again as we move into this lovely season.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Chesters and Vindolanda

Our final visit on the second day was to Chesters which was by far the most attractive of the sites we saw - it also sells fabulous ice cream:) The setting is really lovely and it was helped by a blue sky and warm sunshine.
The river is the North Tyne. 
This will be a long photo heavy post but this is because my blog acts as a kind of diary for me rather than because I think that everyone is so desperately interested. In fact I can already hear cries of  'oh no, not more Roman ruins!'  :):)   Many of these photos will be clearer if you click on them to enlarge them.

The preservation is pretty good at Chesters, this is part of the Barracks. For most of its time Chesters was home to the 500 men of the Second Cavalry Regiment of Asturians from Spain. The barracks would have had stabling for the horses as well as accommodation for the men - eight men to a room with separate houses for the officers. 

This is the Commanding Officer's House which has its own private Bath House - the difference between the COs living quarters and those of the men was substantial!

The Bath House at Chesters is one of the best preserved buildings of Roman Britain. Itwas an important part of the fort, the Romans were aware that where so many men were housed at close quarters hygiene was an important consideration. The Bath House was also a place which acted as a social centre. The men not only went there to get clean (by being covered in oil which was then scraped off with a strigil) but they could also recline on the stone benches in the various rooms chatting or playing board games. My shadow was an unavoidable part of the photo due to the late afternoon sun:)

The Hot Bath - there were several rooms of varying temperatures from cold to really hot and usually a plunge pool too.

The final photo from Chesters shows the Strong Room at the back of the Headquarters Building

Not far from Chesters at Carrawburgh is the Temple of Mithras. The Eastern cult of Mithraism was a very popular one with Roman soldiers. It's interesting as well, more about it if you follow this link.

A close up of the three altars (replicas, the originals are in the Museum of Antiquities at Newcastle)which stand at the far end of the temple. The altar on the left shows Mithras as Charioteer of the Sun. The carving is done in such a way that a lamp placed in the hollow behind Mithras will cause the rays to light up. As a matter of fact the way the sunlight is falling on it gives you an idea of the effect the lighted lamp would have.
The annoying thing about this stop is that I didn't discover until too late is that just a little way further on is Coventina's Well. I'm researching the gods and goddesses of the Brigantes tribe and Coventina is one of these. I believe there's little there now other than the spring but just the same I would have loved to have seen it.

The final morning was spent at Vindolanda which is famous for the wood tablets that give a wonderful insight into daily life in this fort on the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. There are work assignments, lists of stores, a letter (probably from the soldier's Mum!) saying ' I have sent you ...pairs of socks from Sattua, two pairs of sandals and two pairs of underpants' :) Another one is to Sulpicia Lepidina, the wife of the fort's commanding officer, from Claudia Severa, the wife of the CO of a neighbouring fort,inviting Sulpicia to a birthday party. All of which has nothing whatever to do with the photo above which is a reconstruction of one of the timber milecastle gateways on Hadrian's Wall.

Vindolanda had excellent water supplies from wells and water tanks fed by springs and streams. Above is a stone slab water tank, the water was channeled to the fort and civilian buildings in stone aqueducts or timber pipes.

This is the remains of a mausoleum, one of several outside the gates of the fort. The Romans didn't allow burials within the boundaries of their forts or towns and the roads leading to them were often lined with tombs and mausoleums

Outside every Roman fort there grew up a civilian population eager to part the soldiers from their hard earned money. Many of the soldiers had families living in the vicus too although they weren't allowed to marry while they were serving soldiers. The vicus contained shops of all descriptions, pubs, both craft and industrial workshops and domestic housing. This is the road leading from the vicus through the West gate into the fort.

This was probably a butchers shop with drainage channels in the floor.

Inside the fort itself this is what remains of the Military Bath House, the artist's impression below shows how it would have looked originally. The steps on the right of the first photo are clearly visible and the pillars to the left  would have supported the floor of the hot dry room and the cold room with the changing rooms to the left of that. If you enlarge the photos it will be clearer:) Note the latrine at the front of the artist's impression - the Romans were a very sociable lot!

The fort contained the usual Principia (HQ building), Praetorium (C/Os house), Horrea(granaries) and Barracks. The photo shows part of the private bath house in the commanding officer's residence. You can see the pilae of the hypocaust system that was used to heat not only bath houses but homes as well. Hot air from a furnace circulated under the floor that was built on top of the pilae. Spaces were left inside the walls so that the hot air and smoke could escape through flues in the roof. Clever chaps these Romans!

I've put in this photo of the Headquarters Building to try and give an idea of the size of it - it really was large and impressive. 

This is on the top right of the above photo near the little tiny people, it's the strong room behind the central shrine.

This is one of the fort latrines - you have to imagine a row of wooden benches along three sides with about 16 hinged seats:) You can see the two channels down the central floor too which would contain running water for washing sponges. I leave the rest to your imagination!  

These hut circles date from about AD208-211 when the Emperor Septimius Severus was campaigning against the northern tribes in Scotland. No-one really knows who they housed - possibly hostages or refugees from friendly tribes looking for protection from the warfare in the north. The earlier Severan fort lay further to the east of the current fort wall

Vindolanda is still being excavated and every summer volunteer diggers come from not only all parts of Britain but from all over the world to help with this vast project. There's a great deal still to be discovered here. There is also an excellent Museum which houses many of the finds including the writing tablets. After a spot of lunch in the cafe(also very good) I set off on the long drive home - the sort I hate, nearly all motorway which is both busy and boring. Worth it for the wonderful experience of walking the Wall though.