Monday, September 16, 2019

Copenhagen two

We took the train across town to the Danish National Gallery, which was featuring an exhibition of the Danish golden age of painting.  This was a surprising phenomenon as it seemed to coincide with a low point in Danish history after Copenhagen had been bombed by the British during the Napoleonic Wars, and the state had declared itself bankrupt.  As I said, we learnt a lot about Danish history on this trip.

Moving on to the Rosenborg Slot (Castle) we could hear a military band playing in the street.  On they came, right across the park as it appears that there is a military establishment right there. 

The castle itself is built on fairy tale lines and dates from the 1600s.  Dark interiors, and wood panelling, with what we would call Jacobean fireplaces.  On the top floor, a long gallery set up as the Throne room.  Note the lions guarding the thrones.

A display of glass, backlit by the window.

And in the basement, the Crown Jewels.

At the entrance we did see two very bored-looking armed soldiers.

Then it was on to the Round Tower, once an observatory. 

Inside instead of a spiral staircase, there is a spiral ramp, wide enough to drive a horse and carriage up it. 

From the top extensive views over the city.  We were struck by the complete absence of towering modern structures, as in London.  Just traditional city blocks punctuated by traditional spires.  This undoubtedly adds to the human scale of the whole place.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


To Copenhagen, for a few days of sightseeing and culture.  We certainly know a lot more about Danish history than ever before.

We began in the National Museum, where we were intrigued by the collections of objects recovered from the bog, or Moss.  It was the custom to place objects in the bog as sacrifices, and there is some evidence of human sacrifice too.  Conquered tribes would have all their weapons given to the bog.  In this case, a large ceremonial vehicle was dismantled and buried in the bog.

From there we went on to the Slotholmen or Castle island, taking in lunch at the Black Diamond Library cafĂ© on the way.  We toured the Christiansborg castle, where the Danish Parliament sits and the Prime Minister has his office.  We were struck by the lack of security at any point around the building, unlike, for example, the British Museum.

This is the third version of the castle as it burned to the ground twice and was rebuilt in the early 1900s.

Chandeliers and damask everywhere but also some unusual imagery of wild birds.

On the way to the Castle Island we passed the Stock Exchange building, dating from the early 1600s.  Who could account for the fantastic spire on the top of this building?

We went down under the palace to look at the castle ruins, a very strange experience.  At the time of the last rebuild they excavated the remains of the earliest fortress and, instead of filling them in, they used reinforced concrete arches and built the palace and its huge tower on the top.  So we were able to see the original walls, well, baking ovens and drainage system.  

After all this, our feet were telling us to call it a day.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Denim Cables

At last, a finished object!

Some time ago I trawled through Ravelry looking for complex cable projects.  There was an unusual jumper someone had knitted using a photo of a commercially produced jumper as the source, but without a pattern.  She posted the source photo.

Enlarging it revealed the label: Derek Lam.  This is an American designer of seriously cool and expensive items and this had been in his 2012 collection.

I can do this, I thought.  I bought the yarn - Stylecraft Bellissima because I liked the colour and the slight hint of variation in it, in a denimy sort of way..

Enlarging the photo meant that I could virtually count the rows, certainly enough to start off.  I knitted the back and sleeves alongside so as to have some simpler knitting to fill in.

As the front progressed it became harder to follow exactly what was going on.  How many rows to work between each cable crossing was the big question.  Just after the armholes, I stalled.  Eventually, I decided that it did not matter exactly how the cables were placed and I just finished it off.  It was a relief, though, to reach those plaited cables at the top and to be able to consult Barbara Walker for the pattern for those.

So then, the finishing.  Thankfully, the set-in sleeves went in without a hitch.  But when I tried it on it was obvious that the back neck was too low.  Nothing daunted, I picked up the stitches along the back neck and worked short rows to fill the gap with ribbing before finishing the whole neck with I-cord.  This is probably the thing I feel most pleased about as it does look very neat, and exactly like the sort of detail a designer would have planned.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Peasant food

With our allotment in full production we are often eating peasant food these days.  On Thursday we had Borscht for lunch, followed by our own tomatoes.  For supper, we had omelette with our own potatoes and onions, accompanied by the first of the new sweetcorn - delicious!  Then a dessert of blackberry and apple foraged from the hedge.  All very healthy.

Friday, however, saw us at Le Maison Talbooth, a swanky restaurant just outside Dedham, to celebrate my husband's birthday.

It is right on the riverbank affording a tranquil view of the river bend.

My husband had a starter of cod followed by duck.

Whereas I chose the roast guinea fowl.  It was tender and delicious.

Desserts were set out to be as pretty as a picture.  This is some serious chocolate.

We ordered coffee.  Even this came with a piece of theatre:  a waitress arrived with a shiny black casket.  Inside a choice of chocolates to accompany the coffee.

About as far from peasant food as it is possible to get.

Friday, August 02, 2019

In summertime, on Bredon....

A. E. Housman has a lot to answer for...  Inspired by his poem, I booked three nights in a holiday cottage at Cow Honeybourne in the Cotswolds, thinking that we could walk on Bredon Hill and "see the coloured counties" below us, as described in the poem, after visiting my husband's stepmother in her care home.

Alas, this is as close as we got to the famous hill, although we did some walking in the modern Cotswold countryside.

We began by taking our elderly relative out to tea at a garden centre close to her care home. All was going well until we pulled out of the car-park and the car simply ground to a halt.  There we were on a very busy road, traffic whizzing past, and with a 92 year old lady in the car who cannot walk without a walking frame.  After several phone calls, the care home sent out a rescue vehicle and the AA was on its way.  Several hours later, we were in a taxi to our rented cottage and my car was being towed all the way back to Essex, a journey which had taken us four and a half hours.

So then things looked up.  We were in a converted barn, very modern and comfortable.  But more than this, and purely fortuitously, there was a railway station not ten minutes walk from the cottage.

Next day, we took the train to Evesham.  At one time Evesham was a centre for fruit-growing and asparagus - and still is.  It once had a very powerful abbey, and there are still interesting buildings to be seen there. This is the Almonry Museum which houses a very extensive collection of the specialised tools of many trades.

Curiously there are two churches within a few yards of each other and with a stupendous bell tower between.  These once served separate parishes, but now one is redundant.

Inside one of them this item, dedicated to a river god.

And, my goodness, did it rain.  We were completely soaked by the time we got back on the Great Western Railway train back to Honeybourne.

The National Trust manages many properties, and in the next village, Bretforton, there is a pub owned by the Trust.  We set off to walk across the fields to have lunch there.

Acres of strawberry fields and liquid mud did not make for pleasant walking, but the pub lived up to expectations.  We enjoyed a leisurely lunch and took a taxi back to our cottage.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Foxglove summer

To Cumbria, by train, for a week of rest and relaxation.  From what? I hear you ask.  Some weeks recently have seen me serving up the cream teas on five days out of seven, and the thought of a few days of being out on the fells or along the shore was very tempting.

The forecast was not promising: rain, light rain and flood warnings after thunderstorms were on the cards.  We began by getting very wet indeed around the ankles because the growth of grass was quite different to last year when everything was burnt out.  We booked a leisurely lunch for ourselves on the day where the most rain was threatened.  But then we found that the weather smiled on us for once, so all our planned walks were possible.

A new footpath has opened up to the top of Brackenthwaite Fell, so we had to try it out.  We parked at Lanthwaite woods and enjoyed a stroll along the river bank and through the woods.  The ascent of the fell was a gentle slope, unlike the descent where the path seemed to be steps cut into a cliff.  We felt for those who had been lured to this point by the gentle approach.

The views from the top were very rewarding, given the low level of the hill. We will be doing this walk again.

Another day took us up Rannerdale Knotts, with its long slow incline up the valley.  Sitting at the top here, eating our sandwiches, is one of the great pleasures in life.

To vary things we cycled up the coast towards Silloth.  It was a dull day when we set off.  Just a dab of suncream on the nose, I thought.  Big mistake!  The day brightened and I caught the sun.

On our last day we drove over the fell to Caldbeck, back of Skiddaw.  There is a lovely little walk along a river gorge through limestone cliffs to a mill now in ruins.  Once it used water power to drive the lathes for wood-turning, making bobbins for the textile industry.

And that evening we took a stroll along the cycle path up the coast, the low evening light catching the colours of a sequence of yellow-hammers displaying from their perches, trilling their distinctive song: "A little bit of bread and no cheeeese."  Magical.