Monday, 20 October 2014

Happy Birthday Lenny … Where is Lenny? At home with his critters …

… or would he rather be here … this all started with a birthday present … the Natural History Museum at Tring?
Lionel Rothschild

Lenny – sorreeee …. I don’t think we can manage a few million …. but we can send amplitudes of thoughts … on this your special day …

Have a very happy 15th birthday day
lots of excuses to wear those expando pants?!
Lionel Walter Rothschild was the man behind the museum … he started collecting insects and birds aged 7.  By the time he was 10 he’d set up his first museum in the garden shed.  By the time he was 20 … his collections were bursting out of stores all over the family estate …

Galleries of  long, large, weird and wonderful -
and yes fur and claw, hand and paw
He kept an astonishing variety of animals in the grounds around the Museum and in Tring Park, his family’s home, including zebras, a tame wolf, rheas, kangaroos, kiwis, cassowaries and giant tortoises.  He even drove a team of zebras in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace – wonder what they’d say today?

A Tibetan Lynx
So what to do for his 21st?  His parents gave him some cash and some land on the estate at Tring to build a bigger museum.  This is still the museum – now owned by the Natural History Museum.

His family were an immensely wealthy banking family … for a while Walter tried his hand at banking – but his passion was with his collections.  He spent the rest of his life and most of his personal fortune building the largest zoological collection ever made by one person.

Curls and curves, prongs and points:
antelope shown here
Thousands of stuffed mammals, birds, and other creatures are on show in the galleries … the tip of the iceberg!  At its peak, his collection also contained more than two million butterflies, moths and other insects, bird skins and bird eggs …

Mantis Shrimps, Box Jelly Fish ...
and oh yes Hilary taking that photo
This eccentric man in 1937 left his collection to the Natural History section of the British Museum (now separate institutions).

Have a wonderful 15th Birthday Lenny … with lots of fun at home and with friends around the blogosphere …

Now we’ve found you – we’ll hang on to you once again … now I know you’re in with the critters I’ll be looking out for you … which gallery though?  Fur and fangs, barks and bites, or Fancy birds but no flight, or Hop, hang, slither and swim, or Hall of horns, or Stripes stacked and packed, or one of the others ... flying with the beautiful birds dreaming, dre-e-a-a-m-i-n-g wonderful stories and poems .... 

... with a critterly hug or two … from GrandBlogMom ... to a very special lad - Lenny Lee.

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 17 October 2014

Who Dunnit? A Cluedo Style Mystery ...

This was part of a creative challenge a few years ago … we were given nine words to be included into a ‘story’ of 100 words … I ended up writing a mystery – and then as is the way – the other participants asked Who had done it?

I hadn’t set out to do this … but this is what happened … obviously the detective will need some time to work out who dun it!! … and so that post will appear in a week to ten days … as there are a couple of other posts to get up first.

The words to be used were …

            • Timothy; Rena and Jerome
            • A Fly
            • Magnitude
            • Typography
            • Death
            • Closet
            • Swell

No Miss Scarlett is alive and well - nor
was the revolver used and we know Timothy
died in the Closet (the new room)

Cluedo (Clue in North America) is a murder mystery board game for 3 – 6 players … many of you will have heard of it, played it and at least probably know the characters.

6 suspects: 
        • Miss Scarlett
        • Professor Plum
        • Mrs Peacock
        • Reverent Green
        • Colonel Mustard
        • Mrs White


    • Candlestick
    • Dagger/Knife
    • Lead Pipe
    • Revolver
    • Rope
    • Spanner/Wrench

Rooms in the mansion where the murder can take place:  and, of course, I see the image I selected doesn't match the names we use in the British version of the game - sorreee!

  • Kitchen
  • Ballroom
  • Conservatory
  • Billiard Room
  • Library
  • Study
  • Lounge
  • Hall
  • Dining Room
  • “Cellar” – where the cards are hidden with the answer

The deck of cards … one of each type is selected and hidden – the aim is to deduce the details of the murder … by rolling the dice and having the opportunity to collect clues …. there are apparently 324 possibilities …

My version follows along similar lines – the setting gives you the idea – with a ‘new room’: 

A Cluedo Mystery … Who Done It?

The fly buzzed around Timothy, death was not far away; the swell of the closet curtains in the evening breeze showed the air circulating, keeping it fresh for now.

Rena and Jerome worked happily on with their typography, the magnitude of their father’s project keeping them fully involved – forgetting about his ‘temporary’ absence.

Joe, the typesetter, Amanda, the glyph modifier, Andrew, the art director, worked nearby. Cluedo has a new room, new death and new murderer. Who murdered Timothy in the closet with a typesetter’s lead-based alloy?

Looks pretty real to me - but I sure hope not!
One of the characters murdered Timothy, but how and with what … we know it happened in a ‘new room’ … but the story idea is based on Cluedo – though there’s a Hilary twist (there is a clue though) …

So none of the story characters actually killed Timothy, who died in the Closet ... one of the Cluedo characters using one of the weapons contain the key ... 

Well we know it's not the dining room, nor
the revolver ... the dice is not a weapon ...
This took me out of my comfort zone … but I enjoyed the experience of writing the 94 word plot, devising a story around the nine word prompts … others participated – but I can’t find the blog posts any more … 

... and thought I’d like to get it onto my blog … with the story answer to follow shortly ... 

Any ideas??

The few of you who read this just over four years ago .... pretty please don't tell!!  Thank you.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Peterborough, Bakewell, Malvern, Barnsley …

… these are some of my favourite things found as Jenny and I journeyed around middle England.  We also visited three other cousins of my mother’s vintage … which I enjoyed as it gave me a chance to catch up … and being the family chauffeur to Jenny helped her, as her home is in Vancouver Island.
Peterborough Cathedral

First stop Peterborough … an amazing place … we stayed in the old coaching inn – on the main road to the north, and where Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, is buried …

The Abbey escaped Henry’s Dissolution to transform into one of the ‘new’ Cathedrals … probably because Catherine was buried there.

Butter Cross - now Guildhall
The Parliamentary soldiers in the Civil War in 1643 ransacked the cathedral, destroying the high altar and choir stalls, as well as the medieval decoration and documents.

This lovely building is the Butter Cross, on the site of the old Market Cross, now known as the Guildhall and was built from public subscription in 1669.

Coat of Arms with
interesting clock face

As we’d been late arriving due to motorway snarl ups and encouraging (yes for the gardens, not for us) rainstorms!  We’d missed opening hours … so Sunday morning before we went on …

… we took ourselves off to have a quick squizz inside the Cathedral and listen to Choral Matins … wonderful acoustics … I’d have loved to seen more – but another day …

Bakewell Church and village -
even in the snow it looks lovely

Our next non-family setting was the beautiful Derbyshire Dales … except it was raining heavily with low-hanging clouds … so once again we have to return.

We did try Bakewell pudding the original precursor to our more modern Bakewell tart – that I love, when I dare eat it!!

Bakewell Pudding according
to old recipe
This was created when the cook wasn't concentration and muddled up the ingredients ... still that one mistake has stood the test of time!

1837 Recipe for Bakewell pudding

Also after Jane Austen had visited the village – she rewrote certain of her scenes, using the vistas of the Dales that Elizabeth Bennet described in Pride and Prejudice.

Thankfully we took Jenny’s route … I’d wanted to travel the lanes – but the newsagent had said to me if you go down to the woods today you will meet very large puddles and floods – and he would have been very right! There were local floods we found out later.

Abbey Hotel covered in Virginia Creeper
Next stop was Malvern … the Malvern of Elgar, the composer of “Land of Hope and Glory”, and ‘taking the waters’ … that was not funny!  Desperate times I suspect … still Jenny and I noticed how incredibly soft the water is … de-soaping took some doing.

Malvern Hills

We drove round the Malvern Hills … just stunning countryside and definitely a return visit is due …

Next stop Jenny’s publishers just outside Stroud, at a port – another interesting historical snippet; that was successful – putting Jenny’s mind at rest over one new book, with a second likely.

The courtyard garden at the pub

Then on again towards Oxford … but some lunch first … why I waited I’ve no idea … but suddenly there was a village pub (The Village Pub) and in we turned to park.

Twice-baked Cheese Souffle
What a successful choice – very upmarket granted – but really delightful … and what a menu … Jenny had the twice-baked cheese soufflĂ©, while I had the Cornish Fish Soup – can’t resist the Cornish bit … with some lovely home-made bread …

Cornish Fish Soup with
Saffron Mayonnaise and garlic toasts
We then walked up to the Church … before journeying on to Oxford … and our last night.  Jenny was meeting the archivist for the Bodleian/Rhodes Library to make some final arrangements re handing over most of Emily Hobhouse’s (1860 – 1926) papers for research purposes: another successful accomplishment.

Jenny went to London by train as she is now in Germany visiting Berlin and Leipzig before coming back via London on her way home to Vancouver Island.

Abbey Gatehouse with
Museum above
 We had a very happy trip … no satellite navigation … but the brain works just as well!  Lots of food … with some very enjoyable chats about all manner of subjects – mostly historical …

Frankly Jenny puts me into the shade … after two weeks in Iberia on a coach tour; over to England, down to Cornwall, as that’s where Jenny’s Hobhouse relatives come from, as do our mother’s.

Barnsley Church -
Back via relatives, before we embarked on our round middle England trip – then as I mentioned she’s now over in Germany – as Emily was involved in setting up The Save the Children Fund … and is researching other details.

There’s a lot to tell you … but I’m wilting after just six days of travelling around … but Jenny was very happy having me as a chauffeur-chatterer-historian …

I’ve been to parts of England I’d never visited and by checking up things on the ipad we both learnt lots … now to return to a degree of normality … though I could happily repeat the experience!!

Panorama of Malvern Hills with
Little Malvern Priory taking centre stage

I sent a thank you letter up to our relatives in Newark, one of the sisters is in hospital after a stroke, and her niece and sister visited today – and read parts of the letter out … it engaged the patient, I’m pleased to say.  Interaction is the key with elderlies and especially those who are sick.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 3 October 2014

Pietro Antonio Narducci and his “Sacra Mantra” …

 … the “New Jersey Lizard from the Swamps”, as he was known by his contemporaries at the Cedar Tavern in Manhattan, called his artistic pursuit – “the sacred search or journey”.
c/o de la Warr Pavilion

I suppose if I told you I’ve been looking for more information on this particular exhibition: “A Secret Service … Art, Compulsion, Concealment” for seven and half years – you’ll nod and say, yes, that sounds like you!

I had taken my uncle for a day out … before my mother was ill … when we went down to the coast to visit the area my paternal grandmother had moved to, his MIL: Bexhill-on-Sea.

We found the lane she used to live in – the house had been razed and they’d turned the area into a housing estate – sad: I remember very little of that era.

The staircase looking seawards
and across to the bandstand
The exhibition beckoned at the de la Warr Pavilion, some considered it an art-deco style museum, others the first Modernist building in England, built in 1935.

I’d no idea about the Exhibition … but they do have a good cafĂ©-restaurant so we could look out over the sea … and watch the world go by.

I couldn’t get to grips with the Exhibition – it was way too modern for me – and I hadn’t started blogging … so my boundaries had not burst open.

My uncle couldn’t get his head round it either and declined to read the associated leaflet – a folded A4 sheet on cheap paper (possibly emulating 1950s paper), with a lot of detail in very small print.

The stunning handrail at the Pavilion

I had held on to the leaflet – it didn’t enlighten me … because I could find nothing on the internet about “A Secret Service” and the PAN Art Museum and Institute.  What on earth was it …

But I don’t give up … I had driven out to the Pavilion to ask ... the curator suggested it was probably the “A Secret Service” Exhibition … I still couldn’t find anything: I hadn’t typed in the qualifying words “Art, Compulsion, Concealment” … and I wasn’t after Secret Services!

This week I found the scrap of paper with the curator’s name on and his title suggestion … so I had another look: bingo ... I found the details …

I have no idea what fascinated me other than that seven and a half year itch would not leave: I needed to satisfy my curiosity …

Once I read the de la Warr’s exhibition notes on their website it all began to make sense … Richard Grayson, the artist and curator, had brought the Hayward Gallery Touring Exhibition to Bexhill.

Sixteen artists were featured spanning nearly 100 years of artistic expression … with me concentrating on the explanation about the PAN Art Museum and Institute (PAN for Pietro Antonio Narducci) in the small New Jersey town of Denville: which was my point of interest.

The Museum now houses the entire Narducci archive … at a rough estimate over 2,000 works in a wide variety of media. (I cannot even find details on this museum ... but I'm not taking a trip to New Jersey to find out!)

A palette of colours ... not Narducci's
The Independent’s obituary gives you a full write up about this incredibly talented artist … link at end of post; Narducci was one of the founding members of the Abstract Expressionism and Modernism … his main friends at the time were Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko …

He refused to exhibit ever again after students destroyed a classical fresco of wild stallions … he then became reclusive, painting for his creative muse …

Narducci's eagle logo for
American Airlines

While working and experimenting he needed to earn a living … so obtained work of all sorts including antique dealing and designing as a graphic artist – the American Airlines eagle logo is a Narducci original.

He moved from New York to Jersey, and founded a private museum filled exclusively with his own work, closed to visitors until after his death.

The PAN museum is a warren of small rooms, where Narducci lived and worked in the last decades of his life …

A Hubble image
He moved from neo-classical to Abstract Expressionism, to working with light and sound waves … to do this he used an oscilloscope wired to a camera kept on his fire escape pointing at the sun: the first ever paintings done utilising the energy of the sun …

… you’ll see some staggeringly amazing artworks in the video on the first retrospective, right from the first few seconds …

Here’s a story teller through his life’s works, who could think beyond our planet’s atmosphere, to express the art shown to us in Space … who could ‘predict’ what the Hubble Telescope would show us a few years later …

Another Hubble image
A professional, highly trained artist – one who was respected by the famous artists of his era … one who through the Exhibition “A Secret Service” kept this blogger on tenterhooks for over seven years to tell his story to another audience …

Enjoy our Sacred Mantra … I am somewhat surprised that I finally found my answer to the PAN Art Museum and Institute … it has been a stippled search over the years … but what an incredible artist …

The Gold-Dust Gecko

He was so ahead of his time … but where else would we find art and Hubble, painting with the sun … then tied in to another Positive Letters Inspirational Story …

The Independent’s Obituary of Pietro Antonio Narducci

The de la Warr’s article on the “A Secret Service”Exhibition 

Narducci Art  - his daughters' website on his art

DTR Modern Galleries – who hosted, with Narducci’s daughters, the first retrospective of his works – the video is just under 6 minutes … but oh so worth watching  …

I'm off round middle England for a series of one-night stands,as a chauffeur, with Jenny from Vancouver Island - seeing elderly cousins, visiting her publishers and the archivist at Rhodes Library in Oxford.  I'm not away for long and hope to get on-line as I go ... I will be around!

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 29 September 2014

I like Tomato and you like Tomahto … today is "Haf Bach Mihangel"

… that ubiquitous fruit … the red berry of the nightshade family, Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as the tomato plant … is having a bumper year …

Tomatoes or Tomahtoes
… as too are the hedgerows … full of blackberries, damsons, sloes, rose hips, hazel nuts et al …

… the orchards are carrying heavy, heavy loads … hops are hopping happily … bumper harvests for the beer crew, the cider and perry lads and lasses will be well satisfied …

Tall growing hops
… misty fields curve into the horizons hold ghostly runs, creative webs glistening with dew, ripples of tall grasses, thistles, red fescue grasses … weasel runs, vole ‘twittens’, dormice hidey holes …

… following on from Marine Conservation … our fields also need protection … surveys have found that hundreds of species of plant and invertebrate live within the space of just one human footprint in rough grassland –bears thinking about and remembering.

Berries, fruits and hips
Our fields, lands and seas hold a dynamic, complex and ancient web of life …

I’ve written about an oak tree being a veritable haven for wildlife … but how about the humble spiky thistle … offering a rich source of nectar for butterflies – painted ladies, peacocks, red admirals, meadow browns, small tortoiseshells and large white and small coppers all feed on these prickly purple bristles …

Thistle with Meadow Brown

… this same thistle will support more than one hundred species of invertebrate, including moths, hover flies, beetles, aphids and snails … every part of the plant is used in every stage of its life cycle …

We here in Western Europe have had a glorious summer, which I’m happy to say is continuing … bliss – our temperatures are what we had in August – and that was a warm month …

… the mists of mellow fruitfulness draw in … John Clare’s poem “Haymaking” (1793 – 1864) remind us of times gone by – two hundred odd years of them …

‘Tis haytime and the red-complexioned sun
Was scarcely up ere blackbirds had begun
Along the meadow hedges here and there
To sing loud songs to the sweet-smelling air
Where breath of flowers and grass and happy cow
Fling o’er one’s senses streams of fragrance now
While in some pleasant nook the swain and maid
Lean o’er their rakes and loiter in the shade
Or bend a minute o’er the bridge and throw
Crumbs in their leisure to the fish below
-        Hark at that happy shout – and song between
‘Tis pleasure’s birthday in her meadow scene.
What joy seems half so rich from pleasure won
As the loud laugh of maidens in the sun?

Our Indian Summer is not an Indian Summer I understand – this occurs in late September to mid-November ... and is usually described as occurring after a killing frost – we may have had some gentle frosts … but not down here on the south coast.

John Constable's The Hay Wain (1821)
It used to be called St Martin’s summer, referring to St Martin’s Day, November 11th – though that day now has another name: Remembrance Day … an alternative was “Saint Luke’s summer”, whose saint’s day falls on 18 October.

Perhaps appropriately I shall call today’s post in Welsh ‘Haf Bach Mihangel’ or “Michael’s little summer”, as Michaelmas, the feast of St Michael the Archangel occurs today the 29th September.

Hoverflies - various

This will be a misnomer this year … as this week wanes to a close … the weather, here in the UK, is changing and we’re in for more seasonal weather: cooler with some rain.  It had been 5 degC higher than normal!

Ready to enjoy your autumnal harvest … English Bramleys for apple pies … thick and buttery laden pastry (home-made), balanced perfectly with the tart of the apple and the sweetness of the brown sugar … to be smothered in double cream – after a hard-day’s work clearing leaves: just what we need.

Take your pick ... 
We’ve 2,000 varieties of apples (over 7,000 world-wide) growing in our gardens, orchards and hedgerows … and we are planting trees at our homes … a crisp apple from the tree – a slice of cheddar … and a pint (or half) of beer of the 46 million craft-ale pints that are produced from one farm … bumper is the word, this year .. enjoyed in these last of the warm sunny days.

Roast pork with apple sauce and trimmings

A Sunday roast – fragrant roast pork with curried apple relish … followed by ricotta pancakes with sticky maple apple to finish off that lunchtime feast ..

Supper dishes … creamy roasted tomato soup with some herby buttery bread, baked tomatoes with a game sausage or two and mustard mash, pizza with home-made tomato sauce …

Tomato pizza
Baked fruits of varying sorts … pears or apples, damsons tucked into a frangipane tart, blackberries gently stewed served with ice-cream …

Our abundant crops must be made the most of ... bottled, canned, frozen, pickled … yet we must remember our wildlife … which we need to protect, to leave some of our bounty … as the hymn says …

'Lost Count' birthday celebration - chocolate roulade, with
blackberry frangipane tart as another choice
We thank thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest, our life, our health, our food;
Accept the gifts we offer, for all Thy love imparts,
But what Thou most desirest, our humble, thankful hearts.

It is a wonderful bountiful year … we can gather, we can leave some for the wildlife, we can be guardians to our lands … and remember to waste not want not.

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories