Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blog Goes on Holiday

Tomorrow I'm off to Italy for two weeks! Dwight will be in the U.S. at about the same time, so our England phase is on a temporary hold. I will not have my laptop along, so there will be no postings until after November 7. When I return, it should be just a matter of days before we pack up for home. Surely there will be some final thoughts, so please check back later.

Piddles & Puddles

Anyone needing proof that Dorset folks have a sense of humor need look no further than a local map. There, you will find place names like Puddletown, Tolpuddle, Piddlehinton, Piddletrentide, Pratt's Bottom, Fipenny Hollow, and Fiddleford! There's also the occasional tongue-twister like Puncknowle (which is pronounced "Punnel") and Melplash as well as names with Roman ancestory like Canocorum and Ryme Intrinsica.

On Sunday, our hike started in Tolpuddle, home of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. In 1834, the regulated wages of farm laborers was cut from nine schillings a day to just seven, creating real hardship for many families. Six brave men met in secret to start what in our time would be called a labor union and were subsequently arrested and convicted on conspiracy charges. Their sentence included seven years' deportation to England's most remote colonies, where they worked on chain gangs under slavelike conditions. Public outrage ultimately resulted in their pardon, and they eventually returned to a heroes' welcome. A sculpture and a museum still stand in their memory.

From under a giant sycamore known as The Martyrs' Tree," our trail led us along the River Piddle over hill and dale across the Dorset countryside. We passed Southover Heath, Tincleton Hang, Clyffe Copse, and Cowpound Wood, eventually rejoining Southover Lane which led us back into town. There, we got in our car and drove home to plain old Weymouth.

Salisbury Cathedral

We took advantage of yet another sunny Saturday to visit Salisbury Cathedral, Britain's finest 13th Century Cathedral. Started in 1220, the cathedral took 38 years to build and is unique in being almost entirely in one architectural style, Early English Gothic. Its spire, at 404 feet, is Britain's tallest.

A choir with stringed instruments to accompany them were practicing the whole time we were inside, making the whole experience seem even more majestic. As always, the colors in the stained glass windows were what most attracted my attention, and they really sparkled on this clear autumn day.

Adjacent to the sanctuary is a room called the Chapter House. Built in the last half of the 13th Century, this was a meeting place for the cathedral's governing body. While the medieval friezes, windows, and floors have all been restored, its "bones," the stone columns and vaulting, are original. This room is home to the finest of only four surviving original (1215) Magna Carta, the document that represents the foundation of democracy and provides the basis for many Constitutions, including our own.

Leaving the cathedral, we walked a short distance to the Mompesson House, whose lovely enclosed garden also includes a tea shop. We sat in the sun and had a bowl of soup (carrot and coriander) and a pot of tea. An appropriate conclusion to a thoroughly civilized day!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Claire and Mimi

Meet Claire Youngman (left) and Mimi Walker. They are the ladies I met at Portland's Country Market who taught me about Dorset buttons and Dorset Feather Stitchery. They also took me to their craft day on Wednesday. They are the most delightful ladies! Clever and creative...and so very kind to me. Finally I had the chance to return some of that kindness.

While I was in Florida, I prepared the materials needed to make a little purse-size tissue holder that I learned from my quilting friends in Italy. I bought a variety of fabrics and cut pieces to make about a hundred of the holders. Half I gave to my Monday ladies for their guild to sell and the rest I saved for Mimi and Claire.

We sat at Mimi's table, where I walked them through the instructions. Then they made a couple completely on their own. The holder really is clever, and they were so pleased with their results. I left the remaining materials with them so they can teach their crafty ladies. Some of the holders may wind up in the Country Market, which is what I had in mind. But even if they only make one for personal use, that will be fine. I just wanted them to have something that would remind them that I passed this way and of my gratitude for their most generous welcome.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What can I say?

No use trying to hide it: I am conflicted!
Dwight came home tonight with word that we may be leaving here in three weeks.
I'm leaving for Italy next Wednesday, which means that as soon as I get back here, we're gone! Not sure I'm ready for that. More later...

Dorset Ladies on the March!

What a great week this has been! Have hardly been home for a minute!!

Yesterday I went with Claire Youngman and Mimi Walker (the country market ladies of Easton) to a craft club, where we made these lovely scissors fobs. The teacher came with an assortment of fabrics cut and ready to use, and everyone else brought their collection of beads. In less than two hours, we had hand stitched and embellished our project. They were all so different, but all very pretty. At the end of the session there was a brief business meeting and then a drawing for door prizes. I won a box of Cadbury chocolate! Can't beat that!!

On Tuesday, Quilting Jenny took me to another of her patchwork circles, her City & Guilds friends. This is a group of about a dozen ladies who had all taken a four year diploma course to prepare them for advanced careers in quilting...teaching, judging, designing. (Go to: http://www.cityandguilds.com/ and prepare to be amazed at this massive international initiative in adult education.) Even though they completed their course more than ten years ago, they continue to meet every two weeks...each one working on her own projects but with input from the others. One woman was working on a pink quilt of her own design. I wish I had taken a picture, as it was a marvel! Perhaps I will have a chance later on.

Monday has always been quilting day, but this week our group went on a road trip instead. Our destination was Sturminster Newton, where there is a warehouse full of fabric as well as knitting and other craft supplies. What pleased me most was finding so many fabrics that were made in England. It's more common for their quilting fabrics to come from the US, only at double the price we have to pay. At more than $15. per yard, I want something different!! I bought yard cuts of three lovely pieces and also added some new fat quarters to my William Morris collection and came away very satisfied.

After fabric shopping we went to a store called "Olives et al," a gourmet food store where they offered samples of almost everything. We could have made that our lunch but wound up going on to the charming village of Cerne Abbas. After a good pub lunch, we walked around the town's famous abbey and then along a shaded stream that led us back to town, where a few of their shops proved likewise interesting.

All this, and it's only Thursday morning! My calendar is clear for today, and that's not bad.

Monday, October 13, 2008

St. Catherine's Chapel

We have travelled the coast road many times and have always been intrigued by a lone chapel sitting high on a hill above Abbotsbury. We chose it as our destination for Saturday's hike.

Standing some 280 ft. above the sea, St. Catherine's Chapel has long served seafarers as a landmark on this dangerous coast. It was built around the beginning of the 15th century as a pilgrim's chapel for the nearby monestery and is constructed entirely of stone that had to be hauled up the hillside from the quarries below. It's in surprisingly good shape, and services are still held inside. They sometimes have night services where everyone carries a flashlight up the trail. That must be an amazing sight.

Partway up the terraced hillside we came to an enclosed field filled with pheasants. We had previously spotted a few pheasants (always a thrill) as we drove along remote roads, but this was clearly different. Not only were there hundreds of them, but they did not take flight when they spotted us. They just scurried away on foot! We concluded that this was a sort of pheasant farm and that they were being raised for the bespoke tables of London and Paris. I mentioned this to an English lady I was talking with yesterday, and she had another explanation. She said that pheasants are raised for sport shooting. They are kept indoors and fed by humans. Then, at about this time of year, they are released into pens to begin their transition from domesticated to wild birds. When hunting season begins in a few weeks, wealthy bird hunters will start arriving from all over the world. Personnel at the lodges where they stay will take them to strategically located hunting spots, where they will wait in hopes of bagging their prey. Just over the ridge, bird handlers will release a flock of pheasants, and Bam! I guess it's no different from walking among the lambies by day and then sitting down to a lamb shank at dinner, but somehow I didn't like the sounds of it.

This hike started in Abbotsbury along a stretch of Chesil Beach, the same Chesil Beach I have written of earlier. It begins on the Isle of Portland and extends to West Bay, some seventeen miles to the west. From an earlier picture, you may remember the size of the "pebbles" we saw in Portland: they were roughly the size of a fist. What is interesting about this beach is that the size of the pebbles decreases as you travel west. In Abbotsbury they're the size of the last joint of your thumb, and in West Bay they're no bigger than your thumb nail. It is said that smugglers coming ashore by night can tell exactly where they are by the size of the pebbles! Another interesting thing is that when huge storms blow through they can erode Portland's banks, carrying its pebbles miles down the beach. In time, however, the action of the waves and tides will sort the pebbles and return each to its proper location.