Wednesday, 27 March 2013

FOLKLORIC ~ The Good Shepherds

Photo, The Mirror Newsgroup

Tonight I cannot write of pretty things. It is too cold.

I've lived in London and in remote countryside and loved both ways of life. Cities - endless shops, easy accessibility to all hour food, well lit in the darkest night.  The English countryside is full of green magic, trees, flowers, hedges, gloriously scented and full of wildlife to enchant and educate us. But in winter snow and rain can cut you off from supplies and make roads impossible to navigate. Electricity, water and heating can fail. Those postcard pretty cottages with roses round the door are often freezing in winter as oil runs out, becomes too expensive and the wood pile exhausted. 

a local cottage

Ice hangs upon thatched cottages like the long icy fingers of The Snow Queen.

During hard times it seems trivial to write of luxury which so many do not have time for nor afford.  Beauty cheers us and lifts our spirits, inspiring us to create and share. Constant deprivation wounds us deeply and we withdraw into ourselves, our homes, reaching for the fire.  Gripped in the frosty embrace of a never ending Winter it is hard to summon Hope, but we must.

Winter remains. The usual promise of Spring is with us, woods carpeted in Snow Drops and Daffodil bloom along roadsides. But the sun does not come to melt the snow. Yet Easter is nearly upon us. Whatever your religious beliefs, it is impossible not to feel the sacred in the change of season from Winter to Spring - if only it would come. The stillness upon the land is beautiful - and deadly.

From deeper countryside than where our little cottage nestles came the heartbreaking news stories of sheep frozen under drifts giving birth to lambs. Desperate shepherds are often unable to save them before the freeze takes them where they lay.

The Good Shepherd by Richard Hook

Reporters listen to farmers whisper the realisation that their life as sheep farmers is over, beaten by nature, low prices for their produce and competition in the supermarkets from foreign lamb that can magically be offered cheaper than home grown.  In the future when we drive through English and Irish countryside empty of sheep and sheep dogs will we understand that those inexpensive meals we cooked helped to cause this wasteland?

When we grow up we look back at children's stories and sometimes think them foolish. But who dares laugh now at The Snow Queen who threw Winter over Narnia?

Whether we believe in Christ or not the Shepherd is a folkloric figure. These simple people have something highly mystical about them. Living so close to nature and facing hardships alone.

Illustration by Walter Crane

 It was impossible to watch the news footage of shepherds rescuing what they could of their herds and not shed a tear. Perhaps our tears will melt the snow and bring Spring to resurrect our joy. But for those who have lived through this and lost what they once knew, innocence is gone.

Innocence 1893 by William Adolphe Bouguereau

This Easter is unlike any other which I have ever known. More than ever we require faith, in something, to help us believe that Spring will come. And helping hands and hearts.  If you are in a cold place, help each other to stay warm. Wherever that you are be amongst friends and remember to share whatever each of us have with those who have not. 

Remember our neighbours, family and friends

Friday, 8 March 2013

FOLKLORIC ~ Magic Carpet Ride

painting by Apollinari Mikhailovich Vasnetsov

There are few things in life which we love in our youth and feel the same affection for years later.  When we downsized one of the items we could not quite bear to part with was a collection of what we called our 'magic carpets'.

Source: From Moon to Moon

These vintage carpets (and cushions and hangings)  had been lovingly sourced from charity and antique shops, given to us by family and bought in markets on trips to Iran.

For over a decade we had lived in houses which needed them. They had lain on long wood corridors and been lain upon by a series of cats, some past and some present who had also graced our homes.

Our favourite Bohemian cat
One rug in particular was known to us for even longer, going back some 25 years. It had been a covering in the bed of a giant Hound named Tennyson who had gnawed on it and left little holes in the fine embroidered wool.

All of our cats have dreamed of flying on the Magic Carpets
The new cottage was small, humble,  and different. No long corridors, no dark wood polished floors or 300 year old Elm floorboards needing adornment. We considered for sometime over the future of these carpets. Some were passed on.  It was hard to part with them, each held many memories.

Meanwhile we were struggling to decorate a small garden room. 'Garden' seemed to equate to soft romantic colours, as in the shabby chic signature style of Rachel Ashwell. Lots of white, pale pink, blue, lilac and of course green. We tried to get the room together around some Wedgewood majolica leaf plates we have although they were at least two shades darker than pale.

Antique Wedgewood Majolica

 Bar them, pretty though it was, the 'shabby chic' look for us would require all new items. And what were we to do with our old 'dark decor' things that had kept our company through our youth?

And then as so often happens, an old photograph of something we loved from the past inspired us. Rudolf the most perfect of Bohemians with the kelims he loved so much. (More about him and his carpets in a later post).

 Source: House and Garden magazine, 1992, a few months before Nureyev died.
With some of his beloved carpets at his home on Li Galli, off the Amalfi coast. 
And once we saw it, we knew. The garden room,  with the tiled floor, studio pottery, oak table, peacock chair and blissful light, was in fact the perfect place for the rest of our old carpets. And, as our conservatory is nothing ancient or grand the carpets would give a much needed 'lived in' air to the modern space.
The way in which the Bloomsbury Set layered colours, textiles, paintings, pottery and sculpture has long inspired us. I had been trying to force a pretty ladylike pale and interesting scheme upon our garden room - and it just is not who we are.

Instead - viola! We can have an orange and blue garden room which picks up the colour of these wonderful magic carpets, with the green Wedgewood as accent. This room overlooks a 150 year old red brick bakehouse with terracotta roof tiles and the colours outside complement inside. If summer ever arrives we plan to plant the garden view full of  jewel coloured flowers. 

Tennyson's blanket on the carved oak bench in the conservatory,
with an Edwardian carpet underneath.

Never too many cushions.

Mrs Black loves her old carpets.

Garden rooms do not have to be pastel! Wouldn't this be a wonderful stimulating place ?

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