31 Jan 2013

Queenie has a new hat

Queenie has been with me for 60 years except for the years when we lived in Italy. During those times she was looked after by my mother and has always sat in Mum's childhood rocking chair.
She's a German doll with a porcelain face, jointed limbs and eyes that open and close.  Her underwear and dress, including her boots are original.  She's also wearing an embroidered overdress that belonged to our eldest daughter when she was a baby that was bought in Italy.

Queenie was given to me by my paternal great-aunts, Emily and Edith, the sisters of Thomas Henry who died in the Great War just a month after my grandmother gave birth to my father, their third child. (Mentioned in my Rememberance Day 2012 post).
Above are photos of them as young women and as elderly ladies taking tea with my paternal grandmother, Helen May.
The two sisters never married and I know Edith's sweetheart died in one of the Boer War campaigns. The two ladies lived together in the house that I eventually inherited together with many of their personal items and where I lived from the age of ten when Edith, the younger sister, died. This house still had gas lighting in the 1950s and seemed to me to be very dark and atmospheric when I went to visit as a young child.

Here's me with my doll's pram. As an only child and the oldest grandchild I received a great amount of attention and affection.  My parents and I lived with my maternal grandparents as many young families did during the years after WWII and I remember spending a lot of time with adults and being taken on visits to great aunts and uncles, including Miss Emily and Miss Edith.  Later on tree-climbing and other adventures were preferred as many of my primary school friends and cousins were boys!

Until recently Queenie has had a hat which also belonged to our elder daughter, D-M. when she was a baby - a cotton bonnet trimmed with embroidered ribbon that now seems out-of-date as a fashion for babies!

Then during our daughter's visit at Christmas she produced a parcel containing a lovely vintage hat for Queenie.

Now all she needs is a vintage coat to complete the outfit!

29 Jan 2013

Public Art: 'Barking up the Right Tree'

Leading off the Sheffield Winter Garden is the Millennium Gallery where there's a wide corridor with access to various galleries and this is where the permanent metal sculptures by Johnny White are exhibited.

'Barking up the Right Tree' was commissioned by Museums Sheffield to celebrate the opening of the Millennium Gallery in 2001.  The cutlery theme reflects the collection of metal ware, cutlery and silverware housed in the Gallery.
This unusual piece of art is kinetic and has a humorous touch.  If you press a button on the trunk-like base, the branch-like necks and round faces move with the help of levers and there's a barking sound from within the sculpture. Once again all the items of cutlery have been donated by the people of Sheffield.  I'm often in the Gallery and like to stop and watch the reaction as the buttons are pressed.  Both of the sculptures are a talking point especially by those who have been connected with the cutlery trade.

27 Jan 2013

Forkocactus spoonelliflora

One of the much-loved sculptures in the Millennium Gallery because of its kinetic aspect, is Forkocactus Spoonelliflora by the local sculptor, Johnny White, who works mainly in steel and stainless steel.  It was commissioned in 2008 to celebrate the ten years of Museums Sheffield and reflects the metal-working industry and cutlery manufacture in the city.
Plants that grow in the Winter Garden which adjoins the Millennium Gallery were the inspiration for the cactus design.

All the cutlery for the sculpture was donated by the people of Sheffield, many of whom would have had connections with the metal working industry.  There's a slot for money to drop into the base which sets off musical sounds from the percussion instruments that can be viewed through the small windows.  The money is used to support exhibition and educational projects in the museums in Sheffield.

There's another unusual sculpture in the Millennium Gallery by Johnny White which also incorporates cutlery in its design. More about that next time.

25 Jan 2013

Local industry

Detail on the lift in the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield 

There has been a metal working industry in the Sheffield area since at least the 14th century.
The proximity of iron ore, suitable grinding stones and fast-flowing streams for power led to the development of steel manufacture and the specialisation of the making of cutlery.

In my own village cutlery making as a cottage industry went on from the 16th century up to the 1920s and there were over 100 cutler's workshops.  The industry declined as these small enterprises lost business to the large cutlery works in Sheffield and the cottages and workshops that formed the original heart of the village have been demolished.
Improvements in the process of steel making continued through the 18th and 19th century due to the expertise of local inventors experimenting with different metals and better smelting techniques.

This year, 2013, will mark 100 years since stainless steel was discovered by Harry Brearley, the son of a Sheffield steel smelter. Harry had left school at the age of 12 and went to work in the city's steelworks, but then started to study metallurgy in evening classes. In his 30s he was chosen to run a new research facility funded by two of the largest steel companies where his discovery of a way to make corrosion-resistant steel transformed the industry in Sheffield.

There are reminders of metal working every, particularly in the city centre.  As a newcomer to the area I've been discovering them and making a record of them through photography.

A set of bells displayed in the Millennium Gallery Museum.
These cast steel bells are from Bassaleg Parish Church in South Wales and are a rare survival of a little known aspect of Sheffield's metal working industry.  In the second half of the 19th century Vickers of Sheffield cast over 7000 bells as a temporary alternative to the more expensive bronze bells.

In one of the city squares the artisan cutlery maker and knife grinder and
'the buffer girl' polishing them
appear from behind the shutters as the clock strikes the hour.

A steel worker, Sheffield.

I've also been looking through my cutlery drawer and sorting out the ones manufactured in Sheffield for, of course, other countries produce stainless steel and will also be celebrating the 100th anniversary of its invention with special events.

Boxed sets of cutlery. The large set was given to my parents
as a wedding present.

22 Jan 2013

Blue and White

Daybreak on Monday morning.
Snow on the fig tree.
The flowers from our grandson are still fresh.
This year's white hyacinth has a strong perfume.
A collection of coloured glass catches my attention
as I look out of the kitchen window.

We haven't been completely snowbound, but it seems as if the snow has been with us much longer due to the fact that it hasn't been melting.

We were glad to be able to get out at the weekend when the snow was lighter, but these last few days we've had heavier snowfalls.  Our granddaughter's high school was closed, but her brother's  primary school wasn't.  Different events have been cancelled.  I've felt lethargic and yesterday I was glad that I could take a short walk.  The snow, in fact, is quite dry and powdery and it has been easy to walk where the pavements have been cleared.  The danger is the ice underneath the snow on routes that have not been cleared or gritted.  

Today there has been a few hours of sunshine and signs of a slight thaw.

A walk around the neighbourhood.
Today - blue skies and some sunshine.

Gino is also happy to go in and out, but soon comes home and is pleased to
snuggle up beside us when the temperature drops and the afternoon turns to evening.

19 Jan 2013

A corner of the monastery

The day we went to the pharmacy in the outer courtyard of our local abbey was rather dull and wet so the photos, including the usually vibrantly-coloured bougainvillea, look a little washed out.  The columns are intriguing as they stand alone by the path that leads to the gatehouse quarters and the liquoreria. They may have been supporting a covered walkway and I believe they date from a time when the monastery was a Benedictine foundation and before the 13th century Cistercian one.

17 Jan 2013

An Italian hill town

A visit to any Italian hill town is a good experience.
It's worth the climb to look across the hills and valleys 
then wander around the shady, ancient streets, 
gaze into shop windows and sit at one of
the inviting cafes and have a drink in the sunshine.