9 Apr 2020

Rainbow colours in the garden

Sunny moments in the garden yesterday......

This senior blackbird is back after the Winter. 
 I can identify him as he has a funny white spot of feathers on his head.

......and some of the tulips are beginning to open :)

 Did you see the super moon last night?

These are my photos (the second one with a zoom camera lens)

Finally - we shall be out on our doorstep at 8 pm this evening even though we haven't been out beyond our front garden for several weeks and we shall be joining our neighbours on their doorsteps clapping once more to honour the NHS (National Health Service) and all carers and key workers helping us keep going in this time of crisis. It's also an opportunity to greet our neighbours. The drawing is in a neighbours' window across the road from our house.  I don't think the neighbours will mind me sharing this message: stay home, stay safe, save lives, support the NHS.
I hope everyone in your corner is keeping well.

6 Apr 2020

Huntley and Palmer Biscuit Factory and some home town memories.

In Reading Museum there's a room dedicated to the history of the town's famous biscuit production. Above is a marble bust of George Palmer, one of the partners engaged in the manufacture of this well known brand. In fact George didn't come on the scene until later.  It was his cousin, Joseph Huntley who began selling biscuits baked by his son Thomas in the 1820s. Their shop was in London Street and as it was near a coaching inn where coaches stopped for a rest Joseph started packing the biscuits in tins made by his younger son to keep them fresh.  He then sold them to the coach passengers and this second enterprise led to the foundation of  the Reading firm of tin box makers, Huntley, Bourne and Stevens.     

the London Street bakery and shop

In 1841 George Palmer became a partner of Thomas Huntley and with his expertise as a businessman the factory was established by the River Kennet and near to the railway line. After Thomas Huntley died in 1857, George was joined in the firm by his brothers William, Isaac and Samuel. The enterprise was the first steam powered biscuit factory in the world and the most important biscuit works in England.  In 1841 the firm had 41 employees and by 1914 there were several thousands working there producing 200 varieties of biscuit. It was the time of change and growth for the market town as people moved into the area from the countryside to find work. Soon workers' houses were built nearby particularly in the area by the river called New Town.  My great grandfather, a countryman from a Hampshire village, who had been a stable lad on the Wellington Estate eventually moved to Reading and settled there.  He didn't work in the factory, but was employed as a sawyer in the timber yard located by the Kennet on the factory site which took up many acres of land and he lived with his family in east Reading near the Royal Berkshire Hospital whose foundation was established in that same era of town expansion.

This ceramic sign of the 1850s would have been made for display in grocery shops and features an early view of the factory.

On the banks of Kennet's River,
In Reading's famous town,
Stands a massive pile of buildings
Of fame and world renown.
Should a stranger ask the business
Of the place, what may it be?
Say, 'tis the biscuit city
Of the famous H & P.
William Barker, Huntley & Palmer worker, 1883

 One of the tin biscuit boxes

"Breakfast Biscuits Give You Vim
Make You Fit And Keep You Slim"

A catchy slogan - I'm not sure that it would work for me.  I could do with a biscuit or two right now with a nice cup of tea. Sadly they wouldn't be H & P biscuits. 

H & P merged with Peak Frean in 1921 to form Associated Biscuit Manufacturers Ltd. and after the late 1940s the production was reduced.  In 1972 the company announced that it was leaving the town and would concentrate on existing sites and manufacture elsewhere.  The expense of re-equipping outdated machinery and the difficulty in recruiting staff brought about this decision.  In 1977 the King's Road factory was demolished and in its place the huge administrative offices of Prudential Assurance plc were built. H & P company offices remained until they too were demolished in 1991.  All that is left is the facade of one small section of the original establishment (photo below) taken on a sunny day when visiting the town.

.....and below on another visit.

The River Kennet, King's Bridge and opposite are the Prudential  Buildings.
On the extreme left Greenslades & Co Ltd. Printing Works would have stood there.

My paternal grandmother lived in a Georgian building like these in King's Road.  Her house was opposite to these ones, but amazingly was demolished, I think it must have been in the 1960s and modern buildings (more offices and flats) took their place. For some reason the above buildings must have been listed under a protection order.  I remember going to the dental practice in one of them.
As for my grandmother's home, I remember many times staying overnight. As a child the rooms seemed huge and there were many of them. There was a flight of stone steps leading to the front door of the first storey and a big garden at the back with a wooded area at the end.  This was in the 1950s when it was common for families in town to share one large dwelling and pay rent.  My twice widowed grandmother lived in the basement which had a big kitchen range, her married daughter, husband and child lived on the next floor and an unmarried daughter lived at the top of the house and as I remember another unmarried friend also lived there. Later family members qualified for social housing or bought their own house. At the time I lived with my parents in the house bought by my other grandparents when they sold the bakery business and moved outside the Borough of Reading until we also moved home.  

More about Reading Museum's collection of Huntley & Palmer artifacts another time.

2 Apr 2020

A favourite place in my home town

One of the places I'm drawn to when I visit my home town is the Old Town Hall which houses the museum and art gallery and old concert hall. Now the place is closed.  I look at photos of my home town and hope that one day things will be back to some sort of normality so that we can travel again.  One of the projects that had been taking place in the building was the refurbishment of the cafĂ©.  Little did I know that this was planned when I visited one time and took some photos.  Now the photos are a record of the changes that are now on hold. 

an old tea tricycle (1945) on display
Warrick's in Caversham Road, Reading made the Wall's Ice-cream 'Stop Me and Buy One' tricycles. Their tricycles had many different uses such as this tea tricycle above.

Also on display are items of memorabilia connected with Reading which is well known for brewing, (Simonds' Brewery, later Courage Brewery), biscuit making (Huntley and Palmer Biscuit Factory) and the growing of bulbs and seeds under trial conditions to improve their productivity (Sutton Seeds).

30 Mar 2020

March 2020 gardening roundup

The gardening continues to be an important aspect of our life and here are some photo collages of our garden at the end of March. 

The narcissi 'Thalia' (above) are the latest blooms in the garden, the nectarine in the covered yard (below) is developing fruit and the olive tree (not shown) has flower buds.

27 Mar 2020

Friday Bliss #81

It's another sunny day today so outside in the garden or indoors as we stay home the good weather continues to be appreciated.
Here are five photos of my week, joining Riitta's Friday Bliss......

I sit in the front room and read, write my journal and work on my embroidery project. I can look out of the front window and feel part of the neighbourhood community.  It's still very quiet and few people pass by.
Last evening by arrangement with our Whatsapp group for our street we agreed by text that all who were able to would stand on our respective doorsteps in order to clap and cheer and show our gratitude for all the medical and social care personnel who are working in challenging situations in our hospitals, medical centres, ambulance services, laboratories, private and care homes and related fields to look after all in need especially at this time of crisis. It was an emotional experience as our neighbours young and old stepped out into our front gardens, put porch lights on as by then it was dark and started clapping at 8pm.  We live in a crescent so we could not see everyone, but we could hear the clapping up and down the road and around the corner which is a little lane leading to the other houses. The clapping went on for at least ten minutes.  We waved to our immediate neighbours across the street and to our next door neighbours along the row of houses.  Up and down the UK in every community individuals were doing the same. Showing love and respect for the National Health Service workers was a Clap for Carers initiative.  Live television showed our local and national communities clapping as an act of appreciation.  We really felt united across the miles. We know that health workers are constantly battling away tirelessly for our benefit and we want to support them even more than ever.

There's a lot to write about in my journal.

I've got one more section of my tablecloth to embroider and I spend about an hour each afternoon on the project. I've put the tablecloth on a table to show you my progress.
This morning I picked a few primulas and miniature daffodils and arranged them in a small vase as a centre piece on our dining table.
Other things I've been doing is communicating with family, friends and neighbours, even though we're separated by distance, exchanging information and daily news, posting puzzles that we can all do together and generally keeping mentally occupied. What have you been doing to pass the time as we stay at home?
Thanks for coming by.  Have a good weekend whatever you're doing.

23 Mar 2020

Weekend happenings

Yesterday was Mother's Day in the UK or Mothering Sunday (as my own late mother would remind us).  In normal times we might have gone to a church service where the congregation would have been given a bunch of flowers by the young people to remind us of the tradition that in the olden days people working away from home, usually in domestic service, would be given time off to go home for the day to see their family, especially their mothers and would possibly take a bunch of wild flowers or a Simnel Cake which was a fruit cake made to use up ingredients at the beginning of Lent - a bit of a treat. This is one of the explanations for this day in the church calendar which has now extended to the wider UK community as Mother's Day and has become an occasion for some family time for many.
Well, we're not in normal times and with churches closed as part of the public places restrictions these physical fellowship gatherings are now taking place on line in the virtual world.  As we have not been going to church services because of mobility issues and since moving north have not felt a complete sense of connection to one Christian denomination, being ecumenical, we have recently been watching or listening to Christian television and radio programmes and have received inspiration from them instead. We think of those whose mothers are no longer with us or others who do not have children. I was grateful that our daughter down in Berkshire went to the cemetery with a bunch of flowers and tidied the family graves which she does when she can. 
All day we had phone calls from different members of our family as well as video linkups. I'm thankful that grandson recently showed me how to add an app so that family members have a group chat with us now that we are social distancing and in voluntary isolation.  Our neighbours are going to set up a chat group with a mobile app so that those in our street don't feel alone and our parish church has been in touch by email. Our next-door-neighbour has again also offered to get some basic food for us if she can find anything, talking to me at a distance as described before.  

flowers from family.....

...... and gifts including a magazine, a new transfer printed embroidery kit and embroidery thread so that I can finish off my present embroidery on the small tablecloth.  That will keep me busy for a long time as I'm a slow embroiderer and do about an hour a day in an afternoon.

20 Mar 2020

My week

We had a period of sunshine early this morning so I went into the garden and picked more of the remaining daffodils as many of them seem to have been nibbled by some creature whilst my back was turned and others are bending in the wind on their long stems.  I thought that it would be better to enjoy them indoors.  I've also opened the blinds on the front living room window as I feel that I want to connect even more with what's going on in the street and let more light in.  Of course, with social isolation/distancing and other restrictions fewer people are walking by and since we are a no-through road except for a narrow path further along that leads to another lot of houses it has always been a quiet road to live in.  
Yesterday our next-door neighbour knocked on the door and asked if we needed any shopping or other errands done such as going to collect prescriptions.  It was strange standing far apart to talk, me well back in the entrance hall and the lady in the front garden, but it was reassuring to have this connection with a neighbour and get a phone number so I can text if necessary. She was able to give us her telephone number verabally so we didn't need to come any closer and so I wrote it down as she talked.  This young family recently moved in and as the couple are both working we haven't had a chance to get to know one another.   
Royal Mail have sent a text to inform the public that they are still working and sending mail out.  The mail lady knocked yesterday and I looked out of the window and saw that she had a parcel for us which she left on the front door window ledge for me to pick up after she had gone. There are so many adjustments to make regarding living our daily lives now.  Yesterday we also had a phone conversation time slot with the doctor at the general practice surgery.  After some questions Mr P was prescribed more antibiotics for his chest infection.  He hasn't got a temperature, but again it was reassuring to have this way of communicating with the GP team.  We're very grateful for the efforts when the health system is severely overstretched.
Well, that's my week so far so here are a few random photos taken this week and from my photo archive.

skimmia japonica

purple osteospermum - a new cutting from the original plant and at the moment growing in a pot indoors

A ceramic plant pot stand which I inherited from my great aunts so it must be very early 20th century.  On the back it has a pottery mark and a Made In Germany stamp - intriguing. 
Below photos from a past visit to the Forbury Gardens in my home town of Reading, Berkshire where the Maiwand Lion is an iconic landmark monument.

A food festival was taking place in the gardens at the time of this visit.