Monday, 31 December 2012

Fairground swag.

Fairground 'swag' is the name given to the prizes handed out from the round stalls and shooting galleries at a fair. Most are prizes are for a game of skill such as hooking a duck, hoopla, darts and throwing balls. Years ago the prizes were gaudy cups and saucers, small china ornaments
(china-fairings) and plaster figures and animals such as the alsation. From 1910 to 1940 a lot of these figures  in chalkware could be found on the fairs, now rather kitcsh and popular with the vintage look. The victorian prize of a coconut was highly thought of, again because of it was not readily available and was expensive .  Click to link -  I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts !  To own a goldfish in the late victorian era was a sign of status and extremely fashionable so also attracted the punters. The first public aquarium opened in Londons Hyde park in 1853 and along with the ending of the hundred year tax on glass led to the ability for more people to own their own aquariums. 
These days the prizes still follow the fads and fashions of the time, such as favourite cartoon characters, spongebob square pants, Hello Kitty and smurfs. I was suprised this year to also see prizes of packets of cigarettes and small bottles of alcohall, all looking rather incongurous alongside Winnie the pooh and pink fluffy teddies!

Hook a duck


 It was Billy Butlin in the 1920's that made the goldfish in a bag really popular. There are a lot of people against the giving of goldfish as a prize because of so many not being looked after. This stall had bowls ,food and information to help them stay alive. One fairground goldfish called Tish, won on a roll-a-penny lived for 43 years even though it tried to jump out of its bowl when he was 19 years old after the death of his old companion fish called Tosh. I didn't realise that a goldfish should live at least 15 to 20 years and if it dies before then there must be something wrong with the water !

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas and the Fly agaric Mushroom

Image result for fly agaric old illustrations

I recently came across this seasonal story. A lot of the Father Christmas stories, flying reindeer, red suit, coming down chimneys etc appear to come from the Koryaks or Kamchadales of Siberia, near the North Pole. A Koryak shaman would use hallucinogenic mushrooms, fly agaric on the night of the winter soltice. He used his 'spiritual ' journey to fly to the tree of life, a large pine tree which lived by the north star. There he would try to answer the villages problems.

The shaman would dress in an outfit of red with white spots or trim and would go out in the snow with a sack to collect the dried mushrooms. If his gur (yurt as we call them) was blocked by snow he would climb to the top and slide down the central pole through the chimney hole. He would give his guests that were gathered in the yurt mushrooms . Did you know that the traditional symbol for victorian chimney sweeps was a fly agaric mushroom.
 The flyagaric also gave the shaman a burst of superhuman maybe the reindeer would prance around much higher than normal. Perhaps the reindeer and the shaman all thought they were flying !
Image result for xmas reindeer old illustrations

It was probably the druids who originally brought the story to England. The English settlers took it to the New World with the influence of the Turkish St. Nicholas from the Dutch colonialists.
The early Santa wore red but was small and elf like. It was in the 1930s that  the artist Haddon Sundblom created the Father Christmas that we know and love for the Coca cola campaigns.
Merry Christmas !

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Lovely seaweed...or sea vegetable.

I'm sure we have all taken a bit of seaweed home to hang on a door so an try to forecast the weather. Its dry when warm and starts to go limp and soggy when the air starts to get damp. I brought some home from North Berwick but daftly forgot it and then found it weeks later rotting in the bottom of a carrier bag...yuk !
Robert Louis Stevenson described North Berwick as ''A fishing village with drying nets, scolding wives, the smell of fish and seaweed and the blowing sands ''
Seaweed has traditionally been used as food,medicine, fodder and fertiliser.
The seaweeds in North Berwick are impressive, beautiful clear sea water and ragged rocks showed them at their best.
Limpets are the main prey of seaweed.
On Lewis on All Hallows Eve- 31st November the start of the Celtic new year people would walk in a procession from the church to the sea. A man would then wade in and offer a cup of beer to the sea god Shoney.The Shoney are now thought to be fairies living off the coast of Scotland and Ireland.

The first seaweeds collected on New Years day in Aberdeenshire would be put around doors to give thanks for good harvests.
On Maundy Thursday in the Hebrides a huge pot of Porridge was poured over a cliff side into the sea to the sea gods, all praying for a good seaweed harvest.
Kelpies are faeries that live in water. are small with large teeth and pointed ears are known as being sly and stupid. They would appear as seahorses and try to get humans to ride on them so that they could drown them. Kelpies could also change into handsome young men with seaweed as hair tempting ladies to their deaths.
Why did the seaweed blush ? Because it saw the ships bottom !
For more uses of seaweed please use the following link -

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Beatrix Potter

A light hearted blog -One visit that I couldn't resist this summer was a trip to see Hill Top,Near Sawrey, the home of Beatrix Potter. A lovely illustrator and ft artist Gretel Parker had accidentally let slip that she had nicknamed me Mrs Tiggy Winkle !
Mrs Tiggy Winkle Click to watch film...I always think it's rather nice to do a little dance up the garden path...If everyone did we would all have a good reason to smile !
 I was quite happy with this I always remember her in the film/ballet bumbling over the fields....yes I'm very happy to have that nickname.
Hill Top
Some of the buildings in the village were illustrated by her in her stories.
Peter Rabbit
Anvil Cottage- The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, and Post Box in Peter Rabbits Almanac (page 67 )
Anvil Cottage
Ginger and Pickles shop - The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (page 18)
Tower Bank Arms -The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck (page 42)

Tom Kitten's Gate -The Tale of Tom Kitten (page 30)
Tom Kitten's Gate
View onto Garden from upstairs at Hill Top
I wish that I had spent more time drawing...I was certainly inspired.....In my head is a whole new redesign of my web pages.....a spring clean before the spring.....What I need is a good fall of snow then I'll not be able to go and paint Waltzers and Interiors so I'll get on with my new web pages!...Until then Its back to gilding beautiful Fairground columns....I wonder If Beatrix ever enjoyed the fair ?


Friday, 21 September 2012

Gold rush in Ilfracombe

After writing briefly about the slave trade in Warrington I had to write a bit about The Gold Rush in Ilfracombe, North Devon. In the mid 1990's  I used to hire out four wheeled 'Chuckle brother bikes' and sit and do hair braiding and face painting in Ilfracombe.....multi-tasking! I was told that there had been a mini gold rush on Rapparee beach in 1978 ,where 18th century Portuguese coins had been found after a storm.  In 1997 a wall on Rapparee beach was breached and the remains of skeletons ,some with metal fetters, had been found.
The London just outside Rapparee cove,Ilfracombe museum
In 1796 a ship called the 'London' had been wrecked on the rocks below Hillsborough , its cargo was prisoners of war, from the west Indies. passengers and a quantity of gold and silver . All but 30 people in the hold were saved. The bones found on the beach  have continued to cause controversy ever since because many believe that the bones are the remains of slaves . The slave trade had not been abolished at the time of the wreck but it was frowned on. In 1997 Dr Mark Horton apparently took some bones and teeth away for analysis but there has still not been a report on them . Pat Barrows who had dug the bones and teeth is not impressed because of the lack of results and that the teeth appear to have gone missing. Since then he has found some more bones but he will not give them to Mr Horton.... This has caused huge upset to people , were they slaves, freedom fighters, french or Devon locals ? It is still not known where the bones belong.
I wonder what the state of play is now ? If you follow some of the links you will find original descriptions of the wreck, but no answers.
Like Warrington many ,still, wealthy families made a huge amount of money from being linked with trading slaves and of course don't want this linked to their families in the present day....but it's all part of our history and shouldn't be forgotten about.
Doubloons,Jewels and Ivory sung by Chris Millington-
Slaves of Rapparee By Pat Barrow
If anyone does know more, and would like to comment then please write to me. You can say wether you want your comment published or not. Thankyou for reading.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Slave Trade in Warrington

On our way back from Scotland we drove through Warrington....I have to admit that I don't have many good memories of my time in  Warrington and I really didn't like the Lever factory...but there were some very interesting buildings. Years ago an Irishman in the town, Mr Walsh told me a story of him having a demolition job.
Beech House....demolished in 1995 along with other listed buildings.....perhaps someone knew what was hiding in the cellars. If you click on Beech House link above, you will see that there was quite a demolition spree in 1995...goodness knows how they got away with it.
One of which has since been knocked down....The building was down a little lane close to Central Station,  and the building had a dark dusty Dickensian look about it. Luckily with the wonders of the internet I managed to track a photo of the building....Beech House, 13a Winwick Street.
At the end of the lane was a yard ,where there used to be some small cottages. In the '60s  (approx) Mr Walsh had the job of demolishing the cottages and was told to fill the cellar of Beech House with the rubble. He remembers going into the cellar and seeing metal rings around the room....he thought it looked like a place where slaves would have been chained to the wall. With Liverpool not far away it could have been used for this  I thought I'd do a bit of research to see if I can find anything out.
It turns out that The local schools did a project in 2009 about Warringtons links with the slave trade. The Old Stanley works, now Sankey Valley Park had copper works that produced the raw materials used in making trinkets and 'manillas' African currency. These goods filled empty ships that sailed to Africa. The metal was used to trade for slaves which were then traded in for for sugar, cotton, indigo and cotton.The ships then came back to England...making more money for the shareholders all the time. Terrible that these goods were worth more than human life. Apparently there were books showing the names of the privateers..which were bought up by the same families trying to hide their links to the slave trade...perhaps some of these slaves arrived in Warrington.The first owner of Warrington Town Hall was Thomas Patten (1690-1772)a leading man in the slave trade. There are stories that slaves were kept shackled in cellars in isolated farmhouses around Morecombe Bay, and in houses in Bristol but I don't know if any are known in Warrington. If anyone does know more I'm sure that Liverpool Museum would be very interested.
I realise that these stories are painful and some people think that they shouldn't be talked about, but it is part of our history and knowing the stories can hopefully make all people treat each other kindly as a human first,  rather than focusing on our races and cultures.
For more information on the slavery trade please click on the following link

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Queensferry Windows

Today was the day that we were going to take a boat to Bass Rock..( another blog yet to be written)....but as you can see it was too windy and foggy but The Forth Bridge still looked fantastic. After a quick rummage in the charity shops....mainly to refuge from the wind....I decided to take some photos of windows along the main street in Queensferry.....some are bright, some are rather worn and one is very black !..oh and some are a bit out of focus !!

I do like the colour framing around the windows....I think I'll give it a go on my own home.

Temperance Bars

On our journey back from Scotland we called into the CrossKeys Inn, near Sedbergh in Cumbria. It’s a lovely 17th century farmhouse nestled in the Howgill Fells. I past it many times before when I was travelling with a horse and wagon to and from Appelby Horse Fair, but didn't manage to stop. .. ( That's another story ! ).  From the Inn you can walk to Cautley Spout, a beautiful waterfall, dropping in sections of sometimes 90 feet but with an overall height or drop of about 700 feet. I didn't have time that day to walk but I did have time....funnily enough....for a drink and a piece of cake.
The Cross Keys Inn is now a Temperance Inn owned by the National Trust. It apparently became a Temperance Inn after a landlord years ago was tragically drowned after trying to help a customer home. It was sold to a Mrs Edith Buney in 1902 and then she willed it to the National Trust in memory of her sister Miss Mary Blanche Hewetson.
I’d often liked the idea of opening a temperance bar in Winchcombe, especially if it could look like the one in Rawtenstall….the drinks that you can get are wonderful and non alcoholic, so great for drivers. The most well known drinks are Sarsaparilla, Dandelion and Burdock …and Blood tonic Cordial. The bar in Rawtenstall is an original bar that was opened in 1890. The shelves are full of bottles with interesting labels, bits of ephemera and packets of sweets. The Fitzpatrick family that originally owned it were renowned herbalists and made all of their own drinks. Some are full of herbs and so are good for your health too. I had a drink of sarsaparilla which was thick and dark..a bit like myself! And tastes a bit like Pepsi but much nicer.
View near Sedbergh
Alan and Christine Clowes now run the inn and are renowned amongst travellers for their great home cooking…especially their ham and eggs!
The following poem is carved on a lintel in The Cross Keys
‘Great things are done
When men and mountains meet.
These are not done by jostling in the street’

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Edinburgh 's Ghosts,Murderers and Alleys

Along the Royal mile are many closes and wynds, little narrow streets that lead north and south, well known for their ghostly tales . Some of the lanes lead to underground cellars,rooms and workshops in the once most densely occupied area of Edinburgh.The most famous is Mary King's  Close, preserved after tenements above were demolished to build the City Chambers above. photo
The residents were evicted from their homes and workshops in 1753 and the hidden lanes and homes were forgotten about until Mercat Tours reopened it as a tourist attraction. We did go round and it was extraordinary to see the little dark rooms where families and their livestock lived and worked, a maze of lanes and steps,it was easy to lose your bearings. Although I have had ghostly meetings in the past I didn't feel anything apart from feeling that some rooms were a lot colder that others , but many people do. I felt more emotional thinking of the way that many people had to live,.... what a life to be born into...One Alley that I would like to see another day is Niddry Wynd, an old Plague passage with shocking stories about each chamber, As well as a Wiccan temple, still used today it is also the home of a rather nasty entity that scratches and burns people.
Damnation alley is part of The South Bridge Vaults next to Niddry Wynd and is supposed to have an ancient curse upon it.
The Covenanter's prison inside Greyfriars Cemetery has one of the most awful stories and Edinburgh Council actually closed the area around The Black Mausoleum because of the amount of ghostly attacks on people...or were too many people celebrating Halloween ?. In the 17th century 400 prisoners were brought here from the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. They were kept mostly out in the open for five winter months being fed scraps of bread and water.The Covenanters were hung,ported abroad as slaves or were given their liberty if they signed allegiance to. the King.The prisoners who died were buried in the place reserved for criminals.
The lanes were also the backdrop for Burke and Hare,stealing bodies to order in the18th century, and Deacon Brodie, a highly respected pillar of the community by day and a burglar and murderer by night. His story inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Dr Jeckell and Mr Hyde....and of course bang up to date Edinburgh also inspired J.K.Rowling to write Harry Potter !

Monday, 10 September 2012

Scottish 'Wild West' yard

In 1995 a gentleman called Michael Faulkner decided to change the old  Spring valley alley into a theatrical western street,complete with scenic saloon,jail and stables. Its in Morningside in Edinburgh and anyone can walk down and take a look...a real hidden gem.


Day 4 : Edinburgh

The journey into Edinburgh was great but somehow I always get lost driving in but never have any trouble getting after a scenic tour taking in park and rides, the maternity hospital and Craigmillar Castle we reached our destination....Morningside.....the area for 'The prime of Miss Jean Brodie'.
We were only in Edinburgh for a well as catching up with family there was of course just too many places to see. My next few blogs won't have the days marked just our experiences.
Edinburgh was in the middle of it's Fringe Festival, so the Royal Mile was packed everyday with street performers.....

interesting locals...

and Characters.....

and an interesting procession from St Giles' Cathedral....

If you ever get the chance to go then it is worth it but it is difficult and expensive to stay anywhere...check out 'couch surfing' , 'garden camping' ....and local campsites . There are lots of park and rides so staying outside and travelling in isn't a problem. Its also worth remembering that the schools go back two weeks before the English schools so not only is the weather fine but its also easier to find places to stay......Oh and it's no use making friends with my sister...shes already booked up to the hilt!


Blog Top Sites