Friday, 13 January 2017

Cotton Balls in Winter

Have you ever seen cotton plant at its cotton balls stage? Well, I hadn't until I bought this delightful, seasonal, winter bouquet at the local supermarket. It contained a fascinating long twig with fluffy white balls. I couldn't resist a few quick shots of the twig on its own. I love the way it resembles a withered plant whose seedpods have been buried in fallen snow. Its amazing wintery look, despite, of course, not being a winter plant at all, made me process the image in subtle, cool blue tones creating a cold winter feel. Oh yes, I embrace winter, just like I embrace all the other seasons. Each season is beautiful in its own right, and I never wish away any of them.... not a single day.....

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

One Last Christmas: Red House Museum, Gormesal, Bronte Landmark

On Sunday, 11 December I went to a beautiful and very special Christmas event that I will always remember - The Red House Museum Christmas event. I have visited this museum several times, but didn't know about this annual event, and when I learnt about it earlier in 2016, I knew I mustn't miss the forthcoming one, particularly because it was going to be the Museum's last Christmas: sadly, on 21 December the Museum closed its doors to the public for good, the reason being lack of funding available to the Council.

The Red House is best known as a home to Mary Taylor, a close friend of Charlotte Bronte, one of the three famous Victorian literary sisters. The two women met at the Roe Head School and formed a strong bond which lasted to the end of their days. Mary was an independent woman who refused to conform to the behaviour expected of a 19th century woman. She influenced Charlotte greatly, especially in encouraging her to travel to Brussels where she accompanied her herself.

The house was built in the 17th century by William Taylor and it remained in the possession of The Taylors until 1920s. It was unusually built of red brick instead of local stone. The Taylors (Joshua, Anne and their six children, Mary being one of them) were prosperous woollen cloth manufactures and merchants. They owned a mill not far from their house and sold woollen cloth to Europe and America. The museum is decorated and furnished in the style of 1830's when Charlotte was a frequent visitor. In her novel "Shirley" she features Red House as "Briarmains" and the Taylor Family as the "Yorkes".

The 2016 Christmas event was a huge success. It was very busy, the house filled all day with visitors wanting to have one last look at this beautiful place and enjoy Victorian Christmas decorations and atmosphere. Apparently, there were more people there than at any event in the last few years.

There was a Christmassy, festive atmosphere not just in the house, but outside too, and throughout the day there were telltale signs of a big event under way.

The house and the grounds looked beautiful even on this grey and cold winter day. I wondered if at least the lovely, award winning, recreated 19th century gardens would remain open to the public after the house had closed.

The entrance hall with the staircase and upstairs landing. One of the best things I took away from the event is learning about traditional evergreen Christmas decorations, particularly the use of ivy in garlands. The need to bring life and light to the dark winter days resulted in the ancient tradition of bringing evergreens into the house. Any seasonal green plants were used, but the main ones were holly, believed to be a symbol of good luck and protection against evil; ivy, a symbol of eternal life; and mistletoe, which has long and deep pagan associations. There were garlands made of evergreens all over the house, and I loved them so much that I decided I must make some for my own home next Christmas.

Kissing Bough hanging from the upstairs landing. This beautiful hanging ball of greenery was a traditional English Christmas feature before Christmas trees became popular in the 1840s. It was decorated with apples and candles, with mistletoe hanging beneath. According to the tradition standing underneath was an invitation to be kissed.

In the parlour members of Nonsuch Dulcimer Club were playing Christmas songs. I don't remember ever having listened to the hammered dulcimer before and was totally bowled over by its beautiful, medieval sound. There were some other mellifluous, old and unusual instruments, too.

The mantel in the parlour. This was the room where the visitors were received. Charlotte Bronte described it in "Shirley" as "The most cheerful of rooms...there was no splendour, but there was taste everywhere...."

The 19th century piano in the corner of the parlour. Music was an important part of life in this era, and middle class women were not only expected to be skilful needle workers but also competent at playing music.

In the scullery mulled wine was being made for the visitors.

Preparation of vegetables, dishwashing and laundry work would have taken place in the scullery.

In the kitchen visitors could taste some of the delicacies prepared by the Taylors' two servants at Christmas time. On the little round table there were some of the most popular recipes of the first half of the 19th century. I am especially interested in this cookery book and can't wait to get my hands on it.

On the table there was potted cheese (absolutely delicious), devilled mushrooms, various home made chutneys, jellied oranges, pearled (sugared) fruit that looked very beautiful, and pomanders - fragrant cloves studded oranges used as room scent. I promised myself to make some of these things next Christmas.

On another table there were some pies, cheese and an attractive looking hedge hog cake.

In the dining room the mahogany table is set for a formal meal with Royal Worcester "Blue Dragon" reproduction dinner service. At the head of the table sits "Mrs Taylor". Above hangs an 1820's brass candle lamp.

Over the fireplace is a painting of the eruption of Vesuvius in 1794 which Joshua Taylor brought back from Italy. The painting was described in Charlotte Bronte's "Shirley".

In the study downstairs sits "Joshua Taylor", a cultured gentleman who loved books and art.

A detail in the study to the right of the Joshua Taylor sitting figure. By now it was getting very dark in the house, the low lighting a real test for my camera. I must say it did better than I thought it would. I like the exposure in this shot.

This was taken from the landing upstairs. Near the entrance there was an elderly gentleman selling greeting cards and postcards featuring artwork by local people.

This is the school room part of the Governess's room, the sitting room part being shown underneath. There is a globe, a history jigsaw and an old wooden board game of Fox and Geese. The easel is a copy from an 1830s design. Many women of the time enjoyed watercolour painting.

Staff areas often had older and shabbier furniture than family rooms. Among other things there are an 18th century mirror and oak table. The governess could make tea and toast by the fire.

From the large and elegant main bedchamber. I loved the wallpaper and all the mahogany and oak furniture from the 18th and early 19th centuries, particularly the washstand, tallboy and the old leather travelling trunk.

A detail from the girl's bedroom.

In the grounds, outside the barn Yorkshire Traction Honely Band were performing Christmas songs.

This lady, a member of the museum staff, wearing a period outfit for the event, kindly agreed to come out of the house for a quick snap.

It is with irony that this place immortalized by Charlotte in one of her novels closed in the year of her 200th birthday. It's future is now very much uncertain, and its national heritage sadly at serious threat. With a heavy heart, I dearly hope it will be taken and preserved as it is by someone...anyone?!. Groups and organizations have till March to come forward and express their interest in community asset transfer. The decision is then expected in the spring, otherwise the building will be put up for sale.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Haworth, The Bronte Sisters Home, This Christmas

It was the first of December, the day Christmas season officially starts for me, and I was in my favourite place in the world - Haworth, Bronte Country. Yes, of course, there is so many places I have not been to, and there always will be, but it is highly unlikely any other place would ever grip me with so much charm, feeling, meaning and intrigue. On this particular occasion I came here to do some Christmas shopping as I love to support the wonderful independent shops on Main Street as much as I can. And, as usual, I couldn't possibly not take a few pics before I left. I feel no need to accompany these photos with text; I'll let the photos speak for themselves; I'll let the magic weave its way wordlessly.

~Merry Christmas and Happy New Year To All My Readers~

Thursday, 15 December 2016

A Little Christmas Window

Every year in the past few years I tried to create a classic tabletop Christmas still life. This year I thought I'd do something slightly different for a change and simply work on a shot of my kitchen window instead.
My kitchen window sill is somewhere I like to express my love for seasons. Here I make regular arrangements consisting of current fruits of nature. Come first of December, Christmas time starts for me, and my window changes from autumn to winter/Christmas. I like traditional, Victorian Christmas, so I choose things the Victorians used in their celebrations. For a floral part there is a living poinsettia which I placed in a brass pot. I love the red of its leaves; red is the essential colour of Christmas and always has to be dominant for me. Next, there is a silver bowl that I filled with natural festive things, some of which smell gorgeous: holy sprigs with their red berries, pine cones, cinnamon sticks, dried oranges (sliced and whole), pomander (orange studded with cloves). I have a thing for ribbon so a traditional tartan ribbon had to be present; I tied it to the bowl to add to the Christmas feel. There is also a pomegranate, which can often be seen in traditional garlands and wreaths; a copper pot with mixed nuts; a rustic candle holder with a lit red candle emanating a warm glow all around; a ceramic robin, another symbol of the festive season, and a little ceramic nativity scene. For a finishing touch I hung a couple of mini stockings above my arrangement.
The view out of my window still showed a lot of greenery, so to enhance the winter mood I desaturated the green outside the window in postprocessing and added a snowy texture layer. Other than that, editing was pretty quick and simple using my new Jessica Drossin "Endless Winter" actions.

~Merry Christmas & Happy New Year To All My Readers~

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A Stay in the Duchess Room, Old Registry, Haworth

A while ago I decided to stay in Haworth as often as I can. One or two night getaway to my favourite village makes me happy; to me waking up in Haworth is something life is worth living for. The last time it happened was a month ago - Sunday, 30 October, the day before Halloween. G and I arrived at the village about 11 o'clock, and after a good English breakfast at the recently refurbished "Villette" cafe, we headed for the moor to do a little portrait photo shoot with G being my model! (blog post to follow in not a very distant future, I hope).
Back in the village we watched and followed the Halloween Parade, and then it was time to check in to our room at the Old Registry Bed & Breakfast - the Duchess Room.

Our room was on the first floor, its window to the left of the skeleton in this image.

The scene next door outside the "Sleeping House" Bed & Breakfast. This was the Halloween Parade starting point.

Our beautiful and elegant room with its super comfy antique half tester king size bed. I was really impressed by the beautiful lacquer finish wood of the canopy frame and bed footer.

The room's chocolate and cream decor is both simple and classy.

Loved the dark crocodile skin effect wallpaper and the two original portrait paintings on either side of the bed, .....

......the heavy, gold, velvet curtains and all the antique furniture.

It was the first time that I stayed in a room overlooking the gorgeous cobbled Main Street, and that was one of the highlights of renting this room for me.

 I opened the sash window and leant out to take a shot or two.

The large luxury ensuite with its lovely wood paneling.....

......and whirlpool bath with stained glass side panel.

We thoroughly enjoyed staying in this room where you do start to feel a bit like a very important person.

We woke up to a rather misty Halloween morning which soon turned into a beautiful, sunny and warm autumn day.

Heading downstairs to breakfast I stopped to admire some detail in the entrance hall.

The old black and white framed photos of people on the wall near the front door particularly caught my attention.

This is the restaurant bar. I took this shot from our breakfast table. I really like the Victorian red, the old radio and the hats on the top shelf.

Another corner of the room we had breakfast in. There is always lovely music playing here - an eclectic, but very tasteful mixture of old songs.

There are two more rooms in this most charming and romantic restaurant,......

.......each full of old fashioned and interesting ornaments carefully placed for maximum impact. Just look at those war medals hanging off the deer antlers.

I just love this corner. It perfectly sums up the romantic and intimate character of the place and the whole hotel.

The breakfast was delicious, very high quality, just like evening meals are too. (In fact, this restaurant is rated as the best place to eat in Haworth and completely deserves it) Soon after breakfast we were ready to leave for our planned autumn walk around Oxenhope, which we have been looking forward to very much.

This was my second stay at the Old Registry. The first time I stayed here was back in April for my birthday, when I treated myself to the lovely Lilac Room. Without a doubt, I will be back here. In fact, I want to check out all of the rooms at this special B&B.