"... the houses at the town end of Worship Street were just as beautiful as the others, if a little smaller. They lacked the porches and fluted pillars of the larger houses but they had fanlights over their front doors, white doorsteps snowily scrubbed, beautifully spaced windows kept scrupulously clean and shining, and an air of contented solid comfort that was very reassuring. They did not look like houses in which anything could go very wrong. To pass them was to think of shining beeswaxed floors, pots of jelly on a scrubbed shelf and a walled garden behind the house where nectarines grew on the south wall."
We are at the turn of the year as 11.03 tonight is the solstice, so those of us in the northern hemisphere have the cheering prospect of lengthening days ahead.
We'll be needing our warming fires for a while yet, though, so here's a nice passage - and a good tip - for you from Max Adams's book The Wisdom of Trees: A Miscellany:
"The log fire is a simple pleasure that taps into our deep ancestral sensibilities like its polar twin, the fear of darkness and the great wildwood. Its seductive, dangerous display is like that of a wild beast, drawing us to it then repelling us with mortal fear. Fire gives one the feeling of belonging to a crowd, and yet at the same time there is a sense of being utterly alone, absorbed in one's most intimate, private thoughts. The fire is the focus of story and song, of shared and individual memory, of collective knowledge. It stores the memories of whole cultures in its shifting, sensuous flames ...
[An iron basket] is the worst way to burn wood, which combusts most efficiently with an overdraught (unlike coal, which requires the underdraught provided by a grate). Wood should be burnt on the ground, not in the air, and anyone with a modern clean-burning woodstove will find that it burns less wood and produces more heat if the grate is kept full of wood ash and the bottom vent is shut once it was going....
Different species of wood burn differently. Softwoods like pine or spruce burn quite hot but not for long; birch burns very hot and bright but can spit; apple smells the best of any wood; beech and oak burn longest and hottest. And ash, as is commonly known, is one of the few woods (another is holly) whose fat reserves, stored over winter as oleaceous oils, allow it to be burned green; that is to say, as soon as it is cut."
My thanks to Rose for notice of an event to be held at Southwark Cathedral on 13th. February: choral evensong to commemorate the marriage of James I of Scotland and Lady Joan Beaufort which took place at Southwark in 1424.
The service is in aid of the restoration of the cathedral's bells which you can read about here and hear here, and for more on James and his queen, see this post.
The image of the royal couple comes from Forman's Armorial, a collection of 267 coats of arms and plates of kings and queens of Scotland compiled (c.1562) by Sir Robert Forman of Luthrie, Lord Lyon King of Arms; (that is an ancient Scottish office, held in recent years by a former tutor of mine, known in this house as 'The Lyon King'!).
The other day I ordered a dinky little project bag and some stitchmarkers from Jibbyroo Sews on Etsy. They arrived today, carefully wrapped in tissue paper, tied with festive ribbon, and accompanied by an extra lobster claw marker (see above) and a couple of Teapig tea 'temples'.
I'm delighted with my purchases, and most appreciative of the thought and care that Francesca and Michelle, the ladies behind the label, have put into the package.
My thanks to them, and no doubt I'll be a returning customer.
You'll see from that post that another book to be represented in the displays is Tracy Chevalier's most recent novel The Last Runaway; if you'd like to know more about it (it's excellent), there's a post on it here, and over here is the piece Tracy wrote for us on learning patchwork and quilting as part of her research for the book.
"The air was densely perfumed with a mixture of Victoria's scent (white heliotrope, from a shop off the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris), potted jasmine and gardenias that stood about on every surface, apple logs in the grate and, on window ledges and tables, 'bowls of lavender and dried rose leaves, ... a sort of dusty fragrance sweeter in the under layers': the famous Knole potpourri, made since the reign of George I to a recipe devised by Lady Betty Germain, a Sackville cousin and former lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne."
You can read a little about "the prim-looking" Lady Betty and her rooms at Knole - Vita's ancestral home - here, and this post apparently gives the recipe for the potpourri. Over here is another rather nice extract from the biography.
Here's something that knitters in the US may like to have a look at: Twist Fiber Studio is a new yarn- and fibre-dyeing business which is seeking start-up capital via Kickstarter, and offering backers a 'Perfect Pair Project Bag' with co-ordinating yarn and/or fibre in a range of ten designs and colourways - all the details and pictures are here.
Subscribing to this seems like a great way to help get a new business off the ground, and acquire some pretty knitting things in the process. It's a pity it's only open to US backers, but good luck to Ashley and her fledgling company, and no doubt she'll sell to a wider market when she's fully launched - I shall look out for her.