Thursday, 20 December 2012

Let's hear those sleigh bells jingling . . .

By the time you read this I shall be . . .

That sounds like the start of a 'Dear John' letter.

What I meant to say was that this time tomorrow I shall be somewhere on the coast of France,

And on the following morning - early -  we shall be aboard the train and heading deep underground.  Under the sea in fact (!)  as we take the Chunnel train to Blighty.  Then we shall be up in the daylight and off, streaking across the countryside - heading for Wales.

For two weeks we will have no computer, no internet no . . 21st century communications.

What we will have is:
Feet for strolling around in (possibly clad in boots)
fabulous food
and the company of each other.

For one week we will be ensconced in the depths of the Welsh countryside.  Spending Christmas there before journeying to the site of a famous medieval battle on the English side of the border.  There to spend New Year.

And then all too soon we will be back here and the holiday over

But what a trove of memories we hope to have.

So it is that I bid you all a fond farewell for the moment.

Have a very Happy Christmas time and I wish for you the best of things for 2013.

I pray a blessing for each of you.

See you in two weeks!


Monday, 17 December 2012


Yes, well may we sing 'Gloria'!

Because thanks to the very nice man from Deutsche Telekom, the Internet is restored and we are once more in touch with the world.

In the interim we have been somewhat busy, what with Christmas fast approaching and the holiday Season soon to be upon us.

So what has been happening?

Well, the snow gradually disappeared:

The Squirrels were happy and kicked up their heels:

We lit the third candle on our Advent Wreath:

 A Fabulous Christmas hamper arrived, courtesy of my wonderful sister, Mme. Gibcus:

I got cracking with the Christmas cake which had been sitting idly by, getting tipsy on the brandy I had been feeding it with since its making:

Gathering together these ingredients:

I made the marzipan and covered the cake with it.  Now it is sitting silently slumbering, wrapped in plastic, awaiting the moment when it is covered in royal icing:

Then it was time to put up the Christmas Tree.

I admit it is a fake tree with electric lights coming out of the branches.  We are most often away at Christmas time and so having a real tree, in this apartment, seems somewhat wasteful.
Am I being gauche if I say that when we grew up in Melbourne my parents had a wonderful, huge, fake Christmas Tree make out of thick, silver tinsel covered wire?  Our first year in Australia saw a housing strike and we were forced to live for a long time at the Migrant Camp in a place called Broadmeadows.  Christmas was spent there as we waited for the strike to be over so that they could begin building our house.  My Father (who always held Christmas very close to his heart) went out one night, crept into the nearby army artillery range, cut down a small pine tree and brought it back so that we could have a tree just as we did in England, but the heat caused a lot of the needles to fall out and so my parents decided that in future, fake would be better.  
AGA's family always had a real tree in a pot.  After Christmas it would be transported to their place in the country, and planted, which I think would have been great fun to do, but I must say that I really loved that fake, silver tinselled Christmas Tree of ours!  It holds many happy memories for me.

We don't have any vintage decorations for our tree. Instead we are creating our own for the future!  We have bought our Christmas Tree ornaments from Christmas Markets here in Germany, in London and in Paris:
This glass Church ornament was bought by my Mother when she was in Paris a couple of years ago:

The goose is a lead ornament from Copenhagen.  The teddy bear was made in a sheltered workshop in Prague, and the reddish oiled glass balls come from Vietnam::
Finally we have this hand-coloured German print of the Christ Child riding a stag through the snowy forest.  It comes the 1920s I think and sits in a rather wonderful frame that we had bought seperately:

I hope that our carefully chosen Christmas decorations will become the vintage ones that our nieces and nephews will inherit and enjoy - if they are good to their ageing uncles!

SO that it what happened when we were without the internet.
And now we are even busier.  I have mince pies to make for respective workplaces as well as some for us.  We have bags to pack and preparations to me made as this year we will be having a Welsh Christmas.  I can't wait!

Monday, 10 December 2012

An old fashioned weekend

We have had an old fashioned weekend - old fashioned in the sense that we have no internet access...

It looks like we are going to have an 'old fashioned' week too - until we get the problem sorted out.

This has severely curtailed my ability to 'blog' and so, in the interim, we will have a series of wintery scenes for your amusement:

My walk home on Friday:

The view from our front door:

Our balcony:

What I needed after a sub-zero degrees visit to the shop just around the corner:

After a day of 'snow chaos' the clouds blew away:

The sun came out and the sky turned a brilliant blue:

 White bread - Yorkshire style.  I make two loaves every weekend:

It is 'a la Yorkshire' because it is made with milk.  Probably there are other names but having a largish Yorkshire component in my family I rather like that name. I made a lot of mince meat this weekend too and finished the Christmas Cake so all is sorted, or as they say in Germany: 'in ordnung'.

And finally this photo, taken from the sitting room window on Sunday morning:

I can still occasionally get online to view other people's blogs during my breaks at work.  Hopefully I will be back online very soon!

Sunday, 2 December 2012


Today is the first Sunday of Advent and it is a tradition to prepare an Advent 'wreath' the day before.  Containing four candles, it marks the Sundays leading up to Christmas Day.  This year I am joining with quite a few people here in Germany by submitting a few photographs of it to Markus at Teacup in the Garden. I am excited because he will be posting them next Sunday.
Despite a dreadful cold at present, I have soldiered on regardless and finished it in good time.

However, I still wanted to share my wreath on my own blog.

So here it is:

This year I started off with an old copper jam making pan, a large ceramic dish and the Advent Candle Stand:

I left the outside of the copper pan uncleaned as I wanted to retain the tarnished 'look'.  That way it didn't scream out 'look at me everyone, I'm a newly polished pot!' It is taking a much more muted, secondary role in this particular production!

I then packed in some florist foam and tried out the wreath frame and the candles:

Unfortunately, I could not get any purple or pink candles this year in our village which was a shame as these are the traditional colours for Advent.  I purchased three red candles and one ivory one instead:

The reason for the three-and-one-colours?  The three same-coloured candles are known as 'the Prophet', 'the Bethlehem', and 'the Angel' candle, in that order. The single-coloured candle is the Shepherd Candle which is lit third in succession. 

So first the Prophet, then the Bethlehem, then the Shepherd, and finally, on the Sunday before Christmas Day, the Angel candle.

Usually I use branches of fir for my wreath.  They always look very 'proper'.  This time I wanted the finished product to look a little 'wild' and untamed, when placed within the context of our sittingroom; and so I chose cedar and left the branches untrimmed.

Then some reddish/purplish Christmas decoration which are somewhat similar to the pinecones one finds on a Korean Fir.

I also scattered some gold stars to represent the Star of Bethlehem.

Most of the greenery is cypress but I wound some larch branches around the base of the candles because it provides a contrasting shade of green:

And when I had finished the wreath, it looked like this:

I hope you like it!

I have been experimenting with watermarking my photographs.  I am not sure that I like it.  It looks much better when others do it. . . Maybe next time I shall just put my blog name on it.

The first candle has been lit:

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Can you ever have enough candlesticks?

There is something rather comforting about candlelight.
Candlelight creates a warm glow and a sense of timelessness (and intimacy) that cannot always be achieved with electric light - despite its undoubted convenience.
The use of appropriate lampshades can go some way towards creating a similar ambience:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
But for my money there is nothing to beat the comfortable cosiness of a candlelit room and as Winter fast approaches our thoughts turn more and more to the use of candles to create that magical quality we love.

Which leads to the question: Can you ever have enough candlesticks?

This weekend we have begun to clean and spruce up our candlesticks in readiness now that summer is long gone.  I see that we have around twenty-two, not including tea light glasses and their ilk.  Twenty-two good honest dependable candlesticks.

To give some idea I decided to do a candlestick 'fashion shoot' (some with, and some without candles) to give you a sampling of our collection.

So, off we go then!

This pair of English Edwardian barley twist candlesticks, made of oak, have nice brass cups on top to hold the candle itself:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
This German 'Biedermeier' candlestick is made of tin:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Very plain and somewhat simple; it does however have a rather nice scalloped lever for pushing the candle up.  This way the thrifty householder get maximum use out of said candle!
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
AGA tells me that this brass candlestick is also Biedermeier.  It is German and a little worse for wear around the rim although the Victorian brass candlewick trimmers resting on its base work perfectly!
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
These two handsome chaps are French bronze candlesticks from around the 1870s.
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
They have enameled, painted decorations around the base.
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
This tiny candlestick comes from a shop in Stockholm.  It was given to me as a present by a shopkeeper after we had bought one of his cartel clocks.  It is the sort of candlestick you carry to bed with you and then snuff out.  It isn't designed to hold a candle that is going to burn for too long. . .
This somewhat blurred Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
These four gentlemen are Edwardian barley twist candlesticks made in oak.  They have rather ornate brass cups for the candles to go in.  You will see that they are in fact two pairs.  One set has the twist going one way and the other set has it's twist going the opposite way.  I decided to set them up alternately for this photograph:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
This is an old Church candle.  I am told that it comes from France.  I like it with its brass lilies and 'fancy' acanthus leaf base:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Meanwhile, Pope Pius XI enjoys sitting between these two brass candlesticks in the kitchen.  They are English and my father's family at one time had a hand in making them, at their brassfoundry.  Originally these formed a set of pairs ranging from extra large down to very small.  They were very popular in the late Victorian era. 
My grandparents had the entire set but most were lost when their house was destroyed during bombing in WWII.  Only two pairs were able to be salvaged: The really large one and the next one down.  One still carries its bomb dent with pride!  I occasionally come across other sizes in our travels and here are two that I found at a fairly reasonable price on the Portobello Road.  An old antique dealer asked me if I had the 'rare' Queen of Diamonds' candlestick made for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.  I couldn't remember if that was one that we had a home.  The next time we were back in Melbourne I looked - but alas it wasn't.  These two make their appearance at dinner time, when they come into their own but for this photograph they are sitting peaceably with the Pope and a duck.
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Moving right along:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
This large one, newly made - which at the moment has a rather ugly looking purple candle in it from last year's Advent Wreath - is a beauty!  I don't like those candles that have a 'plasticy' non-melting cover around them.  I shan't buy those any more. We bought the candlestick while in London because it had such wonderful looking feet!
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
This is a little Swedish wooden candle 'holder'.  You can't light those for too long or the whole thing would catch fire!
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
AGA took this photograph for you.  It shows one of his prize French bouillotte lamps.  Most bouillotte lamps these days have been converted to electricity but this one can still hold candles:
This Photograph was  taken by AGA!
And I know these are not, strictly speaking, Candle Sticks but they fulfill the same function.  In Germany (where these two Pewter ones come from) I believe that they are called 'Blakker'.
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
They reflect quite a nice light in the evening:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Looking for a book by candlelight lends a magical, mysterious air to an otherwise ordinary activity...
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Do you use candlesticks at home?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Vicar and his wife

Today has been cold and it grew dark rather earlier than I expected.  Sitting at the writing desk I gazed at this little collection of conkers and acorns - a reminder of Autumn which is slowly departing to make way for Winter. . .
The leaves of the oak tree outside the window have already changed from green, to yellowish green, to orange, to a coppery brown.  Soon they will fall away and be no more.

This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale

This set me to thinking about people and the things that are left behind when they have died.

Tangible things.

The many photographs that we take our ourselves and our family - what will become of them?  Will they survive the years after we have gone?

What will become of our earthly reminders?
* * * * *

A couple of years ago I was spending a pleasant Sunday afternoon, strolling through e-bay (as one does) when something caught my attention: A silhouette.

It looked like this:

This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.

A fairly standard, early-to-mid nineteenth century silhouette.  

The name of the sitter was on the back: Susannah Coulcher.

And there was a short biographic note which stated that her maiden name was Bohun, and that she died in 1842:

This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.

I liked the fact that this was not an anonymous piece and decided that I might like to put a bid on it.

Was she a descendant of the great de Bohun family?  If the answer was 'yes' then she would be related (extremely distantly) to me!

Having spent some time in idle contemplation of the piece and its possible history, I continued my stroll when my eye was arrested by another silhouette:

This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.

Another standard early-to-mid nineteenth century type except that this one was a little worse for wear with a cracked glass and a lot of brown staining of the previously white paper.

This silhouette also had a note on the back:

This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.

Rev. George Coulcher.


Taking a second look at Susannah's silhouette to make sure, I was able to confirm that not only did they have the same surname but they were being put up for auction by the same seller.

I suppose it makes business sense to sell these as separate items when one is wanting to make as much money as possible on the sale; but to me it seemed a travesty because a quick look at some suitable records showed me that George and Susannah were in fact husband and wife. 

That settled it.

I could not let them be sold, separated, to end up goodness-knows-where, when in life they had been together.
It would be in my opinion extremely bad form and so I did the gentlemanly thing and placed bids on both of them.
AGA is more sensible than I when it comes to bidding on ebay and so I asked him to be in charge as I often get cold feet and put unrealistically low bids that fail.

And so it came to pass that George and Susannah ended up with us, in our bijou apartment where they are living most comfortably.

And here is what I have found out about them:

Once upon a time there was a man named George Coulcher.
The son of the Rev. Martin Coulcher and his wife Elizabeth; he was born at Little Plumstead, Norfolk and baptised at the Parish Church of St Margaret, Lynn, on the 10th of November in 1805.

(Those of a literary bent might recognise the name Plumstead.  In the Barchester Chronicles, Anthony Trollope gave this name to the place where Dr. Grantley lives.) 

Anyway, George followed the usual path.  He finished school and was sent to University and from there became an ordained clergyman in the Church of England.

Just like his father.

Now that he was set up, with a living (or perhaps two) of his own, it was high time that he married.
It is possible that his was an arranged marriage as his father, and the bride's father, were neighbours.  It was the year 1838 and his bride was Susannah (sometimes known as Susan) Bohun, the daughter of a certain Squire Bohun.  I want to say that his first name was George too but I forget.

Susan and George resided in Cambridge and it was here that their son George Bohun Coulcher (1842-1912) was born.  He would eventually become Vicar of Maidstone which is interesting because a relative of mine was also a vicar of Maidstone, but at a later date.

However, after only a few years of marriage, in the early part of 1842, Susan died possibly of some illness associated with the birth of her son George Junior.

George Senior was now alone with at least one child and his pastoral duties to take care of.
He remarried: But not right away.  I like to think that he missed his wife and could not think of any one taking her place.  Perhaps this is why he retained those silhouettes, making sure that they were kept together.  Perhaps, after his death, his son inherited them and then?  Who knows . .

Anyway, eight years passed before he again walked down the aisle, his bride being Sarah Jane Hawtayne (1813-1902) because a responsible Clergyman needs a wife to help him with his duties.

George ended his clerical career as Rector of Wattisfield in Suffolk where he rebuilt the rectory as well as helping to fund a new Church school.   He died at Wattisfield in 1863.

This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.

George and Susan are long gone.   These silhouettes, like autumn leaves, are a faint reminder of what they had been.

I am so pleased that I have been able to keep them together when others would have parted them.