Archive | April 2015

Happy birthday, Hubble

Happy birthday to the Hubble Space Telescope, which today celebrates 25 years floating above us and sending back amazing images of space.

The HST was launched on board the Space Shuttle Discovery on 24 April 1990 and deployed into its orbit the following day. A flaw with the mirror was identified, leading to fuzzy images, but after a servicing mission the HST’s problem was corrected and it was soon sending back glorious, sharp images, the first of which were released by NASA on 13 January 1994.

The above video is an amazing visualisation made using data sent back by the HST of a fly through of nebula Gum 29, finishing at Star Cluster Westerlund 2.

Many years ago as a kid, I was so affected by the ending of the film Dark Star, where one of the characters ‘surfs’ on space debris. In the movie he goes down to his death, to burn up as he enters the atmosphere of a planet, but in my young imagination I always converted this to him surfing through space for eternity, seeing the wonders and marvels that at the time we could only dream of. Now, thanks to Hubble, those dreams are being magnificently realised.

Hubble Space Telescope 2014: Frontier Field Abell 2744. Photo by the magnificent, utterly wonderful NASA.

Hubble Space Telescope 2014: Frontier Field Abell 2744. Photo by the magnificent, utterly wonderful NASA.

Once again, hurrah for NASA!

There’s a fantastic album of some of Hubble’s iconic images in this NASA-curated flickr album.

(As a space nut I love that Chap and I have been together just two days shy of Hubble’s time in space. Our first kiss was on 26 April 1990 and we have been kissing ever since.)

The Salisbury Cathedral peregrines are back

I wrote last year about the peregrines that were nesting on the spire of Salisbury Cathedral, and for the first time in 61 years had successfully hatched chicks—three of them.

Last year: peregrine parent and three chicks, Salisbury Cathedral, 27 May 2014.

Last year: peregrine parent and three chicks, Salisbury Cathedral, 27 May 2014.

Good newsthey’re back, they’ve nested, and this year they’ve laid four eggs!

The eggs were laid over Holy Week and over Easter, which seems satisfyingly appropriate for an ecclesiastical nest site. The first egg was laid on Tuesday 31 March 2015, and with an approximately 33-day incubation period, it should hatch in the first few days of May, with the others hatching around the end of the first week of May (the Cathedral’s press release says mid-May. I’m not sure how they arrived at that date).

Last year there was a live webcam on which you could follow the progress of the family. The press release says the nest is being monitored by two cameras, but I’ve had a good poke around on the Cathedral’s website and they don’t seem to have provided a link to them yet. Maybe they’re going to wait until the eggs have hatched. I’ll add the link (or write a new post) as soon as I find it.

2 MAY UPDATE: The webcam is back – link here (webcam at the bottom of the page).

Even without pics, this is terrific news.

Young peregrine fledging, Salisbury Cathedral, 2014.

Young peregrine fledging, Salisbury Cathedral, 2014.

The last year that peregrines successfully nested at Salisbury Cathedral prior to last year’s brood was 1953. And lo! One of my favourite websites, Britain From Above, has a series of photos taken of the Cathedral in September 1953. I like to think that as the pilot circled above the Cathedral, somewhere alongside him in this photograph are the fledged chicks from that year’s brood:

Salisbury Cathedral, 5 september 1953. Image from the Britain From Above website: click on photo for details.

Salisbury Cathedral, 5 September 1953. Image from the Britain From Above website: click on photo for details.

Salisbury Cathedral website.

Rather belated update: A total of four eggs were laid in the 2015 breeding season, and all four chicks fledged successfully in mid July.

Stoneywell, an Arts and Crafts house

Stoneywell is a wonderful Arts and Crafts house built by designer-architect Ernest Gimson (1864-1919) for his brother Sydney in Ulverscroft in the Leicestershire countryside between 1897 and 1899, and lived in by Sydney’s family until 2012. It has been bought by the National Trust and restored to the state it was in in the 1950s, and is now open to the public, opening for the first time ever this spring.

Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

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Stoneywell, drawn by Ernest Gimson in July 1898.

Stoneywell is in Charnwood Forest, north-west of Leicester, and I know the area well because I grew up in Leicester, and Charnwood Forest and Bradgate Park (‘Braggy Park’) were favourite weekend family walk spots. I’m also familiar with the work of Ernest Gimson, because there were a couple of his houses just around the corner from where I lived in Leicester, Inglewood on Ratcliffe Road and The White House on North Avenue.

Inglewood (1892), a house by Ernest Gimson on Ratcliffe Road. Photo by NotFromUtrecht.

Inglewood (1892), a house by Ernest Gimson on Ratcliffe Road, Leicester. Photo by NotFromUtrecht.

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The White House (1898), a house by Ernest Gimson on North Avenue, Leicester. Photo by NotFromUtrecht.

Gimson built several houses at Ulverscroft for his family. Stoneywell is special because it was furnished by Gimson and his furniture-making colleagues the Barnsleys, and as the family never left the house, much of the original furniture remains.

The kitchen at Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

The kitchen at Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

The living room at Stoneywell. photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

The living room at Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

The master bedroom at Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

The master bedroom at Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

Now here’s a little story. When I was about 14, on one of our weekend trips to Charnwood Forest we passed an antiques shopI can’t remember where it was: Woodhouse Eaves, maybe?and some of its wares were displayed out on the pavement. My eye was caught by a beautiful chair with a twisted cord seat, and I asked my Dad to stop so I could look at it. I found out how much it was from the shop owner (I think he might have taken pity on me and given me a good price), worked out how many months-worth of pocket money that would be, asked for a sub from my parents, and bought the chair. Luckily our car was big enough to take it home in the back.

I still have it: such a pretty little Arts and Crafts chair. Maybe this is a little fanciful of me, but I like to think it could have been a Gimson or a Barnsley chair, from one of the Gimson houses in the area. Whoever it was made by, I haven’t ever seen another like it. Update December 2016: an extremely knowledgeable Arts and Crafts collector tells me that my chair is by William Birch. At last I know who made it. Thank you, Vanessa!

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National Trust information on Stoneywell.

Scandinavian silver

UPDATE May 2017: For Scandinavian silver pieces currently in my Etsy shop, please click here.

I seem to be sourcing more and more pieces of 20th century Scandinavian silver jewellery for my shop. I started off with the idea of stocking early 20th century pieces – English Arts and Crafts, Germanic Jugendstil and Nordic Skønvirke jewellery, but gradually my eye was drawn towards the sleek, minimalist lines of mid century Scandinavian modernist jewellery as well. 

A selection of Scandinavian jewellery. Click on photo for details.

A few of the pieces of Scandinavian jewellery for sale in my Etsy shop. Click on photo to see my current selection of Scandinavian jewellery and silver objects. 

At the moment I have 40 pieces of Scandinavian silver for sale in my Etsy shop, and more to come that I haven’t got round to listing yet!

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World record easter eggs

Quite near to where I grew up in Leicester in the 1970s was a wonderful patisserie, Konditorei Macopa, run by a German man, Siegfried Berndt. The shop on Clarendon Park Road was pretty wee, but it had the most amazing selection of continental pastries and chocolates and wonderful cakes, all of which Mr Berndt made on the premises. It seemed such an exotic shop to have in our area, and it was a real treat to have one of his apricot Danish pastries or croissants for breakfast at the weekend, along with coffee made from the unroasted coffee beans he used to sell, which my Mum then used to roast in our oven. I loved that smell! His shop was also the first time I had seen fresh yeast, which you could buy in a little paper envelope with a cellophane front. His window display was a wonder to behold, with beautiful slices of continental style cakes and pastries and handmade chocolates. The shop always smelled wonderful tooMr Berndt roasted coffee beans on the premises, so along with the bready and cakey and chocolatey aromas, it was almost sensory overload to go in there.

A big egg.

A big egg. Bariloche, Argentina, April 2015. Photo by BBC.

Anyhow, I was reminded of this wonderful shop today when I saw an article about the world record breaking chocolate easter egg just made in Argentina. This handmade behemoth stands 6.50 m tall and used 8,000 kg of chocolate. Back in 1982, Mr Berndt became the world record holder for the heaviest chocolate easter egg – on 7 April 1982 he completed one that weighed 3,430 kg (7,561 lbs, 13 1/2 oz), and stood 3.05 m (10 feet) high. He appeared on Blue Peter with his creation, and soon after that 1 lb bags of smashed-up bits of easter egg were on sale in his shop: apparently it took until July to sell them all (only half of the eggsworth – he gave the rest to charity). I have to admit I succumbedit’s not every day you can say you’ve eaten a piece of world record breaking easter egg. I think the record stood for a few years, but then was overtaken by greater productions. The new Argentinian record holder is over twice the height and weight of the Macopa one.

I wondered what happened to the shop, and a quick spot of googling showed that it closed some time in the late 1990s. However, in March last year an artisan bakery opened up in the premises: The Tiny Bakery. Well named, indeed!

February 2016 update: Thanks to a comment from a lady, June, who used to work at Macopa, I’ve corrected Mr Berndt’s nationality to German. He is wrongly described as Swiss in the news reports I’ve seen. Do have a read of June’s comment, below – it’s a fascinating glimpse into the life of the patisserie and the travails of the easter egg. Thanks, June!

Sad cat news – please help if you can

Ugh, this is so horrible and upsetting. I’ve just found out that the Gillingham charity shop run by the Mere and Gillingham Branch of Cats Protection was burnt down in an arson attack a few days ago. The shop was badly damaged and all the stock destroyed. The branch relies on the income from this shop to provide for helping all the stray and unwanted cats it takes in, vaccinates, microchips, neuters, rehomes, and generally cares for.

Andrew hamilton-Muspratt, the manager of the Cats Protection charity shop in Gillingham, in the burnt-out shop.

Andrew Hamilton-Muspratt, the manager of the Cats Protection charity shop in Gillingham, in the burnt-out shop. Photo by Blackmore Vale Magazine staff.

Cats Protection has set up a JustGiving page for donations to help with looking after the cats that the shop provided for. This is an urgent appeal. Please give whatever you can to helpno amount is too small. The branch is absolutely devastated, and as a result of this awful, thoughtless act, the cats are now in dire need.

Our little Ballou came from the Mere and Gillingham Branch 12 years ago, and she has brought us so much joy.

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A little about Cats Protection, from their website: Charity Registration No. 203644 & SCO37711. Cats Protection is the UK’s leading feline welfare charity. We help over 230,000 cats and kittens every year through our network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 30 centres. We find homes for cats, promote the benefits of neutering and produce a wide range of cat care information for owners.

JustGiving donations page for the Mere and Gillingham Branch charity shop appeal.

Cats Protection website.

Coming up roses

I’ve just realised I seem to have a lot of rose jewellery in my shop at the moment. This is totally unintentionalI think I must have have a subconscious thing for the little beauties!

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Grann & Laglye Skønvirke malachite and silver brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

From Denmark, I have a beautiful Grann & Laglye Skønvirke malachite and silver brooch with a rose border. Skønvirke (meaning ‘beautiful work’, and which is often anglicised to Skonvirke) was a development of the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements as developed in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Grann & Lagyle was founded in 1906 in Copenhagen, Denmark by Jalhannes Lauritz Grann (18851945) and Johannes Laglye (1878?). The firm finally closed in 1955.

Also Scandinavian, probably from Denmark, and from the same period I have a lovely Skønvirke pendant with a rose design:

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Scandinavian, probably Danish Skonvirke rose pendant and chain. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

I also have an Art Nouveau style ring with a lovely rose design, made by Chritsoph Widmann of Pforzheim, Germany. This design is known as the Hildesheimer Rose, and is named after the wild or dog rose (Rosa canina) that grows up the walls of Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany. This famous rose is said to be over a thousand years old.

Art Nouveau style 835 silver ring by Christoph Widmann of Pforzheim, Germany, with a Hildesheimer Rose design. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Art Nouveau style 835 silver ring by Christoph Widmann of Pforzheim, Germany, with a Hildesheimer Rose design. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

I also have a socking great modernist silver tone metal pendant with a rose design (well, I say roseit just as easily could be a camellia or a gardenia or similar). This takes some wearing, as it weighs almost 20 g.

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Big silver tone metal rose pendant. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

And finally I also have a Malcolm Gray Ortak sterling silver and enamel brooch, with a design inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and featuring a Glasgow Rose.

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Malcolm Gray Ortak sterling silver and pink enamel Glasgow Rose brooch, inspired by the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

And to go with the jewellery roses, here are a few flowery beauties that I have photographed:

Madame Hardy, in our garden, June 2006.

Rosa ‘Madame Hardy’, in our garden, June 2006. This beautiful damask rose has a tiny green button at the centre of the white flowers.

Rosa 'Climbing Souvenir de la Malmaison' in our garden, June 2006. The buds of this spoil very easily in the rain.

Rosa ‘Climbing Souvenir de la Malmaison’ in our garden, June 2006. The buds of this spoil very easily in the rain.

And again, in June 2007.

And again, in June 2007.  Rosa ‘Climbing Souvenir de la Malmaison’ is a climbing bourbon rose.

Rosa 'Constance Spry' growing up an apple tree in my sister's garden in Devon.

Rosa ‘Constance Spry’ growing up an apple tree in my sister’s garden in Devon. This is a climbing shrub rose with gaudy pink flowers of the most gorgeous cupped shape.

and here’s a photo of the Hildersheimer Rose growing against the wall of the apse of Hildesheim Cathedral:

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Rings that remind me of things: Part 2

Part 2 of an occasional series. Rings in my Etsy shop that remind me of things …

Ring.

Ring.

The alien ship from Alien.

Thing: the alien ship from Alien, designed by H R Giger.

The alien ship from Prometheus.

The alien ship from Prometheus.

Part 1 was a ring that reminded me of an Iron Age hillfort

UPDATE: 28 October 2015 – the ring has now sold. Sorry!