Monday, October 20, 2014

Autumn Exploring to Penallt Old Church


We went on an autumnal walk from Redbrook to the tiny Penallt Old Church, a 13th Century Grade 1 listed building that turned out to be much more interesting that I first thought.

We walked in and someone had made these wonderful harvest festival displays of colourful fruit and flowers on every window ledge. Rainbows of apples, pears, berries, chinese lanterns, courgettes, sheaves of wheat, gourds and pots of the last autumn flowers.

Trying to get a picture of this treehouse in someones garden on the way up.

It started raining but it didn't matter!

The ancient parish chest (13th Century!), hewn from a single trunk of wood. What did they keep in it??

He finally wore his scarf!

The door of the porch, which was built in 1539, still bears the date carved into the door.

The view from the top.

There was a lot of industry and mining in that area, all lost now, but you see remnants everywhere, old millstones, pipes overgrown with weeds and ivy and apparently, dates carved on wall stones!

Looking up the Wye river from the old railway crossing at Redbrook.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Minbar of Saladin

I recently saw a really interesting documentary called Stairway to Heaven about a fascinating subject I knew nothing about - The Minbar of Saladin. It's a story of strange coincidences, sacred objects, almost extinct crafts, a quest for rediscovery and quite bizarrely, Prince Charles. I found it really worth watching and so I'm sharing it here with you! It's not very long but I guarantee you'll be thinking about it for a while after it finishes.

A minbar is a the name in Islam for what can be compared with a Christian pulpit in a church. However unlike a pulpit, a minbar is often shaped like a small tower with stairs leading up to it and is elaborately decorated. The Iman stands at the top and delivers sermons to the worshippers below.

The most important minbar in the world, dating from 1187, was the Minbar of Saladin. This incredibly beautiful and elaborate wooden construction was installed in the great al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem by Saladin, the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria who led the 12th Century Muslim opposition against European crusaders in the Eastern Mediterranean.

For 800 years the minbar ranked among the world’s most precious masterpieces of Islamic art, being built entirely with the principles of sacred Islamic geometry and using no nails, screw or glue, only many thousands of separate pieces of precisely carved, interlocking, patterned woodwork blocks.

The original Saladin Minbar, photographed in 1900
In 1969, the minbar of Saladin was burned to ashes when the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem was attacked by a fanatical Australian Christian.  This was a incomprehensible loss to the Islamic world so very quickly, consideration of its reconstruction began. While researching the design, it was realised that the Islamic craftsmanship necessary to build the minbar was all but extinct.  And so the search began to find someone able to recreate the minbar, the final result of which would take over 30 years to realise...

The story behind this project prompted a resurgence of traditional Islamic artisanship and artistry in Jordan, with the help and support of HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH Prince Ghazi of Jordan.

If that video is awkward here's a link to a YouTube playlist with all 5 parts. The final part gets cut off but by that time the story has been told.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Inspiration XIV

    Gertrude Käsebier. The Picture Book, 1902. Taken from the book ‘The Woman’s Eye’, Anne Tucker (ed.), Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1973

Calendrier Magique (October),  Manuel Orazi, 1895

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (Scottish, 1868–1928), The Fort, 1925-26

Claudio Bravo, Khabyas, 2002, oil on canvas

Did you know that Cranes were widespread in the UK until the 17th Century? They were over-hunted for food and their wetland habitats were drained and destroyed until they finally died out. Lots of town, village and field names with ‘cran-’ in them are actually derived from ancient names related to cranes.
Here’s a juvenile in Slimbridge Wetlands where over the last 5 years they have been slowly and carefully rearing 100 crane chicks and releasing them back into the Severn estuary. We saw a wild one from the hides that look out over the river.

Israel Hershberg (b. 1948), Maariv, 2000. Oil on canvas mounted on wood, 21.1 x 26.9 cm

The Blind Man - Saturnino Herrán 1904

not floundering

Sorry for not updating this blog recently. I was reading some of my old posts and thinking I really should write something here soon. Carving out time to sit down and write a post has been low on my list of priorities this summer - however I would still like to keep a record of my doings....

I've had a great summer, lots of things have fallen into place for us and sometimes I can't get used to this feeling of how grounded and stable we are right now with where we live, the house that I still can't believe is ours, our community, finances (finally!) and just how we go about things day to day. I am in a good groove at the moment and long may it last. 

Mostyn, who is now three, goes to playgroup three mornings a week (which he adores) and in that short amount of free time I have to choose between exercise, housework or freelance stuff, if I'm not at work. Usually exercise and freelance work wins, I never do nothing in that time. (I save my nothing for evenings from about 8pm, when Mostyn's in bed, we either watch Netflix or I play Skyrim while Huw works on music or programming upstairs. I've started learning to crochet so fill that time more productively!). I try to do a Shred Level 2 or 3, shower quickly and then an hour or so of work. This last week I've had too much work and a haircut to fit in my Shred so I need to get back on that. This year, for the first time, I have really begun to appreciate how much my body likes getting regular exercise. 

After we got married at the end of June everyone kept saying "doesn't it feel different now?" but no, it doesn't at all. After 7 years together what can possible change? The stress of organising and taking part in your own wedding is something I'm glad to have in the past... as someone who has never liked being in the limelight I think I did ok, though I don't actually remember a lot of it because I was so wound up! 

I was so worried about everyone enjoying themselves. It was a very small and low budget affair and I (and all my amazing family and family-in-law) did our absolute best to make the hall we hired look nice and have the day run smoothly - I played with my band for a bit, that didn't work our quite as I'd hoped as one member didn't show up and the other guys were all late but I think it was still nice. There was a bit of dancing and the BBQ was delicious. We couldn't go on until late because there were lots of young children there (including our own!) but overall it was exactly what we wanted. Low key, non traditional and intimate. No expensive wedding photographer - just family photos, only a few people in the room at the registry office, a handmade bouquet from my dad's wife, Huw's mum and dad doing the flowers, my mum making a gorgeous wedding cake, 15 punnets of local strawberries and cream. I really hope everyone who came had a nice time.

We walked into the ceremony room together with Mostyn and all his cousins to a piano track that Huw composed just after Mostyn was born. We chose brazillian and reggae music for when we were signing the book that reminded us of our time talking online that first year, sharing music over MSN and talking until 5am.

Wedding present drawn by our friend Lucy :D
Moroccan lantern from my sister
My friend made us an incredible quilt!!

We toyed with the idea of not having a wedding at all, just a registry office with 2 witnesses, but I'm glad we did. I saw friends I haven't seen for ages who came so far for it, and all of our friends were so generous and wonderful. With our wedding gifts we were able to buy a new sofa and get some bits for the house we hadn't been able to afford before. We decided to use both our surnames for all three of us, no hyphen.

Downstairs is now finished. We have curtains up ready for when the weather turns and some new floating wooden shelves that Huw has been wanting forever. It's so cosy down here now and I can't wait for Winter to come! I want our next project to be the bathroom, which I hate every element of, but I don't know when we are going to have the time and money to be able to do something with it.

I also learned to crochet last week and I've got lots of projects in mind for the winter. It's incredibly addictive and satisfying:

The top squares are what I made from wool I had left over from a peg loom rug I made last year. I'm going to send them to a lady on Instagram who joins donated squares into blankets for homeless people in South Wales!

I also made me and Mostyn mustard snoods from this YouTube pattern!

I got a large, unexpected and very welcome tax rebate so I bought this pack of 15 balls of wool chosen by Attic24 - the ripple cottage blanket they are designed for is a bit beyond me but I'm making little granny squares from the wool (I really like the colours) to make into a blanket.

I've got more things to say but it will have to wait! Hasta la vista...