Friday, 31 May 2013

part of a wrought iron frame, British museum, Bloomsbury, London, England

these oxhead terminals form part of an iron fire frame or fire-dog which dates from circa  50 BCE - 25 BCE
it was found in a rich cremation burial at Welwyn, with silver cups and five wine amphora, its function is unknown - the frame may have been used to spit-roast meat, like a fire-dog but traces of wood preserved in the corrosion may indicate that it was a sacrificial table or altar
 the whole frame (courtesy of the British museum)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

RHS Chelsea flower show 2013 - 7

the seeability show garden’s theme was sight loss and was created to “raise awareness about the effects of visual impairment by expressing specific sight conditions in a conceptual way through design and planting features
the curtain of stainless steel spheres dripping with water and reflecting light represent the blind spots that occur with macular degeneration

the rusty steel structure suggests the loss of peripheral vision experienced with glaucoma”

like many gardens at Chelsea this year the garden had cow parsley as one of its featured plants – almost every garden seemed to have some, it was everywhere both the common-or-garden or the "posh" sort
the common sort of anthriscus sylvestris usually known as cow parsley is also referred to as wild chervil, wild beaked parsley, keck, or queen Anne's lace, it is also sometimes called mother-die, a name that is also applied to the common hawthorn flower – from the superstition that to pick it and bring it into the home would result in the death of one’s mother (similar superstitions apply to lilac, campion, rosebay-willowherb and plantain) it is related to other diverse members of apiaceae, such as parsley, carrot, hemlock and hogweed as it also looks rather like hemlock (conium maculatum), a well known poisonous plant it is easy to imagine why children might be discouraged from gathering it
it is considered to be edible, though having a somewhat unpleasant flavour, sharper than garden chervil, with a hint of carrot and is rumoured to be a natural mosquito repellent when applied directly to the skin
the posh cow parsley seen at the show was anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'  and is described as ‘an elegant purple form of common cow parsley which has pretty clusters of tiny, creamy-white flowers in late spring and early summer, highlighted by the lacy, deeply cut dark purple foliage’
the even posher sort, orlaya grandiflora (white lace flower) made a number of appearances in the show gardens and in the great pavilion and seemed very popular with the flower- arrangers – probably because they can safely pick it without fear of their mothers dying

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

RHS Chelsea flower show 2013 - 6

water feature in the artisan show garden section for “le jardin de Yorkshire” inspired by Yorkshire’s successful bid to host the 2014 grand depart of the tour de France

the tour will pass through many cities, towns and villages and some of these are commemorated in the water feature that celebrates the route

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

RHS Chelsea flower show 2013 - 5

garden tools in the artisan show garden section for the motor neurone disease association called ‘a Hebridean weaver’s garden'
“set in the 1950’s this garden is based around a traditional blackhouse in Lewis
the remoteness and bleakness of the island are reflected in the design and highlights the skill of the weaver in earning a living in such a difficult terrain and climate”


Monday, 27 May 2013

RHS Chelsea flower show 2013 - 4

this wheelbarrow dates from the late-19th/early-20th century and was part of a show garden designed by Tony Smith for the RHS with hortus infinitus
the garden was a celebration of the humble wheelbarrow, without which the Chelsea flower show would never have been possible
the show garden looked like this:


Sunday, 26 May 2013

Saturday, 25 May 2013

RHS Chelsea flower show 2013 - 2

the M&G investments centenary garden – ‘windows through time’
‘”the design embraces both new and traditional garden features from modern sculpture to planting threaded with shrubs popular in the 1900s

“a contemporary sculpture ‘window’ frames the design, giving the impression of looking back at a century old Chelsea garden”

that’s what it said in the souvenir catalogue, price £10 

Friday, 24 May 2013

RHS Chelsea flower show 2013 - 1

earlier this week i went to the Chelsea flower show, it’s been happening for 100years so there was something of a celebratory air about the whole event (even a few sleb gnomes made an appearance)

there was a great deal of ‘designer rust’ dotted about the place (i never realised this photo blog would have so much influence, he said modestly) and this week’s photographs were all taken at the show
the first one is part of the water feature in the show garden of the Stoke-on-Trent garden partnership which is “designed to tell the story of Stoke-on-Trent’s journey from its rich industrial past to its present incarnation as a modern and vibrant city”

a poster for the first Celsea flower show in 1913 to which the entry price was ten shillings which was a good deal of money then as average annual earnings, for all wage-earners in the United Kingdom (men, women, boys and girls) are estimated at £51 in 1913  
average family earnings were probably between £95 and £100 annually

for a full week's work the average earnings of a man were about 31shillings and for a woman 14shillings.

Monday, 20 May 2013

digger buckets used in replacing London's Victorian water mains

many of the water pipes in London are still made of cast iron which dates back to the nineteenth century and is slowly deteriorating
following widespread criticism of Thames Water for the amount of water lost to leaks in its distribution network the company started a major programme of upgrading the water supply network to use modern plastic piping

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

milepost, grand union canal, Hayes, Middlesex, England

Braunston is the major junction of the Grand Union Canal with its Leicester arm, hence the milepost even from such a long way away
the reason for the mileposts was to tell approaching bargees the distances to the end of the canal and to assist in the collection of tolls
G.J.C.Co on the mile post stands for the Grand Junction Canal Company, the original title of the ambitious 93 mile long canal approved by Act of Parliament in 1793 to link Braunston in Northamptonshire with Brentford in London

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

cemetery gate, San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy


a dreaded sunny day
so let's go where we're happy
and I meet you at the cemetery gates
oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side
a dreaded sunny day
so let's go where we're wanted
and I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
but you lose
'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine
  - the Smiths 'cemetery gates'


San Miniato al Monte is a basilica in Florence standing atop one of the highest points in the city
it has been described as one of the finest Romanesque structures in Italy and is one of the most beautiful churches in Italy (and believe me there are a lot of churches in Italy) it is one of my favourites (and believe me i’ve visited lots of them)
the church was built in 1015 over an earlier church that marked the spot where the head of St Minias, a 3rd century Roman soldier bounced when it was axed off by other Roman soldiers – allegedly
the remarkable geometric pattern of green, black and white marble that adorns its facade was begun in 1090 though funds only permitted the embellishment of the lower half of the front
the upper half is full of curious astrological symbolism (as is the intarsia marble pavement inside) – someone has even written a whole book about the astrological symbolism
the decoration of the upper half was paid for by the arte di calamila - the guild that made a fortune buying bolts of fine wool dyeing them a deep red or scarlet that no one else in Europe could imitate then selling them back for twice the price

Monday, 6 May 2013

a Barberini bee in the railings outside palazzo Barberini (now the galleria nazionale d'arte antica), via Barberini, Rome, Italy

the  Barberini dynasty was among Rome’s greatest patrons of the arts
the family reached the height of its power in the 17th century when Cardinal Maffeo Barberini became Pope Urban VII

under his commission, artists turned the city into a showcase of Baroque

 the family’s coat of arms is three bees in a V-formation and they decorate buildings and paintings all over the city
the Barberini first arrived from Florence in the late 16th century, where they went by the name Tafani (horsefly)
they soon changed their name and out went the unattractive old insect and in flew the ancient royal symbol of a bee