Posts Tagged ‘stairs’

The shepherd

It’s Rambler5319, my Wednesday guest blogger, with the post for today. Enjoy!

 

When I was a student there seemed to be particular artists and certain pictures that were popular. I’d grown up in a house where art was not talked about except when pictures or sculptures made the news so I didn’t have a favourite artist or picture. However, many fellow students decorated their walls with posters of pictures by Dali (Metamorphosis of Narcissus with its two hands holding the eggs with a flower coming out of one, The Persistence of Memory with its watch faces flopping over tree branch); Turner (The Fighting Temeraire was very popular along with Rain, Steam & Speed); Magritte (Time Transfixed – the train coming out of the fireplace & the man with the bowler hat on with an apple in front of his face) and those impossible pictures by Max Escher (water going downhill which ends up higher than its starting point, men walking on the underside of staircases etc).

 

Check this out and follow the water from the base of the wheel and watch it flowing downhill all the way round and yet it finishes higher than the wheel:

 

http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee36/AussiEmedia/ART%20Paintings/Maurits%20Cornelis%20Escher/escher2-105_twon_waterfall-detail.jpg

 

And then this one.

 

http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee36/AussiEmedia/ART%20Paintings/Maurits%20Cornelis%20Escher/escher2-001_twon_ascending-and-desc.jpg

 

How can there be two sets of people ascending and descending the stairs at the same time with different outcomes. Take any corner to start and then follow those going up and see how they end up lower than their starting point. Then go back to the same corner and follow those going down and see how they end up higher than their starting point. Bizarre!

 

Another popular one was the 1559 picture Proverbs by the Dutch painter Pieter Breughel (the Elder). If you fancy trying to spot a few here’s the link:

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/30/Bruegel_Proverbs.jpg

 

I’ll start you off by taking you to the bottom left area where you can see a man – “banging his head against a brick wall”. See if you can spot any others. They are Dutch (so you may not know a lot of them) but a number are in use in English so you may recognise those. If you’re struggling, the answers with the part of the picture to which they refer, are here:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlandish_Proverbs

 

Anyway that’s just by way of an intro to this week’s topic which is to tell you about one of my favourite pictures of the last 10 years or so. Here it is:

 

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It’s not by an artist as such; it’s a simple postcard size black & white photo. I had seen it many years ago when driving up and down the motorways of the UK. A large version was hung on the walls of one of the motorway service areas on the M6 called Tebay Services. It’s located about 300 miles north of London & 30 miles south of Carlisle on the west side of England. (This picture has since been moved to the Rheged Centre in Penrith. This means it is actually nearer the area where its subject lived.) The service station itself has a very interesting history: it was built in 1972 and is still operated by the farming family (now its second generation) through whose land the M6 motorway was built.

 

However there’s just something about this picture that appeals to me. There is something in its simplicity because of the subject matter. I’m not looking for any deep philosophical meaning here but to me it definitely projects something. I see an old man; I see a weathered face which kind of says it fits with its environment out on the fells of Cumbria; I see strength, determination and years of experience, a shepherd going about his business doing one of those special things that shepherds do – rescuing. (The word shepherd is, as you may know, a contraction of the phrase sheep herder.) I wonder what you see in it? It’s just a shepherd carrying his crook in his left hand with a sheep on his shoulders but it poses an obvious question: since sheep can walk why is he carrying it? Perhaps the sheep was injured and he was bringing it back to the farm to tend to it; perhaps the sheep got separated from the main herd, even lost, and he found it and was bringing it back to the fold as it probably wouldn’t just follow him on its own. Or maybe it was something else. One thing for sure is that the sheep is completely safe. There’s something that says just keep still and you’ll be ok, I’ll get you back, I’ll get you home. Also, if you can, look at how many ‘layers’ the shepherd is wearing – I can see at least 4 and in addition there may be an undergarment. It’s therefore probably a cold part of the year – certainly not summer as the sheep has its full coat.

 

I can tell you that, because of the area farmed by the shepherd in the picture, the sheep is a breed called (Lakeland) Herdwick. Herdwick comes from the old Norse word herdvyck meaning ‘sheep pasture’. Informed sources say that the average figures for the weight of a full grown sheep of this breed are: ewes 77-99lbs (35-45kgs) and rams 143-165lbs (65-75kgs). Now look at that picture again – this guy is carrying a ewe so could easily be about 6-7 stone in weight across his shoulders. Now think about this – with that pure white beard, how old is he and how did he hoist it up there? How would you get an animal, which probably wasn’t keeping still, of that weight, across your shoulders?

 

I know, from what the service station owners told me when I rang them to ask about the picture which wasn’t there last time I stopped for a break, that the guy’s name in the picture was Isaac Cookson. Using a bit of investigative reasoning I worked out (given that it turns out to be quite an unusual name in the census records) that he was born in 1873 in the village (parish) of Bampton a couple of miles NE of Haweswater and about 25 miles NW of Tebay Services.

Haweswater is a reservoir completed in 1935 to serve the Manchester area’s growing need for water and, as with Lake Vyrnwy for Liverpool (post 28.11.12), involved the damming and then flooding of a river valley – this time, the Mardale Valley – where 40 people lived in 9 houses. They had to be moved out and their village was then demolished. The reservoir name comes from the name of the much smaller original lake but obviously disguises the fact that it was built for a large industrial town many miles away. It sounds just like an ordinary lake similar to others in the Lake District (Ullswater, Derwent Water, Coniston Water, Ennerdale Water etc); they did a similar thing with the name for the reservoir for Liverpool calling it a lake.

 

Isaac remained in the area all his life living on Gill Head Farm. From the 1881 Census we know that Isaac’s parents (Robert & Jane) & his siblings were living with Jane’s parents at Gill Head Farm. The Cookson family (with their ages in brackets) consisted of Robert (36) & Jane (34) with children Noble (9), Isaac (8), John (6), Kate (4), Tom (3) & Joseph (1). Interestingly, although sadly, the census records show that John & Joseph were both born blind. They do not appear in the 1891 records for the family but John reappears in the 1901 & Joseph in the 1911 where both are shown as “basket maker, blind”. By then both are in their thirties and lived on to 83 & 80 respectively.

 

Lakeland farmers used to meet up once a year, during November, at what is called “The Shepherds’ Meet”. Here they would come together to socialise and in observance of the code of honour for the fells each would bring any stray sheep they had found on their land. The owners of the various lost sheep would be identified by a complex system of ear markings that might involve punching, cropping, keybitting, fold-bitting, ritting, upper and under halving and forking; these marks could be on one or both ears. Just a verbal description of the cuts would be enough for a farmer to recognise whether a sheep belonged to him.

Check out this diagram showing different types of ear markings showing how various ‘cuts’ were made in the sheep’s ears to identify the owner. This interesting pic is from the Staffin EcoMuseum on the Isle of Skye and some of the text is in the local dialect but there is a partial explanation in English at the top. (You’ll need to drag down the page just a little to see the picture.

 

http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=x6Yc8mfchzc6vM&tbnid=X1xwAsLa5nQK8M:&ved=0CAgQjRwwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.skyecomuseum.co.uk%2Fbrogaig.php&ei=xi0aUfb4Maio0AX9x4G4Dg&psig=AFQjCNHs7oXsid6Dr-WLwZkWKhma5D4DBA&ust=1360756550862128

 

There is a great story about Isaac who rarely ever left his farm: shepherds took pride in their appearance and one Friday evening Albert Graham was walking past the farm and saw Isaac outside having a wash in a washbasin – Isaac told him, “I’m thinking o’ going to Penrith on Tuesday”. Nothing like being prepared well in advance, eh? Nice one!

Isaac attended his 61st annual Shepherds’ Meet in 1952 (aged 79) and said, “I’m good for a few more yet”. (He actually died in 1956.)

 

And that’s why this is my favourite picture. There is so much you can get from it.

 

And to close, a bit of Lakeland/Sheep trivia.

 

Beatrix Potter (Mrs Heelis) didn’t write about Herdwick sheep but she was definitely keen on them. From the money she earned from the Peter Rabbit stories, during the 1920s, she bought up Lake District farms that were under threat from development. She encouraged the revival of the Herdwick breed of sheep and was president of the Herdwick Breed Association for a time in the 1930s. When she died in 1943 she left all her farms to the National Trust specifying that the sheep on these farms should be pure Herdwicks.

Today, there are around 50,000 Lakeland Herdwick sheep being kept commercially on about 120 farms in the Lake District some still owned by the National Trust.

 

And finally,

BANANA News:

 

image

 

If you remember last week’s post about my supermarket bananas I mentioned that they’d come from Cameroon and the previous week from Ecuador; this week they were from Colombia – the world’s 8th largest producer of bananas. I’m curious as to where next week’s will come from.

 

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300 posts!

That’s right. A whole 300 posts! And what fun it’s been. I was trying to think of something significantly 300ish to do to celebrate this feat but so far, since Yaya stayed over last night, I think the only 300s I have achieved today have been watching 300 kids programmes, putting 300 pennies into a piggy bank, making 300 play-doh animals and playing hide and seek 300 times.

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So I checked in with the world wide web for some impressive 300-related world records. The first thing I came across was this brilliant record of having over 300 dogs’ teeth brushed all at once. What’s not to love?! Unfortunately, I am 312 dogs short of being able to even attempt this record so that’s out.

Another great 300 record is the British man who holds the record for putting on the most pair of pants. He wanted to be the first man to put on more than 300 pairs and he has achieved it in quite a spectacular way. Check out the photo of him. Unfortunately, I think I don’t own enough Y-fronts to even attempt this. Even if I wanted to just put all my clothes on, as a pretend attempt at this, I don’t think there would be 300.

My next thought was of food. What could I do that would be food related and about the number 300? I found this, in my Google search, which looks epic and, were I a fan of crabcakes, I’d be all ready to make my own 300lb snack. Unfortunately I am not so I shall remain, happily, crabcake-less.

And then I found the ultimate world record holder. In fact, he holds so many records, he has the world record for holding so many records, over 300! I thought that if I started on his list, then I could possibly get 300 world records too, to celebrate my 300th post! There are a lot of underwater ones, like pogo stick jumping, juggling and unicycling which, so far as I know, probably wouldn’t be allowed in my local pool. So those are out.

He holds the record for balancing a pool cue on his finger and walking the longest distance whilst at the pyramids in Egypt. As I’m in England, that one is also out. I did find a few I can attempt though. Here goes.

Attempt no. 1 – Walking up stairs for 1 minute while balancing a book on my head.
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It was easier than I thought it would be, perhaps due to the fact that I had a soft back book, which flopped onto the shape of the top of my head and I hardly had to try at all. I got a bit cocky though and looked down to check where the step was and dropped it after 103. The record is currently 122 so I’ve got a bit of work to so on that one.

Attempt no. 2 – Most golf balls picked up with toes.
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I spent the entire minute trying to grip any of the balls and wishing for longer toes. I ended up with a grand total of zero.

For my last attempt, I decided I would attempt to sit on the sofa reading Narnia for the longest time ever, for 300 hours! That is soon to be thwarted though, as I have work in two hours…. O well. I tried….

Fun with eggs

I can just imagine the search terms people will enter today and end up here. Things like, ‘how to bake a cake with eggs’ or ‘how many eggs should I use in a quiche’ or something. And do you know what they’ll get? They’ll get a silly story about my first year of living in halls at university.

There were five of us girls, all sitting around, day in, day out, being all free and away from home. Actually, we started as a six-peice but one of us, we’ll call her Smelly, opted for a life of not washing or being present. We’d find old unwashed pots and pans hidden in her wardrobe when we entered to find all our stuff she had borrowed and never returned. It was like entering a dungeon.

Anyway, I procrastinate, as usual. So we were a five-peice. We spent a lot of time dancematting. I think I have skated over this issue briefly. Now is the time to explain what was really going on. I would play dance mat every day. Every single day. For hours. Hours and hours and hours. I would shower two, sometimes three, times a day following yet another sweat-filled session jumping around in front of the tv. I often had a bit of a limp when I walked. I had blisters on my big toes and my calves were so tight, I couldn’t walk down stairs properly. I had to turn sideways and step gingerly down, both feet on one stair, before being able to move to the next one. As I lived on the first floor and my walk to work took an hour, this became quite a problem.

Another thing we did to pass the time was to play The Egg Game. I don’t know who came up with it. I think it was the product of one of those discussions about wierd facts that surely can’t be true. Do eggs really cook in the microwave, was the discussion at hand.

We took eggs from the fridge, as clearly, the theory must be tested. We each had one. We each drew a face on our egg. We each placed our egg on the glass plate inside the microwave. We closed the door. We set the time going. And we watched. And we sang. And we sang louder in excitement until the singing was screams. We watched. And we screamed.

And nothing happened.

We stopped screaming. We watched. We got bored.

BANG!!

The door of the microwave was thrown open violently and cooked egg nonsense hurled itself out at us all. We SCREAMED and ran as though under attack. Then we laughed nervously, pretending we hadn’t been scared.

Were you scared? No, I wasn’t! Haha! Were you? Was I? No, of course not. No. I wasn’t. Not me…. Definitely not me…. Noooo… Nope.

We approached the eggy microwave and peered in. Only one had gone. Another was squealing threateningly and another had leaked a little and the leakage had cooked white.

There was only one thing for it. We removed the suicide bomber, closed the door and continued the experiment, gripping each other, nervously. One after another, each went. Some barely making a noise. Some throwing their entire contents against the walls of the microwave.

A brief clean up and breather got our heart rates back to normal and now we knew. The next time we were bored, we had a game to play. The Egg Game.

One time, we found a egg which has become legendary in the history of our friendship. The Long Egg. As the name suggests, it was an egg which was longer than your average. I forget exactly how the egg went, but I’m sure that, during it’s time on the battlefields of The Egg Game, it fought valiantly and with great courage. It left a little of itself forever ingrained into the nooks and crannies on the ceiling of it’s fighting arena, the bits you can’t get to with the cleaning wipes, you know.

We salute you, Long Egg. You have a special place in our hearts. Love from the inhabitants of Flat D.

(P.S. We also tried testing another rumour, that if you put a carrot in the microwave for ages then take it out and snap it in half, flames shoot out! This one, sadly, did not work.)

Considering anger management

I went swimming again this morning. I just got back and am feeling relatively calm again. Today’s swimming session wasn’t calm. It made me irate. It shouldn’t have. But it did.

As I approached the pool I saw that it was mostly empty, just the lap lane was full. The front crawl lane and nice and easy lanes were both empty. Also, the massive end lane which can take about four people only had one person in it. So I got in the nice and easy lane and thought I’d just have a relaxing swim today because my shoulder was aching a bit. I was about ten lengths in when it started. It all fell apart.

A lady approached the nice and easy lane so I moved from the middle of the lane to the side of it, to make space for her. She also moved to the side, the side I was on! She stood there fixing her goggles then just started swimming!

This picture shows the situation. I’m in the end lane (the top one). The next lane, for front crawl, is empty. The next lane is full and the end one is almost empty. The lady has approached the nice and easy lane, lined herself up with me exactly, leaving the other half of the lane empty and set off swimming straight at me! Doing front crawl!

DOING FRONT CRAWL! She’s come to share the nice and easy lane and is doing front crawl, when the front crawl lane is free! I quite literally went in to shock. I know it’s irrational but I was livid.

I just kept swimming straight, even though I know she must’ve expected me to move. Don’t people get it? When you’re new to the lane, you fit in with the people there, you don’t come in and shove people out of their space when they were there before you! Is it me? I’m worried about my anger, maybe I’m making up rules that are silly?

Anyway, I kept going, thinking she’d surely move. Surely. But she kept coming, doing a really clumsy version of front crawl, her hands kept splatting on the water like the noise you make when you belly flop. We eventually got so close that I had to stop and just tread water until she saw me. She did, obviously. She must’ve known I was there the whole time. She just looked at me like there was no problem.

“I guess I’ll move then,” I said, when it became clear that she hadn’t noticed anything wrong. I waited for the penny to drop and for her to go ‘O, it’s ok, I’ll move over here.’ But no. It was unbelievable. We were near the stairs so I just got out and moved to the large end section and started swimming but I was all out of sync and couldn’t concentrate.

I noticed the indoor pool was emptier so I went inside and started swimming. After about two lengths, four people came in together and squashed themselves into the lane I was in. One man was just standing at the end, holding on to the side, not moving. He was at the end of my section and didn’t move away when I approached. So I had to swim around him to get to the end then swim back around him to start my next length. He just stood there.

By this point, it was getting silly, I hated everyone in that pool and wished they’d all just bugger off and leave me to swim. It was time to take myself out of the situation…

After I got out, I tried to work out what was wrong with me. I’ve had a bit of a toothache and have a dentist appointment fast approaching. Has that made me angry? When it was quite hot yesterday, I struggled to not get grumpy with everyone, so maybe it’s the leftovers from that? I can’t work it out. People do silly things at the swimming pool all the time and are constantly stealing your space, so why was I so angry today? Maybe the Swim Gods are punishing me for missing Wednesday by stealing the Fun Factor from today’s swim? Or maybe I just shouldn’t be around people…?

I’m going to drink some herbal tea and do some yoga, I think.

Reasons why my big brother is cool

When the older years and younger years at primary school had play time together and my friends and I were playing with a ball, whenever I got it, I’d run over to my big brother and shout ‘chuck it!’ and he’d throw it really far. I remember thinking I’d never seen anyone throw a ball that far in my entire life.

When we got sweets at the shop, he made up a cool game where he was the bin. To play, I’d press his nose and his mouth would open. I’d press his nose again and his mouth would close. Then I’d press it and he’d chew the sweet. Then I’d press again and he’d swallow it. Inevitably, my brother cleverly got all the sweets and I got none. But it was SUCH a fun game!

He listened to way cool music. I went through a phase where I decided that I’d like exactly the same music as him, to try and extract some of his coolness. I listened to Fugees and Nas and didn’t understand a word but I knew it was cool.

I used to sit and watch him play computer games while I’d write my little stories. I didn’t really know what Championship Manager was about but I’d watch him play it for ages nonetheless.

We used to get up early on weekend mornings, put our duvets on the stairs and get a sleeping bag. One person would get into the bottom of the sleeping bag and the other would sit at the top and we’d bump down the stairs. It was WAY more fun than it sounds.

He and his friends would play football on the back field and I’d sit nearby, reading or writing a little story. When the ball would roll too far, I’d run and collect it for them. Like a one-girl fan club! Just lingering around, watching them run about and not having a clue what was going on.

Sometimes we were allowed to put up the two man tent in the back garden and sleep overnight in it. We’d hang out in the tent feeling like we were on a massive adventure. That was fun.

I heard my brother tell a joke once so I told it to everyone I knew. It went like this – What do you get if you go under a cow? A pat on the back. I honestly had no idea what was funny about it! I thought it meant that you were really brave for going under the cow. People laughed when I told it and I didn’t know why. But because my big brother had said it, I said it.

My big brother was the coolest guy in his school when on the final year photos he did a cool hand gesture thing. I forget what it was. I just remember thinking he was pretty out-there and fun.

My big brother taught me how to ride a bike. I learned really late and was quite embarrassed about it and one day, he took me to the race track on the back field and taught me how to ride. Thanks for that, by the way!

When my big brother got married last year, he asked me to do a reading in the ceremony. Amazing. My cool big brother wanted ME to do a reading at his wedding. It is still the best wedding I’ve ever been to. Well, of course it was. It was MY big brother’s wedding!

Happy birthday, big brother!