Monday, June 29, 2009

Blarney House

by Ann Lethbridge
It's not everyone who gets to sit on the floor in a Smiths' bookshop in Bluewater and have their photo taken with their book. All right, so the staff did look at me as if I was mad, but what the heck. My sister in law was just as thrilled as I was. And we went on to repeat the event in Waterstones.

I left bookmarks in every copy while I was there. So now I am wondering if anyone found one.

But to return to our topic for the day.

This is Blarney House. Built in 1874 it is by not stretch of the vivid imagination anything to do with the regency. But the guide was welcoming and the history fascinating. But what made it perfect was the Irish Government's decision to allow the owners to keep their home. Rather than have the equivalent of the National Trust take it over, an organization I respect highly, Ireland decided to help the original owners keep their home and live it in by a financial grant to help with upkeep on the condition that they open it to the public for a percentage of time each year.

Our guide informed us that the family sleep in the beds in the bedroom, that the dog hairs are quite the problem, and that they battle with the dust. Charmingly domestic.

The interior contains a lot of history about the family, a joining of the Jeffries and the Colthursts. It contains artifacts dating back through the ages. The house itself would make a wonderful centrepiece for a gothic novel, with its turrets and towers. The grounds were lovely and the weather turned gorgeous just for us.

Unbeleivably, next week is July and we will interrupt our trip to Ireland with our regular programming.

Until next time Happy Rambles.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ireland and Blarney Castle

By Michele Ann Young

As we learned last day, Blarney could well have been one of our Regency characters must see places.

It is certainly fascinating, with its rock close containing everything from a fairy ring to a sacrificial alter. But for me it is always the castle itself that holds the attraction and what a visitor in the regency might have found of interest.

The castle is set on an eight metre cliff and dates back to the mid-15th century. This particular view shows the cliff foundation and a rather fine casemented oriel, the window of the room known as the earl's bed chamber. It really shows the wealth of this family MacCarthy.

Unfortunately, as with so many castles in England, Cromwell caused their downfall.

The stairs up to the top of the tower are very steep. They are also winding and narrow. A great setting for a gothic novel.

It is hard to imagine anyone climbing up there in the long slim skirts of the regency.

But the best part of climbing to the top was the view. This is what I really wanted to get a sense of, the countryside, the green. Isn't it beautiful.

But the best part of Blarney is yet to come. So until next time, Happy Rambles.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ireland in the Regency

By Michele Ann Young

Our trip to the Emerald Isle began on a misty rainy late May day. Well we had expected rain, so we were not unduly perturbed. And because of that, the sun came out.

Our first stop was Blarney. Well no self respecting visitor can go to Ireland and no kiss the Blarney stone. Many famous people have done so, therefore why should I be embarrassed and if it help with my loquacity, then I'm all for it.

Okay, so probably no one else is impressed, but I must say leaning backwards with a huge drop below was quite unnerving. And people have been doing it for years. The Blarney Stone is a block of bluestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of gab.

Hopefully that holds true for a gift of the pen too. Now what, you might ask does this have to do with the Regency. Well at least one famous man of regency times went to the castle Sir Walter Scott. A writer no less. And there is a rumour, unconfirmed, that Byron also kissed the stone. Well I am in alt.

And while we are at it, here is an entry The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, by Francis Grose)

‘Blarney’: He has licked the blarney stone; he deals in the wonderful, or tips us the traveller. The blarney stone is a triangular stone on the very top of an ancient castle of that name in the county of Cork in Ireland, extremely difficult of access; so that to have ascended to it, was considered as a proof of perseverance, courage, and agility, whereof many are supposed to claim the honour, who never achieved the adventure: and to tip the blarney, is figuratively used telling a marvellous story, or falsity; and also sometimes to express flattery. Irish.

We have pictures and more to show you of Blarney, but those must wait until next time.

Until then, Happy Rambles

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - June

by Ann Lethbridge

June is my favourite month of the year in Britain. Perhaps because its my birthday month. Perhaps because strawberries are ripe and ready for eating straight from the fields, or perhaps because the weather is warm.

Having returned from England in June, I feel as if I can talk first hand this time, except of course I must beware, because climates change over the centuries. A degree here and a degree there.

One exciting thing that did bloom in June, was the UK edition of The Rake's Inherited Courtesan. What a thrill to see it on shelves in my old home town. Chills down the spine. Must get the pictures up on the website.

Everywhere we travelled were the dog roses in the hedgerows. Rosa Canina. It is the rose of medieval heraldry and the official flower of Hampshire. As you can see, it is a plain single petaled rose that is primarily pink but can also be white, and sometime on the same stem. It has very sharp thorns.

What is lovely, is to see a spray of these, a burst of pink, in the green hedgerow.

I can imagine a man of our time risking bloody fingers to retrieve one for his lady love so she can enjoy their perfume as they walk in the country. Although he should be wearing gloves.

Oh my, I can see just where such a scene would fit in a work in progress. It is amazing where inspiration comes from, isn't it.

Of course, these common little flowers would not be seen in the parks or walled gardens of great houses, but personally I love them.

This bird is a magpie and very much in evidence during our trip. It is as striking bird and there are many superstitions surrounding them.

"A single magpie in spring, foul weather will bring".
The book from which this quote is taken further explains that this superstition arises from the habits of pairs of magpies to forage together only when the weather is fine.

The fondness of all its family for bright objects is well known.

Of course, there were many more sights and sounds to share, but time eludes me as always.

Until next time, happy rambles.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Regency Fashion ~ June

by Michele Ann Young

Well, it is so long since I posted, I had trouble remembering what to do. Did you miss us? We missed you.

We had a lovely time in England and Ireland, and have lots of pictures to share, over the next little while, but first we need to get our regular features out of the way. Oh, I really shouldn't say that, because I love the fashion feature.

This delightfully classic gown, right down to the lyre our model is holding, is a wonderful example of an early Regency gown.

It appeared in the Ladies Monthly Museum for 1812

Evening Party Dress.—A Egyptian robe of peach blossom, evening primrose or lilac, shot with white or day primrose colour, apron sleeves and front crape en suite, trimmed with rose buds and terminated with silver acorns; white satin hat with regency plume; white gloves and shoes; armlet and earrings of gold.

Once more we have the text calling it an evening gown while the picture is labelled afternoon. But as we know, afternoons during the regency did not begin until four or five o'clock it is no wonder they are just as confused as we are.

This version of the gown is the lilac one, by my reckoning. The description 'apron sleeves' is interesting for this gown along with the silver acorns. Very pretty. I was particularly fascinated by the term "regency plume".

Now if you look closely, you will see that her hands are bare. But she is wearing gloves. Is this an example of those gloves that are slit at the wrist so the hand can emerge for eating and in this case playing a musical instrument? I believe so, looking at the rumpled material at the wrist. What do you think?

This young lady certainly knows how to sit on a chair. Would that some of today's young women would take note!

One of the interesting things about the regency was their passion for white or pastel gowns. I think I have mentioned it before.

Because the ancient statues had lost their colour, they assumed that classical clothing was white, we are told.

I added this picture found on a Greek vase, because it has a lyre and a lady and a costume that is not white at all. She could almost be a regency lady, don't you think?

Then I went off in Wikki looking at lyres, found my way to Wales and found all kinds of interesting things. Then I realized I'd run out of time!

Back on Thursday with Flora and Fauna.

Until then, Happy Rambles.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Coming Home

by Ann Lethbridge

No matter how perfect a vacation is, no matter how nice the hotel and how welcoming your family and friends (and they were, let me tell you), there is nothing quite like sinking into your own mattress at the end of a long trip and knowing you are home. Aaaah.

And nothing quite like the excited dog who can't bark because he is sooo happy to see you his tail is taking up every ounce of his energy and his voice. And nothing quite like your daughter's grin at the loot you brought back.

Of course there is the pile of mail (bills mostly) and the weeds and the all the worries you forgot while you were away, but they are all minor.

Coming home is a hugely lovely part of going away.

We are so happy to be back, and next week look for June fashions, flora and fauna and lots of new pictures from our trip.

Until then, Happy Rambles.