Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Teapot Tuesday

Snapped out the car window on Bridge Road. 

No guesses about the pouring quality of the spout!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Twas the Week Before Christmas

‘Twas the Week before Christmas

(after Clement Clarke Moore)

‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the land

Not a creature was stirring. not a mouse, moose or man

The bags were all packed, the tickets in hand

The great exodus had been eagerly planned.

The children were strapped all squashed in their seats,

While stressed attendants offered them treats

And mum in her aisle seat and I in my plight

Had not settled at all for a long painful flight.

When out on the wing there rose such a clatter,

I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.

The captain announced, as quick as a flash,

‘Return to your seats or we’re going to crash!’

The moon gleamed like silver on the edge of the wing

Shone brightly and clearly on engines, and something

I hadn’t expected to see up for a spell,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny camels.

With a bemused driver, lost and quite sick,

I knew in a moment it wasn’t Saint Nick.

This tired old guy, torn and wrinkled with care,

Was worn out from shopping, his pockets were bare.

Our eyes met through glass layers, out there in space,

And I heard that man speak at an even pace:

‘See, the elves are on strike, pensions the key

Early retirement and cost-cutting, they won’t work for me!’

‘I’m hitching a ride, making a break for the sea 

Pizza, chicken and chips, no plum pudding for me.

I’m fed up with children wetting my knee

Demanding an i-phone, PSG or a wei.’

‘They drag on my nose and shriek in my ears,

I’ve planned my escape for months and for years.

The greed and the heartbreak are more than I’ll take,

And I cannot compete with all of those fakes.’

He pulled out a bottle of Scotch from his bag

Twisted the top, drank deep and lit up a fag.

My eyes were popping, my brow was a-sweat

I couldn’t believe this worse nightmare yet.

I pulled down the window shade and shut both my eyes

Too much Christmas spirit, too many mince pies?

The captain was speaking ‘Hold on and listen up

We’ve turbulence ahead and the pilot’s a pup.’

‘Settle back and relax, the trolley’s coming round

In twelve hours more we’ll be hitting the ground.

Don’t look out the window, all you need to do

Is watch the movies, eat, drink and poo.’

‘Thanks for flying with us, it’s always such fun

To take you for thousands, and then when we’re done

We’ll fly you back to the sandpit for more months of toil

Keep you tied down, exhausted, and trapped in the oil.’

I cracked open my eyes and considered my fear –

Christmas holiday madness comes round once a year,

And Saint Nick with his camels was really a hoot

The babes are asleep, my wife has her loot –

There is no understanding the greed of man

I give up, give in and smile when I can.

Christmas blessings to all, you strange cyber crew

Happy New Year and good health is my wish to you!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Teapot Tuesday

More Chinese Teapots

We have two teapots that are of a similar style.  They are probably about 80-100 years old and well used.  They are made of bronze, to take the high temperatures, and tinned (or maybe silvered?) to improve the flavour.  We have not been able to find any information about these unusual  and possibly unique teapots, fitted with their own chimneys and charcoal burners to keep the tea hot.

They are not particularly beautiful; they are interesting:

You can see the chamber on the front where the nugget of coal would be placed.  The handle is wound with bamboo to protect the handle from heat.

You can see the chimney and the open ring lid which would cover the tea but leave the chimney open.  The interior has calcium deposits and many signs of use.   The teapot has a surprising capacity of 350 ml, given it is only 8 cm high (about 3 inches).  It is also quite heavy, roughly 1 kg.

The second, larger pot is similar in structure to the first.

This one stands 10 cm to the shoulder and has a capacity of 675 ml.  It is really heavy, especially when full.

Note the chimney and the open ring top, identical to the lid of the smaller teapot.

In order to give you the capacity of the teapots, I filled them with water and then poured the contents into a measuring cup.  One thing I loathe in a teapot, is the inability to pour smoothly, to have a dripping spout and a splashy nature.  These two teapots poured like gems, giving a little twist to the stream as it emerged from the spout.  Not a single drip, not a splash.

If metal workers a hundred years ago could make a perfect spout, why is it not possible to buy a new teapot with a drip-less spout?


Sunday, December 18, 2011

No 'elp Now

image: Lee Friedlander, 1966

No ‘elp now

The hour has come, the clock has struck

Officials are gathered with clipboard and stop-watches

Photographers are near to record the event

For posterity, should posterity care.

He’s bleeding already, the noose has a shadow

The axeman’s hood and the firing squad’s hole:

All present, correct, in accordance with law

The grin is anomalous, soon to be shorn.

These grim lines are in response to a prompt from Tess at Magpie Tales.  An antidote to too much saccharine, perhaps.  More sweetness can be found here.

Sunday Trees

ancient olive on the banks of Le Gard, Pont du Gard,
Rhone France

An ancient tree for one of the oldest days of the year.

An Ancient Tree

We could believe that your kind has waited here

since a footsore legionary, ordered in to carry cut stone,

ate his lunch of gravel-bread, boiled egg and olives,

in the manner of footsore legionaries,

spun seeds to the sun,

stretched out under a plank of scaffolding,

leaving the remains of lunch and resinous wine,

snoring fit to frighten the birds from the cliff-edge,

and summoned back to work the afternoon watch,

left lunch and stones for tourists to pluck over two thousand solstices later. 

Poets will believe you descended from such legionary ancestors.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teapot Tuesday

Is it possible to have too many teapots?  There is always the V & A to help me look sane ...

Yixing clay teapots in the V & A Museum
According to wiki-wisdom, Yixing clay is perfect for teaware due to its sandy  and highly cohesive nature, allowing for an unglazed surface.  The porous nature of the surface means that tea is absorbed into the pot, adding to the complexity of flavours and making Yixing teapots highly prized, especially old ones.

The clay has been extracted in the Jiangsu province since at least the Song dynasty, one thousand years ago.  Some of the old sources of the clay are worked out, making new teapots scarce and expensive.  I understand that it is no longer possible to export old teapots from China as belatedly, the government has decided to preserve the cultural history of this ancient and complex land.

Teapots come in a variety of shapes and sizes, although most are smaller than Western style teapots. Some are highly decorated and formal, while others reflect popular themes and whimsical characters.

I like miniature teasets which is why I bought this one - teapot lid on teapot:

This one is in the form of a lotus root.  Lotus flowers are important in Buddhist iconography:

Symbols representing good luck, wisdom and wealth are common in all sorts of Chinese artefacts, fabrics and furniture.  Wise men and Bodhavistas (holy beings who have attained enlightenment but remain amongst the living to assist them on their paths) are also common images.  This teapot cradles one of the Wise Men - Fu Lu Shou - who is supposed to bring wealth and propserity to the owner.

I suspect there would have been a set of three teapots originally, each representing one of the Fu Lu Shou attributes (Good Fortune, Prosperity and Longevity).  He is holding a golden ingot or yuan bao, to encourage wealth or good fortune.  Some representations of the Fu Lu Shou combine the three attributes of the Wise Men into one figure.

This little piggy is my favourite:

The pig is associated with fertility and virility in the twelve-year Chinese Zodiac.  Possibly this chap was one of a set of twelve, or may have been the property of a person born in the 'Year of the Pig'.  I love his fat cheeks and devil-may-care attitude.

Ready  for a cuppa?


Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Self-propelling

Outwards the land resembles nothing so much as dried gravy:

the trees stunted, the rocks sparse,  the coast smoothed over by the trowel of time

And the sea, which echoes the land’s voice, undulates like greasy rubber under a sullen sky

image by Mostafa Habibi

The Self-propelling

Our boat lumbered in, took passengers and creased its way off again

I’ve watched the oars lift and plunge, scoop the oozing sea into bucketsful of argument,

catch political crabs, imagined diplomacies, crossing floors and times

I’ve seen no ferryman drive those blades, no solid being rooted in flesh

only the empty thwarts creak as if under load,

the grunt of wood and sigh of shackle and spin

We waited in silence for light and dark to pass

we waited in eager ignorance, believing always in the craft

self-propelling to our shores.

It is our choice and our creed:  Be ready to embark

The others have gone across the shingle,

leaving tainted air where they passed.

I stood and watched them go.

Time passes

I am buried now, age laps me, the sky lowers

the dinghy returns for one last trip

Ferryman ships the dripping oars

now he waits for me, restless.

My limbs respond to the call,

I am walking, skipping through shallows, stepping aboard.

The keel grinds on sand, heavy with my imagined weight

Ferryman poles off the shore

then flicks the oars into their locks:

with a cry – I hear his voice! – he pulls away.

The sea becomes the air: we fly.

We, who once  

Thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the prompt.  Other journeys may be found here


Sunday Trees

eucalyptus, Melbourne Victoria

I could fly to eternity in your arms

Your dress slipping to reveal your smooth skin:
pink dappled and parchment pale

You, who hold your arms aloft, waltzing for decades with
parrot and possum.

Empress of the Nyads and of Dryads the Queen:

Your grace a standard we mortals aspire to,

Should we have the sense to look up.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

We Went to the Ball ...

We went to the ball...

We preened and coiffed, after shopping and dithering

Which dress, which shoes, what jewels ...

The hair, the face, the nails, the teeth

The stockings, the clutch, the wrap

The glitter


Can I stand in this dress, these shoes, this weight of expectation and scrutiny?

Can I walk, sit or dance?

Will I look a fool, over- or under- dressed, colour, weight and drape of bust?

While the sensible peacocks don black tie and cummerbund

Select a watch, cufflinks, brush hair and shoes:

Pronounce themselves ready and waiting.

We went to the ball, pumpkin coach and mice footmen

At midnight we rolled home, pumpkin and mouse.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gifts from the Ether

A few weeks ago, Penelope Todd of Rosa Mira Books (she has some interesting ebooks for sale!) sent me this lovely card:

illustration by Penelope Todd

When I stop and think about this miraculous card, it seems almost impossible.  A friend met through the strange medium of blog-land has sent me a tiny sliver of her heart.  I am beginning to believe the world of Ether does exist in some parallel way ...  Penelope sent the card to my Dad in Melbourne, who then included it in one of his 'cultural care packages' to me.  Here in Exile we have no regular post, hence the torturous journey of fish bowl and paws.

This is the message she included on the back (sorry it is not very dark):

I am very touched.

Penelope has a sales assistant who is such a delight, it is worth buying her books for the joy of seeing his antics.  I am trying to encourage Penelope to include the magical Ratty (no known relation of the cat with the same name) in a picture book for children/adults of all ages.  You can catch up with his adventures here.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Teapot Tuesday

For a few happy years I worked part-time and finished in time to walk the children home from school.  We had a lovely playroom with views out over the trees of the neighbouring gardens and it was there we would have 'afternoon tea'.

We always used this tea set with Peter Rabbit.  Prima had the Bunnykins tea cup while Primus used the Paddington Bear one.  As you can see, they are still with me in the china cabinet, although I can't remember the last time they were used (note to self, fix this!).   The Basil Brush tea towel is standing in for my Paddinton Bear tin tray, which we always served tea on.

We had other guests from time to time but they all needed assistance with their tea and biscuits:  Nod, the handmade bear given by our Cheshire neighbours; Mersey and Telford who came from the Merrythought bear emporium at Ironbridge, Reggie from the Rotating Equipment Group, PC Blue Plod who was an emergency bear from the Westmead Children's Hospital; and a selection of Miss Bears and Master Bears who came from Marius' mum - Miss Practise, Miss Fleur, the Reverend (who was made from red paisely - think about it) and Master Birch, who had a wood-patterned waistcoat.

I wish I could show you these bear heroes but they are dispersed to various grandparent's back rooms, storage containers and cupboards.  Rest assured, none of them have been thrown out.  Oh dear, it now occurs to me I could start a new series of Thursday Bears ....  no, no.

Tea parties were always a highlight and only possible on days when there was no band rehearsal, football practice, piano lessons, violin or French horn lessons.  My memory of them always has the sun streaming in the high west windows on the dancing dust motes.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Trees

Hampton Court, England

Don't you think they look like Birthday Umbrellas?  Happy Birthday Dad!