Festive Fun: Decorating The Blog For Christmas

Crimson flowers with yellow streaks forming a star

It may seem far too early, but cut me some slack: I’ve decided this blog needs some festive cheer. Not the cheer-on-a-loop designed to sell things, but pure, just-for-the-fun-of-it cheer. In this post, I’ll be putting up some festive blornaments (= blog ornaments; see definition at the foot of this post). Alternative ones.

For my first blornaments, stars, I’ve chosen the annuals pictured above, found tumbling from a hanging basket and preserved in pixels to brighten a moment. To my way of thinking, if the flowers featuring the stars are miniature trumpets, so much the better.  Continue reading

It’s Manly!

Red kitchen items with the words "It's manly"

Nancy Merrill’s latest photo challenge is ‘Whimsical‘.  My contribution is this shot of a display of red, retro, plastic kitchenware in the City Museum of St. Louis. Why the words in the speech bubble tickle my sense of whimsy / humour / irony, I’m struggling to explain. My friends would no doubt say it’s because I have a dodgy sense of humour: I can laugh quite a lot at things that apparently aren’t funny, including my own jokes.   Continue reading

Square In September: Rosebuds

Pink rose within a ring of rosebuds

Rosa ‘Wisley 2008’

I do try to keep my promises, but some are harder than others. If I promised not to eat smoked salmon, for example, that would seem easy. Smoked salmon is pretty much the worst food you could offer me. There may well be things I like less, but I have not so far been invited to partake of them. [Though dim memories of my friend Paul inducing me to eat wasabi peas do float to mind, and feeling the urge to roll around, pawing my face afterwards, like a dog might if it tried something it didn’t like. He meant it as a kindness.]  Continue reading

Fun At The Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival 2018

Welcome sign with scarecrows and bunting

The Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival draws in quite a crowd and it only takes one visit to find out why. In this post I’ll be sharing pictures of my favourite scarecrows from Kettlewell’s 2018 event.

Smiling scarecrow with straw hair and hat

Kettlewell villagers organised their first scarecrow festival in 1994 and it has continued as an annual fundraising event ever since, becoming more expansive as each year passes. You don’t have to be particularly perceptive to see how it has helped today’s isolated community make links, attract newcomers and prosper. There’s something here for everyone (unless you are totally creeped out by scarecrows) from the traditional, straw haired gentleman above…

Small, squat figure with coiled hair buns

…to this more modern little cutie. It’s an educational event too – for example, till now, I’d somehow navigated this earth without noticing Makka Pakka and it took the people of Kettlewell to put me straight. I had high hopes for the character from my first encounter.

Attracted by its open demeanour and assuming from its Princess Leia + hairstyle that it was one of those benevolent small aliens that often accompany heroes and heroines in space franchises, I clicked on the first link Google suggested. I wasn’t blown away by Makka Pakka’s song and can’t recommend you follow my example if you’re older than three (if you’re younger, congrats for getting this far – you may be my youngest ever reader).

The 2018 scarecrow festival included many ingenious recreations of heroes, heroines and role models for kids and the young at heart. [I was shocked to note that the WordPress spellcheck autocorrected strongwoman to strongman when I was adding a description to the picture below (there it goes again – just try it!). That’s a big oops, even by the spellcheck’s standards – you really do have to keep a keen eye on it, especially if you write a lot of plant names or, like me, look down at the keyboard while typing.]

2018’s Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival had two themed trails, ‘Movies’ for adults and ‘Magical Stories’ for kids, with much overlap between them. I’m not sure which category Doctor Who was from – I thought that was all true, just hushed up so’s we don’t start to panic. You may, like me, have to look twice to spot the Jodie Whittaker scarecrow – after all, she hasn’t had much screen time yet.

Dog with straw hair, snorkel and colander hat in a rocket launcher

There were derring-do animals too, including Daredevil Dan, awaiting being fired from a cylinder with an expression that suggested he may not have attempted this feat before.

Some of the best dressed scarecrows I’ve seen featured in this year’s show. Where did they get Paul Newman’s poncho, I wonder? I’d be more than happy to wear the strongwoman’s dress (scroll back up for a reminder), if it would fit and if someone invited me to the right kind of party. Even if it isn’t your colour, you’d have to give it kudos for looking so good after a few days outside in the wind and rain.

I loved the hearty way these choristers are singing and the floriferous cottage gardens acting as a backdrop.

The villagers hold scarecrow-making training courses to help newcomers and novices get up to scratch, and it shows. These scarecrows were built to last well beyond the 9 days of the festival, making me wonder where they are all stored during the year – now that would make a picture!

Scarecrow clowns  are cheery enough in the daytime, but must add frission to walking around Kettlewell in the dark while the event is in full swing. Midnight Scarecrows sounds like a classic horror film and being easily spooked out, I’m not going to Google that one!

Minion scarecrow by a traffic sign

I saw several Minions, but none so photogenic as this one, monitoring compliance to the 20 mph speed limit while wondering how much longer the rose hips need to ripen before it can nip down the post to make rose hip syrup (no doubt the kind of activity we’d see in Midnight Scarecrows of Kettlewell).

There were many topical references – political commentary and wry social observations with a humorous twist. The celebration of the 70th anniversary of the NHS shows a patient labelled ‘Nil By Mouth’, but closer inspection shows he’s getting local ale by intravenous drip.

I’ll always be a Magic Roundabout girl at heart, so my award would probably go to Florence, Brian the snail and the other Magic Roundabout scarecrows. The village itself seemed simply lovely, with lots of flower-filled gardens and patios.

Hanging basket of annuals in a patio garden

And the face in the hole photo boards were as high quality as the rest of the event: one of several ways to make sure kids feel fully involved.

Characters with holes in the faces for children to pose behind

If you check out the Kettlewell village website and the Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival website you’ll find this quote, attributed to Professor Moorman (I’m guessing this is F. W. Moorman, Leeds University’s first Professor of English Language, but stand to be corrected):

“But the special glory of Kettlewell is not that of colour, but of line… Kettlewell is the converging point of many contour lines, and to the eye which delights in the flow and ripple of sky line there is a beauty in Kettlewell which is all its own.”

The Professor made a great point, but if he were around today, he might rethink his comment, or at least concede that colour has been lifting its game over the last 25 years by playing a trump card for two weeks each August.

The Scarecrow Festival is all the nicer for being in a scenic, village of traditional stone-built homes with a long heritage. The village church still has the font from the original Norman church, dating back to around 1120, and the tower of the Georgian one that followed it. There’s an Arts and Crafts layer too: I was intrigued to see William Morris’s name in one of the beautiful stained glass windows and later discovered I missed finding a Thompson mouse, and the beaver of one of his protégés, Colin Almack. All in all, well worth a visit!

Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival is scheduled to reopen for 9 days, starting the second week in August 2019. Check the website for details. Visitors will find ample, cheap, day-long parking, well over 100 scarecrows, fresh country-baked food in the tea rooms and village hall, and ‘three splendid hostelries’. Drivers will benefit from studying how to enter and leave the village – we drove over a narrow, never-again road on the way to our next stop, The Forbidden Corner. 

Yellow Rabbit Lorry

Yellow HGV with rabbit and butterfly design

This yellow HGV has a story to tell. The artwork shows a butterfly soaring above domesticated rabbits in a flower field. It bears the dedication:

In memory of my loving wife Lynsey Ackroyd

but in spite of the sadness I felt reading that, I couldn’t help but smile to see this celebration on wheels. Continue reading

At The St Louis City Museum of Fun

View through a screen at St Louis City Museum

The weekly photo challenge asks us to share something that is layered, with depth, density or texture. My first choice is a view through a mesh screen into a cafe in St Louis’s City Museum. It’s not really called the City Museum of Fun, but it’s a play house for all ages, and a bewilderingly fertile gathering of inspiration and creativity.

How many galleries can you think of that hold family sleepovers – i.e. can persuade whole families to spend that much time in a museum? The longer I was there, the more I felt like my head was going to explode with impressions.

A pair of retro robots

In the midst of the madness, the repose of these retro robots completely captured my heart – although I’d have felt a bit worried if the closest one had started shaking that cocktail shaker. Continue reading

Weekend Whimsy: Smiling Flower

Smiling lily

I’ve been trying to write a post for the weekly photo challenge but it’s all been going ‘orribly wrong. Various drafts and ideas later, I have a plea for help awaiting the attention of the WordPress Happiness Engineers as I’ve somehow succeeded in losing the attachment pages for some of my most recent rose pictures. That means if you click ’em, you get a non-too-entertaining-after-a-while ‘Oops’ error message page.

Safari has piqued my sense of irony by suggesting I short cut the process and skip direct to the error page in future, by helpfully(?) listing it among my favourite internet pages. Safari has a point. I need to change tack. I need something cheerful.

So I’m sharing this picture of a smiling flower. It may not be my best picture, but you have to admit it’s cheery.  Continue reading

A Good Match: Courgette Flaunting in a Post-Truth World

I’ve read several articles where people complain about social media types like us (WordPress does count as social, doesn’t it?) flaunting our riches.

You know, bragging about our crazy lifestyles, celebrity friends and expensive belongings. Everyone I read mainly does that.*

So, in light of the Europe-wide, 2017 courgette (zucchini) shortage, take a look at this:

Pizza with grilled peppers and courgettes

I challenge anyone to come up with a more decadent pizza topping. Before you judge me, remember it isn’t bragging if it’s true.  Continue reading