Monday, January 26, 2015

Blotting my copy book...


Well, I'm back, and I've learnt my lesson with technology - don't trust it (hope for the best, plan for the worst). I shan't ever get back what I've lost. Perhaps I should go back to pen and paper? There is something beautiful about elegantly hand written words flowing over a page of vellum, pouring forth from your hand in a way that shows up typed letters for the unromantic (yet practical) modern substitute they are.

I have started using my fountain pen a lot more at work and consequently end up getting ink on my palms and cuffs (esp because the nature of filling out drug charts and other forms means that usually one does not work from left to right and top to bottom, with the consequences that half dried ink ends up all over the place). The answer: to use a ballpoint? No! To make an ink blotter for the job.

It would be a very useful as well as stylish addition to my desk eventually, and could be made out of wood from a fallen tree from WBP.

The origin of the phrase "to blot one's copy book' does not refer to a blotter or the act of blotting. It refers to dropping 'blots' of ink on the page as one was practicing one's handwriting at school (yes, I went to a school where even at the age of 7 we were issued fountain pens and copy books and had to practice our handwriting). Though as boys we found many more messy uses for pen nibs and ink wells. 

But even the most adroit calligrapher whose page is blot-less faces the hassle of waiting for ink to dry, and thus the invention of the rocker blotter, and with it the inevitable stylisations that make the mundane objects of our lives treasures to behold and with which to declare our own affectations! Here are some wonderful examples of blotters...

Above: The Rolls Royce winged victory hood ornament turned into a blotter.

Above: An ornate (? Victorian) blotter.

Below: A sterling silver Napoleon III blotter

Below: A Faberge gold and enamel blotter.
Above and Below: Vintage blotters
Above: A brass art nouveau blotter.

Below: A modern brass reproduction blotter.

Below: A brown alligator blotter

The kind person at rockerblotter.com has published step by step instructions on how to make one's own here.

So, my friends Kath, Ann and Min, having got wind of my desire for a lovely blotter, decided to enlist our friend and carver Konstantinos (with the aid of these instructions) to make one for my birthday. He made it with wood from the walnut tree felled when the entrance was made.


Above and Below: My walnut blotter, along with my monogrammed writing paper, my Mont Blanc pen (a graduation gift from Peter 12 years ago), and some black ink (a gentleman should only ever use jet black ink, boys may get away with blue black - Debrett's.)





Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Gremlins have been at work again!

Dear faithful followers,

The wonderful posts that I was to share with you this month have had to be put on hold until next month, as during transit between Australia and New Zealand it appears my laptop has irreparably died. 

Technology is like a gremlin - warm and fluffy when it's working well...

...but can turn very ugly overnight

Being somewhat stupid (really no other word for it) I hadn't backed up my laptop fully for about a year, and so I have lost a lot of data (work data, business data, personal data - photos, songs, videos - the whole lot gone). I always have the worst birthday luck!

So it shall take me a couple of weeks to re-assemble my life again once my new laptop arrives.
In the mean time thanks for bearing with.

David.

Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year's Reading List 2015

It's been five years since I last shared my Christmas Reading List (it doesn't seem like I've been blogging for that long!).  So Peter and I thought we would share what delightful texts we are looking forward to reading this year...

David's Choices
This book, a birthday present from my mother, has been on my to read list for the past couple of years. Now that we are starting to get some harvest from the orchard, vineyard, and elderflower hedge,  we are looking at recipes for turning the harvest into a nice tipple.


This book was given to me by a colleague who said he found it in a bookshop when he was browsing and couldn't put it down. He thought it might be my sort of book, and it is. Any lover of English literature will find this delightful.


Appealing to both the gardener and the dipsomaniac in me, this book takes a whimsical look at the botany behind some of the world's most popular drinks.


A fan of Debretts guides, this book was given to me as a gift after preaching at a London church one Sunday. I have enjoyed flicking through it's pages over the years, but have decided to dust it off and read it again cover to cover.


As a big fan of the Tottering-by-Gently strips from Country Life, when Annie Tempest released  a commemorative book of the first 20 years of her cartoon strips I happily snapped one up. The sort of book great for a coffee table or killing a little bit of time.


Peter's Choices
Peter and I are both fans of Alan Bennett. It was Peter who introduced his work to me. Peter saw the stage show of The History Boys when it was on in the West End, but I have only seen the movie, which was very good. Peter has decided he wants to go back and read the book again.


He also wants to re-read some of Auden's poetry. I discovered Auden after seeing Four Weddings and a Funeral with John Hannah's tear-jerking rendition of "Stop all the clocks" at Gareth's funeral. It is still one of my favourite poems. I also love this rhyming couplet from Auden's poem "The more loving one":

If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.


Peter recently saw the film adaptation of The Hundred-Foot Journey and so wants to read the novel. There are strong themes in the work which resound deeply with Peter's background growing up in a Guest House.


Susan Hill is a prolific writer, and her novel In the Springtime of the Year is one that Peter remembers reading as a student. It was considered to be one of the set texts for pastoral studies by one of his tutors, Bishop Jack Nicholls.


Fit for a Bishop is a jolly romp, which Peter was given to read many years ago by a parishioner, Connie. It contains extravagant recipes, and an introduction which delightfully describes the gardening antics of a priest's house keeper.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I Walk The Line...


Having mild OCD has its benefits. One such benefit is that I'm sure that the formal lawns around WBP will have perfectly mown stripes, in boustrophedon fashion. I love striped lawns. It demonstrates hard work and pride! And they look good. At WBP the stripes will provide a more dramatic contrast between the formal lawns around the house, and the rest of the parkland which will be left with a constantly 'grazed' look.


We did our due diligence before choosing our grass seed from the many that are available on the market. Ours is a lush midgreen grass blend known as Tournament. It has a blend of fine fescues and rye grasses, which is designed to look good most seasons of the year, tolerate dry and wet equally as well, and above all, take well to being finely manicured.


Fescue is a hardy tough herbaceous plant used in varying proportions with rye grasses in most lawn seed mixes to provide height and hardiness.

I suspect one of the big problems we will face down the track is trying to maintain the fine grasses without self-sown grass seeds, such as paspalum, borne on the wind from our farm and those of neighbouring estates, causing clumps of weeds in the lawn. Paspalum grows in thick clumps as is a common cause of unsightly lawns in NZ...


The options for controlling it include digging patches out or spot spraying - both of which leave unsightly marks on the lawn.

All lawns require effort if they are to look good. It is a misconception that all they require is water in summer and clipping when they look too long.


Grass, like a hedge, will do much better if it is cut frequently but lightly (usually weekly, even if it is still looking good). They do not take well to being left for a couple of weeks and then heavily massacred.


Like other plants they also look much healthier if they are regularly dressed with a slow release fertiliser. I can see the logic in people saying not to fertilise them as then they grow faster and require cutting more often, but if you want your lawn to look really good you can't take short cuts.

Above:A Croquet Lawn

Below: A Terraced Lawn

Once you have prepared the ground (cultivated it, harrowed it, sprayed it for weeds, left it for a couple of weeks, harrowed and sprayed it again, sowed it, dressed it with fertiliser, watered it and have finally started to get a nice dense lawn), you are then ready to cut and roll.


The stripes in the lawn (much like unsightly track marks on modern carpets) are caused by the grass lying in opposite directions once cut. You can approximate the effect by simply cutting the grass in alternating directions as you go, but to get the dramatic look you should have a roller behind the mower to really flatten the grass, emphasising the difference in direction.

You can buy various rollers. The romantic in me initially wanted to get one of these lovely antique rollers below, the sort I remember at my grandfather's croquet club when I was little...


 But, being more practical I found these two rollers, which we ended up purchasing... 


There is a small hand roller, which can be attached to a push mower or used separately afterwards; and there is a large roller, which will connect to our ride-on lawnmower for the larger areas, to ensure the lovely striped finish. They came as empty barrels, which you can fill with water or sand to the desired weight. I think we will use water, as that will be easier to drain out again if required.

To finish I'd like to share one of my favourite Tottering-By-Gently cartoons by the very talented Annie Tempest (always a favourite part of reading Country Life magazine) showing the difference between Daffy and Dickie mowing the lawns.




Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Message 2014...


Wishing all our dear readers and followers a very merry Christmas, and all the best for 2015. 

2014 has seen huge progress at Willowbrook Park, and our hope is that we will be shifting in this coming Autumn (Spring for followers in the northern hemisphere).
Dubbo has continued to provide professional growth and challenges for me this year, whilst Peter has kept the home fires burning at Willowbrook. He has whipped the grounds into shape ready for the opening, overseen aspects of the build, and has run the farm, which for the first time this year has turned a profit. He has currently joined me in Dubbo to celebrate Christmas, as I am working over the holiday period. 
We both hope that this festive season is one of joy, and that you are all surrounded by the warmth and love of friends and family. May you relax, and marvel at the year that was before tackling the new year with all its possibilities.

Blessings +

David and Peter Lord Cowell
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