Monday, February 28, 2011

Patience is a Virtue..

Titian - Sisyphus

Some days I don't know why I bother to get out of bed. It seems obvious that my day will be spent, much like Sisyphus, struggling uphill with a metaphorical bolder (which is just as burdensome as a literal one) only to have it roll down again. Do you ever feel like you are struggling uphill, and what adds insult to exasperation, is that commonsense appears to ironically scarce?

I am reminded of an incident a year or two ago, when I went in to a bank in St Ives in Cornwall with a friend. We were on holiday and wished to withdraw some ready money. My friend handed over his passbook and a correctly completed withdrawal form, but the teller was insistent that he could not withdraw any money because the computer said that his passbook was still in the post. The fact that said book was on the counter in front of her did not seem to matter, because the computer was telling her that it ought not to have arrived yet! This is the level of frustrating absurdity that One is having to trudge through at present with resource consents, building permits, environmental assessment reports, traffic analyses, geotechnical disagreements, and cruelest of all: budget over runs.

Having [hopefully] sold our house, we now have four months in which to get these problems solved. If not the build will need to be postponed further. Sadly, I fear the latter may be the most likely situation.

Still, one tries to remain cheerful. At least the gardens are coming along nicely and the animals don't seem to give a tinker's. My task for this week is to install the irrigation system in the potager garden (update to follow), and to build a farrowing pen for our sows, all three of which appear to be well gravid.

Alexandre Denis Abel de Pujol - Sisyphus

Friday, February 25, 2011

The GeorgiGregg Re-launch Party...

We were invited to the re-launch party last night at GeorgiGregg in Parnell. GeorgiGregg is the family business of Georgie and Greg Noble and their son Bruno Noble, which combines architectural design, interior design and fine furnishing. They provide a diverse range of styles to cater to all tastes from conservative, traditional country house pieces to sublimely modern apartment pieces (such as Piet Mondrian inspired cabinet below, by Cappelini). We went with our friend and interior designer, Robyn MacPherson. It was a great night

Above from left to right: Bruno, Peter, David, Georgie, Gregg

Above: The Piet Mondrian inspired cabinet by Cappelini

"GeorgiGregg is a family business, dealing solely with centuries-old Italian family businesses. We pride ourselves on our good taste, personal service and experience in the twin fields of furniture and design. We love what we do and we are wholly committed to providing New Zealand with the best furniture in the world ..."

Their furniture manufacturers and flooring specialists include...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Christchurch Earthquake...

Thank you to everyone who has expressed sympathy following the earthquake in Christchurch yesterday. The death toll so far is at 75, with many people still missing. The PM has declared a state of national emergency: more than half the city is without power or water; the city's waste system has been extensively damaged; and emergency accommodation has been set up for the many who are homeless. The days ahead will be grim for many, but New Zealand has a history of pulling together as a nation during the tough times and I am sure we will see many acts of generosity and supererogation flow from those lucky enough to be unaffected, like We here at Willowbrook Park.

Fairwell too, to many of our well beloved landmarks...

Christchurch's Anglican Cathedral before and after

Christchurch's Roman Catholic Cathedral before and after


Friday, February 11, 2011

Jacob's Sheep and Charlecote Park...

This blog is an homage to a very dear friend and devoted Willowbrook Park follower, who has asked us to watch over his flock of Jacob's sheep for a while, and at whose behest I have written a post about his ancestral home, Charlecote Park.

Above: Some of the flock
The Jacob's sheep is a rare breed of small, piebald (black and white spotted), polycerate (multi-horned) sheep, that more resembles a goat when newly shorn. Jacobs may have as many as six horns, although four horns is most common..

Below: After being shorn they do look quite like goats...

Jacobs are usually raised for their wool and meat as well as their hides. They are kept as pets and ornamental animals, and have been used as guard animals to protect farm property from theft or vandalism and to defend other livestock against predators.
They are an "unimproved" or "heirloom" breed, one that has survived to the present day with minimal selective breeding. The Jacob is descended from an ancient old world breed of sheep, although its exact origins remain unclear. Spotted polycerate sheep were documented in England by the mid-17th century, and were widespread a century later.

Above and Below: More pictures of the flock...

The Jacob sheep takes its name from the story told in the Old Testament Book of Genesis of how Jacob became a selective breeder of pied sheep.

The Bible story tells how Jacob, the second son of Isaac was sent away to stay with his uncle Laban. While he was there, Jacob fell in love with his beautiful cousin Rachel, but had to work as an unpaid shepherd for his uncle Laban for fourteen years before permission was given for them to marry.
After Jacob and Rachel's son Joseph was born, Jacob wished to return to his own country. To retain Jacob's services as a shepherd, Laban promised to allow Jacob to establish his own flock by taking all the spotted and speckled sheep and black lambs from Laban's flock. Laban agreed to this, but then gave his sons all the black lambs promised to Jacob.
Jacob took all the spotted and pied sheep that were left, used them to establish a large flock and grew exceedingly wealthy. God then came to Jacob in a dream and told him that he should return to the land of his birth, so Jacob fled with his wives and children and flocks and returned to Canaan and his father Isaac.
The Reconcilliation of Jacob and Esau, Reubens
Jacob's pied sheep thus travelled from Palestine. Over the following thousands of years, so it is said, the descendants of Jacob's sheep travelled to Spain via the coast of North Africa and Morocco. In the 17th and 18th Century, Jacob Sheep were imported from Spain by the British landed gentry. The oldest known flock which were imported in the 1750s still graze at Charlecote Park in Warwickshire. The Jacob breed with its splendid horns and distinct spotted fleeces made it an ideal ornamental sheep to graze with deer in parklands surrounding castles and stately homes. By the end of the First World War, many of these flocks had disappeared and by the mid part of the century there were very few Jacob sheep. A small number of dedicated breeders and enthusiasts were determined to preserve the breed, and in 1969 the Jacob Sheep Society was formed with 96 members and 2,700 registered sheep.
The first president of the Society was the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire of Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire. In its early days, the breed was registered as a Minority Breed. Today, the Society has more than 850 members and around 2000 sheep are registered each year in the flock book - The
Jacob's Sheep Society Webpage.

Below: Jacob's Sheep at Charlecote Park...

Charlecote Park

Charlecote Park is a Grade I listed 16th century country house which has been the home of the Lucy family since the 13th century. It is a magnificent Tudor mansion, which was built by Sir Thomas Lucy, on the foundations of an even earlier medieval house. The house and deer park, which covers 185 acres, are on the banks of the Avon in Warickshire, 6 km east of Straftford-upon-Avon and 9 km south of Warwick.

The Lucy family, who came to England with William the Conquerer, has owned the land since 1247. Charlecote Park was built in 1558 by Sir Thomas Lucy (pictured above with his family). Although the general outline of the Elizabethan house remains, nowadays it is in fact mostly Victorian. Successive generations of the Lucy family had modified Charlecote Park over the centuries, but in 1823, George Hammond Lucy, High Sherriff of Warwickshire in 1831, inherited the house and set about recreating the house in its original style.

This splendid elevation of Charlecote (above) is the work of Andrew Cox. His original work can be found here

In the middle of the 19th century the Fairfaxes inherited the property when the male line of the Lucy family failed on the death of Henry Spencer Lucy. The baronets changed their family name to Lucy to reflect the traditions of Charlecote.
The Great Hall has a barrel-vaulted ceiling made of plaster painted to look like timber and is a fine setting for the splendid collection of family portraits. Other rooms have richly coloured wallpaper, decorated plaster ceilings and wood panelling.

There are magnificent pieces of furniture and fine works of art, including a contemporary painting of Queen Elizabeth I, who stayed in the room that is now the drawing room. The original two-storey Elizabethan gatehouse (below) that guards the approach to the house remains unaltered.
Photo by Peter Cock
Sir Thomas Lucy was a magistrate under Elizabeth I. In the course of his duties he was responsible for prosecuting local families with Catholic sympathies, including the Arden family, William Shakespeare's maternal grandparents. William Shakespeare has been alleged to have poached deer in the park as a young man and been brought before magistrates as a result (but the park was not a deer park at that time. It was landscaped by Capability Brown in about 1760.) Shakespeare satirised Lucy by casting him as Justice Shallow in The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry VI, part 2. He also left graffiti on their gate post!

A museum, housed in a former banqueting room, exhibits the family's passion for sporting activities, including cricket, tennis, polo, fishing and archery. Henry Spencer Lucy (pictured above) was the Master of the Warwickshire Hunt in the mid 19th century, and considered the best 'shot' in the Midlands. As a country house, Charlecote Park would have been at the centre of many livelihoods in the rural community. For example, barley from the estate was gathered by the estate workers, processed in the village, and the malt returned to the Brew House to make ale.
In March 2001 the entire deer herd had to be slaughtered because some animals were infected with tuberculosis. Local people ran a campaign to raise money to restock the park. At the end of November 2002, 32 fallow deer were reintroduced into the park.
Charlecote has been in the care of The National Trust since 1946.

A complete aside - here is a picture of our Dorset Horn Ram getting a pedicure last week, as we trimmed all our sheep's hooves...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Croquet and Pimms...

Last Friday we went to visit our friends 'Oswald' and 'Winifred' (the names and faces have been changed to protect the innocent parties) for a friendly game of croquet followed by a lovely roast lamb dinner (dinner had but recently been free-ranging on their estate). It was a lovely evening of hilarity and Pimms al fresco. We played four games, each taking a turn with the not so spherical black ball which had previously been lost in the garden during winter and had emerged a little misshapen and lighter than before).

Everyone was a good sport, although there were moments of foul play...

It also provided some research into what we would need for a good croquet lawn at Willowbrook, and about the history of the game.

The word "croquet" was first documented with a description of the modern game in a set of rules registered by Isaac Spratt in November 1856. In 1868 the first croquet all-comers' meeting was held at Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire and in the same year the All England Croquet Club was formed at Wimbledon, London.

The game is said to have been introduced to the UK from France during the reign of Charles II, and was played under the name of paille maille or pall mall, derived ultimately from Latin words for ball and mallet. In his 1810 book entitled "The sports and pastimes of the people of England," Joseph Strutt describes the way pall mall, or mall for short, was played in England in the early seventeenth century:

"Pale-maille is a game wherein a round box ball is struck with a mallet through a high arch of iron, which he that can do at the fewest blows, or at the number agreed upon, wins."

The game of mall was a fashionable amusement in the reign of Charles the Second, and the walk in Saint James's Park, now called the Mall, received its name from having been appropriated to the purpose of playing at mall, where Charles himself and his courtiers frequently exercised themselves in the practice of this pastime.

However, whilst Pall Mall and various games bearing this name may have been played in France and Italy and popularised in the UK in the 1800s, there is also the suggestion that the croquet games were popular in England as early as 1611. Some early sources refer to Pall Mall being played over a large distance (as in golf), however an image in Joseph Strutt's 1801 book The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England clearly shows a croquet like game (balls on ground, hoop, bats and peg) being played over a short (garden sized) distance. The description under the image above of 'A curious ancient pastime', suggests that croquet games were not new in early nineteenth century England, and is likely the same origin as Billiards

John Jaques was the major manufacturer of croquet equipment, and indeed Jaques of London still supplies much of the equipment used today. Jacques also played an important role in popularising the game, producing various editions of the rules.

Croquet became highly popular as a social pastime in England during the 1860s; by 1867, Jaques had printed 65,000 copies of his Laws and Regulations of the game. It quickly spread

By the late 1870s, however, croquet had been eclipsed by another fashionable game, tennis, and many of the newly-created croquet clubs, including the All-England club at Wimbledon, converted some or all of their lawns into tennis courts. There was a revival in the 1890s, but from then onwards, croquet was always a minority sport, with national individual participation amounting to a few thousand players.

To play one needs directions...

A lawn - immaculately manicured, compact turf, preferably in a beautiful setting...

Then one needs the right outfit...

And finally, one needs the correct equipment...

Mallets are preferable to flamingos, and one is advised never to play with an evil queen...

But the game would not be complete without Pimms No. 1 Cup...

This refreshing mixture originated in 1823. It was concocted by James Pimm, an oyster bar publican, who developed the recipe for flavouring the vile gin ubiquitous in London to make it more palatable. He also added herbs and spices to it to aid digestion.

Above: A Typical Georgian Oyster Party

There are six Pimm's cups, all of which are fruit cups, only Cups #1, #3 and #6 are still available at present. The essential difference among them is the base alcohol used to produce them.
  • Pimm's No. 1 Cup is based on gin
  • Pimm's No. 2 Cup was based on Scotch.
  • Pimm's No. 3 Cup is based on brandy.
  • Pimm's No. 4 Cup was based on rum.
  • Pimm's No. 5 Cup was based on rye.
  • Pimm's No. 6 Cup is based on vodka.

Pimms No. 3 cup is no longer available, but a very similar mixture, known as Pimms Winter is now being marketed...

Pimms is traditionally drunk at summer social gatherings such as picnics, croquet, Wimbledon and the Polo...

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