Dangerous Women ( 5 star )

Dangerous Women
By Hope Adams

This managed to combine two of my favourite genres – mystery and needlework. Okay, needlework is not really a fiction genre, but it is one of my interests.

It incorporates the true story of the voyage of the Rajah transporting one hundred and eighty female prisoners to Tasmania in 1841. This was during the period when the Quaker Elizabeth Fry was working to improve the conditions of female prisoners and those transported. One of her acts was providing women with sewing materials to take on the voyage which they could use to pass the time, and also create items to sell for money on arrival. It is likely that several quilts were made on these voyages, but the only one that is known to survive is that created on the Rajah. I was lucky enough to see this at the Quilt Exhibition in the V&A during 2009 – usually it is kept in Australia. It is a large complex quilt and having the image of it in my mind added to my appreciation of the references to the quilt throughout the book.

But I think even with my enjoyment of the needlework, I would have found the book a little uneventful if it had only been about the actual voyage. However, the author introduces a mystery, two mysteries in fact. From the very beginning one of the protagonists is hiding something, and it′s a serious enough secret that it would need to be kept silent by the act of murder. But she is not the only one with secrets since these women have been transported for various crimes, and have also been damaged by the hard life of the 19th century. The main narrators are the criminal with the hidden identity, and Kezia Hayter (a real historical character) who is the ″matron″ in charge of the prisoners, but we also learn about the characters of many of the other women. Their interactions and stories are vivid and poignant; most of these women will never see their family or friends again.

I liked the resolution of the mystery, and that the book ended on a note of hope for all the characters.

I had a copy of this book early through Netgalley

Caste: The Origins of our Discontents (5 star)

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
by Isabel Wilkerson

I found this an enlightening and inspiring book. Although I see myself as racist and will form a judgement on people in first encountering them, with race being one of the factors affecting that judgement, I try to curtail that reaction before it becomes an external action. But I′ve never been able to clearly identify why I have that reaction in the first place.
By positioning racism within the framework of caste, it gave me a completely different viewpoint on how it is a consequence of the society we live in. In some ways I was able to relate it to Class which I have more experience with in the UK, but as the author says ″If you can act your way out of it, then it is class, not caste.″ Using the historical example of Nazi Germany, and the ongoing caste struggles in India, gave a wider perspective on prejudice which at the same time illuminated the specifics of it in Western culture – mainly American but I think it applies more widely.

The idea of caste in America is not a new one, which the author acknowledges with reference to previous writing in this area, but she lays out the evidence in clear and well-argued prose. At times this seems a problem too big to solve, but near the end of the book is a small anecdote, which suggests that forming small connections, can make small steps towards progress.
This is the second book I′ve read by this author. They were both about difficult, complex subjects, but she writes about them in such an engrossing way that they are never tedious.

I had a copy of this book early through Netgalley.

Date and Orange Loaf

This is the cake I baked for my birthday today (it's an old recipe so in imperial measurements):

Date and Orange Loaf

8 oz chopped dates
4 fl oz water
6 oz soft brown sugar
3 oz margerine
Grated rind of one orange
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 egg
8 oz self-raising flour
1 rounded teaspoon cinnnamon


Put dates and water into a saucepan, simmer until pulpy.
Add sugar, stir until dissolved.
Remove from heat. Add margerine, beat well.
Add grated orange rind and juice.
Allow to cool for a few minutes, then beat in egg.
Sieve the flour and cinnamon together, then add a little at a time to the date mix.
Pour into a greased loaf tin.
Bake at 350 degrees F (180 C, Gas Mark 4) for 1 hour, 10 mins.
Check if done by inserting skewer. Cake is done when skewer comes out clean.

Best if kept in airtight tin for one day before cutting.

John Taverner's Annunciation

I've just been to the Advent Carol Service in Winchester Cathedral. I haven't been for a few years, but it has wonderful singing. The main reason I wanted to go was I expected them to use the Annunciation Anthem by John Taverner who died recently.

They did and it was just as stunning as I remembered. The words are taken from St Luke:

How shall this be, seeing I know not a man:
Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women.

The choir had progressed down the cathedral so they were at the West Door, but four girl choristers remained in the choir end.
They sang the first line, which sounded fragile in the vast cathedral.

Then the entire rest of the choir comes in with "HAIL", an utter wall of sound, and they repeat that four times. Then they sing the rest of the line, and it seems like the various parts of the choir, sopranos, altos, tenors, baritones and bases interweave like a tapestry.
The four choristers sing their line again, and the choir replies. And then the choir sings the last line and the word 'Blessed' somehow seems radiant, full of light. And then far in the distance the four soloists sing their line again, and it's sad and fearful. The whole work just captures the story of the Annunciation and it's breathtaking.

Ornamental Turning

I was taking some photographs yesterday for the Etsy shop and decided to also photograph my collection of Ornamental Turned boxes. I'm very keen on wooden objects since they're so tactile and the grain of the wood can be very attractive, and I have several turned pieces of wood.
But my real soft spot is for these boxes created by the technique of ornamental turning.


These take a lot more work than the simpler turned items, and require special machinery which is difficult to get nowadays, so Victorian machines are often used. In the case of those that look like cogs laid on top of each other, the first row is made, and then the machine has to be reset so the next row is a little further along, and so on, which means they take a lot longer to create.

All of my pieces are made by Ken Gilbert of the Guild of Herefordshire Craftsmen and he uses native and exotic woods. The last one I bought, which is the tall one on the left side of the display, is bigger than I usually get, but it's made of camphor laurel and there's a refreshing smell every time I open it. I buy them at the Malvern Spring Show (and sometimes the Autumn Show) where he regularly displays.

Go here to see individual pictures of all of my turned boxes, and admire these beautiful objects.
quaker hat

Winchester Meeting House Refurbishment

We're still raising money for the Meeting House refurbishment which is underway at the moment, and which looks like it will come in on time. Like to help for free?

If you ever buy online, consider signing up for Easyfunding.org. Each time you go to a site through Easyfunding and buy something the company will give a small percentage of the sale to the meeting house fund. Downloading their 'Find and Remind' widget makes it even easier to do.

And at a bit more expense, there's an Etsy shop which is selling some items for the appeal - not all the items, so read the listings.

A Landmark Photo

For the last couple of months there's been a Landmark Trust Photography Competition to find pictures for next year's calendar. I entered a few photographs and was delighted to hear today that this picture of Swarkestone Pavilion is going to be used for January. I must admit every time I look at it, I think I should have got all of the tree in, but I do like the late afternoon light.
There were some gorgeous photos posted so I'll be interested to see what else has been picked.

Olympic Torch Relay

And here's the Olympic Torch entering Winchester along Worthy Road.


And our torch bearer for this section is Sian Wood.

Everyone enjoying themselves along the road, everything was cheered from the local bus that came through beforehand tooting his horn, to the police outriders and runners, and finally the cars and cyclists who were allowed into the road once the cavalcade had passed.