Sunday, 19 July 2020

Dymchurch No More

I recently acquired, courtesy of eBay, some 1930's some postcards of Dymchurch, a seaside resort in Kent. These are the without doubt the dullest postcards on the planet, and one fears that Dymchurch itself is squarely to blame. 

Dymchurch dullness (click to expose the dullness)

On the principle that the cheapest picture frames can be obtained by buying the worst art, it was the three glazed frames holding the twelve postcards of Dymchurch, that were my real objective. I was wanting to frame some wonderful Scottish landscape postcards that had been generously gifted to me by friend of Balintore Mrs. M. .

reverse of a gifted postcard

The postcards themselves are paintings in the romantic tradition produced by a French chocolate factory (Choclaterie d'Aiguebelle). To promote sales, the factory produced many different series of beautifully illustrated postcards on a variety of themes, generally educational. The firm was founded in 1868 by Trappist monks from the Notre-Dame d'Aiguebelle Abbey, and production went on into the early 20th Century.

My visiting friend Madeleine used her artistic skill to perform a life-saving postcard transplant, with the old postcards left in the back of the frames for historic purposes, and the new postcards inserted. The irony is that the new postcards are probably older than the old postcards.

Dymchurch no more (click to reveal the art)

I figured the plum cardboard mounts would work well with the blue/green tones of the paintings, and when Madeleine pointed this out to me without prompting, I felt vindicated in the eBay purchase. The plum washed out the monochromatic scenes of Dymchurch with the force of a tsunami on the placid Kent coast.

Anyhow, thank you Mrs. M.. There is a wonderful serendipity in the romantic caledonian vision of a French Trappist monk washing away the dullness of a Kentish coastal town. The walls of Balintore Castle are indeed gifted.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Window Seats

It is good to be able to blog "live" in the sense of reporting progress on the very day of that progress.  All too often, I am writing articles about things that happened some time earlier.

Anyhow, today Gregor built window seats in two of the rooms inside the entrance tower. The rooms in the entrance tower are not large, so fitting seating in a window alcove is an efficient use of space. Window seats in these locations have been in my mind for many years, so it is good to see them finally realised.

new window seat in Ocean Room (blue paint colour on walls is "Deep Ocean")

You can see that the front of the seat is constructed from the same profiled planking that lines the window opening, which hopefully ties the design together. Gregor had cut the planking to size yesterday and painted it white. Today, he told me he did not have enough plywood left to form the seat. 

As these are permanent fittings in an A-listed building, I told him we should go for a solid wood seat instead and we chose a length of reclaimed wood which had come from an antique restorer in Manchester who was retiring. We thought the wood might be pine, but when Gregor burned off the thick layer of paint and then sanded it back it turned out to be mahogany - hurrah!

We didn't want the front of the seat to be level with the wall as we wanted to still keep the feel of an alcove, so we had to compromise on the size of the seat vs. the size of the remaining alcove. We chose a suitable depth of seat. then Gregor remembered we had some reclaimed seat cushions we could recycle. It turned out that the seat cushion was just a inch or so narrower than our compromise seat depth. It was a no brainer to make the seat depth exactly the size of the cushion.

The seat cushions come from Kirkhill Church in Glasgow. The pews and radiators were being stripped out so some cushions were going spare. Gregor likes the purple hessian material covering the cushions, but this is too 70's for me, and I have some nice damask to recover the cushions. However, when we cut the foam to the appropriate trapezium shape, I might just patch-up the hessian as a first pass solution. 

I would love to run up the cushion covers myself, but I have loaned my sewing machine (which was my Mum's) to a friend.

Ocean Room window seat with pew cushion, which will be cut to size

When Gregor showed me the first window seat I was delighted, but he had used steel hinges on the part of the seat that lifts. I asked Gregor if these could be brass instead, given the metal's heritage superiority. Gregor duly changed the hinges on the first seat and installed brass hinges on the second.

Gregor pointed out that neither the posh mahogany nor the posh brass hinges would be seen with the cushion in place! I tried my usual "But we are doing this castle up properly" line. I could tell he wasn't convinced. :-)

new window seat in Yellow Room (paint colour on walls is "Honey Bee")

And to finish, a quote from Napoleon which I first discovered on the London Underground:

"A throne is nothing but a bench covered in velvet".

It made a great impression on me, and made me re-evaluate the man. Perhaps he was more than just a dictator?

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Summer Nature Watch

One of the joys of Balintore's location is being able to observe the change in fauna and flora with the seasons. The foxgloves this year are not quite as spectacular as last year, but I always take delight in the "sports" which are not the standard purple. Below is a hasty arrangement of a white spike, a pink spike and a standard purple one.

tri-coloured foxglove display

This year I have been suffering from marauding sheep more than ever before. These are sheep that come from neighbouring fields and munch on Balintore's grass. Who can blame them? I don't do any lawn mowing myself, so their attentions are almost welcome except when they rip up my few plants.

Today, I had my first ever marauding cows: two calves who thought the grass was greener at Balintore and just went for it. Calves can clearly slip through fences much more easily than adult cows, and I would be very surprised indeed to see a full-sized cow at Balintore.

Greg and Gregor spotted a brood of wildcats in a hidey-hole within the castle grounds: a mother and three tiny kittens. At one stage, apparently, the mother was carrying one of the kittens. I was called over, and despite crawling on my hands and knees in the locale, did not spot them. Anyhow, we were all totally delighted. I am not a (domestic) cat lover, but a brood of wildcats in your garden is pretty special.

I was just about to do my food shopping, when I spotted some vegetation on top of one of my vehicle's tyres. My previous food shop has been over 3 weeks ago due to covid. "Typical," I thought, "trust me to pick up some grunge on my tyres.". I pulled out the vegetation, and to my surprise I found myself with a bird's nest in my clutches with a very annoyed blackbird sitting in it. She looked at me, emitted a loud cheep, and flew off. Underneath was a clutch of 4 beautiful blue eggs:

4 blackbird eggs in a nest

I was bowled over by the perfection of the round form of the nest. This was the first time in my life I had held an occupied one. At Balintore, nature comes to you.