Sunday 21 September 2014

School Days, Chimneys, and Pilgrims ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ Just one more entry on chimneys for now {but I do promise that this is quite different, and also that in a while more will follow, for I have already taken photographs} I hope you will humour me, for this one is not just any chimney pot, as you will see, this, rather, these are the chimney pots of the old, Victorian built school house in the village ~~~ this journal entry has turned out longer than I normally write, but this building is especially important and meaningful to me in many ways, so I hope you are sitting comfortably?  Make yourself a mug of tea {coffee, or hot chocolate if you prefer} and take a slice of cake.  Draw your chair closer to the fire and settle in ~~~ for this is my account, in my own words of some of my own memories.

Here is the little unclassified road that leads from the centre of the village, past some quaint stone cottages of old, and down the hill to the old Victorian school house ~ can you see it, just peeking around the corner?  The little bell tower complete with bell rising up, ready to ring out the clarion call to class ~ this is the road that I, and many hundreds of children over the years, walked each day to go to school.  Can you see the ghosts of little children, some in Victorian dress, some in Edwardian, some from the eras of WWI and WWII, some well to do, others poor, across the many years walking past the old cottages to school?  Boys playing pranks, running along atop the hedge, pulling the braids of the girls as the go walking arm in arm, playing with their dollies, giggling at the antics of the boys ~~~ oh! what a tale this little stretch of road could tell ~~~

*my mother did not travel this road, she came from the other side of the hill, for she lived in the cathedral caretaker's cottage, for her father, my Dacu, was the cathedral verger and caretaker for many years in the early and mid 1900's.  That is another story waiting to be told ~~~

As you come around the corner, this is the view that you will see ~~~ a view that has changed only very little during my memory, save that the school house now has an extension and a new purpose ~~~
Built in Victorian times it was, originally, the Church in Wales Voluntary Assisted School for many decades until the end of the 1960's when it was re~purposed as the school canteen.  It is now a centre of pilgrimage, welcoming pilgrims as we have done for centuries.

The extension to the left houses the offices and main entrance to the new pilgrimage education centre {see below}. The original porch with all its charm {where we hung our gabardine rain coats} that stood over the original entrance door {below} has been demolished, but you can see the inverted "V" where the roof and walls were placed. Other than the addition of a disabled access ramp, the school is quite recognisable to me, and here you can see the two sturdy chimneys on the outside of the building ~~~

Several generations of my family attended this school.  I cannot be certain if my great grandmother attended but my mother and grandmother both did, as did I from 1962 until the building was replaced by the new, clinical and modern, state of the art building a short walk away. I was the only member of the family to attend in both buildings, and I spent my last year of primary eduction in the new building before moving up to Grammar School {another beautiful Victorian building}.  For all the modern conveniences of a new build, it had no character, no history, and was a strange and alien building after seven years in a beautiful, old, stone built, historical building that housed the spirit and energy of decades steeped into the very mortar that bound the stones.  I believe the ghosts of pupils gone before must have been so very sad to see us leave ~~~

For at least twenty years after the "new" school was built, the "old" school served as a school canteen for both the Church in Wales and Council {CP} schools across the road.  Then, in the 1980's tragedy struck and the CP school was destroyed in a fire. The two schools amalgamated and another new building to accommodate them was built, complete with canteen which ultimately led to the abandonment of this beautiful Victorian school house. But this is an aside, it is not the history I am following.  Let us return to the beautiful Victorian building, now abandoned and left to ruin, and some of the memories I have of my own happy days spent there and those of my mother.

Internally, the building was divided into three sections.  There was a big, pull~back concertina dividing wall that separated the Infants from the rest of the school, and a high screen that divided the rest of the building.  For concerts and other gatherings, these dividing sections were easily pushed back to create one big communal space. By the 1960's there was also a Portacabin outside as there were now too many students to fit into the old Victorian building.

In my mother's day the schoolhouse was big enough on its own for all the village students, and those who came in from outlying hamlets and farms. There were two big, roaring, coal fires, one in each of the fireplaces, but only in the depths of winter.  I remember in my day, we had no fires, they were boarded up, so it was never comfortably warm in winter, although we seldom had to wear our coats until playtime, and often scorching hot in summer with the big, west facing windows letting in the sunshine.  Still, as children, such things never seemed to bother us. 

I did not like the long trek to the outside toilets, the toilet paper was harsh and flimsy, and there was only a cold water tap, some horrible carbolic soap, and paper towels to wash your hands with. Ugh!

In the winter of 1964 the school had to be closed for three days because the water pipes froze solid!  Three days off in the middle of term with snow on the ground ~ imagine! ~ such a jamboree we did have, building snow men, tobogganing, snowball fights, and more! Then, the pipes thawed and back to school we had to go ~~~

We had proper blackboards and chalk, and the boys, would vie for the task of cleaning the duster ~ taking it outside and shaking it like mad, thumping it against the wall, then returning with a clean duster but covered in chalk themselves!  Silly boys!

There was an upright piano that sat in the corner and was used for teaching us how to sing, most of which was done in preparation for the annual Christmas concert and party.  Every class would have several items to perform, and at the end Mr Jack Smith {a local green grocer} played the part of Father Christmas, and each child would receive a gift from his sack of presents and an orange.  One thing I will always remember is that each child received a different gift, and each one bore a handwritten tag with the child's name individually written on it.  

In my mother's day, months before Christmas, the head teacher, Mr Perkins, would write a list of presents on the blackboard.  Each child was given a slip of paper and asked to write the gift they wished to receive.  His wife would then make as many of those gifts that she could ~ dressed dolls, embroidered handkerchiefs or dressing table sets; books and such were bought, all out of his own pay, a Christmas gift for each and every child in his care.  I think this gesture was so sweet and kind of them.

Sometimes, there were inter~school competitions, and once a year there was an Eisteddfod.  I won several prizes, mostly certificates awarded for a short poem, handwriting, or some other skill.  I do remember one award in particular, when I won a book for a drawing that had been entered by my teacher into a national competition.  It was Enid Blyton's "Tales After Tea" and ever since reading the story about the girl who ate too many green sweets, I have never enjoyed green sweets and actively avoid them from any packet offered to me!  I still have the book. 

Every day, the milk man would deliver crates with a small bottle of milk for each child. These were the days before Mrs Thatcher "milk snatcher".  I have never cared for milk, so I was appointed 'Milk Monitor' and it was my responsibility to make sure that each child received their bottle, with a straw, and that all the empty bottles were gathered up and placed in the crates for collection. Strangely enough, my mother was also designated Milk Monitor, and in her day the milk was put near the open fires.  As Milk Monitor, she would put her own bottle a little bit closer than all the others for she liked her milk hot!

Fortified by the daily bottle of milk right before morning break, we would tumble, pell mell out through the porch door into the yard that surrounded the building; the boys playground was to the left, the girls to the right.  Oh! there were so many games to play. Many long forgotten, and are they still played in any way today?  There is such a list from which we could chose ~ "What's the time Mr Wolf?", "Statues", "The Farmer Wants a Wife", "Oranges and Lemons", "Hopscotch", "Tag" {or "Touch"}, and any number of ball games to be played in groups or solo, and skipping in its many forms with one or two ropes.  Who remembers two long ropes turning, full of girls jumping, to hop out when your birth month is called?  Ah! Those were the days before thumbs began to mutate over keypads. 

From the school yard we would walk out for different services at the Cathedral, at Christmas, Easter, and on March 1st to celebrate the Feast Day of David, Patron Saint of Wales, who was born nearby and who founded the monastic settlement that made St Davids such an important place on the pilgrimage and ecclesiastic maps.  We would walk, holding hands, two by two, in a long crocodile, never daring to talk or step out of line as we represented our school in public.

For several years, the future of the building hung in the balance. Speculation abounded as to what it may, or may not be used for, and all the while the state of repair declined.  Windows were broken and boarded up; weeds flourished where once school yard games were played; walls crumbled; slates slipped and slithered to the ground allowing water to seep in; trees seeded in the very foundations; and each and every time I walked past the decaying building it was crumbling a little bit more and my heart cried.  

Then, one wonderful day, it was announced that the Church in Wales, who owned the building, had secured funding and permission to restore the school with the purpose of creating a centre of education and pilgrimage.  My heart sang with joy!  I do not think anyone could have come up with a more appropriate and suitable purpose for this once and future centre of education.

So, Tŷ'r Pererin came into being and you can find out all about it and the work they do here.

Part of the restoration included a new, replacement, fully working bell that is often rung ~~~

Here are the two original chimneys ~~~ taken on a foggy day in early Spring, shortly after the newly dedicated centre was opened ~~~

and you can read what the BBC said here

Here are some images now from the inside.  The lighting was not brilliant as it was a foggy day in the Shire, but I think they will work ~~~

If you click on any image, it should bring up a larger version ~~~ this is an image of the new building ~ the original building was the main rectangle, the two sections on either side are the extensions but the division of the space remains faithful ~~~

The main auditorium/meeting space which originally housed four classes {in my day they were the very sweet and patient {my favourite teacher} Mrs Walters, Years 3 and 4; and the strict and disciplinarian Mr Salmon Years 5 and 6}~~~

The new kitchen is beyond the far wall.  That area was originally the Infants One and Two, under the guidance of the lovely Mrs Bird ~~~

The original windows still form part of the back wall, which is now enclosed on the other side by a passageway which runs along the former outside wall, creating a covered walkway from one end of the building to the other ~~~

The passageway, from one end to the other showing the traditional stonework of the original exterior wall ~~~ 

Looking out from the passageway {which covers a section of what was playground} across the part of the former playground {which here had not been fully landscaped} ~~~

The view from here, across the valley, is, on a clear day, quite beautiful.  If you look into the mist, through the trees, in the distance you can see the outline of the tower of the Cathedral.
The steps on both sides of the wall lead down to where the original outside toilet blocks stood ~ girls to the left, boys to the right ~~~ 

This is the new extension, the new entrance, and the administrative centre is to the right ~~~

A copy of the icon of Saint David is on the wall.  This is from the Shrine in St Davids Cathedral dedicated to David, Patron Saint of Wales ~~~

The door, left, was the internal door from the original porch.  This was Mrs Walter's classroom where I spent many happy hours. In my day, the walls were bare stonework ~~~

The class room space is much smaller than I recall, yet this is the original space ~~~ imagine it full of desks, filled with seated students all eager to learn {well, some more eager than others!}

A misty day across the valley ~~~

Gentle Reader ~  I hope you are still here and have not gone to sleep, or wandered away, and have enjoyed this journey through my early school days, and that you worked out the time line as I bounced along!  It is difficult to stick to a straight line when there is so much to say, and I've really only scratched the surface, as I know you can imagine ~ next time, I must try to get back to something to do with the garden, for colours are turning, seed heads bursting, and the harvest is winding slowly down ~~~ even though I cannot get to work with a fork or spade, remember that ~~~

~~~A Gardener's Work Is Never Done~~~

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Chimney Tops and Clock Towers ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ A few days ago, I promised you more chimney pots ~~~ and here they are.  Of course, these are just a few more to whet your appetite.  I took a welcome, short, restorative walk today, around the valley, the longest I have walked since my back started to heal. Thank you all for your good wishes, healing thoughts, and prayers as this continues.  In the meantime, I am getting more and more frustrated as I can only watch things ~ that is to say weeds ~ grow out of control in the garden ~~~ one thing is for certain, there will be plenty of catching up to do!

So, I went off for my walk on a beautiful, gently warm and sunny autumn day, and taking my time and my camera, I enjoyed this long awaited freedom from the cottage. The air had that certain feel that only comes in autumn, so hard to explain, but one of those things you just know by instinct.  I took a lot of photographs, I gathered a big bag of conkers, or horse chestnuts, and was so incredibly happy to hear, as I walked along the drying river banks, the long silent bells of the cathedral, striking out fresh and loud and clear, signalling the hour.  You see, Gentle Reader, the clock has recently been removed and undergoing complete restoration and is now being returned, put back in its old, familiar setting.  I cannot tell you how much I have missed hearing the hour strike out, but it has been calling out the time for a few days now, an old friend returned.  One day I will capture the sound on a short video for you to hear, and also I will capture the sound of the campanologists at the Bell Tower too.

Here are two photographs I took, one a close up of the refurbished face and numerals, all pristine and new; the other is of the whole tower showing all the scaffolding needed ~~~

Moving on to the chimneys, another selection for you to look at ~~~ some are very similar, but each has its own individual character ~~~

Here is one that has a lot of pipes, there are many fire places inside, and this one is also finished with a rendering to protect the brickwork ~~~

I really like this one; it looks very old, and I love the curved edges instead of being squared off ~~~

Here is another unusual one ~~~ look at the slate ledge near the bottom ~~~ I wonder what its purpose is, and with the funny pointed guard on top too!

I just love these too!  The softly rounded stacks with arranged pipes on top is just so cute ~~~

Finally, two of the oldest chimneys in the Shire ~~~ two stacks from the kitchen quarters of the ruins of the Bishop's Palace ~~~ the site dates to the 6th century, although most of the ruins date from the 13th and 14th centuries ~~~

I hope, Gentle Reader, that you have enjoyed your visit to the chimney tops and clock tower of my corner of the Shire today, and remember that ~~~

~~~A Gardener's Work Is Never Done~~~

Saturday 13 September 2014

Chimneys and Rooftops ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ as my back heals, very slowly, all too slowly, for I am an itchin' and a twitchin' to get out and garden on these gentle, mellow early days of Autumn ~~~ I am taking short and regular strolls up and down the road near my cottage.  Always with my constant companion ~ my camera ~ and just yesterday I simply started pointing the lens at all the lovely chimney pots I can see from the bottom of my drive.  I thought you would like to see them, so here they are, a small collection of beautiful old red brick and stone chimney pots.  Some of these are quite old ~~~ and there are lovely patterns of slate and lichen too, gorgeous colours ~~~

This is the roof top of an old local chapel, now a house and art gallery, but just look at the ridge tiles ~~~

Across to the fields and hills behind ~~~

A cheeky gull sits, looking across to the spires on the tower of the cathedral ~~~

An old Welsh farm cottage ~~~

another of the same ~~~

Finally, two photographs of the full Harvest Super Moon taken the night following the previous cloud covered collection here

I have enjoyed taking these chimney pots so much it gives me and idea to take more to show you, for there are many lovely ones in the village that I'm sure you'd love to see, so there is a plan~~~

I already have another diary entry typed and ready to share, but will wait a day or two, so I hope you will stop by again ~~~ in the meantime, remember ~~~

~~~A Gardener's Work Is Never Done~~~

Tuesday 9 September 2014

~~~waving~~~at the Harvest Moon

Gentle Reader ~~~ Wasn't the full Harvest Moon splendid last evening?  I do hope you saw her, shining down in all her ethereal glory, silvery shimmery ~ gossamer clouds, as a cloak of invisibility, draping her, half hiding her, here in The Shire ~ 

I took some photographs, I always record the full moon ~ that is, when not scuppered by cloud cover, as so often happens here in The Shire ~ even though the composition seldom changes as she rises high in the midnight sky ~ unless, perchance, she loftily glides majestically over the lowly branches of an earth~bound tree or skims a tiled rooftop ~ The Man in The Moon smiles down from above {so why do I call her a 'she'?} 

So, here 'she' is, half hidden by her raiment of clouds, shimmering, slipping silently by with a ghostly, silvery sheen ~~~ a perfect picture for Hallowe'en ~~~ 

Did you see all the subtle changes, as the clouds moved across her face?  Here is one final image, difficult to focus with so much cloud, the lens pulled back, so you can see the halo that surrounded her last night ~~~ there was an eerie, amber glow that does not quite show here, I half expected to see a wild Welsh witch on a besom flit across the spooky scene ~~~  

I do hope you were able to see the Harvest Moon last night ~~~ and remember that ~~~

~~~A Gardener's Work is Never Done~~~