Moths emerge in the breeding cages; the “Devon Belle” takes Gran on holiday; memories of a visit to Italy in 1922; The Artist Dorothy Adamson, and a pair of Ring Ouzels.
May 7th 1948:
In Kingsway the beautiful and unusual Adam Laburnum is just coming into flower. M. Adam, a French nurseryman in 1826 grafted a bud of Purple Laburnum on to a yellow. The hybrid tree produces three kinds of flowers, the yellow of one parent, purple of the other and the pink hybrid flowers. This is the most celebrated record of hybridization.
The Bradford Entomologist, Mr Briggs, today sent Barry some Gothic caterpillars and several Emperor cocoons… All the caterpillars arrived safely, some having pupated on the way. Two puss moths have emerged in the breeding cage today and now, as I write, a third is struggling to get out. It is a source of wonder to me how they do emerge with so little loss of the down on the thorax.
Gran reports finding a Green-winged Orchis (as she calls it) on the rough ground opposite, on the 8th, and also Trifolium filiforme, now known as T. micranthum (Slender Clover) “this latter rare but partial to stony ground”, she writes:
Great excitement prevailed at home when the postman brought a box of Wood Tiger caterpillars from an entomologist friend of Mr Briggs. They were all well and hungry.
Tying up loganberries in the Park Road garden, she says:
I am always having to rescue something in this garden! Today it was a Slow-worm which one of the hens was worrying. The hen was most annoyed with me but I made it stay away until the Slow-worm had disappeared in the long grass.
Gran writes on the 12th, that:
On Friday I go to Kingston and on Saturday to Belstone, in Devon, to spend a fortnight’s holiday with Adrian’s mother. It will be my first real holiday for eleven years and I have always wanted to see Devon’s lanes and moors. There will be new scenery, new lovely things to discover, new companionship with one who understands and gives restful and sympathetic kindness.
And the following day, May 13th:
A glorious day, sunny, bright and warm all day just as it was fourteen years ago when my Jane was born. And she is a sunny, bright little person with that great gift of friendliness which wins her way everywhere.
Gran is up early on the 14th writing that the dawn chorus commenced just before 4.15 and continued until 5. 00. Then Robin, Blackbird, Cuckoo and Woodpigeon began in sequence, “then the owl’s last call before retiring”. Then House Sparrows, Starlings, Great Tits and Chaffinches joined in and “within ten minutes or so the full chorus was filling the air with indescribable melody”. She says:
It was delightful walking through the woods to catch the bus at 7 a.m. for the London train…Barry came through to the bus with me and we watched a Spotted Flycatcher hawking insects as we waited for it. House Martins were flying overhead.
And on the 15th:
Here I am in Devon, glorious Devon…looking out of the window and miles and miles of field and moorland, the distance a hazy blue and nearby fresh green trees now dappled by the evening sunshine. Opposite the house is a meadow where the fattest sheep and lambs I have ever seen, are grazing…
On the journey down, the “Devon Belle” travelled too fast for Gran to see much, she says, but she notes Fleet Pond, with Coots and Swans on it, the spire of Salisbury Cathedral, one or two flowers near Seaton, and a couple of Clouded Yellows near Sidmouth.
This train would have travelled through the very farm at Pinhoe, near Exeter, where, twenty-six years later, I spent a wonderful year gaining farming experience before attending Seale Hayne Agricultural College, in Newton Abbot.
“Now”, she writes:
… the soil took on the famous red hue of Devon, and I found that it was in no way exaggerated. Where it had been freshly ploughed it was a clear brick-red, and all down the escarpments and among the growing crops, this brilliant soil was visible… After tea (with cream!) at Belstone we walked up the lane on to the moor…
Everything, it seems, is new to Gran, and I think it’s easy to forget how little-travelled most people were in those days – and also how limited and unvaried were most people’s diets, for she says at the end of the day:
I have just eaten the best dinner I have had in years, and for the second time since we arrived, Devon-shire cream.
I wish she had described her meal in more detail!
They daily walk the lanes and moors around Belstone, and along the River Taw over the next two weeks, and also make a longer journey by bus to Newton Abbot and Torquay, Gran finding unfamiliar plants, particularly ferns on the moors and along the river. She revels in the unpressured freedom and interest in new places and habitats. Indeed she writes, “…what a haven of rest this place is!”
How, today, we take for granted the ease of travel provided by our own cars and our own ability to drive them! The distances Gran and Adrian’s mother (will we ever learn her name?) travel are circumscribed by their ability to walk or catch a bus. Returning from Okehampton one day, she writes:
Finding ourselves rather late, very hot and tired by the time we reached the top of the hill again, we were lucky to hear a car coming. This I hailed, and the driver kindly gave us a lift to the corner near Well Park.
And, ever interested in the ways of “country folk”, she writes after a day in the nearby Skeigh Valley:
On the way along we saw an old countryman sitting on a log splitting wood into thin strips. We asked him for what purpose he used them and he said for thatching corn-stacks and showed us how to bend them into the necessary shape. It was surprising, the ease with which he split it, using a small curved hatchet.
May 23rd was Trinity Sunday and they go to the Church of St Mary, in Belstone:
I noticed immediately on entering, a picture of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci, the original of which I saw in Chiesa Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, painted, as is a well-known fact, upon the wall.
I can hardly believe that Gran, with her patriotic love of England, her distrust of the foreigner and her wish never to travel beyond our shores, had ever experienced Milan, Genoa, the Mediterranean or a rail journey through the length of France! And yet, I have a little notebook of hers, entitled My Doings in Italy from May 11th – June 14th 1922. Including the journey from Southampton.
I think this warrants a short diversion from the journal.
This journey, the 18-year-old Joan Adamson, of Sunnydene, Winchester Road, Bassett, undertook with her mother and her cousin Dorothy, to rendezvous with her Chief Engineer father, Percy, whose steamship, Arabic, was in dry dock in Genoa.
On May 11th 1922, the teenager writes of leaving Southampton:
We embarked on the steamer “Normania” [? Hard to decipher her writing here] at 10 o’clock after registering the luggage for Havre. The boat left at 11.30 and the bunks and other accommodation were very good. All seasick, but Dorothy and I were not ill.
They arrive at 7 o’clock the next morning and take a free tram to the station from where they leave for Paris. The following morning they board the “train de luxe’ (with carpeted carriages, blue upholstered seats and comfortable bunks) for Genoa, their places booked by Thomas Cook and Sons. The border is crossed at Modane, where customs keep them for four hours rather than the expected two, and consequently they arrive two hours late in Genoa on May 14th.
That day she writes:
Every hotel entrance in which any member of the Genoa Conference was staying, was guarded by two soldiers. Their uniforms were navy blue with a cerise collar band, and each guard wore a “tin hat”.
This is her first mention of the Genoa Conference, which was taking place at the time of her visit, and I wonder if, ultimately, this was what had enabled Gran’s visit. Had her father’s ship transported some of the delegates there, possibly David Lloyd George himself? Gran mentions that Lloyd George was present, writing of her accommodation that:
Our flat includes the roof, from which we can see the villa in which Lloyd George is staying.
And, describing a Sunday evening drive along the coast to Rapallo:
A glorious scent of orange blossom pervaded the air and large cactus plants shaded the road. We could not take in all the details, however, on account of the speed at which we drove. The Italian driver was marvelous for the road was winding and there did not appear to be any rule of the road. He dashed round hairpin bends at a rate of knots and we had to hold on to prevent us from being hurled in a heap on the floor. It is no wonder that Mrs Lloyd George was in a motor smash for the Italian drivers seem absolutely mad.
Later we went to the docks to visit the “Arabic”, but as the White Star boatman was not there we couldn’t reach her. An Italian offered to row us out to the ship but his boat was full of water.
They succeed in getting to the ship the next day.
It is on June 1st 1922 that Gran relates her viewing of The Last Supper:
As the train for Lake Como did not leave until 1 o’clock we went to view the church of Maria della Grazie, in which there are several good pictures. In the Tempio di S.Maria delle Grazio there is a very famous picture of the Last Supper. It is painted on the wall of the building by Leonardo da Vinci, the famous Italian artist. It was painted in the fifteenth century and for many years it was covered up. When it was uncovered, many years later, it was found to be in a perfect state of preservation. At the opposite end of the building is another painting of a later date. This picture was executed by Affresco di G.D. Montofano. One figure was done by Leonardo da Vinci, of whom the artist was a pupil. The subject is that of the Crucifixion.
My diversion continues:
On-line research indicates that Gran’s father’s ship, Arabic, was the third of that name, owned by the White Star Line, the vessel having first been owned by North German Lloyd and named Berlin, and ceded to Britain as war reparation in 1920, when re-named Arabic.
It appears that Gran’s father was employed by the White Star Line early in his career but Dad tells me, “ He was certainly with Shaw Savill in the 1930’s, plying to New Zealand and Pitcairn and back; on return, he brought masses of food, including what he called “bull’s rudder” (oxtail), which I helped load into the store in my Gran’s kitchen at Sunnydene.” (This was the new “Sunnydene”in Highclere Road, Bassett, to where the family had moved from the old “Sunnydene” in Winchester Road, the house from which Gran had left for Genoa).
Indeed, I note on-line, that Arabic was furnished with refrigeration facilities – which would have enabled oxtail to be transported such a long distance.
Unfortunately, Gran makes very little mention of her cousin Dorothy, with whom she made the trip. Dorothy, born in 1894, was one of the six children of Gran’s father’s brother and his wife Adela (the elder sister of Gran’s mother, Nellie) whom the family knew as “Mater”. They lived in a house called “Justhome” in Betws-y-coed, North Wales.
Dorothy Adamson, who died tragically young, of cancer, in 1934, was a wonderful artist in both oil and watercolour, who studied under Lucy Kemp-Welch concentrating particularly on farming scenes with dogs, carthorses and other farm animals, as well as on still life studies. One of her works, Summer Sewing sold in 2003 for $18,716 at Christies in Edinburgh.
Although most of her works, some of which can be seen on-line, appear to be quintessentially English, a number of them are clearly southern European and I wonder if these were completed on the visit to Genoa: Gran gives no hint.
Now let us return to Gran’s restful break in Devon, where her ornithological highlight is clearly her first ever sighting of Ring Ouzel, a pair of which she and Adrian’s mother find nesting on a boulder-strewn hillside on May 27th. She recounts:
Sitting in almost complete silence we experienced a new thrill. A pair of Ring Ousels [sic] came quite close to us, and perched on a boulder nearby. He was a splendid fellow, a little larger than a blackbird, with smooth black plumage and elegant white bib.
His duller-plumaged mate had a beakful of nesting material, and both birds were watched later, “working steadily on a grassy patch collecting materials”.
Gran, a few days earlier, had been amazed by the scatter of large rocks on the hillsides and along the Taw valley, being unable to conceive that they had appeared by natural means – in spite of her education in physical geography, including glaciation, about which she spoke to me on a number of occasions! She lent me her copy of Physical Geography by Philip Lake when I was doing my O levels. She comments:
It seems that at some time ages ago, there has been a mighty upheaval, perhaps a sudden cleft in the hill, throwing the great boulders down into the resulting valley, for some are so widely flung and so carelessly lying about that it seems only the obvious thing that the Divine Hand made it so. No human could have moved some of them, neither, in my opinion, could the human mind conceive such beauty created by such apparent casualness…
As the holiday nears its end:
The Padre spoke most kindly to us this evening as I was gathering poppies in a ditch, and remembers my cousin who once lived here.
A pity that she did not name this cousin!
And so, on May 29th, Gran bids farewell to the South-west, returning to Kingston to place, the following day, a small bouquet of wild Devon flowers in Adrian’s memory in his “Garden of Sleep”. She returns home, arriving at Eastleigh in heavy rain.
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 1)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 2)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 3)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 4)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 5)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 6)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 7)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 8)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 9)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – A Journal (Part 10)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 11)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 12)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part13)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 14)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 15)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 16)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 17)