Over the weekend we visited Lichfield, a lovely old, character filled Cathedral city in the heart of the Staffordshire countryside. When we first married we lived fairly close and visited often. Nowadays our visits are few and far between and each time we go we keep our fingers crossed that the special places we so loved are still there.
Thankfully, Lichfield remains as charming and quirky as ever, with its Cathedral, market, historic houses and museums. Samuel Johnson was born here and Erasmus Darwin lived here too, his herb garden is not to be missed. There is also a wonderful old Tudor teahouse built in 1510 and still doing brisk business on the day of our visit.
We were very sad to see that the lovely old antiquarian bookshop was about to close its doors after 65 years, in fact the day we visited was one of its last days of trading. This shop once had an amazing stock selling not only antiquarian books but also sheet music, prints and ephemera and you could wander up rickety staircases through nine rooms filled with printed treasures. At first I did not see anything of interest in the few remaining rooms of stock until my eyes alighted on a small cardboard box on a bookshelf near the exit.
My heart skipped a beat when I saw the contents! This was more like it- tiny miniature editions, special facsimile editions, envelopes containing antique bookplates, toy books, old post cards, invitations to illustrators exhibitions and then this .. dated 1886, The Socialist Platform No 4 socialist League pamphlet, (probably unread because the pages had not been cut at the head) by William Morris with an illustration by Morris on the cover, price £1. Not a reproduction, the genuine article! Also going for a song where several copies of Kate Greenaway's Alphabet miniature facsimile books (1973) and unbound editions of "An Account of the life of Dr.Samuel Johnson from birth to eleven years".
After checking and rechecking with the owner that the prices were correct, all of them seemed too low even for a closing down sale, I finally came away with most of the contents of the box. I thought that I would keep some, give some and put a couple in my Etsy shop in order to share my good fortune with fellow book worms. I will be listing my finds in the next few days but I have no idea what I will do with the pamphlet, any ideas?
No trip to Lichfield would be complete without a visit to the Cathedral, so after a quick peep into the herb garden, we climbed the ancient stone steps up to the Chapel of St Chad, after paying our respects to the Lichfield Angel. As we sat in the little chapel the choir who were assembled for a practice started to sing, a fitting end to a heavenly day.
We went in search of sunshine and blue skies and found them here in St Ives which really does have the bluest of blue skies and sea. I met my blog friend Lesley Ninnes here in the lovely Art Space Gallery and saw many examples of how this wonderful light has inspired so many artists over the years.
A trip to the St Ives Tate is a must if only to sit on the rooftop terrace to admire the views. The whole of the town is awash with galleries and museums and there is always something interesting to see, my favourite places being St Ives Ceramics, the Barbara Hepworth museum and garden and the tiny Fish Pye (spelt with an i on the sign outside?) studio which sells beautiful hand made pottery by Laura McCrossen Of course I had to take home another piece to add to my collection.
I have visited St Ives several times before but this was my first time as a grandma so had the added pleasure of time spent with our growing family. We feasted on Cornish pasties and clotted cream teas; scones, jam and cream so thick that you can spread it with a knife. I had under estimated the steepness of the hills choosing instead to remember the fabulous views afforded by the strenuous climb to the top although I was rather glad not to have been the one pushing the pram uphill!
It has been very hectic around here for the past few weeks, not only have I been trying hard to meet work deadlines, I have also had to plan three separate social events including a family party to celebrate my husband Tony’s early retirement from teaching. These were happy/sad occasions as it meant very many goodbyes not only to pupils and staff but also to a way of life that has dominated our lives for the last thirty-four years. Needless to say there was much laughter and a few tears, mainly from me as I read all the warm testimonials, letters and cards he received.
I wanted to give him a gift that would be appropriate to this new and exciting phase in his life and wracked my brains to find the perfect answer. In the end I settled for two things that I knew he would appreciate: one is a handmade notebook and the other is a piece of original artwork, both by wonderful people I met in the blogosphere and whose work we both admire.
The original artwork is a pencil drawing of a storyteller and weaver of tales entitled “Once Upon a Time” by Rima Staines of Hermitage fame. I was very honoured that she agreed to part with her original artwork, as every piece is very personal to her. I could have bought a print, indeed if you would like a copy she has them in her Etsy shop. The original artwork is something special, so beautifully rendered and imaginatively designed with very many tiny details to enjoy. I thought the theme of the work was very fitting for a man who has spent his career as an English teacher, one who held his classes spellbound with his stories and love of books.
The other gift is a handmade book that has a good thickness and is nice and bendy. It has been lovingly stitched around a recycled leather cover and has herringbone details on the spine. This is the work of Sarah Mitchell who has a wonderful blog called Little Paper Bird. It positively cries out to be used and I know it will be put to good use for note taking, ideas and thoughts. Again, if you would like a similar book she has them in her Etsy shop.
My name is Valerie Greeley. I am an artist, surface pattern/textile designer and illustrator. I have a special interest in the book arts including illustration, bookbinding, printmaking and artist books. I also have an interest in quilting, nature and bumblebees.