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A Potter's Moll: Proverbs, Fletchers And A Sitooterie

…I visited a friend recently and when I was leaving she insisted I go out by the back door, even though the front door was nearer. ‘Always go out the way you came in,’ she said. This made me think about superstitions and proverbs. Youngsters these days look blank if you quote a proverb, especially as we often only say part of it:

‘A stitch in time……’
‘Too many cooks…..’
‘A rolling stone…….’

I guess proverbs are from an older pre-industrial, certainly pre-computer/digital age…

The effervescent Liz Robison considers proverbs, fledglings, fletchers, retirement cards – and more!

Do please visit the Web site of Liz’s husband, potter Jim Robison http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

I was delighted recently when I opened the magazine of a weekend newspaper to see a double-page spread in colour of our friend, Gordon Cooke’s garden in Sale, Cheshire. He is also a potter, so he has lovely examples of his work here and there around the garden. The headline was a neat ‘POT PLOT’, and there was a newly coined word to describe a sort of turfed-over cave where you can sit and contemplate the garden, or eat and drink, whatever the weather: Gordon calls it ‘the sitooterie’.

I’m enjoying a book of journalism by the great Christopher Lloyd who gardened at Great Dixter in Sussex. The extracts follow the months of the year and one eulogises poppies in June. However, he bemoans the fact that there was not one seed head left after all the visitors had gone.

Perhaps these are the same people who follow gardener Bob Flowerdew’s advice that the best time to take cuttings is when no one is looking!

Having watched three nestfuls of swallows fledge their young recently, I decided to look up the origins of the word in the dictionary. (Etymology is another of my passions.) The fledglings can fledge when they have fletched, ie when the young bird has developed wing feathers ready for flight. This took me on to fletcher, a fairly common surname even today, meaning a maker of arrows, using, of course, feathers, to aid the arrow’s flight.

I visited a friend recently and when I was leaving she insisted I go out by the back door, even though the front door was nearer. ‘Always go out the way you came in,’ she said. This made me think about superstitions and proverbs. Youngsters these days look blank if you quote a proverb, especially as we often only say part of it:

‘A stitch in time……’
‘Too many cooks…..’
‘A rolling stone…….’

I guess proverbs are from an older pre-industrial, certainly pre-computer/digital age. The main superstition I still follow is never putting new shoes on the table. As children we had to give a penny to anyone who gave us a knife (penknife) or scissors. Whenever an ambulance drove by we would chant: ‘Cross your heart and hope to die but never get the fever.’ Incidentally, do you remember how ambulances and police cars went ‘ting-a-ling’ instead of ‘bee-ba, bee-ba’?

We always laughed at the story of my Uncle Emlyn who threw some spilled salt over his shoulder, thereby knocking a cup off a hook. On bending down to pick up the pieces, his glasses slipped out of his shirt pocket and a lens broke on the tiled floor.

This weekend we are taking part in a ceramics festival called ‘Earth and Fire’ at Rufford Country Park, near Ollerton in Nottinghamshire. A beautiful venue, an old abbey ruin, with stalls set out inside and along the paths leading to the abbey. There are also trade stands, demonstrations and refreshments available, and it’s always a good ‘do’.

The potters enjoy the chance to socialise at the Saturday evening meal when characters known as ‘the Two Richards’ sing and play guitar and banjo with their own versions of some old favourites: (‘Momma don’t allow no pot-throwing here….’)

With the weather forecast the way it is we may end up with our own northern Glastonbury. (Clay is only mud, after all!)

The following week. July 1st to 6th, sees the annual Holmfirth ArtWeek – well worthwhile for a visit from anyone within striking distance of this West Yorkshire town. The main event is in the Civic Hall with fringe events in shops, pubs and galleries around the valley. Our Booth House Gallery is hosting an exhibition by several potters and painters and called ‘Hardy Perennials’.

Several of my friends are retiring from teaching this summer, and I’ve been keeping my eye out for suitable cards. So far the best I’ve found says:

I can’t decide whether to be a good example or a terrible warning!

More from me in a fortnight.

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