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A Potter's Moll: Passion And Devotion

...I thought I’d heard it all when I read the following :- PASSION: it’s what the makers and their 2,000 employees have for hearing aids. That’s an awful lot of passion.

Later that day I was driving behind a van delivering groceries for Waitrose which declared ‘Delivered with devotion’. Passion and devotion both debased on the same day...

Liz Robison deplores the degradation of words by advertising folk.

To read more of Liz's effervescent columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=Liz+Robison

And do visit the Web site of Liz's potter husband Jim Robison http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

One of my bugbears about advertising, apart from the huge quantities that come as junk mail or in magazines, is the hyperbole which accompanies it. I thought I’d heard it all when I read the following :- PASSION: it’s what the makers and their 2,000 employees have for hearing aids. That’s an awful lot of passion.

Later that day I was driving behind a van delivering groceries for Waitrose which declared ‘Delivered with devotion’. Passion and devotion both debased on the same day.

Speaking of language a fellow chorister asked me the meaning of ‘pied’ as she is to sing a solo: ‘When daisies pied and violets blue’ The adjective coming after the noun makes it a little confusing in this context, but it is the same word as in Pied Piper and pied wagtail, meaning having two or more patches of colour.

She will sing the solo at a Flower Festival at Flockton church, here in West Yorkshire where our conductor is the organist. She, the conductor, wants as many songs as possible with flower names in them, so she has dredged up Edelweiss, I’m looking over a four leaved clover, In an English Country Garden etc, but the one I find toe-curling is Tiptoe through the Tulips.

Does anyone remember the falsetto-voiced Tiny Tim who briefly made it to the Top Ten? When? Late 50’s?early 60’s?

We had a visit recently to a National Trust property, Calke Abbey at Ticknall in Derbyshire, one home of the Harpur-Crewe family. The guide book states: ‘Throughout the generations the family displayed a range of eccentric characteristics from being strangely reclusive to fanatical collecting.’

The house did not acquire electricity until 1962 and it survived somehow until 1985 when it was transferred to the Trust. The unusual thing about it is that while essential repairs were carried out to the fabric, inside they have tried to present the place as it was found. In other words to conserve it rather than restore it. This makes for a fascinating visit to see a record of ‘the Country House in decline’, as the guide book has it.

Vast collections of taxidermy, birds eggs and books cram every corner – you get the feeling that this was a family who never threw anything away.

You can leave the house by the front door or you can go down a subterranean tunnel via the beer and wine cellars (Did they all carry lanterns or candles?) You emerge into the Brewery and can visit stables, coach-houses, gardens, smithies and slaughterhouses on the vast and originally self-sufficient estate.

As a National Trust member, it always feels good to get free entry to the properties, but of course there are also the tea rooms, gift shops and plant sales. It is the latter that is always my downfall and my garden has now been enhanced by an Echinacea, a Scabious and an Eryngium to remind me of a memorable day out.

We also visited Wentworth Castle Gardens, near Barnsley which have been restored over a number of years by a Lottery funded trust. (The house is now the Northern College and so is not open to the public.) The parkland in which the gardens are set command vast panoramic views and you first visit a garden named for a family who provided several generations of head gardeners in the nineteenth century. Formal gardens have been restored as well as avenues of trees and then you come to Stainborough Castle, a Gothic folly representing a Motte and Bailey which Thomas Wentworth had built for his children to play in. The biggest Wendy house I have ever seen.

I enjoyed the Stumpery and the Fearnery. I’d never heard of a Stumpery before, (neither has the Spell Check), but more knowledgeable friends tell me there are several well known examples. I loved the fantastical shapes of stumps used as edging, fencing, sculpture and just for kids to climb on. All in the dappled light under the trees and among the ferns.

I watched one of the Griff Rhys-Jones series ‘Rivers’ and liked his comment after a gruelling canoeing activity: ‘I’m not sure how many more challenges I need.’

More from me in a fortnight.

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