Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Holiday in Greece

I haven't written for a while - that's because we've been on holiday.  We went to two of the Greek islands in the Cyclades, Sifnos and Milos, with Naturally Greece, and afterwards John and I stayed on in Athens for a few days. We've had a wonderful time - good weather, beautiful scenery, amazing archaeology, excellent food, good company.   John has come back with thousands of photos to sort out - I would have contributed a lot more myself, but the camera I was using wouldn't recharge, so I only took a meagre 200.  Here is a very small selection of the total.

Sifnos is an island for walkers - still very rural, with few roads, and many muletracks and footpaths.  The hillsides are terraced and scattered with white-painted buildings.  There are 235 (or is it 237?) churches on Sifnos, all well-maintained - even though in many cases there is no road access.  


And here's the transport:

There are dry-stone walls everywhere, which reminds anyone from Yorkshire of home (though the rock is completely different and I imagine the wall-building techniques aren't the same).  Here's one in front of  a very common type of Sifnos building - a dovecot.

I liked the dovecots a lot.  They are usually well-maintained and often still occupied by pigeons, though I doubt if the pigeons are used for food these days.

The dovecots usually have a little turret at each corner of the roof - they are very distinctive.

And everywhere there are olive trees.

The houses on Sifnos have very characteristic ceramic chimneys, sometimes fancy ones specially made for the purpose, but often looking like an ordinary storage pot, re-used.

Then we went to Milos (an exciting journey by small boat, as the ferries were on strike that day). Geologically it's very different - the rocks are volcanic. These are the cliffs at Sarakiniko, where the soft rock is eroded into fantastic shapes.

And at Mandrakis, boathouses have been cut into the rock to shelter the fishing boats in bad weather.

There are many windmills, or windmill stumps, on both Sifnos and Milos.  This hill, at Trypiti on Milos, must have been particularly windy as it has seven:

We went to Plaka, the capital of Milos, a couple of times.  The Red Bicycle cafe claims to have very good coffee (see the blackboard outside) - I can't confirm that, but its ice-cream is excellent.

And later we watched the sun setting beyond the island of Antimilos from the courtyard of the church in Plaka.

We were too late for most of the spring flowers, but the caper bushes came into flower while we were on Sifnos.  We were told that capers cannot be cultivated, but there are plenty growing wild in the dry-stone walls - and there was no shortage of pickled caper buds in the salads served in the tavernas. The flower looks quite exotic.

And at Filakopi, the site of a Bronze Age settlement by the coast on Milos, there were large areas of sea lavender in flower.

And there was bougainvillea flowering in gardens and on houses in the islands, and in Athens.

So then we had four full days in Athens, and visited the Acropolis of course, and the Acropolis Museum, the Agora, the Olympeion, the Archaeology Museum (a wonderful place - we spent a whole day there), the Kerameikos and its museum, the Filopappus Hill....    

Here are just a couple of the less familiar things that I particularly noticed.  First, a strange object from the Archaeology Museum.  It's called an epinetron, and it fits over a woman's knee and thigh, and the rough area on the top is then used to card wool.

It seems a bizarre and not very efficient way to card wool, but is also notable because the lives of women (apart from goddesses and courtesans) are not very evident in the museums of Athens.  The Acropolis Museum has a display on marriage in ancient Athens, and from that and elsewhere it seems that women from well-to-do families really didn't have any life outside the home - and in the home, once married, they ran the household, raised children and did a lot of spinning and weaving.  Not much of a life.

There are hundreds of Greek vases and other ceramics on display in the various museums of Athens - mostly from tombs, or votive offerings to temples.  The workmanship is astonishing, and here are two vases from the Kerameikos Museum that demonstrate that:  they are only about 4 inches or 10cm. high.

The one on the left shows Athena wearing what the Acropolis Museum says is her aegis - a goatskin cloak with snakes around the edge.   (Don't try this at home unless you are a goddess.)   But how the potter made such tiny vases and then painted such detailed images on them, I can't imagine.

And finally, another aspect of women's lives: pots of face powder, again from the Kerameikos Museum and again from a tomb.

But how do they know it was face powder?  And why would you wear face powder if you never went out?  I don't know.

We did also see some interesting wildlife in Athens - a kestrel from the Acropolis, a couple of tortoises on the Filopappus Hill.  And, most exciting, we heard two hoopoes calling to each other, and eventually saw one of them on a dead branch at the top of a tree.  It spent several more minutes hoo-hoo-hoo-ing to the other bird, so John got some good photos of it.

A wonderful holiday.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

More Knitting Needles

Through the local newspaper, the Huddersfield Examiner,  I have been trying to find out more about Wakefield Greenwood, a Huddersfield business that sold knitting yarns to stores throughout the country, and elsewhere, in the 1940s to 1960s.  I got a few replies to my appeal in the Examiner for information, and a couple of weeks ago I met someone who worked for the company for more than 20 years.  She has given me a lot of fascinating information, so I am gradually getting a more complete story, ... and she gave me several things for the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, including a box of knitting needles.

I've definitely turned into a knitting needle nerd, I now realise, because I got quite excited by some of the makes.  Several of the pairs still had their original paper labels - not because they were unused, but because the donor liked to use the labels to keep the pairs together.

Here are the labels:

The needles at the top are Wimberdar brand - along with three other pairs of green/blue/turquoise plastic needles in the box. Wimberdar specialised in brightly coloured plastic needles, though they made other things too.  There are several pairs of Milwards Phantom needles in the box, in both grey metal and mauve plastic.  Then a really exciting pair - the Ivy needles.  I had never heard of Ivy needles before, and more surprisingly, neither has Google, as far as I can see.  There is no clue on the label as to who made them, except that it says "Made in England".  There are no marks on the needles or head, apart from the size, and IVY written on the head, not very clearly - barely visible except in a strong side light.

The labels on the Stratnoid needles read "The New Stratnoid Knitting Pins", The needles are the usual gray enamelled metal, like several other brands, and so are no longer the shiny duralumin of the original Stratnoid needles.  So 'new' in this case means 'just like everyone else' - a bit disappointing, when they started out being different from everyone else.

And of course there was a pair of Aero needles, made by Abel Morrall of Redditch - they must have been the commonest knitting needles in the country.

One pair of needles which did not have a label was, even so, particularly exciting,  I hadn't heard of the make before and the needles were marked with a patent number.  (I do like a knitting needle with a patent number.)  The make is Jouvenia, and they are the usual grey enamelled metal, so don't look very interesting.

Here's the head, with the patent number:

Patent 395307 is a British patent granted in 1933 to Joseph Jouve, a Frenchman.  The reason for the head being offset is that it has a hole in it, alongside the needle itself, where the point of the other needle can be inserted.  So the pair of needles can be joined together like this:

 (Although actually it is not at all easy to get the points of both needles at once into the hole on the opposite head.)  The idea is that fixing them together like this will keep the knitting securely on the needles, as in this drawing from the patent application.

A Google search for Jouvenia found a couple of ads for Jouvenia needles in the French magazine Tricot Journal in 1936, and a sheet of headed paper from the Jouvenia factory in Paris, so it seems that Jouvenia needles were made and marketed in France, in spite of the British patent.  Yet one pair at least ended up in Huddersfield.    

Altogether a fascinating little collection of knitting needles.  If you like that sort of thing.
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