Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Making Room and Turning out the Attic

I've been forced into it.   Clearing out, I mean.  I'm trying to find room for all the treasures from my mum's house but with the best will in the world I can't keep them all and charity always seem overburdened - in fact,  I  think they probably throw most of their donations away. I can't blame them but I'm not going to drag my stuff down there just to have it chucked into someone else's bin.

Luckily, Freecycle came to the rescue.

In case you haven't heard of Freecycle, it's a system whereby you advertise things you want to give away, and other people come and collect them. No money changes hands, so it is best for things that are slightly damaged, or fragile, or quirky, and which your friends can't find room for.   I like the idea of recycling treasures, and some of the stuff I have been giving away is really sweet.

This elegant little teapot has a cracked repaired lid but I'm so glad someone wanted it.

I would have kept this small length of cheerful seaside-y fabric, if I was into sewing clothes

On the other hand, I was glad to say bye-bye to this string puppet - clowns give me the creeps and I never liked string puppets even as a child.  Now, though, it has a loving home.

I've also been turning out my own attic and finding things I'd forgotten I had. Like an album I bought for 50p off a group of nuns in a car boot sale once. (Why nuns? I don't know!).  The album was an illustrated diary of one woman's visit to France and Germany just after the end of World War 1. Typed with a blue ribbon on flimsy paper, stuck into the big grey album and illustrated with her own photos, it's a unique account. I don't know who wrote it, but she was obviously  in the welfare services, and something of a VIP.    

Although the war had just finished, her description of the battlefield devastation was chilling, with miles of rusting barbed wire and mud  - she noted that the dead soldiers had been gathered up and were in certain areas marked with crosses, although they were not properly buried.

Life was not comfortable for anyone, and although she was given a motor car to go around in, it kept going wrong.  She visited Cologne where people were worried about the perceived threat from Rosa Luxemburg's Spartacus League.  She went to France and  noted how she had to climb over heaps of rubble to get photos of the devastation in France. Here is a corner of Ypres cathedral, with a British soldier in the doorway.

She photographed a market with women trudging through the ruins with their shopping baskets, and she was full of admiration for the people who were starting to recreate their towns and villages from literally almost nothing, and with nothing.

As indeed they did.   This is the same bit of Ypres Cathedral,  95 years later:

Reading this fascinating and disturbing account (which I had really almost forgotten) gave me an idea for a writing project, which is what I'm working on right now.

I've been doing some other things. Went to the V&A with my arty cousin Lorna.  We loved  the shadows cast by the redundant screen from Hereford Cathedral. Here is just a little part of this masterpiece of Victorian cast iron - if you go to the V&A, take a look - the screen towers just above the main entrance.

The museum is apparently renovating the Cast Court, one of my favourite rooms. It's vast and very tall and it holds life sized plaster casts of architectural features and famous statues. Here you see Michelangelo's "David" eyeballing the guy who is photographing him.

And I had a nice evening at a magic-lantern gig at the Green Note in Camden which is  a cafe bar with great food and  unusual and interesting music

And saw some wonderful GOATS in the centre of the city (I'll write more about that soon)

Now, I need to get rid of the bug which is still plaguing me. I think I'm on the mend. I have got my voice back, and my system is not so full of sticky gunge as it was. But I am so very tired. I went to the gym for a short, mild work out and I have felt utterly shattered for the rest of the day.


  1. What a treasure that album is! I'm so glad you found it. I love the premise of Freecycle, and I need to look into it as we accumulate more and more stuff that is still good, but not really needed. Can't wait to hear the story of the goats~

  2. It's very difficult to part with personal family treasures and yet it's impossible to keep all of them. I still have nearly all of my deceased parent's possessions and haven't had much time to go through them. I've never heard of Freecycle before but it's a good idea.
    The old illustrated diary that you have sounds fascinating!

  3. I'm glad you're promoting Freecycle - it's a great system. In some places (Bristol, Brighton) it seems to be possible to leave unwanted items on the pavement where they are often spirited away within minutes. If you did it here in Middle England you'd probably be fined for littering!

  4. Hope you feel better soon!
    Love the pictures and story about the book. I find that information so fascinating and it makes me thank God that I haven't had to live through a war.

  5. I know what you mean about being gungy and tired...Naps have been my salvation though I am still coughing. I do hope you can rest.

  6. Wonderful post today. The illustrated diary sounds so very interesting . It sounds like something a museum would like for reference.

    Love the goats !

    Hope you feel better soon.
    cheers, parsnip

  7. Enjoyed all of this. And, thank you so much for mentioning Freecycle. Brilliant idea and expect we have it here in Coventry. Cheers!

  8. Jenny do get better dear girl, get onto the Aussie Olive Leaf Extract! The illustrated diary was indeed both fascinating and disturbing. What a find.
    Freecycle is a wonderful project and we have similar here.
    Oh my, the goats are either very healthy or, pregant or, both! Do tell!

  9. Those photos are the best and worth more than money! Amazing and golden. You have covered a lot in this post. Intrigued by your writing project and I wish you success.

  10. One of my blogging friends has just written a post about her Grandmother's recollections of living through that awful period in Ypres which you might be interested to read - http://flowersandhome.blogspot.co.uk/

  11. Those pics from right after WWI were fascinating glimpses into that terrible destruction. Thanks for sharing them. And I hope you feel better soon. Take care.

  12. First of all, I hope that you are better soon. It sounds like you have been having a bad time of it.

    That diary is such a treasure and I am sure you would have no trouble finding a buyer.

  13. I hope you kept that album to guide you in your project. Oh, that would have been the treasure I would have glommed onto if you were freecycling it! It's a period that moves and fascinates me, plus France, plus photos. Oh, now that is indeed a divine treasure.

    I think clowns are creepy, too. Boy, the house thing -- I promised Rick I'd clean my house before I got too old or sick to do it. Not clean, really -- it IS clean. But like you, I have the parent stuff plus all the stuff I've accumulated over six decades plus the art stuff and it is a little overwhelming. Good grief -- it's overwhelming for me to work room to room, much less the basement. So I feel your frustration and may be dong a little freecycling myself!

    Oh, Jenny, I hope you feel better soon. I understand that fatigue intimately and it's a wretched feeling, especially when there is so much to do. I'm glad you are making time to gently have fun and beauty as part of your life.

    And finally, thanks for your lovely comments on the Marmelade Gypsy. I think the manipulated photos from France were the most interesting, too!

    Hang in there, my friend.

  14. That diary is a wonder - so fascinating! I hope it never ends up on Freecycle. We have a similar scheme here called Freegle. It's a great way for passing on unwanted but perfectly serviceable things - and far better than sending everything to the tip.

  15. I have a Freecycle network right here in my home town. Thank you, and get back on your feet soon!

  16. Freecycle is certainly a great invention!

    What did you end up doing with the illustrated diary? I wonder if a museum might appreciate it.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  17. The freecycle site here is defunct, but the Neighborhood Clean-up works well. Put your unwanted stuff out, and before the city comes to pick it up, the scroungers and recyclers scope it out in bicycles, then the pick-up trucks arrive. Whoosh, it's all gone.

  18. I strongly advise against any more gym visits while that bug is still bugging you, Jenny! Not only because of yourself, but you could also easily pass it on to other people there who use the same gym equipment after you.

    The album sounds fascinating. Strange that there is no name or any other indication as to the lady's identity.
    Somehow one wanders into churches and cathedrals and tends to think that they have always and forever been those peaceful, quiet places, untouched by what was happening around them. But the pictures of Ypres now and then tell a very different story.

  19. It must be the time of year. I'm clearing the decks too. So far it's only a lot of books and some old clothes (for the charity shop) that have gone. But Freecycle might be a good idea. Thanks for the tip!

  20. You can do all this when you feel ill! Most of us would be under the duvet waiting for an angel to appear with tea. Do hope you feel better soon - with some more wonderful photos and snippets like these. (And yes, Freecycle is wonderful!)

  21. We are in the process of clearing my aunt's house so Freecycle might be of benefit to us. So many personal treasures, it seems such a shame to throw them away.

  22. Glad to hear your bug is in retreat. I know what you mean about getting rid of an accumulation of old stuff : I have been trying to clear my back passage (not as painful as it sounds) for months. the problem is that I pull out some long abandoned object and become fixated with it - re-reading long forgotten books and inventing new uses for long abandoned trinkets.

  23. That album sounds wonderful, a real treasure.
    My garage is stuffed with things I can't get rid of - ten years after my mum died I still have so many of her things. Really should clear it all out :-)x

  24. It's hard having to get rid of what were once treasured possessions of a loved one, but I love the idea of Freecycle - one man's junk is another man's treasure and all that. I love that little teapot, it's so pretty. :)

  25. You are just like me, I like to ensure items go to a good home. I can always see possibilities in most things. The photo album from the Nuns sounds poignant, and fantastic. How wonderful you preserved it. Hope you feel better soon. Minerva x

  26. Jenny, what a luck you've found this album. It's a witness of a life of 95 years ago. I think your new project will be interesting.
    I remember Camden, I had good shopping there. But do not know about this cafe :((
    Have a nice day!

  27. Great post, Jennie. The album is exquisite and so interesting. Great to see an updated photo of the Cathedral of Ipres. It would be fascinating to find out more about the history of your mysterious album...

  28. Glad you're feeling better, how interesting that album sounds. Freecycle sounds like a great idea. I'm with you on clowns, they scare me, can't stand to be around one.

  29. Freecycle is such a blessing! That album -- i get chills thinking about how difficult life was at those times.

    Feel better soon!

  30. Wishing you a quick recovery and good health
    You have a real treasure in the album. I look forward to reading more about it.

  31. It's great to hear how things are going. Freecycle sounds brilliant--I'll have to see if they have it here. The album sounds amazing. Thanks for the then and not photos of the cathedral. I'm quite intrigued by whoat your new project might be. And I hope you are soon completely well and over that lingering bug! It's been a while.

  32. Best wishes Yenny, a hug and encouragement to keep going. Greetings.

  33. Forst of all, I hope you are fully recovered soon!!
    I love Freecycle! It is a wonderful way to find homes for things and you know they want them because they have to choose them and come and pick them up! And you can find things you need, too.
    I love the little girl and the goats! :):)

  34. My best wishes too Jenny.This album is precious...
    Love, Olympia

  35. What an interesting report!

    I think of you almost every day, BTW, because your book on Lewis Carroll is on my bedside table with the books I like to look at and read again.

    Hope your "gunge" is totally gone soon. Take care and God bless, Carol

  36. First of all, I wish you a quick recovery. Secondly, thanks for the Freecycle thumbs-up, never heard of it. I've got alot of stuff to give away. And goats in the middle of the city? Can't wait to hear.

    Lovely post and yes, get better! :-)

  37. Freecycle sounds like a wonderful idea. I'll have to look that up and see if it exists stateside. I can think of a few things I'd like to be rid of, but which other folks might enjoy having.

    That diary or journal sounds fascinating, especially since it is filled with photos. Might there be a book in it for you, wherein you flesh out some of the stories/accounts/photos?

    Finally, I've always found goats to be truly underappreciated creatures. Those I've encountered (and, I must admit, there hasn't been a large sample size involved) have all been rather friendly and charming.

  38. Clearing out is always sad but, as you say, necessary. Freecycle sounds a great idea. The album you found looks fascinating.

  39. Fantastic to find the tour of France. Surely you can turn that into a book? Possibly a comparison of then and now? You have the ability. In fact with the great interest in the Great War it may well be a good thing to try.
    The goats are interesting, look forward to hear more about that.

  40. Oh and yes, the bug takes for ever to leave, and keeps coming back, the brute!

  41. The little clown puppet fascinated me. So glad it survived the years to find a loving home. The France pictures are amazing and the resurrection of the cathedral 95 years later warmed my heart.

  42. Thanks for the comments. The bug is in retreat, still not quite gone but almost, thank goodness. Or has it?? (thanks for the cheering news, Adullamite!) It has been a long time since I've had anything that lingers.

    Yes, Freecycle is very satisfying, and the things that people are delighted to get, are amazing! (must write about that sometime)

    I think I should make a record of the album with the woman's trip to france, maybe put it on line somewhere, but actually it would be quite interesting to just publish it with a few additions. I found some family souvenirs of World War 1 in my mother's house including a paperknife made of a bullet!

    Yes, Suldog, goats are quite nice but they do have a disconcerting habit of eating everything, and are awfully fond of plastic bags - fine unless you have some treasure in a plastic bag which you casually put down in the goat's reach....

    Chickadee, that is so nice - to think my book is by your bedsite. A few people have told me that they read and consult it often and that makes me really pleased.

    Yes, Broad, I have often wondered about the history of the album. I suppose whoever inherited it had no descendants who were interested. Or perhaps the descendants, like us, felt a bit overwhelmed and just gave everything to these nuns. Or perhaps the nuns were her heirs. Maybe she joined a convent!!
    fascinating to speculate about old items. I have just found some intriguing pictures in our own loft, which I got from a sale. full of questions for me.......

  43. I do agree about creepy clowns and string puppets. I was given a string puppet of Muffin the Mule when I was a kid and could never see the point of it. And the strings always got tangled up!

    Indeed, the way people recreated shattered towns and villages after the war is amazing. The renovation of the cathedral must have been a massive undertaking but a collective vision and determination made it possible.

  44. I too hate clowns. There is nothing scarier than a clown. As for emptying your mum's attic, it was never going to be easy...I haven't emptied my grandmother's house yet. I need to do it too. I wonder what I will find.

  45. Your album sounds like a real treasure. Great to see that the cathedral was renovated - looked like a nearly impossible task in the early pictures.

    It always feels so good to have a clear out and maybe even find a little empty space. I don't know why I don't do it more often.


  46. I always feel smarter after visiting your site. Thank you for sharing, you have a way with words and pictures.
    Oh and get rid of the clown-CREEPY!

  47. i've heard you're not supposed to work out when you're not feeling well. too much stress on the body. sit on your bum and enjoy doing nothing. that's my favorite pasttime.

    i so would've wanted that tea kettle. and i so would've wanted to get rid of that puppet. so it's good that you found that site.

  48. I find it very difficult to throw things away. A spring clean is good though to start a new day. The teapot is lovely, don't get rid of it.
    I hope you feel better soon Jenny.
    Take good care,

  49. I love freecycle, such a great concept. I've been trying to reduce the amount of "stuff" I have cluttering up the house, recently, too. And that diary is a great find! :)

  50. Dear Jenny,

    I hope you recover soon from the bug. I wonder if your scrounging around the attics gave it to you? I just know someone who went on an "urban spelunking" adventure, into old, decrepit buildings -- with unique mold specimens, I would think -- and ended up with bronchitis.

    I'm so glad you were able to share your treasures. That little teapot must have some stories to tell. My husband's grandmother's family has a tall, painted ceramic cat which always elicits stories of how the head eventually needed to be glued to its body.

    I loved that sober bit of history you uncovered from the nun's boot sale. What awful times, and how that lady was able to capture it through her photos and diary. The church photos reminded me of Coventry Cathedral, all but obliterated in WW II.

    Speaking of WW II paraphernalia, we have in our house (from my husband's family) an old lamp. Its canister base is really the shell of a WW II bomb!

    Wishing you a speedy recovery ...


  51. I hope you are fully recovered now. I had never heard of Freecycle and found out that there are three in the towns close to me. We have so much in our house and need to give a lot away, so I am pleased you mentioned that network. There was so much destruction during the war, but this week there was almost as much destruction from natural causes – tornadoes here are terrible and have destroyed over 12,000 houses in Oklahoma last Monday.

  52. I too, often wonder how much of what is donated goes back into the bin.
    Free Cycle is an excellent idea. I love the album, it must be very interesting and the photos give hints of what it contains.
    I'm glad to hear that you are feeling better.
    I have been very lazy this year, and blogged very little.
    Hopefully, Summer will renew my enthusiasm.

  53. Hi, Jenny, Just a quick stop-by to say thanks for all the lovely comments you posted on the Marmelade Gypsy! Lovely to see you -- you must be busy indeed! Happy day/week/end of month!

  54. I love old photos and it sounds like the photographer had quite an adventure. Freecycle sounds like a good service for stuff to find a good home instead of them being thrown away.


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