This week’s Charli Mills’ prompt is; in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fingers that fly.
So an historical tale about a delightful lady;
“That’s beautiful my dear”
The girl placed the flower beside the old lady, her great grandmother’s dear friend
“Look, it’s the same colour.” She held a coloured paper beside the geranium.
“I wonder?” she mused, the little girl watched entranced as Mary Delany’s fingers flew over the paper, cutting and trimming, then other little bits of paper were expertly added. To her amazement a perfect paper flower grew in front of her, just like the real one.
The old lady smiled gently, admiring her flower, the most multi-talented artist of the eighteenth century had just invented a new art form.
Believe it or not this picture is made of pieces of coloured paper
This is the story that the delightful Mary Delany (1700-1788) told about how she invented her ‘paper mosaics’ of flowers. She was seventy-one when she first created her wonderful flowers, at the time they made her famous and now they are rightly one of the treasures of the British Museum.
This week’s prompt from Charli at the Carrot Ranch is
March 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a hot air balloon. How does it add to your story? Go where the prompt leads.
As readers of my blog will realise, I am fascinated by the early history of flight, so could hardly pass on this prompt. However instead of an inspiring, or amusing, tale, I have decided to retell the story of the first air accident and it’s tragic aftermath.
“I’m frightened.” She looked up at the strange shaped balloon, rising over Calais.
“Don’t worry, he is the most experienced balloonist in the world.”
“But to risk everything, especially now.” Her hands moved automatically to her swelling belly.
Then above, in terrible silence, the balloon seemed to break apart.
She cried out and collapsed, by the time they found his body she, and her unborn child, had died.
The death of the first man to fly, in the first fatal air accident, had destroyed his entire family.
From now on the pioneers could not dismiss the dangers they faced.
Terrible and true, Pilâtre de Rozier had made the first flight in a balloon on November 21st 1783. On June 15th 1785 whist trying to cross the English Channel his balloon broke up in flight and he became the first man to be killed in an air accident. His death was witnessed by his pregnant fiancée who died shortly afterwards.
In a previous blog I described the amazing house at A La Ronde, that ‘temple to female ingenuity’, and the wonderful craft work of the Parminter ladies. At the time I wrote that, ‘there is plenty of further inspiration to be found at A La Ronde, perhaps I will try something else in the future.’
Looking through the National Trust catalogue of the objects preserved at A La Ronde I found these two bough pots. A bough pot is a type of flower vase that displays flowers individually, not in a bunch. They were usually made of china, and were very decorative, but these are not china, they are tin!
Tin (or rather tinned iron) was, and indeed is, a material used for making a range of objects, in this case semi-circular boxes with holes punched in the top to take the stems of the flowers. The tin would protect the iron from rusting so the container could be filled with water to keep the flowers fresh. The bough pots have been decorated with coloured paper, doubtless by one of the Misses Parminter.
These naturally inspired me to try and create something similar. So I found an old biscuit tin and drilled holes in the top.
This was then painted and decorated with coloured paper. A high quality wrapping paper with a design reminiscent of Georgian wallpaper was used. Then the tin was half filled with water and used to display daffodils for St David’s Day.
The Parminter ladies would certainly have approved.
Readers of my blog will know that I am an enthusiastic explorer of Charity Shops, having made several very interesting discoveries in them. Yesterday was, perhaps, my best days hunting so far. I had stopped in Bridport, after a mornings exploration of several churches, with the intention of buying a pasty for lunch. Walking up the High Street towards the bakers I passed the Sue Ryder shop, glancing in I was delighted to find an original fashion plate of 1818. Very happy with this purchase I debated with myself whether to enter the Oxfam shop or not. Fortunately I did.
Lying on a shelf was a battered volume with a card label ‘Ancient Sheet Music £5”, I idly opened it expecting a collection of, at best, Victorian parlour songs. Immediately I knew it was much more interesting, the paper was soft linen paper, the ink brown with age (and because it was made with oak gall), the title pages printed from copper plates. It was what the label had said, a collection of individual printed pieces of music, songs, dances and instrumental pieces mostly for the piano, though a few were for the harp. None were dated though the dedications gave clues. There were references to the Duke of Clarence (who became William IV in 1830) and the Duchess of Kent, but no Duke he died in 1820. Then I saw one of the most infamous pieces of music of the period, naturally I didn’t hesitate but bought the book straight away. I never got a pasty as I wanted to head home and examine my prize in more detail.
The book is a large quarto volume, not in very good condition at the front cover is detached. It contains 54 separate items, each with an elaborate title page. It was an expensive collection as none of the music sheets were cheap, some are priced, and the prices range from 1/6 to 5 shillings (a farm labourers weekly wage was 7 shillings).
On the front is a label, Susanna Buck, who was the original owner. Miss Buck seems to have begun the collection when she was at school, as one sheet has the faint pencil inscription Mrs Waterhouse’s School – Music Prize – Miss Buck clearly she was a talented girl. Other pieces also bear Miss Buck’s name, I suspect that these may have been lent to her friends to copy, because of the cost it was normal to exchange music in this fashion. The volume was bound in Burnley, according to a paper label stuck in the back, so perhaps Susanna was a Lancastrian, other than that I can find no more about her from the book.
The collection begins with songs, old and new, older ones by Dr Arne as well as modern examples such as Home! Sweet Home! which was written in 1823.
Then there are a series of instrumental pieces, works by Mozart and Rossini to versions of songs such as Old Lang Syne.
These are followed by a series of dances, all described as ‘New’ or ‘The Latest’, which doubtless gave Miss Buck and her friend a great deal of pleasure.
Then tucked in the back is a piano manual, full of exercises, which this talented young lady may have used when she began to play.
This collection is typical of those that were made by musical people and families in the early nineteenth century. As musical tastes changed they fell out of use and it is rare for them to survive. I was therefore delighted to add the volume to my collections illustrating Georgian and Regency life.
Now at the beginning of the piece I mentioned that one piece was very notorious, this one, The Battle of Prague
The piece was very popular, it depicts a fictitious battle in which the various armies Prussian, Austrian, English and Turkish are all depicted in different styles which gives a skilled pianist a great opportunity to show their skill. What is unusual at this time is for the name of the composer, Frantisek Kotzwara (František Kocžwara ) to appear on the music. He was a Czech composer, and while his life wasn’t particularly scandalous, his death was.
In 1791 he visited a prostitute Susanna Hill, and after a heavy drinking session tied a ligature around his neck to ‘raise his passion’ – afterwards – he was dead! Susanna Hill was tried for his murder, and acquitted, both judge and jury believing her story that his death was accidental. The judge tried to suppress any account of his death as he feared it might encourage copycats, but one was published, and his death is now regarded as the first known case of auto-erotic asphyxiation.
And all that from a remarkable find in the Oxfam charity shop in a small Dorset town.
“Where’s my husband?” She asked, “Dinner has been ready for ages.”
“Sorry Mam,” the maid replied, “I think he is in the workshop.”
Sarah shook her head, their first Christmas together and he was working. He had seemed distracted all though the service that morning and had left her as soon as they returned home.
She walked down the narrow stairs to his workshop. He was seated on a tall stool by his workbench, watching something. Curious she approached, there was a strange buzzing, like a trapped fly. Then she saw what he was looking at, in front of him a wire was spinning round rapidly.
“Michael,” he didn’t seem to hear her, “Michael Faraday.” She said much louder and tapped him on his shoulder, he seemed to wake out of a trance.
“Oh, Sarah, I’ve done it.” For a moment he smiled at her, then turned again to the spinning wire.
“What have you done?”
“You see, the current flows through this wire and creates a magnetic field which works against the field in this magnet ….”
“And makes the wire move.” She completed.
“Yes.” He was watching his invention dreamily again.
“Will it keep moving if you leave it for an hour or so?”
“Yes, the motive force will last as long as there is power in the battery.”
“Then come and have dinner, it is Christmas after all.”
She took his hand and led him, reluctantly, from the room, behind them the first electric motor, another Christmas baby with an amazing future, kept on spinning.
Michael Faraday, when he invented the motor
And that, more or less, is the tale I was told many years ago.
The Georgians were an inventive lot, not as much as the Victorians who invented everything that hadn’t previously been invented, but they didn’t do too badly. I am fascinated by their ingenuity and have already written about their development of steam power, high speed travel, electric light and fair trade products.
However I have just come across details of what is, perhaps, their most unusual invention and one which still invites comment when it is used two hundred years later.
The London Chronicle, October 21. 1809 reported how contemporary (male) fashion was being influenced by the actions of the Peninsular War.
We were surprised some time since, by observing many young men of ton with the dusky hue of the Spanish Indies on their visages. Many of these Petits Maitres never exposed their faces to the rays of Sol out of the smoke of London; but it seems they wish to be considered heroes of Talavera, Corunna, and Portugal. To support their pretensions, they procure an artificial tinge with ochre
So there it is, the Georgians invented the fake tan!
Pattens must have been very common, there would have been at least one pair by the back door of every house, farm or cottage across much of Britain. Then, in the early twentieth century, rubber boots became readily available and the patten was immediately superseded. Pattens had absolutely no advantages over rubber boots so they became instantly obsolete, and almost all disappeared.
As I mentioned previously, I had wanted to add a patten to my collection, but could never find one. Then a local metal detectorist kindly gave me a patten iron, the metal part of a patten.
It needed to be cleaned and the metal treated
Then a wooden sole was made
And fitted to the base
Finally leather straps were cut
And I had a patten to add to my collection.