Monday, 31 July 2017

The Mysterious Miss Austen


The Mysterious Miss Austen exhibition at the Discovery Centre in Winchester, Hampshire, ran from May 13-July 24 and brought together visitors from all over who loved Jane Austen’s prose but have always been curious about her physical appearance. As the curators of the exhibit said, this is the first time that five known (if still debated) portraits of Jane Austen were ever in one place, and it’s probably the only time that this will ever happen as they have been loaned from private collections here and abroad. I joined the others who, after seeing the portraits, felt that the mystery only deepened. Who is Jane Austen? Why do we like her so much? Would we like her less had we read the bulk of her letters that were destroyed by her sister Cassandra and contained her sometimes forthright comments on neighbours or family members? Continue reading here.


(right photo) A Pelisse on display at the Malady and Medicine exhibit, altered for use as a dressing gown. Unlike Jane's silk one, this is an everyday version that Jane might have worn when she was ill.


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Friday, 21 July 2017

Another school year ends

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Victorian schoolhouse Berkshire England
The picture above is of M's primary school (not my photo). The building on the left is the original structure  built in 1862. I'm very proud of this school. And as a lifelong admirer of anything Victoriana, for my daughter to go to a school founded in the Victorian era (and for us to live in a Victorian house) were all the stuff that my dreams were made of ❤

I thought I would cry only for the end of Reception year (kindergarten to some of us) because that was it, the end of the first year of school. But it seems I will do this every year now. I look at M's work and see pictures of her teacher dressed as Florence Nightingale asking them for ideas of a perfect hospital and that will probably always bring a tear or two. It's only been yesterday when they started Year 1 (1st grade or Grade 1 to some of us) and now it's come and gone.

I don't remember crying or being emotional when primary school ended. It was the same for my parents who probably met my teachers four times or less, whenever the report cards were given out. Here I see the teachers or talk to them almost everyday, it's just an entirely different culture, I guess, and you feel this attachment and it's really painful when it ends. It is hard as I am a very sensitive person and I could imagine myself always thinking of the past, and losing sleep over this.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Hadrian's Wall
(left photo) There we were, standing on Hadrian's Wall, just a few days before her third birthday. We were lucky to kind of plan what age gap we'd like for our children to have. To be closer or far apart in age each has its own advantages. It might be selfish but I liked it that I got to spend a lot of time with M first; and to have those milestones at a different time with H is just amazing. A friend who's got older kids said she liked them the most when they were 0-3. I have to agree, I love them to bits at any age, but these were (or are, in case of my younger one), the best yearsThey said that once they start school, the years will go by in a flash. When I think about it, the reason for my sadness about school ending is more about time passing quickly than anything else. Their sudden independence is almost heartbreaking.

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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Sitting with Jane: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Life in Hampshire

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice Waiting for Mr. Darcy Sitting with Jane
We saw our first “Sitting with Jane” BookBench during a recent visit to Chawton, Hampshire. It was positioned outside the Jane Austen House Museum, where Jane spent the last years of her life. I’d never seen this bench during our previous visits and thought it might be a permanent fixture. Further research indicated that it is one of twenty-four BookBenches that comprise the Sitting With Jane Public Art Trail to celebrate Austen’s connections with her birthplace, Steventon, and forms part of a global commemoration of her life in 2017, the 200th anniversary of her death (July 18). Continue reading here

"Waiting for Mr. Darcy" by artist Traci Moss, the BookBench found at Oakley Hall.

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Friday, 30 June 2017

The Jemima Project

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Jemima Puddle-duck Beatrix Potter Steiff scarfI love Jemima Puddle-duck, she must be my favourite Beatrix Potter character. She is both polite and foolish. I don't think she is completely gullible and she is not completely nice at all - yes she is unsuspecting when someone is nice to her, but she stands up for herself to those who are not.

I'm not sure who my daughter's favourite Beatrix Potter character is. When I showed her our picture at Beatrix's house from that 2014 trip, she vaguely remembered it (she was three years and 10 months). But she did remember something vividly, she said, "but I'd like to go back there, I'd like to go back to the shop, that's where I got Jemima Puddle-duck!"

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Jemima Puddle-duck Beatrix Potter Steiff scarf
I completed this upcycled scarf project years ago but as I've been sharing Beatrix Potter-themed photos on instagram, I just thought of writing about it here. I saw a Jemima Puddle-duck Steiff (pictured above, right) during my post-soft toy obsession. So that time, I was more interested in having the scarf than the duck.

The fringe reminded me of the cushion cover project we did back in primary school. In fact, I used exactly the same colour yarn for my cushion case. Like any project I'd done in the past that could get very tedious, I did this whilst binge-watching a TV series with my husband. I didn't know what I was thinking. Surely, I wouldn't use this scarf? I did it more for M, really. But in the end and knowing how long it took me to do that fringe, I wouldn't let her use the scarf without supervision!

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Jemima Puddle-duck Beatrix Potter Steiff scarf


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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Rise and Fall of Waverley Abbey

Waverley Abbey Waverley House Sir Walter Scott gaslighthouse.blogspot.com
Abbey ruins
I've been visiting Waverley Abbey in Surrey the past 10 years. I just love this hidden gem. Parking is free, entrance is free; bring a picnic or if you want to have some me-time, it's a great place to just read a book or meditate. Last year, we weren't allowed in; we visited not knowing they were making The Mummy film with Tom Cruise. The drive to the abbey was to the left and to our right, we saw a sign saying it was the Waverley House Open House that very day. The house is a Grade II listed Georgian mansion. We ended up going to the Open House and it was fun so every year we'll probably visit the abbey when it's also the Open House and spend the day there.


Waverley Abbey Waverley House Sir Walter Scott gaslighthouse.blogspot.com
View of the bridge from the house
Waverley is the inspiration for Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novel. I wanted to photograph a Walter Scott book in the abbey so I went looking for one in my shelf because I knew I had one but couldn't find any. Then I realised, I did read the Waverley novels but I was in my late teens, and I'd just borrowed them from the university library. It's a scary thought, to be sure that something happened only a few years ago when it truth it happened nearly two decades ago. I'm really getting old. My only excuse is I (used to) read a lot, and it's confusing to keep track of everything, when you have to take into account real life as well.




Waverley Abbey Waverley House Sir Walter Scott gaslighthouse.blogspot.com
View of the house from the bridge
I found more information over at ParadoxPlace, such as, the medieval bridge used to be the main entrance to the abbey. According to the website, "Waverley was the second daughter of the Abbey of  L'Aumone in Normandy.  Like many Cistercian abbeys it was founded 'far from the concourse of man' on a boggy but beautiful site on the River Wey at the initiative of William Gifford, the Bishop of Winchester. Both William and his successor Henry de Blois (brother of King Stephen) facilitated the transfer of large tracts of land to the new abbey and granted it many privileges."
Waverley Abbey Waverley House Sir Walter Scott gaslighthouse.blogspot.com
Top photo: Mike with Little M at six months
Bottom photo: Mike with Little H at two years

I know reading about a place hundreds of years old is more interesting if you can actually see the site. Such is the case about Waverley Abbey; in every visit I feel that there is something about it that makes me explore the place and reread about what it once had been.

The Rise and Fall of Waverley Abbey (text transcribed from the sign near the entrance)

"These ruins are all that remains of Britain's first Cistercian monastery.

Waverley Abbey Waverley House Sir Walter Scott gaslighthouse.blogspot.com
Me and M at what was once used to be a
Monks' Dormitory



Waverley Abbey was founded in 1128 by William Gifford, bishop of Winchester (1107-29). It was home to a Cistercian community for more than 400 years.

In its heyday, up to 70 monks and 120 lay brothers lived and worshipped here. The ruins you see today are part of a central group of buildings which stop within a much larger precinct of about 60 acres, enclosed by a stone wall.

The abbey was suppressed by King Henry VIII in 1536. The monks were dispersed and the site granted to Sir William FitzWilliam, later earl of Southampton (d. 1542). He built a house here, incorporating some of the monastic structures.


Several families held the property through to the early 18th century, when a new house was built to the north. The abbey ruins were then incorporated into picturesque parkland. The 18th-century house, which still stands behind you, was later extended and rebuilt."


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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

At Cliveden, rolling down a hill

I refrained from calling this entry "How to roll down a hill" as I'm not an expert on the subject. Anyway, it's been ages since I've done this. What I remember is if I raised my arm, I wouldn't go very fast. Please excuse bossy Hermione Granger, err, my daughter, talking in the background.

Except for M who's been to Cliveden with her class last December in a field trip that culminated in a school art exhibit, it was all our first time to visit the estate. Mike and M went into the maze and whilst waiting, I overheard this guy just coming out with his family thanking another guy for "saving their lives." He said it was so hot and they got so bored he was ready to give someone else a fiver to help them get out. Then in the middle of the maze, there was some sort of memorial and he feared they were for all the people who didn't make it out of the maze alive. He was just joking, of course.

We had a very relaxing afternoon just walking around and lying on the grass. The gardens overlook the River Thames - this is why I remember the area, because of its proximity to the river, and how we'd gone there whilst house-hunting in 2011. Cliveden is in Maidenhead, some 37 minutes drive from where we live. For more than 300 years it was home to dukes, earls, viscounts and for a while, a prince. A glittering hub of society, Cliveden hosted exclusive parties and political gatherings, later becoming infamously associated with the Profumo Affair.


Cliveden National Trust gaslighthouse.blogspot.co.uk
(Left photo) Cliveden is NOT Jane Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley, I just thought it'd make a good book photograph. "Death Comes to Pemberley” by PD James is the murder-mystery sequel to Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” set six years into the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth. Shown on the book cover are Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin who portrayed them in the 2013 BBC adaptation. 

Cliveden National Trust gaslighthouse.blogspot.co.uk
 I live here only half the time now whilst they’re doing repairs, can’t you tell I just got out of bed???! 
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Thursday, 25 May 2017

Strawberry Fields/ Nothing is real

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Gray's Farm Pick Your Own Wokingham
At Gray's Farm
Or nothing stays the same.

I don't know much about Gray's Farm although it's very close to where we live. Like anyone driving past it once in a while, I recognise it because of the giant strawberry by the roadside. It is the nearest Pick Your Own farm to us but we haven’t visited before (we always go to Surrey). Donald Gray died in 2011 and the farm was sold to the Wokingham Borough Council three years ago. I read in the news that they would turn the farm into a sports hub for the new development. We decided to visit last Saturday before it's gone. We learned the farm will still be open for a few more years but this is the reality in so many parts of England where, sadly, a place is valued so much more as land/housing 
gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Gray's Farm Pick Your Own Wokingham
It's always sad when things that are identifiable with a town close down, I remember this about some spots in my hometown that I knew as a child. My husband grew up in the area and every time we drive across towns, he would see recent changes. The other day, we saw that the only garage in his hometown had closed down. It had been a trend for years, those little shops he used to go to as a little boy were all gone. A few years ago, he took me to this shop that sold all sorts of things and he noted how it didn't change that much. I bought some thread. I expected the price to be higher as it wasn't a big shop but it actually cost cheaper than most. That could also have been one of the reasons why that shop had closed down not long after that visit. It was a small shop so it was probably losing out to those big chains, the way Fox Books Mega-Chain put Meg Ryan's character's small and personal bookshop out of business in the 1998 film You've Got Mail.
gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Gray's Farm Pick Your Own Wokingham

It doesn't end there, up until recently, there was a hotel on the same street where my husband's childhood home was. I thought that the hotel was a listed building but it wasn't. My friend the late Rev. Gallagher stayed there the night when he flew from Ireland to officiate our wedding the next day. Anyway, the land had been sold as well and last week, we saw signs around it saying retirement homes would be built on the site. I joked to Mike, should we retire there? It'd be both funny and strange to retire next door to where he grew up.

The land where Mike's childhood home once stood had also been sold to developers. Numerous flats and houses were built there. The saddest thing? They didn't build on that particular land where my husband's house was. It's now a carpark.

Right here in our little village, we don't have much, the village shop and post office had long been converted into houses. Gladly, one pub still stands and I was told there used to be a pub, probably decades ago, right across from our house. Oh well, at least we still have the church and primary school, ones we could really call our own as they are geographically part of our little village. Everything else we need we get from the bigger town that we are a part of. It's not that great there, either, good thing the "Big" town has a bakery but they don't have a butcher. The local garage had also been turned into Tesco, as though we don't have enough Tesco stores around the area. 

There are farms and shops being transformed into houses, and some hectares of land are being transformed into parks. One of these is a country park near where we used to live. Around the time my daughter was born in 2010, some 11,000 trees were planted in said country park. It didn't make the parish councillors very happy, branding it a waste of money. I don't know much about the issue to comment on it, but from my standpoint I'd say, trees must be good, right?

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Monday, 22 May 2017

"My Family's Slave" by Alex Tizon

Read it on The Atlantic.


I've never been so moved by a journalism piece in my life. I read it to Mike last night. We never had maids or nannies so we could not relate to this, and it was very apparent when I paused whilst reading or Mike made a sound, that something in the essay was very strange, unbelievable, or unfamiliar to us. But house helps are very common in the Philippines. I remember watching Filipino films when the very rich have uniformed maids and they call their masters "señor/señora," or "señorito/señorita" for the younger members of the family. The maid in this essay (I couldn't bring myself to call her a slave, but she was, sadly) was originally from Tarlac, which is the province next to my home province, Pampanga. Majority of those living in Tarlac speak kapampangan like me.

I think one of the reasons why some well-to-do people choose to come back to the Philippines. is they find it so hard living without their servants, and also very expensive to hire them abroad. And it seems, sadly, that like Alex Tizon's family, there might have been others who brought [slaves] with them when they emigrated.

There are mixed reactions about this piece, most are heartbroken by the story of Eudocia Tomas Pulido ("Lola" or grandmother) and some are defending the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alex Tizon. Whatever his intention was in writing this piece, and whilst I feel he could have done more for Lola, his words (and I emphasise Words, as sometimes merely words could make us find excuses; I might have a different opinion had I known them personally) made me feel that he really cared about her and that he wanted to tell her side of the story. What's sad is that he died not knowing that his story had been told and had reached out to so many people. For Lola and the life she had, I could only have tears.

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