Warmth in a cold snap

Britain is experiencing a cold snap and consequently there is talk of how to keep warm. This has made me look at old ways to keep out the cold.

.This is a detail of a tapestry  which hung in a hall in Medieval England. It was a barrier against the cold drafts which crept in through the walls.

It shows a summer hunting scene. Dogs are chasing a bear and a boar. At the same time, well dressed courtiers are chasing each other. The flowers and foliage, fine dress and warm cheerful colours are designed to make the onlookers think of the warm months. We are transported to summer for a moment.

The Guernsey sweater is a traditional woollen jumper which has been made since the 1400s.  It was knitted, with pride, in the Channel Islands and designed to be worn by the local fisherman. It is easy to move around in and has a tight knit and oily wool to resist sea spray and wind. The fisherman wore the sweater loose and next to the skin, so a layer of insulating warm air built up.

I noticed that the Inuit wear their parkas with the fur directly against bare skin when one of the characters in the film Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner peeled off his parka. The film, which gives a realistic picture of Inuit life, could be set at any time in the tribes’ history. People have lived in this area of Arctic Canada for 4000 years. This kind of clothing has ensured that they survived. The Inuit wear a second parka on top of the first, this time with fur facing outwards, so snow and ice can be shaken off.


>>Reference Library Blog
Parka from the BM

Rose water lotion

Today’s experiment, rose water and almond lotion,  hand and body cream.

Note: More research needed as the oil is not mixing well with the lotion.

250 ml of Rose Water (or  1 cup)
100 ml of Almond Oil
A few ounces of beeswax
A teaspoon of borax

Melt the beeswax in a bain marie. (A heat proof bowl floating in a saucepan of water)
Beat in a teaspoon of borax.
Beat in rose water, little by little at first.
Beat in the almond oil.
Keep in a glass jar or bottle with a screw top lid.


Royal blue

The flat saturated blue colour of Diana’s suit was a memorable element of the royal engagement photographs.  It was a colour that was strong enough to become emblematic. This blue had acquired a new value, it was the blue associated with Diana. And so it became fashionable.

Kate Middleton has chosen a similar saturated deep blue dress (slightly darker) for the announcement of her engagement to Prince William. It matches the sapphire of her engagement ring, previously worn by the ever present Diana.

Vintage festival

vintage goodwood

The rain comes down on festival goers at Vintage Goodwood. The three day event celebrated fashions, music and design of the 1940s through to the 1980s.

Camping and light mud clashed with sculpted hair dos, evening frocks, suits and stillettos.

Looking around, I thought the 1940s Land Girl style was a clever choice of outfit as it was designed to be worn in the countryside and in changeable weather.

Epsom Salts

[flickr album=72157624463361393 num=1 size=Medium] We found the well at the centre of a radiating development of low houses. It was enclosed in a newly designed monument and surrounded by lavender. This was the source of the famous Epsom Spa.

Henry Wicker, a villager, was grazing his cows on the common during the very dry summer of 1618. He saw a water collecting in a hoof print on the dry ground. The next day a hole he had dug was full of water. The parched cows wouldn’t drink the water, but Wicker tried it. He found that it was salty and soon felt its purgative effect. With proof of its cleansing qualities, he then set out to tell of its curative powers. In this way, the cow herd Wicker was the discoverer of magnesium. The story reminds me of the farmer and his wallowing pigs, in the German spa town of Bad Oeynhausen, whose foragings were the start of the salty resort.

The ‘Epsom Salts’ in the water are magnesium sulphate. It is abundant in seawater and effects the way sound travels through the sea; it allows only low frequencies to travel a long way underwater, like the sounds made by whales.

As visitors came from Europe to take the waters, by drinking and bathing in them, a circle of shops and refreshments grew around the well. After this came the inns, taverns, gaming rooms (casinos are often connected to spa towns), a bowling green, a cockpit and the assembly rooms.

Celie Fiennes in her travel journal notes the ‘ raceing of boyes, or rabbets, or piggs; in the evening the Company meete in the Greenes, where are Gentlemen bowling, Ladyes walking, the benches round to sitt, there are little shopps, and a gameing or danceing-roome”.

Some visitors drank 16 pints of the water a day from stoneware jars and followed this with a walk as the effects took place. In 1750s you could buy Epsom water at the Mineral Water Warehouse in Fleet Street.

Nemiah Grew was the author of The Anatomy of Plants, Seawater made Fresh, and The nature and Use of the Salt contained in Epsom and other such waters. He began to produce the salts to sell in chemists and there was no need to travel to Epsom common to take them. Epsom was also out run by other fashionable spa towns like Bath Spa and Tunbridge Wells. The spa was in decline but the gaming and racing lived on.


Put 2 cups of Epsom salts in a bath. Soak for more than 15 minutes.
You can buy 1kilo bags of Espsom Salts from the chemist.

Neanderthal cosmetics

50 000 year old make up has been discovered by archeaologists in South Eastern Spain. Most surprisingly, it is thought that the make up was used by Neanderthals. 

The team has uncovered a thorny oyster shell containing the remnants of pigments. The pigments, made of ground minerals and mixed or stored in the shell palettes, could have been used as foundation or body paint. The oyster shell pigment is made from haematite, pyrite, and charcoal, creating a dark reddish-black look with a  shimmery effect like today’s glitter powders.  Two  yellows are from ground goethite and natrojarosite; the latter was used as make up in Ancient Egypt.

Could the two sides of a an oyster shell have been fastened together to form the first compact?

The scientists also discovered cockle and scallop shells; the fact they all have holes and were painted suggests they were strung on a necklace. 

Until recently, the Neanderthals have been thought of as our less intelligent ancestor. But these finds indicate that they gathered the ingredients, prepared complex paints and used the colour for decoration. It seems that the Neanderthal people were more sophisticated than we previously thought.

>> Guardian arcticle

>> BBC article

>>>NT Times