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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Not quite according to Plan!

 Yesterday I went up to London to meet up with a couple of friends.  We met at Waterloo station just in time for elevenses which we had at Carluccio's on the station concourse where we sat and enjoyed our coffees and biscuits and caught up with the gossip. Our plan was to visit Dennis Severs House which we'd heard about and which sounded intriguing and we duly arrived there at noon only to find that we'd picked a day it wasn't open!  We did ring the bell and the chap who came to the door was very apologetic and suggested we might like to visit the Whitechapel Art Museum not far away instead.  So we duly set off.

Passed this lovely pond reflecting the autumn colours.  We noticed how many modern buildings there are in this area of London and the juxtaposition of the old and the new was interesting.

Here is the Art Gallery which, wouldn't you know, doesn't open on Mondays!

Never mind it was a nice day, if rather chilly, and our main objective had been to meet up so we contiunued walking towards the river coming to St Katherine's Docks where we found a place to eat lunch enjoying the view across the marina.

Here is the Royal barge used in the Jubilee Celebrations last year - much smaller than I imagined it would be.

We continued our walk towards Tower Bridge an amazingly ornate edifice over the Thames.  I am always struck by how our ancestors didn't ever seem to go for the easy option but used all their crafts skills to decorate whatever they built.  Here the stone masonry is breathtaking and considering it would have been done with simple hand tools and without modern scaffolding and so on all the more amazing.

Boy was it cold though out there above the river!

View of the Tower of London - what tales that building could tell but maybe we'd rather not know all of those!

A lovely red Victorian postbox still in use - looks like something from a Christmas card doesn't it?

Along the South Bank of the river we turned to look at the Tower again.

On past Winchester Palace or what remains of it - built in the early 13th century it was once one of the largest and most important buildings in Medieval London now somewhat dwarfed by the modern building surrounding it.....

.....past the Globe Theatre with its thatched roof.

More decorative work on one of the many bridges - no simple signs for those 19th century artists and builders back in 1864!

The iconic St Pauls seen across the river.

We eventually reached the Christmas market on the South Bank looking very festive in the late afternoon light with Big Ben in the background.  We didn't linger long and didn't buy anything either and before long we reached Waterloo where we bade each other a hasty goodbye as a train to my friends' destination was due to depart in the next few minutes.  I meanwhile had half an hour to wait so went for a cup of tea and a sit down till it was time to board my own train home.

We might not have done what we set out to do but we had enjoyed each others' company and had plenty of fresh air and exercise along the way whilst seeing parts of London I for one had never visited before.  Dennis Severs House will still be there for another time no doubt!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Where are you from?

This is a question often asked when meeting somebody for the first time in an effort to get to know more about them.  What is it that the questioner wants to know? And what difference might it make? Does he or she want to know where you were born, where you live now or where your parents and their families are from too?

I have a couple of friends for whom the answer to all those questions would be the same place but it is a question I always find difficult to answer since where I was born and where I live now sandwich a life spent moving around - so what should I answer? 

According to a recent report on Zoopla "The average person born in the UK will move house a total of 8 times during their life, but will not end up too far from where they started" - so one thing is for sure I am not your average person!!

According to my birth certificate I was born in Harmondsworth but it seems that when I was just a couple of weeks old my mother took me by train to "the country" which I can only imagine meant to my grandfather's house in the Forest of Dean. 

However my earliest memory is of a place not far from Liverpool Hightown where my mother had a job as housekeeper to a couple of elderly (well they probably were only in their fifties!) spinsters.  So by the age of 3 I had already moved twice.

Next stop was to stay with my mother's eldest brother and his family in Ipswich where we lived for probably 6 months before going to Reydon near Southwold in Suffolk where mother worked as a housekeeper/cook - this is the house where we lived Reydon Hall.  Talk about the sublime to the ridiculous when you consider what my grandfather's house was like as many of you will know if you've read my childhood memory posts!  But within a year my mother had to have surgery on her spine and was told she'd not be able to work again so as soon as she was out of hospital and able to travel we set off for Grandfather's again!

After living in the Forest of Dean for 4 or 5 years my mother got a job again (the doctors luckily were wrong!) and off we went to Crendle Court not far from Sherborne.  As you can see it was another large house.  The work was hard and my mother found it difficult I think so she found another job actually in Sherborne in a smaller house in the town.

We lived here for the longest time (probably about 14 years) until my mother's employer was forced to move into a retirement home due to ill health.

Bags were again packed and off we went to live near Salisbury in a little bungalow at the bottom of the drive to Downton House - this was the first time we had ever had self contained place of our own and I loved it.  After a while my mother decided that she would prefer to get a "normal" 9 - 5 job and to rent somewhere to live and so it was that we moved into Salisbury itself.  And later on to Surrey (which would be nearer to Mr M who lived in Surrey and to whom I had become engaged whilst at Downton) to another live-in job but where the cottage provided was a bus ride away from the property she worked at.  It was from here that I was married and went to live with Mr M in Guildford. We lived for 10 years in our first house before moving to a slightly larger one where we lived for 20 years.  Quite the settler by now eh?!

Eventually we retired and had the idea of moving to France where we rented a cottage for 6 months before buying our dream house!  However as you already know it didn't turn out to be my dream at all and I was terribly homesick - for England rather than for any particular place - and after a few years trying to settle we made the move back to the UK and eventually ended up here inSomerset.

So I have moved house at least 14 times and that doesn't include various digs whilst at college and a couple of flats shared with friends in my early 20s.  So you can see why I don't really know where I am from!

Speaking with my sister in law recently I mentioned that I probably spent much of my childhood in the Forest of Dean what with the first couple of years which I don't remember and the 4 or 5 years which I do remember in the '50s and that my mother's family all came from there too and she said, "That explains it"  Explains what I wondered and her reply was that people from the Forest of Dean are well known for being a trifle weird! 

I wonder if rather than wondering about where we are from we should be more concerned with where we are going.  What do you think!!

Friday, 15 November 2013

November - dull and dark?

"So dull and dark are the November days.  John Clare, November

 When one thinks of November the images that come to mind are often of dull and dark days but it's not always like that and one of the advantages of being retired is that we can take advantage of the bright and sunny days that we also get in November!  Of course at this time of year a walk needs to be done before lunch as the days are so much shorter now and the sun sets about 4.00 and even by 3.00 pm it is getting low in the sky and there is a feeling of evening coming.

 We have had several beautiful days recently and yesterday was one such so we decided to set off for a day at the seaside!  When I think of Weymouth I usually think of ice creams and candyfloss, of Punch and Judy and donkeys on the beach, of lobster coloured bodies covering the sand with barely enough room to put a pin's knob between them, of shops selling chips and fishing nets, rubber flip flops and cheap souvenirs and so on but again it isn't always like that nor is all of it like that even in the summer.  Just a few yards away from the beach is the Old Harbour which is interesting and filled with all kinds of boats from working boats with their nets and pots etc and their skippers hosing down the decks to seriously expensive ones with all mod cons.

 There are boats offering fishing trips and others which will take you on a fast ride along the Jurassic Coast.

 Once round the other side of the harbour and over the Nothe Peninsular with its fort built in the time of the Napoleonic wars, the scene is altogether different, quieter and more natural.

Just look at those blues - dull and  dark?  I don't think so!

We soon joined the Rodwell Trail which I have written about before and which continues towards Portland....

 ..past this lovely quiet little bay where even in summer there are few tourists and usually just a few locals enjoying the beach.

 We decided to go along to the Chesil Beach Visitors Centre where there is a cafe and see if we could get something to eat as by now it was past lunchtime.  Our route took us along the Portland Beach Road which was very windy having sea on both sides but the views were worth it - these are the Ferrybridge Sand-flats and this area is apparently vital for bird and marine life as the daily tidal waters maintain the marine invertebrates which live in the sand and a percentage of these provide food for wading birds.

Once inside the Centre and out of the wind we found a table by the window and this was the view (the green circles at the bottom of the photo are the opaque circles on the glass so you realise it's there since the window was floor to ceiling) and enjoyed a bowl of roast vegetable and tomato soup whilst resting our feet and enjoying the wonderful tranquil view.  Pure Santosha!

 After lunch I wandered round outside and took this picture without the glass in between.

 This is a footpath across the sand-flats towards Chesil Beach and I want to go back again sometime when we have more time to clamber up and look out to sea from the top.  

 On our way back now ...

 .. across this road bridge where the wind made Mr M's hair (what little he has is very fine) stream out horizontally so he looked like a cartoon character!  Of course I couldn't see my own so maybe it was the same though I have a bit more hair.

 We got the bus back into town.

 By now the sun was sinking and the beach no longer in the sun although it was still shining on the cliffs across the bay.  The light is so different now and the colours no longer vivid but soft pastels like sugared almonds I always think.

Noticed this lovely rainbow out to sea - hope the people on that boat found the pot of gold!   What a fitting end to a lovely day out we had enjoyed our walk, had some wonderful fresh sea air and discovered a fabulous cafe with tranquil views and if wanting to go back to somewhere soon is the sign of a good day then this was one such.  November?  Dull and dark?  Not at all or at least not always!  This will stay in my mind for when the greyness does descend as it must sometimes.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

November morning

 We have been having a real mixed bag where weather is concerned with dull grey wet days like Monday but in between we are blessed with a day like today when this was the view across town early this morning.

 The view from the back door - the sun is just reaching the tops of the trees but it won't reach our garden much now till next Spring as it isn't high enough to reach over the treetops.

  I decided to walk into town as there was a book I wanted at the library and I could see from the internet that it was actually on the shelf so if I got there as soon as they opened and before anyone else borrowed it the book could be mine!  I set off to walk my usual route - this tree is at the end of our road - it's fabulous isn't it?

 Just the other side of these trees to the left is a busy main road but I wasn't aware of it with thse lovely trees to look at.

 Just here I pass the entrance to some allotments - nobody about as yet - atmospheric isn't it?

 We had our first frost during the night and here and there where the sun hadn't yet reached the leaves were edged with sparkling ice - brrr!

 I got my book and did my few errands and then made my way home - by now the sun was higher in the sky but still not high enough to shine on my path.

Back at the allotments I noticed that, like the ones in our garden, these nasturtiums seemed to have survived the frost and were still in bloom at least for the moment.

The book I was after was Brilliant Bread by James Morton which I had read about on someone's blog recently.  I am not doing too well with my sourdough starter, so kindly given to me by Molebags a bloggy friend of a friend last week.  I don't know whether it is not warm enough in my kitchen especially during the night or whether it is sulking at being removed from its nice home in Sussex or what but it's not frothing as it should.  I now have a second spoonful in another jar and am keeping that wrapped in a tea towel blanket to keep it cosy and with the aid of this book I will also have a go at making my own starter in case the ones I was given don't care for Somerset yeasts and are just feeling homesick!  I made an ordinary loaf of bread yesterday and had it cooling in front of the starter jar hoping that perhaps it would get the idea of what was wanted.  I haven't given up on them and I won't be beaten but it might be a while before I can post about my wonderful sourdough bread!!

Do you find that ideas for blog posts are like London buses - first there are none and then several come along all at once - as I do?  I had another post all ready in my mind but since I took these photos this morning this is the post you got!!  Another day I will write my original idea perhaps.