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Saturday, 31 December 2016

One year ends and another begins

It's the last day of 2016 and thoughts turn to what has happened during the year.  Others have written far more eloquently than I could about the events on the world stage so I won't say more on that subject but for me on a personal level this year has been about the eyes!

It's been a roller coaster year as I had an eye operation at Easter and then a second one at the beginning of October and have gone through the gamut of emotions after each ranging from fear and anxiety, frustration and despair to joy and immense gratitude.  There were times when I was on top of the world as my sight was so much improved and moments when I was in the Slough of Despond when I lost my faith in eventual recovery and even, dare I say it, in the wonderful surgeon I have been seeing.   I developed blepharitis and later an allergy to the drops which left me with a horrid red, scaly rash round the eye and then when I thought I was out of the woods with the first eye and just about to have the second one done, a broken blood vessel which left me with a bloodshot area on the newly pristine eye surface which I worried about.  I also hadn't realised that the pterygia could be cancerous which they weren't but of course I worried about that too!  However all is well and I am gradually reducing the eyedrops and am to see the surgeon again in February when I should have finished them altogether.  I am hopeful that this will be the end of the story.

I have learned a lot over the past year and had plenty of time for reflection not being able to see to read, do any crafting or even watch television some of the time and I realised that there is more to sight than being able to see - that is just the mechanics of it - how and what I see has changed the way I think and the way I see things is about who I am.  I have been given the precious gift of clear sight again and an unexpected extra gift - that of a new lease of life!  Now that I can see better I feel different - younger at heart and once again the capable person I used to be and for that I will be eternally grateful.  Every time I thread a needle to do some stiutching I marvel at the skill of the surgeon - I bet he didn't lick the thread to get it through the eye of the needle (at least I hope not!) nor say "That'll do" if the stitching wasn't quite right!!

My mantras for 2017 are:

One of a couple of little tiles on the shed wall
Carpe Diem for I intend to use whatever life I have left in the best way and not waste it on complaining, or procrastinating as I have been doing.

Accentuate the positive for I have been guilty of negativity and complaining instead of seeing the wonder of life which is now there for me to see if only I take notice.

Now that I can see to read I have been making up for lost time getting through several books a week and have just finished one I can recommend to you:  The Outrun by Amy Liptrot which is a life affirming read about the power of Nature to heal even though the author didn't seek nor expect Nature to heal her alcohol addiction.

Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2017

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas Wishes

I seem to have forgotten the very rudiments of writing a blog post and can't seem to string together a couple of words like I used to but this comes to wish you all a peaceful and Happy Christmas.  The photo above was taken this afternoon when I went for a walk in what was left of the sunshine.  Last year the daffodils were in full bloom at the beginning of December but this year they are seeming to be a little more circumspect and this is as far as they have got but they still speak to me of hope and after all what is Christmas about but Hope?

I am listening to Classic Fm as I write and it is The Full Works Concert a recording of the Great Ormond Street Carol Service 2016 held in the St Pauls Church Knightsbridge on Tuesday 13 Decenber and I thought that since I can't seem to get my own words out properly I'd leave you with a couple of poems I have just heard along with the carols which might amuse you:

Firstly Joseph and the Shepherds
and secondly Politically Corect Christmas
To read these two poems just click on the links.

And if you are able to listen to Classic Fm on Demand within the next 7 days I can recommend this carol service as a real tonic to get you in the mood for the festive season.

And let's not forget whilst we are smiling at the above poems and preparing for our own festive holiday that there are those who have nothing to smile about and perhaps send up our prayers for those who are sick, those in war torn areas, those who were in Berlin when the lorry was driven into the Christmas market and ..... so many for whom Christmas is not a merry festive time at all and as this verse of the carol  It came upon the midnight clear  says:
"And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing."  

Monday, 19 September 2016

LEAFY GREEN LONDON - our rescheduled short break

This is a long photo heavy post written mainly for my own purposes so I can look back and remember our short holiday.  I don't seem to have mastered the art of precis I am afraid!  I hope you will however enjoy coming with me on the walks and perhaps check out some of the links for more info should you wish.

Following last post's teaser photos you may have thought we had been somewhere rural but maybe this will give you a further clue?  We had nearly a week in London and did some exploring on foot and by bus and searching out some of the many green areas in our capital, using our bus passes, comfy shoes (not boots this time) and small daypacks - so not exactly a BBB break but similar..  This was taken on the day we arrived but it wasn't always so sunny as my photos will show but at least it was mostly dry and warm but not too hot. 

 Our first walk was a self guided one near Heathrow airport - which might seem a strange choice but it is a surprising landscape of natural scenery and historic villages.  One of these villages is Harmondsworth and I wanted to go there as Harmondsworth is where I was born and I had never been back since leaving it aged 3 weeks old and wanted to know what it was like.  We got the train from Paddington, walking distance from our hotel, to West Drayton and then the bus to Harmondsworth which as you can see is protesting against the proposed new runway at Heathrow.

Harmondsworthis quite a pretty village, one of several historic villages less than a mile from each other that lie in the shadow of Heathrow and all of them sharing an useasy relationship with the airport as you might imagine living as they do with the threat of airport expansion but at the same time taking advantage of the employment it offers.

Having visited the Harmondsworth Barn - Britain's greatest surviving ancient wooden building  - a medieval barn which John Bejetman called the  Cathedral of Middlesex we set off on our walk through the churchyard and graveyard and across a field to Saxon Lake created in what was a former gravel pit - the noise from the M4 nearby doesn't seem to worry the birds attracted here.

We walked through part of a 1960s housing estate to arrive at the entrance to Colne Valley Park formed in 1965 covering 27,500 acres and a beautiful natural corridor marred only by the background noise of vehicles and aircraft. A high-speed rail link is also proposed and would cross the park by a viaduct but only time will tell whether the High Speed link or Heathrow's expansion will go ahead.

We reached Harmondsworth Moor an area once filled with gravel pits which then were used as landfill sites and the area left derelict.  Along came British Airways wanting to build their new corporate headquarters on a site at the edge of the moor called Prospect Park.  The council's planning department would never have supported this development had it not been for the fact that BA promised to landscape and restore the moor to its natural state.  The 40 acre park opened to the public in 2000 and has won many awards with its miles of riverbanks, lakes, grassland and young woodland and it is also home to a wealth of wildlife.

 We came across many large stones dotted about the Moor and the ones in this photo form part of what is known as the Keyhole; they all come from the old Waterloo road bridge demolished in the 1930s and the stones were brought up to Harmondsworth Moor for storage and have been used in the landscaping of the Moor.

Who would think this tranquil scene is so near the busy motorway and part of Greater London.....

...... and who would believe that this lovely green and leafy lane is so close to the perimeter fence of one of the world's busiest international airports?

 But here the path goes beneath the busy main road whilst...

overhead the planes are taking off and skimming the treetops or so it seemed!  At one point we were right under the flight path not far from the end of Heathrow's northern runway why ever did I stand there so fascinated when had there been a problem with take off the plane might have ploughed into where we were standing picking blackberries and eating them as the planes set off to who knows where!  Did I envy those passengers?  No I did not I was happy on terra firma eating blackberries!

 Eventually we got bored with blackberries and overhead planes and continued towards the pretty village of Longford.  Under this bridge flows the Longford River an artificial waterway dug over 300 years ago to take water from the River Colne, which we walked along earlier, to supply Bushy Park and Hampton Court Palace and over head the ever present jumbo jets roar off to their many destinations - how do the inhabitants cope with the noise I wonder.

Next door to this quintessential English cottage was the White Horse pub where we had lunch  - I didn't take a photo of it but click here for info and pics.  I must admit that inside the noise was less intrusive but I am so glad I don't actually live in Longford.  After a sit down, a drink and a delicious sandwich lunch we made our way back to Harmondsworth going through the recreation ground which according to an entry in my baby book is where I had my first outing the day before we left for the Forest of Dean never to return till now.

 Back at the village we looked round the church (the barman/publican who we had spoken to at the White Horse had said he was a church warden here and if we were going back to Harmondsworth after lunch he would be there and would show us round.)  Which he duly did and pointed out various bits of interest.

Heathrow Airport started in 1929 as a small airfield on land southeast of the hamlet of Heathrow. Development of the whole Heathrow area as a very big airfield started in 1944, the year I was born, stated to be for long-distance military aircraft bound for the far east. But by the time the airfield was nearing completion, World War 2 had ended. The government continued to develop the airfield, as a civil airport, known as London Airport and later as Heathrow. So Harmondsworth would still have been a peaceful little village when I was last there morw than 72 years ago - couldn't find any blue plaques to commemorate my birth though!

We made the bus journey back to West Drayton and from there onwards by various buses which took ages and by the time we got back to our hotel I had had enough of free bus pass travel though we did see parts that others never reach!

Now for the ghostly trains I promised in my last post - on the Monday we did a walk which began by following a disused railway line - no trains have used these tunnels since 1970 when the tracks were lifted.and it became the Parkland Walk now a haven for wildlife with 250 species of plants and even muntjac deer living here although we didn't actually see any.

 It was a damp drizzly day when we set off to walk towards Crouch End and onwards from there.

The path runs between the ghostly deserted platforms at Crouch End - it must once have been a sizable station as the platforms were quite long -  and one could almost hear the trains and the passengers waiting on the platforms as we passed along.  Somewhere along here I must have dropped the printed pages we were following probably because I had my mac on then off then on again as the rain stopped and started and so we had to try and remember  the route and information from here on.

 We reached Finsbury Park - no photos as I was feeling a bit cross about losing the instructions! But we discovered there was an excellent cafe where we had lunch and a drink and set off again feeling better about it as after all it really didn't matter and one of the good things about walking in London is that you are never far from civilisation and bus stops so the chance of getting lost is minimal.

 By now we had left the Parkland Walk and were following the Capital Ring which is a 78 mile circular walk round the capital about 5-10 miles radius from Charing Cross (considered to be the centre of London).

The path follows the New River which is neither new nor a river but a 400 year old artificial watercourse built to bring water 40 miles from springs in Hertfordshire to Islington.  It still supplies water to the capital.  Very bucolic isn't it?  Can you believe we are in London?

Even when it passes industrial estates on the other side it is still peaceful and pleasant.

We left the path to cross a busy road whilst the "river" made its way beneath and we rejoined it here.


Eventually we reached a reservoir which has been turned into a nature reserve.  Do click on the link here to find out more - click on About then History to read how this once neglected resevoir which had been treated with chlorine and sodium phosphate gas to ‘clean’ the water and which was then unsurprisingly devoid of any wildlife was to have been filled in a used for building land but was saved and is now a lovely peaceful area open to the public free of charge.  I believe it opened in May of this year and I can certainly recommend a visit.

 What was originally a pump house has been turned into a lovely little cafe.

Where we sat ovelooking the reservoir with a cup of tea and a shared flapjack (last of the big spenders we are!) a moment of pure santosha!

  By now well rested and refreshed we continued our walk going now towards Clissold Park


Now we couldn't remember the route and so we finished up in Stoke Newington and from there got the bus.  We have since discovered that we missed Abney Park Cemetery which sounds interesting being a non-denominational burial ground  set out as a garden cemetery in 1840 and now a nature reserve too.  Since we had enjoyed our walk so much we resolved to make the Capital Ring a project and to walk all 78 miles of it - in short sections of course!  So next time we go to London we can start the next section where we left off this time and see the Cemetery then.

We however finished our walk in Stoke Newington which seemed an interesting area with plenty of individual shopsincluding this lovely garden centre and most importanly for us a bus stop where we caught the bus.

We varied our walking with a couple of city walks the first of which we did on the Sunday when we followed the trail of destruction left by the Great Fire of London which destroyed four fifths of the city 350 years ago, starting in the early hours of Sunday 2nd September 1666 and shown on the bottom of this part of the mosaic timeline on the Queenhithe Dock (incidentally the only remaining Anglo Saxon dock in the world) We used the leaflet in the link here which provides more pictures and information on the story and the walk..

Here is the Royal Exchange  now no longer used as a stock exchange as trading there ceased in 1939 when WWII broke out it now houses  an exclusive retail centre with restaurants, cafes over 30 stores selling luxurious brands. In other words a temple to consumerism!

 This one is The Bank of England  and

...this is  The Guildhall - a fairytale castle of a building.

Here is St Mary le Bow whose famous Bow Bells are credited with having persuaded Dick Whittington to turn back and remain in London to become Lord Mayor and within whose sound aa true Cockney must be born.

 I love this area just behind St Pauls cathedral so tranquil whilst all the tourists are to be found milling about at the front!  The building you see here was completed in 1710 to replace the original destroyed in the fire and stood as a symbol of hope, resiliance and strength for the City. 

Although many people are aware that Pudding Lane was the starting point for the the Great Fire of London fewer know where it finally stopped - here at the corner of Cock Lane and Giltspur Street.    Although the main purpose of this 17th century memorial of a chubby boy was to mark the point where the Great Fire of London ended, it alsoacted as a warning to Londoners that their gluttony had been the cause of the fire. Why? Because the fire began in 'Pudding' Lane and ended at 'Pye' (or Pie) Corner!  Do check out the link for more on this little lad.  According to the leaflet we were following neither pudding nor pie meant anything to do with eating but "puddings" were dropped from offal carts going from the meat market on Eastcheap to the Thames and the "pie" or "pye" came from the name of the Magpie tavern which used to stand here! We finished our walk here and didn't continue to the London Museum as stated in the leaflet.

But even on this City walk we found the odd patch of greenery here and there!

And on our last full day we visited the Temple and Inns of Court particularly the gardens - yet more tranquil green spaces away from the noise and bustle of the city.


 And the Temple - I became interested in the Templars when we did a walk in Paris called the Templars and Medieval Paris and we tried to do this walk last year when we were in London but it was pouring with rain and we gave up and got the bus to our favourite restaurant for lunch instead!

 Inside the Temple.

 We had a sandwich lunch in Lincoln's Inn Fields, a nearby park, and foolishly perhaps decided to do another walk after lunch this time round St James but all that walking on granite pavements was much more exhausting than the green walks we had done earlier in the holiday and everything began to blur into a mixture of buildings and churches and the only things which really stood out from this walk were the Silver Vaults which I didn't like finding them claustrophobic and scary with the big heavy safe door at the entrance down in the bowels of the earth and all that silver so much that I felt rather as I do in a supermarket these days - that there is just too much and so I don't want any of it!  I couldn't wait to leave.  Though I dare say it would be the place to go if you wanted something specific and knew what you were looking for.  I give you a snapshot here in the little video.  What do you think?

And more my cup of tea the rather lovely church of St James in Picadilly - Sir Christopher Wren considered it one of his best parish churches - which seemed to me to be a living church doing what I think a Christian church should be doing with its little craft market that afternoon and this little caravan offering a drop in counselling service free of charge to anayone who needed help.  I'd just had enough and we made our way back to our hotel to rest our feet and our brains!

And I promised birthdays too and so it was that Mr M had his 80th birthday during our stay in London and we celebrated by meeting up with the Wanderer in a little Italian restaurant cum shop in Notting Hill where we had a delicious meal and sat chatting together till it was nearly 5.00 and they were beginning to set tables for dinner!  Since we hadn't seen the Wanderer since February there was a lot of catching up to do!

On our last day we decided to go straight home as the forecast was for a hot day and so we made our way to Waterloo in time for the 12.20 train and were home by 3.00 having enjoyed a great few days in our capital and having discovered some more interesting corners which not so many people visit - shopping did we none nor did we go to any shows nor do any of the usual tourist things.  But we were content that it should be so.

If you have made it this far you deserve a medal.