Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Sunday 5 November 2023

Talk about "We interrupt your viewing.."

 It being a dank and rainy evening for Guy Fawkes night, cocooning with the curtains drawn, and the TV on - as it happens, a documentary all about those barrels of gunpowder underneath the House of Lords, and all the rest. The distant whooshes and booms of fireworks some brave souls were letting off despite the weather seemed a good long way away. Until some came very loud and seemingly very near. I wondered if it was someone on their balcony upstairs. but this morning, it appears that some bright (?) sparks (see what I did there) had decided to look for somewhere dry for their  fireworks - like the garage on the ground floor of this block.

Yes, the garage. Containing a fair number of cars - with petrol tanks.

Luckily we're all still here. And they probably didn't realise they were on CCTV. 

Whether we'll hear any more about it, who knows? I'd better check my insurance, but in the meantime here are some much safer fireworks from, well, some years ago

Monday 7 August 2023

On sale now!

 New arrivals at the paper shop (yum yum - or maybe not):

Monday 19 June 2023

And so to Glasgow

Shaking off my lethargy when faced with deciding on and organising some sort of trip away, and bearing in mind the nagging awareness of how little of my own country I've visited, I plumped for a few days in Glasgow.

The sometimes rather gloomy-looking grandeur of the architecture of its commercial and industrial heyday is lightened outside the Gallery of Modern Art by the (decidedly unofficial, in the eyes of the powers that be) mascot for the city, the Duke of Wellington crowned with a traffic cone (as is his horse).
George Square and City Chambers
The Duke

The city centre has plenty of less imaginative and more mundane commercial contrasts to hefty Victorian tastes:
The former Athenaeum on Buchanan Street
Sauchiehall Street

But not all that wealth and prosperity went into imposing architecture. Plenty has gone into good works, like the Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum, whose building rather out-turrets London's Victoria and Albert, and whose collections are, well, eclectic: from art (the "Glasgow Boys" among much else), to pre-history to modern machinery. Not far away one is into the university area, eventually arriving at the Botanic Gardens, where grand Victorian greenhouses were on this occasion hosting an orchid show

The Kelvingrove
No, it's a bar

Orchid show at the Botanic Gardens

This pensive pose makes me want to caption it
"Oh no, did I leave the gas on?"

I had time for a couple more museums: first, the Riverside Museum, primarily a museum of transport, with all the buses, cars and trams you could wish for, but it also includes a restored sailing ship, the Glenlee
The Riverside Museum and the Glenlee
We'll probably never have a definitive answer

And finally, the "Tenement House" (meaning, in Scotland, not a near-slum but just a different sort of housing and tenure - essentially a block of a smallish number of flats - though the flats would be a bit crowded for a family).  This is a fascinating slice of preserved history, having been left largely unmodernised by its last tenant, and lovingly brought back to life as an exhibit - and an opportunity for plenty of "Granny had one of those" moments.
Proper indoor plumbling - with "marbled" wash-basin
..and all the mod cons - of 1910 (the modern radiator is an afterthought for visitors)

Saturday 10 June 2023

Revelation of the year

It helps to feed window-boxes occasionally.

Thursday 1 June 2023

Ahem. Two years later...... how some people keep up the inspiration I don't know.  

As it happens, I did get back to Paris last year, but found the whole experience oddly flat. That might have something to do with spending half a morning of a weekend trip trekking out into a commuter town to a museum only to find it closed (my fault for misreading the website). Still, I suppose it counts as an adventure of sorts.

There was some visual diversion:

And I got to see the revamped Musée Carnavalet (though it still feels a bit old-fashioned and oriented to fine arts and crafts, with not much in the way of social history or the daily life of ordinary people, as one would rather expect of a city history museum):

Later in the year, a chance reference in a magazine article to "London's only stone circle" - which turned out to be almost local - had me walking up what seemed like one of the steepest streets in London to the aptly-named Hilly Fields, where there is... an undoubted circle of stones, with a sort of gateway, and a cracked slab marked with various dates. Not exactly Stonehenge or the Ring of Brodgar, or anything old - it turns out to have been a millennium project. But it is a pleasant park with some fine vistas of the leafier parts of south-east London and a café with nice cakes, so hardly a wasted trip.

Wednesday 14 July 2021

How time flies.

It's that time of year again. I wonder how long it will be before I see Paris again.

Wednesday 7 July 2021

En route to an appointment at the Palace (all right, a visit to the new exhibition at the Queen's Gallery), one doesn't expect this sort of wildlife in Green Park:

Further on, there was a large herd:

and they appeared to be heading towards the Palace:

The head of the herd was calling, far far away, so Nellie and her chums plodded on:

It turns out that this is only one of several such herds across London, promoting an elephant conservation charity. Close up, one can see that each has been made of plant stems, an immense amount of skilled craftsmanship. 

As indeed was the Queen's Gallery exhibition - paintings usually seen (if you get to visit the State Rooms in the Palace) hung close together in several ranks, as used to be the show-off fashion. Refurbishing the Picture Gallery provided the opportunity to spread them out through three rooms, hung at eye level, and with time-slot admission allowing plenty of space for everyone to spend some time looking at close detail, helped along by the audio guide pointing out various technical details I wouldn't have known to look for.

Wednesday 3 March 2021

Cloud-capp'd towers

Appropriate weather for a walk to the dentist's, perhaps.

It was only a routine check-up, and the dentist pronounced all well: indeed, he said I had a young man's gums.

The poor soul must be missing them.

Monday 22 February 2021

Jolly jaunts far afield still being off the agenda for the foreseeable, it's a nice change* to have something different in the area to look at - in this case, Canary Wharf's set of winter light installations:

*It's the first time I've been out after dark in I can't remember how long.

Friday 19 February 2021

Not every impulse purchase at the supermarket is fattening.

Thursday 18 February 2021

A tale of two cities: WInchester (3)

Passing through the quieter side-streets, in what is evidently the purlieu of Winchester School, where not even a post box seems to have changed much since Victorian times, one comes eventually to a path that runs through lush watermeadows:
Soon another venerable church comes into view, the church of an equally venerable institution.Its grand official title is the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty:
Almshouses were a mediaeval version of a retirement community rather than a monastic order, and this one is home still to 25 lay "Brothers". They are expected to attend the church in the prescribed gown, but otherwise live independent lives; fortunately the 15th-century buildings have been adapted into self-contained flats.
Though a 19th century furore over its management was probably the inspiration for Anthony Trollope's The Warden, it's as quiet today as you might expect - given that (not surprisngly) the non-residential buildings and the gardens attract visitors and bookings for private events, with evident signs of preparation for a wedding in the church when I was there.

Wednesday 17 February 2021

A tale of two cities: Winchester (2)

I once knew someone who swore blind they'd heard a tourist, outside Winchester Cathedral, say to his spouse "OK, honey, I'll do the outside and you do the inside". And a grand inside it is, as you might imagine of something so old and historically significant (there's a stunning exhibition on the Cathedral's Anglo-Saxon history and its associated manuscripts).
You might think this striking stained glass is a contemporary piece, but in fact it's from the seventeenth century, made up of the fragments saved by local people after the Parliamentarian soldiers smashed up windows, tombs and memorials during the Civil War:
Nowadays there are memorials to just about every regiment that's ever served or been based in the area, but the one most people come to see is that of Jane Austen. Plain, austere but fulsome about her many qualities - except that there's no mention of her writing. For a more florid story, try looking up the wall beside it: competitive or copycats?
On doing the outside (as you must to get to the café), the path passes this statue to the extraordinary William Walker, who toiled for years among the Cathedral's foundations to shore them up against encroaching ground water.

 Small wonder that in the surrounding streets there's a pub named after him, complete with diver's helmet as its sign.

Tuesday 16 February 2021

A tale of two cities: Winchester (1)

Like Ely, Winchester has a cathedral and a famous school, but is rather grander, being a royal capital in Anglo-Saxon times (and Charles II had grand ideas in that direction as well, till he came up against financial reality), and a garrison town with many military connections. It once had a great castle, of course, of which only the Great Hall remains. Used for various functions over the years, mainly as a court room until quite recent times, now it's there to attract visitors with its Tudor version of King Arthur's Round Table (early PR to attach romantic legend to the court of Henry VIII), together with assorted royal and local memorabilia, and of course a dress-up area for children, complete with a chance of the gruesome thrill of re-enacting (under the distinctly not amused gaze of Queen Victoria) the outcome of some of the trials that took place here, such as that of Sir Walter Raleigh, and Judge Jeffreys's ruthless response to the Monmouth Rebellion.

Monday 15 February 2021

A tale of two cities: Ely (3)

Outside, you might wonder why there's a cannon defending the Cathedral

It might have something to do with the fact that it's pointing straight at the house that Oliver Cromwell lived in during the 1630s and 1640s, as a rising farmer, country gentleman, Presbyterian (and no fan of bishops, cathedrals or stained glass), and MP.

Part of the ground floor doubles as the Tourist Information Office, but the rest is devoted to presenting the domestic interiors of the day.

Upstairs, there's an outline history of the causes and conduct of the Civil Wars, exploring Cromwell's record as he emerged as a leader in Parliament, army general and ultimately, as "Lord Protector", more or less military dictator and monarch in all but name. Visitors are invited to rate him Hero or Villain - it seemed it had been running around 65-35 in favour of "Hero", reinforcing (for those who remember their 1066 And All That) the view that the Roundheads were Right but Repulsive and the Cavaliers Wrong but Wromantic.

A few streets away there's a small local history museum, with plenty for school parties to get to grips with, from prehistoric finds to the draining of the Fens around about (Cromwell's first big local issue as an MP, standing up for displaced local farmers), eel-fishing (hence the town's name), the history of the assorted criminals and unfortunates who ended up in the building when it was the Bishop's Gaol, and Ely's experience in WW2 as a centre for both evacuees from London and massive numbers of airmen on bases nearby. 

Those apart, it's a pleasant, busy and reasonably well-serviced small town, though my photos don't capture much of that (I can never get over the habit of not taking pictures of the humdrum and everyday, even though that might be of most interest to others). The bland chainstore frontages of the main shopping streets somewhat conceal interesting side alleyways.

And on the way back to the station, it's worth a diversion to a well-pubbed waterside: