Monday, 26 March 2012

Where There's Brasso, There's Polishing

My mother had, in fact still has, proudly displayed on her mantle piece, two large polished brass candlesticks accompanied by four tiny candle sticks (to hold a candle you might find on a birthday cake). One of my jobs as a child was to polish them. Carefully togged out in old clothes with old rags for the polish, I would get the Brasso out (other brass cleaners may be available) and cover the sticks in polish.  The sticks were them gently polished with a dry clean rag until they shone. 

The pungent smell - the unique chemical smell of the polish was something that I had forgotten until tonight. I have a brass singing bowl and I've had it a while and have never polished it so I thought I'd do the business and be a good boy and clean it up. Polish bought, a clean duster cloth acquired (no rags) and polishing began and hey presto after ten minutes and black hands and nose assaulted with the Brasso smell - a shiny singing bowl. What a great experience, something I've not done for about 40 years.

Early in my marriage I remember having brass ornamental horse shoes and a brass fireside companion set, but they were lacquered, so no need to polish.

Spring is well and truly here and whilst its not set to last with normal temperature returning by the weekend, most of the UK is basking in sun under a high pressure system which is reluctant to clear away. By day temperatures are reaching 20 degrees but by night, fogs appear and this morning, the cars were covered in frost. It's difficult to forget its only March.

The clocks went forward early on Sunday morning just gone and the extra hour on a night is welcome as the grass has had its first cut, the edging has been done, the last of the leaves picked up that have been hiding in the nooks and crannies and the main weeds are now ready for composting.

Now back to the singing bowl. It doesn't play top twenty tunes or hum the Marseilles. It just hums with a most beautiful tone when stroked on the outside rim with the wooden baton, bizarrely called a mallet although it looks nothing like a traditional mallet. The bowl is made of brass. They come in a whole range of sizes and originally were used as bells. They can come the size of a small car down to the size of a small toy car.

Originally from Asia and with a history of around 3,000 years, singing bowls are used to produce a pleasant frequency (they are all different) with which to meditate or simply relax. They are used in many therapies including cancer therapies, stress relief and for post traumatic stress disorder. Musicians use them and in the east, they are used in classrooms. Apparently every Japanese temple has one.

I use mine simply for the pleasure of listening to the sound.

I hope you are enjoying your week so far now the dreaded Monday is now out of the way.

Chat soon


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Garden Bits & Pieces

Three posts in two days - unheard of. I don't post as often as I used to - nowadays, I try to blog once a week because I have something to say, but this weekend has been busy and I'm going to add to my other two blogs.

The grey weather has melted away and although it's bright and sunny, it's still chilly out - fresh!

I managed to spend a couple of hours in the garden this afternoon messing about, but I have put up four things in the garden which I'd like to share with you. 

The first is my Green Man. Now this is the second Green Man in the garden, but as this one is made of wood, I have put him in the greenhouse with a grand view of the north of the garden (the other Green Man is overlooking the south end of the garden and is hardy so he's outside). Thanks to Linda.

The second is a set of wind chimes made of bamboo which I've placed next to and underneath the bird table. This will not interfere with the birds flying to the table but will put the cats off from sitting underneath the table. Thanks to Linda.

The third is a lucky horseshoe which I have dedicated to the garden Elementals (fairy folk and their like who look after the garden and the environment.) Thanks to Chris.

The fourth is a wind sphere with a dragonfly in the centre. Although the picture isn't very good (my mobile phone) the sphere is enamelled metal and goes round and whilst doing so, it glitters and makes beautiful patterns using natural light. Thanks to B & Q.

I've tried to position them so that they can be seen and enjoyed from the house.

Hope you've had a great weekend.

Chat soon


Yorkshire Air Museum

Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1a 'PR-A'
During World War Two, the East Riding of Yorkshire and in fact many places in the eastern counties of England were host to airfields that were the home of aircraft involved in a battle of survival. East Yorkshire a peaceful quiet rural county today, had many many airfields most of which survive as industrial estates and the remains of the airfield infrastructure can still be seen in some cases.

Once named RAF Elvington, just inside North Yorkshire and on the border with  East Yorkshire, it is now the home of the Yorkshire Air Museum which is run by a registered charity and is an accredited Registered Museum. Run largely by volunteers today, the Museum was reclaimed from the derelict war time buildings starting in 1983 by a band of dedicated volunteers and whilst it is entirely independent and without state or local authority assistance, it is an absolutely wonderful place to visit. 

This is what I did and report to you accordingly with a few pictures.

Just off the A1079 and on the outskirts of York close to the A64, The Yorkshire Air Museum has a fine collection of pre Second World War aircraft, aircraft from the conflict itself and post war aircraft. There are some aircraft that are still in working condition. The piece de resistance is a Handley Page Halifax bomber kept in a hanger and nicknamed 'Friday 13th.'

The Met Office desk in the Control Tower
The site consists of a control tower with exhibits which has been replicated to look like an operational WW2 set up, a NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) with a great cafe for visitors,  a souvenir shop, a replica officers mess, several exhibitions in the many well maintained Nissan huts on the site, an aircraft hanger with dozens of exhibits all neatly laid out and with exhibit information. This hangar is also a memorial hanger and inside are many memorial walls with the names of thousands of aircrew written onto bricks. Also on site is an archive for research purposes and a chapel alongside a Handley Page aircraft workshop.

Handley Page Halifax ll (lll) LV907
The history of the site is absolutely fascinating and there is tons of material to read and see on the walls and in exhibitions.  The airfield was home to 77 Squadron, RAF a bomber station flying four engined Halifax bombers. Originally a grass airfield, it opened with hardened runways in 1942. After 77 Squadron moved further north in 1944, they were to be replaced by a French Squadron, the 346 (Guyenne) followed by the 347 (Tunisie). All these squadrons played a large part in the offensive during the war. 

Both the airfield and the local village was attacked by enemy fighters in 1945.

The airfield was finally vacated by the military in 1958 and eventually closed although the runways  were used by BAe (originally as the Blackburn Aircraft Company testing Buccaneer aircraft)  and the RAF as a relief runway to practise landings. In 1992, RAF Elvington was closed for good. The runway was the largest in the North of England (you should see the size of the bombers that had to use it!) at 1.92 miles in length.

Although this museum could do with an injection of cash, it is worth every penny of the £8 entrance fee, which goes to the upkeep of the Museum and there are lots of concessionary rates. There is an excellent handbook for just £1 which contains a site map.

The entire site is compact and can be easily walked around within the time I spent there which was around 5 hours. Dogs are welcome and apart from the first floor of the control tower, is easily accessible for disabled visitors.

Flown in in 2010, this is a working 'Mighty Hunter' Nimrod XV250
Despite what we may think of the war or just war in general, men and women laid down their lives to make this country free and there is much to be emotional about when you read the history of conflict and the involvement of the squadrons that flew out of RAF Elvington.

Bearing in mind that a normal squadron was twenty aircraft, by the end of the conflict in 1945, the 77 Squadron RAF had lost 80 Halifax bombers with the loss of over five hundred crew members.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. 

From 'For the Fallen' - (extract)  Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Chat soon


Saturday, 17 March 2012

Beautiful Whitby


I hope everyone has had a successful week? Well, I spoke too soon on my last blog - a grey cold spring has returned to these shores and we had a fog last week that was just two degrees Celsius which was close to being a hoar frost and damaging the newly forming buds.

One of the many keen and vociferous Gulls on the harbour side  
Anyway, I digress. Today's blog is about a recent visit to the seaside town and port of Whitby in North Yorkshire. I like to keep you in touch with where I visit with a few simple pictures. I don't get much spare time other than organised holidays so a day in Whitby was a lovely break despite it being cold, grey and raw. Walking around the town kept me warm enough however and stops at friendly cafes and shops kept me warm at regular intervals. The name Whitby comes from old Norse - 'Witebi' which means white settlement.

Now there are several bloggers who know Whitby well, one who lives there and a couple of others who live nearby so I hope I do it justice. I set off early, about 1 hour 45 minutes of driving along decent roads and got there at 10 am and parked in the West Cliff car park which is quite high up on the towns north side. Now one thing you need to know about Whitby is that it's surrounded by hills which form a sort of valley for the River Esk which goes into the North Sea at this point and the older town surrounds it. If you have difficulty walking, planning your journey, parking and access the various sites is wise. But whatever you do, don't let this put you off, it is well worth every effort of planning. 

Looking down on the River Esk
There weren't too many people about other than the locals and workers along the Riverside and strangely several school groups ranging from very young primary school children to French students. Perhaps the chill day kept some people at home in front of the fire. I browsed the shops and cafes both sides of the Esk, and crossed over it by a road bridge. To get to the famous Abbey, from the harbour, you can climb a long way up steps (please do this only if you are fit enough) or you can drive to the Abbey which I chose to do (coward - although I did manage to climb up to the West Cliff car park without much difficulty which I was rather pleased with.)

There's a variety of touristy type shops: souvenirs, Whitby Jet (a dark black precious stone which is made into jewelry), Gothic and other more 'normal' shops. There's plenty of eating places, including harbour side fish and chip shops, but we chose the wrong place and had a very expensive and very ordinary chicken salad.

There is miles of lovely beach to walk along and a harbour to meander along but I managed to stay off the beach - it was just too cold and I didn't have the right footwear.

Whitby Abbey
After a few hours wandering round this pleasant part of the old town, I drove up to the Abbey only to discover, having paid £2 parking fee that the Abbey was shut on weekdays and I couldn't get in which was a disappointment. The silly thing is that there were dozens of people in the same boat, equally as disappointed, so English Heritage would have still made a few quid even thought the weather was cold.

St Mary's Church is next door and I had a wander round the graveyard and the badly weathered sandstone gravestones before setting off for home.

I last went to Whitby as a kid with a school trip and remember spending most of the day playing footy with my mates on the beach. I enjoyed the town and thoroughly recommend it as a day out. Whitby is surrounded by beautiful countryside and has good rail access.

I won't bore you with the history of the town, you can check Wikipedia and other sites for the detail, but this place was inspiration for Bram Stoker to use as the landing place for Count Dracula. The Abbey ruins cast a spectacular and moody shadow over the harbour and on the day I visited, the cold damp weather just increases the atmosphere. There is a regular Goth Festival where people go and visit dressed up in Gothic costume - highly entertaining pictures can be found all over the net and one day I will visit when the festival is on.

Famous sons of Whitby include Frank Sutcliffe a photographer who captured the life of the town in the late Victorian age and whose photographs are revered even today. Captain James Cook (left - with friend) did his apprenticeship on coal colliers out of the port and by coincidence, the ship which was eventually to be renamed as HMS Endeavour which Cook sailed around to the other side of the world was built in Whitby in 1764.

There was a monastery founded as long ago as AD 657 upon which site the later Abbey now stands albeit in ruins.

A number of famous authors visited the town and perhaps got inspiration there: Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker, Elizabeth Gaskell, Lewis Carroll and Wilkie Collins.

A lovely day despite the weather - I am now determined to revisit in warmer conditions!

An extract from Mina Murray's Journal from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, she describes Whitby shortly after her arrival: 

This is a lovely place. The little river, the Esk, runs through a deep valley, which broadens out as it comes near the harbour. A great viaduct runs across, with high piers, through which the view seems somehow further away than it really is. The valley is beautifully green, and it is so steep that when you are on the high land on either side you look right across it, unless you are near enough to see down. The houses of the old town--the side away from us, are all red-roofed, and seem piled up one over the other anyhow, like the pictures we see of Nuremberg. Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of part of "Marmion," where the girl was built up in the wall. It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits. There is a legend that a white lady is seen in one of the windows. Between it and the town there is another church, the parish one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones. This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a full view of the harbour and all up the bay to where the headland called Kettleness stretches out into the sea.It descends so steeply over the harbour that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed.

Chat soon


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Wrapped in Warmth... at Last

Doesn't the sun, blue skies and warmth just make you feel a whole load better? The picture above is looking toward the south bank of the River Humber this afternoon. Welcome to new follower Peter Rubinstein. I don't know anything about you Peter, but you are very welcome anyway. The flowers are late and sparse in the garden this year which is a little disappointing but the daffodils are out on the grass verges, the the buds are showing quite clearly in the bushes and some of the trees. Indeed, I've noticed cherry blossom around although my cherry tree is nowhere near producing yet.

The fish in the ponds are eating wheatgerm now, pretty low protein stuff, nothing too rich - it just gets them going and I've decided to put some salt in the water in the next couple of weeks to aid their health. 

Normally as you know, I'm a fairly positive person, glass half full - that sort of thing, but last night we had some Norwegian smoked haddock and I am so disappointed.  Our normal smoked haddock from the supermarkets (we don't have a fishmonger round us) is yellow. This is from a dye I understand rather than a true smoking unless anyone can tell me different.  This Norwegian haddock is just off white (see the picture below) and did not have a strong odour, even when cooking which is quite a refreshing change. I cooked it for exactly the same time, around five minutes in gentle simmering water and it tasted of - nothing. It was meaty and flaked beautifully but was without any taste, so much so, my two lads who loved smoked haddock couldn't eat it and it took me years to get them to eat fish.

Next time I guess it will be okay in a kedgeree, a recipe I've seen the Hairy Bikers (TV chefs for those who don't know) use with rice and eggs and a touch of optional spiciness, normally a breakfast dish. Kedgeree was introduced to the UK by the way of returning colonials from India in Victorian times, but the recipe goes back to around 1340.

You live and learn. I was sat in the garden this afternoon enjoying the sun and the cat playing around my feet with twigs - she's still like a kitten sometimes. I saw a huge bird of prey swirling in circles up above us climbing high on the thermals and I have little idea what it was but we do have red kites in the area, what a magnificent sight. I just couldn't capture a photograph of it. Talking of birds, although the crows are now nesting in trees nearby that they have never used before, which is a delightful sight, the little birds have not used the bird boxes as they have in past years although there seem to be plenty of the little fellows around.  Perhaps there's still plenty of time. 

I did notice today that the grass will almost certainly need a high cut imminently; the first of the year. I know this is strange, but I love cutting the grass, not only is it exercise, but the fresh air and the resulting look to the garden is very satisfying indeed. 

I'm back to the healthy eating and exercise will follow very shortly. I'm not using the 'D' word any more (of or relating to a food regimen designed to promote weight loss in a person) and after a fortnight - I already feel better.  Thanks to my friends for their encouragement. I must mean it this time - there are biscuits and chocolate goodies around the huge office I now work in and so far, I've resisted it all.

I hope you've had a great weekend and have a safe and successful week ahead!

Chat soon


Monday, 5 March 2012

Word Verification

Can anyone help me get rid of Word Verification?

The Blogger instructions are as clear as mud. It says quite specifically that the word verification can be found in the Settings/Comments section of the blog.

It is simply not there. I have tried every box on the entire 'back office' of the site and it does not exist.

Word Verification is so hard to read for many of my bloggers and I want to turn it off.

I need help please.

Chat soon


Sunday, 4 March 2012

Lindum Colonia

Lindum Colonia. A small settlement, which had been in existence since one hundred years before Christ was born by what is now a deep pool next to the River Witham, was subsumed by the Roman conquest of Britain around AD 48. Today, standing on an impressive mound with views across many counties, part of the the modern city of Lincoln now stands. The Romans added Colonia because the area was a retirement colony for soldiers.

Lindun (by the pool) became Lindum (the Latin for Lindun) and Lindum became Lincylene in Old English and by the time the Magna Carta was drawn up in 1215 we have Lincoln.

Here endeth the history lesson.

Yesterday, Saturday, I went to Lincoln with a good friend Linda to meet two more old friends I have not seen for a while, Lucy and Wendy. I've been to Lincoln a number of times but never as a tourist, I had never stayed to see the sights, I had only been there for work purposes or for researching family history in the County Council Archives.

The weather was grey and it soon turned into a drizzle so the first port of call was the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral. There is no other word for it and although it has developed beyond recognition from the original square design with the addition of magnificent towers, it is awe inspiring.  If you've never been there, it stands on a huge hill and can be seen for many, many miles around. 

The inside of the Cathedral is huge and vacuous as I think the picture above from the Nave at the west end shows shows and goes a long way back beyond the organ pipes you can see in the picture. Strangely I became rather emotional with the sheer scale of this edifice. Built originally in 1092 and destroyed by an unusual earthquake, the building that stands today has been around since 1185.   Both the cloisters (pictures left) and the magnificent circular Chapter House was used as a facsimile of Westminster Cathedral in the film Da Vinci Code.

Although there is a payment to enter the full Cathedral which I think is slightly expensive at £6, discounts are available and you can visit again with 12 months for free. I fully accept however, to maintain such a building it is expensive and it is worth it on that account. Tours around the towers and the Cathedral are available and there is a very nice cafe.

Wikipedia has an excellent article on the Cathedral.

Our next stop was the Medieval Bishop's Palace, which in truth was the reason for our visit and here we met the curator for English Heritage, Samantha. This is a fascinating building spread over a number of layers as the gardens fall away down the side of the hill. Within a few yards of the boundary of the Cathedral, the Palace was built in the late 12th Century and was, I can imagine a grand building. The Civil War (17th Century) did for the Palace after it was ransacked and it subsequently became derelict, but today many features can still be enjoyed such as the Alnwick Tower (pictured above), the mysterious and large under croft used initially by servants, the enormous kitchens with its five fireplaces and the gardens. 
This is a £4 visit but on a nice day, you could spend a few hours here wandering around in the south facing site and there is a visitors centre and education suites. An audio tour is available here but this is not a site for the disabled with multiple layers along the slopes of Lincoln and many trip hazards, steps and stone spiral staircases. A short resume of the Palace can be found on the English Heritage website.

We only visited a tiny part of the city and there are many cafes and pubs, shops and markets available in the immediate surrounding of the Cathedral Quarter and a huge lot more to see in the greater city of Lincoln - another time perhaps.

I hope your weekend is progressing nicely; a look outside the window here reveals quite heavy rain!

Chat soon