Sunday, 25 August 2013

What is Your Superstition?

Holy Trinity Church in Hull
Have you ever thrown salt over your shoulder after you've spilt some salt? Do you ever walk round a ladder leaned up against a wall rather than walk under it? Do you ever say "bless you" to someone who sneezes?

We do this more often than not without thinking, a natural response to a situation we are faced with and if you do these things, you are superstitious. Where do you get the habit from? Almost certainly as children from your parents.

I had a fascinating discussion with a friend's mother last night and as our common ancestors come from a fishing community in Hull called 'Hessle Road,' we started to exchange what we knew about fishermen's superstitions from the now defunct and once mighty trawler fleet.

Although superstitions include all manner of practises, rituals, cures, taboos, including working with charms, omens and signs, it touches virtually everyone today and yet some superstitions are many centuries if not millenia old.

Why do we have them, to ward off bad luck, or bring ourselves good luck? How often do you say "touch wood," or "crossed fingers" when you are making a decision or making a wish? We still laugh (some of us take it seriously) at Friday the thirteenth or putting up an umbrella in a house.

Local Yorkshire historian Dr. Alec Gill MBE has written extensively about fishermen's superstitions and many of those he writes about were subject of my discussions last night. 

Some of the popular ones were than the men did not wash on the day of sailing lest he should be washed overboard, or wave him goodbye in case a wave should wash him overboard or how about this one: the fishermen's women must not whistle because this would whistle up a storm 'A whistling woman and a crowing hen brings the Devil out of his den.'
Trawler memorial at a disused lock entrance in West Hull

The trawler itself was always referred to as a 'she' (more of a tradition than a superstition perhaps) and a brush was never left on deck in case the ship would be swept away. Green was never worn at sea - green is followed by black - widow's weeds. The salt was never passed at the ship's meal table, 'pass the salt, pass sorrow,' and the tea pot was never emptied once the ship set sail, it was always on the go.

Fishermen never took money to sea. If they went to sea skint, they would have a good and successful trip. I can recall my grandfather, who was born on Hessle Road talking about kids scrambling for money when the sailors threw their loose change into the air for the expectant and waiting children prior to setting sail.

Of course the Church (of England) thought superstitions were the inventions of the devil or steeped in heathenism. It is interesting that in an attempt to bring pagans into the fold of the church in the early days, the symbols of paganism could be found on church decorations such as Green Men, holy and ivy, the god of wine Baccuss and other heathen regalia.

A Green Man carving at the top of a column at Alkborough Church Lincolnshire Courtesy of Wikipedia and photographer SiGarb
Ironically, it was accepted practise endorsed by the Church for Bible's to be fanned in dying men's faces, communion wine should be used for whooping cough and women could bathe sore eyes in baptism water. In fact the use of rosaries and decking of houses in winter with holly and ivy were accepted by the Church yet were superstitions of course.

The list of superstitions is huge and endless including a whole raft around animals, but I would be interested if anyone has any modern superstitions that you use, for example, not shaving before playing a football match, or wearing a certain item of clothing as good luck?

What are your superstitions?

Chat soon


*Recommended reading: A Dictionary of Superstitions, Opie and Tatem by Oxford University Press; and Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Ed. Evans, by Cassell.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Riverside Walks

I hope the weekend has treated you well? We've had some lovely weather here with seasonal showers now and then during this summer of long overdue fine weather.

I've done two walks recently with my friend Linda in order to keep the fitness up, both near enough two miles, which in the scheme of things isn't far, but we're building up.

You've read many times of the Humber in my blogs, one of the countries busiest and most dangerous rivers and it tends to be pretty muddy water due to the clay nature of the land, but the land provides beautiful walks alongside it and vistas to make your mouth water.

Two recent walks were in total contrast, yet only a few yards apart, one pleasant and one not so bright. Let me explain.
Our first walk - highly recommended - Google Maps
The first walk took place from the Corporation Pier in Hull walking eastward. We did both these walks on warm balmy evenings with a view to seeing nice sunsets. This walk starts in one of the oldest places in Hull where ferries used to sail to New Holland in Lincolnshire, in latter years, paddle steamers. Now, nothing sails from the pier because the Humber bridge makes commercial passenger traffic by boat across the Humber superfluous. I have thought however that pleasure trips would make a bit of money to be honest.  

Disused Yorkshire Dry Dock (the Tidal Barrier across the River Hull in the background)
We cross the river Hull by a new footbridge next to the disused dry dock which someone wants to turn into an amphitheatre and round the Deep, a nationally recognised sea life centre. The walk then takes us along the Humber bank along a purpose built wide footway with the Victoria Dock estate on one side and the river separated by a barrier on the other side. This is frequented by residents and dog walkers, kids on bikes and families and is a lovely safe walk.
Walk alongside and round the Deep at a place locally known as Sammy's Point

The path then takes us across the old lock gate, now all concreted up which used to lead to the old timber dock. This dock is now just full of water and fish and three fountains with playing water, very attractive it is too. Houses and blocks of nice looking flats overlook the river and the old dock here and it has been lovingly restored and maintained making this a lovely atmosphere. 

The walk finishes at the end of the Victoria Dock estate when it is time to walk back and as we timed it right, you walk back westwards and see the sun setting across the river vista. 

At the far end of our first walk, we see the Pride of Rotterdam (mainly cars and passengers) leaving port for her overnight North Sea crossing
This is gentle, steady, plenty of seats although no loos, but its a mile one way and a mile back. Take a camera and  a flask and see lots of wildlife activity in the river and in the riverside flora as well as shipping which passes pretty close to the shore at this point. The Ferries to the European continent can be seen leaving on the evening tide every day (using deep channels.)

The skeletal remains of the front end of an old wooden barge, left abandoned donkey's years ago can be seen at the end of this walk on the waters edge.
There are regular signs too along this walk explaining the history of the area and modern day context.
A small flotilla of speed boats come in together making their way to Humber Dock for the night

Several speedboats were coming in to the Humber dock just as we finished our walk.

The last few yards of the walk near the Deep looking west, the lights twinkling as dusk sets in
The second walk, taken on another evening was just a continuation of the first route, but as the Victoria Dock estate finishes, as you continue to walk eastward, there are industrial units to the left and the open river with no barriers to separate you from the river on the other side. This is all so very different and isolated and less pleasant. The path is solid and wide enough but not recommended for children or dogs who like to roam. 

Our second walk, not really recommended unless in a party - Google Maps
No seats on this one and nothing to see of interest in the commercial premises on the land side of the path.

The walk takes you across a working lock gate which I think is always a twitchy experience, just flimsy looking chains separate you from the big drop into the lock or to the river and the footway is iron gridded, so it's like walking on air. I'm sure it's safe, but it feels not so much so. Having said that, there are ramps either side, so if you are in a wheel chair, you can get across.

The Amanda from Willemstad waiting patiently for the Pride of Hull to leave the dock entrance before coming into dock itself
There are some fascinating empty ruined riverside sheds and wooden piles in the Humber itself which once held wharves and railway lines still in evidence, memories for some older generations of long lost and almost forgotten dock side activity. Birds are the only occupants these days.  
Long abandoned wharf sheds, although difficult to see in the picture, there are old railway lines just this side of the shed used by trains to take away the good offloaded from ships
Eventually, the outward walk finally finishes at the King George Dock where the modern days ferries are berthed and which houses a very busy shipping dock (the walk is a dead end, you can't get onto the dock). 

The passenger and cargo ferry (60,000 tonnes), The Pride of Hull leaving port; the old wharf supports can be seen in the foreground

The walk back has nothing to commend it much other than the setting sun and river views.   We got stopped by the lock gates which opened to let a tug and a towed vessel into the dock which was interesting to watch, but completely isolated and trapped us on the path to the east. 
The Hull tug Beamer towing smaller tug Lashette toward the dock gate
 There were some wading birds on the mud flats and cormorants on riverside structures arising out of the water.

Water birds waiting for higher tides for their feeding

Don't do this one alone, watch for exceptionally high tides which face no barriers to the footpath and take a mobile phone.

Two entirely contrasting walks separated by a car park in the middle, but good exercise nonetheless.

Enjoy your week ahead.

Chat soon


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Scarborough in the Sun

Scarborough's South Bay captured from Oliver's Mount War Memorial overlooking the town
Not having had, nor wanted a holiday in the last couple of years for reasons I won't bore you with, I decided it was time for a break. The opportunity arose for a long weekend away while her indoors was at a religious knees up and so off I toddled to sunny Scarborough in North Yorkshire - and my goodness, was it sunny. 

Whilst not allowed to book into the accommodation until 2 pm., we wasted no time in booking the Sea life Centre and saving 40% on line booking fee for a visit and a game of crazy golf - and crazy it was!

Scarborough I have only sporadically visited in my life and never stayed more than a few hours at a time and don't know it at all well other then the sea front. It's about an hour and twenty minutes drive from where I live on a good day. There is evidence of Stone Age, Bronze Age and Roman occupation on the site which now occupies Scarborough and although little is recorded in the Domesday Book (1085), Royal Charters exist to allow markets on the sands in 1155 and 1163.

A couple of penguins trying to keep cool in the shade
It has a bit of everything for everyone really and during this very hot and lovely weekend, the town was packed. There was  Naval Battle reenactment in the town's park and the opera singer Katherine Jenkins was singing at the outdoor arena.
A recovering rescue seal pops up to say hello
We saw seals, penguins and all sorts of fish and water life at the Sea life centre including two rescued seals. A maddening game of mini-golf followed which I lost (because the winner has to buy the drinks) after which we booked into our accommodation which was beautifully clean and well appointed.

A walk around the park and tea at a local cafe then a wander into the south bay popular tourist area saw the night off for us.

The entrance to the Tramway to take us down to the beach area
Saturday started with a cooked full English breakfast, something I try to avoid but it was lovely and after a bus ride into the town, we walked around the town centre for coffee and travelled down onto the south bay beach via the tramway system which is like an old fashioned cable car on rails.
The Fountain in Peasholm Park
The afternoon found us at the Peasholm Park (opened 1912) and witnessing the famous fictitious naval battle using huge model powered boats operated by people sat inside them. This was good fun using explosions and running commentary and audience participation.
HMS Achilles, one of the model boats used in the model Naval battle (about 21 feet long)
After a lovely tea, we walked from the park area to Scalby on the north side of Scarborough and back again which seemed like a major trek, arriving at dusk tired but hugely satisfied with the effort.

A gentle drift home on Sunday brought to a close a brilliant weekend's break in the UK experiencing some extraordinarily hot summer weather. 

A panorama of Scarborough, (click to enlarge)
My final comment is reserved for the gulls, particularly the very big gulls, the very screechy noisy brazen gulls.  I have never heard so much screeching throughout the night as I heard during that break, waves of screeching noise, one gets set off and they all follow for a minute at regular intervals throughout the entire night. Needless to say, because it was hot weather overnight, the window had to be open, but the noise spoilt it really.

My photo of a Whitby gull, but the same species subject of a culling debate in Scarborough
Coupled with The Scarborough News paper headlines on gulls taking food out of people's hands, I would say they have a real problem. They wander about on the pavements between hordes of holiday makers without batting an eyelid waiting for the opportunity for people to drop food for them.

To cull or not to cull, that is the question, who needs educating, gulls or people? What do you think?

Thanks to Linda Lee for making this a wonderful weekend.

Have a great week ahead.

Chat soon