Category: England


A white rabbit walks into a library…

I had a couple of hours to spare so I popped into the British Library between Euston and St Pancras stations. After one of the worst coffees in London, I strolled round the bijou, free exhibition celebrating 150 years since the first publication of Lewis Carol’s “Alice in Wonderland”. It continues until next January and you can see more details here.

You may find it fascinating to discover how different publishers and artists have presented how they have imagined the characters of Wonderland or the Looking-glass. After a while, however, I found them beginning to blur into each other and would rather have had a cup of tea with a Mad Hatter and a dormouse  with a copy of Lewis Carol’s books.

It is worth paying a visit if you happen to be passing. Three stars or 6 out of 10

Galileo, Gordon and Pedro

The biting wind took the edge off the morning but otherwise we really enjoyed the couple of hours at Icarus Falconry. Here are Pedro(Burrowing Owl), Gordon (Harris Hawk) and Galileo (Great Grey Owl).

My companions gave the two-hour experience top marks. I give a lower rating to take into account the weather (not under the organisers control) and a couple of missing information boards. Having said that, the talk by our guide, a falconer, was informative and she did not invent facts if she happened not to be sure of them. I also liked the fact that, when flying the birds of prey, she took us to woodland, field, or walled-garden, according to which most suited the original habitat of each bird.

Hot drinks (tea, coffee, hot chocolate) were offered and were welcome against cold.

Overall four stars or 7 out of 10. Worth a visit but put your thermals on if you happen to go in late Autumn/Winter.

Exhibition Road

Natural History Museum, London

Natural History Museum, London

We knew it would be busy at the museum with it being half term but we were not expecting the crowds to be quite as big as they were. The queue was so long that they took us on a tour of the grounds including garden areas we did not even know existed let alone seen before. Most of the queues was for the dinosaur exhibition which we have visited a couple of times before but this time it was not on our itinerary.

Our destination was the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which features its winners and finalists. Naturally we were not permitted to take any photos so you will have to take our word for it when we tell you that some of the pictures were truly stunning. I can see why the overall winner got first prize but, for myself, I did not enjoy the sight of one fox carrying the bloodied corpse of another. True to life, “nature red in tooth and claw” and all that, but not pretty.

After lunch we wandered down Exhibition Road. This street made the news recently as an experiment in pedestrian/traffic management. There are no kerbs and all travellers are supposed to share the same space. Think of a pedestrianised street down which everyday traffic is allowed to travel: bicycles could and did go anywhere, for instance. It sort of worked in that it slowed everyone down. Meanwhile we came across this sculpture…

"When Soak Becomes Spill" by Subodh Gupta

“When Soak Becomes Spill” by Subodh Gupta

It is supposed to show a drink poured out and over flowing (think of a fizzy drink being poured into a glass, bubbling up and over). It was made from various steel buckets, pots and pans.

close up of "When Soak Becomes Spill"

close up of “When Soak Becomes Spill”

You can see it on the corner between the Victoria and Albert and Natural History museums. The sculpture was said to represent a comment on the wastefulness of consumer society. I thought that there was a resemblance of the ancient notion of a cornucopia: a horn of plenty. That represented good harvests, more than enough for everyone, a generous blessing. How did we get from generosity to wastefulness? Perhaps the difference is whether we use left overs on another day or simply throw them away; whether we use the generous blessings we receive for ourselves alone or to help others as well.

In December of this year this blog will be five years old. Originally I started writing as one way of coping with depression. I have never intended to write about depression as such but I have discovered that writing, humour and making a point of taking an interest in things have all contributed to building resilience. It is not true to say that I now no longer get depressed. It is true for me to say that depression is less frequent, usually (!) not as low as before and that I have some strategies to help. Depression is managed rather than cured. The most important strategy is permission to tell a couple of trusted people when I am feeling low without them assuming that my world is about to fall apart. Often the fact that I can say what is going on in my thoughts and feelings helps to deny depression of some of its power.

Over the years I have used “Sundry Times” as a place to share what I love about England, to post photographs that have caught my imagination and to pass on the least worst jokes that have come my way. I have included prayers and reflections as well. When I began “Depression” was the biggest tag, then “Resilience”. They are still there on the tag cloud but they are no longer number one.

This is not a valedictory piece but at the end of the year I shall retire this blog for the simple reason that I am running out of memory and prefer not to have to buy on-line storage. Instead, look out for “Sundry Times Too” which I am in the process of setting up and will go live at the end of 2015/beginning of 2016. I will post a link nearer the time.

Thank you for taking the trouble to read this.

God bless, Kangerew

Vulcan flyby

I have mixed feelings about this aircraft. On the one hand, it is part of Britain’s technological heritage which has produced an iconic aeroplane whose shape and power is designed to impress. On the other hand, it is a bomber intended originally to carry nuclear bombs to drop on the USSR in the event that the Cold War went ‘hot’. Even if you subscribe to the “Just War” doctrine it is hard to justify a weapon that would destroy on such a massive scale that it is difficult to see how it could discriminate between civilian and military targets.

Still, the distinctive sound roused me from my lunch to discover that we had a view of some of its latest manoeuvres with “The Blades” in attendance. Here are a few photos – not great because they were several miles away (presumably to avoid the built up area of the town).

Something understood

George Herbert lived at the turn of the 16th/17th centuries during the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I (by English reckoning) and Charles I. He is chiefly remembered for his poetry and for his faithfulness as a pastor during one of the many periods of religious turbulence in England. I don’t find his poems an easy read – some of that is down to the distance of years where words and turns of phrase have shifted in meaning or, more often, simply unfamiliar. This one “Prayer (1)” piles on the metaphors and similes for prayer, most of which takes some time and effort to digest. It is a poem to read more than once.

For myself, one message is that prayer is not just so many words said, sung, written or signed. There is something else going on inside us. Prayer could be accompanied by this notice: “Warning! Holy Spirit at work!”. Although I more or less stumbled upon this poem, I found that I recognised some of the phrases such as “heaven in ordinary” and “something understood” which writers and also friends of mine have quoted. I would like to draw attention to “the soul in paraphrase”, “heart in pilgrimage”, “reversed thunder”, and  “church-bells beyond the stars heard”. Each phrase would repay turning over in the mind in meditation. Alternatively, they could be the titles of four books in a series of fiction. I wonder who the main characters might be?

Prayer (1)

Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood.

George Herbert (1593-1633)

God save the Queen …

Union Flag… and God bless us all.

 

 

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ exchanged the glory of a heavenly throne for the form of a servant,
we thank you that you have given Elizabeth our Queen a heart to serve her people,
and have kept her devoted in this service beyond all who were before her:
encourage us by her example to serve one another, and to seek the common good,
until you call us all to reign with Christ in your eternal kingdom.
Amen.

(prayer from the Church of England website)

3rd September 1802

There are associations with the beginning of September such as the invasion of Poland and the declaration of war against Germany. While it is appropriate to show respect to important events of the past, I like to think that we can recall uplifting moments in our history as well as tragic ones.

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth hath not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

A slice of Cumbria

Toffee Shop, Penrith

Toffee Shop, Penrith

Now that slice could be a slab of Kendal Mint Cake, I suppose, but I am not a fan of it myself – I much prefer the traditional fudge you can get from the Toffee Shop in Penrith. Apart from my own, of course, they make the best fudge ever: soft, dissolve-in-the-mouth as it should be, not the chewy, long-shelf-life stuff sold to tourists and at the pick ‘n’ mix. I know, I know, lots of people like the standard stuff and it is unlikely to poison you so don’t let me put you off. I’m just saying, you know.

Meanwhile our holiday included a bit of the Pennine Hills as well as some of the Lake District and each has its own beauty and claim to fame that bear more than a fortnight summer’s holiday.  People say that “it’s a beautiful part of the country” and it is true; but they then complain about the rain – where do they think the lakes come from, then?

So here is a brief selection of photos of some of the places we visited.

 

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Not photographed above is the Pencil Museum in Keswick. We went as a bit of a joke – after all, how interesting can a pencil get? Well, the museum was small in size and took maybe 20 minutes to half an hour to look round (we took as long in the shop afterwards). There was a bit about the history of pencil making, quarrying of graphite, and how pencils are made today. Part of that history included some secret missions during World War II. We learnt about a real life ‘Q’ as in the James Bond – a fascinating detail.

We happened to arrive in Keswick towards the tail end of the Convention – a gathering of Christians which has been going for years. It meant parking took a little while to sort but one bonus was we were able to sit in on a lunchtime recital of poetry written and read by Stewart Henderson. He is a popular contemporary poet from Liverpool.

Finally, the photos of Ullswater do not show you that they were taken from a steamer (misnamed as it ran on diesel) chugging the length of the mere. It was a pleasant, if windy ride.

Cotswold Water park

It was Spring when I took these photos hence the lack of leaves on the trees but the weather was kind and it was pleasant place to stay just a few minutes from Cirencester.

Confusingly there are two “Cotswold Country Park”s on the map but I believe they are similar: well-tended and extensive grounds near the head of the Thames Valley providing holiday accommodation for families with a spare bob or two (or comfortably off generous relatives …). If you are the sort of family who likes walking, swimming, canoeing and sailing, then this is the place for you. Mind you, sitting comfortably with your chosen book was also an option. We were self-catering (which I don’t mind especially as I can more easily tweak the menu) but local pubs and town were not too far away for a bit of variety.

 

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