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.
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
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”
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.
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).
Vulcan & “Blades” (1)
Vulcan & “Blades” (2)
Vulcan & “Blades” (3)
Vulcan & “Blades” (4)
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.
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.
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.
lake view (2)
the river Thames, near Cirencester
Cotswold Water Park
“Manchester, the belly and guts of the nation.” George Orwell. Apparently, in Manchester they do not get hung up over which is England’s second city – Birmingham and London can sort it our among themselves!
Well, I don’t know about that. I do know that we had a pleasant few days in Manchester city – and, yes, it did rain, but not too much. We stayed in the Youth Hostel which is a stone’s throw from the Museum of Science and Industry and one day we went to Media City UK by tram. Highlights for us included the world’s oldest “intercity” passenger station, namely Liverpool Road which is situated in the MOSI. You may know that the first regular passenger service ran between Manchester and Liverpool on that line from 1830 to 1844.
We also made a point of visiting the “Blue Peter” garden which is next to the tram station at Media City. Children of a certain age and fans of “Blue Peter” would understand. It was interesting enough but smaller than we imagined. Worth a look if you are passing through – we were en route to the Imperial War Museum North which is several minutes’ walk away.
The architecture of the IWM (North) is worth a mention. It looks, at first glance, a bit disjointed or haphazard. It turns out that the architect took inspiration from imagining a shattered globe and taking some of the pieces to make the building. The sense of war belonging to a broken world is written into the very shape of the museum. Meanwhile the inside tells some of the history of war and conflict as it has been experienced particularly during the 20th and early 21st centuries. If you are looking for details of military campaigns and scores of maps you will find those few and far between. This museum does not celebrate military victories as such; it is more of a social history where issues of justice and of peace collide. Among the items to note are the cross and the twisted girders from among the ruins of the Twin Towers of New York.
We did visit the Lowry Gallery during our wander round the quaysides but it was being refurbished and few pictures were on display. Perhaps we’ll get a better view another time.
A mention should be made of the Bollywood Masala restaurant near Deansgate. I enjoyed probably the nicest chicken korma I have had for a long time and the crispiest “family naan” ever.
Hilton Hotel tower
Liverpool Road Station (MOSI)
tram at media City
Media City UK
Imperial War Museum North
Tardis in lobby
Doctor Who 2015
Blue Peter garden
a shiny building
“The Crusader” 2010 by Gerry Judah
“The Crusader” (detail)
girders from Twin Towers (New York) (detail)
the “Planet” locomotive
midpoint of partial solar eclipse, 85%
… actually it was 85% coverage of the sun by the moon in a solar eclipse. At our latitude we saw a partial eclipse. To see a total eclipse, assuming that the weather was kind, would involve a trip to the Faroes, which was out of the question for us. Still, I was able to take a few photos using a homemade solar filter. (I should add that the paper was high quality specialist film which I had bought previously when I thought we might see the transit of Venus. As it was, the weather was inconvenient then).
Given that I was using a bridge digital camera (mid-way between point-and-shoot and, say, a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera) and filter holder made from a “Pringle’s” tube, I think I did quite well.
midpoint of partial solar eclipse, 85%
crocuses or croci
“Your crocuses are out,” I was informed. I resisted the temptation to reply, “Actually, it’s ‘croci’,” and instead looked out of the window to see a dozen or so violet flowers just beginning to show themselves. It’s been a topsy-turvy sort of a winter. One day quite warm, the next sleeting down and covering cars, roofs and gardens with a sprinkling of ice. One night cold, crisp and clear – and another night chucking it down with gale force winds to boot. I would not be at all surprised if the croci (crocuses) decided to go back down again into the lawn! At least the days are getting longer and there is more daylight.
As Christians we believe that Jesus Christ was executed unjustly but that after he was dead and buried, he was raised to new life by God’s Spirit. We celebrate this every year – do we realise what a big deal this is? Sometimes, I suppose, it all seems a long time ago and the excitement we might have once felt has faded. But it is worth taking time to remember. It is worth taking time to remind ourselves that Easter gives us hope for the future – and hope for the present: the same Spirit that brought new life to Jesus is one that God gives to us his Church.
I know it does not always feel like that. Sometimes it must feel a bit like those crocuses (croci): we look forward to summer and yet we get ice dropped on us. Perhaps we wish we could go back and hide in the lawn. The weather might not seem too good but that does not mean that the days are not getting longer. Life might be hard sometimes, but that does not have to mean that we give up the promise of new life that Easter stands for.
May we all have a blessed Easter when it finally arrives, whatever the weather.
croci or crocuses
“If the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from death, lives in you, then he who raised Christ from death will also give life to your mortal bodies by the presence of his Spirit in you.” (Romans, chapter 8 verse 11)
Today there is a pleasant walk along the fields on the top of the Western edge of the Cotswold hills near Bath on the borders of Gloucestershire and Somerset. The weather was tolerably warm but mizzly and somewhat overcast but we were still able to see views towards Bristol and Welsh mountains beyond. We were out for a stroll and a breath of fresh air so we didn’t walk very far – just enough to admire the view and to read the information panels about the Battle of Lansdowne during the English Civil war in the Summer of 1643. It took place in and around where we walked on Wednesday 5th July 1643 although trees have been planted and modern roads have since been put it in with accompanying street furniture. Fortunately there are way-markers to follow.
I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account but here are a few details.
The strategic goal was for the Royalists (supporters of King Charles I) to take the city of Bath from the Parliamentarians (Oliver Cromwell was their leader). It failed During the battle, the leader of the Cornish infantry, Sir Bevil Grenville died. Some seventy-seven years later in 1720 his descendents put up a memorial to him to mark the spot where he died. We had driven past that memorial several times and it had piqued our curiosity – one reason for our walk. Apparently it is the oldest surviving war memorial in the country. Apart from the futility of war, there was a particularly poignant note. The two generals Waller (for the Parliamentarians) and Hopton (for the Royalists) had been childhood friends.
a spindle tree that caught our eye
way marker for 1643 Battle of Lansdowne
Sir Bevil Grenville’s memorial
From my top floor bedroom I could see across the treetops to Queensferry on the river Dee in the distance and the tower of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on the far horizon. To be honest, I only confirmed this using the zoom function of my camera; the photo was not especially clear.
I was staying at St Deiniol’s which houses the Gladstone Library founded by a Victorian Prime Minister at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. It houses his original collection of books and papers though the library has grown over the century to provide a resource of theological books; not quite the size of a university library but certainly larger than any diocesan library I have known. This is a good place to do some private study whether Biblical or other Christian topic. Having said that, I would not expect to find anything to help plan next week’s Sunday School or an All Age service – though you might find a book or two on the theology of them.
The grounds in the village of Hawarden are pleasant and the bus link to nearby Chester (about 20 minutes) was regular with generally several buses an hour (check times for Sundays and bank holidays, of course).
The most obvious indication that you are in a different country is seeing all the signage in two languages: Welsh and English in the one, English alone in the other. On the bus, crossing the border, you would be none the wiser that you had left one country and had entered another unless you were paying attention to, for example, the road signs. The second clue is that after you passed the Airbus factory at Hawarden airport, the road leaves the flat Cheshire plain and starts the climb the first of many hills that characterise the Welsh countryside. The elevation gave an extra boost to my view (see above).
A week was long enough for my purposes; other residents were there for a retreat, some for conferences. If you wish to find out more try this link to the library