22nd September 2017

Brighton. We had a beautiful day for late September – blue sky, no cloud and warm sunshine. There were quite a few people on the beach and even some swimmers. I even managed to take my cardi off….

We had a very pleasant walk up and down the pier – looking at all the rides we wouldn’t dream of going on (why would you do that to yourself??) and indulging in all the sights, sounds and smells usually associated with summer – what a bonus on the 22nd of September!

Brighton Pier – look at that sky!:

Brighton Pier 1

Brighton Pier 2


Views from the end of the pier:

View from the pier

View from Pier 2

The Beach:

Beach 1

You can’t be in Brighton without visiting the Royal Pavillion which is a Grade 1 listed building  – a former royal residence built as a retreat for George, Prince of Wales, who became Prince Regent and then, finally, at the age of 60, George IV.  Its style is Indian on the outside and Chinese inside – it has to be said that both styles are the English versions and probably wouldn’t be recognised as authentic by either Indian or Chinese people. Neither George nor the architects had visited either country.



Queen Victoria also used the Pavilion after she came to the throne. She initially found it a peculiar place but apparently warmed to it over time. However, being in the centre of town it didn’t afford her much privacy and was too small for her growing family, so it was sold and she purchased an estate and land that was redeveloped for  Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, which became the family’s summer home.

Much of the furniture and interior decoration from the Pavilion was taken to Buckingham Palace where much of it remains.

The Brighton Commissioners and Brighton Vestry successfully petitioned the government to sell the Pavilion to the town for £53,000. The proceeds of the sale went towards developing Osborne House.

Since the end of the Second World War, the municipality of Brighton has spent a great deal of time, effort and money restoring the Pavilion to its state at the time of King George IV. The city was encouraged in the 1950s by the permanent loan of over 100 items of furniture from Queen Elizabeth II. It has undertaken an extensive programme of restoring the rooms, reinstating stud walls, and creating replicas of some original fittings and occasionally pieces of furniture.

Unfortunately photographs are banned in any part of the building. The interior is so much more than I expected. The Banqueting Room and Music Room in particular with their high, domed ceilings and spectacular chandeliers are stunning. The chandelier in the banqueting room is 30 feet long and dangled from a dragon figure that measures 12 feet from nose to tail. Incredible.

Found this picture of the banqueting room on Wikipedia, but it doesn’t do justice to how it feels to be in that room.  I had to keep going back for another look.

Another couple of monuments we passed while walking around are the War Memorial and the statue of George IV:

We ended the day with a plate of excellent fish and chips from Harry Ramsden’s where we were served by a very nice young Spanish waiter who we had a good chat with. He was in the UK initially to perfect his English, because he couldn’t graduate and collect his degree without it. He stayed because he saw a Masters course at Sussex University that he wants to take, so is working to get the money together to pay for it. He’s also a Flamenco dancer and does a bit of that in the bars on the seafront for extra money. Good for him. Hope he gets his place on the course.

We managed to get on the wrong bus going back to the Park and Ride. The route is a circular, so we had to go around the whole circle until we got back to the car – took a while, but on the positive side we got a tour of Brighton!



20th September 2017

Hever Castle – the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and the place she retreated to when things at court got too hot to handle during Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

What a lovely place this is. Not only is there the Tudor connection but all the modernisations done by the Astor family. The building itself is beautiful outside and in, with quirky little staircases and rooms in unexpected places – including  a hidden chapel which for use when it was illegal to practise Roman Catholicism.

If you’re not sure of your Tudor history (and beyond) this is the place to go to bone up on it. Loads of information and all done in a very concise and user-friendly way.

As well as the furnishings and interior decoration there is an exhibition of armour and torture items – makes you shudder to think!

The gardens, which were done from scratch by the Astor family are spectacular. In the Boleyn’s day, the land they are on would have just been marshland. In Tudor times there would have been a small garden and a kitchen garden, but not much else.

The castle is double moated with drawbridge and portcullis. I thoroughly enjoyed being here and would recommend it to anybody.

Pictures below are the Castle and its outbuildings (the small cottages were used by the Astors for guests to their weekend parties):

The Castle

Castle sidedrawbridge


Outbuildings 2

The Outer Moat:

The courtyard reminded me very much of Speke Hall:


Some cushions picturing Anne and Henry:


Anne Boleyn’s portrait painted while she was Queen:


It hangs in the room that was her bedroom:

Anne's Bedroom

Look at that lovely Tudor door. And here it is a bit closer:


I loved the windows in the castle as well:


There are lots of lovely tapestries on display. This one is from 1540:

1540 Tapestry

And this was Henry’s battle taperstry:
tapestry 2

There was no information on this little one, but I just liked it:


The Postillion’s boots fascinated me:

Postillion Boots

Graham’s hand is there for scale. They are enormous. A postillion was a man who rode one of a pair of horses that pulled a coach. It could be very dangerous if a leg became caught between the two horses, so each postillion wore one of these boots on that leg to protect himself from injury.

There are several gardens – a Tudor garden, Italian garden, a small knot garden an enclosed garden with a pool, a rose garden. The Italian garden has a very long, covered walkway that is draped with vines (among other things) which looks out over the main garden to one side, but to the other is walled and this wall is filled with shade-loving plants and mosses, little waterfalls and statuary. I’ve never seen anything like it. Impossible to photograph to get the full impression, but here is just a very small part to give you an idea of it:


The Italian garden holds a lot of statues and sculptures which were collected from all over. Some were made especially for a particular spot but others are up to 2,000 years old.

Some more images of the extensive gardens and lake:

Tudor GardenLakeGardenGarden 3Garden 2Fountain


purple and gold

Had to photograph those purple and gold leaves together – just spectacular. One of my favourite colour combinations.

If you ever get a chance to go to Hever, it comes highly recommended. Loved it.

18th September 2017

We arrived in West Sussex on Monday to a lovely house – Almond Tree Cottage. The weather is much clearer here – it’s so nice to see the occasional blue sky again. I do love Scotland – its landscape, the people etc., but we had no luck whatsoever with weather there. The choice of sky colour seemed to be white, grey or black.  That was for the 4 weeks following the disastrous 2 weeks of torrential rainfall in Newbury. We are very happy to be in reasonably clear skies. I even managed half an hour in the garden with a coffee and a book. Then it rained, but hey ho…..

So last week was arrival on Monday evening – shattered after a long and tiring journey. Had to go through London and the Underground again – not easy with 2 big cases. And then it was standing room only on the local train that brought us from London to Billingshurst – one and a half hours. Somebody passed out on that train and didn’t even fall down it was so packed. Only at that point did they open windows – which were locked. The guard couldn’t get himself down the train to do it, so the key was passed along from hand to hand. What a situation!

Tuesday was shopping and unpacking. Wednesday and Thursday chilling out and deciding where we wanted to visit and what days to do it. Friday we visited Graham’s sister in her new apartment – which is absolutely lovely in every way – inside and by way of location and setting.  After an interesting afternoon looking at all the family tree stuff, we went off to enjoy a very good Thai meal together in Cranleigh. Saturday and Sunday we usually stay home – everywhere is too crowded at the weekends and Graham likes to have the time to watch his sport – and I am very happy to indulge in whatever I fancy doing – usually reading or a bit of stitching while listening to music. We’ve had an ‘escape’ room in most places so I can go off an disappear for a bit in the quiet.

Our first visit was today at Petworth House which is quite local. Didn’t take us long to get there. Petworth is a country house and park with an extensive art collection – lots of Turners as he was a friend of the family. Not just paintings but informal sketches as well. Fascinating. There’s so much art it’s impossible to take it all in in a day. So much information available on everything, we could have spent days reading it all!

This is the house taken from the lake:


And speaking of the lake – it is enormous and set in a beautiful Capability Brown landscape. This is just a small snapshot of part of it:


There is so much to see at Petworth, I’ve only photographed the things that particularly took my fancy. The most amazing room for me is the Carved Room, named for the wood carvings by Grinling Gibbons that are all over the walls, ceilings and picture frames. They are so precise and delicate – quite literally now as woodworm has got into them and they have to be painstakingly cleaned with the finest, softest brushes to prevent them falling apart.


This room also holds the famous Henry VIII painting from Holbein’s studio (you know my love of anything Tudor by now!).

This carving is my favourite:

Carving 1

Closely followed by this one:

Carving 2

The chapel has lots of heraldic shields celebrating marriages and unions of families. This one (below) hasn’t come out as well as I wanted, but it appears to celebrate the marriage of Henry VIII with Jane Seymour. The HR and crown above, and below Henry 8 on one side and Seymour on the other, with the motto of the Order of the Garter ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’ – ‘Shame on him who thinks evil of it’.

There are a variety of interpretations of what the ‘it’ in the motto may be – and I’ve always wondered about it myself. One is that Edward III may outwardly have professed the Order of the Garter to be a revival of the Round Table but it is probable that privately its formation was a move to gain support for his dubious claim to the French throne. The motto of the Order is a denunciation of those who think ill of some specific project, and not a mere pious invocation of evil upon evil-thinkers in general. ‘Shame be to him who thinks ill of it’ was probably directed against anyone who should oppose the King’s design on the French Crown.

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Another interpretation is along the lines of ‘those who laugh at this today, will be proud to wear it tomorrow’.  There is also a story that the foundation of the Garter occurred when Edward III of England prepared for the battle of Crecy and gave his own garter as a signal – dare to laugh or think badly of the king’s garter! And yet another suggests a trivial mishap at a court function when Edward III was dancing with Joan of Kent who was his first cousin and daughter-in-law. Her garter slipped down to her ankle causing those around her to snigger at her humiliation. In an act of chivalry, Edward placed the garter around his own leg saying “Honi soit qui mal y pense. Tel qui s’en rit aujourd’hui, s’honorera de la porter.The two phrases are often translated as follows: “A scoundrel, who thinks badly by it” or “Shame on him who suspects illicit motivation,” followed by, “Those who laugh at this today, tomorrow will be proud to wear it.”

A couple of other things that caught my eye in the house were this gorgeous fireplace, mirror and clock:

fireplace, mirror and clock

And these three delightfully ornate chairs:

3 chairs

Two of the private rooms used by the current Baron and his family were open to the public for viewing today – the White Library and the White and Gold Drawing Room. No pictures allowed in either of these.

We did miss out on seeing the upstairs bedrooms though – they aren’t open on Mondays (the Crompton Curse strikes again!).

Lastly, we visited the servants quarters – a separate building on the opposite side of the courtyard. Here we found the kitchens with every size pan and mould that you can imagine, a pastry oven and scullery. A room that seemed to be specifically for baking with a cooled marble surface for rolling out pastry. Separately, there was dairy with an ice house underneath – clever marrying of functions – and the house had its own emergency fire equipment.

A selection of pans and moulds in the kitchen:

And one man’s observation of the staff at Petworth, which made me laugh. It is fair to say, though, that it seems that the staff at Petworth were very well-treated and many worked there for a number of years – in some cases all their working lives – one housekeeper died at 86 having worked 60 years in the house.

This is from the National Trust information in the Servants’ Quarters:

‘In 1819 there were more than 50 indoor servants living at Petworth. By 1834 there were 135, of whom 73 ate in the servants’ hall.

During the third Earl’s time, the Servants’ Quarters were a far cry from the efficient house-keeping factory of late Victorian times. Thomas Creevey, a house guest, wrote in 1828 that the servants were ‘very numerous, tho’ very advanced in years and tottered, and comical in their looks. They could not bear to be ‘put out’ in any way, and the household tended to go to bed early. Creevey was advised to order a glass of wine while he had the chance. The footman returned to tell him that it was too late as the butler had gone to bed!

Charles Greville in the 1830’s described Petworth as ‘like a great inn where there was nothing to pay but where the guests were not very attentively served’.’

How funny!

We spent so much time in the house that we didn’t have the time or the energy to see much of the grounds. We had a stroll around the lake, but didn’t manage the pleasure gardens, woodlands or deer park. But we did pass the famous rotunda on our way in and out:


A lovely place to visit. You could spend a lot of time here.

7th September 2017

We are now in our last few days here in Lockerbie, getting ready to move on on Monday and I’ve done very little about writing up what we’ve been up to. The rain from Newbury followed us here and it’s been pretty wet. There’s a lovely garden outside but we really haven’t seen too much of it. There is a light, bright and comfortable conservatory where we’ve spent a lot of time reading and generally relaxing. Johnstonebridge is a lovely little village – very small but it has it’s own primary school and community centre, where they serve a reasonably priced lunch every Wednesday. While we’ve been here they’ve had a barbecue and a local produce show, so there seems to be a good community spirit.

It’s a pleasant area to walk in. Down the road to the left is an old abandoned church and graveyard with the old manse which has been refurbished and is occupied. A little bit further on is a newer graveyard with a war memorial. Interestingly, most of the graves give the address of the deceased person and you can pretty much track the occupants of houses that are still standing – and still occupied – through the years. A little bit of local history. Walking to the right leads you through the rest of the village and out to the main road and it isn’t too far to walk to the motorway services. In the other direction from the motorway services is the Lorry Park where there is a shop selling drinks and snacks, a cafe that has good food and a bar/function room which seems to be the hub for the area on the weekends. We went to a Rod Stewart tribute show on one of our Saturday nights.

We’ve visited the local towns: Lockerbie, Moffat and Dumfries. Pretty little towns with all the usual places. The sheep certainly seems to be an important part of the economy. Sculptures of sheep all over the place:

Sheep in Moffat

And sheep on the roads – drive carefully!


Until this year, Moffat used to have a sheep race through the town. Each sheep would have a little knitted jockey on its back. They decided to stop it though this year and strangely enough I read about it in the paper on the train as we were travelling to Lockerbie.

A few pictures of Dumfries where we went for a look around and to the cinema (Dunkirk – excellent film):

There’s a waterfall not far from Moffat – the Grey Mare’s Tail which has a drop of 60m making it one of the highest cascades in Britain. The water flows from Loch Skeen into the Tail Burn and then tumbles down the rocks and crags before joining Moffat Water. Loch Skeen is southern Scotland’s highest upland loch and sits over 500m above sea level. You can walk up to it if you are fit enough but it’s a long way up and pretty steep, so we passed on that one. We just got far enough up to see the waterfall:
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I finally got to see Hadrian’s Wall on an astonishingly cold August day (wished I had worn scarf, hat and gloves!)

And the final visit was to the lead mine at Wanlockhead. The mine was fascinating. it is one of many in those particular hills. There were 70+ working mines at one time, all now closed even though there is a lot of lead still in there. It is now cheaper to bring in the lead we need  from abroad.

The entrance to the mine:

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We went 150m into the mine, which felt like a long way. It is narrow, dark and drippy wet. When we saw the map of the full mine, we realised we had really only seen a tiny part:

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The part we walked was the Williamsons Adit up to the first junction. The lower levels were accessed by a miner putting one foot into a bucket to be lowered by rope and winch to the next level – with only the candle on his hat for light. It could take 2 hours to actually get to the lowest levels to work.

Because of the proximity of the lower levels to the water table, the mines had to be constantly pumped to keep the water level down. This is the water driven steam pump that was used at Lochnell Mine. The water to drive the machine came from the burn and the pumped water was returned to the burn. You can see the burn running right through the area for miles. We’d noted it as we were driving up to the village.

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We also went to see an example of a miner’s cottage through the ages. All the miners cottages are still standing and the majority are refurbished and still occupied.

The back wall of this cottage is the hillside:

Most of the cottages in the village have the same look and are about the same size more or less.

The area was first mined only in the summer time. The men would arrive with tents, do their mining and move back home for the winter. It was very cold up there in September, so you really couldn’t be up there in a tent in the winter!! After a while, the Duke of Buccleuch, who owned the land, allowed dwellings to be built and for the village to develop – and of course charged rent once it did.

The exhibition inside the cottage was about how the miners lived through the ages.

1750 – earth floor, earth back wall, no windows, no chimney, goods and foodstuffs hanging to keep them off the floor and away from rats, bed pallet stuffed with heather (prickly and itchy), very few possessions. The peat fire would be very smoky and the smoke would be allowed to drift away very slowly through the roof. Seating was low to be as far as possible from the rising smoke.


1850 – Improvement in that now there were chimneys, covering on the walls and a boxed-in bed area which would have had a pull out section underneath for the children to sleep on.


The 1900’s  brought an interior that is looking more familiar. Love that there is a Singer treadle in the room:

There was no such thing as an old age pension so miners worked until they dropped. There was, however, a library in the village which moved from place to place as it grew. Looking at the titles on the shelves, these were very well read miners. It was a popular and well-used library with strict rules about the care of the books. The library held 3,000 books and all the books are beautifully bound and in surprisingly good condition.


After our sightseeing, we had a very nice lunch in the highest pub in Scotland which features a tree sculpture of a miner in the garden and several hexagonal glamping chalets – you can just see one behind the sculpture:

And while eating our own lunch we watched the sheep eating their in the car park!

sheep from pub




9th August 2017

The rain stopped for long enough yesterday for us to fit in a visit to Bath. It threatened all day, but we managed to stay dry – it was pretty cold, though. Coats were the order of the day.

Bath is lovely. It’s a bit difficult to photograph though, because it’s all around you. What do you choose? Obviously there are some very significant  buildings like the Abbey and Royal Crescent, but the charm of the city is all around you all the time. All the buildings are of Bath stone – even the modern ones, so the old blends with the new. You couldn’t be anywhere else. You really have to be in it to experience it.

The first thing you see is Bath Abbey:

We started with the tourist bus, as always. There are 2 bus routes around Bath for the one price – the City and the Skyline. The Skyline route takes you to the outskirts of the city where there is lots of interest. We learnt all about Ralph Allen, an entrepreneur and philanthropist,  who made his money in Bath first of all by reforming the postal system and then made a further fortune marketing Bath stone.

He built a huge house for himself, Prior Park, of Bath stone, situated  on a hill that overlooks the town. As he said ‘to see all Bath and for all Bath to see’. (not my picture as we couldn’t see the front of the house from the bus):

He is commemorated not only by the house, but by a road called Ralph Allen Drive and Ralph Allen School. In 1738 he gave the money and the stone for the building of The Mineral Water Hospital – now the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases.

We saw where Jane Austen lived and where she took her morning walks on her ‘gravel path’.  She set two of her books in Bath – Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. I’ve never read Northanger Abbey, so it’s probably a good time to start it – which I have done. Free on Kindle…

In the park in the city centre is a planted quote from Jane Austen:

Planted quote

After lunch (found a cafe doing a low carb all day breakfast – yay!!), we went off to see the things we wanted to get a closer look at.

First was The Assembly Rooms. I’ve heard this building referred to so many times in all the period novels I read, but never knew what it looked like or where it was situated, so it was fascinating to be in there. The outside of the building:

Assembly Rooms

Some magnificent chandeliers from inside the rooms:

Here are some better pictures (not mine) of how the rooms would have looked thronged with people in Austen’s and the same room today:

Image result for bath assembly rooms images Image result for bath assembly rooms images

People would often arrive at the Rooms by sedan chair – carried on poles by one man in front and one behind. This is an old chair minus its poles:

Sedan Chair

Floor plan of the rooms:

Image result for assembly rooms bath

Then we went off to see the Royal Crescent which is just a short walk away. Absolutely stunning:

Royal Crescent

And the entrance to No.1 Royal Crescent which you can go into:

No 1 Royal Crescent

The houses have 5 stories – from the kitchens, scullery, servants hall and housekeepers room in the basement, right up to the servants sleeping areas in the attics. The attics are the only part not open to the public. This particular house was bought by a Henry Sandford who lived here alone after his wife died. Subsequently it was used as a school and then as individual lodgings with suitable alterations having been made to suit each purpose. In 1968 it was bought by Mr Bernard Cayzer who supported its restoration as a historic house and the headquarters of the Bath Preservation Trust.

The last stop on our list was the Roman Baths. We’d seen a very long queue in the morning and thought we may not have time for it if we had to stand in a queue like that, but returning at 4 o’clock, we just walked straight in. Good decision!

This is a fascinating visit. There’s a scale model of the site as it would have been in Roman times and you can go down and see the what remains of this. Some parts are very recognisable such as the entrance to the temple and the altar – which was outside in the courtyard in front of the temple.

The main bath:

Roman Bath

Part of the exhibition shows the spring water flowing in. There are 42 different minerals in the water. The Romans apparently spotted the steam rising from the ground when they were up in the hills exploring the area. They had no idea about all of the minerals, they just knew that the more they bathed in the water the better they felt. Interestingly, Bath is built on 7 hills like Rome. The picture below shows how the minerals in the water have turned the rock bright orange.

Mineral water

And, lastly a novelty – loved these umbrellas which were over a couple of streets in the town. Very appropriate for the weather we’re having here…


It’s still raining here today. I wonder will it stop before we leave?



2nd August 2017

We’ve been here a week today and so far the rain has rarely stopped – and most of the time it’s been torrential, so we haven’t done much. There are some lovely walks around here – and a hot tub in the garden, but it’s too wet to contemplate either at the moment.  l like being outside, but I’m definitely a fair weather girl! There was a bit of a break in the weather yesterday, so we went to Oxford. What a lovely day out – Oxford is so beautiful. But before I move on to talk about that, there are a few catch-up pictures from the boys’ christening and some of the house we are staying in.

Here is everybody dressed in their finery for the day:

The house we are staying in is gorgeous. A cottage and decorated accordingly. Not sure how old it is or if it has any history. Tona, if you read this, maybe you can fill me in. You certainly have a good eye for what works. Love the cutlery – appeals to my patchworker’s heart. Because of the rain we’ve spent a lot of time indoors, so it’s been lovely to be in such a pretty, comfortable and relaxing environment.  I’ve had a learning curve in cooking on an Aga – which I’m enjoying. Another little experience I can put down to our travels.

Here are some shots of the house:

So, because the weather gave us a break, yesterday we visited Oxford. What a lovely day we had. We did get rained on while sitting on the top of the tourist bus, but we took that opportunity to have lunch and when we’d finished the rain had stopped and it was dry and reasonably sunny.

Oxford, with its cobbled streets,

Cobbled street

History, old buildings curiosities and stunning architecture….

…. is worth a day of anybody’s time.

The first thing we did was climb the Carfax Tower. 99 narrow steps up a spiral staircase. We do always seem to end up climbing a tower somewhere. The location of the Carfax Tower represents the ancient heart of Oxford where the four roads from the North, South, East and West gates of the city met. The name Carfax derives from the Latin quadri-furcus (four forked), or the Norman French ‘quatre vois’ (four ways.

Carfax Tower

Views from the top of the tower:

Then we did the full circuit of the tourist bus. There was so much information to give out that the poor guide was struggling to fit it all in to the time. Then we got rained on and had lunch. After lunch we did some walking to see the place a little closer. I’ll name what I can remember, but there really is so much to see and my memory may fail me:

The collegiate University of Oxford contains within it almost 40 independent educational institutions, or colleges. Christ Church is the largest. It is also, uniquely, the cathedral seat of Oxford.  Christ Church was founded in a turbulent period of English history by King Henry VIII. I’ve read a lot about the Tudor period, so anything from that era holds a fascination for me. However, the most ambitious plans, which led to the grandest buildings, were those of the king’s Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. I’d like to read more about Wolsey. My opinion of him underwent a transformation when I read Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring up the Bodies’.

Wolsey laid out the Great Quadrangle and built the Kitchen and Hall for his Cardinal college founded in 1525. But in 1529 Henry took over the foundation. This was the year that Wolsey lost his power over the failure to reach an agreement about Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, his first wife. It is also the year that the Reformation Parliament first sat. Anti-clericalism was rife in this parliament. Seventeen years later (1546 – Henry died in 1547) he renamed it Christ Church.

Today Christ Church is home to around 550 undergraduate and post-graduate students, men and women, reading a wide variety of subjects in the arts and sciences. Nearly 500 years after Wolsey, Christ Church remains a community of learning.

Christ Church from the street:

Christchurch 1

Christ Church from the Meadow:

Christchurch 2

A couple of views of Christ Church Meadow:

Merton College:


Magdalen College:

Magdalen 2

Punts on the river:

Radcliffe Sqaure – Brasenose College:


Radcliffe Square – University Church of St. Mary the Virgin…

Universoty Church St Mary the Virgin

…where we found this memorial to the martyrs of the Reformation:

reformation memorial

Some very familiar names there.

The centrepiece of the square is the circular and imposing Radcliffe Camera, a library (originally for science) paid for by John Radcliffe’s legacy, built 1737–48. This is part of the Bodleian Library, the main building of which is situated immediately to the north of the square. The two are connected by an underground tunnel and there are many books stored under the square (with space for around 600,000 volumes). These books may be requested by readers. There used to be a small underground railway to transport books between the Radcliffe Camera and the main Bodleian site. There is no access to the building except for members (disappointing but understandable).


Doorways to the various departments of learning in the Bodleian…

Bod 3Bod 2Bod 1

Doorways to knowledge! There are more than this, but I just wanted an example. I remember seeing Music and Logic as well.

Bodleian facade and tower:

Bod tower

We thought we were on our way home after this but on our way to find the bus stop we spotted the Weston Library. I remembered the guide on the bus saying there was a downstairs loo in there, so we thought we’d pop into it before we started travelling.

We were so glad we did!! In here is the Bodleian Treasury (check out the website:https://treasures.bodleian.ox.ac.uk) where they exhibit items from the library’s collection. This changes on a regular basis, but we saw huge, hand illustrated text books, illuminated manuscripts, a musical score written and amended by Handel, a Father Christmas story written by JRR Tolkien in his own hand for his children, a page of the Magna Carta from 1215 (that one blew me away). Nibbled by rodents while in storage:

Magna Carta

A collection of miniature books created for the young Charles I so that he could continue his studies while travelling:

Charles I Books

The books cover every subject you can think of. I wonder if he read them all?

His brother Henry was given a similar set of books bound in green leather. These were dispersed but one volume turned up in the Bodleian archives.

Outside in the hall of the main library were the entries to a book binding competition. Here are my favourites from amongst the entries:

I didn’t choose any of the prizewinners as my favourites, so it just goes to show that it’s all a matter of taste, doesn’t it?

And just as a parting shot, a collection of traditional fountain pens for sale in a shop. Wow…


So, it was a fabulous day out. If you haven’t been to Oxford and you get the chance, go.




29th July 2017

We have been in this gorgeous, peaceful, thatched cottage in Newbury since Wednesday night and are having a lovely relaxing time – which means not doing very much at all; so before I go on to do photos of here I want to catch up on some of the things we did while in Runcorn. We were there from 11th July to the 26th and spent loads of time with the family, went to Lucas and Kit’s christening and had a day out in Liverpool with Mum and Dad.

One of our first trips was to Jodrell Bank which, with my interest in planets, stars and space in general, I’ve long been curious about but never managed to get to. We found it very interesting and nicely aimed to appeal to adults and children alike. Better for school age children though who can understand all the interactive stuff and what they are seeing.

The Lovell Telescope – 3rd largest in the world and a grade 1 listed building. I’m glad I got the human figure in there to give an idea of scale. It is enormous. We enjoyed watching the film of people going up into the telescope itself. It’s a long way up there! And the sides are very steep. You need to abseil to get to the rim.

Lovell Telescope

The next outing was Sunday the 16th with Mum and Dad. A trip around Liverpool. First stop was the new Liverpool Stadium which we walked to from their house. It’s a long time since I walked that route – or even rode it on the bus. It was my daily route to school; and on that note, my old school building is no more – a pile of rubble.

Two lifelong Liverpool fans in front of the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ gates.

Liverpool Gates

LFC have created a walkway of granite tiles at the new stadium. There are are, I think 3 sizes of tile, each one purchased by a fan or fans and engraved with their name, whichever date they choose and a message. Lovely idea and it looks great. Here are the ones bought by the family – nephew, brother-in-law, Dad and his brother:

And the Hillsborough Shrine:

Hillsborough Shrine

Then we took the bus into the city centre and had lunch at the Lord Thomas – very nice place and a very nice lunch. Then a bit of sightseeing:

Cilla – I don’t think the face is right, but the legs are spot on!!


John lounging casually against the wall of the Cavern in Stanley Street. This is a very good likeness:


This sculpture intrigued me but I can’t find any information about it:


The Beatles sculpture:

And 4 Lambananas – who knew that the Lambanana would turn out to be so iconic?

We would have liked to go into the museums but we ran out of time. Only so much you can do in one day, but I’ll certainly make time to go back for those as they are both together right there at the Pier Head.

The next event, Tuesday the 18th, was a certain person’s first Sports Day. Anaya is one of the Cheeky Monkeys group in nursery and this was their big day.

Sports Day

Sack race, egg and spoon, hurdles (albeit tiny ones), bean bag throwing and a running race. A little winner with her medal and cup.

And finally, the big event – Lucas and Kit’s christening at St Berteline’s Church followed by a reception at the Waterside marquee in Warrington. The theme was Little Gentlemen:

Christening 1

And here are the two little gentlemen in question all dressed up in their best:

Christening 2  Christening 6

And after all the proceedings and having to behave yourself, what better way to wind down than bouncing around with your cousin:

Christening 5

After this, we had Jenni’s birthday on the Monday. The weather held for a barbecue in the newly completed garden. So, as always, an eventful stay. Tuesday was packing and organising ourselves for moving on.

We were out of the house 12.30 on Wednesday the 26th for the train from Runcorn to Euston, from there on the underground to Victoria, then above ground to catch the Gatwick Express where we caught the shuttle bus to collect the car from one of the long stay car parks. It was about a 2 hour drive from the airport to here with a short stop off at the services for some food. We were glad we did because we didn’t feel like turning out again after arriving. It wasn’t such a bad journey though considering we now have 2 large cases in tow instead of one big and one small as we have had up to now. We managed to find lifts and escalators except for one time where there was no option but stairs, but a very kind man helpfully grabbed my case and carried it up for me.


8th July 2017

Well, it’s nearly a week since I updated the blog – and what a busy week its been! I’ve just had no time to sit and sort the photos and get them into some sort of order, so that’s my task today. And, apparently, it’s a good day to do it. We have a full moon in Capricorn, so I’m reliably informed it’s a perfect day for tying up loose ends. We’re getting towards the end of our stay in Glasgow; you never manage to see everything but we’ve done a lot here.

The Babbity Bowster over the road has an informal jam session for traditional Scottish music on Saturdays. Whoever wants to play that afternoon just turns up  and then they leave when they want to, so there’s a rolling group of people all the time. There were up to 13 of them last week which went down to one guy playing a whistle and then up again to half a dozen or so. We’ve been over there again this afternoon. Such a friendly place. Both times we’ve got chatting to other people.

Musicians in the Babbity Bowster:


Sunday we had an interesting lunch in the Italian Caffe which is just on the corner of the road. Italian tapas, I suppose you could call them – all small plates so you can just pick and choose which you want. I must admit really like that way of eating.

Monday and Tuesday were our 2 days on the tourist bus. Roth, the owner of the flat we’re staying in advised to stay on the bus until the furthest point, which is the Riverside Museum, do that and then continue round, and that worked out really well.

The Riverside museum is a transport museum with every type of transport you can think of through the ages – bikes, cars, trams, motorbikes, ships, commercial vehicles. There’s also a Victorian street set up with typical shops and what went on in them. Really interesting. The photographer’s was the one that made me step back a bit as one of the services they offered was post mortem photography, with the dead person made up to look asleep and photographed with the rest of the family!! How gruesome.

The museum itself is an interesting building:


And this was outside:


I’ve seen a couple of these around Glasgow, but I can’t find any information about them – who has done them or why.

I didn’t take many photos inside the museum because there was just so much in there. Couldn’t resist the penny farthing though with the quote from Mark Twain. I read his description of learning to ride a bike a long time ago and it made me laugh so much. This just reminded me of it:

Mark TwainPenny Farthing

And I couldn’t leave out Natalie the carousel horse:


Outside the Riverside Museum stands the tall ship, The Glenlee which was built in Glasgow in 1896. It was sold to Spain and used as a training ship and then came back to Glasgow to be restored. You can see the sailor’s bunks, the officers’ quarters, the Captain’s Cabin, Galley, poop deck and cargo holds all restored to look as they would have when she was sailing as a cargo ship.  The between deck is now used as a function/conference/educational venue.


After that, we took the ferry over to Govan to see the stones.

We’ve seen lots of Crompton references on our travels, but just for once the Ferry name gets in on the act:


The Govan Stones are a collection of early medieval stones carved in the 9th-11th centuries to commemorate the power of those who ruled the Kingdom of Strathclyde. There are 31 in total and they were always in the graveyard of the old church since being carved until somebody twigged on that they might actually be old and important and had them investigated. They have now been taken indoors to protect them from further weathering.

Some of the stones were re-used and carved with dates and initials.

Then we thought we’d do the Mackintosh House but that turned out to be a Crompton Special (we were there on Monday):


So we had a look at the university and then got back on the bus and did the Kelvingrove Museum which is absolutely packed out with all sorts of interesting stuff and is a fantastic building. There are so many huge, impressive, monumental buildings here. The photos I can get with my little camera just don’t do them justice.

The University:


Kelvingrove Museum building:

Kelvingrove Museum Building 2

Artwork in the main entrance of Kelvingrove. Loved this – it lights up in different colours from underneath:


That was a very full Monday and we got home pretty exhausted.

Tuesday we covered all the Rennie Mackintosh exhibits. It was pouring down with rain in the morning and our first stop was the Lighthouse which is situated in a Mackintosh-designed building. Not easy to find, though. Especially in the teems of rain. We very nearly gave up. There’s a brightly lit sign outside it, but it’s down a tiny, dark alley that you really wouldn’t spot unless you were looking for it. And the building itself has a large ‘To Let’ sign on the part that fronts the road, so that puts you off the scent as well. But we finally found it and it was worth the effort to get there.

The Spiral Staircase:

We lost count after 100 and something of the number of steps in the spiral staircase in the Lighthouse. But you can’t not go up something that looks as spectacular as this, can you:

From the bottom up:


And from the top down (just to prove we did it!):

staircase top

Views over Glasgow from the top:

View 1

We can see the building with the pink frontage from the flat but we see it from the other side. From our windows we are looking at the right hand side of the building.

Loved this street view:

view 3

After The Lighthouse we went to have a second try at the Mackintosh house which is a recreation of the house that he lived in with his wife, Margaret Macdonald. They were both designers and the house is fabulous to see. You can see just how innovative, clever and ahead of their time they were. The house was just an ordinary terraced property, one of a row all the same, but what they did to the inside was to die for. Clean lines, elegant, everything echoing the design of everything else, clever little twists such as cupboards that are plain white on the outside but decorated to suit to the room on the inside of the doors. Loved it.


Some Mackintosh pieces that I particularly liked. These are taken in the house, from Kelvingrove and from the Lighthouse:

That was another exhausting day, so Wednesday was chilling out, reading and just generally vegging around.

Thursday we took the subway to Hillhead to find Oran Mor to do the famous ‘A Play, a Pie and a Pint’. You have to get there early to get a seat – it’s really popular. Place was packed out. The play was hilarious. Done in the style of a panto called Pun-occhio. Very topical, very political. A real good laugh. The pie was good too – and you can have a glass of wine rather than a pint, thank goodness!

We’ll be leaving here Tuesday afternoon to sample Virgin Trains First Class service to get us back to Runcorn to spend some more time with the family.

Never done First Class before, so that should be interesting.


2nd July 2017

Another busy few days here in Glasgow. Today is Sunday. Friday we went to Edinburgh so we were out early (early for us anyway), on the train to Glasgow and then the tourist bus to get a birds eye view of all the sights. We stopped off at Edinburgh Castle and saw as much of that as we could. So many people there – thousands pouring in and out in both directions. The queue for the crown jewels was horrendous, so we gave those a miss but saw the great hall, the royal apartments, including the room where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to King James (I’m a fan of that period so always interested in information from that time), replicas of Mary’s stitching that she did during the time that she was in exile and just generally walked about the place getting a feel for it. The views are fantastic and seeing how the castle is constructed on top of that rocky, volcanic outcrop is amazing.  I couldn’t get a good photo with my little camera that did justice to the sight of it as you approach, so this one is from the internet:


Some more views of the castle from inside the walls:

Castle approachcastleGreat HallMons MegSt Margarets Chapelswords 2swordsView from castleWindow

Copies of Queen Mary’s tapestries:

Once we’d seen the castle it was back on the bus to complete the tour and then meet Irene at the Scott Monument – apparently a popular meeting place in Edinburgh. We hoped we’d be able to find it ok – and then we saw it….

Scott Monument

….couldn’t really miss it, could you? That gave us a laugh…

Met Irene with no hiccups and went off on the no. 22 bus with her to Leith for lunch in a lovely little pub called the Roseleaf…


…where they have a collection of hats you can hire to wear while enjoying an afternoon tea…


And then we had a walk around Leith itself which is lovely. Only a little way outside the city, but a whole different feel to it. Situated on the coast of the Firth of Forth at the mouth of the Waters of Leith, it has a maritime history and still handles cargo to this day.

The Waters of Leith:

Waters 2Waters 1

Waters 3

The Merchant Navy Memorial:

Merchant Navy Mem

The Merchant Navy Memorial stands in a beautiful, open space. It is finely decorated on all 4 sides with depictions of seafaring life. Leith was chosen as the site for this because it was Scotland’s premier port for more than 300 years and served as Edinburgh’s trading port for more than 700 years. The memorial also aims to recognise the 132 years of service dedicated to the Merchant Navy by Leith Nautical College between 1855 and 1987 with its training ship, the Dolphin.

The memorial was designed by artist Jill Watson and made at Powerhall Bronze.

The Signal Tower:

Signal Tower

The Signal Tower stands on the corner of The Shore and Tower Street. It is one of the oldest buildings in Leith. It was built in 1685-86 by Robert Mylne. Originally it was a windmill.

In 1805 its domed roof and sails were removed and it was topped by battlements. it was used as a signal tower from which flags were displayed to let ships entering the harbour know the depth of water at the harbour bar.

Sandy Robinson

Life size sculpture by Lucy Poett of Sandy Irvine Robertson, founder of the Scottish Business Achievements Award Trust.

Ornamental gates at the dock:


Statue of Robert Burns:


We left the house around 9 am and returned at 8pm, so it was a long day. We decided we would have a day at home to recover on Saturday, but got up to the sound of a marching band outside, so got dressed and dashed out to see what was going on. We just missed it, so went for a bit of shopping that we needed. Got back (up the 51 steps to the flat) and unpacked the shopping only to hear the band returning, so dashed down again to see it. All this before we even thought about breakfast! The band was the orange lodges marching – and there were some lively characters in amongst the marchers.

Later on in the afternoon there was an informal group playing traditional Scottish music in the Babbity Bowster over the road, so we went down again to see that. The musicians just turn up to play together as long as they want, some go and some more come and it’s open to anybody for as long as they want to be there, so it was back down the 51 stairs again to see that and up again at the end. There were 13 of them at one point and the numbers dwindled until there was just one guy on a tin whistle. Great night though. We got chatting to a couple who live in the suburbs of Glasgow and were in for a shopping day and a few drinks. Good company, good conversation, good music and a great vibe. I must say, I am loving Glasgow. Need to get about and see the rest of it now.



29th June 2017

I’ve a few days to make up here because we’ve been pretty busy since arriving in Glasgow. We had dinner on Sunday with the owners of the flat we are staying in – which was a lovely evening. You do get to meet some very nice people when you do home exchanges.

The weather, mind you, is something else. As I’ve said before, we brought the ‘summer’ case only for these 2 months as it was just for June and July – but we’ve had to admit defeat and go and buy waterproof coats. Thought we’d try the charity shops first and struck lucky in the first one. So, we are at least warm and dry! It’s pouring with rain as I type and has been all day. More is forecast for tomorrow…

Tuesday, the 27th we took the train to the Whitecraigs area of Glasgow to meet up with our neighbours from Spain, Natalie and Howard. Had lunch with them at their place – which is lovely – and then went off to Ayrshire to see Robert Burns’s cottage and museum.

Outside Cottage

The inside of the cottage is in 2 separate parts, the left hand side for livestock and the right for living space. His father built the house and he was born here, the eldest of 7 children, on January 25th 1759.

There’s a lovely  exhibition of nightgowns showing the names and dates of birth of 4 of the children:


It seemed quite pleasant and cosy inside the cottage and I wouldn’t think they were among the poorest of families as they could all read and write. The pictures below are from inside the building and of Robbie Burns’s chair and desk. The chair is tipped back as it was said he had a habit of doing that when he was thinking.

The Burns monument is a little further down the road overlooking the river Doon and the Brig o Doon (Bridge over the Doon) that Burns’s father is said to have travelled across every morning to his work.

The monument is a housing that holds a life size statue of Robert Burns holding a bunch of daisies and reciting his poem ‘To a Mountain Daisy’. The sculptor was  John Flaxman RA.


A nice little sculpture of a mouse is in the gardens to reference the poem Ode to a Mouse:

Ode to a Mouse

We had a walk over the Brig o Doon:

The River Doon:

The next day, Wednesday, we thought we’d do something local. The cathedral, Necropolis and Provand’s Lordship are literally just a short walk up the road from where we are, so we went off and did those.

The history of the cathedral is linked with that of the city, and is allegedly located where the patron saint of Glasgow, Saint Mungo (or Kentigern), built his church. The tomb of the saint is in the lower crypt. There is a list of bishop’s names in the cathedral going back to the 1100’s.

Some tiles inside the cathedral that I liked the look of:

And a lovely Celtic cross:

Celtic Cross

Then we walked up to the necropolis. This is a Victorian cemetery built prominently on a hill overlooking Glasgow. The views are magnificent from there. Fifty thousand individuals have been buried here. Typically for the period only a small percentage are named on monuments and not every grave has a stone. Approximately 3500 monuments exist here and many are quite spectacular. There was obviously plenty of money around i some quarters in Victorian Glasgow.

Along with the cathedral, the Provand’s Lordship is one of the surviving buildings from Glasgow’s medieval period. It was built in 1471 by Andrew Muirhead, Bishop of Glasgow,  as part of St. Nicholas’s hospital. The Muirhead coat of arms is still visible on the side of the building. It was likely used to house clergy and other support staff for the cathedral.  Since that time it has been an inn, housed a variety of shops and was occupied by the Lord of the Prebend of Barlanark and perhaps was shared with the priest of St. Nicholas Hospital and Chapel and became known as Lord of Provan and then Provand’s Lordship.

There is an uncorroborated story that Mary, Queen of Scots stayed in the house with her second husband, Lord Darnley. She is supposed to have nursed him through an illness there.

Once the significance of the building was realised, it was taken over by  the Provand’s Lordship Society in 1978 who offered it to the City of Glasgow.

Today the house is furnished with a collection of seventeenth-century Scottish furniture donated by Sir William Burrell.

Provand's Lordsh

The Cathedral Square contains a statue of William III (King Billy) on horseback.

William 3

Tomorrow will be Edinburgh – probably in teems of rain – but we are meeting up with Irene for lunch and hopefully have a look around the Leith area with her.