Category Archives: Arts and Crafts

Disputed Exhibits – The Answers

“A product of empire, originally built on racial hierarchies, cultural hierarchies, social Darwinism”.

Stephen Welsh, curator of Living Cultures at Manchester Museum

Just to close things off:

1. Winged Victory, in possession of the French and claimed by Greece
2. Rosetta Stone, in possession of the British and claimed by Egypt
3. Samsat Stele, in possession of the British and claimed by the Turkey
4. Bust of Nefertiti, in possession of the Germans and claimed by the Egypt
5. Venus de Milo, in possession of the French and claimed by Greece

One final piece of trivia; the Samsat Stele is claimed by Turkey, the hole in the middle of it is because sometime in the past someone made alterations to use it as a vine press.  No wonder the British Museum thinks they should continue to look after it!

 

From the Archives – Angling/Fishing

These days I can’t really understand the point of catching fish unless you are going to eat them but I used to go fishing for about three years between ten and thirteen years old.

These days the only fishing I do is at the supermarket.

Read the full story Here…

Tea Towel Souvenirs – Portugal

I usually bring home postcards but occasionally a tea towel.  I am unable to explain why.

The Algarve – A Tense Walk to Albufeira

 

“By the end…it was clear that … spiritual and cultural isolation was at an end, overwhelmed by the great alien invasion from the North of money and freedoms… and slowly, as the foreigners poured in, its identity was submerged, its life-style altered more in a single decade than in the previous century.”  – Norman Lewis – ‘Voices of the Old Sea’.

I understand that breakfast service at the Tui Blue Faleseia was once used as an initiation test for new recruits to the SAS but it was discontinued because it was considered too tough even for this.

The food, it has to be said was very good indeed but the restaurant ambience was rather like Dante’s inferno!. Wooden chairs being scraped across tiled floors, cutlery being dropped on the floor with a clatter, great training for the ‘World Pushing In Championships’ and the constant attention of the cleaning up crews who, if you weren’t careful would whip your plate away from under your nose even before you had finished.

It was in the dining room that I first noticed the tattoos, because the amount of body art on display here was absolutely incredible.  Personally I cannot understand why anyone, unless they are a Maori, would want to disfigure themselves in this way but here at Tui Blue it seemed as though they were almost in the majority.  Here there were bodies decorated with lions, wolves and dragons, goblins, fairies and skulls, a comprehensive A to Z of boy’s and girl’s names and more Indian braves than General George Armstrong Custer  had to fight at the Battle of the Little Big Horn!  Why do people disfigure themselves in this way I wonder.

So we started off to Albufeira but as it turned out it wasn’t an especially good walk and less than half way there Kim began to complain.  Too hot, too hilly,  too touristy with which I had to agree but keep it to myself.

We walked through the resort town of Santa Eulalia which I remembered from thirty years ago as a quiet place with a couple of modern hotels.  Not so anymore, it is a noisy place with a couple of d0zen modern hotels and a nasty strip of English bars, ticket offices touting tours and car rental places.  Quite horrible.

But, if that was bad we (I) managed to take a wrong turn and we found ourselves in little Liverpool, a place for lads and tarts, tattooed from neck to knee, nursing hangovers and already drinking mid morning.  Praia do Oura or more correctly Praia de Horror was a dreadful place and this diversion didn’t improve Kim’s mood a great deal so I was glad to reverse the mistake, get out and carry on.

Thirty minutes later we arrived In Albufeira.

Up until the 1960s Albufeira used to be a small fishing village but is now one of the busiest tourist towns on the Algarve and has grown into a popular holiday resort for tourists from Northern Europe and even though this was early May it was surprisingly warm and there were a lot of people about this morning.

This was Albufeira when I first visited in 1985., the year the town acquired city status.  It is called Praia dos Pescadores. More fishing boats than sunbeds in those days.

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I have to say I found Albufeira both interesting and disappointing in equal measure.  It has clearly long abandoned its fishing heritage and the economy is now driven by tourism.  The Old Town is street after street of bars and cheap beach shops, travel agents selling tourist excursions and waiters waiting to ambush at every street corner.  We were looking for a tradional Portuguese restaurant that we had enjoyed three years earlier but when we found it it was closed and had clearly been so for some time.

Looking carefully beyond the shop facades and up above it was still possible to catch a glimpse of old Abufeira but sadly you will have to be quick because it is only a matter of short time before it is certain to go.

 

I am getting to sound like Norman Lewis now.  I suspect the place once had an easy sort of charm, fishermen’s cottages on the beach and whitewashed house with blue doors and elegant balconies in the old town but much of this is now hidden behind fast-food places and Chinese and Indian restaurants.

People have probably always complained about development and progress, it is quite likely the Saxons looked back at London with fond memories and complained about the Normans building new castles and Cathedrals.

After the discovery that the Portuguese restaurant that we had walked six miles to see was no longer there we stopped just long enough for a pavement beer and then took a taxi back to Olhos de Agua.where spent the remainder of the day on the balcony of our room.

 

 

 

East Anglia – The Evolution of Caravans and Fish ‘n’ Chips

Warning – the post contains images that some readers might find upsetting.

It had been a glorious day weather wise but the forecast for the next few days was really rather grim and although we arrived in sunshine  clouds were already worryingly close by and the prospects were depressingly bleak.

Before travel I had rather recklessly accepted a challenge from Kim to sometime this week take a dip in the North Sea and although this was only mid March I had rashly accepted.  There was a £10 bet resting on this and as I was not about to part with £10, even to Kim, especially to Kim, so I decided that it had to be done straight away.

Bloody Hell it was cold.  It reminded me of family holidays sixty years ago.

Bad weather didn’t stop us going to the beach in those days and even if it was blowing a gale or there was some drizzle in the air we would be off to to enjoy the sea.  If the weather was really bad we would put up a windbreak and huddle together inside it to try and keep warm.  Most of the time it was necessary to keep a woolly jumper on and in extreme cases a hat as well and Wellington boots were quite normal.

As soon as the temperature reached about five degrees centigrade or just slightly below we would be stripped off and sent for a dip in the wickedly cold North Sea in a sort of endurance test that I believe is these days considered even too tough to be included as part of Royal Marine Commando basic training.

It was rather like being submerged in liquid nitrogen and whilst swimmers in Australia were worrying about sharks we were busy avoiding bits of iceberg that had broken off in the Arctic Ocean.  I can remember one holiday at Walcote, Norfolk, in about 1965 when it was so cold that there was a penguin on the beach!  That is seriously true and being so far from the South Pole I can only imagine that it had escaped from a nearby zoo or aquarium.

I claimed the £10 bet but Kim reneged saying that I hadn’t fully submerged so it didn’t count and the bet was off.  I was too cold to dispute the finer points of the claim.

As promised in the weather forecast the next two days were desperately awful with rain, sleet, snow and high winds whipping in from Scandinavia so for much of the time we were confined to the caravan which was painful but not as bad as swimming in the North Sea.

I have horror memories of caravan holidays.  When I was a boy the family went to caravan holidays all of the time.  Caravans simply had no temperature control, they were hot and stuffy if the sun shone (so that wasn’t too much of a problem, obviously) and they were cold and miserable when it rained, which,  I seem to remember was most of the time .

They  had no bathroom so we had to use the communal camp washroom facilities, it had no electricity so we couldn’t watch TV, it had no kitchen so we couldn’t cook breakfast and it didn’t have heating so when it was cold it was really cold.  The only thing it did have was a bottle of Calor Gas and a one ring hob for boiling a kettle and for lighting hissing gas lamps at night which attracted insects and created so much condensation that after an hour or two, water was dripping off the ceiling onto our sleeping bags on the floor and we were sleeping in a puddle.

As I get older I appreciate more and more what my parents did for me.  They took us for a seaside in a tiny caravan and I can only imagine that they hated it, it must, after all, have been mind-numbingly boring, spending endless hours in a biscuit tin with only the popping of the gas lamp and the smell of  Calor Gas for evening entertainment, especially when it was raining. 

I am pleased to be able to report that modern caravans are much improved and our accommodation had all of the facilities of a modern home with central heating, running water, a bathroom, electricity and a fully equipped kitchen.  So we we filled the fridge with wine, cooked a Shepherd’s Pie that Mum had prepared previously, closed the doors and hunkered down for a couple of days in the comfort of our caravan.

As it turned out it wasn’t bad weather all of the time, only about 95% of the time  out so in between blizzard like Arctic showers and savage North Sea winds we did manage to get out for an hour or two.

I especially wanted to go to Aldeburgh because last time that I was there I had a mind to have some fish and chips from a highly recommended chippy but this was in August and there was queue which lasted well over an hour and however much I like fish and chips I wasn’t prepared to line up for that long.

Today there was no queue so I breezed in and ordered and took them away to the beach to eat them. I sat myself on the sea wall with an uninterrupted  view out over the North Sea, the colour of a day-old bruise, rippling away to the horizon under gunmetal skies. I unwrapped with anticipation and immediately received the anticipated aroma which, once released smells of all the good things in life in the same place at the same time.   The very warmth of it felt like a reassuring defender against the chill wind coming off the sea.

As it happened, the fish was good, the chips were poor, I enjoyed them but I wouldn’t queue for over an hour to buy them.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

A to Z of Cathedrals – C is for Coimbra in Portugal

When thinking about C I was tempted to go for Cordoba and also the rather strange unfinished Cathedral in Cuenca.  Both in Spain of course.  I could have gone to Coventry in UK but I haven’t got any pictures of Coventry  Cathedral so after much deliberation I chose instead to go to Coimbra in Portugal…

In Europe, most cathedrals are reconstructions of older cathedrals which were rendered obsolete by their size, condition or style.  There are, however, cases where the city authorities did not want to destroy their old cathedral, and decided instead to build a second one.

Coimbra is a city with two Cathedrals.

The old cathedral of Coimbra was built between 1146 and 1218 and is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Portugal.   In 1772, after the expulsion of the Jesuits, the title of cathedral was transferred to the Jesuit church, now the New Cathedral of Coimbra. This church was originally built by the Jesuits in the 16th century next to the famous University of Coimbra.

Read The Full Story Here…

Other Cities with two Cathedrals include Brescia in Italy, Salamanca and Lleida in Spain, and Marseilles in France.

Some might expect Barcelona to be on that list but Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is only a minor basilica and the Roman Catholic Church points out that two hundred years ago  Barcelona already had a rather splendid Cathedral and no one actually asked Gaudi to build another.

North Yorkshire – Cheese, Buttertubs and a Waterfall

Arriving back in Settle in mid afternoon we  drove east now into the heart of the Dales towards the town of Hawes.

Oh, I do like this place, I lived here once (nearby) in 1996-7.

The Dales is one of the ten National parks of England.  Yorkshire has two of them (Devon also has two but Cornwall has none). The others are Derbyshire, Cumbria and Northumberland in the north, Norfolk in the East and Hampshire and East Sussex in the South.  There are also two in Scotland and three in Wales.

The Yorkshire Dales is so called because it is a collection of river valleys and the hills in between them. ‘Dale’ incidentally comes from a Viking word for valley.

Most of the Dales are named after their river or stream, Swaledale, Wharfedale, Ribblesdale etc. but not Wensleydale which is named after the small village and former market town of Wensley, rather than the more obvious River Ure.

There are a lot of these cow barns in the Dales, they were for keeping cattle sheltered during harsh winters…

The Dales rivers all run west to east from the Pennines draining eventually into the River Ouse. The Ouse is in fact a continuation of the River Ure and the combined length of of 129 miles makes it (after the Severn, the Thames, the Trent, the Wye and the Great Ouse) the sixth longest river of the United Kingdom and the longest to flow entirely in one county.

The Ouse eventually joins the River Trent at Goole to become the Humber Estuary and then drains away into the North Sea.

Hawes is a charming little town and we stayed for a while, walked along its quaint streets, bought some local produce from independent retailers and finished at the famous creamery made some unnecessary purchases and overspent our budget on Wensleydale cheese, once described by T S Eliot as the “Mozart of Cheeses”.

Which other composers might compare to cheese?  Any suggestions anyone?

I am going with Johann  Strauss and Blue Stilton.

A few years ago the owners tried to close the creamery down and move production to next door Lancashire but no self respecting Yorkshire man or woman would allow that to happen – make Yorkshire cheese in Lancashire, whatever next! – so after a management buy-out the staff resumed production for themselves.

Just like the river the main roads run east to west in the Dales  but to get from one to another requires driving across the hills that separate them.  There are many high roads and passes with stunning views of the surrounding valleys and fells, but perhaps the best known is Buttertubs Pass a mountain road at an elevation of 1,732 feet above sea level, 

The climb was once rated by Jeremy Clarkson as “England’s only truly spectacular road”.

There are places to pull in at the summit and you can visit the limestone potholes which give the pass its name. The story goes that as farmers rested at the top of the climb on a hot day – on route to the market in Hawes – they would lower the butter they had produced for sale into the potholes to keep it cool.  Maybe true, maybe not.

More recently Buttertubs Pass featured as the second King of the Mountains climb of the 2014 Grand Depart of the Tour de France. It continues to be a  popular climb for cyclists to come and test themselves.

It is cold at the top…

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At the end of the day we arrived at Castle Bolton where there is a magnificent castle where Mary Queen of Scots was once imprisoned within tall walls, crenulated battlements and expansive views over the Dales but admission was quite expensive and we decided against it and after we had gate-crashed the gardens without payment we drove back to the accommodation stopping briefly in the town of Leyburn for some important grocery supplies – alchohol!

The next morning we planned a walk across the fields to Aysgarth Falls, a natural beauty spot where thousands of gallons of water in the River Ure tumble, leap and cascade over a series of boulders and broad limestone steps.  It was featured as the location for the fight between Robin Hood and Little John in the film ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’ and in 2005 it was included in a BBC television list of seven best natural places in Northern England.  The other six were The Lake District, River Wear, Whin Sill, River Tees, Holy Island and Morecambe Bay.

After the walk we took a drive to Hardraw Force a waterfall  in Hardraw Scar, a wooded ravine just outside the village of  the same name.  It was four o’clock and the old woman at the visitor centre was preparing to close for the day and was not especially pleased to see us.  As she took our money she told us quite firmly that she would be closing at five and if we were not back she would call the police. 

I am fairly certain that the police have much better things to do with their time than worry about visitors to Hardraw Force staying beyond closing time.

Comprising a single drop of one hundred feet from a rocky overhang  Hardraw Force is claimed to be England’s highest unbroken above ground waterfall.  The highest single drop falls in the World is a lot bigger at seven hundred and forty  feet and is the Kaieteur falls in the Amazon rain forest in Guyana.

As it happened we didn’t need the full hour because it only took ten minutes to walk to the falls, ten minutes to admire it and ten minutes to walk back.  My conspiracy theory is that visitors have to be out by closing time because that is when someone turns the tap (faucet) off.

No need then to call Special Branch or an armed response unit.

 

 

North Yorkshire – Settle to Appleby by Train

In the morning we had a very fine Yorkshire Breakfast.  A Yorkshire Breakfast is really just a full English but most places now try and regionalise it  with some variations. 

The one above is my attempt at a Little Chef breakfast.  Keeping it simple, bacon, sausage fried egg with mushrooms, fried potato, black pudding and baked beans in a separate dish.  I do think that it is important to have baked beans in a separate dish.  I imagine the Queen has baked beans in a separate dish but Prime Minister Boris Johnson eats them out of the tin.

A Full Scottish Breakfast has haggis and potato cakes, a Full Irish has white pudding, a Full Welsh has Penclawdd cockle and laverbread cake and the menu is in a funny made up language and in Cornwall they have hog’s pudding an especially unpleasant combination of pork meat and fat, suet, bread, oatmeal or pearl barley and formed into a large unnatural looking sausage.  

A Full Australian Breakfast looks very similar but the Full American loads it up with waffles and pancakes and they can’t cook bacon properly.

So today we were going on a train journey on the famous Settle to Carlisle line across the Pennines, the so called backbone of England.  We were going from Settle to Appleby so not quite all the way to the border town.

In terms of distance it was only a short drive to Settle but Yorkshire roads are very narrow and at times unpredictable so it took rather longer than anticipated.  And at some point we missed an important turn so now it took even longer.  After an hour or so we arrived at the Ribblehead Viaduct.

The Ribblehead Viaduct or Batty Moss Viaduct carries the Settle–Carlisle railway across the fabulously named Batty Moss Valley and was built a hundred and fifty years or so ago, it is thirty miles north-west of Skipton and twenty-five miles south-east of Kendal and is a Grade II listed structure.

The land underneath and around the viaduct is a scheduled ancient monument. Because it was so far from any major settlements the workers and their families lived in three navvy settlements called Sebastopol and Belgravia and best of all Batty Wife Hole – there is an appropriate monument to commemorate them below the arches.

We stopped and admired the viaduct but the clock was ticking so we pressed on to the town of Settle.  When we set off this morning we thought we might have time to look around the town but  now only made it to the train station by the skin of our teeth and purchased our tickets just in the nick of time.

Settle Railway Station is like piece of 1950s history, it belongs on a model railway, a brick ticket office with exterior wooden features painted maroon and cream in classic English railway station colours from over half a century ago.

The train arrived on time and we bagged our seats.  The route crosses the most remote and scenic regions of the Yorkshire Dales and the terrain traversed is among the bleakest and wildest in England.  It takes an hour for the train to make the journey at an average speed of a sedate forty miles an hour.

The railway’s summit at 1,169 feet requires a sixteen mile climb from Settle to Blea Moor so it is rather slow going, almost all of it at a gradient of 1 in 100 and  because in times gone by steam trains didn’t cope well with gradients it was known to train drivers as “the long drag”.

This stretch of the line has fourteen tunnels and twenty-two  viaducts and the most notable is the twenty-four arch Ribblehead.  Soon after crossing the viaduct the line enters Blea Moor tunnel, 2,629 yd long and 500 ft below the moor, before emerging onto Dent Head Viaduct. The summit at Aisgill is the highest point reached by main-line trains in England. At an altitude of 1,150 feet and situated between Blea Moor Tunnel and Rise Hill Tunnel immediately to its north, Dent is the highest operational railway station on the National Rail network in England.

Corrour Railway Station in Scotland At 1,340 ft is the highest mainline station in the UK.  At 3,000 feet the highest railway station in Australia is Summit Railway Station in Queensland,  The highest station in the World is Galera in China at 15,700 feet above sea level which to put that in perspective is about half as high as Mount Everest and half the cruising height of most modern aeroplanes.

This was a delightful and scenic journey as we crossed viaducts and disappeared into tunnels  with wonderfully descriptive names – Stainforth Tunnel, Dry Rigg Quarry, Blea Moor Tunnel, Arten Gill Viaduct, Rise Hill Tunnel,  Shotlock Hill Tunnel, Ais Gill Summit, Smardale Viaduct and Scandal Beck.  And stopping at stations – Horton in Ribblesdale, Ribblehead, Dent, Garsdale, Kirkby Stephen and Appleby. 

Into the County of Cumbria we spent an hour in the town of Appleby which I have to say was not the best part of the day before making our way back to the train station which was probably the best thing about the place because it meant that we were leaving and took the train back to Settle.

Sorry Appleby.

North Yorkshire Postcards

See More Postcards of Yorkshire here…

North Yorkshire – Skipton and Grassington

This year (2022) my little brother Richard turned 60 and we wanted to do something special to celebrate. 

Richard was going to Yorkshire for a few days with his wife Deanna, he likes Yorkshire and so do we.  My sister Lindsay has never been to Yorkshire and likes Cornwall. She wants to go and live there.  I don’t understand why anyone can prefer Cornwall to Yorkshire.  Richard invited us to join him and we were easily convinced.

So we set off early in the morning with the intention of visiting the town of Skipton, a market town in the north of the County.  In Yorkshire market towns have proper markets and local people go to shop there.  They are sociable, busy, vibrant and wonderful.  If I lived in Yorkshire I would happily go shopping every Saturday.  I would buy the local produce in the butchers and the greengrocers. Not something that I would say about my home town of Grimsby I have to say.

In 2018 Skipton was included in the Sunday Times report on Best Places to Live in northern England.

Historically in the East Division of Staincliffe Wapentake in the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is on the river Aire, by an infuriating only two miles short of the being the longest, it is the fifth longest river in Yorkshire after the Ure/Ouse, Swale, Derwent and Don,  Also running through the town is the  Leeds and Liverpool Canal dating back to 1774 and one of the earliest canals to be constructed in the UK.

The name Skipton means ‘sheep-town’, a northern dialect form of Shipton. The name is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. Yorkshire claims to have more sheep than any other English County but you have to be careful with claims like this, it is a very big county, the largest in England so this is most likely not too difficult.  The Swaledale sheep with its characteristic black face and curly horns is the emblem of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

On the subject of sheep Scotland claims to have more sheep than people and so does New Zealand.  Derby County Football Club has a Ram as its mascot but no one really knows why.

This one lives in my back garden…

Famous people from Skipton – Thomas Spencer, the co-founder of Marks & Spencer, was born there in 1858.  He opened the first Penny Bazaar in Leeds in 1884.

Even more famous and regarded as one of the greatest bowlers in the history of the game of cricket, Fred Trueman was a fearsome fast bowler and was widely known as “Fiery Fred”. He was the first bowler to take three hundred wickets in a Test career.  It was against Australia in 1964 and I remember watching the moment in grainy black and white on BBC TV.  I used to spend hours watching Test Match coverage in those days.

No ordinary Saturday afternoon cricketer would want to face Fred Trueman, he had a wild mop of unruly hair and a threatening stare which said ‘this next delivery will take your head off’, he charged in like a bull on an ungainly angled run so the batsman could see him coming with his boots bouncing, flannels flapping and shirt sleeves sailing before a huge final last step lunge and a ninety mile an hour delivery.  Deal with that.  Together with Brian Statham, he opened the England bowling for many years and together they formed one of the most famous bowling partnerships in Test cricket history. 

I immediately liked Skipton especially when I found the hardware store which is a feature of most Yorkshire towns but which seem to have disappeared almost everywhere else.  I remember one in my town of Rugby in the 1970s, it was called Clarks at the top of Railway Terrace and I went to school with David whose family owned the shop.  Gone now of course.

It was lunchtime so we found a local tearoom/café and ordered lunch.  I was hungry and went for the big one, a Yorkshire Steak and Ale pie and Kim accused me of being greedy but did then steal a forkful or two.

You have to have a steak and ale pie in Yorkshire…

In the mid afternoon we moved on to the village of Grassington which was recently used as the setting for the fictional town of Darrowby in the TV adaptation of  All Creatures Great and Small, instead of Thirsk where the actual story took place.  

We took a circular walk across the fields and beside the river Wharfe and ambled slowly around the village streets before continuing our journey.

Tonight and  for the next three nights we were staying at the Wheatsheaf pub in Carperby near Aysgarth Falls.

My travelling companions, Richard, Deanna, Kim, Lindsay and Mick…

Four days later on the drive home we stopped over in the town of Thirsk where there was a very fine street market where we bought cheese, bacon, sausages and meat pies …