Category Archives: Childhood

A to Z of Postcards – I is for Île de Ré in France

As a couple of highly amateurish and very part time cyclists, who wouldn’t know Lance Armstrong if he hurtled straight into us we were going to go for a bike ride.

We chose Île de Ré because we don’t do hills, we are used to the subtle undulations of the Lincolnshire landscape. So for us the prospect of Île de Ré, with its network of dedicated cycle paths and flat topography seemed practically perfect,

Read the full story Here…

A to Z of Postcards – G is for Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria was formed by a volcano that grew out of the sea and continued to spew enough lava onto the surface to break through the ocean and form an island.  It is circular in shape with a mountain peak in the middle which separates the island into two distinct sectors, north and south.  Viewed from above it looks rather like a beached jellyfish.

Read the full story Here…

East Yorkshire – Saint John of Bridlington

On day three of our mini-holiday in East Yorkshire, the heatwave predictably broke, clouds returned, the temperature plummeted and the panic was all over.  This is England not the Costa Blanca.

So we made the short car journey to nearby Bridlington.  Bridlington remains a busy seaside resort because it still has a railway service and after the city of Hull is the second largest settlement in East Yorkshire.

We decided against the harbour and the beach because we had been there previously and quite frankly it is a bit too much English seasidy for us and the seagulls are a nuisance and went instead to the old town.  Free Parking! Where can you find Free Parking these days? Answer – Bridlington Old Town.

The historical centre of Bridlington is absolutely wonderful.

A cobbled street of rapid decay locked into a bygone age, the original Georgian shop windows are grubby, the displays are many decades out of date, the window frames are flaking and pock-marked, no wonder then that they choose this location for filming the remake of the comedy series ‘Dad’s Army’ in 2014. Being a huge ‘Dad’s Army’ fan I was really happy about wandering along this special street and made a note to watch the film when I was back at home. And I did!

We parked the car close to the Bayle Museum, the original fortified gatehouse to Bridlington Priory.  It had free admission so I wasn’t expecting a great deal but as it turned out it was well  worth almost an hour of time spent exploring the seven rooms and the history of Bridlington.  So good in fact that I didn’t have to think twice about paying a voluntary contribution on the way out.  That is unusual for me.

Next we visited the nearby Priory.  In the days of its medieval glory Bridlington Priory was one of the great monastic houses of England. Its wealth and possessions made it a key monastery in the North, one of the largest and richest of the Augustinian order.  The Priory is just a church now and a fraction of its previous size courtesy of the insistence of Henry VIII that it should be demolished in 1537 to remove the potential Catholic pilgrimage site of Saint John of Bridlington.  Henry didn’t like Catholic Saints and Pilgrimages as this challenged his new self-appointed role as Head of the Church of England.

Saint John of Bridlington, it turns out is one of the most famous of English Saints and I am ashamed to admit that I had never heard of him before now.

A little about John courtesy of Wiki…

Born in 1320 in the village of Thwing on the Yorkshire Wolds, about nine miles west of Bridlington, educated at a school in the village from the age of five, completing his studies at Oxford University and then entered the Augustinian Canons Regular community of Bridlington Priory. He carried out his duties with humility and diligence, and was in turn novice master, almsgiver, preacher and sub-prior. He became Canon of the Priory in 1346 and was eventually elected Prior in 1356. He served as Prior for 17 years before his death on 10 October 1379.

During his lifetime he enjoyed a reputation for great holiness and for miraculous powers. It is claimed that on one occasion he changed water into wine. He brought people back from the dead and restored a blind man’s sight.  On another, five seamen from Hartlepool in danger of shipwreck called upon God in the name of John, whereupon the prior himself walked on water and appeared to them and brought them safely to shore. 

It seems that anything Jesus could do, John of Bridlington could match.

So good was John at performing miracles that according to legend he continued to perform them even after he had died of the plague and he continued to bring people back from the dead for some time.  That’s a very good trick if you can do it.  These days I imagine John would be admitted to the Magic Circle.

John of Bridlington was canonised and declared a Saint by Pope Boniface in 1401, he was the last English Saint before the Reformation and the dissolution of the Monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII.

A Saint has to be a patron Saint of something and although John is associated with fishing the patron saint of fishermen had already been bagged by Saint Andrew (I will make you Fishers of Men and all that stuff) so Saint John needed something else.  The Spanish Saint Raymond Nonnat is the patron saint of pregnancy and childbirth but Saint John is very specifically the patron saint of difficult childbirth.  I kid you not.  You could not make it up.

The best bit about the church was a side chapel reserved for prayer where people are invited to leave a note requesting a prayer (or a miracle).  This one was my favourite…

Other Unlikely Saint Stories…

Saint James and Santiago de Compostella

Saint Patrick and Ireland

Saint Spiridon and Corfu

Saint Janurius and the Miracle of the Blood

The Feast of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck

 

East Yorkshire – Skipsea Walks

I like going on holiday in England but as I get older and fuel gets more expensive I find driving tedious and frustrating.  East Yorkshire has everything I need, the roads aren’t busy and it is only fifty miles away.

I have written about it before so just pictures this time.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

East Yorkshire – Hornsea and a Litter Pick

On arrival I was immediately impressed.  I live near the resort town of Cleethorpes but although it is a popular holiday resort it has to be said that it is just a muddy estuary where the sea is barely visible for long periods of the day but this was real North Sea coast with a raging sea, barnacled groynes, pounding surf, churning water and a pebble beach clattering away as it was constantly rearranged by the tidal surge.

 

Read the full story Here…

The National Space Centre in Leicester

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”   –  John F Kennedy                                   

I was born in Leicester (for overseas readers it is pronounced simply as Lester) in June 1954. My family left the city for the nearby town of Rugby six years later. When asked I always say that I am from Leicester and I am always proud to say so.

Last year I visited the city for the first time after sixty years and went to the Richard III exhibition, this time round I went to the National Space Centre in the heart of the city.

Leicester has the National Space Centre because the University of Leicester has played a significant role in Space exploration and the research and development of Space technology.  Not a lot of people know that.  I didn’t!

Despite the so called Tory ‘Levelling Up’ agenda most National Museums are in London but as well as Space in Leicester there are National Museums in York (Railways), Beaulieu (Motor Cars), Wakefield (coal mining) and Portsmouth (Royal Navy).

I am not sure exactly what I thought might be there, after all  I have been to Cape Kennedy in Florida so why did I need to go to the National Space Centre in Leicester.

The place certainly surpassed my modest expectations.

I was immediately impressed.  The centre is four stories high and clad in inflated pillows made of toughened plastic – the same material used on the Eden Project domes in Cornwall.  This material is 1% of the weight of the equivalent amount of glass and post construction was described by the Guardian newspaper as “one of the most distinctive and intriguing new buildings in Britain”.

I imagined that it might take an hour to go round – it took four and the last one was rushed so I will have to go back.  It has sections about the Solar System, the creation of the Universe , a Planetarium, full size rocket displays (I kid you not) and a top floor dedicated to the first moon landing.

I found it really interesting, this member of staff has seen it umpteen times and is clearly bored with it all.  Bored enough to take a nap…

The Apollo 11 space flight seemingly fulfilled US President John F. Kennedy’s aspiration of reaching the Moon before the Soviet Union by the end of the 1960s, which he had expressed during a 1961 speech before the United States Congress.

But not everyone was convinced and almost immediately some theorists began to produce evidence that disputed the Moon landings claim.

Different Moon landing conspiracy theories claim that some or all elements of the Apollo Project and the Moon landings were falsifications staged by NASA and that the landings were faked in some giant hoax.  Some of the more notable of these various claims include allegations that the Apollo astronauts did not set foot on the Moon at all but instead NASA and others intentionally deceived the public into believing the landings did occur by manufacturing, destroying, or tampering with evidence, including photos, telemetry tapes, transmissions, and rock samples.

he most predominant theory is that the entire human landing program was a complete hoax from start to finish. Not a Giant Leap but a Giant Cheat.

Some claim that the technology to send men to the Moon in 1969 was not available or that the Van Allen radiation belts, solar flares, solar wind, coronal mass ejections and cosmic rays made such a trip impossible with a success rate calculated at only 0.017%.  Others argue that because The United States could not allow itself to be seen to fail to achieve Kennedy’s aspiration, the obsession with beating the USSR and the huge sums of money involved (US$ 30 billion) had to be justified, that the hoax was unavoidable.

As the theories gathered momentum it seemed that rather than being filmed on the Moon all of the action actually took place on a film lot and in the middle of the Nevada desert.

For a while I must confess to having been taken in by these conspiracy theories but when I think about it the size and complexity of the alleged conspiracy theory scenarios makes it wholly unlikely.  The most compelling reason of all is the fact that more than four hundred thousand people worked on the Apollo project for nearly ten years and all of these people, including astronauts, scientists, engineers, technicians, and skilled labourers, would have had to keep the secret ever since and that, I suggest, would be completely impossible

My favourite story about the space race is that because it was supposed that a standard ballpoint pen would not work in zero gravity because the ink woudn’t flow to the nib, NASA spent millions of dollars developing the zero-g Space Pen, while the pragmatic Russians came up with the alternative of using a simple pencil or a wax crayon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quiz Time…

1  How many men have walked on the Moon?

2 Who was the third person to walk on the Moon?

3 How many orbits of the Earth did Yuri Gagarin complete in 1961?

4 In what year did Leicester City win the Premier League Title?

5  James T Kirk.  What does the T stand for?

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…

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.

 

 

 

From The Archives – Hillmorton County School

The Hillmorton County Junior School was an old Victorian building with high ceilings that soared into the sky and partitioned classrooms with rows of old fashioned wooden desks with years of scratched graffiti  and attached lift up seats on squeaking hinges.

Read the full story Here…

East Anglia – Bury St Edmunds and The Patron Saint of Pandemics

Bury St Edmunds was another town that I had never visited. A few years ago I drove through it and was struck by the elegant market place with a tall cathedral and fine Georgian buildings and I made a note to self to pay a proper visit one day.
This was it.
In terms of the weather we had unfortunately picked a very bad week to be on an English staycation and we weren’t too disappointed to be leaving the holiday home (caravan) so we packed up early and headed away from the coast and into rural Suffolk and drove through villages which had seen significant overnight snowfall. I thought that I was in Alaska. Contrary to popular folklore March had roared in like a lion and instead of going out like a lamb was going out the same way.
Fortunately the further west that we drove the weather began to incrementally improve and there were even some glimpses of elusive blue sky. We arrived in late morning which was too early to book into our chosen hotel so we made instead for the centre of the town. Local folk call the town Bury but being from the North I always think of Bury as being in Manchester so I prefer to think of this place as Bury St Edmunds. It sounds posher.

After Ipswich and Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds is the third largest place in Suffolk and we liked it immediately. After tea and biscuits in the Cathedral coffee shop Kim and Mum made directly for the High Street shops and I went off to investigate the Abbey Gardens and the Cathedral.
The Abbey of St Edmund was once one of the richest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in all of England. In 869, Edmund, King of the East Angles was murdered by invading Danes when he refused to renounce Christianity. For his stubbornness he was tied to a tree and shot through with arrows and had his head cut off to make sure. No half measures in those days. I wonder sometimes about medieval torture, surely the victim was well and truly dead before the torturers had finished. Vladamir Putin would have been a medieval torturer I am sure.

His death led to the building of the Abbey to house his remains and his shrine quickly became a place of pilgrimage. The Cult of Edmund flourished during the Middle Ages and he was temporarily revered as the patron Saint of medieval England until at some point he was replaced by Saint George.
Today he has the unlikely title of the Patron Saint of Pandemics so I imagine that he has been rather busy listening to prayers for the past couple of years or so. He is said to have been given this title after the French city of Toulouse (who claimed to have some important relics of his) became ravaged by plague in the seventeenth century. Residents of the prayed to Edmund after which the plague came to an abrupt end. As Michael Caine might have said “Not a lot of people know that”.

Maybe if more people had known this the World could have saved a fortune on developing Covid vaccinations and going into expensive lockdown. I wish that I had known that because if I had I would have said a prayer to St Edmund because a few days after returning home from East Anglia both Kim and I both tested positive for Covid.

After the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s the Abbey naturally began to fall into disrepair and lots of stone was taken for alternative building projects around the town. I was quite surprised therefore to discover that so much of it remained in a vast well maintained town centre park.
Near the Cathedral there are houses built into the walls which reminded of Antoni Gaudi creations in Barcelona. I don’t suppose that Gaudi ever visited Bury St Edmunds but if he had he may have got inspiration here,

I spent some time in the Gardens, walked every path and read each and every information board.

Towards the end of the afternoon I made my visit to the Cathedral. Free admission by the way. Up to 1914 Suffolk didn’t have a Cathedral and was part of a wider diocese of East Anglia with the Cathedral in Norwich in Norfolk but it was then decided that it required one of its own. This presented the Church with a dilemma.

Ipswich is the biggest town in the County but Bury St Edmunds had the most famous church thanks to the St Edmund connection. The Church came to a compromise, Ipswich would get the Bishop’s House and be the base of the diocese and Bury St Edmunds would get the Cathedral and everyone agreed that that was a good idea except perhaps for the Bishop who has a hundred mile round trip every week to get to Sunday service which would have been much more of an inconvenience over a hundred years ago than it is today.

Ipswich is not unique, it is not the only County town without an Anglican Cathedral and there are others – Warwick, Cambridge (I mentioned that before), Northampton (I mentioned that before as well), Nottingham, Aylesbury and Shrewesbury are other examples. At the same time that Suffolk became a diocese so too did Essex with its own Cathedral in Chelmsford.

Not a brilliant Cathedral I have to say but it provided me with a pleasant fifteen minute visit, especially as the choir was practising which was very nice, before I left and rejoined the others at the agreed time.

I had enjoyed my afternoon in Bury St Edmunds and I was forced to concede that this was a town where half a day it isn’t long enough so I will have to make another note to self to return one day and stay longer.

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