Category Archives: Natural Environment

People Pictures – Mud Bath

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken near Altinkum in Turkey, an age defying mud bath…

All around tthe Eastern Mediterranean there are all sorts of places that claim to be Cleopatra swimming pools and I for one am becoming rather sceptical about the claims.  In the days before Ryanair, high speed rail or motorways she seemed to be able to get around much easily than I imagine it really was possible two thousand years ago!

Rain

Family holiday in Wales, where it nearly always rains…

Linked to One Word Sunday at Debbie’s here

The City of Leicester and King Richard III

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.

Not so proud however to confess that sixty years later despite going to football matches and Baileys Night Club in the 1970s I have never found the time to properly visit the city and give it some of my time and attention.

Although Leicester is a large city in the UK there are only four places in the U.S.A. named after it which have the same spelling , in New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Vermont. There are however eleven cities and towns called Lester, in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington and West Virginia.  . As far as I can see there is no Leicester in Canada, New Zealand or in Australia. Perhaps it is just too difficult to pronounce correctly?

Just recently I was able to put right my dereliction and I especially wanted to explore the link with King Richard III, the Medieval monarch whose life and reputation is intrinsically woven into the life and the fabric of the city. I still remember the stories that my Dad told me about King Richard and who like most people from Leicester was a staunch Ricardian.

Richard was the last Plantagenet and House of York King of England, the last Medieval King, the third and last King of England killed in combat after King Harold at Hastings and Richard The Lion Heart at Aquitaine in France, at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, and succeeded by the victorious Henry Tudor of the House of Lancaster.

I started the visit at Leicester Cathedral to see the tomb of the late King.

Thanks to William Shakespeare poor old Richard is mostly remembered as a bad man and an evil treacherous King who got what he deserved at the battle of Bosworth but history is now beginning to revise this judgement following the discovery of his bones in an unlikely burial place under a public car park in the centre of the city.

Thanks to Shakespeare the name Richard is so disgraced and besmirched  that no one has dared to revive the noble name of Richard for an English King.

Incidentally, after the reign of the tyrant number VIII there has never been another King Henry either.

No other English King has generated so much vigorous reinterpretation as Richard III. It is hard to imagine English history without the Tudors but sometimes I wonder, what if…?

After the discovery Yorkshire demanded that he should be immediately returned to the City of York for a final burial but the discoverers held firm and after a messy little legal spat and court case he now lies in the Cathedral of his adopted County of Leicester.

This is Richard at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire…

Leicester has laid claim to Richard III. Some people affirm that this is significant. Leicester City are a football team in England who have never really done anything spectacular. In 2014 they were playing badly and looked likely to be relegated from the Premier League but after the bones of Richard were found they suddenly began to play like champions and in the following year won the English Premier League. The reversal of fortune has been attributed by some to Richard III and though it is unlikely it is such a good story that I really want to believe it.

The Richard III visitor centre puts on a fine exhibition that chronicles his life and times culminating in the bloody showdown at Bosworth.

Our version of the reign of Richard and of the battle of Bosworth is almost entirely informed by Shakespeare but as with most of his histories this was a highly dubious account of what really happened and modern historians have reached the view that far from being gallant and chivalrous and still celebrated as a golden moment in history the battle was filthy, horrible and merciless.

Weapons were crude and brutal. Arrows from the longbows of the Welsh archers rained down and where the sword of a knight would not penetrate the armour of a noble foe and did not have the weight to knock a man off his feet, a poleaxe (a long-handled axe or hammer, topped with a fearsome spike) would fell him fast and then it was easy to raise the victim’s visor and slide a knife through an eye. That was how hundreds of men died – their last sight on earth a dagger’s point.

It turns out that Bosworth is not a tale of chivalry at all, but rather of desperate men hacking at each other to break limbs and crush skulls. Of hundreds of opposing soldiers weighed down by heavy armour submerged and drowning in marshland. Hand to hand combat by men using lead-weighted hammers, poleaxes, mauls and falcon-beaks, the ghastly paraphernalia of medieval fighting.

At some point in the battle and with things not going so well for the King, Richard led a rather reckless charge against Henry Tudor. He most likely looked quite magnificent in his gleaming suit of made-to-measure armour and wearing a crown on his helmet which may have been somewhat unwise (rather like Nelson in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar wandering around HMS Victory in full Admiral uniform and getting shot and killed) and before he could engage in hand to hand combat he was cut down and slain, not by a Prince or a Nobleman but by a common foot soldier with a spiteful pike.

I enjoyed my day in Leicester and I am certain now to return.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

People Pictures – Rainbow in Morocco

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken at the Roman City of Volubilis in Morocco.  While I was busy taking pictures of the ancient Roman city Kim spotted this party of local tourist women with a tour guide…

Read The Full Story Here…

The Odd One Out

Just in case anyone was interested it was this one…

Chains, Ropes and Anchors

These pictures were all taken in the fishing harbour in the village of Mevagissey in Cornwall.  Except  for one that was taken on the Greek island of Corfu.  Can anyone guess the odd one out?

 

People Pictures – Taking a Break

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken on the Greek Island of Amorgos…

I imagine this woman was taking a well earned break after a morning of hard graft housework.

We took a ride out to the  Chora which cannot be seen from the sea or from the harbour but as we got closer we could see it above us like a fresh snow fall on top of a mountain.  From the outside it doesn’t look especially promising but once inside the walls of the town it is a different matter altogether.  The town turns in on itself in an introspective sort of way and inside there were narrow shady streets and lots of traditional cafés and tavernas where getting disorientated and lost is a certainty.

It was a lazy place where time goes by slowly and no one is in a particular hurry about anything.  If this was Naxos or Ios the Chora would have been teeming with shops and fast food places but this was a local town for local people and completely unspoilt by the retinue of tourist shops that can be found on more popular islands.

We explored the streets and in a very stiff breeze climbed to the very top to the redundant windmills that overlook the town and the Venetian castle that is built on top of a rocky outcrop that soars above it and its mass of dazzling white buildings.

On the way back we were ready for a second stroll through the Chora where we ambled through the corkscrew of twisting streets returning several times to exactly the same place passing by several churches, the castle, blue doors, blue sky, shady vines and friendly cafés and I knew that this was my kind of town.

The Chora is rather like a hippie time-warp, slow, lazy, faded and bleached, pot plants struggling in the midday sun and appropriately slow mood music in the tavernas and bars – it reminded me of a favourite pair of old denim jeans and my battered blue t-shirt that I am reluctant to throw away.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

The ambience is compounded by  cultural traditions. Village life retains a centuries old pace thanks in large part to the absence of motorised vehicles. Old men while away the afternoons sitting in the summer shade chatting.  The labyrinthine, narrow lanes are the province of donkeys and wooden carts. Displays of ripe fruit – tomatoes, figs, golden apples – stand outside the little stores, the local catch is brought into the harbour daily, the wine and the raki is plentiful, good and cheap.

As we wandered around an old lady dressed all in black asked for help negotiating some difficult steps and we naturally obliged and in return for our assistance she treated us to her life story and tales of Amorgian life.  Her name was Limonique and she told us that after sixty-five years of marriage she was now a widow so I guessed her age to be somewhere around eighty-five or so.

 

 

People Pictures – Pedro Bernardo in Spain

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken in the Spanish mountain village of Pedro Bernardo in Castilla y Leon…

Read The Full Story Here…

People Pictures – Greek Island Farmers

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken on the Greek Island of Amorgos….

“I would stare out the window at these telephone wires and think, how civilisation had caught up with me and I wasn’t going to be able to escape after all. I wasn’t going to be able to live this eleventh-century life that I had thought I had found for myself.” – Leonard Cohen

As we climbed we passed through what might be loosely described as fields with rows of derelict terraces and dry stonewalls that separated the hillside into equally measured individual plots of land.  Amorgos is mostly inhospitable rock that has been baked hard in the sun for thousands of years but as recently as only fifty years ago people here were scraping away at the thin soil and removing the stones to try and make a living or to feed the family by growing fruit and vegetables.

Amorgians have a history of preserving the past and resisting progress.  There is a sense of collective defiance perhaps explained by the fact that during the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas (1936-41) the island was used as a remote place of exile for political prisoners.

Fifty years ago the island didn’t have electricity, the tarmac roads that link the villages weren’t constructed until the 1990s and the modern ports which today welcome the large ferries are relatively recent additions.  The island has a desalination plant now to provide fresh water but up until 2015 fresh water was shipped in and delivered by tankers.

Go to a bar today in Amorgos and they will serve you a glass of fresh water because they are proud of progress…

Click on an Image to scroll through the Gallery…

Hadrian’s Wall and an Emergency Breakdown Callout

Although a lot of people think that the Roman Emperor’s Wall marks the border between England and Scotland it never has and never will because it runs a conveniently short distance between Wallsend near the River Tyne in Newcastle and the Solway Firth in Cumbria.

When it came down to military expediency the Romans didn’t concern themselves too much about geography. The wall is entirely within England and although it is close to Scotland in the west at its eastern end the wall is fully seventy miles south of the River Tweed.

Interestingly the wall was eighty Roman miles, a Roman mile based on 1,000 marching steps or 5,000 feet.  The unit of measure, the mile, has many variations, the US mile for example is slightly longer than the UK mile (established by Queen Elizabeth I).  At every mile the Legions erected a stone marker – a mile stone to record the distance from London and from Rome.

This was all a bit confusing so in 1791 the French Revolutionary National Assembly adopted the metric system which gave the World the kilometre.  Britain was invited to adopt the new system but naturally declined.  Over two hundred years later we have Brexit where we still refuse to join in with the Europeans.

Anyway, back to the border – in point of fact in Roman times and for a long time after there never was a border as such between England and Scotland, that came much later in 1706 with the Act of Union which united Scotland with England and Wales to form the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Border forms the boundary of the two separate legal systems.

This is Hadrian, from a statue found in the River Thames in 1834…

The Wall was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia, begun in AD 122 in the reign of the emperor Hadrian and was the northern limit of the Roman Empire, immediately north of which were the lands of the northern Ancient Britons, people so frightening that even the Romans wouldn’t take them on.

It was a very pleasant day for our visit and the sun was shining but I guess this would have been quite a bleak place two thousand years ago. I imagine a legionnaire waiting for details of his posting and hoping to go Spain or France to the warm inviting beaches of the Mediterranean Sea and bit of sunshine would have been rather disappointed to discover that he was going to the bitter cold north of England to help build a massive stone wall.

At a length of almost seventy-five miles long it is the largest remaining construction anywhere in the old Roman world and it was started and finished in just about six years which is an impressive rate of progress compared to how long it takes to get anything built these days.

A lot of it has disappeared over time, there is very little stone at the eastern and western extremities where it was dismantled during the medieval period as convenient construction material and later on for eighteenth century road building projects. And a lot of what we see know has been reconstructed and rebuilt but never mind I don’t have an issue with that.

Seventy-five miles sounds like a lot of wall but by way of comparison the Great Wall of China is over thirteen-thousand miles long, Donald Trump’s Mexico wall is approximately two-thousand miles and even in England Offa’s Dyke running between England and Wales was one hundred and fifty miles long stretching from the River Mersey in the North to the River Severn in the South. The Maginot Line in France (a sort of underground wall) was nine hundred and fifty miles long but ultimately completely useless because the French didn’t get to finish it and in 1940 the German Panzer divisions simply went around it on their way to Paris.

The Romans were more clued up than the French it seems and the wall goes all the way from coast to coast. They didn’t leave a gap at one end that the Barbarians could conveniently use to get past.

Hadrian’s Wall was built almost completely of stone with a small castle every mile to act as a watchtower and a large garrison fort every five miles which was manned by a cohort of troops numbering as many as eight-hundred. A cohort is considered to be the equivalent of a modern army battalion.

It is possible to visit quite a lot of these old fortress sites and there was one conveniently close to where we were staying.

I didn’t really know what to expect of the wall; when I was a boy I wondered why the Northern Barbarians didn’t just get some ladders and climb over it when no one was looking but here I got to appreciate the massive scale of the thing.

There wasn’t a great deal of it I have to say but there was an information board that explained what it would have looked like.

In this central section, the wall was built on a natural hard granite rock escarpment called Whin Sill which is a volcanic eruption that rises dramatically and vertically out of the ground. If this wasn’t enough, on the northern side the wall comprised a ditch, then the wall, a military road an earth rampart and then another ditch with adjoining mounds. No Welcome Mats and if anyone was going to get over this wall it was going to take a lot more than a ladder let me tell you!

Once its construction was finished, it is thought to have been covered in plaster and then whitewashed, its shining surface reflected the sunlight and was visible for miles around, an extravagant expression of Roman military might and the border of the Empire.

We planned to see more of the wall but then there was an unfortunate incident. We pulled into a shale surface car park and immediately picked up a piece of flint which deposited itself in the rear brake arrangements on the car which required a call to the emergency services and a ninety minute wait for assistance.

With time running out we reluctantly abandoned the wall and continued to Whitley Bay, north of Newcastle where we were visiting family.