Category Archives: Natural Environment

A to Z of Balconies – Castro Urdiales in Cantabria

After lunch we continued our stroll to the handsome old town of Castro Urdiales where the Town Hall stands adjacent to the immaculate main square next to what was the original tiny harbour that was sheltering behind its protective stone walls.

Around the harbour side women were working under parasols repairing fishing nets and past the fish market at the far end of the harbour a set of weathered stone steps took us up to castle which stands on an elevated rocky outcrop. We made the tour of the restored fortress and then walked around the outside of the impressive medieval parish church, the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asuncion, which had the external appearance of a much grander cathedral.

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People Pictures – Caught in the Sunset

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…

Amorgos has some fabulous sunsets, this picture is one of mine…

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A to Z of Statues – F is for Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders was a Royal Navy officer and an English navigator and cartographer of very special talent who led the second circumnavigation of what was then called in equal parts New Holland (named by Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer) and New South Wales. The name Australia derives from Latin australis meaning southern, and dates back to 2nd century legends of an “unknown southern land” . The explorer Matthew Flinders renamed the land Terra Australis, which was later abbreviated to the current form. The name Australia stuck, there is still a part of Australia called New South Wales but there is no New Holland. There is a Tasmania of course.

Although he was modest enough to never name for any feature in all his discoveries, Flinders’ name is now associated with over one hundred geographical features and places in Australia and after Queen Victoria there are more statues of Flinders in Australia than anyone else.

In February 2020 my blogging pal John from Australia came to the UK and we met up. I took him to the village of his birthplace, Donington in Lincolnshire…

We visited the village market square where he was born. The house is sadly now gone, demolished a hundred years ago or so and then on to the Parish Church with a soaring tower and steeple which is a sort of museum about his life and achievements.

There is an interesting story about his coffin. his coffin. England is currently building an unnecessary and very expensive new high speed rail service from London to the north and during excavations near Euston Station in London the coffin of Matthew Flinders was discovered in a graveyard that had been built over a hundred years or so ago. The discovery was almost as big a thing as finding King Richard III underneath a car park in Leicester.

The coffin and the remains are currently undergoing scientific analysis but once this is complete the body will be returned to Donington and interred with special rejoicing and appropriate reverence in the church in the village.

Donington is miles and miles away from anywhere that tourists normally go but will almost certainly become a place of pilgrimage for visitors from Australia.

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

In The Garden – June Blooms

 

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

 

People Pictures – Cottage Industry

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 village of Carmona in Cantabria…

Carmona is a delightfully quaint village with tiny cobbled streets with wild flower verges and where sunlight spilled into the dark corners of the workshops where traditional wood carvers were busy making customary products of cattle yokes, sandals, clogs, canes, and cutlery which, I am told, are distinctive to rural Cantabria.

I say that in a slightly cynical way because I got the impression that there isn’t really a great deal of tradition here and that whilst a man was busy whittling wood in an open barn for the benefit of the tourists there was probably a factory somewhere full of modern drills and lathes where the products for sale were being produced for sale to the coach loads of visitors who visit daily.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

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A to Z of Balconies – The Greek Island of Symi

The approach to the harbour town was probably the most spectacular of all the islands that we have visited flanked on both sides by colourful neoclassical houses in a riot of complimentary pastel shades, contrasting wooden shutters, decorative iron balconies and red tiled roofs.

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People Pictures – Stubborn Occupation

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 resort town of Paphos in Cyprus…

From our hotel a lot of the two mile walk into Paphos was completely dull and uninteresting, a strip of charmless grey car hire offices, car parks, travel companies, estate agents, every so often an Irish Pub and a modern but unfortunate McDonald’s restaurant. There is always a McDonald’s restaurant.

I thought that you might need some McDonalds facts here. There are eighteen McDonalds in Cyprus and that is about one per 47,000 population, roughly the same as the UK. For comparison USA and Australia have a restaurant for about every 25,000 and the highest in Europe is Andorra with one for every 15,000. Iraq has only one restaurant for its population of forty million, I don’t know whether to sympathise with them or congratulate them.

Closer to the harbour and the older sections of the town there was a more interesting mix of history and styles.

As we walked we strayed away from the main streets into backstreet areas where some people hang to the past like stubborn barnacles clinging to a rock. Houses from the past which take up space that modern developers would love to get their hands on but people will obviously not give them up easily. Mostly old people of course and I imagine that once they have gone their families will happily sell up and cash in.

This elderly couple were managing what I would describe as an urban smallholding.

One Word Challenge – Point

This week I have decided to join in with Debbie Smyth’s One Word Sunday challenge

Skelligs View Car Park, Kerry…

It has to be said that this was a really odd place. It seems that wherever coaches stop in Ireland an unusual ensemble of strange people and entertainers beam down from out of space and put out a collection tin.

In this windy remote place the oddest of all was a sort of farmer chap who looked as though he hadn’t washed his hands or combed his hair for several years who sat on two battered sofa cushions and invited people to have their photograph taken with a litter of kittens barely old enough to be away from their mother and then some lambs who looked to me to be highly sedated. I think the chap was highly sedated as well, probably on Guinness!

But he actually seemed positively normal next to the man a badly out of tune accordion and kicking a piece of metal plate in some sort of unholy row that I can only imagine was designed to scare witches away.

Walking back to the car in a state of dazed amusement I decided to take his picture but he saw me raise the camera and he was not very happy about it. Perhaps he thought the camera would steal his soul but on reflection I think it was because I hadn’t put any money in the tin. “Don’t point that feckin’ thing at me” he yelled, “Don’t point that feckin’ thing at me”. I took the picture and gave a jolly wave but he wasn’t going to be that easily placated, “Don’t point that feckin’ thing at me”, “I’ll set the dog on yer, I’ll set the dog on yer”.

Now I suffer from a real fear of dogs and a paranoia of being mauled to a canine death and normally a threat like that would turn by backbone to jelly. The British Geological Survey Team in Edinburgh measures earthquake activity in the UK and has been known to sometimes get confused by the seismic activity created by my violent shaking when faced by a dog and has even issued a false earthquake event alert.

On this occasion however I didn’t think I had a lot to fear from an obviously shagged out old collie that was wearing a flat cap tied to its head and whose best people attacking days were a long way behind it. The poor thing could hardly stand up let alone chase anyone that it was set upon so I gave another cheery wave and dawdled defiantly back to the car. I was supremely confident that I could make the five metres to the door faster than it could cover the fifty metres or so to get to me.

Back in the car I suddenly worried that this might be the time that the engine would blow up and I might be in a spot of bother after all but thankfully it fired into life and I deliberately drove slowly past him and gave him a another cheeky wave as he continued to make his pointless threat – “I’ll set the dog on yer, I’ll set the dog on yer”. What was it going to do – bite the tyres?

Anyway, there was no warning light on the dashboard about geriatric dog attacks so we just laughed and carried on to the exit.

A to Z of Statues – C is for Tommy Cooper

When I was at Cardiff University in 1972 to 1975 I used to regularly take the train on the Welsh valley line to nearby Caerphilly. I used to like Caerphilly, especially the castle.

I didn’t know then that it was the birthplace of the comedian magician Tommy Cooper who was born there in 1921.

Hands up if you knew Tommy Cooper was born in Wales.  Overseas readers are excused the exercise.

After leaving University I didn’t return to Caerphilly until I visited the town with my travelling pal Dai Woosnam in 2016, We weren’t looking for Tommy Cooper especially but came across his statue. Actually we were looking for a landmark commemorating another famous Welshman with an association with the town – Guto Nyth Brân.

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A to Z of Balconies – Quarteira in Portugal.

In the 1980’s my brother Richard worked in a car sales garage in Rugby for a man called Gordon Pitcher who owned a villa on the Algarve in Portugal that he used to rent out for holiday lets.

The property was in what was then a rather remote location called Quarteira, included in the deal was the use of a car for getting about.  Quarteira is now an adjacent resort to busy Vilamoura.  I visited Vilamoura again in 2019 but I didn’t like it. The official guide boasts that “Vilamoura is unlike any other Portuguese town, gone is the dilapidated charm, replaced with striking perfection, which is simply expected by the super-rich who frequent the marina.”

It is a modern purpose built tourist resort completely lacking in any sort of character.  We prefer ‘dilapidated charm’ and are certainly not ‘super-rich’ so stayed no longer than half-an-hour before quickly leaving without a single glance in the rear-view mirror.  I should have carried out better research.

Anyway, back to the story of the balcony, Gordon was a businessman who didn’t like unnecessary expenditure so as the car was UK registered he had to remove it from Portugal by a certain time each year so that he didn’t have to pay local vehicle tax and insurance.

Late in 1986 he asked Richard if he would do the job for him in return for a few days rent free holiday at the villa and Richard agreed so long as he could take his pals along to help with the long drive back.

This was Villa Estrella and its balcony.

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