Category Archives: Uncategorized

East Anglia and Dad’s Army

On the drive home we visited the town of Thetford.  Mum wanted to visit the Dad’s Army Museum.  She remembered that it was one of my Dad’s favourites.  It is a small place run by volunteers but well worth a stop over.  I have posted about it before so wan’t trouble you with it again.

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In a BBC poll in 2003 of best ever sitcoms Dad’s Army came fourth,  In no particular order are my own personal top 5…

Dad’s Army

The Likely Lads/Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads

One Foot in The Grave

Rising Damp

The Detectorists

Any suggestions anyone?

 

East Anglia – Adventure in the English Arctic

I wouldn’t have thought this possible but on the third day the bad weather took an even further turn for the worst.  I was the first up and opening the curtains was greeted with a carpet of gleaming snow and flakes falling like Autumn leaves.  If I was so minded I could have built a snowman.  I wasn’t.  Prospects were bleak.

But one good thing about English weather is that it is surprisingly changeable and by late morning the snow had gone, the temperature had risen by half a degree or so and to avoid so to cabin fever after we had cooked up a breakfast we wrapped up, closed up and went for a drive to nearby Oulton Broad.

Even though we were in Suffolk, Oulton Broad is generally included in the geographical feature  known as the Norfolk Broads.  No one is really quite sure about the origins of the Norfolk Broads but a recent theory is that they are the result of flooding following medieval peat cutting.  They are quite shallow I understand.  They are a designated National Park of the UK and the smallest at only 0ne hundred and twenty square miles, just behind the New Forest at two hundred and twenty five.

The largest National Park in England is the Lake District at almost a thousand square miles and the largest in the World at three hundred and seventy five square miles is Northeast Greenland National Park.  You couldn’t visit that in a single day for certain.

I imagine that Oulton Broad is a very fine place when the sun shines but sadly today it didn’t and although thankfully the rain and sleet stayed away it was bitterly cold.  The best thing about the visit today was the chance to see a real Banksy portrait which appeared one day in 2021 after a nocturnal visit by the artist.

After Oulton Broad we drove to nearby Lowestoft.

I didn’t find Lowestoft that thrilling I have to confess, it looked much like Grimsby to me where I live, a run-down sort of a place urgently in need of some investment and a make-over but there was one interesting place to visit while we here – Ness Point, the most easterly place in the British Isles.

For such a significant place I would have expected it to be something special, a bit like Four Corners in the USA but sadly not a bit of it.  There is no visitor centre, no souvenir shop and it is difficult to find located as it is on the edge of an industrial estate and close to a sewage treatment works and a massive wind turbine called Goliath (it was once the biggest in England). 

There is only a circular direction marker known as Euroscope, marking locations in other countries and how far away they are.   I felt like an explorer about to set sail.

I rather liked the sculpture but we didn’t stop for cake and moved on instead to nearby Southwold.  Southwold is ridiculously picturesque and quintessentially English, a town of Tudor houses and thatched roofs, so English that it is high on the list of filming locations for English film and television.

The fictional Southwold Estate, seat of Earls of Southwold, is the country estate of the family of Lady Marjorie Bellamy in the drama Upstairs, Downstairs and the town and its vicinity has been used as the setting for numerous films and television programmes including Iris about the life of Iris Murdoch starring Dame Judy Dench,  Drowning by Numbers by Peter Greenaway, Kavanagh QC starring John Thaw, East of Ipswich by Michael Palin, Little Britain with Matt Lucas and David Walliam, a 1969 version of David Copperfield and the BBC children’s series Grandpa in My Pocket.

There were no film or TV celebrities around today, way too cold for filming I imagine and on a bitterly cold day there isn’t much else to say about Southwold except that George Orwell once lived there.

We drove now to the Suffolk town of Framlingham which is a fine town with a small market place and charming streets with coloured houses, is the home town of the overrated Ed Sheeran and has an impressive medieval castle with imposing walls and towers which was once the home of the Dukes of Norfolk who were forever scheming and stirring up rebellious trouble in Tudor England.

This must once have been a very fine castle.

It is good but not the best, it reminded me of Richmond in Yorkshire, there are no internal buildings left, all long since demolished but there is an impressive stone wall and 360° walk around the top of the castle walls and defences from which there are fine views of the town and the surrounding countryside.

It was so cold that my travelling companions refused to leave the car so I had thirty minutes or so to myself.  I was especially keen to visit Framlingham because this was where the TV comedy drama  series “Detectorists” was filmed and I was happy to find the house where one of the principal characters, Lance, lived.

With little prospect of any weather improvement we returned directly to the Caravan Park, opened a bottle of wine, prepared an evening meal, turned the heating up to full and settled in for the evening.  Tomorrow we would be leaving and we hoped for better weather in Bury St Edmunds and Thetford.

Sunday Sunsets – Mellieha Bay in Malta

Quite possibly one of the most spectacular sunsets that I have ever seen…

The sky literally in fluid layers with  colours that changed like a twist of a kaleidoscope,   The blue of the day giving way to the purple of the evening but stubbornly separated by a ribbon of cream.  This was the view from our hotel balcony, it was free but I would gladly have paid for it.

Bratislava to Vienna Without a Passport

What a good idea it would have been to take a passport!

Some time ago we visited Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia and on one day we planned a visit to nearby Vienna by train.

Shortly out of Bratislava two men in black military uniforms wandered through the train requesting documents.  I naturally assumed that they were checking tickets so was surprised when they showed no interest in these whatsoever and demanded travel documents instead.

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A to Z of Windows – W is for Washington

Before driving into Yorkshire we stopped briefly at Washington Old Hall, another National Trust property and the ancestral home (allegedly) of George Washington of American Independence and First president of the USA fame.

It has to be said that the link is quite tenuous because George’s ancestors left Washington Old Hall almost a hundred years before he was born and he himself apparently confessed had little interest in genealogy or his English heritage.

I have said before that I always like to see how far a place name has travelled and not unsurprisingly there are a lot of Washingtons in the USA and thirty States have a place named after the town in Tyne and Wear or, more likely of course, the first President of the USA.

Restricting the statistics to cities, towns and villages, in the USA there are thirty-six called Washington, thirty-four called Franklin (after Benjamin Franklin), twenty-six called Clinton (after DeWitt Clinton, Governor of New York 1825-28), twenty-one called Arlington (no explanation) and, this might surprise some people, twenty-one called Lebanon, apparently because (don’t quote me on this) Lebanon is a Biblical reference, and as Christian missionaries first settled across the US they named their new towns after names that inspired them.  There were also a significant number of immigrants from Labanon entering USA in the late nineteenth century.

We spent a very pleasant hour or so at Washington Old Hall and as we finished with a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the café I did some final reckoning up and was happy to find that we had fully recovered the cost of National Trust membership and we had a full year ahead of us to make a tidy profit.

 

A to Z of Windows – V is for Valletta

I spotted these two ladies in an upper floor window of their apartment in Valletta.  They were dangling a basket on a rope down to the street.  I was intrigued about exactly what they might be doing and then a delivery van arrived.  They lowered the basket down to him, he took some money from the bottom and replaced it with a loaf of bread which they hauled back up.  A process that saves going up and down the stairs.

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Thursday Doors – Caminha in Northern Portugal

Caminha 06

In July 2008 we were visiting Galicia in Northern Spain and one day took a car ride south and crossed into Portugal and the Province of Minho named after the river that marks the border with Spain.

After a short while we came to Caminha, which is an ancient fortress town overlooking the river and is rich in historical and architectural importance. It didn’t look too promising down on the river but a short walk to the centre revealed a most appealing town with manorial houses and medieval defensive walls, a Gothic church, and a very attractive main square with cafés and a fifteenth century clock tower.

Especially interesting were the houses with colourful tiled walls in bright blues, greens and yellows.  There was one of those old fashioned hardware stores that you rarely see in Europe anymore and all of the houses had first floor doors that led out to rusting metal balconies that overlooked the sunny streets.

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For some reason which I can’t explain I bought a Tea Towel souvenir in the shop there…

Portugal Tea Towel

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

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Early Days, 1957 Part Three – The BBC Spaghetti Tree Hoax

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Originally posted on Have Bag, Will Travel:
By 1957 most people were beginning to get television sets in the home and on 1st April the BBC broadcast one of its most famous ever programmes; a spoof documentary about spaghetti crops…

The Story of an Aussie in The English Fens (Part One)

Crowland Bridge 01

John is a blogging pal from Melbourne in Australia (John corrects me and tells me that is Melbun if you are an Aussie but I stick with the Pommy, as in Lord Melbourne, after who the city was named) and we have followed each other for several years and have become good friends.

Recently John announced that he was travelling to England for just a few days and hoped that there might be a possibility to meet up.  I told him that he was welcome to come and stay in Grimsby but as he only had a single spare day in his busy itinerary that this would be quite difficult.  Grimsby is a great place to go to but not a great place to get to, it just takes such a long time.

The solution was to find somewhere practical where I could drive and John could get to easily from London.  Looking at a map I settled on Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, a ninety mile drive for me and an hour train journey for John.

We met early one evening and over evening meal John explained that he had little interest in visiting castles or cathedrals or stately homes and such and that he would prefer to see the countryside.  With a an interest in farming he had read about the area of England called The Fens and was certain that he would like to see the farmland and the marshes of what some people might consider to be one of the least interesting parts of the country to visit.

The Fens

This made it easy for me, I lived and worked in Spalding in the heart of The Fens for ten years between 2000 and 2010 so before going to sleep that night I came up with what I hoped was an interesting itinerary for the next day.

After an excellent breakfast the day started to go badly.  There was a thick fog across the entire area, my SatNav wouldn’t work and there was a road closure due to an accident that blocked the road to my first intended destination.  This is when I remember that it is a good idea to put a paper road map in the car but of course I hadn’t so I was confused and making driving decisions without any useful assistance.  (A passenger from the other side of the World was, I have to say, not a lot of help).

After a long, and as it turned out an unnecessary detour, we crossed the mist shrouded fields and arrived in the small town of Crowland just as the fog disappeared and the sun began to shine.  That was a relief because this part of England is quite beautiful in sunshine but desperately dreary in any other sort of weather conditions.

Crowland is a long way off the tourist trail and was surprisingly busy today which took me by surprise but maybe it was because it contains two sites of historical interest, Crowland Abbey and Trinity Bridge.

Trinity Bridge

We started at the bridge which is a scheduled monument built in the fourteenth century and the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom, perhaps even Europe, perhaps even the World!  The bridge has three stairways that converge at the top. Originally it spanned the River Welland and a tributary that flowed through the town and was a clever and economical solution to the crossing of two watercourses at their confluence, reducing the need for three separate bridges to a single structure with three abutments.

The River Welland doesn’t flow through Crowland any more, it used to inconveniently flood so it was diverted some time ago away from the centre of the town and flood defences were put in place.

The river in Crowland grows reeds which produces some of the finest material for roof thatching in England.  Sadly it is expensive to process and has been undercut by cheap thatch from Eastern Europe.

John was taking pictures and blocking the pavement and as a consequence entered into conversation with a busy woman with a shopping trolley who was anxious to get by without stepping into the road.  He apologised and explained that he was just patiently waiting until he could get a picture of the bridge without people.  She gave him an old-fashioned look and asked how he expected to achieve that on Market Day.

We looked around but could see no market stalls and sensing our confusion she told us that there is no street market any more but everyone still comes into town on a Friday anyway.

Street markets in small English towns are difficult to find these days, they are no longer economical or viable, just like the thatch food is cheaper in European supermarkets.

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Travels in Spain – Madrid, Don Quixote and a Royal Celebration

Madrid Royal Palace

When I am in Italy I look out for statues of Garibaldi and when I am in Spain I try to find statues of Don Quixote to add to my collection.

Perhaps the most famous statue of him is in the Plaza de España at the extreme western end of the Grand Via and quite close to the Royal Palace and the Cathedral so early one morning I selfishly walked us all down there just to get my picture. This was to end in disappointment because the entire square was closed off behind ten foot high wooden boards hiding a lot of building work as the square was being completely restructured.

I caught an ellusive glimpse of the statue but not clearly enough to take a picture so I bought this postcard instead…

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Don Quixote is a novel written by the seventeenth century Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and is regarded as the most influential work of literature to emerge from the Spanish Golden Age.

It is the story of a man who believes that he is a knight and recounts his adventures as he rights wrongs, mistakes peasants for princesses and “tilts at windmills” mistakenly believing them to be evil giants. As one of the earliest works of modern western literature it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published. In 2002 a panel of one hundred leading world authors declared Don Quixote to be the best work of fiction ever written, ahead even of works by Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

don-quixote-book-cover

Cervantes has also been credited with shaping modern literary style and Don Quixote has been acclaimed as “the first great novel of world literature”. Since publication in 1605 it is reputed to be the most widely read and translated book on the planet after the Bible. I tried to read it once but found it rather heavy going so gave up quite quickly but as we walked along I resolved to have another attempt.

The others superficially sympathised with my disappointment about the failure to see the statue but I could tell that they didn’t genuinely share it as we walked next to Parque del Oeste to see the Egyptian Temple of Debod.

Madrid Egyptian Temple

I was surprised to find a genuine Egyptian Temple in Madrid but it turns out that in 1960, due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt and the consequent threat posed by its reservoir to numerous monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to help.  In 1968 as a gesture of gratitude for the assistance provided by Spain in saving the Abu Simbel temples that were due to be flooded and lost forever the Egyptian State donated to them the temple of Debod.  It constitutes one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture that can be seen outside Egypt and the only one of its kind in Spain.  Well, who knew that?

The Temple was closed to visitors today due to unexplained ‘technical reasons’ but there were some very good views over the city from the top of the park so we stayed for a while and then continued our walk towards the Royal Palace gardens, the Jardines de Sabatini.

Madrid Palace Gardens

There were lovely walks though the gardens but a lot of police ‘do not cross’ lines and we were soon to find out why when we left and made our way to Palace itself where there were crowds of people outside all waving tiny Spanish flags and trying to see through the gates. It turned out to be part of a celebration of five years of the reign of the King of Spain Felipe VI who was crowned here in June 2014.

Our intention this morning was to visit the Palace but this plan was now in tatters because the place was closed while the celebrations inside continued. So we made our way to nearby Plaza de La Armeria which separates the Palace from the Cathedral and from where there were good views inside the Palace courtyard where we could see the military displays and the arrival of the distinguished guests.

The Royal flag was flying from the top of the Palace which was a sign that the King (full name – Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y de Grecia) himself was there today but to be honest we were quite unable to pick him out. Eventually the soldiers and the military bands all marched off and the crowds melted away into the shadows of the side streets and feeling lucky to have been there at the right time for once we slipped away ourselves back to the city centre.

We thought it might be better to return to the Palace for the visit the next day when it was most likely not to be so busy so today instead we found a nice shady restaurant for lunch and then more or less repeated the guided tour of the previous day but this time at our leisure.

I will bring you back to the Palace in the next post.

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