Category Archives: United Kingdom

The Garden in Late May

It is a busy time in the garden right now as the May weather has provided perfect growing conditions.

Kim is busy looking after the perennial and shrub beds and preparing summer bedding for later displays…

My job is the vegetable plot where I am growing potatoes, beans and peas, tomatoes, onions and courgettes.  All coming along very nicely indeed.

After a couple of hours labour each day, it is time to sit back and enjoy…

Bridlington – A Royalist Queen and the English Civil War

I never guessed that there was so much history in Bridlington.  I have discovered Lawrence of Arabia Saint John, David Hockney and next up a Royal Queen.

In early 1642 there were the early exchanges of the English Civil War.  King Charles was anxious to secure the port of Hull because (a bit of a surprise this) at the time it had the second largest store of armaments in England after London and was an important trading port with Europe, mostly for Yorkshire wool.  The Parliamentarians were also keen on the weapons and the gunpowder that was stored there and having control of the city denied him and his forces entry.  Their followed a rather ineffective siege and a hasty retreat to York.

Charles needed an alternative supply of munitions so implemented plan B.  He collected up all of the Crown Jewels and asked his wife Queen Henrietta Maria of France to make her way to Holland and France to use them to purchase arms.

The business concluded, the Queen, protected by seven Dutch ships returned to England in February 1643 but unable to use the port of Hull entered the nearby harbour in Bridlington instead.

The Parliamentary navy attempted to  intercept the Queen and her precious cargo and for some time it had been cruising in the North Sea and was then at anchor off Newcastle.  It immediately set off upon receiving intelligence of her arrival but did not gain the bay until the night after the Dutch vessels had entered the port. The Queen disembarked and escaped.

The Parliamentary fleet persisted and  determined on harassing the royalists and accordingly drew their vessels directly opposite to the Quay, on which they commenced a heavy cannonade in hope of firing the ammunition-vessels.

Some of the shots penetrated the house in which the Queen was sheltering and compelled her and the other ladies in her retinue to seek for safety beneath the precipitous banks of the stream which empties itself into the harbour.  The Gypsy Race is a rather sad little stream now, full of litter and abandoned shopping trolleys but four hundred years ago was a full flowing river.  Still is west of Bridlington.

Eventually the Queen escaped the town and made her way to nearby York with the valuable cargo.

Since my Dad bought me an Airfix model kit of Oliver Cromwell in about 1960 I have always been fascinated by the English Civil War.  I think this was a defining moment in my life, I immediately became a Roundhead, a Parliamentarian and later a socialist, on the side of the people fighting against wealth, influence, lies, privilege and injustice.  Just to be clear that is the modern day Conservative Party.

There was also an Airfix model of Charles I with a detachable head but I had Cromwell first.  Strange how something has simple as that can have an influence on a young enquiring mind.

I also blame a book my Dad gave me about British heroes in which Cromwell was included but Charles Stuart wasn’t.

An illustration from the book…

In 2002 the BBC conducted a poll to identify the Greatest Briton and Cromwell came tenth, hard to believe that he could come behind Diana, Princess of Wales  and John Lennon but there you are, such is the nature of these polls and the mentality of the people who vote.  Two thousand years of history and Princess Diana and John Lennon make the top ten.  It leaves me speechless.

I have always considered the English Civil War to be the most important conflict of modern Europe because this was a revolution which provided a blueprint for those that followed, the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The revolution begins with the moderates calling for reasonable and restrained reform for the exclusive benefit of the aforementioned wealthy and privileged who wanted even more power and wealth.  The problem with moderates of course is that they are on the whole reasonable people but by beginning a process of reform they provide an opportunity  for radicals and agitators to go much further and the English Revolution like those that followed swiftly gained pace.  After the radicals came the extremists, then war, then terror, then regicide.

The English Civil War swept away the supremacy of the Church of England, ended the Divine Right of Kings and embodied the principal of Parliamentary Sovereignty into the English constitution.  It was the end of medieval feudalism and paved the way for the agrarian and industrial revolutions of the next century.  At its most radical period it introduced the principals of socialism and even communism through the power of the New Model Army and the social ambitions of the Diggers and the Levellers, both proto-socialist political movements.

It is a shame that King Charles had his head cut off but even after sixty years or so of being given that Airfix model I confess that I remain a loyal Roundhead rather than a Cavalier.

Queen Henrietta Maria was exiled to France in 1649 upon the execution of Charles I but returned in 1660 upon the Restoration.  She didn’t stay long, returned to France and died nine years later at the age of fifty-nine from an accidental overdose of opiates that she was taking for pain relief in respect of severe bronchitis.  Another accidental Bridlington death.

A statue commemorating the English Civil War in the town of Newark in Nottinghamshire…

Bridlington and Lawrence of Arabia

I am often guilty of visiting a place only rather briefly and that means only scratching the surface and I don’t really get to some of the more important stories.

Bridlington as it turns out has been home to some famous people.  First up TE Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia fame.  This is him in the Arabian dessert, not on Bridlington beach.  What a great story that would have been.

After the First World War and his heroics in the Middle East and a spell in the Foreign Office Lawrence joined the RAF in 1922 and went east again, this time to the east of England and he was posted to the RAF Bridlington Marine Detachment Unit in 1932 where he worked on a project to develop high speed sea rescue boats.  He returned to the seaside town between November 1934 and February 1935 to see out his service pending his retirement.

While Lawrence wrote prosaically about his time in Arabia he had rather mixed feelings about Bridlington. His 1932 visit was during the busy summer season, but a letter written on 28th November 1934 described the town as ‘a silent place, where cats and landladies’ husbands walk gently down the middles of the street. I prefer the bustle of summer …

Perhaps the quiet atmosphere prompted Lawrence to get away from Bridlington and ride around Yorkshire. He visited York, Skipsea, Hull, Beverley, Goole and it is likely he also paid visits to nearby Whitby and Scarborough.

Lawrence used to amuse himself by driving his motorcycle, a Brough Superior SS 100 along the Bridlington esplanade at high speed.

The Brough Superior SS 100 was a motorcycle designed and built by George Brough in Nottingham in 1924. Every bike was designed to meet specific customer requirements and even the handlebars were individually shaped.  They were a luxury item which cost almost twice as much as a family car at about the same time and they were advertised by Brough as the “Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles”.  The term was used by a magazine road tester in his review of the bike and Brough eventually obtained explicit permission to use it after a Rolls-Royce executive toured the Brough Superior factory to satisfy himself that it was appropriate.

These bikes were really powerful, at a time when the average car would struggle to reach sixty miles per hour, the Brough with its 1000cc engine was guaranteed to reach one hundred and it was the combination of bike and speed that did for Lawrence.

The crash that would end Lawrence’s life came while riding on a narrow road near his cottage near Wareham in 1935. The accident occurred because a dip in the road obstructed his view of two boys on bicycles.  Swerving to avoid them, Lawrence lost control and was thrown over the handlebars. He was not wearing a helmet and suffered serious head injuries that left him in a coma and he died after six days in hospital.

the original Brough factory went out of business in 1941 but the brand has been recently revived and is available again now, this model is named after Lawrence himself…

My favourite story about Lawrence has nothing to do with Bridlington but here it is anyway…

Lawrence kept extensive notes throughout the course of his involvement in the First-World-War and he began work in 1919 on the manuscript of his book ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’.  By December it was almost complete but he lost it when he misplaced his briefcase while changing trains at Reading railway station sometime in the following year.  It was never recovered and he had to start all over again which was obviously a bit of a bugger.

Another famous loss is the story of Thomas Carlyle and his book ‘The French Revolution: A History’.  In 1835 he finished volume one and gave it to his friend John Stuart Mill to read for his comments.

Unfortunately it was the only copy of the work and Mill’s servant allegedly mistook the book for household rubbish and used it as a convenient source of material to get the kitchen fire going one morning!

Unlike Lawrence, Carlyle apparently kept no notes at all and had to completely rewrite the first volume entirely from memory.

Little wonder he looked so glum…

In 1922 Ernest Hemingway lost his entire early work including the only copies when his wife had a suitcase stolen from a train in Paris as she was transporting it to her husband in Switzerland.  I can’t imagine Hemingway being terribly understanding about that.

A sundial commemorates Lawrence’s connection with Bridlington situated in the South Cliff Gardens, a fitting tribute perhaps, given ‘El Aurens’ spent many months of his life under a blazing hot sun.

The inscription reads – “Only count your sunny hours, let others tell of storms and showers”

This is my Lawrence of Arabia impression, also not on Bridlington beach. What a great story that would have been.

Skipsea – A Walk Along a Bigger Beach

Skipsea beach is getting bigger.  Every winter the storms gnaw away at the soft boulder clay cliffs and take away a few more feet and inches.  It is the fastest eroding coastline in England.  The savage North Sea is like a giant excavator.

Sometimes it is possible to visit and not really notice a great deal of change but not so this year.  The Winter storms of 2023 have been especially fierce and the sea has taken away more than usual.

Today we walked along the beach from Skipsea to Barmston, a distance of about four miles.  The tide was out, the sun was shining and the wind was blowing a gale.  The sand was damp but firm and we made steady progress towards our destination.

We were last here just nine months ago but we detected huge change.

The advance of the sea is relentless.  This is an unfortunate stretch of coastline  and I say unfortunate because in the local Coastal Management Plan it  is identified as a place not worth defending against the advancing sea and one day it will be gone.  Every year six foot of land is swept away, an estimated average of two million tonnes which is moved south on the tides towards the Humber estuary and builds land there whilst it takes it away here.  It is called ‘managed retreat’.  

A holiday chalet waiting for the day of destiny…

There used to be an attempt to stop the inevitable and these are the remains of some wooden groynes that the sea just laughed at…

On a previous visit I once came across an official looking man in a hard hat and a yellow high visibility jacket who was taking photographs and making notes.  His name was Brian and I asked him about the erosion.  He explained to me that the problem is that this coastline really shouldn’t be here at all because it is made up of unconsolidated soft clay and small stones called glacial till that were scooped up from the sea bed by a glacier as it advanced south during the last ice age and dumped here as the ice eventually melted and receded north about ten thousand years ago.  

It is just soft clay with the consistency and the look of a crumbly Christmas Cake that simply cannot resist the power of the waves.  In that time an area of land twelve miles wide has been eroded away and returned to the sea bed where it came from.  Not really an ideal sort of place to build houses and construct roads.  Once, not so long ago, there was a row of houses here with long stretched gardens enjoying glorious sea views.  All gone.

Along the way we came across a fisherman tending his nets, nets stretching out to sea and full of fish, he told us that he came down every day to get his catch but it was becoming a chore because a great deal of the eroding cliffs was getting caught in the net and it took him a long time every day to clear them.  He said that he was packing them up now and moving on, aggravation from the recently arrived gypsies hadn’t helped especially as one day recently they had stolen his quad bike and left him stranded on the beach.  Luckily for him he got it back later.

Further along was a great deal of concrete debris, the remains of Second World War coastal defences called pill boxes, because they looked like pill boxes.  It is not known for sure but it is estimated that there were once twenty-eight thousand of them both around the coast and further inland as well.  There were different types and designs based on the type of invasion that might be encountered.  Bigger and stronger if there was the possibility of tanks and heavy artillery, not so strong if the threat was from parachuting invaders and hostile infantry.  As it happened none of them were needed for their intended purpose.  Today it is estimated that there are roughly six thousand of them left.

I can’t imagine that it was very pleasant being on duty in a pill box.  Cold and austere, long hours of nothing to do but scan the water, no toilet facilities and no internet for entertainment.

These ruined specimens once sat high above the cliffs, half a mile or so inland but now they have given way not to an army of soldiers but the invasion of the relentless sea.

Someone clearly has a sense of humour about the situation…

Bridlington – Lobsters and Ganseys

I have been to Bridlington several times now.  The very first time that I visited in 2015 I didn’t care for the place at all so I didn’t really give it a fair chance, didn’t stay very long and left swiftly.  I wrote a critical post about it which I have subsequently apologised for. So I have grown to rather like the town and the harbour and it has some interesting stories to tell.

If Bridlington was in Cornwall then celebrity chef Rick Stein would have an expensive seafood restaurant on the quay, every TV presenter and his dog ever would do a series about it, Doc Martin would be filmed there and people would flock there in their thousands.

Actually, thank goodness that they don’t.

Here is an interesting fact…

The north-east coast through Yorkshire and County Durham has the largest fishing industry in England in terms of employment and quantity of sea food caught, landed and processed.  At thirty-seven million tonnes in 2021 it just edged out Brixham in Devon and left Newlyn in Cornwall way behind.  The coast has four major fishing ports, Grimsby, Hull, Hartlepool and Bridlington.

Now, this might come as a surprise bit of information but Bridlington is the lobster capital of Europe, landing over three hundred  tonnes of the North Sea crustacean every year.  According to the Government’s Marine Management Organisation, lobster fetches the highest average price of all species landed by the UK fleet at over £10  per kilogram, they account for only two per cent of the weight of shellfish landings, but twelve per cent of the value. Which is why Bridlington, which lands almost no actual fish, is Yorkshire’s most lucrative fishing port.

The shellfish it lands is worth £7.2m  more than all the fish and shellfish landed at Grimsby and Whitby combined, £4m of which is accounted for by lobster.


In the UK we don’t eat a lot of lobster except in high end restaurants and exclusive London clubs and most of it is exported to Europe.

People in Portugal eat more fish than any other in mainland Europe, fifty-seven  kilograms per head per year which is like eating your way through an average sized cod or tuna,  Norway is second, Spain third and then France and Finland.

In the UK we like to think of ourselves as fish eaters and we voted to leave Europe on the basis of getting our fishing fleets back but we only eat cod or haddock or anything else from the same genus ( hake, colin, pollack etc.)  and on average we eat a miserly fifteen kilograms per person per year.

In mainland Europe, those who eat least fish are Albanians at only five kilograms followed by people from Serbia and North Macedonia and what is surprising is that none of these are really that far from the sea.

 The most popular fish in the UK is cod and in the USA it is prawns (shrimp), Canada and in Australia it is salmon; in France it is sea bass and in Spain hake.  The most popular Christmas Day meal in Australia is prawns (shrimp).

Throw another prawn on the Barbie there Bruce.

All of these obscure facts are worth jotting down and remembering if you are in a pub quiz team.

I will be going back to Bridlington again next month and I fully intend to find a restaurant selling Bridlington Bay Lobster.  Apparently it is important to be careful if you want the real thing because as we export almost all of our lobster to Europe then the UK market depends on imports from Canada.  What a crazy world we live in.

Today was rather windy, well, very windy actually so there weren’t many boats leaving the safety of the harbour and the boats were all safely moored up.  A walk along the harbour wall brought us to a statue of a young woman, a Gansey girl.

A Gansey is a distinctive woollen sweater, originally designed to provide protection for fishermen from wind and water.  They were traditionally made by fishermen’s wives using five ply wool (Kim tells me that is rather thick) and five needles (Kim tells me that is rather hard work).  It was (is) a tight knit made in one piece with no seams so as to keep the weather out.  

Each Gansey pattern was unique to the town or harbour where the men sailed from and in this way if there was an accident at sea and men were lost overboard then they could be identified by their Gansey.  The patterns on the garment all relate to the sea, boats, nets, pots and fish and the tradition continues today.

Next time in Bridlington I will tell you about some famous people associated with the town.

Return to Skipsea, Big Changes

The first time that I went there in 2019, I fell in love with Skipsea almost immediately.  I liked the caravan, I liked the holiday park, I liked the countryside and I liked the beach and the sea.  The exceptionally fine weather helped of course.

I returned again post covid in August 2021 and then again just nine months ago in July 2022.  As the time approached to book a cheap Spring deal again earlier this year (2023) nothing would have stopped me going there again.

 Let me explain about caravan holiday deals.

In the UK there is a very cheap and nasty daily newspaper (I use that description newspaper very loosely) called T’he Sun’ and several years ago they launched a voucher scheme that once collected allowed readers to book cheap caravan holidays in the UK. 

The Sun newspaper is a curious conundrum, it supports the right wing Tory government and its extreme political views which cares nothing for the middle and working class and the middle and working class read the Sun and vote Tory.  It is absolutely unbelievable.

I would never buy the Sun toilet tissue so I never got to benefit from the offer but a few years ago the voucher codes began to be published on-line so it was possible to get the offer without buying the rag.

So, I booked a caravan in my favourite resort of Skipsea for four nights for just £60, everything included.  An absolute bargain.

On arrival, too early to book in, we took a walk to the seafront and were in for a nasty shock.  Only nine months ago there were cliff top chalets which although being in danger of falling into the sea had a sort of seaside charm with friendly owners and there were steps down to the beach.  All had changed. 

A severe winter and a succession of storms had eroded the cliffs to danger levels, the local Council had negotiated a property exchange and compensation and  after the no doubt relieved owners had moved out the gypsies had moved in and now there were caravans, ponies, big dogs, piles of rubbish, bonfires and the acrid smell of burning tyres.  I felt immediately uneasy.

Where had they come from I wondered? Where had they come from I worried?

The village of Skipsea and the adjacent caravan site  Skipsea Sands sits precariously on Yorkshire’s East Riding coast which is said to be the fastest eroding coastline in Europe. Since the Doomsday Book was completed in 1086 twenty-six villages along this stretch of coast have been lost to the sea. Cutting new steps to the beach is an annual job.

The advance of the sea is relentless.  Every year along the Holderness coast nearly two metres of coastline is swept away, an estimated average of two million tonnes which is moved south on the tides towards the Humber estuary and builds new unwanted land there whilst it takes it away here where they would very much like to keep it.

Sea defences are just not financially viable (after all, it isn’t in the south of England), the area is officially designated as a zone of ‘no active intervention’ and it is inevitable that another twenty houses and a fish and chip shop will soon be lost to the waves.  The Local Council is like King Canute and cannot control the sea.

These are houses that were built as recently as 1985 and at that time had long gardens and a road running  along the front but that all seems rather foolish now. There were once houses on the other side of the road too but they had already gone which should perhaps have acted as a warning to the people who bought these properties as holiday homes.  An especially violent storm in the winter of 2008 took the road away and the waves have gnawed away at the soft clay cliffs every year since.

The gypsy community is clearly prepared to take the risk, if the houses and all their rubbish fall into the sea they don’t really care, they will just move on.  The Environment Agency should deal with it but I doubt the balls to do so.  Gypsies can be tough people to deal with.

This was all rather disappointing, they had even blocked off access to the very fine beach.  I try not to be judgemental but I don’t trust gypsies, I had several incidents with them in my working life, they live by a different set of social rules from normal folk.

Anyway, we weren’t going to let this setback spoil our holiday.  Tonight we were staying in a caravan just five hundred yards away so I took the precaution of putting my wallet and car keys under the mattress before I went to sleep that night.

Gypsies are not known for their hospitality…

Memory Post – First Cars

My first car was two tone blue Hillman Imp which was a twenty-first birthday present but it was unreliable and would only go for about thirty miles before seriously overheating.

I only kept it for a few months and I bought my own real first car, a flame red Hillman Avenger, a top of the range specification GL 1500cc, registration WRW 366J, which featured four round headlights internal bonnet release, two-speed wipers, brushed nylon seat trim (previously never used on British cars), reclining front seats (very important of course) , hockey stick rear light cluster and a round dial dashboard with extra instrumentation.

Oh Boy, I was so proud of that car.

I have had many since of course including a blue TR7 …

… and my first company car…

… but, if I could have any of my old cars back from the scrap yard it would just have to be be my red Hillman Avenger…


Read the full story Here…

Festival Days – National Potato Chip Day (USA)

March 14th in the USA is Potato Chips Day which I confess makes me smirk because in the USA they don’t even know what a potato chip is …

Read a story about chips Here…

Festival Days – March 8th, International Women’s Day

It all started in New York when in 1908 fifteen thousand women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

Then, in 1917, with two million soldiers dead in the war, Russian women chose the last Sunday in February to strike for ‘bread and peace’. This turned out to be hugely significant and a contribution to the overthrow of the Romanovs and four days later the Tsar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

Read the full story Here…

In 2016 we visited the Greek island of Amorgos.  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.

A Virtual Ancient City

On the boat ride back from Delos to Mykonos  I thought it would be fun to recall all of the other ancient sites that I have visited and assemble a near perfect virtual ancient city.

Read the full story Here…