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Results 1 - 7 of 7
1. 2016 and Beyond

So how was your Christmas?   Ours was quieter than last yearbut very enjoyable. We spent Christmas day with our two grandsons and Terry’s parents. We laughed a lot, played games, ate too much and had a great time


The following two photos are a little blurry, which might be a good thing considering we are all wearing silly hats!

Terry with his mum and dad

Me with our grandsons Tris (on the left as you look at the photo) and Kip 

During the rest of the holidays we walked, read and caught up on films missed earlier in the year. The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin was the perfect holiday read. Wouldn’t you work in a bookshop in Paris if you had the chance? I certainly would. Days spent surrounded by books while snow falls on the Champs-Élysées – what’s not to like?  




A little more serious reading is in order for the New Year starting with two books received as gifts this Christmas. East West Street weaves together historical, legal and familial narratives to reveal the origins of international law, beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg trial. I’m excited to read this recent winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. I think I’m in for a treat.  

I’m also excited to read the complete edition of the Wipers Times, the famed trench newspaper of the First World War. It contains a unique record of life on the wartime frontline, together with an extraordinary mix of black humour, fake entertainment programmes and pastiche articles.


My favourite film of the year, watched just a few days before Christmas is:  Sully. 
On Jan. 15, 2009, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) tries to make an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River after US Airways Flight 1549 strikes a flock of geese. Miraculously, all of the 155 passengers and crew survive the harrowing ordeal, and Sullenberger becomes a national hero in the eyes of the public and the media. 




Before saying goodbye to 2016, I thought it would be fun to look back at the most popular posts on my blog last year. I also want to take a moment to thank you.  It is your visits, comments and shares that keep this blog alive. I am so very grateful to you all. Thank you!  

Now for the top five: 

Coming in at Number One is the wonderful Finnigan The Circus Cat: A Guest Post by Mary T. Wagner.

Mary shared her post with us in August and in October Finnigan was awarded a first-place finish at the Royal Palm Literary Awards in Florida. Congratulations Mary I can’t think of a more worthy winner.

Mary T Wagner at the Royal Palm Literary Awards

In Second Place is a book which occupies a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf. When found it was in a very dilapidated state but an excellent book restorer sprinkled a little magic book dust, and saved it from the clutches of the evil book pulping machine! This is just one of the beautiful images from Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales - see others here


In Third Place is our visit to the Titanic Museum in Belfast. The museum kindly shared the post on their social media streams, which certainly increased the number of visitors to my blog. 



In Fourth Place: British Eccentricity on Show at: The Chelsea Flower Show.


Diarmuid Gavin creator of the above flower show garden has indicated he will be taking a break from Chelsea in 2017.  Such a shame as I really love his designs as do a lot of people. 


In July, we visited Krakow and Auschwitz, and that post comes fifth and last on the list.  

  
It’s almost time to wish you a very Happy New Year. I hope 2017 brings you all your heart desires. 


Next week I will be sharing five of my favourite blogs from around the web. I would love to hear about the ones you enjoy so thinking caps on please.  

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2. Light up the sky...

The excitement of Guy Fawkes Night is fast approaching, and once again I have mixed feelings. As a child, I loved bonfires and fireworks, but now I worry about the distress caused to wildlife and pets and the possible consequences for the environment. Naturally, none of that bothered me when I was little because I was busy having fun.

Brock's Fireworks

Back then there was ample space to build fires and plenty of things to burn.  Tree branches, old fertiliser sacks and worn-out tyres made for good fires, although the black acrid smoke had a way of leaving eyes stinging, and adult tempers frayed! Each year my brother, sister and I would begin with a small pile of rubbish and watch as the mound grew ever larger. Looking back I’m sure everyone in the village had a hand in it, although at the time I was convinced magic was afoot!  Living on a farm, we built our fires in open fields making them readily available to anyone with rubbish to burn.


Standard Fireworks
For me, the real excitement began with the arrival of the fireworks.  We usually had a large selection box with at least a few extra rockets and several packets of sparklers. When the night finally arrived, we made sure Peggy our dog and Kosset the cat were inside. Then it was time to don wellies, hats, coats, scarves and gloves all the while feeling the excitement building. Much pushing and shoving ensued as we put left feet into right boots and gloves on backwards, eventually, we would sort ourselves out and make a dash for the back door. In my memory, it was always really cold on bonfire night just as it was hot and dry in the summer. Can that be or is it my memory playing tricks?

Standard Fireworks

Once we were all warmly dressed it was time for the lighting of the bonfire, often helped by a can or two of petrol! Finally, the biscuit tins where the fireworks were kept would be opened, and dad would ‘light the blue touch paper and retire’.  Now the waiting … would it be a Rocket, a Roman candle, a Falling Rain or a Jumping Jack? Do you remember Jumping Jacks? They always had us running for cover, no wonder they are now banned.  

Standard Fireworks

The Catherine Wheels were sometimes a bit of a disappointment, either they whizzed off the nails and spluttered out in the damp grass, or they refused to turn at all.  Many were the times my dad or my brother approached a lit Catherine Wheel and tried to give it a push or even attempted to loosen the nail holding it to the fence. It’s a miracle they didn’t end up with burnt fingers or worse.

Fireworks

 All too soon the fireworks were over, and it was time to hunt the potatoes languishing in the embers of the fire. We did this by prodding at the fire with sticks while at the same time trying to ‘hook’ the potatoes sideways away from the heat. By now, they would be burnt black on the outside, but soft and flavoursome inside. At the end of the evening Dad would be left on 'fire duty' while the rest of us went inside for warm drinks. Then it was off to bed and the comfort of hot-water bottles to thaw out frozen toes.   

Pains Fireworks

When our son Steven was born, we once again built fires, watched Rockets and Falling Rain, held sparklers and ate baked potatoes. Only now the fires were smaller as befitting a housing estate and there was no petrol involved!  Spent sparklers were plunged into water to make sure they were properly out and potatoes were pre-baked in the oven and wrapped in foil.  A few years later, we were blessed with grandsons, and the rituals began again.  The boys are grown up now, and our two small granddaughters live in Australia.  Organised bonfires seem to be the order of the day. Some of our neighbours might have a few fireworks in their gardens, but I doubt any of them will light a bonfire.

Standard Fireworks

This coming bonfire night Terry and I will be at home reminiscing about times gone past. Whatever you do, enjoy it, stay safe and don’t burn your fingers on those hot potatoes!

Standard Fireworks


In childhood the daylight always fails too soon—except when there are going to be fireworks; and then the sun dawdles intolerably on the threshold like a tedious guest.~Jan Struther 

Do you have plans for November 5th, or memories of past Bonfire Nights? If you don’t celebrate Guy Fawkes Night are there any other occasions when you enjoy fireworks?  Maybe you don’t like fireworks? I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. 

All images courtesy of the fireworkmuseum.co.uk

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Photograph Twitter (@metoffice) Don't forget to check for sleeping hedgehogs before lighting your bonfire this Bonfire Night. 

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3. Krakow the beautiful

Parts of our trip to Poland were indeed harrowing (see previous post here), but much of it was hugely enjoyable. Named one of the most beautiful cities in Europe by Conde Nast, Krakow is a delight. The picture-perfect Old Town has a mediaeval market square, a castle overlooking the river, quaint courtyards and cobbled thoroughfares. Oh yes, and just about everyone under the age of fifty speaks English, which was very helpful because neither of us speak Polish. Plus the food is wonderful, and the majority of menus are written in Polish and English. 

Preparations for World Youth Day and a visit from Pope Francis were in full swing when we arrived. A countdown clock in the city centre was counting down the days and hours until the event and Cracovians were gearing up for a large influx of visitors. By the time you read this World Youth Day will be over and no doubt the cleaning up will be well underway. 


Krakow Main Market Square Hejnalica Tower

Evening in Main Market Square, to the left is St. Mary's Church with its towers of different types and appearances and beside it St. Adalbert's Church. 

The loftier Hejnalica tower is 81 m tall, while its companion bell tower rises to 69 m. Every hour on the hour, a bugler sounds the “Hejnal” bugle-call from the west window just below the spire of the higher tower. Next the same bugle call is played towards the east, the south and the north but each time the melody ends abruptly.

Krakow Main Market Square Henjalica Tower

The Henjal, dates back to the Middle Ages when it was played to announce the opening and closing of the city gates. The bugler also played to alarm his fellow citizens whenever he saw a fire or an enemy approaching. The abrupt ending is said to commemorate a trumpeter from Krakow who was shot through the throat by a Tatar archer in 1241 when the Mongols besieged the city. 
The imposing interior of St. Mary's with its nave and two aisles; in the background is the pentaptych alter by Veit Stoss.

The market square and the streets around it are always busy;

Krakow Main Market Square






Krakow Main Market Square



We didn't take many photos of ourselves, but these two should make you smile. I’m not sure why this chap decided to dress me up in his hat and sword, but I got off lightly compared to Terry!


I’ve done lots of reading over the last few weeks, mostly thanks to recommendations from other book bloggers and my local Waterstones.  If you want to find out more about any of these, please follow the links.



In a dark dark wood a wonderful debut novel from author Ruth Ware: Review by Curious Ginger Cat

Bloom of youth by Rachel Anderson: This was a spur-of-the-moment charity shop buy which I love. It's funny and yet melancholic and very much of my era set as it is in the 1950s. Ruth and her older sister Mary struggle with the chaos of their parents' attempts to support five children by renting a rambling country house and running it as a holiday home for children. When their father dies, their increasingly desperate mother turns her efforts to the two hapless girls. Eager to marry them off, she plunges them into dancing classes and presentation at Buckingham Palace as phoney under-age debutantes. There are two more books in the series, both now added to my must-read list.

Black eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin a dazzling psychological thriller, shocking, intense and utterly original. Lit Lovers




84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff:  A series of letters sent by Helene Hanff to the staff at Marks & Co, Booksellers in London and their replies to her. I loved it! Reviews at Goodreads

The shepherd's life by James Rebanks: My favourite book of the year so far recommended by my local Waterstones and reviewed by Mark Avery


The Chosen by Kristina Ohlsson: Review by All the books I can read

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks for your company. Just one more holiday snap before I go...


Wisla (Vistula) river.

This photograph only came about because I was fascinated by what appeared to be a tiny house dwarfed by a factory or office complex. The larger building is constructed in such a way that it straddles the smaller one. Even odder is the upside-down pig in the centre of the Wisla (Vistula) river. A local tour guide had no idea of its meaning, but an online search revealed the following;

"Mateusz Okonski, a Krakow-based artist, issued a challenge to his city's inhabitants - instead of following the local "tradition" and putting up another horrid monument, he offered a realistic sculpture presenting a dead boar at the stake. He located it in a place full of various meanings: in the vicinity of national sanctities - St. Stanislaus Church at Skalka and the church at Wawel, between two former abodes of the Jewish population - Kazimierz and Podgórze, in the area of the former municipal slaughter-house, which is currently a shopping gallery, on the water that purifies both literally and metaphorically and evokes the topic of passing and change and, finally, on the concrete pillar of the Wanda well, which was a water intake for the formerly existing power plant".


That last piece of information answered the question about the origin of the building, and this confirmed it;


Situated on the banks of the Vistula‚ just above the embankment wall‚ Cricoteka does not try to blend in with its neighbourhood nor gently catch the eye of passers-by. Indeed‚ it stands out like a strange theatrical prop that’s landed on the riverbank as part of a performance. One prerequisite of the original architectural competition was that an existing power station on the site should be adapted and integrated with the new structure. So the architects designed their new building to stretch over the old‚ like a table on two legs‚ with a hole cut through it for the latter’s chimney to poke through. This design was inspired by artist Tadeusz Kantor’s drawing of a bent man carrying a table on his back and his idea of an object or work of art integrated with a human body. via  Uncube Magazine Blog

So there you have it!


Next week I will be sharing a delightful guest post by Dagny McKinley. 


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4. The Ship's Cat & Titanic Belfast

If you noticed my absence last week, it was because Terry and I were in Northern Ireland. We have wanted to visit The Titanic Maritime Museum in Belfast for ages, and last week we finally got the chance. The museum is located on Queen’s Island, an area of land reclaimed from the water in the mid-19th century and a short walk from the centre of Belfast.

It's impossible to be unimpressed by this gigantic structure. This is no ordinary building, clad as it is with thousands of individual silver shards. Around its base are pools of water, which appear to be as deep and black as the Atlantic Ocean must have looked at 2.20am on April 15, 1912. 
I’m sure the depth of the water is an illusion as there are neither warning signs nor guard rails. 


Looking up at this immense building, it is easy to imagine the iceberg that sent Titanic to her watery grave. I don’t know if the designers intended to give that impression, but it was certainly the feeling I got as I stood there. 


The inside of the building is every bit as impressive as the outside.


The exhibition begins with an explanation of Belfast’s roots as an industrial centre.  Life-size silhouettes are projected on to the walls to give an impression of daily life.

   

From here you are taken on a journey through the construction of the ship, her launch, a virtual tour of the decks and a peek inside a first, second and third class cabin.  








One of the saddest parts of the exhibition is a gallery where the lighting is low and survivors’ voices (drawn from the BBC's archive) recall the horror of the sinking.  As you listen, you are directed along a series of boards detailing some of the distress messages sent to and from Titanic.





Finally, screens beneath your feet take you on an underwater journey to the decaying remains in the Atlantic depths.


We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and are not surprised to learn Titanic Belfast has just been named Europe’s leading visitor attraction.


If you would like to find out more about the Titanic story there are numerous websites offering information. I found History.com and the BBC history websites especially interesting. The Titanic Belfast website is also well worth a look.

Or, if you are looking for an interesting read, I recommend Titanic and other ships written by Charles Herbert Lightoller (1874-1952). Published by Ivor Nicholson and Watson, London in 1935.   Lightoller was the second mate (second officer) on board the Titanic and the only senior officer to survive the disaster. He was also the last man to be taken aboard the rescue ship RMS Carpathia. Just six of the thirty six chapters deal directly with his time on board the Titanic, but I found the rest of his life equally interesting. Titanic and other ships is available on ABE books at time of writing should you wish to look for a copy. 


One final thing - a friend and reader of this blog asked me to keep a look out for the ship's cat. It pains me to say this but there was no sign of a cat. But then I googled Titanic - ship's cat, and found this;  

It’s quite possible that there were multiple cats aboard the ship. Many large ships used them to monitor the rodent and pest problem that plagued the lower decks. The Titanic’s mascot and well-known ship's cat, Jenny, was one such cat.

One stoker, Jim Mulholland, volunteered to look after Jenny when she transferred from Titanic’s sister ship Olympia. It was rumoured that the cat had a litter of kittens a week before the ship left from Southampton. But what happened to Jenny on the morning of April 15, 1912?

Reports vary. Some say she, and her kittens died along with most of the passengers. However, others report Jim Mulholland observed Jenny unloading her kittens from the Titanic one by one before it left port in Southampton. He took this as a bad omen, picked up his things, and also left the vessel. He credited the cat with saving his life. (Source

What really happened to Jenny is a mystery. But perhaps this feline photographed in Belfast’s Botanic gardens is one of her descendants?  


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5. Books are Always in Fashion at Killerton House

killerton House, Devon
Killerton House
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may remember a previous visit to Killerton House here. That first visit was rather fleeting, but this time we enjoyed a more leisurely look around. Killerton is an 18th-century house and estate in Broadclyst, Devon, owned by the National Trust since 1944.

School children dressed in Victorian clothing on the lawn at Killerton

The house feels very much like a family home, and we were delighted to discover that removing books from library shelves is actively encouraged! We were kindly invited to sit a while, read and enjoy the ambience. I have to say we were more than a little surprised because in most National Trust properties, touching anything is strictly forbidden. It was a privilege to handle the books but some; especially those in the children’s section are suffering at the hands of less than careful visitors.  

Killerton House, Devon, Library
A corner of the library
Enid Blyton The Caravan Family The library at Killerton house
Enid Blyton, Noddy and Beatrix Potter
Trudi and Hansel in the library at Killerton House
Trudi and Hansel A story of the Austrian Tyrol

Books and family photographs at Killerton House
More books and family photographs

The Doyle Diary - the last great Conan Doyle Mystery
The Doyle Diary - the last great Conan Doyle Mystery 

Library at Killerton Vintage Children's books
A small selection from the many children's books in the library 

After spending a considerable amount of time drooling over and photographing books, we moved on to the 'fashion to dye' for exhibition.


Specially selected pieces from Killerton's collection brings to life how colour can reveal much about the wearer and also looks into the origins, status and function of colour in fashion. These are some of my personal favourites;
Afternoon dress from the early 1860s - Chine Silk with woven satin stripe

fashion to dye for Killerton House
1840s Evening dress - Silk brocade with woven satin stripe and floral sprigs 

1920s evening dress - Silk Crepe de Chine, beaded with crystals and diamante

Two highlights from a large display of hats, shoes and accessories

The exhibition includes over 100 pieces of work by Diploma Art and Design Foundation students, from Exeter College. Students were asked to design an outfit inspired by the colours at Killerton. Their brief included using paper patterns rather than fabric. The patterns were strengthened by using iron on Vilene. As many of you know I have a fondness for paper patterns (see a previous post here) so I found this part of the exhibition fascinating. 






Fashion to Dye for is on until Sunday 30th October. If you get a chance to visit you won’t be disappointed.   You will find full details of the exhibition here and this is a link to Killerton House

We ended our visit with a stroll through the gardens.  I took lots of photographs but in the interest of keeping this post as brief as possible, I will share just one. I was trying out the macro lens on my camera. I didn't see the greenfly (on the bud stem) until I got home, same with the tiny insect on the flower. I saw the larger one but had no idea the tiny one was there. I guess the lens works!


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6. Trick or Treating in Australia

It's been a while since I shared any photographs of my granddaughters but fear not I have lots!! First a little trick or treating; 

Whoops! A little costume readjustment might be in order Zoe.

Ah, there you are my pretty!

Where there is one witch, there must be two... 
and here is Lilly right on cue...

Mix them up, add some more.
Hocus-pocus, now there are four (behind you!) 

Beware!! Enter at your own risk...



Hah! Zoe is more than a match for you … 

Phew I'm glad to be out of there, but wait for me these treats are getting heavy. 

I know there are some scary creatures in Oz, but Vampire Dogs are too much for me, run!

Enough of scary things … Obliviate!  (With thanks to Harry Potter!)  Now for a few pics of my granddaughters returned to their charming selves.

Just look at those sunnies

Miss Lilly ... Superstar

Miss Zoe... trying out a new hair style

and enjoying a giggle 

Lilly ballet rehearsal

Show time

The show must go on  

Thank you for visiting, I hope you enjoyed Halloween and happy November! 

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7. The Krakow Ghetto Pharmacy and a visit to Aushcwitz

Hello, I’m back from my break and looking forward to catching up with you all. If you have a question or would like to leave a comment, please do, I love to hear from you.


Taking a blogging break gave me the opportunity to read some of the books I've accumulated over the last few years. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately I can never resist buying more so the size of my must-read pile remains virtually unchanged! One new book on the list is The Kracow Ghetto Pharmacy by Tadeusz Pankiewicz. I heard about it on a recent trip to Poland and was lucky enough to find a copy at The Oskar Schindler Factory Museum (Fabryka Schindlera). Tadeusz Pankiewicz was the only Pole living and working in the Kracow Ghetto from its inception to its liquidation. I’m sure it won’t be an easy read but when was anything worthwhile ever easy? Having seen the remnants of the ghetto walls and visited Auschwitz and Birkenau the Holocaust is uppermost in my mind.

This is the entrance to Auschwitz with the words “arbeit macht frei” which translated means “work will set you free."


According to the BBC historian Laurence Rees the sign was erected by order of Commandant Rudolf Höss. Made by prisoner-labourers the sign features an upside-down B, which has been interpreted as an act of defiance.

We thought we were ready for Auschwitz, but nothing prepared us for the overwhelming sense of sadness that prevails. The feeling of the place seeps into your bones and will not be left behind.


The complex is divided into three major camps: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Auschwitz III-Monowitz and several sub-camps. During the Holocaust gas chambers using Zyklon-B claimed the lives of roughly one million people. Most of the victims were Jews, and the majority killed in this way died at Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

Auschwitz III provided slave labour for the I G Farben plant founded at Auschwitz in 1940. Farben produced synthetic rubber, along with high-performance fuels, various plastics, methanol, nitrogen and pharmaceuticals. The Zyklon B gas used in the gas chambers was produced by Degesch a subsidiary of I G Farben.


Auschwitz II - Birkenau

Entrance to the infamous Auschwitz - Birkenea death camp.

Several of the buildings have been converted from barracks into museum rooms. The rooms are used to house the "Material Evidence of Crime." This consists of piles of shoes, glasses, suitcases, kitchen utensils and the most chilling of all human hair. The Nazis not only murdered millions of men, women and children, they also "harvested" some of the remains. In the early nineteen-forties, a brisk trade emerged between the death camps, and German felt and textile manufacturers who used the hair in the production of thread, rope, cloth, carpets, mattress stuffing, and felt insulators for the boots of railroad workers. According to historians, it's quite possible some of the products are still in use in German homes today.
Auschwitz I

The collection of shoes is possibly one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. Most are in the same dark grey colour, but a few are made from red leather, a poignant reminder of the red coat worn by the little girl in the film Schindler’s list. The guide who accompanied us around the museum said it will soon be 'updated' with new interactive exhibits. I’m not so sure that is a good idea. At the moment it is a stark reminder of just what humans are capable of and maybe it needs to remain that way.

Shoes and clothing of prisoners found at Auschwitz-Birkenau 
Photo Credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you are planning a visit to Auschwitz expect a tough day in more ways than one. Don’t assume you will find wheelchair access or level paths because you won’t. The site is not disabled friendly. It is also far larger than I ever imagined, and the only way to see it is to walk. We didn't find it too much of a problem, but if you have difficulty getting around do check before finalising any arrangements. 

I'm sorry this is a sad post, especially as it’s the first one for a while. I promise the next one will be more cheerful

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