8 November 2019

A Full Week

Oh what a week, busy but good.
Monday I had lunch with a friend then took my grandson to his basketball practice in the evening.
Tuesday was the Salvation Army followed by my art club.
Wednesday was my WI meeting. 

We decorated the church with these banners. Our chair made some nice red cards printed with the names of the village men who died in the first and second world wars. We didn't have time to put them on as we were all cold after being in the church for two hours arranging the poppies, drinking tea and eating cake! so our chair is going to put them on later. We also put some poppies in the lawn of the church.
Yesterday was my daughter's birthday. I took her for a meal to the White hart in Little Waltham. It's a very nice pub serving good food with daily and weekly offers, themed evenings, and live music nights.
Today we have been to Lakeside for some retail therapy, my daughter spending her birthday gift vouchers and me buying a lovely pink coat from Primark.
My week will be rounded off with an Indian meal tomorrow evening with a friend.
I think I will spend Sunday on the sofa finishing my current book :-)

Be well ~ 
Polly x

5 November 2019

A Good Read

The Island by Victoria Hislop
The story starts with Alexis taking a trip to Crete hoping to learn more about her mother Sofia’s history. Sofia has never been able to talk about her past, all Alexis knows is that her mother grew up in a small Cretan village, before moving to London. As the departure date approaches Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend Fotina, and promises that through her she will learn more. Accompanying Alexis is her boyfriend of five years, Ed. He’s a bit of a jerk, and Alexis is undecided about whether to continue with the relationship. The trip helps her make the decision.
Arriving in Plaka, Alexis sees that it lies a stone's throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga - Greece's former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last she hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island.

Beautifully written with convincing characters. The primary subject matter of the book was well researched and very interesting and original - that of the fate of Leprosy sufferers in pre-war and wartime Greece when they were forcibly taken away from families and made to live in isolation. My knowledge of leprosy was limited to it being a biblical disease, portrayed as distasteful and frightening. The book revealed a different aspect to it, how the community organised their lives on the island and set up a democracy, having to establish living areas for different stages of the disease. Coping with the emotions of never seeing their loved ones again, and knowing that their families were subject to undercurrents of prejudice back on the mainland. Of living in isolated communities for years before the disfigurement and death happened.  But also living with hope that the experiments would eventually lead to a cure. Thankfully, both medicinal science and the attitude of society to serious illness have made massive advances since those days.

I quite liked the character of Maria, even though she was quite passive I think she was characterised very well. 
~Happy Reading ~

Polly x

1 November 2019

Dover Castle

From the Romans to the Cold War, with medieval interiors, an underground hospital and war tunnels Dover Castle has an abundance of history which you can read about here
Described as the "Key to England", due to its defensive significance throughout history, it is the largest castle in England, and makes for a great day out.

Between 800 BC - AD 43 it started life as an Iron Age Hillfort.
115-40 The Romans built a lighthouse to guide ships into the harbour.
7th century Eadbald, King of Kent founded a minster church for 22 monks in the fortress of Dover.
10th - early 11th century the church of St Mary in Castro was built beside the lighthouse
The lighthouse is one of only three surviving Roman-era lighthouses in the world, and the most complete standing Roman structure in England.
1066 William the Conqueror strengthened the defences with an earthwork and timber-stockaded castle. 
1180 - 89 Henry II rebuilt the castle spending a huge amount of money on it, making it the most expensive castle project of its time.
1205 - 15 King John established the first fleet and completed the castle's outer defences.
1216 17 the Great Siege. Then Prince Louis of France invaded and besieged the castle after which John's son Henry III added three powerful new gatehouses and a fortified spur extension to the castle. 
1217 - 56 Henry III spent enormous sums strengthening the castle making it one of the largest and most strategically important castles in England.
1740s onwards the medieval banks and ditches were reshaped as the castle was adapted for artillery warfare. Later in the 18th century, when England faced the threat of invasion from Napoleonic France, more additions were made to the castle’s defences. To house the huge numbers of troops needed to man them, a network of tunnels was dug in from the cliff face for use as barracks.
1890's the top floor of the Great Tower was furnished with displays of armour and opened to the public.
1904 the church of St Mary in Castro and the Roman lighthouse were transferred to the Ancient Monuments branch of the Ministry of Works.

DOVER IN TWO WORLD WARS By 1905 advances in technology made it possible for coastal artillery around the harbour to be controlled from a central Fire Command Post built on the cliff edge. Its commanding position led the Admiralty to site a signal station on top of it in 1914, from which the Navy controlled the movement of all ships in and out of the harbour.
The Napoleonic tunnels were brought back into service in the Second World War, when they made their most notable contribution to British history. From 1939 they housed the command centre that controlled naval operations in the Channel. It was from here that in May 1940 Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay organised the extraordinary evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk, codenamed Operation Dynamo.
Over the next few years the tunnels were greatly extended to serve as both a hospital and a large combined headquarters, responsible for guarding the Straits of Dover and involved in preparing for the 1944 invasion of Europe. Later, during the Cold War, this network of tunnels was transformed into the secret location of one of Britain’s Regional Seats of Government, with the role of organising life in the event of a nuclear attack.
1963 the castle is transferred to the Ministry of Works for preservation as an Ancient Monument. English Heritage now maintains the castle and grounds.

'Queen Elizabeth's Pocket Pistol' wasn't actually intended for a queen. The name probably arose during the English Civil Wars when several big guns were given the name. The gun was made
in 1544 in Utrecht and given to Henry VIII by his friend Maximilian of Egmont.
It has intricate engravings on it.

That is an impressive catapult

The upper level of the protected passage, or caponier, built as part of the outer
defences to the north of the castle during the Napoleonic Wars.

Locking mechanism for doors on the other side of that wall.

Inside the Great Hall

The Throne Room

There were so many stairs at each corner of the great hall, and so many floors 
they must have needed maps to find their way around!
The kitchen was very well organised with separate areas for
different food storage and preparation, and laundry

Pretty chapel

View out over the Strait of Dover

The wartime tunnels and underground hospital are very interesting.

A short walk from the castle is a memorial dedicated to aviator Louis Bleriot, the first person to fly across the channel from France to England.
Bleriot initially found success in the motor industry, making money by designing and producing a new and efficient form of car headlamp. His passion however was in the sky, he experimented with model Ornithopters - an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings. Then the American Wright brothers came along and inspired him to get into building and flying his own man carrying aircraft. It would not be long before he made history. Alfred Harmsworth the owner of the Daily Mail was a great supporter of flying and offered a prize of £1,000 for the first airman to cross the English Channel from Calais to Dover. Blériot began work on a new plane, the Blériot XI. On the 25th July, 1909, he took off from Les Baraques, near Calais, at 4.41am and after covering a distance of almost 24 miles (36.6 km) he arrived at Northfall Meadow, near Dover, at 5.17 am and won the £1,000.

Be well ~ 
Polly x

30 October 2019


Beautiful cat in shop window in New York

~ Happy Halloween ~ 
Polly x

27 October 2019

A Good Read

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
The story starts at Heathrow airport when Ted Severson heads for the bar after hearing his flight is delayed. There he meets the magnetic Lily and after a few too many martinis he confides his darkest thoughts. He tells Lily about his wife’s infidelity, how they were a mismatch from the start - he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché. But most of all he confides how he wishes her dead. In a heartbeat Lily offers to help him carry out his wish.
Lily isn’t your stereotype blonde beauty, she was born with a different kind of morality. She doesn’t believe in letting people get away with things like infidelity or lying. She doesn’t believe in turning the other cheek or forgiveness. Her father is a reasonably famous author, and her mother an academic. Their household was a free-for-all of revolving parties with artists, writers, friends, and lovers of both parents coming and going throughout her childhood.
She was mostly left to her own devices, and when the odious Chet took an interest in the thirteen year old with the flaming red hair and the long thin legs, he annoyed her, really annoyed her, she knew what was on his mind. She told Ted ”I’d been waiting for two things since killing Chet. Waiting to get caught and waiting to feel bad. Neither happened, and I knew that neither would. Truthfully" she said, "I don’t think murder is necessarily as bad as people make it out to be. Everyone dies. What difference does it make if a few bad apples get pushed along a little sooner than God intended? and your wife, for example, seems like the kind worth killing." 

We are brought up to believe that killing someone is the worst thing we could ever do, but is it? If a person is destroying lives, leaving a wake of devastation and overwhelming grief that can never be healed is it really the worst thing we can do for society to remove that person? I can think of a few cases where I would be capable of pulling the trigger. 

It's well written and has some excellent twist and turns, and plots I didn’t see coming. It sagged a bit in the middle and there are almost entire chapters given over to car journeys which were surplus to the plot, but the end is sweet.

~Happy Reading ~

Polly x

23 October 2019

Apsley House

'Number 1 London', the grandest address in the capital. This beautiful Georgian building  was the home of the first Duke of Wellington, and the interior has changed little since then.
Located on the edge of the city with the Royal Park at the back and just outside the toll gates at Knightsbridge with “fine views over to the Surrey and Kent hills”, as Thomas Shepard’s popular guide ‘London in the Nineteenth Century’ noted, it enjoyed one of the finest settings in London. Sadly now it competes with non-stop traffic around Hyde Park corner.

Apsley House was built in the 1770's for Henry Bathurst, 1st Baron Apsley. In 1807 the house was purchased by Marquess Wellesley, elder brother to Arthur Wellesley, but in 1817 financial difficulties forced the Marquess to sell Apsley to his more famous sibling the Duke of Wellington (Waterloo and Napoleon). Wellington engaged the architect Benjamin Dean Wyatt to restore and enlarge the house. Wyatt wrote to the Duke saying: “I have carefully examined it throughout. It certainly is an excellent house, and in very good repair. It is as substantial and as well built as any house need be, and it is splendid without containing any superfluous room.” Despite Wyatt’s report being very favourable, Wellington decided that the house was in need of expansion and refurbishment, he carried out restorations to create a residence worthy of housing his growing art collection - and also serve as a London base for his political ambitions. Successive generations of the Dukes of Wellington lived at Apsley until the house was finally gifted to the nation in 1947. Today, English Heritage maintains the house.

The ground floor houses the grand state rooms, and a broad staircase leads to the first floor. The current Duke's own relatively simply quarters are on the third floor.
Once again photography was not allowed, but once again I sneaked a few. I'm getting quite good at this now!!.....

The Staircase
Napoleon as Mars the Peacekeeper Antonio Canova (1757-1822)
Commissioned by Napoleon in 1802 this colossal statue of the Emperor was sculpted by Canova in Rome. Completed in 1806 the statue did not arrive in Paris until 1811. It was unveiled at the Musée de Napoleon (now the Louvre), however Napoleon didn't like it, he declared it was ‘too athletic’. It was packed away and eventually brought to England as a gift to the Duke. This was the only place in the house big enough for the statue. The wine cellar underneath had to be strengthened to support its 3-ton weight! 

On the walls in the Striped Drawing Room room are portraits of officers who fought alongside the Duke at Waterloo. Above the fireplace is a famous portrait of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, and on the opposite wall hangs a dramatic oil painting called ‘The Battle of Waterloo’ painted by Sir William Allen

Postcard of the Drawing Room

There are nearly 3,000 fine paintings, exquisite furnishings, sculptures and works of art in silver and porcelain, gifts from emperors, tsars, and kings to Britain's greatest military hero. The art collection is one of the finest in London with paintings by Velazquez and Rubens

The paintings in the Piccadilly Drawing Room include the ‘Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Dispatch’ by Sir David Wilkie. The people in the painting have just received the dispatch from the Duke about his victory at the Battle of Waterloo. The Duke wrote it the day after the battle. Two soldiers carried the letter by a fast horse-drawn carriage to the coast, then by boat to Kent, then horse and carriage to London.

The Portico Drawing Room contains some lovely objects, two portraits of Napoleon and one of his wife, Josephine, some of Wellington’s belongings including a telescope and some hair from the mane of his horse Copenhagen.

Postcard of the Waterloo Gallery
The Waterloo Gallery, described as "one of the great interiors of Britain", is huge, it's the width of the house and is where the Duke held his annual Waterloo banquets, seating up to 85 guests at a long table. There is a large painting in an adjoining room that gives an idea of what the banquets might have been like. The gallery was designed in an opulent gilded Louis XIV style, with seven mirrored window shutters inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles". The mirrors were hidden behind the walls during the day and slid across at night. The windows provided natural light during the day and the mirrors reflected light from the chandeliers and torchieres at night, keeping the Waterloo Gallery and its valuable paintings well lit at any time of the day.

On the walls of the dining room hang portraits of six kings and emperors of Europe at the time of the Battle of Waterloo. They are all standing in a way that makes them look powerful and wearing their best outfits/accessories. Each ruler is holding an object and has a scene behind him, which tells us something about who he is and what he has achieved.

The Museum Room groans with a stunning collection of presents and trophies given to the Duke after his triumph at the Battle of Waterloo. Such was the relief of the whole of Europe to be rid of the tyranny of France he was showered with  gifts from all over the world,  Prussian and Saxon dinner services, field marshals’ batons and an Egyptian dinner service. The room is dominated by a Portuguese Centrepiece, part of a 1,000 piece dinner service gifted to Wellington in 1816 from the Portuguese nation in honour of the Duke’s victory over the French in Portugal during the Peninsular Wars. It took 150 men four years to produce and arrived in London in 1817 in 55 crates. The room was dark so I didn't try to sneak a photo!

The cellar houses an exhibition of military memorabilia, including Napoleon's death mask and medals awarded to Wellington by grateful heads of state across Europe. 

Apsley House faces Wellington Arch, a triumphal gateway intended as a ceremonial gate to the city of London. It was once topped by a controversial statue of Wellington on his horse Copenhagen, which was thought to be ugly and disproportionate to the arch. The government demanded that it should be taken down, but Wellington declared that he would regard the removal of the figure as a clear mark of royal disfavour, and would feel obliged to resign all his public posts, including that of commander-in-chief. Because of the duke’s immense prestige the Queen and government backed down.

In 1880 the incoming Liberal government adopted a scheme to make a new road, cutting the corner between Piccadilly and Grosvenor Place, which involved moving the Arch to a new site a short distance to the south-east, facing down Constitution Hill. The President and Academics of the Royal Academy urged the government to take the opportunity to remove the statue.

In 1891 the sculptor Adrian Jones, a former army veterinary captain who specialised in animal figures, exhibited a magnificent plaster group at the Royal Academy entitled ‘Triumph’, of a quadriga (a four-horse chariot). The Prince of Wales suggested that it would make a suitable adornment for the rebuilt Wellington Arch.

Initially no funds were available, but eventually a banker, Sir Herbert Stern, made an anonymous donation of about £20,000, and from 1908 Jones set to work on a full-size plaster version of his quadriga in his Chelsea studio, with Edward VII taking a personal interest. The final bronze version was erected on top of the arch in January 1912.

The southern pier of the arch was used as a park-keeper’s residence and the northern pier as a police station. In 1886 a telegraph line was laid to the police station, indicating that the rebuilding was complete. The park-keeper’s residence closed in 1937, while the police station, said to be the smallest in London, survived until the late 1950s.

Be well ~
Polly x

18 October 2019

The Isle of Wight

After my short break in Yorkshire my friend M and I went to the the Isle of Wight. It was a first for both of us, and as well as a holiday it was also an occasion to catch up with friends we hadn't seen for a long time. I hadn't seen my friend for about 9 years, but M hadn't seen her friend for 30 years!! They did recognise each other though!

We found a good deal online with Crusader holidays staying at Warners Bembridge hotel.

The RNLI station is nearby

A trip around the island was included but it was disappointing. All the lovely places we could have visited and instead we were taken to the Wight Pearl shop, which M and I had no interest in whatsoever, followed by a visit to Alum Bay hoping that the chair lift down to the needles would be operational, but due to horrendous gales it was closed. 

I couldn't zoom in any closer. I thought my phone would be blown away!

Other attractions include the sand shop where you can make a coloured sand souvenir, a 4D cinema, Alum Bay glass, a sweet manufactory where you can watch sweet makers make sweets, a great Jurassic adventure golf course, cafes, a host of carousels, and an emporium selling tourist rubbish stuff, I bought a rather nice fridge magnet with a RNLI boat moving along the water. Being close to the end of the season a lot of places were closed. I think it would have been much better if the weather had been sunny and calm, and high season.

We had just over an hour to wander around Ventnor which was quite nice

 The pretty Cascade Gardens

We both had lovely days with our respective friends. It was so good to see my friend A again. She lives a stones throw from the beach. We took her dog for a walk along the footpath to a beach side pub for fish'n'chips which we enjoyed sitting outside in the lovely warm sunshine.

The following day M and I visited Osborne House, what a glorious place.

"It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot" said Queen Victoria of Osborne House,
her palatial holiday home on the Isle of Wight. 

And I have to agree with her, it is lovely, the whole package - the house, location
with it's proximity to a private secluded beach, the grounds and stunning views.

At the time of our visit the 200th anniversary of Victoria's and Albert's birthdays were being celebrated, they were both born in 1819 and tried, where possible to spend their birthdays as Osborne House. The first birthday Victoria celebrated at Osborne was her 29th, on 24 May 1848. She was woken by the band of the Royal Marines playing under her window, and after dressing went to look at her birthday gifts with Albert and their six children. The gifts were all laid out on a ‘birthday table’. The queen recorded the events of the day in her journal, noting that ‘The Children ran about, playing most happily, whilst we were at breakfast’. After breakfast the children performed music and recited poetry they had written themselves in the drawing room. Whatever the weather the family then went for a walk in the grounds, often to the Swiss Cottage. In the afternoon they went into the grounds for a drive, and often a group photograph was taken on the terrace. The day was rounded off with a celebratory dinner, followed by further entertainment in which the children usually took part. Queen Victoria’s Journal on the 24 May 1848 recorded ‘I received many lovely things … such a quantity from dearest Albert’. They were devoted to each other and their children.

Boar at the entrance to the Household Wing
Courtesy of befunky.com
Left: Reproductions of the dish on top of the table are presented
to the winner of the ladies singles championships at Wimbledon.
Centre: I think the statue is the Nike of Samothrace
Right: One of many beautiful ornate standard lamps

Beautiful rooms

and furnishings

Cute tiny chairs were adorable. Each of the royal children had their own chair.

The nursery


Prince Albert's writing room

Neptune Resigning to Britannia the Empire of the Sea.
Presented by Prince Albert to Queen Victoria in 1847
Many of the gifts the royal couple exchanged remain at Osborne as part of the collection.

Queen Victoria's dressing room 

her writing room

and her bedroom.
When her beloved Prince Albert died in December 1861, at the very young age of 42, Queen Victoria was plunged into the depths of deep depression and wore the mourning black for the rest of her life. 
In January 1901 it was on a couch-bed here that she died with her family around her. 
The room became a family shrine, and Edward VII placed decorative gates outside to maintain privacy. Edward inherited the various estates and residences,
he made the decision to sell Osborne House to the government.

The lavish Durbar Room, named after an anglicised version of the Hindi word meaning court, was built for state functions. It was decorated by Bhai Ram Singh, and has a carpet from Agra.

A short walk from Osborne House is the beach
Queen Victoria's bathing hut

Swiss Cottage, an Alpine-styled chalet created for Queen Victoria and Price Albert’s nine children. It was their own little world where the children could play and learn. The inspiration behind the Cottage is believed to have been taken from the Swiss Cottage near Schloss Rosenau, where Prince Albert grew up. He was keen to educate his children in the stern practicalities of life as soon as possible. His daughters were to learn cooking and his boys carpentry.
The grounds contained individual vegetable plots enclosed by fences, each one marked by the name of each child. They would tend their allotment for several hours a day, helped by a professional gardener.

Each child had their own little wheelbarrow.
They usually grew fruit, veg and flowers. Prince Albert would buy their produce from them, paying market prices. This one way they could earn some pocket money. They spent their pocket money on gifts for each other and also gave to local charities. Fruit and veg were also given to poor people living nearby.

Inside the Swiss Cottage, three of the ground floor rooms are dedicated to exhibition space but were once lived in by the housekeeper, Louisa Warne ‘Warnie’ and her husband Thomas the under gardener. There was a pantry with a simple fireplace and sink, where Prince Alfred, in particular, helped to look after the stove and mend cutlery.

The princesses were taught to bake cakes and cook dishes, by Louisa in the old-fashioned chafing oven, using family recipes or those suggested by Mrs Warne. The Queen and Prince Albert were often invited to tea to sample their baking.

Very pretty St Mildred's church used by Victoria when she was in residence.

I hope you have enjoyed this mini tour of the Isle of Wight, and a bit of charming history.

Be well ~ 
Polly x

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...