30 November 2019

Religion & Politics

Generally regarded as controversial subjects to avoid I hope you find this religion and politics interesting.

Dean's Yard, Westminster, is a large secluded gated quadrangle of picturesque buildings surrounding a green upon which Westminster School pupils have legal rights to play football (they have some claim to having invented the modern game).
The East side consists of buildings occupied by Westminster School; the South by Church House, the headquarters of the Church of England; the West by several School buildings and Westminster Abbey Choir; and the North by the archway to the Great Sanctuary, Abbey offices and part of the Deanery.

From Dean's Yard we walked to the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey. A Chapter House is a building or room that is part of a cathedral, monastery or collegiate church in which meetings are held. Built by the royal masons circa 1250 it was originally used by Benedictine monks who sat on stone benches around the walls for their daily meetings. It later became a meeting place of the King's Great Council and the Commons, predecessors of today's Parliament.
It's an octagonal building with a vaulted ceiling and a central column, it has beautiful stained glass windows around most of it, lovely medieval wall paintings and an original floor of glazed tiles. Photography wasn't allowed, I only managed these two.

In the covered entrance to the Chapter House you can see what is claimed
to be the oldest door in Britain, believed to date back to the 1050's

Almost next door to the Chapter House is the 11th century Pyx Chamber. It was built in the years immediately after the Norman Conquest, and is one of the oldest parts of Westminster Abbey. It originally formed part of an undercroft below the monks' dormitory. 
The name Pyx refers to small boxes containing the official samples of gold and silver coinage which were also kept here. New coins were annually tested against these samples in a public 'Trial of the Pyx' held in the Palace of Westminster.
For much of the Middle Ages and afterwards the chamber served as a strong room containing the king's valuables, safeguarded by these huge thick double doors with 6 locks.

Next stop. Just across the road from The Houses of Parliament is a lovely little building called Jewel Tower. It was built around 1365 to house Edward III’s treasures and was known as the ‘King’s Privy Wardrobe’. It was protected by a moat linked to the river Thames.

As it may have appeared in the 16th century

At the end of the 16th century the House of Lords began to use the Tower to store its parliamentary records. The Jewel Tower has also held some of the nation’s most important documents. The Act of Union, the Abolishment of Slavery, Charles l’s Death Warrant and many more were once safely kept inside The Jewel Tower. Visitors can see and read replicas of some of these important documents.

In 1869 the Jewel Tower was taken over by the newly formed Standard Weights and Measures Department which used it for storing and testing official weights and measures. The rising level of passing vehicular traffic made the tower increasingly unsuitable for this work, and by 1938 the department had abandoned it in favour of other facilities. In 1948 the building was placed into the care of the Ministry of Works which repaired and restored damage inflicted during the Second World War, the surrounding area was cleared and it was opened to tourists. It is now owned by English Heritage.

Westminster Palace (or Houses of Parliament) across the road, our next destination.
Westminster Hall is the oldest part of the Palace complex, finished in 1099. Photography was allowed here but it was very dark and there was building work and scaffolding all around. The original timber roof is beautiful. Shuttlecocks from Henry VIII's time have been found in the rafters! 

 The entrance to St Stephen's Hall
is on the site of the old Chapel of St Stephen's which was destroyed along with most of the rest of the building in a fire in 1834. It was used by the House of Commons  after the main chamber was bombed in the 2nd world war. 

Beautiful chandeliers and ceiling

The hall is lined with paintings and statues of famous parlimentarians and kings and queens. Through the other side of St Stephen's Hall is the Central Lobby where political journalists film their live reports. It's also full of statues, and the beautiful gilded ceiling has to be seen to be believed.

Photography wasn't allowed from here but I couldn't have got such a good shot of the Central Lobby as this postcard. Mosaics decorate what is said to be the widest stone-vaulted roof in the world measuring 18m wide and 23m high.

From here you make your way to the House of Lords on one side and the House of Commons on the other, along corridors lined with more paintings and statues.

The House of Lords (as one would expect) is more elaborate than the Commons 
There was no way I was going to be able to sneak photos here, everywhere was staffed by scary looking security people!

The Royal Gallery is stunning

The tour takes in the Member's Lobby, Peer's Lobby and the Robing Room where the Queen prepares for the State Opening of Parliament. She arrives up a short flight of stairs into the Robing room where she dons the ceremonial robes and the Imperial State Crown.

There is a nice shop and what looked like a very nice cafe, which unfortunately was closed for renovations at the time of our visit.

Be warm and well ~ 
Polly x

26 November 2019

A Good Read

My Husbands’s Wife by Jane Corry
When young lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start and leave the secrets of the past behind. But then she takes on her first murder case and meets Joe, a convicted murderer to whom Lily is strangely drawn—and for whom she will soon be willing to risk almost anything. But Lily is not the only one with secrets. Her next-door neighbor Carla may be only nine, but she has already learned that secrets are powerful things. That they can get her whatever she wants. When Lily finds Carla on her doorstep twelve years later, a chain of events is set in motion that can end only one way.

It's a while since I read this. I remember that I enjoyed it and that it was well written, and I can remember most of the story, but I can't remember the ending!! I think I might have to read it again.

~Happy Reading ~

Polly x

19 November 2019


There were enough apples for a blackberry and apple crumble....yum.
The quinces were past their best.

Be well ~ 
Polly x

14 November 2019

Walmer Castle

Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, isn't that a lovely title? Bestowed by the monarch since the 13th century, originally it gave military power and commercial control over the five crucial ports of south-east England: Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich. More recently it became a ceremonial role held by, among others, the Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother.
The Lord Warden got to live in Walmer Castle, a charming pocket castle overlooking the sea near Dover.
Walmer Castle was built during the reign of Henry VIII as a response to the perceived threat of invasion from Europe. No such invasion happened but the castle did see action later when it was besieged by Parliamentarian forces during the English Civil Wars.
It was the southernmost of three forts in this section of the Kent coast guarding a sheltered anchorage in the English channel known as the The Downs. The other two were Deal (which is still intact), and Sandown which has fallen into disrepair.

The castle comprises a circular central keep, encased by four outer bastions 
all surrounded by a deep wide moat which is now lawn and gardens.
Collage courtesy of befunky.com
Castles were well defended. Those holes in the roof were death holes. When the enemy stormed the closed door a portcullis would be lowered at the outer edge trapping them inbetween, then the defenders would fire, throw or pour harmful substances or objects, such as rocks, arrows, scalding water, hot sand, quicklime, tar, or boiling oil, down on their attackers.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the upper levels of the outer bastions were modified and apartments added, turning the the castle into an elegant home. In 1708 it became the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

Once again photography wasn't allowed inside, but I was very naughty and very lucky to sneak quite a few. Some of them are poor quality because I had to be very quick!
 The Duke of Wellington's apparel and boots

His bedroom

This lovely tranquil garden was created in celebration of the Queen Mother on her 95th birthday,
with a shaded summer house at that end 
and a 'yew castle' arbour at the other

English Heritage have revived the gardens begun by William Pitt the Younger. Including the wild flower meadow known as the Paddock and the planted former chalk quarry called the Glen that nature, over time, partially reclaimed rendering both inaccessible.

Broadwalk Garden

The gardens are beautiful

With regular 4 legged visitors

A nice sunny place to rest for a while

The greenhouse garden and the orchard

Recharge the batteries in the Glasshouse Cafe or the Courtyard Tea Room

The office of Lord Warden still exists and is currently held by Admiral of the Fleet Michael Cecil Boyce, Baron Boyce, formerly the United Kingdom’s most senior naval officer, who takes a keen interest in all things connected with Walmer Castle. 

Of all the castles I have visited Walmer is by far my favourite. Part country house, part castle, part state building, it's  a very picturesque residence surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Be well ~ 
Polly x 

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.

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.
 Operations room
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

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