On The Sixth Day….

20181102_104300.jpegManchester is me. Born in Preston but raised in Manchester I have been wanting to visit for some time now just to see whether it was now as good as I still imagine. So off we went for 5 days to see whether it would be the sort of place we might want to live – eventually. Cornwall is great, but there isn’t much culture. Yes I know it has got culture, but nothing like Manchester with its history, industrial monuments, historic buildings, theatres, cinemas and restaurants. Also our village has no pub and no public footpaths…two big drawbacks. Anyway our first stop, after a five and a half hour drive, was Altrincham which is on the Western fringes of Manchester and almost into Cheshire, a lovely County. I particularly wanted us to have lunch in the converted Market Hall which sounded very much like a smaller version of the one in Lisbon we had so recently enjoyed. First impressions were good.20181101_153005.jpeg20181101_152806.jpegWe wandered around the stalls on the outside and then the interior where, like Lisbon, there are food booths and eateries all around the perimeter. And they were all selling local and ‘artisan’ foods (and beer and wine). F. ordered a wood-fired oven pizza whilst I went to the wine shop where I was able to sample before ordering, a nice touch. One red was an Austrian on the stallholder’s recommendation…excellent. Large tables are set out in the middle of the Hall and you find yourselves a seat. Normally I don’t like this kind of ‘sharing’ set-up, but here it was fine.20181101_150842.jpeg20181101_151451.jpeg20181101_150848.jpgAway from the Market Hall there were a good few restaurants as well. And Altrincham looked to be a nice pedestrianised shopping area, pleasant to be in. Yes, the sort of place we would live. However, unlike in my youth, the average house price is around £430,000 – way above our means. Interesting. 20181101_152756.jpegHaving booked into our apartment at CitySuites which was all we could have wished for – clean, city-centre, roomy, good city views from the 13th floor…….20181101_194122.jpeg20181101_211854.jpegwe decided to have a little explore on foot on a circular route of the centre I knew well. I don’t think anyone can fail to be impressed by the quality and impact of some of the buildings from the city’s heyday in Victorian and Edwardian times. The streetscapes are very like a mini London. 20181101_212702.jpgHere the Art Gallery…..20181101_214350.jpgand here the Central Library fronted by the amazingly good tram system (so unlike Edinburgh). 20181101_214602.jpg20181101_214932.jpegThe Town Hall featured Santa as preparations were made for the lights switch-on, but very unfortunately this terrific Alfred Waterhouse building is shut until 2024 whilst renovation takes place. We’ll be dead by then! 20181101_215155.jpegWe got a glimpse of one of the arcades off Peter Street, and then as we were passing by Pep Guardiola’s new restaurant Tast we decided to call in……. 20181101_215636.jpegand had a very pleasant time sitting at the ground-floor bar, and making a booking for the next night.20181101_220738.jpgNext day the view from the 13th floor was very urban, but what was striking, and we marvelled at it throughout our visit, was how much building and development is going on in Manchester. Everywhere you look there are cranes and building plots, and buildings of all shapes and sizes being worked on.20181102_075756.jpgAnd there is a very strong juxtaposition of old and new. From our window we could see, beyond the building site below, the medieval Cheetham’s Library complex and in the background the brand new half-triangular shape of the National Football Museum. 20181102_093953.jpgAnd as we crossed from Salford to the city of Manchester itself the cathedral, which we were making for, became apparent….20181102_100913.jpegand it was surrounded by beautiful buildings of all ages…..20181102_101234.jpgThe gates to the cathedral were clad with the red rose of Lancashire which was very heartening to a rabid Lancastrian like me….20181102_101332.jpegand once inside we were struck with the marvellous quality of the modern glass (presumably, as Manchester was the worst affected cathedral after Coventry in the War, the originals were all destroyed).20181102_101555.jpegWhen we think about cathedrals we generally think of places like York, Westminster, Salisbury and so on. It was really a great surprise to us therefore how impressive Manchester cathedral is, and how historic. Granted a lot of the stonework is Victorian restoration, but at its heart is a medieval building which is quite the equal of many better known cathedrals. 20181102_101620.jpegSome of the fabric in the tower predates 1421, and the tower arch itself is 800 years old.20181102_101632.jpegThe late 15th century carved wooden angels all with gilded musical instruments were quite a sight….20181102_101724.jpegand I was interested in the statue of Sir Humphrey Chetham (1580–1653), the most successful gentleman merchant of seventeenth-century Lancashire who was educated at my school Manchester Grammar or as it is more correctly known The Manchester Grammar School.20181102_102154.jpgIn the Quire we couldn’t resist lifting up all the seats and seeing the wonderful and often amusing 16th century carvings on the misericords. I tried one out and I have to say that it served its purpose well. It was quite comfortable standing up but leaning on the support. Indeed these seats are held to be some of the finest carving in the whole of Europe at the time.20181102_102450.jpeg20181102_102456.jpgThe various higher clergy stalls were magnificent, and the detailed work exceptional.20181102_102612.jpg20181102_102622.jpegIt was also, as you might expect from Manchester, a very open and friendly church, not at all oppressive in the way of some of our historic buildings….20181102_102657.jpegI have not, in any other building, seen the precious charters associated with the building all out on display as here. This is one granted by Elizabeth 1. 20181102_102850.jpeg…..and here the 1421 charter of Henry V. I do hope this is a safe environment for them….20181102_102932.jpegOutside we quickly came across the Corn & Produce Exchange which, following the IRA bomb in 1996, was renovated and was a modern shopping centre till July 2014. The building was recently sold however and has been re-developed into a dining destination with 17 food outlets. Very nice too, although how successful the outlets are I do not know.20181102_103517.jpeg20181102_104047.jpeg20181102_104052.jpgMedieval and Edwardian together is a very nice mix I think…..20181102_103724.jpgand in Manchester now there are very many modern buildings with great visual impact…..here obstructed by the preparations for the ubiquitous ‘German’ markets.20181102_103831.jpeg20181102_104352.jpgWe were very impressed indeed by the Manchester Metrolink which is the tram/light rail system which has 7 lines extending widely to all compass points. In the city centre it is nowhere near as intrusive as you might think, unlike say Edinburgh, where the trams intrude into the cityscape quite badly…. 20181102_104735.jpegOur next stop was the Art Gallery where we saw some interesting paintings eg this of Albert Square Manchester by Lowry’s teacher Pierre Valette …the smog just as I remembered it from the sixties!20181102_113221.jpeg20181102_113633.jpg20181102_113918.jpegAnd  we came across this painting of St Ives by Ben Nicolson…..20181102_114012.jpegbut by and large a lot of High Victorian kitsch…I suppose this could have been expected of Manchester whose heyday this was….20181102_114358.jpeg20181102_114955.jpg20181102_115118.jpeg20181102_115336.jpeg20181102_115643.jpegThere was the odd bit of modern interest such as this Banksy…….20181102_115010.jpgNext by tram to Didsbury one of the more affluent suburbs. It had some interesting restaurants…..20181102_120818.jpg20181102_131227.jpegand shops…….20181102_132008.jpg20181102_132222.jpgand parks…..but felt very ‘suburban’ rather than ‘flash Manchester’ as it is supposed to be….20181102_141923.jpgBack to the centre of Manchester where we visited the impressive Central Library…..with its magnificent reading room…20181102_153300.jpg20181102_153356.jpegand we were struck by this memorial to the men and women of Manchester  who fought in the Civil War against fascism from the grateful citizens of Barcelona…Between 1936 and 1939, 130 men and women left Greater Manchester for Spain to join in the fight against General Franco and his army of fascists. Like the rest of the International Brigade, they were appalled that a democratically-elected government had been overthrown and believed correctly that Fascism was on the rise in Europe. 2000 people in all left from Britain for Spain (including George Orwell of course) of whom 500 were killed….20181102_153016.jpeg20181102_153520.jpg20181102_153443.jpgI had seen some very nice houses for sale in Bury during my researches so off we went on the tram…our first view was of the statue of Sir Robert Peel our first Prime Minister who was MP for Bury…a brief look round the centre showed some fine buildings but the overall impression was of a town on its uppers…20181102_163004.jpg20181102_163519.jpeg20181102_163825.jpegSo back to Manchester with its shopping arcades….20181102_224733 1.jpegbig department stores…..20181102_224322 1.jpgand at last Tast for dinner….the menu was great, very reasonable, and the food excellent, and service from Edna of Barcelona impeccable…we really enjoyed ourselves here. A true taste of Catalonia from  a Catalan masterchef, and opened by the one and only Pep Guardiola to make himself even more at home (he loves Manchester..)………even the amusing Giles Coren was quite impressed (for Manchester)….his review  for him was positive…20181102_205131.jpeg20181102_212744.jpegSunday we went off to Cheshire to have Sunday lunch and visit the NT’s Lyme Park. The trees all over Manchester were absolutely amazing in their Autumn colours as we drove through the suburbs and it seemed like the whole of Manchester was one big park.20181104_105943.jpeg20181104_114858.jpegAs we reached our destination of Prestbury the scene became more refined with lovely trees, immaculate gardens and huge houses mostly hidden from view. This was footballer territory.20181104_120552.jpegAnd what a lovely place Prestbury proved to be.20181104_135441.jpg20181104_135601.jpeg20181104_135656.jpg20181104_135728.jpg20181104_135425.jpgAnd the pub where we had lunch was just great…the Legh Arms or as it used to be known The Black Boy. Traditional pub fare done very well and good ales.20181104_135906.jpg20181104_121225.jpgWe then just had time to drive around the area…Bollington, where a friend of mine from University lives, was pretty and with an interesting past. As its website says….’It is a town borne of its rural origins with the industrialisation of the area beginning in the mid 18th century and rapidly developing in the 19th when several large cotton mills were built, coal mines were opened and stone quarried. The opening of the Macclesfield Canal in 1831 provided important industrial development incentive as did the railway that followed in the late 1860’s. In modern times the mills have been replaced by, usually, smaller businesses although there remain two large paper coating mills, our biggest industry today.’ This mill still operates in the paper industry.20181104_141315.jpegBut no wonder the residents know Bollington as Happy Valley….rural like Prestbury but just a little more workaday….20181104_141452.jpg20181104_151827.jpegFinal stop, where we were the last visitors to get in, was Lyme Park – backdrop of course to the BBC’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’, a short drive away. I always remember it from my many visits as impressive, and so it proved. 20181104_152616.jpegWhether it was the rooms….20181104_152801.jpeg20181104_153341.jpeg20181104_154245.jpgthe fireplaces…..20181104_155110.jpeg20181104_154757.jpgor the unique Lyme Missal or Sarum Missal. Handwritten copies of the Sarum Missal were commonplace in early modern England. The text of the Mass was broken up into sections, each major book opening with an illuminated letter and individual verses with a blue coloured letter. The body of the Mass was written in different coloured inks, fonts and sizes. Priests could then use this to navigate through the sections, without which the text would lose much of its meaning. The version on display at Lyme, however, was the first copy to be printed. It was produced in 1487 by William Caxton in conjunction with the printer Guillame Maynyal in Paris. It is deemed the most important printed book in the National Trust, which is indeed saying something.20181104_153314.jpgThere were enfilades (suites of rooms with doorways in line with each other)……20181104_155242.jpegsome with the Ancient Greek stelae or funerary monuments (there are many) which one of the Leghs filched on his Grand Tour…….how attitudes have changed!20181104_155621.jpegThe wood carvings by the ultimate master carver Grinling Gibbons was of course stupendous, and Lyme has some of his best work….20181104_160344.jpeg20181104_160349.jpegThe extensive grounds are a delight which we will have to see on another day….20181104_160754.jpegand by the time we got back to Manchester the Christmas Lights had been switched on 20181104_192244.jpeg20181105_102856.jpg20181104_210000.jpg20181104_210057.jpg20181104_210440.jpgWe then were off to the Castlefield Canal area which has a character all of its own, and on our way we passed the entrance to the Science Museum where we glimpsed ‘Rocket’ where it should be in the North of England rather than the Science Museum in London…….it was of course built for, and won, the Rainhill Trials held by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829 to choose the best design to power the railway……20181104_193325.jpeg20181104_193500.jpgThe exhibition and events square overlooking the canal basin, with canopy all along one side, was an exciting area, and the venue for great music events apparently….and although wet outside (but atmospheric!) we did enjoy a drink in one of the big canal-side bars….20181104_193954.jpeg20181104_194114.jpeg20181104_200128.jpg20181104_203750.jpg20181104_203914.jpegNext day, and our last, we made our way to Chetham’s Library via the old Victoria station whose facade is carefully preserved, but whose interior is transformed into a combined mainline train and tram interchange which is very impressive…when I was a boy, trainspotting here, Platform One ran across the bridge from Victoria for 670 metres into Exchange Station making it the longest railway platform in the world.20181105_102202.jpg20181105_102250.jpgThe Co-op has always been big in Manchester, and here is just one of 10 sites it operated from…20181105_102346.jpegStill on our way to Chetham’s…. what I call enjoyable architecture….20181105_103710.jpegWe then passed yet another building site where the facade had been protected….in this case the Wholesale Fish Markets….20181105_104054.jpg20181105_104146.jpegWe were now at Chetham’s ready for our guided tour of the ancient library. Chetham’s is now a world-famous (and infamous) music school, but the library is run separately. The coat of arms is that of Hugh Oldham founder of The Manchester Grammar in 1515 which used this site until 1931…20181105_105730.jpg20181105_113718.jpgAnyway, the tour. First through the medieval quadrangle…..the buildings, which continue to house Chetham’s Library and the Baronial Hall, were built from 1421, on the site of the manor house of Manchester, as a college for priests connected to the neighbouring Manchester Cathedral. They survived through the religious tumult of the Tudor era and the experiments of its famous 16th century warden, Dr John Dee who was a noted alchemist. 20181105_110337.jpegInside, the corridors now enclosed would once have been the doorways to the priests’ individual cells. 20181105_110552.jpegThe baronial hall is a wonderfully preserved example of the timber halls found in the north west of England, and is comparable in size with Ordsall Hall, Salford, and Rufford Hall, all in Lancashire. The magnificent open timber roof once accommodated a louvre opening to allow the evacuation of smoke from a hearth in the centre of the room.The purpose of the screen was to keep out draughts and to conceal the entrances to the buttery and pantry situated at the back of the hall. At the top of the hall an impressive oak canopy projects over a raised dais, where the warden and visiting dignitaries would have dined at high table. MGS pupils never stopped complaining how cold it was to have lunch here….vt5vqao5b42.jpg20181105_111209.jpgThe library is absolutely amazing and reeks of its age. It was founded in 1653 and is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world. It can still be used by anyone….I wish I was here to make use of its facilities.20181105_111243.jpg20181105_111703.jpeg20181105_111739.jpeg20181105_111909_001.jpgBut I was anxious now to see the Reading Room…..where we soon were after looking at a very old printing press which had been used until recently…..20181105_112009.jpg20181105_111957.jpeg20181105_112149.jpgand in here is not only the library of chained books…20181105_112525.jpgbut also the internationally famous alcove and desk at which Marx and Engels worked…here is the story..

The German industrialist and Marxist philosopher Friedrich Engels lived in Manchester in the early 1840s and was employed by his father’s cotton thread manufacturing firm in Weaste.

During his time in Manchester Engels made many detailed observations leading to the publication of his influential work The Condition of the Working Class in England.

Karl Marx, who lived in London, was a frequent visitor to Manchester, and in the summer of 1845 he and Engels developed the habit of studying together at the table in the alcove of the Reading Room.

Evidently the Library made a strong impression on the two men. Writing to Marx many years later in 1870 Engels commented: “During the last few days I have again spent a good deal of time sitting at the four-sided desk in the alcove where we sat together twenty-four years ago. I am very fond of the place. The stained glass window ensures that the weather is always fine there. Old Jones, the Librarian, is still alive but he is very old and no longer active. I have not seen him on this occasion”.

Apart from the stained glass windows, which were damaged by a storm in the winter of 1875 and replaced by plain glass, the desk and alcove remain unaltered. The books which the two men studied are still held by the Library. And the facsimiles of these were available on the desk for us to consult. Fascinating material, a lot of it investigations into poverty at prior periods. I do wonder why this ‘shrine’ to Marx and Engels is not better known. It significance can hardly be over-estimated.

20181105_112746.jpegA real privilege to visit this great institution. I shall be back.20181105_113618.jpegA coffee was called for and from the Costa windows we had a nice view of some of Manchester’s modern architecture…20181105_114657.jpeg20181105_114147.jpgOff then on the tram to Salford Quays. An interesting journey through much residential reconstruction….20181105_122635.jpgand a landscape very much of the twenty-first century when we got there…..20181105_123145.jpeg20181105_123333.jpg20181105_123609.jpg20181105_123728.jpg20181105_123759.jpgand, thank God, Salford hadn’t forgotten some of the softer landscaping…20181105_124031.jpeg20181105_124510.jpeg20181105_124935.jpgA quick look across at the Imperial War Museum North..the first building in the UK designed by the internationally acclaimed architect, Daniel Libeskind, and built on a bomb site in Trafford Park where my Mum and Dad used to work, the first planned industrial estate in the world, and still (apparently) the largest in Europe.20181105_125055.jpgThen we arrived at the Lowry..designed by British architect Michael Wilford as part of the regeneration of this once heavily industrialised area. It doesn’t just hold the Lowry painting collection but three theatres and much else besides…but not many artists have a building named after them.20181105_124708 2.jpegWe were greeted by a painting of Lowry himself by a friend and then….20181105_132335.jpega very interesting display indeed on painters who influenced Lowry..20181105_125802.jpg20181105_125817.jpg20181105_125905.jpeg20181105_125912.jpeg20181105_125918.jpegfollowed by an absorbing history of the areas Lowry often painted…20181105_131908.jpgOh, and I forgot, a perceptive documentary film interviewing him and those who knew him well…..before the paintings proper there was one more thing – a televisual presentation on ‘before’ and ‘after’ scenes of some of Lowry’s better known paintings…which I loved…20181105_132459.jpeg20181105_132508.jpeg20181105_132558.jpeg20181105_132605.jpegI only recorded one painting as I was told off for using my camera (in a very friendly Mancunian way of course)…..20181105_132718.jpegBut the thing about his art is that it  is not at all just about industrial scenes and matchstick men. He was very fond of seascapes and these impressionistic paintings I liked more than anything. There were also some of his extremely good portraits. Lots of children in today with their teachers which was great to see. A really worthwhile visit (our second)…20181105_135858.jpg20181105_140243.jpgAs I was now parched (you can after all only take in so much Art at one time) we headed quickly back to Manchester on the tram and made for the old Refuge Assurance building of my time which is now a magnificent hotel. Here we sat in comfort over a pint and admired the conversion in all its glory….20181105_155255.jpeg20181105_163602.jpeg20181105_164133.jpg20181105_163637.jpegBent on more of the same we then called in to the palatial Midland Hotel where we had a very nice chat over a drink with the duty manager…..20181105_210425.jpegbefore ending up at the new hotel created out of the Free Trade Hall…in the Japanese bar of all places…..20181105_220521.jpgA slow walk back to our hotel. We had done over 18,000 steps today. Tourism is hard work.20181105_225610.jpegSo what did we make of Manchester? I thought it was magnificent, I loved the juxtaposition of old and new, and I thought all the development (really an incredible amount, more than anywhere we have seen) was very exciting. F. was not so sure. She thinks too much is being lost, and that there is a manic sense of building anything anywhere with seemingly no overall plan. It was certainly dirtier than Cornwall (although nowhere near as dirty as London of course) and there were too many homeless people, a huge indictment on the authorities….F. noticed that Manchester people seemed very proactive in helping these people and she became a giver herself rather than an ignorer. As for places to live, we both were disappointed in the suburbs which ironically were too suburban for us. I had been led to believe there was a village atmosphere in places like Didsbury and Altrincham, but that passed us by. However, it would be delightful to live on the very outskirts in somewhere like Prestbury with easy access to everything there is to do in central Manchester. Food for thought. As for Manchester’s woeful weather (a myth), we had mostly sun whereas we were greeted in Cornwall by storms, hail and absolutely torrential, almost tropical rain…….

 

Reading matters….

Unknown.jpegAnother slow-burn Brunetti novel whose main elements are the setting – Venice, and Brunetti himself and his relationships with colleagues and family. The plot or plots take second place. A corrupt pharmacist, an entangled female doctor, and possible murder – all a bit humdrum. But how I like following Brunetti around Venice and seeing how his personal ups and downs work out. Quite a lot of philosophy in this one too, and moral dilemmas to make us think. And at the end of it all not a happy ending. I just love it…..Donna Leon is an excellent writer and certainly gets right beneath the skin of Italy and Italians, allowing us to understand things like the North-South divide, the irritation at tourists, and much else.

41Q9A8KC1YL_SS500_.jpegNow, we are off to Manchester for 5 days (it’s where I come from), to see whether this might be a place for our next house. Cornwall v Manchester – sounds like there is only one winner, but I’m not so sure. What Manchester has got (apart from some rain…..actually less rain than Plymouth over the year), is culture….restaurants, bars, cinemas, theatre, music, museums,  football (ManCity my team is the best in the world right now according to some authorities, and probably the best that there has been in the Premier League era), and loads of visible and easily accessible History. We were last up there for the Commonwealth Games and it had much improved from my youth. My thinking is that it will have improved another several notches, from what I read. Anyhow, as always, before going anywhere I have done lots of research and dug out three or four books in particular. Charles Nevin’s ‘Lancashire’ is the pick of the bunch, a book that I simply couldn’t put down despite having read it at least twice before. It is so so funny, so enlightening, so full of mischief, and gets right to the heart of what it means to be a Lancastrian. And, for me, it is so nostalgic. Nevin talks of places I know, football line-ups which take me back 50 years, and  big names of Rugby League I had forgotten all about but which I can picture in full 3D colour or should that be Black and White. But don’t let that put you off. Nevin is everywhere – from listening in to old ladies on the bus, to discussing Shakespeare’s Lancashire period with eminent historians, to some of the higher reaches of philosophy, taking us on a journey at break-neck speed through everything Lancashire. Have you heard of Donizetti’s opera ‘Emilia Di Liverpool’? No neither had I! Think Southport has a touch of Paris about it – particularly in the tree-lined Lord Street? Think again. Haussmann modelled his new Paris on Southport (probably). Why, Balzac of all people has a character in his  ‘Le Lys Dans La Valle’ tell her seducer that Lancashire is ‘the county where women die of love’!! Thus the subtitle of this splendid book. I could go on, almost indefinitely, about why Lancashire is the best place to live, and Nevin certainly does go on, but let me leave you with this quote from Abraham Lincoln – talking of the Lancashire cotton workers’ solidarity with his North in the Civil War, and support for the abolition of slavery, whilst most of them were absolutely destitute – because of this support (cotton could no longer be got from the South to keep the mills running)….Lincoln called this ‘an instance of sublime Christian heroism which has not been surpassed in any age or in any country’. Well!! I am proud.

41FFVDXZ9QL._SX257_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgOn now to my factual books each telling me about Manchester in very different ways. The modern Pevsner’s architectural guides are usually rather good, and in fact in my opinion a lot better than the originals which, although a massive and unparalleled achievement, are dry as dust. ‘Manchester’ by Clare Hartwell is much more contemporary. It discusses all the major buildings in Manchester at the date of publication. As this was 2002 it shows the real drawback of this type of book…..so much has happened since which isn’t covered. Still, an excellent introduction.

‘Manchester Compendium’ is different again. It is basically a street-by-street history of image-1.jpgthe city. So we are taken on walks through the centre and its most important suburbs. And interesting walks they are too. Glinert is a great guide. All human life is here, as the old News of the World used to say. Everything from the history of the buildings themselves, the people, their culture, it is a real mish-mash of often quirky stuff which is very engaging indeed. I learned a lot about my city that I didn’t know.

51zz2helysl-_sx345_bo1204203200_.jpg‘Manchester The Hidden History’ is a more conventional history but based mainly on the more recent archaeological surveys. and with all the new building that has been going on in the last 30 or so years there have been more than a few of those. More for the serious historian (as I sometimes imagine myself!). Can’t wait to get there.

 

 

 

 

Reading matters…

51YRVWrN1PL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgF. and I do have bus passes which enable us to travel free on all local buses – well except in Wales and Scotland, which is a pity. Still, what a privilege and how we make use of them. There are arguments currently going the rounds that the elderly are well-off and that the young should be given free bus passes in their place. However, how else would half the country spend their time, and what mischief would they get up to? Perhaps more to the point, if a pensioner takes a bus journey to somewhere he or she wouldn’t otherwise be going and spends money in that place, even if only a cup of tea and a biscuit then economic benefit has been gained. And before any political party is brave enough to abolish bus passes for the elders (and betters), they should first do the economic sums. All this a result of me picking up my copy of ‘Bus-pass Britain Rides Again’. A terrific book with individual contributors talking in some51fioyn7hol.jpg detail about their favourite (free) journeys. So many places to see, so little time! Having thoroughly enjoyed my re-read I sent away for ‘Route 63’ where Dave Hadfield travels the length and breadth of England on his bus-pass. A book of mild enjoyment. It is more stream of consciousness pub humour than anything else. You have to admire Dave. His free bus pass is because he has Parkinson’s. He is obviously someone you would really like to have a few pints with, but I could have done with just a bit less humour and witty asides and very subjective assessment and more nitty gritty.

Robert Harris has to be one of my very favourite authors. His books are so compelling and so well-researched. His Cicero trilogy was so convincing that you 51wi66ojsil-_sx331_bo1204203200_.jpgreally felt he had got to grips with what it was like to live in Ancient Rome. In ‘Munich’ he turns his attention to what went on in the two Governments – Germany and Britain – as events took their turn for the worse. He builds up a very believable main character in Hugh Legat a member of the Diplomatic Service who becomes intimately involved in key events as he does more and more work for Chamberlain. But I was particularly impressed with how we get a very rounded impression indeed of what Chamberlain was like and what he stood for. Much maligned by many historians this novel gives an alternative view and is all the better for that. And who is to say it is not correct? The Victorian historian Maitland cautioned ‘We should always be aware that what now lies in the past once lay in the future’ (something many historians do not understand), and it is from this exact premise that Robert Harris constructs his novel. Very enjoyable indeed. there was program on TV recently about the Booker Prize where one commentator bemoaned the fact that someone such as Robert Harris would never win the Booker. How right he was. Better Robert Harris than a lot of the pretentious crap (excuse me) that does actually win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our own beach hut…for 10 minutes anyway….

20181024_114629.jpegAfter a quick trip to the doctors, warmth and blue skies beckoned us to the seaside, so off we went on our local 73 bus to Talland Bay for a walk to Looe. The start was downhill from the bus stop through a tunnel of green and brown to the shore. 20181024_113341.jpg20181024_113556.jpgWhen we arrived at the beach we saw that the cafe there, which we have never seen open before, was indeed doing business. After ordering our coffee and tea we decided to make use of their wonderful little beach huts. What a great idea of theirs and how sympathetic to the setting. A pleasant 10 minutes was spent admiring the view.20181024_114514.jpeg20181024_115107.jpeg20181024_115940.jpegThat set us up nicely for the very steep climb up coronary hill…20181024_121848.jpeg20181024_122107.jpegand luckily someone who had obviously enjoyed this walk in the past had dedicated a seat just before the top…20181024_122851.jpegFrom now on a walk along how the Coastal Path should be – with stunning views and scenery….20181024_125020.jpeg20181024_125255.jpegand again some lovely turquoise colours in the sea…..maybe a result of the china clay residue which has filled this Bay for hundreds of years!20181024_130136.jpegYou know when Polperro is just round the corner when you see that some people are using other means of transport than feet…..20181024_130946.jpeg20181024_131244.jpegThe beach was fairly busy, as was the town (half-term). But in truth it is not a particularly nice beach (sorry Polperro). 20181024_131808.jpgWe saw one house that had four substantial flying buttresses holding it up – a feature which you only normally see on cathedrals, and here was the so-called ‘house-on-props’.20181024_132325.jpegReally good there is a decent pub just by where you wait for the bus….20181024_134050.jpgAnd, as we had to change buses in Looe, we walked up to Looe beach which is very nice…20181024_142622.jpegOn the way home I took some moving shots just to show how green is my valley….virtually the whole way home you go along the river and are surrounded by trees…..20181024_151204.jpg20181024_150614.jpg20181024_150936.jpgand you have races sometimes (in my head anyway) with the train on the adjoining line which stops at Sandplace station only a handful of times ….. approx 30 passengers per week. We’ve never seen anyone waiting here…..20181024_151049.jpg

Autumn in our Cornish lanes…..

20181023_121823.jpegWhen we don’t go anywhere else we nearly always have a daily walk downhill to St Keyne’s Well and back….about an hour. On a nice Autumn day pretty idyllic.20181021_130747.jpg20181021_130753.jpg20181021_131038.jpgPlus it is not without its wildlife interest. Here a red admiral butterfly. Interesting this one. A survey of experts earlier in the summer warned of a serious decline. However what they didn’t say was that the count may have been at the wrong time. The weather has not followed exactly normal patterns this year, and what I am finding is that with the mild Autumn there are a tremendous number of red admirals about. I counted 8 on my walk the other day. I really think all ‘experts’ have got to be more humble. The common- sense explanation was always that early cold just delayed normal events.20181021_132146 2.jpegOn today’s walk I very nearly trod on this delightful little creature. He was just sitting in the sun by the side of the lane nibbling on something which obviously tasted good to him. A bank vole. I hate mice and rats and all such, but this one seemed to have stepped right out of the pages of Wind in The Willows…….20181023_115504.jpegTuesday 23rd October….

Chalet land…..

20181022_134133.jpegThe start of my walk today Tregantle fort is one of several forts surrounding Plymouth that were built as a result of a decision in Lord Palmerston’s premiership to deter the French from attacking naval bases on the Channel coast. It is still used by all 3 services today especially as a rifle range and when red flags fly a lot of the area is inaccessible. Luckily no flags today….tregantle_fort5.jpg20181022_121533.jpgWe parked on the road by the side of the fort….it’s great that we are outside the tourist season as parking is eased all over Cornwall. We then walked down by the side of some of the ranges (later on we were to hear plenty of small-arms fire). An interesting notice for my collection…20181022_121646.jpegYou can just see some of the targets in the pic below….here we are looking back towards Looe in the far distance.20181022_121917.jpgAnd it wasn’t long before we started to see the wonderful extent of Whitsand Bay which we have never visited, one of the longest stretches of sand in Cornwall, but difficult of access.20181022_122058.jpegF. walked with me for a short while and we could just see ahead my objective – Rame Head. Throughout the walk it was extremely difficult to take pics of the way ahead as the sun was so dazzling (October in Cornwall!).20181022_122319.jpegIt was in between tides so at absolute low tide one can imagine how magnificent the beach looks.20181022_122438.jpeg20181022_122601.jpegF. turned around after a while and was due to meet me with the car somewhere on Rame Head…final destination open although I was hoping it would be the chapel on the end of the Head. Separate little coves soon started to appear, all accessible down very steep paths and indeed I met several groups of families in swimwear who were heading down to the beaches.20181022_122831.jpgAt one isolated spot a lookout appeared, and I assume this is one of the National Coastwatch Institution’s as there is one somewhere around here. Having visited two in the last couple of weeks I gave this one a miss.20181022_124225.jpegAll at once chalets appeared which seemed to cover the whole cliffside. What a lovely unspoilt walk this would be without them. Looks like a shanty town.20181022_124256.jpegI assumed this walk would be quite flat. Wrong again, and I was glad F. had insisted I take my walking stick which is a tremendous help.20181022_124429.jpegThe path appears and disappears as you have to make your way through all the chalets (or huts)…..20181022_124615.jpg20181022_124936.jpegQuite a few I noticed had Indian names, so I am assuming they were from the thirties or thereabouts…20181022_125200.jpeg20181022_125308.jpg

The thirties was a period before planning regulations, so the huts sprang up in a fashion that was at once anarchic and strictly governed by the landscape. As there were no natural ledges, families would dig out a bit of cliff and put the rubble at the front as a patch of garden. There was talk apparently, fairly recently, by the Council of knocking them all down. however what has happened is that they have just absolved themselves of all responsibilities and state that the whole cliffside is unprotected and they have no plans to manage erosion here. My own personal hope would be that in a thousand years erosion has tumbled them all into the sea. This bus stop has a fine view!20181022_125427.jpegThere are things blooming in Cornwall at all times of the year. Gorse is well-known to flower here all year round. This hedgerow was brightened up considerably. And I did see some wildlife!20181022_130258.jpg20181022_132918.jpegWhilst the temptation is always to look seawards on a walk like this I did cross over the road (which you have to use occasionally) to get a great view in the distance of Plymouth.20181022_130419.jpegOf course there is danger wherever you go on the Cornish coast but this little monument was very poignant….20181022_130829.jpg20181022_131242.jpegI did see one restaurant with excellent views called rather unimaginatively ‘The View’. It had an exceptionally good-sounding menu. As an example I remember dabs for the first course and skate wing for the main with pancetta and gremolata. 2 courses for £14.50. Sounds great.20181022_132312.jpeg20181022_132517.jpgI do like benches with a view and this was one of those walks where there were many.20181022_132532.jpegNearing Rame Head the cliffs were still dangerous. 20181022_135542.jpgI could just see Polhawn Fort another one of the three along here. Polhawn Fort faces out over the beach and was built in the early 1860s to defend the eastern approach to Whitsand Bay. If was armed with a battery of seven 68-pounder guns. A design flaw was that its exposed left side could be attacked from the sea and this was not as heavily fortified as the front which faces onto the beach. Rather than improving it, its role was taken over by the batteries at Tregantle and Raleigh and Polhawn was abandoned by the MOD in 1928. The building survives in good condition as a hotel.20181022_141127.jpegIt was round about here with the Rame Head chapel just in reach that I received a message from F. saying she couldn’t get to Rame Head because the road was closed. I therefore decided to cut across the peninsula and meet her at Kingsand. My path led to the charming little hamlet of Trehill. It reminded me very much of a Lakeland village.20181022_143030.jpgAs I dropped down into Kingsand I saw the third of the forts. Cawsand Fort was originally a Palmerston fort, and was remodelled as part of the late nineteenth-century defences that included the batteries at Pier Cellars and Penlee Point. Today it is a complex of luxury apartments. Good to see the variety of uses to which Palmerston’s forts have been put.20181022_143903.jpegPerhaps you can just see a couple of bathers near the little beach at Cawsand – it was warm!20181022_144220.jpegAs I have said before Kingsand and Cawsand together are one of the most delightful spots in Cornwall, and we always discover some new angle….20181022_144312.jpg20181022_144446.jpg20181022_151150.jpegPity the houses are so expensive……..

 

 

 

 

 

This was the land of my content…….A walk towards Mevagissy

20181019_121451.jpegA beautiful October day again saw us drive to Trenarren the end-point of my last walk. My destination from here this time was Pentewan which we had never visited. F. drove there after a short stroll with me on the first bit of my walk. I optimistically thought I would see her in an hour. It was more like three. Such are the vagaries of the Coast Path.20181019_115131.jpeg20181019_115407.jpgVery wooded to start off, it was interesting to note some private accesses to the Coast Path (must be nice).20181019_115826.jpgThe view back was towards St Austell (mining country still) but the whole bay could be seen at times.20181019_120200.jpegIn places the sea was the beautiful turquoise colour which you find in photos of more exotic places….20181019_120642.jpgI soon saw ahead my first objective – the little promontory of Black Head. I found the engraved stone at the neck….This granite memorial  engraved with “This was the land of my content”, was erected in the memory of Arthur Leslie Rowse, a Cornish writer and historian. Rowse was born in 1903, the son of an uneducated china clay worker, and was the first Cornishman to win a university scholarship, reading English at Christchurch College, Oxford. Rowse published about 100 books. By the mid-20th century, he was a celebrated author and much-travelled lecturer, especially in the United States. He also published many popular articles in newspapers and magazines in Great Britain and the United States. His brilliance was widely recognised. His knack for the sensational, as well as his academic boldness (which some considered to be irresponsible carelessness), sustained his reputation. His opinions on rival popular historians, such as Hugh Trevor-Roper and A. J. P. Taylor, were expressed sometimes in very strident terms. All three were well-known to me when I studied History at Oxford in the late Sixties……..And in fact Rowse retired to Trenarren House. I enjoyed learning all this.20181019_120943.jpegGreat views of the bay and unsurprisingly there is a stone-age fort at the head. I thought I could discern some of the outline of ditches……20181019_121818.jpeg20181019_121822.jpg20181019_121905.jpg20181019_122200.jpeg20181019_122207.jpg20181019_122329.jpgWalking back along the promontory I discovered what I assume is a First or Second World War gun emplacement….20181019_122826.jpgMoving on steeply down, after leaving Black Head,  I could see the isolated little hamlet of Hallane with two or three houses or cottages strung down the combe ending up at a rocky cove. Ideal for smugglers. 20181019_123604.jpeg20181019_123711.jpegThe problem was that each building had carefully marked off grounds with the sort of  ‘Strictly Private’ notices some folk love to put up. Failing to discern the correct route for the Coast Path I nearly ended up back at Trenarren, before consulting the OS map on my mobile. You would think that on a coastal path you may not need a map at all. Just keep the sea to your left! But it certainly doesn’t always work out like that.20181019_124125.jpegPresumably horses can get tired with the gradients round here too!20181019_124337.jpgThe correct route took me off into a wood along a pretty little brook on a stretch of land called The Vans (derivation?).20181019_125807.jpgNext one of the brutal  sections with very steep ascents and descents via steps, of which this shows just a small part. One can only laud the people who keep these footpaths in repair, but when you are using them you despair that they seem designed to be as difficult as possible, being half a step too long or too short between each riser…just the wrong amount especially for someone with bad knees like me.20181019_130023.jpg20181019_130655.jpgAnother individually designed bridge,,,20181019_131210.jpgGood views of isolated little coves with no apparent access. Let’s hope the bamboo doesn’t become as much as a problem as in our garden. I do think Cornwall is in real danger of being suffocated by bamboo.20181019_131302.jpeg20181019_131403.jpegWhat I had estimated and told F. in the beginning was starting to look silly now. What looks a short distance on the map, if full of these ups and downs can take 2 or 3 times as long as you think…..very dispiriting too to see them ahead of you, and to know from  experience that what goes up must come down!20181019_131918.jpg20181019_132246.jpeg20181019_132355.jpegLooking back at this point I could just about discern the red and white stripes of the distant Gribbin Head marker as well as Black Head itself.20181019_132407.jpeg20181019_132707.jpeg20181019_133659.jpgAnd since I have no head at all for heights I must mention that parts of this section of the Coast Path do seem very exposed with steep drops inches away from the path….20181019_133805.jpegAt last my destination of Pentewan Sands can be glimpsed..20181019_134203.jpeg20181019_134555.jpegBut as it gets nearer the whole view and all sense of rural idyll is spoilt by the horrendous mobile home park typical of much else that totally spoils Cornwall. How could any sensible Planning Department give permission for all of this – plus deem the beach private to the Park. It’s an absolute disgrace. Cornwall really could be the place of your dreams or The Land Of My Content. But it isn’t. It’s despoiled and ravaged by caravan parks, mobile homes, wind farms, scruffy towns, no seeming overall plan, and the fact that it is is the end outcome of profit and cost control versus the environment.20181019_134947.jpgAs I move down the last hill (thank God) into Pentewan itself it is revealed as a quite charming village hunkered over its own bit of inland water and with some well-preserved remains of its previous industrial past. The always excellent Iwalkcornwall site has this to say…..”Pentewan dates back to mediaeval times when it was mainly a fishing village with a harbour. The harbour was rebuilt in the 1820s both for the pilchard fishery and to create a china clay port. At its peak, a third of Cornwall’s china clay was shipped from Pentewan. However the harbour had continual silting problems which meant that it was eventually overtaken by Charlestown and Par. As well as longshore drift carrying sand east across Mevagissey Bay, there was also silt being washed down the river from china clay works and tin streaming. Consequently, the harbour gradually silted up with the last trading ship leaving in 1940 and World War II literally sealing its fate. By the 1960s, the harbour was only accessible to small boats and today the harbour basin is entirely cut off from the sea…………                                                                                  names of many coastal features are derived from words in the Cornish language:

  • Pen – Headland (Cornish for “top” or “head”)
  • Pol – often used to mean Harbour (literally “Pool”)
  • Porth – Port but often used to mean Cove
  • Zawn – sea inlet (from the Cornish “sawan” meaning chasm)

Note that Haven has Saxon origins (hæfen in Old English) which is why it tends to occur more in North East Cornwall (Millook, Crackington, Bude etc)……..

20181019_135248.jpegIn fact the more I see of Pentewan the more charming it becomes. And, meeting Frances, we wander off to the local pub the Ship which is very presentable indeed…….20181019_135814.jpg…. and as well as bars and beer garden has a library. Who would have thought it? 20181019_140121.jpgAnd a sense of humour of sorts…20181019_140420.jpgWe sit on benches outside enjoying the afternoon warmth and in front of us is a ‘Gin and Sorbet’ bar which would make London Metropolitans jealous. As it says with humour a bit like my own….’Let The Good Times BeGin’. Well, well.20181019_141656.jpegWalking to the car we pass through the heart of the village….20181019_141808.jpeg….which even has a village green of the sort you might expect in Yorkshire or the Lake District……what a lovely place. How even more angry I am at the blot on earth that is the  dominating mobile home park….and the concept of a ‘private’ beach….ugh.20181019_141921.jpeg20181019_142508.jpg

Reading matter and reading matters….

As ex-bookshop owners you would expect us to say that, but of course reading does matter and we are really glad to see our predictions come true and e-readers take a tumble in favour of real books. Our ex-shops Warwick Books and Kenilworth Books are thriving we are glad to Unknown.jpegsay. I have had quite a variety of reading material recently. From my shelves, previously unread, the Folio edition of ‘Sir Harry Hotspur’ by Trollope. Well, Trollope is always a slow-burn, and all the better for that, but this was a long drawn-out tale. It encompassed some of the themes Trollope does so well – class, ne’er-do-wells, Victorian morals, fate, love stories, pride before a fall, and once I got into it (which was a bit difficult) was very enjoyable indeed. It is in fact regarded as one of Trollope’s finest short novels and describes the vacillations of a land-owning father, torn between the desire to marry his daughter off to a cousin destined to inherit the family title, and his fear that the cousin, reportedly a gambler, liar and much else, is unworthy of her. The tale has an unhappy ending – top marks for that

A recent buy at half-price from the very much improved Waterstones was the new hardback Strike novel ‘Lethal White’. Here’s the blurb…’When Billy, a troubled young 91qWWm0iVML.jpgman, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.                                                                                           Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott – once his assistant, now a partner in the agency – set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.                                                                                            And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been – Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much more tricky than that . . .’                                                                The key points about this very long story, more than 600 pages, are that the plot is convoluted (therefore difficult bed-time reading, at least in my eyes), rather far-fetched and at the same time rather boring, but the on-going relationship between Strike and Robin is by far the strongest theme running through it (and a good one). I can imagine Andrew Davies making hay with this! A little disappointing, certainly not a riveting thriller, but worth a half-price hardback purchase!

9781846682131_Z 2.jpegA book on railways? Surely for anoraks only, but no, this history of the railways covers an amazing array of aspects of social and industrial history and the profound influence that the railways had on them, and tells us a lot about the Victorian period and onwards which I for one, historian though I am, didn’t know. Indeed the book was The Sunday Times History Book of the Year in 2015Also, the publisher is Profile Books who publish the most interesting books around. And, the author is not any old railway nerd, (although he is a railway nerd ), but the joint editor of the Pevsner architectural guides so he has a wonderful pedigree.                                                                                                                           So what does Simon Bradley tell us? Or what doesn’t he tell us……I was interested for instance to learn that Anthony Trollope, who worked for the Post Office tells, in his Autobiography, how he found “after a few days exercise I could write as quietly in a railway carriage as I could at my desk. In this way was composed the greater part of Barchester Towers.” In other words, railways changed lives. They changed the landscape. They changed the way Industry and Agriculture operated. They reinforced the class system. They were the basis for much technological change. And their building was one of the greatest physical achievements in our history.                                                                   But all at a cost. The social reformer Edwin Chadwick for instance compared the chances of death or serious injury among the workforce building the infrastructure with those of one of Wellington’s battles, concluding that a private soldier had a better chance of coming away unscathed from Waterloo or Salamanca than a navvy from Woodhead. This is what is great about Bradley’s book – as well as painting the big picture he supplies all kinds of memorable details that make this a book that anyone, not just enthusiasts for railways, would want to read. I heartily recommend it – to anyone.

 

 

Out and About in West Cornwall…

20_656_1.jpgVisits of friends, in this case Julia and Allan, always lead to excursions. Our first day out centred on a lunch at Jamie’s Fifteen restaurant in Watergate Bay. As we arrived nice and early we had a drive around Newquay (pretty scruffy).  A walk along the sands was then called for to work up an appetite…20181008_122910.jpg20181008_153405.jpg20181008_153434.jpgOn our previous two visits to Fifteen we have had excellent food. Unfortunately on this occasion the food was not only expensive but also very disappointing. I think you can see that from the thoughtful expressions! We had a Groupon-subsidised chef’s choice of four courses and we seemed to have spicy beans for everything but the pud! Julia and Allan’s lamb for two at £52 I think was a bit of a rip-off It’s always a let-down to promise a great experience and then see it fall very short.20181008_133809.jpgOur next objective (I do like to have objectives) was Bedruthan Rocks – pictured at the top on a good day weather-wise. If it had been calm we would perhaps have descended to the beach. It was far from calm, but therefore there were spectacular seas….20181008_161353.jpg20181008_161432.jpg20181008_161946.jpg20181008_161514.jpgI did get down half the steps….20181008_162452.jpgbut any more would have led to certain accident (or death!) I am sure….20181008_162615.jpg20181008_162720.jpg20181008_162851.jpgWe were to spend the next three days based at a cottage near Penzance, but before going there we were booked to have lunch at Senara – a completely different experience from Jamies’………It justifiably is one of the top restaurants in Penzance, and renowned for its incredible food and service. But the interesting thing is that it is a training kitchen for professional cookery students at Truro and Penwith College and is located in the college itself, with great views of St Michael’s Mount. The service was amazing, the food absolutely first-class and the whole experience wonderful. All this for £10 for 3 courses….incredible! Because of its pricing and value the restaurant is also used as a takeaway by staff and students at the college as well as the public. What a fabulous organisation this is….faultless, and with a great vibe. Here is a typical lunch menu……

Cured seatrout, salt baked swede and beets, carrot tops, crème fraiche and caviar.

Smoked chicken Caesar salad, pancetta, baby gem and parmesan.

*****
Pork fillet, pork scrumpet, smoked mash, carrots, cider and thyme jus.

Plaice, mussels, warm tartare sauce, tenderstem and confit potatoes.

Roast heritage squash, tabbouleh, harissa, feta, yogurt and rocket. *****
Sticky toffee pudding, fudge sauce and clotted cream.

Mocha cheesecake, amaretto raisins and vanilla ice cream.

Mr Hanson cheese, Senara chutney and biscuits.

20181009_142453.jpgI imagine we will have lots more visits here, and we will be looking forward to every single one of them. Lunch completed, off we went to nearby Mousehole. We parked as usual on the Bay road and the weather for October was very pleasant indeed.20181009_144231(0).jpgParking here enables you to walk into Mousehole past the old lifeboat station for the Penlee lifeboat which is always thought-provoking. All crew lost and such a small village.20181009_145246.jpgMousehole still retains a lot of its original character and we discovered little roads that we hadn’t been down before20181009_153233.jpg20181009_153312.jpg20181009_153740.jpgThe flowers showed that Cornwall was living up to its reputation for its mild climate……20181009_154007.jpgThe Weslyan Methodist chapel still operates but I doubt it has as many members as the 1780’s when 200 out of a population of less than 1000 were members. Here’s the Evangelical Times…”The character of the whole town was transformed, as blasphemers and immoral people were saved from their wickedness and brought into the joys of salvation. The main work was done over a period of four months.” Reading the guide on its noticeboard, the musicians here were known as ‘The Teetotal Band”…very apt I am sure. the men sat on the hill side of the chapel and the ladies on the sea side.Mousehole-3rs-1024x768.pngOur cup of tea was in the Old Coastguard Hotel with its great views and lovely atmosphere.20181009_161240.jpgThere were some unusual views too on our walk back to the car….20181009_165115.jpgWednesday was our day trip to the Scilly Isles. An early start from the cottage…20181010_065239.jpg and dawn breaking over the harbour….20181010_071801.jpg20181010_071919.jpg20181010_072434.jpg20181010_072443.jpg20181010_072536.jpgOur first glimpse of the Scillonian ferry showed it busily loading freight (including cars)20181010_072936.jpgand leaving harbour we were promised a pleasant day – which we had………..20181010_081934.jpgWe knew Julia and Allan would enjoy the views of the Cornish coast before we headed out into the deep ocean….20181010_082809.jpgand we could see Mousehole, the Minack Theatre and Lamorna cove as well as Land’s End. During the voyage we saw gannets bombing the sea vertically at great speed, and we were very lucky to see several dolphins skimming in and out of the water….what a privilege………what wonderful creatures.Common-Dolphins.jpg20181010_090604.jpg20181010_090644.jpg20181010_103122.jpgThe journey is two hours forty minutes, not long enough to get seasick on relatively placid seas, and we soon had our first sighting of the islands…..20181010_104017.jpg20181010_104318.jpg20181010_104343.jpg20181010_105516.jpgWe hurried off the boat at Hugh Town as we were intent on catching the little boat to Tresco. However due to unusual tides there was no chance of us getting it there and back in time for the return trip to the mainland, a disappointment we quickly got over when we started to wander around the little capital….20181010_111058.jpg20181010_111429.jpg20181010_111745.jpgAnd we were soon sitting in the sun admiring  the first of many beaches…..20181010_113110.jpg20181010_114141.jpg20181010_114327.jpg20181010_115033.jpg20181010_115632.jpg20181010_120648.jpgWe were making for Juliet’s cafe where we knew we would get a reasonable lunch with a view and, on the way, called in a little gallery (there were many) where the local birdlife was as friendly as the locals!20181010_121837.jpg20181010_121931.jpg20181010_123027.jpgWe could see Tresco sparkling with its white beaches across the channel but never mind!20181010_123320.jpgAt Juliet’s it was still sitting-out weather….and more friendly wildlife was encountered.20181010_125551.jpg20181010_142000.jpgLeaving, we walked a short way down a path which we discovered was the coastal path for St Mary’s. This would be a great thing to do if one was staying overnight, and I made a mental note.20181010_142549.jpg20181010_142447.jpgGreat views wherever you are in the Isles of Scilly and interesting to see the regular shuttle planes flying to and fro from the tiny airport….20181011_132451.jpg20181010_142655.jpg20181010_144316_001.jpgWe just had time to climb the hill out of Hugh Town towards Star Castle which is now an excellent hotel, and enjoy a more panoramic vista………..20181010_151318.jpgas well as looking in some of the old buildings……..20181010_151743.jpg20181010_151949.jpgI was surprised that on our return voyage we went around St Mary’s in the opposite direction to our arrival, and consequently down very narrow channels where we were very close to the shore……20181010_163016.jpg20181010_163034.jpgJust about dark when we got back to Penzance after a fantastic day out…….20181010_191357.jpgOn our last full day it was blowing a gale – Storm Callum actually – and torrential rain, so we decided to go to Penlee House Museum and Gallery, a favourite. There was an exhibition on the mainly marine painter of the Newlyn School – Borlase Smart. Here’s the man himself en plain aire painting The Pilots’ Boathouse…..20181011_114514.jpg20181011_114510.jpgAfter taking a couple of pics I was told off (no photos). That meant I could concentrate on the paintings!20181011_114533.jpgThe cafe was full so we took the car to St Just where we knew we could get a good pasty, and drove down the byroad to Cape Cornwall where we enjoyed it – in the  warmth and sunshine. 20181011_132437.jpg20181011_132502.jpg20181011_132451.jpg20181011_133431.jpg20181011_135146.jpg20181011_135310.jpgWe saw a little notice whilst we were eating saying the National Coastwatch Institution lookout was open so we bobbed round the corner of the Cape and climbed up to it. The views were even better than those we had had so far, and our talk with the volunteers was very interesting indeed. Plus, absolutely amazing sightings though their very powerful telescope……..20181011_140508.jpg20181011_140514.jpg20181011_140821.jpg20181011_141334.jpg20181011_141849.jpgOn our way to Land’s End we stopped off at Sennen to look at the quaint little harbour and expanse of sands…….20181011_145417.jpg20181011_145429.jpgThe visitor site at Land’s End itself was a massive improvement on the last time we were there. Then it had been frankly tawdry with amusement arcades, burger bars etc etc but now everything was painted a fresh white and all the buildings were spick and span. Just shows what you can do. Impressive scenery was enjoyed, and although we couldn’t today see the Isles of Scilly 32 miles away, we admired the Longships lighthouse which seemed from some viewpoints touchable but is in fact a mile and a half away.20181011_150548.jpg20181011_150822.jpg20181011_152545.jpg20181011_152808.jpgAlmost our last stop on a very interesting tour of the Far West was the Minack Theatre. I wondered whether it would be worth visiting without a performance, but I need not have worried – it was magnificent. Our first view before entering the site was of next door Porthcurno Sands really one of the best beaches in the world, but here foreshortened because of high tide.20181011_161043.jpgThe Minack cafe is pretty spectacular too.20181011_161410.jpgWhat a unique place this is. Obviously you get many Greek and Roman theatres built into hillsides throughout the Med but this was largely and almost unbelievably built by one very strong-minded woman and her gardener…..Rowena Cade. Not by a whole army of soldiers and slaves. After excavating and pouring concrete during the day, and gouging designs with an old screwdriver, she would go down to Porthcurno beach and lug up bags of sand on her back ready for next day’s concrete mixing.20181011_162800.jpgIt seems a bit glib to say they don’t make people like that any more, but really, do you know of anyone who would undertake a project like this (in all weathers of course) into their eighties? A redoubtable woman indeed….20181011_170725.jpgWe all enjoyed clambering around the various levels of the site and experiencing the views the audience and actors would have….20181011_162735.jpg20181011_163233.jpg20181011_163313.jpg20181011_163547.jpg20181011_163657.jpg20181011_163927.jpg20181011_164122.jpg20181011_164308.jpg20181011_171010.jpg    20181011_171014.jpgI had one more location in mind to give Julia and Allan a full flavour of West Cornwall – the Tinner’s Arms at Zennor. On the way there we couldn’t help but stop at an old engine house too. This particular one was Carn Galver tin mine – looking very benign in the evening sunshine. It’s impossible for us these days to imagine all of Cornwall as one huge industrial site in Victorian times….dirty, noisy, dangerous and pulsating with work.20181011_180202.jpg20181011_180219.jpg20181011_180250_001.jpg20181011_180313_001.jpgAfter parking we had a quick look in at Zennor church to see the famous ‘Mermaid of Zennor’ and the ravishingly beautiful barrel roof.20181011_181941.jpg20181011_182249.jpg20181011_182106 2.jpgYou don’t often see the bell ropes hanging freely…..20181011_182052.jpgDuty beckoned (Excise Duty!) and we had our well-deserved pint in The Tinner’s……..20181011_184449.jpgand I did like the ‘Fish Only’ entrance…..20181011_182828.jpgWhat a good way to end a day – a pint at The Tinner’s. On our way home to St Keyne the following day, if it had been nice, we would have called in at the incomparable St Michael’s Mount. As it was atrocious weather we had a drive round instead one of my favourite parts of Cornwall – the area around Helford. Pity the Shipwright’s wasn’t open. We had lunch at the Black Swan in Gweek….good pub fare. 20181012_112252.jpg20181012_112259.jpg20181012_112625.jpg20181012_112647.jpg

Reading Matters……Hidden Histories, and more

A1SjTWkBayL.jpgNow this is one of those books for browsing. Subtitled, ‘A Spotter’s Guide To The British Landscape’, ‘Hidden Histories’ is just that. It answers lots and lots of interesting posers…..’Is that an ancient tomb?’; ‘It’s straight, but is it Roman?; ‘How old is this drystone wall?’; ‘What was kept in there?’. Basically it enjoins you to get out there and get your eye in. But many points of interest are mentioned throughout. For instance I didn’t know but Mary-Ann Ochota assures us, “Britain has more ancient trees than most of the rest of Europe”. Something we can all be delighted in. The Chartered Institute of Archaeologists concludes ‘This is an ideal introductory book for someone who wants to know more about British landscapes.’ And it is indeed, something to prepare you for the ‘deeper’ books of Richard Muir and Oliver Rackham. There are plenty of great photos and illustrations and each section is followed by a selection of the best sites and monuments. It certainly encouraged me. On our way to Plymouth just off the road we see a lump in the ground which looks to me exactly like a barrow. So I halted in the nearest lay-by and marched up the side of the busy dual-carriageway quite a long way to take a photo or two. I have consulted an archaeologist who says it may be a farm rubbish dump. I still favour a barrow.

Dusting my shelves one day I noted for the umpteenth time a set of two books in a slip-Unknown.jpegcase looking very enticing but still in their plastic cover, unopened……‘Gaudi : Complete Works’ Why, when I love Gaudi so much, had they never been opened? I cannot answer that question. It was a sheer joy to revisit some of the Gaudi buildings and works which we know well ourselves from our many visits to Barcelona, and to see some of his work of which we were entirely unaware. Gaudi can be classed as working in the Art Nouveaux style, or in the Spanish or Catalan term as ‘Modernista’ but actually he was of course entirely unique. His work is a sheer joy calculated to bring a smile to anyone’s face. It is Arts and Crafts meets Gothic meets Mediterranean vernacular. Some of the buildings we see in Barcelona are now old friends…..these books make them resident right here…beautifully illustrated too.127ec586d92525c6d130dd59a194d4f8.jpg

9200000032978692.jpg‘Sweet Heart’ by Peter James is a book I picked up in Morrisons for £4, something I have never done before…… I usually give a quick glance at the book section and conclude….’trash’. But I thought I was short of something to read and we know Peter from events he did for us at our bookshops and know he is an excellent author. It is not one of his usual and very good detective novels with DS Roy Grace set in the streets of Brighton. Rather it is a ghost story, but one with a difference. It is about someone who regresses under hypnosis, something I happen to believe in. After all if genes can be passed through the generations with all kinds of information why on earth not memory? On Peter’s site the blurb gives…                                                                            ‘After Charley and her husband Tom move into Elmwood Mill, sinister memories of a previous experience start to haunt her. Despite both their attempts to dismiss everything with rational explanations, the feeling turns to certainty as these memories become increasingly vivid and more terrifying. Persuaded to undergo hypnosis, each session stops in a feeling of doom and terror. There is something hidden that the therapist cannot reach. Something that was safely buried in her past – until now. In searching back she has unwittingly opened a Pandora’s box of evil. It is too late to close the lid. The terror is free.’ The book did remind me very much of a Stephen King. You are drawn in and become part of the story. The only quibble I have is that the main character seems incredibly brave, far more so than I would be, and I did begin to query some of her actions. Other than that, a creepy read which will almost certainly have you on edge.

Now why have I not read ‘The Making of the British Landscape’ before now as it has 227910.jpgbeen in my possession quite a long while and it is my type of book. Or so I thought. In fact I have found it extremely annoying. When one talks of the peoples who lived here thousands of years ago, obviously material remains are few, and assumptions will be made, which you can agree with or not. But not to the extent of telling us their daily lives and how they were feeling. It’s absolute rubbish, and I don’t know why Nicholas Crane expects to get away with it. On and on he drones ‘acquainting’ us with our remote ancestors. It reminds me very much of ‘Time Team’ and the way that at prehistoric sites if they can’t think of anything else, or have no real evidence, they conclude that such and such a site must have been developed ‘for important ritual purposes.’ What nonsense! If there is no evidence, don’t try to draw any conclusions. I persevered with Nicholas Crane for several chapters and, as a historian myself, at great mental and emotional expense, thinking it all might get a bit more realistic, but no. A very, very disappointing book which I had been looking forward to. Shame.