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Archive for December, 2016

2016 was indeed a very weird year. For some it was marred by tragedy, for some it will be remembered with love. We all watched in horror as the tragedies in Syria unfolded, many sobbed at the deaths of favoured pop stars, actors, musicians and the like, either cheered or reacted with fury at the result of Brexit, and millions watched amazed and not without trepidation as America elected Trump as their next president (I use the diminutive ‘p’ deliberately). So much has happened in 2016 it seems that it was a year of extremes.

For me personally it was a year of highs and more highs, of love and laughter and a few tears. These were the highlights of my 2016

January:

goodbye 2016

January 2016

My daughter and I saw in 2016 at the London Eye and then went for waffles and cream at Caffe Concerto in London

Saw the amazing Les Lumineoles in London

February:

goodbye 2016

February 2016

I got my citizenship – my daughter attended the ceremony with me at the Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone.

Managed my very first ‘proper’ #selfie LOL

Got arty with my photography

March:

goodbye 2016

March 2016

My daughter treated me for Mother’s Day with a journey on the British Pullman Orient Express.

goodbye 2016

Cémanthe – my Mothers Day treat

Squeezed in a visit to my favourite palace; Hampton Court while in Thames Ditton

Bumped into my sister and Yoda at Trafalgar Square in London

I received my very first British Passport.

My daughter bought her first UK car

April:

goodbye 2016

April 2016

I travelled by ferry from Dover to Calais and got to see the White Cliffs of Dover for real

I went to Windsor to see the Queen for her 90th birthday walkabout

goodbye 2016

April 2016 Happy 90th Birthday Queen Elizabeth II

My daughter and I went to Paris for a day to celebrate both my birthday and my citizenship

I celebrated my birthday at Dover Castle and St George & his dragon

goodbye 2016

St George & the dragon 23 April

May:

goodbye 2016

May 2016

I spent 2 weeks in South Africa visiting family and preparing to send my possessions to the UK.

I got to meet my nephew and niece for the first time.

Started my Camino 2016 practice walks

June:

goodbye 2016

June 2016

I went to Trooping the Colour for the 6th year in a row – London in summer is gorgeous

I walked my first 28 km stint from Broadstairs to Sandwich (45279 steps!!)

July:

goodbye 2016

July 2016

An early and first visit to Bath to celebrate my daughter’s birthday

I saw the Clifton Suspension Bridge at Bristol – finally!!!

I visited my lovely friend Valy in Brussels and visited Antwerp

August:

goodbye 2016

August 2016

Visited Dover Castle to watch the 1216 Siege re-enactment

Spent the day in Canterbury with my daughter to celebrate her birthday

September:

goodbye 2016

September 2016

My daughter and I did our first geocaching treasure hunt.

I watched the annual Great River Race in London – my friends of the Trinity Tide won in their category again 🙂

I watched the wooden replica of City of London burn  at the 350th Anniversary event

goodbye 2016

04.09.2016 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London 1666

My first visit to Great Malvern in Worcestershire – added another county to my list

Spent the day in London and went up The Shard with my daughter and my sister

October:

goodbye 2016

October 2016

Spent a few days in Rye with my sister for her birthday and went to Hastings

Watched the cheeky Russian Navy sail their warship through our waters…

November:

goodbye 2016

November 2016

Went to my lovely friend; Lucy’s wedding – she married her sweetheart Tom

Visited Gravesend in Kent at last

My first visit to Lancashire – and added another county to my list

Reached the Worcestershire Beacon in the Malvern Hills

goodbye 2016

November 2016 – climbed the Worcestershire Beacon

December:

goodbye 2016

December 2016 – Worcester

Visited Worcester and the fabulous cathedral

Climbed to Worcestershire Beacon again

My daughter and her boyfriend got engaged at Tower of London – he asked me to be his Best Man for the South African ceremony 🙂

goodbye 2016

Cémanthe & Simon – engaged to be married in 2018

Celebrated an early Christmas with my daughter and her now fiancé Simon

goodbye 2016

2016 our first Christmas with Simon, first of many more

And along the way I watched hundreds of sunrises and a few sunsets, travelled far and wide and visited quite a few new places.

goodbye 2016

2016 sunrise and sunset around the country

I started my Camino practice walks that changed from 2016 to 2017 ;).

 

UPS lost my hard-drive with 10 years worth of my photos, memories and incalculable information (bastards). I finally upgraded my phone and made great strides in figuring out how to do stuff on the internet on my own.

goodbye 2016

2016 – some of the books I’ve read and 2 of my Camino practice walks

My daughter and I had many amazing mini adventures,

goodbye 2016

2016 mini adventures with my daughter

enjoyed numerous cream teas, I read a number of terrific books, watched The Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament and on Christmas Day.

goodbye 2016

2016 treats and the Queen

I’m no richer, no poorer, not thinner or fatter…my hair has grown down past my shoulder again and I have spent innumerable hours of fun and laughter with my daughter.

This is my last blog for 2016.

It’s been a good year all in all; goodbye 2016….see you soon 2017!!!

Happy New Year

 

 

 

 

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I recently spent 19 days working in Great Malvern – just before I started at my assignment I stayed over at a B&B nearby and climbed the North Hill in order to reach the Worcestershire Beacon…the highest point of the Malvern Hills.

wandering the lanes of Worcester

North Hill and Worcestershirebeacon Hill; part of the Malvern Hills

Since then I have used some of my breaks in the afternoon to endeavour to once again conquer this ‘mountain‘.  I managed to get to different levels on different days but each time, time foiled me and I just couldn’t make it.

Great Malvern - climbing worcestershire beacon

3 different days, 3 different achievements, 3 different experiences

But I didn’t give up, and after another week of walking, on 16.12.2016 with a distance of 4.5km, in 1:30:47 & 8651 steps I finally reached an elevation of 230 meters!! Nearly there!!

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

climbing Worcestershire Beacon on Friday 16th, I nearly made it….so near, yet too far

Determined to achieve my goal before I left on Wednesday 21st, I set off immediately my break started last Sunday 18th and strode with determination towards the hills!!!  Without stopping to take too many photos along the way (usually one of the reasons it takes me so long to get anywhere), switching on MapMyWalk I headed up into town, zipped past the Priory, stopped briefly at the water-fountain ‘Malvhina’ on Belle Vue terrace for a drink of water, whizzed through Rose Bank Gardens, staggered up the 99 steps, sloped up the pathway leading to St Anne’s Well, then onwards and upwards to The Beacon……

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

Great Malvern – climbing Worcestershire Beacon

I reached St Anne’s Well in good time…20 minutes ahead of my usual time (taking photos is useful for keeping tabs on when I was where). I stopped briefly to catch my breath and then with renewed vigour I strode up the path above the well and headed for the path that would wind it’s and my way up the side of the hill! Suddenly, to my dismay, I saw fencing and a gate across the pathway…..bearing in mind I had traversed this same pathway just two days before! Where did that come from? Was the route now closed? But before I broke down in despair (LOL) I walked up to the gate to read the notice…..it was nothing more sinister than a warning to dog-owners to keep their dogs on a lead….whew.

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

Please keep your dog on a lead…Oh and close the gate…..

I swung through the gates and set off….before to long I found the reasons for the gate….my way was blocked by a herd of cows, the same herd I had encountered higher up the hill on my previous excursion!! Okay, it was only a small herd, but I am wary of cows…they can, and sometimes do, get a bit belligerent and have been known to mow people down. So, keeping my distance and deciding on an alternative route, I plundered my way along what was a very narrow, and in many places rocky pathway….I didn’t like it at all…a yawning valley opened up on my left and I felt decidedly insecure; but still determined to reach the top.

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

a very narrow and rocky path…and a yawning chasm! Urgh!

I finally reached a wider pathway and with much encouragement of ‘come on Cindy, you can do it’ or ‘come on only 20 paces and then you can rest’ or just simply whipping my ass with – ‘get on with it woman, you don’t have all day!!’ I finally breached the crest of the hill and there it was…..the Worcestershire Beacon!! Hooray.

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

the views from the beacon are stupendous!!!

18.12.2016 Distance walked 5.1km, Duration 1:53:52, Steps 10562, Elevation gained 301m!!

The views are stupendous from that height and I had a fantastic view across the Severn Valley, the Malvern Hills that spread out along the ridge towards the Bristol Channel, and Herefordshire….quintessential England at it’s best. As a bonus!! I also caught a glimpse of an amazing sunset…something I am denied on a daily basis due to the fact that it sets behind the hill from where I’m located!!

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

The Earth is the Lord’s….. Sunset from Worcestershire Beacon

I had a quick whizz around the beacon and then it was time to depart…I was on a tight schedule and it had already taken me just over an hour to get up there!

So tripping and traipsing I first checked out the lay of the land and to where the correct paths were….I didn’t want to end up on the wrong side of this hill….I made my way down.

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

1. Looking towards the Bristol Channel. 2. Finding the right path down… 3. Great Malvern and the Severn Valley, Worcestershire

All went well for a while and I made good progress along the pathway, till just after a bend I spied the erstwhile herd of munching moos. Damnation!! I really didn’t want to test their mettle, so instead I tested mine. Looking around I spied what looked like a lovely green swathe of grass that faintly resembled a pathway that took a rather dizzying slope downhill and disappeared into a void!! Hello!!!

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

a ‘moosive’ herd of coos….and a very slippery slope….

Without many other options I decided well, for better or worse, that’s the way I’m going to have to go….at which point I noticed a rather large and determined cow/bull heading my way with a look of ‘what the fuck are you doing here’ on it’s face. Uhm! I’m just leaving 🙂

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

that grey speckled animal had a determined look on it’s face….I wasn’t planning on hanging around to chat….

With that, I put on my big-girl panties and set off downhill at a rather rapid pace…in fact if I was a horse, I’d say I definitely trotted down rather than walked…..the slope was that steep…I kid you not! In a most ungainly way I slipped and slid at an alarming pace!

Along the way I was ‘forced!’ to bypass a heavily fringed cow that fortunately was more interested in the grass it was busily munching than me! Thank god!!! And with that, still giving it as wide a berth as possible I slipped and slid past.

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

uhmmm…yes mate, you just keep munching….

Eventually my luck ran out, by now the slope was that steep that I was actually sliding more than walking or trotting, so before I actually took a tumble and rolled down the hill, I decided to continue on my journey backwards. All went well till suddenly I came to an abrupt halt….was there anything behind me besides open space?…I looked behind me and by golly, my 6th sense must have forewarned me….I was a few feet away from disaster …the slope did indeed suddenly end there and there was a great big gaping chasm waiting to swallow me up!!! OH.MY.GOD!!!

LOL!!! Actually it wasn’t that bad, but it was enough that had I continued going backwards, I would have taken a nasty tumble. So checking around to make sure the cows were at a safe distance and no longer impeding my descent I headed sideways and down to the path I could see below me 🙂

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

looking back……a steep slope. Putting distance between me and them….

On the way down, and just before I met up with the cows, I heard a buzzing noise above my head. At first I thought it may be a small plane but couldn’t see one. I then thought perhaps a microlight…but no it was a paramotor….the glider came closer and closer and then suddenly with the engine screaming and a whoosh of speed, it swooped down into the valley…..awesome!!! I was wayyyy jealous.

and just before I met up with the cows

a paraglider….soaring above the clouds

From there it was easy peasy and within no time at all I was back at the 99 steps and on my way back to work. It’s always a lot quicker going down than up!! Of course my photo taking surely uses up a lot of the time too, as well as stopping for swigs of water. I had stopped at the Malvhina Water Fountain on Belle Vue Terrace to fill my water bottle from the steady stream that pours 24 hours a day 365 days a year….ad-infinitum (unless there’s a contamination issue). It’s pretty awesome to consider that I’m drinking water that probably fell on the earth as rain hundreds, possibly thousands of years ago.

‘Malvern water, says Dr John Wall Is fam’d for containing just nothing at all.’

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

the slope down from St Anne’s Well, the Priory below Rose Bank Gardens                         Malvhina – dispenser of spring water

In all I was seriously well chuffed that I had achieved my goal of climbing to the top of the Worcestershire Beacon and back down again during my 2 hour break. The climb is murder on the old lungs and my legs burn like blazes, but if I’m to walk the Camino next year then I simply have to improve my fitness. Climbing a hill seems like a great way and I have the added bonus of the views 🙂

Great Malvern - climbing Worcestershire Beacon

Taking the water at Great Malvern; Route to the Malvern Hills

Worcestershire Beacon, also popularly known as Worcester Beacon, or locally simply as The Beacon, is a hill whose summit at 425 metres (1,394 ft) is the highest point of the range of Malvern Hills that runs about 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) north-south along the Herefordshire-Worcestershire border.

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I’m absolutely thrilled and delighted to announce that my delightful, darling daughter has said YES!!!! to her wonderful beau, Simon’s question 🙂 They’re engaged and I’m thrilled.

they're engaged

Cémanthe & Simon…he proposed, she said yes 🙂

They went to London for the day with some friends. They went all over the place and then when they got to Tower of London for the ice-skating….he proposed…on the ice!! 🙂

Bless him, he’s been practising like mad to learn to ice-skate and not fall over….so tonight he asked her the big question. First he had the DJ play their song ‘At Last’ by Etta James, and then as she rushed back over the ice to be with him, she noticed a big sign, held up by his friends, that said “Cémanthe will you marry me?” He then, so very romantically, went down on one knee, on the ice and popped the question….the ring was all ready. They then announced over the tannoy that she had said yes, and everyone cheered. Awww, I love it…..so romantic.

Love is in the air….I guess I have a wedding to start saving for. Welcome to the family Simon. What a gem you are. Clever man!!!!

At last…….

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“Say you have been at Worcester, where England’s sorrows began, and where they are happily ended.” Hugh Peter 1651.

Dating back to Roman times, and a history with links to Neolithic times, Worcester has had a turbulent history with connections to a number of prominent historical figures and historical events taking place in or around the city. Worcester is not only a Cathedral city but is flanked on the  western side by Britain’s longest river; the River Severn. It simply had to be explored!

As mentioned in my previous article I had 3 free days between assignments and therefore an opportunity to explore a new area.  Having spent Tuesday meandering about Preston (article still to come 😉 ) I travelled across counties from Lancashire to Worcestershire and so to Malvern Link.  Wednesday was spent conquering a mountain….okay, I concede…a couple of hills, and Thursday I hopped on a train to the historic Cathedral city of Worcester.

wandering the lanes of Worcester

a day in Worcester – cathedral city

I love a good cathedral and Worcester Cathedral didn’t disappoint.  But, let me start at the beginning.  The day, as with the previous 3 days, was stunning……blue skies, extravagant sunrises, crispy cold frosty mornings with air so fresh it invigorates the soul. Just a short train ride from where I was staying and to my lasting delight we crossed a river and into the city of Worcester. One of those times I wish I’d had my camera in my hand rather than in my pocket as we crossed the river…breath-taking view of the river looking upstream I could see the spire of the cathedral…and a marvellous bridge.

wandering the lanes of Worcester

the view I would have had from the train….

As soon as I alighted from the train I set off towards the river…..what I hadn’t realised is that it was the River Severn….the longest river in Britain at 220 miles from source to sea. I had met this beautiful river a number of times before at various places that I had worked and of course on our trip to Bristol in August. I am also currently working in what is known as the Severn Valley at the base of the Malvern Hills.

wandering the lanes of Worcester

North Hill and Worcester Beacon Hill; part of the Malvern Hills

Enroute to the riverside I passed some really beautiful and amazing architecture and a fascinating modern construction called ‘The Hive’.

wandering the lanes of Worcester

Worcester architecture

En-route I walked past the Worcester race-course and passed beneath the viaduct over which we had trundled on the train.  And then there it was….the beautiful Severn River. This amazing river passes some of Britain’s most historic cities and areas as it travels from the Welsh Mountains through the quintessentially English Shropshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire countryside. I had the opportunity to see it in Preston as well.

wandering the lanes of Worcester

The River Severn runs through Worcester

After exploring the Bromwich Parade and visiting the Swan sanctuary riverbank I made my way back over the bridge and on impulse I decided to visit the Diglis Lock….It was a tad further than I anticipated but a marvellous walk. The Diglis Lock is one of many locks along the Severn as it flows past historic cities, gorgeous cathedrals, cosy pubs, exquisite scenery, and down to the flat-lands of the Severn estuary, and so to the sea.

wandering the lanes of Worcester

the Diglis Bridge and Lock on the River Severn near Worcester

Along it’s length it meets with a number of rivers and canals and you will find boats of just about every shape and size. Famous for its tidal bore, the second highest tide anywhere in the world the Severn is truly a wonder of Britain. I think I may just walk it one day! 😉

wandering the lanes of Worcester

Diglis River Lock

After exploring the riverbank I made my way into the city centre. My first port of call was the Museum of Royal Worcester.

wandering the lanes of Worcester

Museum of Royal Worcester

Oh my word! I can honestly say that the range of imagination in creating these extraordinary piece are art is astounding. Exquisite items that range across the centuries, you will find some of the most intricate patterns and filigree work decorating a most incredible collection as any I have seen in the museums in London. Enchanting! Of course I had to buy myself a piece of china from this world-famous factory; so I bought a mug commemorating The Queen’s 90th Birthday.

From there I made my way back into the city centre, past the Cathedral’s Edgar Tower (once the Priory gate) and back out again to visit The Commandery located next to a canal that leads into the River Severn and just beyond what was once the 12th century Sidbury Gate. The Commandery played a major part in the Civil War and until recently was the only museum dedicated to the Civil War.  To say this building is intriguing, extraordinary and stunning would be an understatement. I could happily have spent the whole day there….which I shall do on my next visit. With 6 layers of history to work through and 35 rooms….you would need a whole day!

wandering the lanes of worcester, the commandery

The Commandery, Worcester

There was so much to take in that my poor brain felt fried. The most astonishing room in the whole complex was the medieval wall paintings in the 1475 Painted Chamber! Breath-taking. That these incredible paintings have survived for over 600 years is a miracle.

wandering the lanes of worcester, the commandery

The 1475 Medieval Chamber – with original wall paintings. Extraordinary!!

From there I made my way through to the city centre once again to Friar Street and so to the Tudor House Museum. For someone who is a Tudor fan….this was right up my alley!! This building too has oodles history. The rooms are beautifully preserved and set up to depict the many layers of that history; from Tudor times to WW2.

wandering the lanes of worcester, tudor house

Built between 1500-1550; Tudor House. Tavern, Tudor home, weavers cottage, Victorian home, and WW2 wardens post.

I spent a very happy time wandering from room to room, trying to imagine what it must be like to be a house….it gets to see all those events, feel the lives of the people who lived there and witness major events throughout history.  They have some fantastic artefacts in the museum, all of which lend an air of authenticity to the various periods of the history. I nearly said ‘hello’ to the chap in the helmet!! He looked so lifelike LOL

After that I meandered along Friar Street, a delightful array of houses line the cobbled street with quirky little shops, tearooms and restaurants….along with some of the usual chains. Friar Street is a quaint pastiche of black and white listed buildings, ancient relics of bygone ages with a variety of historical pasts, lend an enchanting air of having stepped back in time.

wandering the lanes of worcester, tudor architecture

fantastic architecture in Friar Street, Worcester

Just across the street from Tudor Museum is Greyfriars….a magnificent house managed by National Trust. I decided to explore later in the day since their website said they were open from 8am-8pm and I wanted to visit the Cathedral. Unfortunately the information was wrong! Oh well. Next time

So now for the cathedral….. On my life bucket list I plan on visiting all the cathedral cities in the UK. I have been to a great number of them already in the last 15 years but there are many still to go, so the opportunity to visiting Worcester Cathedral was a must do! I have a philosophy in life…I may not go this way again, so I make the most of the time I am there!

worcester cathedral, wandering the lanes of worcester

Worcester Cathedral

Founded in 680, Worcester Cathedral started life as a Priory prior (?) to the Reformation. Nothing of the 7th century priory now remains, although remains of the Priory dating from the 12th and 13th centuries can still be seen. The Priory came to an end with King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, and like many others around the country, the Benedictine monks were removed and replaced by secular canons.

What is now the Cathedral, built between 1084 and 1504, represents every style of English architecture from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic, while the multi-columned Norman crypt of the present-day cathedral dates from the 10th century during the time of St Oswald, Bishop of Worcester. The crypt is amazing!!

worcester cathedral, wandering the lanes of worcester

Worcester Cathedral crypt

Worcester Cathedral is typical of English cathedrals, having both a chapter house and cloisters.

Notably, Worcester Cathedral contains the tomb of King John in its chancel. Before his death in Newark in 1216, John had requested to be buried at Worcester

worcester cathedral, wandering the lanes of worcester

King John’s tomb at Worcester Cathedral

and Prince Arthur’s Chantry, a memorial to the young prince Arthur Tudor, who is buried here. Arthur’s younger brother and next in line for the throne was his brother Henry, who became the notorious Henry VIII.  Worcester Cathedral was spared total destruction by Henry VIII during the English Reformation because of his brother’s Chantry. In 2002, archaeologists used ground-penetrating radar to locate Arthur’s tomb in the cathedral, which is located several feet below the tomb chest that was built several years after his death.

wanering the lanes of worcester, arthur prince of wales chantry

The resting place of Arthur Prince of Wales, son of Henry VII and elder brother of Henry VIII

Something that amazed me totally is how worn the steps leading into the chantry are.

wanering the lanes of worcester, arthur prince of wales chantry

the steps leading into the chantry where Arthur, Prince of Wales is buried

To say that Worcester Cathedral is a real gem would be to understate the beauty of the place. How exciting it was to discover that not only is King John (of 1215 Magna Carta fame) buried here, but also young Arthur Tudor, eldest son of Henry VII and older brother to Henry VIII.  The ceilings are so beautiful, the memorials so astonishing and the crypt so ethereal that you feel like you’ve stumbled into a different realm.

To my sheer delight I also discovered that buried beneath the mosaic floors were the remains of a pilgrim. Not much of him is left to be fair, but how important he must have been to be buried within the walls of the cathedral. At the time of discovery, his shell and staff were uncovered and can be seen in a glass sarcophagus in the crypt.

wanering the lanes of worcester, 15th century pilgrim

The burial place of a 15th century Pilgrim at Worcester Cathedral

I took a quick stroll through the cloisters and popped in at the Chapter House. Two sides of the cloisters were lined with a delightful array of beautifully decorated Christmas trees.

wandering the lanes of worcester, worcester cathedral cloister and chapter house

The Cloisters and The Chapter House of Worcester Cathedral

The sun was setting whilst I meandered through the cathedral so I quickly headed out onto the west lawn for a look at the sunset over the river and also to have a better look at the west facade of the cathedral……it really is quite stunning.

wandering the lanes of worcester, worcester cathedral and the river severn

sunset in Worcester and the River Severn

And then it was time for home, but not without a quick dash through town…I simply had to see the old Tudor architecture by night…..just splendid, it looked positively medieval.

wandering the lanes of worcester, worcester cathedral and the river severn

Worcester by night

I took a quick walk across the bridge to the Swan Sanctuary for one last look at the cathedral from across the River Severn, and finally headed for home.

wandering the lanes of worcester, worcester cathedral and the river severn

Worcester Cathedral looking just magnificent and other-worldly

The swans thought I’d come to feed them!!!  What a brilliant city. I shall have to visit again.

http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/11767786.Historic_gates_of_Worcester_could_soon_have_bold_and_brilliant_new_plaques/

 

 

 

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A selection of powerful writing that came out of the year’s tragedies and conflicts.

via The Posts That Moved Us in 2016: Current Events — Discover

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I am writing to you today as a VERY concerned citizen of the UK to find out what you and the UK Government are doing about the atrocities being enacted in Aleppo today and over the last 5 years. 

It’s all very well the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voicing alarm “over reports of atrocities against a large number of civilians”. https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/ But what is being done about it?

I can’t believe that we as a civilised country are seriously only debating this NOW in Parliament. Why have we not gone in there with the aim of protecting and getting these people out. Yes, I realise there are political issues etc etc but these are innocent people, women and children…being slaughtered on the streets. And NOW Parliament is debating the issue????

What are you doing to petition the Government to take action? What have you done over the past 5 years to try and stop this horror in Syria?

Why have we as a civilised country not taken more stringent action than a few slaps on the wrist for Assad and Putin….as for Russia, you may as well just forget about them because America’s President-elect has handed his country to them on a platter.

I saw their military fleet from the top of the cliffs in Hastings. Why were we simply escorting them through our waters when we knew what they were going to be doing once they reach the other side?

There is so much horror going on in Syria, it’s a wonder anyone in power who should be doing something about this manages to sleep at night.

We simply have to provide serious humanitarian aid to the people of Aleppo and get them out….if there is anyone left by the time you folks have finished debating this in Parliament.

I hope to hear from you asap.

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On Friday,on one of my many walks about town, I took a different route and went downhill over the railway bridge to Barnards Green, and from there I headed back uphill to the Blue Bird Tearoom on Church Street; I had decided it was high time I paid them a visit!  There is nothing I enjoy more than a cup of tea and a scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream…is there any other way to eat a scone?

the blue bird tearoom and edward elgar

Statue of Edward Elgar on Belle Vue Terrace & The Blue Bird Tearoom, Great Malvern

The Blue Bird Tearoom was opened in 1913 and is recognised for one of it’s most famous patrons…Sir Edward Elgar, the well-known English Composer, famous for composing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ who visited frequently there with his friend Troyte Griffith.

Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet,
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.’

Most of the furniture dates back to when the tearoom opened and some of the tables date back to the 1700’s. I wonder if I sat in the same chair that Edward himself did? 😉

This delightful little tearoom, up a flight of stairs, separated into two dining areas is just big enough for a few parties without being over-crowded. The settee at the top of the stairs looks very comfortable and very inviting! I can imagine lounging about with a good book and a tray with a large pot of tea….

I found myself a table facing the window with a view of Belle Vue Terrace and at a pinch the hills behind the town. A very young and hesitant young man took my order in due course and in no time at all my pot of tea arrived. A delicately flower patterned china ensemble that fit right in with the olde worlde atmosphere. Mind you, I would have been delighted if my tea had arrived in a silver teapot!! After a couple of minutes my fruit scone with strawberry jam and fresh clotted cream arrived….time to tuck in.

scones and tea at the Blue Bird Tearoom in Great Malvern

scones and tea at the Blue Bird Tearoom in Great Malvern

The scone was absolutely delicious…freshly made and bursting with plump juicy sultanas…just as I love it. The strawberry jam, although minimal was in fact just enough to spread generously over both sides of the scone, the clotted cream soft and fresh was also just enough to top the jam. Personally I love to heap the cream on top of the jam, but the quantities were just enough to send my taste-buds into a spin but not too much to increase my cholesterol exponentially.

I relaxed into the atmosphere and toyed again with the idea that perhaps Edward E had sat in the very chair I was sitting in 😉 Through the windowpanes I could see life in the town bustling on.

a statue edward elgar stands on Belle vue terrace, blue bird tearoom great malvern

the statue of Edward Elgar stands on the Belle Vue Terrace with a most marvellous view over the Severn Valley

I do so enjoy this little town and surprisingly, Great Malvern, when you look at it on a map is not very big at all….and yet, into that small space is packed an enormous amount of history. Great Malvern is an area of the spa town of Malvern, Worcestershire, England. It lies at the foot of the Malvern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty….and it really is a beautiful area.

I can highly recommend a Cream Tea at the Bluebird Tea Room. (9 Church St, Malvern WR14 2AA) All the food is freshly prepared on the premises and the prices are incredibly reasonable. I paid £3.95 for the scone with jam and cream and a pot of tea. A massive bargain in my opinion…the same thing in London would set you back between £5.95 and £8.95 depending on the location of the venue. I can’t even get it for that price in Broadstairs!

 

 

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I was just moving about the house this morning, minding my own business, at the assignment where I’m currently working, when suddenly I heard the cleaner singing a tune I hadn’t heard for years!! One of my absolute favourite songs and immediately the hairs stood up along my arms and I got goosebumps all over my body. I absolutely LOVE this song and it brought back a whole host of memories…. 🙂

It is the evening of the day,
I sit and watch the children play.
Smiling faces I can see
But not for me,
I sit and watch as tears go by.

My riches can’t buy everything,
I want to hear the children sing.
All I hear is the sound
Of rain falling on the ground,
I sit and watch as tears go by.

It is the evening of the day,
I sit and watch the children play.
Doing things I used to do
They think are new,
I sit and watch as tears go by.

Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm
Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm
Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm …
Songwriters: ANDREW OLDHAM, KEITH RICHARDS, MICK JAGGER
As Tears Go By lyrics © T.R.O. INC., Abkco Music, Inc.

Here is the Marianne Faithfull version

Just about some of the most beautiful words and particularly poignant considering my job….I work with people who are in the evening of their days….as they sit and watch the years go by.

I shall have to add this to my funeral/wake playlist!!!

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…okay well in practice it was two hills, but at the time it felt like a mountain and if I put one on top of the other it would qualify as a mountain…right?

I had a few days between assignments; one in Preston Lancashire and the next (where I am as I write) in Worcestershire.  I was due to start work in Great Malvern on Friday last and finished the assignment in Preston on Monday of last week. Never one to miss an opportunity to explore I stayed at a B&B on Monday night to explore Preston (more on that later) before heading down to Malvern Link on Tuesday where I was booked to stay for three nights.

climb the malvern hills

view of North Hill from the B&B

My goal was to climb the ‘mountain’; Worcestershire Beacon, which is located right above Great Malvern (or is GM located right below?). Worcester Beacon, at 425 metres (1,394 ft) above sea level, is the highest point of the Malvern Hills. I have worked in Great Malvern before but because my breaks are only two hours per day, there is no way I would have time to climb to the top and back again….and so it proved to be….in total it took me just over 4.5 hours door to door. Mind you, I did climb North Hill first so maybe….

Britain as a whole had been blessed with the most extraordinarily beautiful weather this last week, the kind of weather you only get in winter…crisp, cold, fresh days that take your breath away, and on the day I had planned to climb, the day dawned clear and cold…..and very frosty, as one would expect at this time of year.

climbing the malvern hills

frost – the patterns of frost are intriguing

I set off after breakfast and headed uphill, puffing and panting I might add, towards the rather marvellous Edwardian clock tower that resides on the lower slopes of North Hill at Tank Quarry. In order to reach the Beacon from where I was located I had to climb North Hill first. The houses on the slopes of North Hill have the most amazing views across the valley.

climbing the malvern hills

the Clock Tower and houses with a seriously amazing view

The slopes are steep and rough and I had to tread carefully in order that I didn’t twist an ankle or fall……But my trainers are sturdy and I made steady albeit slow progress with lots of heavy breathing LOL.  If you heard me coming up behind you, you would have been forgiven for thinking I was a stalker!!  I haven’t done much by way of long distance walking since July and I am certainly not anywhere near as fit as I was then. But I persevered and strode on upwards and upwards and upwards.

climbing the malvern hills

perfect day to conquer a mountain

Oh my word…the views across the Severn valley were extraordinary. The higher I climbed the more I could see and the valleys in the distance were hidden beneath a hazy layer of cloud or mist. The sun shone brightly (mostly straight into my eyes depending on which section of the zig-zag slope I was on.

climbing the malvern hills

the views across the Severn Valley are amazing

I stopped frequently to take photos and posted them to instagram as I went. I passed fellow climbers, dog-walkers, a few joggers and a couple of daft buggers on bicycles! I mean who in heck rides either up or down a mount….I mean hill. Seriously!!

It was lovely to share a cheery greeting of ‘good morning’ – fine day for it! I was surprised to see a number of climbers who were clearly older than me…some of whom strode by and left me in their dust!!! LOL

Suddenly I was near the summit of North Hill and the beacon was within my grasp…or not!

climbing the malvern hills

the summit of North Hill…..looks different to what it did from down below

No, not quite…..I still had a ways to go but thankfully the section between North Hill and Worcester Beacon was relatively flat and stretched between the two for quite a distance which gave me time to catch my breath and just enjoy the scenery and the peace. It was remarkably quiet and at times all I could hear was bird-song, and in the distance the lowing of cattle.

climbing the malvern hills

the stretch between North Hill and Beacon Hill

The ground and surrounding areas on the way up was very frosty and in some stretches very slippery….a state of affairs that remained on my way back down 3 hours later!!! The sun simply didn’t reach some areas of the hills and I imagine the frost would stay until it warmed up a bit. In the distance I could see the crest of the hill and I was certain I could see the beacon….at least I thought I could. It looked to be an easy stretch but in reality the climb up Worcester Beacon hill was really strenuous.

Suddenly I reached the crest between the two hills and there before me was Herefordshire!! And not only that but I could see the Black Mountains in Wales!!! Wow!!! The highest summit of the hills (where I was headed) affords a panorama of the Severn valley with a view of the the hills of Herefordshire, the Welsh mountains, parts of thirteen counties, the Bristol Channel, and on a clear day the cathedrals of Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford. Obviously with all the mist hovering in the valleys I couldn’t see them at all. But oh! How beautiful it is!!

climbing the malvern hills

Herefordshire and in the far distance the Black Mountains of Wales…wow!!!

At the point where I could see Herefordshire and the Black Mountains was a beacon showing the way to the Beacon!! there were also a few cows grazing on the green slopes which explained the lowing I could hear from North Hill. I stopped for a while to just enjoy the splendid views and chat to the cows…no not really, hahaha. I did take some photos though, and they in turn eyed me out with disdain.

climbing the malvern hills

not the real Beacon…but directing me towards the real deal. Oh and some cows…or are they bulls. I never thought to look 🙂

Then I was onto the final push up the very frosty, slippery slopes. It was difficult to see where the original path was as it appears that over the years people have kind of forged their own paths and there were a multitude of routes to take. As I slipped and climbed, breathing heavily, I notice an elderly gent climbing ever so sprightly along a hidden path…I headed towards that and found what I surmised was the original…..it looked more like it was anyway. It was also not quite as slippery. So with the sun directly in my eyes, I made my way gingerly uphill.

climbing the malvern hills

slippery slope. very frosty. totally beautiful

And then finally I was at the top of the hill and just a short walk to the beacon. I made it!! I was on top of the world.

climbing the malvern hills

The real Beacon! Erected in Commemoration of the Sixtieth Year of Queen Victoria’s Reign 1897

The views are breath-taking and I spent a good half-hour or so just absorbing the views, studying the map on the beacon to see where places were…to my delight I noticed the source of the River Thames that starts below the Cotswolds which, had it been a clear day, I’m sure I would have seen them…..the valleys were still covered in mist, and quite frankly looked exquisite.

climbing the malvern hills

The Beacon!! 360 degrees. Views in every direction…amazing

The air was so fresh and clear and by now I was breathing more normally. I chatted to everyone who approached the beacon and we discussed the various landmarks and where they would be. One gentleman with his dog tarried a while and I found out that he and his wife have a campervan that they use for trips around the country. I told him of my dream to travel around the UK in a motor-home or campervan (whichever I can afford). We shared a few stories of travels past….and he gave me a few tips for campervanning that I have since forgotten LOL

It was really interesting to see all the landmarks and just before I left to head back down I took a photo showing the direction of the River Severn (which I was to encounter just the next day during my visit to Worcester!) and the Bristol Channel.   It’s extraordinary that one can see so many counties and especially the Black Mountains in Wales. Before too long I had to leave and make my way back down, the sun was beginning to slide towards the horizon and I didn’t want to have to stumble down in the dark. After one last photo in the direction of the Bristol Channel I waved goodbye and set off downhill.

climbing the malvern hills

looking towards the Bristol Channel…..what a view!!

My walk down was a little more difficult on the old knees and shins what with the jarring movement going downhill and I had to tread very carefully.  On the way down some chap on a bicycle passed me!!! I mean hello!! I did give him a bit of a jibe about riding down a hill on bike, but he just laughed and carried on.  I passed a very jolly party of 4 going up the hill, stopped to take some group photos for them and ended up chatting about politics, Brexit and Mr Juncker and his substantial salary increases. Needless to say we all agreed on the results! I waved hello to a group of 6 Pakistani gentleman walking uphill, having a great chat and eating Kettle chips (?)….I passed a lady that I had met earlier going up who was climbing to the top to take a photo of the beacon for her son in Singapore….we marvelled at the age of technology where you could stand on the top of a ‘mountain’ in the UK and chat to someone on the other side of the world in the far east.

It was still very frosty.

climbing the malvern hills

I conquered a mountain……well it felt like a mountain 😉

In due course I reached the bottom of North Hill once again at North Quarry and congratulated myself on my achievement…..I had conquered a mountain and achieved my goal.

climbing the malvern hills

North Hill on the right and Worcester Beacon Hill……my mountains LOL

I was also totally astounded at the stats……I had switched on MapMyWalk before I left and to my astonishment I had  climbed an elevation of 373m, walked 12.2km’s and taken 25,744 steps!!! wow. Interesting.

A few facts about the Malvern Hills.

The name Malvern is probably derived from the ancient British moel-bryn, meaning “Bare-Hill”.
The Malvern Hills are formed of some of the most ancient rocks in England, mostly igneous and metamorphic rocks from the late Precambrian, known as the Uriconian, which are around 680 million years old.
The Malvern Hills are a range of hills in the English counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a small area of northern Gloucestershire.
They are known for their spring water – initially made famous by the region’s many holy wells, and later through the development of the 19th century spa town of Great Malvern.

climbing the malvern hills

Malvhina Spout – Malvern Spring Water.

The rocks of the Malvern Hills are amongst the oldest and hardest found in England.
The Malvern Hills have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England. Species include Dormouse, Barbastelle (bat), Skylark, High Brown Fritillary Butterfly, Great Crested Newt and Adder of which I saw not one!! also Black Poplar although it’s entirely possible I saw one of these without knowing what it is.
Flint axes, arrowheads, and flakes found in the area are attributed to early Bronze Age settlers.
During the medieval period, the hills and surrounding area were part of a Royal forest known as Malvern Chase. Riots by commoners and legal challenges from land owners ensued when King Charles I attempted to deforest the Chase in 1630.
The landscape itself was irrevocably changed by extensive quarrying in the area changing the Hills forever. This created new habitats for frogs, toads, newts and other small animals. The new cliffs also provide nesting sites for certain birds.

climbing the malvern hills

North Quarry

You can walk the Worcestershire Way that takes on a route between the Georgian town of Bewdley and the grand spa town of Malvern.

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It’s a year ago today since my Father passed away. He died on his own, in his flat. I’m still not sure what happened; was it a heart-attack, a blackout that caused him to fall and bang his head, another stroke? I haven’t been told.

And therein lies the rub of it. I haven’t been told. I have asked….but does anyone know? I’m not sure. We are the products of my father’s history….a secretive family. I hate secrets.

It’s kinda weird really knowing he is dead. It’s kinda weird knowing that I haven’t been affected by his death at all. I know my siblings have. And I feel more for them, for their loss. What is it that I feel for them? Sadness that they’ve lost someone who to them was a dearly beloved father? Pain at their loss? Empathy at the loss of a parent? I’m not really sure. I haven’t yet stopped to examine my feelings. What I do know is, the older I get the more I wish – I wish he had been a loving father, a role model, someone for me to look  up to, someone I had good memories of….someone who was there for me!!

He was 85 years old when he died. And he was old. Apparently slipping into Alzheimers, according to my sister he often got lost, confused and belligerent. 15 years past the expected 3 score and 10! More than my Mother was blessed with. She’s been gone 32 years now. My daughter asked me this morning how I was feeling. Honestly, I feel annoyed. Annoyed that he died so close to my Mother’s birth date of 6th December. It’s a bit of an annoyance to me that he died so close to her special date. Forces me to remember his date. You know as in ‘my father died the day after my Mother’s birth date’.

Actually……I lost my father when I was 5 years old and my sister 3 years old; his two children from his first marriage. The two children left behind as he set off on adventures new. Oh yes we were included….maybe twice a year…during school holidays or at Christmas. Sometimes he even appeared for our birthdays…often he promised to and didn’t.  I remember one year in particular…..I had received a much wished for train-set for my 6th birthday and he had promised to come…..he didn’t. I ran and hid in the water-tower. The place where his brother-in-law found me. The one who was a paedophile. The one my father should have protected me from. He didn’t. He didn’t believe me then and he didn’t believe me when I was in my 20’s and told him again what had happened.  He told me not to spread lies and talk about people like that. As if a 6 year-old knows the details of sexual assault without having been subjected to it. As if a 20-year old would or could forget

I am the eldest of my father’s children. There are 5 of us…..4 girls and one boy, one of whom was adopted by my father and his 3rd wife. There used to be 6 of us. My brother Arnold, who was also adopted by my Father when he married his 2nd wife, died in his 20’s from a ruptured ulcer. He too died alone. He too was found wanting. I was surprised on the day my Father told me that my brother had died…..he was crying? Even then I wasn’t sure why? My brother was not his favourite child.

Yes, my father remarried after he divorced my Mother. It wasn’t that long after. He adopted his new wife’s child; a boy – Arnold. Some years later he had another child with his 2nd wife; also a boy. He divorced his 2nd wife too many years later, and remarried again. He and his 3rd wife adopted a child; a girl. They then had another child; also a girl.

These are my siblings. I have 1 real sister. 1 half brother. 1 dead brother. 1 adopted sister. 1 half sister – all from my father’s side. I have 2 other siblings; both half-sisters, girls from my Mother’s 2nd and 3rd marriages. I was the eldest. I often wish we were closer, my siblings and I. All of them I mean. We’re relatively close, each in different ways, in our different relationships, but not in the ways that really count, like growing up together, like shared fun family times, like having the same set of parents, like all being ‘real’ brothers and sisters. Although the family ties are there, it’s been a tricky road to walk. A lot of angst. Many secrets. Don’t tell……

Over the years I had a troubled relationship with my Father. The only time I recall being close to him was when I was very young. He used to tell me I was his favourite?  I’m not sure why since he always expressed a level of disappointment in my ‘non-achievements’ as he saw them. I didn’t have an interest in going to University. Strike 1. I wasn’t interested in the son of a family friend that he was keen for me to get engaged to. Strike 2. I married at 17 years of age to someone he didn’t approve of. Strike 3. In fact he refused to walk me down the aisle. That was left to my Mother’s 3rd husband. The person who paid for the wedding. The person who had assaulted and beaten my mother for the 6 years prior. The person who had openly and brazenly sexually abused me as a teenager. He had a particular affection for my budding breasts. I was unable to tell my father. He had already told me not to spread lies about people. After 3 years I divorced my 1st husband. I then had another disastrous relationship with a very abusive man. Thankfully I ended that.  I eventually married a second time. I didn’t ask my father to walk me down the aisle.

I had a daughter outside of that marriage. A daughter that my Father felt I was not caring for properly, not feeding properly, not dressing properly. If there was something he could criticise, he did. His opinion of me as a mother was low. Strike 4. In actual fact, my daughter was the cleanest, most well-looked after baby you could wish to find. I used to change her clothes at least 3 times a day. She was skinny from birth. My milk didn’t nourish her and she had to go onto bottles. She was loved and cherished. But that wasn’t good enough for my father. He and his 3rd wife had wanted to adopt her you see. So I was found wanting.

During the 90’s after his 3rd wife went off the rails and started drinking heavily she started to verbally abuse my sister and I (you know, the one’s from his 1st marriage). We would get long abusive phone calls at all hours of the day or night. As a result, after a time, a restraining order was laid against her. My father refused to have anything to do with us after that. We, he and I didn’t talk for 4 years. That also meant I didn’t get to see or talk to his youngest children, my sisters. That was hard. It’s affected our relationship to this day. Do I wish we had been closer? Definitely. Thankfully we are now adults and can choose.

To say that I had a rocky and turbulent relationship with my father would be an understatement. I resented his authoritarian parental methods. I felt he hadn’t the right to chastise or criticise me when he hadn’t stayed around to raise me. When I was much older I understood the reason why he was authoritarian (his father was a tyrant) but nonetheless I resented him. I resented the broken promises. I resented that he discarded one for another. I resented the huge house that he lived in with his ‘new’ family while my Mother struggled to raise us in a tiny flat. I resented the car he had. At home we had to walk carrying loads of shopping or take a bus if we went anywhere. My Mother couldn’t afford a car. I resented, although I always looked forward to them with great excitement, the flights to Cape Town for the holidays. Holidays that were filled with anger and shouting. He and his 2nd wife didn’t get along too well. I resented that he drove a divide between us and them. I resented the secrets. The ‘don’t tell anyone’. I hate secrets.

I remember sitting in the Mall on the East Rand many years ago when I was already in my 40’s, meeting up with my father for coffee and having what I thought would be a grown-up discussion….it ended up with me screaming at him for not listening, not hearing me. Lashing out at his disparaging comments. At his unwillingness to even give me the benefit of the doubt. I tried to tell him so much. He wouldn’t hear me. When I was made Regional Personnel and Financial Manager for a Group of Companies in 1984….his reply: are you sure you can cope? Well I did and I thrived. I went on to become Regional Manager for the Eastern Cape. Still he was unimpressed.  His reply “Oh yes?” in that tone of voice I had learned so well over the years; it told me all I needed to know. He never said he was proud of me – ever! I hated him for a very long time.

When I came to the UK in 2001 I felt I was leaving that all behind me. I had a lot of distance between me and….then. He came to the UK in 2007…not to see me specifically but because the Tour de France was due to start from London. He was a cycling fanatic. Seeing me was incidental. On the day of the TdF start we spent some time together. I mentioned that I was thinking of walking The Camino. His reply: “you can’t, you have to be religious to do that”. Why? Millions of people walk The Camino. Many of them are not religious. He cycled The Camino. I forget how many times. He wasn’t religious. He believed he was a Christian.  So why when I said I wanted to walk was I found wanting. Still. After 50 odd years? Ironically he cycled The Camino earlier last year with my sister. She’s not religious.

I saw him last about 5 years ago on a trip to South Africa. That was the last photo I have of him and me together. We’re both smiling. Photos are so deceptive. He phoned me for my 60th birthday in 2015. I was shocked beyond belief that he had phoned. It was the last time I spoke to him.

He had a group of friends through the Al Anon group that he attended for many years in Cape Town. When I saw their comments about him on his Facebook profile after he died, it’s like they’re talking about a completely different person. Someone I don’t know. He won an award the day before he died. I didn’t even know.

I feel sadness for my siblings. At the loss of their father. But do I feel a sense of loss for myself? No. I don’t. I lost my father 56 years ago; when I was 6 years-old.

 

 

 

 

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