A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Haworth Churchyard

As previously noted, Haworth Church and the Bronte Parsonage are at the top of a long, very steep hill. The first view of the churchyard is striking in that the gravestones are thicker than any I have seen before.

And there were A LOT of them...

A little research explains why. As the bodies decomposed, everything ran down hill. The water system was at the bottom of the hill and by the time science had advanced far enough for them to figure it out countless residents of Haworth had died from the effects of tainted water.
     *40,000 people were buried in this churchyard
     *41.6% of children in Haworth died before the age of six
     *The average life expectancy was 24.

This gravestone is in memory of Simeon who died at 1 year, Susey who died at 4 years, Nancy who managed to live until 20, and Robert who passed at 10 weeks.

Life must have been very grim for the residents of Haworth.

Guest Blog....

My son-in-law has kindly offered to retell the following story. You will see from the photo how steep the hill up to the Haworth Church is. Thank goodness there is parking at the top of the hill!

While sitting in the lounge at Ascot House in Harrogate, just before retiring for the night, we met an elderly couple from Lancaster. They were very interested to chat with us, as they had been to America many times and loved to talk travel (those many times included 23 trips just to Disneyworld, guess they liked it). One of the most interesting tidbits we picked up from them was a story of Haworth during the Second World War. The lady of the couple was a young girl during the war, and was sent by her mother 'out to the country' to be safe from any possible bombings. She stayed with an aunt (who turned out to be really just a friend of her mother's) near Haworth, and said that she was constantly fascinated by the bus that drove to the top of the big hill there, as it carried not only people, but also any packages that people near the bottom needed to deliver to the top.  She recalled her first experience of this phenomenon, watching in amazement as a very elderly lady hailed the bus, and instead of boarding, handed the driver a covered plate of food, asking for it to be dropped to her husband, working at the top of the hill. For an entire summer she spent most of her time watching the bus go up and down the hill, in awe of the way it connected the community like no city bus ever would.

York Minster Looking Up

Like virtually all cathedrals, York Minster is in the heart of the city. Rising majestically above the crowds and surrounding buildings, they are wonderfully photogenic - until you actually try to take a picture. That's when you find you would need to be at the top of a very tall building in the vicinity to even begin to capture all of the building, and that doesn't even address the distortion. So you make the obligatory effort and then crop out the crowds at ground level and you can at least show what the building looks like...sort of.

Then you concentrate of the small bits, an effort that is truly never-ending.



As you lean farther and farther back, trying to catch the lovely bits at the very top, you are in danger of falling over backwards.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bits and Bobs

I'll share a few little things that have amused or amazed me along the way...

A shop window in York on Stonegate
In London, approximately 5 foot by 7 foot...made of M&M's.
Street art in Neal's Yard in London
The church cat in St Paul's Church (the Actor's Church) in Covent garden
A really brilliant busker in Cambridge - jazz violin a la Django reinhart

Betty's at Last

It took two and a half weeks, but we have now reached York...and Bettys, Bettys Tea Shops that is. There are two of them in York, two more in Harrogate (where we go next), one in Ilkley, and one in Northallerton. On this trip, we won't visit all of them, although, after last night's meal I wouldn't have any trouble convincing my daughter and son-in-law to change our itinerary to that effect. My son-in-law was expecting tea and scones, white linen napkins, gorgeous fruit tarts, layered chocolate, and the chatter of women's voices. He found all of these at Bettys, but he also found rosti and caramelized onion chutney.

As I walked into St Helen's Square in York, the sun suddenly broke through and shone directly on Betty's. I'm not making that up, it really did.

With the tinkling piano playing "Tea for Two" in the background (I'm not making that up either) we were waited on by a lovely woman with 33 years of service under her belt. By the time we were ready to share a dessert, we pretty much left the details up to her. 

Our waitress, deep in concentration, scanning the room to make sure that all her customers were well taken care of. 

More than enough for the three of us - chocolate and raspberry torte with raspberry coulis, mixed fruit and cream.
Today, the kids will be visiting the Jorvik Center and Barley Hall and I will be wandering around Stonegate and the Shambles. They'll be getting a taste of historical York and I will be spending money and taking pictures - but we'll meet up late this afternoon at Betty's. We'll all be having rosti's again, that's for certain, but the jury is still out on what we'll have for dessert.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cold Night in Whitby

It was a sad leave-taking from West Stow Hall, it had been a brilliant week and we would truly miss our hosts and Suffolk. It was a long drive north with serious travel delays and rain showers. But as we eventually reached the smaller roads of the North York Moors we cheered up. Sheep in every direction makes for a pleasant way to travel, and a quick but exciting stop in Scarborough when we hit the coast made us anxious for our eventual destination - Whitby.

Whitby..... Mecca to England's Goth community and the town where Bram Stoker's Dracula first came ashore. The site of the imposing gothic abbey ruins as you approach from the south is as striking as one's first sight of Stonehenge.

We were thrilled and excited, but most of all we were tired and cold and hungry. So we dumped our luggage in our little B&B in the heart of Old Whitby and braved the freezing cold blustery winds to find Hadleys - highly recommended as being just as good as the much more famous Magpie but with shorter lines. I doubt that there were any lines at The Magpie - not many tourists about - we just knew that Hadleys was much closer.

We were greeted warmly and served speedily - I was even allowed to substitute mushy peas for the chips with my Whitby Prawns. All of our meals were really excellent, but when the last bit was cleaned from our plates, we were faced with a real dilemma - Sticky Toffee Sponge or Treacle Sponge. Since we had pledged ourselves to no more than one desert split three ways per meal on this trip, it was left to me to decide.
I opted for the Sticky Toffee Sponge, it was a good choice.
Today we will explore the Old Town, shop for a piece of jet jewelry, and visit the Abbey. It is still bitterly cold and they are posting wind warnings, but I figure it will only add to the atmosphere of this wonderful old fishing town.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I haven't had the camera I am using for very long so I am ashamed to admit it, but I am learning about it on this trip. I just discovered the panoramic feature and here are the results - sorry my layout is vertical so I can't make them any larger.

Aldeburgh, Suffolk
The Orchard at West Stow Hall, Suffolk
Pulls Ferry in Norwich

Now I just have to remember to use it more often.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


We made our first trip to the Suffolk Coast yesterday. We intended to do Aldeburgh, a couple neighboring villages and then go up the coast to Southwold. We got a little sidetracked on the way to the coast however, by Framlingham Castle so it was time for lunch when we arrived at Aldeburgh and we never made it to Southwold. That was just fine with us, we were ready for fish and chips. So my daughter stood in line at the famous Aldeburgh Fish & Chips Shop, while my son-in-law got our cider & ale at The White Hart, and I sat in the beer garden and was waited on. The biggest piece of plaice I have ever seen, a delicious piece of cod, a bag of chips, and a very tasty deep-fried veggie & cheese patty - so nice to be in a situation where you are expected to eat fatty food.

It wasn't very warm, but it was a Saturday so the streets were quite crowded.

We were already aware that one didn't say 'Ald-uh-burg', but it was nice of this mile marker sitting on High Street to confirm what we had already learned...

The most important building, and far away the most interesting is the Moot Hall, a Grade 1 listed building that has been used for Council meetings for over 400 years.

The back side of the Moot Hall

Aldeburgh has a shingle beach with the boats pulled up, something you never see in the states - at least on the West Coast.

I'd like to think that the cod and plaice we had for lunch came directly from the
 Aldeburgh fishing fleet, I know it probably didn't, I choose to believe it did.
A short ways north of town you find 'The Scallop' a stainless steel sculpture by Maggi Hambling dedicated to Benjamin Britten, who used to walk along the beach in the afternoons. The upright shell is pierced with the words: "I hear those voices that will not be drowned", text from Britten's opera "Peter Grimes"
It was a brilliant sculpture in its own right, but the text added such poignancy.
The an internationally known Aldeburgh Festival, actually takes place at nearby Snape Maltings... more about Snape and the Maltings later.

Peeking through the Windows

When you live in a quaint little cottage in a lovely little village with tourists trouping through on a regular basis, you expect that they will be peeking in your windows  and that privacy will be at a premium. So it matters what people will see as they walk by.

If you live in a historic house, you'll want something historic in the window.
If your house is not exactly historic, but definitely quaint, then something colorful will do nicely.

Some people, however, don't see to mind what the tourists might think....

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Who needs the Cotswolds?

One very long day between packing up, making our way to Heathrow, picking up the rental car, and finding our way to the heart of East Anglia – no blogging.  Another very long day driving from one village to another and an evening with the wifi down – no blogging.  At last, I am up and running again, so let me tell you about the villages of Suffolk.
As cute as anything in the Cotswolds
I honestly do not know why they have taken a back seat to the Cotswold villages all these years.  They are loaded with thatched cottages, and are beautifully maintained. Each village greets you with a distinctive and decorative sign, and they have easily as many well-tended greens and ancient churches.  The real difference lies in the materials and colors. Instead of the warm golden tones of the Cotswold stone, you have half-timbered  cottages in-filled with either brick or pargetting on plaster in colors that range from  a lovely rich mustard to deep rust and back to what must be called pink. Now if you asked me if I wanted to spend the day driving around looking at pink cottages, I would be dubious at best, but somehow, it works.
Yes, I said pink....
Like the Cotswolds, the Suffolk villages are not inhabited by the poor. Thatched cottages are not cheap to maintain and driving down the narrow country lanes here you are overtaken by speeding Bentleys, Jags, Mercedes, and BMWs.  On the edges of and between them you pass gated entrances to estates that leave you wondering if someone famous lives there – and someone famous probably does.
Today we visited ten villages. Half of them were only intended to be drive-thru’s but in the end, only one was. We could have spent a whole day wandering through a couple of them, especially Lavenham, a well-known tourist stop and calendar subject. Between my daughter and I we took 367 pictures. Given enough time and a little sunshine we could have easily taken twice that. 
Just one of the many amazing buildings in Lavenham
Pargetting...more about that later.....
Somehow, way back in the early days when tourism was just a baby, the Cotswolds got a jumpstart on Suffolk. But I'm not complaining, we had traffic to deal with in Lavenham and Long Melford, but otherwise we had these lovely villages all to ourselves.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The People Factor

Nobody wants to read a post about someone else's troubles, so I'll leave that to a small bit at the end...

Instead let me tell you about some of the lovely people we have met in our five days in London.

     The Verger at St Mary le Strand - While I took advantage of a chance to sit a spell and Amy ran over to take a look at Kings College, this lovely man kept me company, sharing a wealth of information on all the churches in London as well as their history and architecture - Charles Dickens' parents were married at his church. At that point our conversation branched out to his travels in Hollywood, football, Whitby and various joint replacements. Before we left, he took us to a particular room, off limits to the 'average' tourist. This was a small 2-story circular room with a plaster domed ceiling and ancient wooden walls and fittings. After a bit of a guessing game, he acknowledged that only recently had they discovered it was originally a 'powder room' in the first sense that the clergy wore wigs then and this is where they powdered up before conducting a service.

     The staff at our local Starbucks - In particular Megan, have been brilliant. I wish I could say they were as good as my local in Kenmore (Hi Guys!) but that would be impossible. We find ourselves stopping on our way to and from anywhere. My daughter - the world traveler - says that the staff in all the London Starbucks we've visited (don't judge, it's a good place to rest) are easily the friendliest she's found.

     The antique shop owner in Cecil Court - He did his very best to convince me that he REALLY did think Amy & I were sisters. When you've looked at your 67 year old jet-lagged, baggy-eyed face in the mirror that morning, you REALLY want to believe. But he still wasn't able to sell me his over-priced etching of the Tower Bridge.

     The girl who curated (and I use that term advisedly) and ran the tea-tasting at Twinings - she educated us, amused us, listened to us, and treated us to whatever variety we were interested in. She was a font of knowledge in all things tea as well as coffee. We left with lots of good tea-related ideas and a special autographed tea bag for my journal as well as inspiration for a "love journal".

     The staffs at virtually every business we have had anything to do with - real old-fashioned customer service, the kind where you look your customer in the eye and deal with them on a personal level, volunteer extra service, and escort them out the door with good wishes, is alive and well in London. In particular we are grateful to:
          London Camera Exchange on the Strand
          Cath Kidston in Covent Garden
          Neal's Yard Dairy
          Wild Juicery in Neal's Yard
          Maplin Electronics on the Strand
          The George on the Strand
          The original Twinings on the Strand
          Stanley Gibbons
At least one person in each of these places have gone the extra mile and then some for us.
This is my seventh trip to England, my daughter has been with me on all but one of them. I have always said that whatever happens, if I am in England, I'll be happy. I haven't always been very mobile, but you can enjoy a lot sitting on a bench. Past trips were always blessed with carefree driving, good weather, and a lack of any illnesses. If the last five days are any indication, the law of averages has caught up with us. We can only hope that the arrival of my son-in-law will bring some good luck. In any event, I can now say for certain that "whatever happens, if I am in England, I'll be happy."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Scotch Eggs

One more note about food...

My English friend and I had a conversation about Scotch Eggs before I left. He told me it was one of the things he missed most - the crisp outer crust and the spices of the sausage wrapped around a tummy filling egg. His eyes almost misted over as he let his memory go back to his favorite pub grub.

I had to admit I had only had them in the States and they were frankly a little disappointing.

"Try one when you are over there," he said, and he made me promise. So today we sat in The George on the Strand, suddenly starving when we realized it was 3: in the afternoon, and I saw Scotch Egg on the menu. I figured I might as well get it over with.

I am now officially a fan of Scotch Eggs. My friend was so right. I only wish I could bring him one back with me.

A little bit about The George: It was founded as a coffee house in 1723 and is almost as charming inside as it is outside.

For those of you who are very observant - yes, it was raining, pretty much all day in fact.
This should be the last post about food for a while...but don't bet on it.

Simpson's in the Strand

Many years ago I bought a postcard from Simpson's in the Strand. It was from the 1920's and when I picked up another from the 1930's I became curious. The history of Simpson's is fascinating. It was opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffee house. In an effort to avoid disturbing the chess games in progress, they began placing large joints of meat on silver-domed trolleys and wheeling them to guests tables where they were then carved. It is a custom that continues to this day. Another thing that makes it distinctive has come down from one of the earliest chefs - the ironclad rule that all food served be British. My guide book describe's it as "an unchanging bastion of upper crust Britishness
beloved for its roast beef and soggy veg."

I planned to treat myself to a meal at Simpson's when I was in London in 2009. Every time I came out of my hotel, I looked across the street at the elegant entry and told myself I would do so. Somehow, I could never work up enough nerve to walk, all by myself, into this bastion of Britishness.

On this trip, I did my research and decided that my daughter and I would have breakfast there. We could order just one Great British Breakfast (Cumberland sausage, streaky and back bacon, Stornoway black pudding, fried mushrooms, baked tomato & egg (fried, poached or scrambled, tea or coffee, toast, Orange Juice) and another side of something and then share it. The Great British breakfast alone comes in at about $30. I was not prepared to spend $60 for breakfast.
Even split in half, there was plenty for both of us.
Everything was wonderful. It was the best black pudding either of us had ever had, the coffee was wonderful, and the butter was so good it could have been eaten with a spoon.

Simpson's open for breakfast at 7:15 and we were there about 8:  There were only two other people in the restaurant - a rather posh young woman and the waiter. He was a rather dour character with a straight-lipped little smile when we did something he approved of - like when we both declined any ketchup, and a pointed comment when he disapproved - like when I asked for decaf coffee.
Absolutely every thing in the room was first class and beautiful...and well-lit.

And so, at last, I have joined the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone. Not to mention Scott of the Antarctic, who had his last meal here before setting off on his ill-fated journey, or Charles and Di, whose last public appearance was here.

That big revolving door was not nearly so intimidating going out as it had been going in.

Cheese, Beautiful Cheese

All the guide books say you must visit Neal's Yard Dairy. I couldn't agree more. Neal's yard is little more than a small lane painted up  in colors that are guaranteed to cheer. Lots of art and lots of organic.

But the real reason to go is the Diary...the cheese. It's a small shop with three very congenial cheesemongers. Just being waited on is an education in the science of cheese, the samples come fast and generous. They have nothing but artisanal cheese and some is made at the dairy itself. Prices range from £4.95 to £47.95.  The place just reeks of cheese...for the first three minutes and then you cease to notice. Just take a good look...

We took home a Brie and a Cheddar, we bought a package of crackers and an apple at the mini Tesco across the street, and we ate in.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's all about the food

It's all about the food in London's Chinatown. In an area that is only about two blocks square, there is one club left over from Soho's glorious 1950's (David Bowie sang here), one betting shop...and the rest is food - restaurants, take-aways, and markets. Everyone is either on their way to eat, have just eaten, or are walking down the street eating. The restaurants may be a bit brisk in their efforts to get you in and then out again, but many of them are only big enough for six to eight tables and you must get that tourist dollar while you can.  If our experience at The Golden Pagoda was any example, there is a lot of good food to be had.

A Lovely Story

In a football* league filled with spoiled and overpaid athletes, managers with more than a few screws loose, and ego-maniacal owners from almost anywhere but Great Britain, the Premier League occasionally produces a lovely story. There is one to be found in the aforementioned FA Cup Cinderella story where lowly Wigan schooled a team loaded with all the above-mentioned attributes.

Dave Whelan was a young fullback in the 1960 FA Cup final at the old Wembley Stadium between Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton. He was taken off on a stretcher after breaking his leg just before the half. From his hospital bed he learned that the Rovers had lost 3 - 0. He wept. His dreams of someday going on to play for England were shattered and he was never the same player again.

The end of his career in football was not long in coming and he went on to make a fortune in the retail business. He bought Wigan for L400,000 when they were in the fourth tier. Under his ownership a new stadium was built and the team rose to the Premiership. For the last three years they have struggled to remain up. They are, in the scheme of things, a small club with limited funds and it is likely they will be relegated this year.

On Saturday, Dave Whelan finally got back to Wembley. And when the game was over, he finally held the storied FA Cup in his hands. Virtually everybody in the sport, including a few supporters of the vanquished Manchester City Club, were thrilled to death for him. It appears he is a genuinely nice man.


A longer, more detailed version of this story can be found here

* This is the last time you will be reminded that when I say football, I mean soccer. When in Rome....